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Special Review: “The Twilight Saga”

August 8, 2013 7 comments
The Twilight Saga
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), Chris Weitz (New Moon), David Slade (Eclipse), Bill Condon (Breaking Dawn)

Produced by: Wyck Godfrey (The Twilight Saga), Mark Morgan (Twilight), Greg Mooradian (Twilight, Eclipse), Karen Rosenfelt (New MoonBreaking Dawn), Stephenie Meyer (Breaking Dawn)

Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay)

Edited by: Nancy Richardson (Twilight, Eclipse), Peter Lambert (New Moon), Art Jones (Eclipse), Virginia Katz (Breaking Dawn)

Cinematography by: Elliot Davis (Twilight), Javier Aguirresarobe (New Moon – Eclipse), Guillermo Navarro (Breaking Dawn)

Music by: Carter Burwell (Twilight, Breaking Dawn), Alexandre Desplat (New Moon), Howard Shore (Eclipse)

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Mackenzie Foy, Billy Burke, Cam Gigandet, Rachelle Lefèvre, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edi Gathegi, Sarah Clarke, Christian Serratos, Michael Welch, Anna Kendrick, Gregory Tyree Boyce, Justin Chon, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Cameron Bright, Xavier Samuel, Julia Jones, Maggie Grace, Casey LaBow, Lee Pace, Jamie Campbell Bower, Christopher Heyerdahl, Chaske Spencer, Christian Camargo, Mía Maestro, Joe Anderson, Booboo Stewart… I give up…

Based on the books by Stephenie Meyer

Year: 2008 (Twilight), 2009 (New Moon), 2010 (Eclipse), 2011 (Breaking Dawn Part 1), 2012 (Breaking Dawn Part 2)

 

My stepsister is a Twilight fan. I’m honestly not sure what level of crazy she is to really qualify it, but the fact that she owns the books and the fact that she wanted the movies every time a new one came out is enough to at least qualify her as a pretty big fan of Stephenie Meyer’s thinly veiled saga about a young couple’s struggles to remain forever young, be faithful to one another, and practice abstinence until marriage – a struggle that apparently necessitates literal life or death battles that everyone else is willing to endure on their behalf. Twilight is a series that a lot of people hate on, myself included, yet I can’t exactly call myself blameless in enabling my stepsister’s misguided affections. What else would I get her for her birthdays when they were so perfectly in sync with every new DVD release? With Breaking Dawn Part 2 finally ending the saga, I’m kind of hoping that something new and better takes her interests next year. Read more…

Dual Review: “Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”

December 18, 2012 7 comments
Home AloneHome Alone
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Produced by: John Hughes
Written by: John Hughes
Edited by: Raja Gosnell
Cinematography by: Julio Macat
Music by: John Williams
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard, John Candy, Roberts Blossom, Gerry Bamman
Year: 1990

 

Home Alone 2: Lost in New YorkHome Alone 2: Lost in New York
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Produced by: John Hughes
Written by: John Hughes
Edited by: Raja Gosnell
Cinematography by: Julio Macat
Music by: John Williams
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Tim Curry, Rob Schneider, Dana Ivey, Brenda Fricker, Catherine O’Hara, Eddie Bracken, John Heard, Gerry Bamman
Year: 1992

 

It had been a long time since I had seen any of the Home Alone films when I bought the Blu-Ray set of the first two films that went on sale earlier this month for the lovely price of about $12. Being in a spend-y mood, I bought it happily, having wanted but never owned the first two films since I was a little kid. (Oddly, I did own a VHS of the third film.) And, I gotta say, while I still mostly enjoyed the films, even at age 26, I didn’t find myself laughing at them nearly as much as I had as a little kid. It’s not that I’m above the whole slapstick thing — I just watched Ted for the first time tonight, and one of the funniest parts of that movie was the ridiculously violent beat down the teddy bear gives Mark Wahlberg — but I certainly felt a lot more cynical about it than I had expected.

Home Alone - Kevin McCallister

Perhaps it was the fact that I watched them back-to-back in one night. Perhaps it was because I watched them while cooking a turkey that inadvertently filled my apartment with large plumes of smoke (the turkey turned out fine, but I’m still unsure what caused all that). Or perhaps it’s because I realized that 2 is basically just a remake of 1 with extra ridiculous and a hefty dollop of moralizing. Maybe it was a combination of those factors.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York - Kevin McCallisterSo, rather than review these films separately, as I would with any other franchise, I decided to review them at the same time. Unlike with last year’s Grudge Match Review of adaptations of A Christmas Carol, however, this isn’t really a competition, but rather an efficient way of killing two birds with one stone. After all, take a look at those credits up there. The films are identical in cast and crew, with the second one doing the typical sequel thing by throwing in a few new faces for good measure, and, for the most part, they are the same in story structure, too. Read more…

Theatrical Review: “Skyfall”

November 13, 2012 1 comment
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Produced by: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
Cinematography by: Roger Deakins
Music by: Thomas Newman (score), Adele (title song)
Editing by: Stuard Baird, Kate Baird
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Bérénice Lim Marlohe, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney
Based on the characters created by Ian Fleming
Year: 2012

 

One of the best things about Skyfall, Bond movie #23, is that, being released on the 50th anniversary of the film franchise means that it gets a bit of leeway for being a bit reverential towards its series legacy. Fans of the series from any era will find a few bits here and there to point at and go, “Hey, look!” A lot of franchises do this on their anniversaries, and the Bond franchise even went and did this ten years ago, when Die Another Day was released as not only the 20th Bond movie, but also on the somewhat less glamorous 40th anniversary of the film franchise.

