THE FILM YAP » reboot We Never Shut Up About Movies Mon, 20 Oct 2014 04:12:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 7 Reasons “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is the Best Spider-Man Yet Mon, 05 May 2014 13:00:35 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 7 Reasons Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the best Spider-Man Yet My, the rebooted Marc Webb “Amazing Spider-Man” series is quite the polarizing couple of flicks. Many fans bash the series at every turn, criticizing every aspect of the films. Some fans bemoan the occasional hoakiness of the series while others are merely rooting for Spider-Man to fail in hopes that Sony will sour on the property and hand it back to Marvel Studios so the wall crawler can presumably take a place aside the Avengers. (BTW, you’re dreaming. That’s not going to happen. Like ever.) While there are some admittedly corny aspects to Webb’s version of the web slinger and the films are far from perfect, the man still has created a richer Spideyverse with a superior Peter Parker, a better overall story and amped-up action and emotion. In fact, I’m going farther than that and saying “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is the best of the five Spider-Man films. Here are my seven reasons why. (Also WARNING: Here there be SPOILERS): Don’t agree? Sound off in the comments!

Andrew Garfield

7 Reasons Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the best Spider-Man Yet Andrew Garfield The ultimate Spider-Man, bar none. All respect to Tobey Maguire, but as the folks at Honest Trailers mentioned in their takedown of the Raimi series, he looks like a puppy and has the voice of an even more non-threatening puppy. Garfield has presence, a sense of awkwardness and total believability as both an introverted loner and a brash, cocky superhero. Garfield throws himself into Peter Parker, and it shows.

Emma Stone

7 Reasons Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the best Spider-Man Yet Emma Stone Sure, she’s impossibly adorable and plays the sexy/nerdy dream girl to perfection. As Gwen Stacy, she’s a mirror image of Peter Parker who both comforts and completely disarms him. She and Garfield have electric chemistry and fit together like peanut butter and jelly. In short, she’s leagues better than Kirsten Dunst ever was.

The Raimi films aren’t as great as you remember

7 Reasons Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the best Spider-Man Yet Yeah, go back and watch them again. They’re poorly edited, hokey and far too reliant upon Raimi’s familiar tropes (like making Peter Parker into an emo, woman-beating beatnik). We kind of missed out on a lot of the flaws of “Spider-Man” and “Spider-Man 2″ because we were so taken by what was good that we glossed over cornball moments, poor acting and overall bad or outdated techniques (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”? REALLY?!). If threequelitis hadn’t hit so badly in the third film, we may never have noticed how weak they were at times. Plus, as the Honest Trailers folks point out, Raimi essentially made the same movie three times. He only really got it right once. Plus, the action sequences in the “Amazing” films are head-and-shoulders above, with so much more thought put into them. Look at the way Spider-Man uses his webs. Aside from the device of having mechanical web shooters (more on this in a moment), Spider-Man uses the webs in much more creative ways — to box in his opponents, to confound and annoy them and, finally, to subdue them. The “Amazing” webs are almost characters unto themselves.

Mechanical web shooters

7 Reasons Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the best Spider-Man Yet Webshooters Remember all the controversy about Tobey Spidey’s organic web shooters?  Yeah,  still dumb, even if we got lulled to sleep with our objections over them in the sequels. That aspect has all been forgotten in the “Amazing” movies, especially considering how right they got the web shooters. Mechanical web shooters add another level of danger and innovation both in the first film, where the Lizard crushes them, and the second, where Electro fries one of them with electricity. They force Peter to do one more thing to tinker with his shooters, which he was constantly doing in the comics.

They’re not afraid to go dark

7 Reasons Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the best Spider-Man Yet Peter is a touch less well-adjusted in the “Amazing” series than in the Raimi films. He’s a little more scarred by Uncle Ben’s death and less merely sad, and he has issues with his parents abandoning him. Not to mention killing off Captain Stacy in the first film, then {SPOILER} Gwen herself in this movie. Raimi never had the stones to kill off Mary Jane, now did he?

The Sinister Six

Sinister Six Amazing Spider-Man I’m just going to say it: The well-worn superhero movie tenet that says more than one bad guy is a bad idea is just wrong. It’s short-sighted, and it just hasn’t been properly done yet. Quit being so hung up on giving the bad guys origin stories and loads of unnecessary character development. In “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Rhino (Paul Giamatti) gets no back story; he’s simply a bad guy given a suit. He plays only a small role, but that’s all that was asked of him. Sometimes it’s OK for our hero to just fight bad guys who don’t all have daddy issues. Webb and Co. are developing the Sinister Six as foils to Spider-Man, which I believe is a record for number of bad guys in one superhero movie. So imagine Spider-Man having to take on the Green Goblin…and Rhino. And Kraven the Hunter and Chameleon and Doctor Octopus and the Vulture. Those are some high stakes right there. And it’s going to happen.

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Evil Dead Tue, 16 Jul 2013 19:35:35 +0000 Continue reading ]]> evil dead - interior

The long-awaited remake of the seminal 1981 horror film “Evil Dead” is little more than a diluted reboot set to droning dubstep beats. Sure, the remake ups the ante on blood-soaked mayhem and overall violent carnage. However, there’s a jarring discrepancy between the visually stunning “Kool-Aid”-tinged visuals and forgettably mediocre plot equipped with your standard young vapid leads.

I suppose the idea of teenagers vacationing in a cabin in the woods is a somewhat outdated premise, but the 2013 remake opts for a far more head-scratching alternative. As a last resort tactic, two couples drag their junkie friend and repeat offender, Mia, into the woods to detox her in the hopes that going cold turkey will set her straight. Despite finding the basement laced with dead cats hooked to the ceiling and a “Book of the Dead” with “DO NOT OPEN” scribbled in blood across the cover, the group blindly goes forth with their intervention.

The group’s relentless dedication to the intervention is downright frustrating, especially once Mia turns “Regan” on everyone, leading the group to conclude that she’s simply delirious