Whereas that film felt more like an exploitation of the series history through a poorly assembled “Greatest Hits” compilation, however, Skyfall feels more like a reverential tribute that smartly takes these well known and celebrated elements (ridiculous stunts, expensive gadgetry, eccentric villains, and sweeping theme songs) and reworks them to fit into the new tone set in place by the reboot films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. From the opening gambit onward, director Sam Mendes establishes this tone with a great mix of the old and new, as Bond is faced with not just physical struggles, but also emotional and personal struggles.

(Very mild spoilers ahead.) Read more…

Review: “Quantum of Solace”

November 9, 2012 2 comments
Directed by: Marc Forster
Produced by: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli
Written by: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Cinematography by: Roberto Schaefer
Music by: David Arnold (score), Jack White and Alicia Keys (title song)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Gemma Arterton, Anatole Taubman, David Harbour, Joaquín Cosío, Rory Kinnear
Based on the character created by Ian Fleming
Year: 2008

 

After the considerable critical enthusiasm over the James Bond reboot, Casino Royale, it was probably inevitable that disappointment would have surrounded the followup. Consider the fact that the film’s production was affected by the 2007 – 2008 Writer’s Guild strike (with writer Paul Haggis reportedly completing the final touches just two hours prior to the beginning of the strike) and the fact that the film’s director, Marc Forster, was making his action movie debut. So, yes, the odds were stacked up against this already unusually named Bond entry (which is named after but not an adaptation of a collection of Bond short stories — in case you didn’t know). Read more…

Review: “Casino Royale” (2006)

November 8, 2012 5 comments
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Produced by: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis (screenplay)
Cinematography by: Phil Meheux
Music by: David Arnold (score), Chris Cornell (title song)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Simon Abkarian, Caterina Murino, Ivana Miličević
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming
Year: 2006

 

There are always going to be arguments about who did Bond best. I grew up watching the films but can honestly say that I don’t remember much of the 60s – 80s thanks to the films largely feeling quite… samey. As a kid, however, I did love the character and his world, and, for a while, Pierce Brosnan was my Bond — cocky, suave, witty, and boy did he have a lot of gadgets. Brosnan’s still just fine in my book, but there’s no hiding the fact that his Bond was saddled with the task of carrying a series of films that increasingly got more and more ridiculous and bland.

It was like the Batman film series all over again — a strong start (Batman / GoldenEye), a strong but bloated sequel (Batman Returns / Tomorrow Never Dies), a right turn into camp (Batman Forever/ The World is Not Enough), and then an ultimate downfall into a ridiculously gauche, almost satirical world that didn’t even resemble the first two (Batman & Robin / Die Another Day). Like with Batman, a fifth film to carry on the series was in the works, but, ultimately, the series was put on a brief hiatus for a restructuring. Luckily, Bond continued in the footsteps of Batman and went for a reboot for the “fifth” film, taking a more serious, thoughtful, and realistic approach to the character and his world and ridding the series of the excesses, and doing so by, for the first time ever, exploring the events that made Bond the hero that we know him to be today. Read more…

Review: “Batman Begins”

July 18, 2012 7 comments
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Produced by: Emma Thomas, Larry J. Franco, Charles Roven
Written by: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer (screenplay), David S. Goyer (story)
Cinematography by: Wally Pfister
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Mark Boone Junior, Ken Watanabe, Colin McFarlane, Linus Roache, Sara Stewart
Year: 2005

 

I was planning on going through the whole story about how much the Batman franchise was in dire need of a reboot, but I quickly found that I was going on about so many things that didn’t need repeating. The basic and short version of the story is that, after two rather strong films (Batman and Batman Returns), Warner Bros. and DC Comics shot themselves in the foot by allowing, nay demanding, for the rather awful Batman Forever and Batman & Robin to be unleashed upon the tortured fans in the name of making more money off of merchandising, only for critical reaction to slam the films and tickets sales to drop. Instead of going forward with what was in hindsight the rather ironically named fifth film, Batman Triumphant, both companies decided to take a break from the superhero films business and think about where they’d gone wrong.

Of course, in that time, their rivals over at Marvel were apparently seeing this as a window of opportunity, and they began production on and even released several rather strong films over the following years, namely the two first films in each of the BladeX-Men, and Spider-Man trilogies, each with increasingly better reception from audiences and critics. At that point, it was clear that after years of being in the shadows, it was time for Batman to emerge once again. Read more…

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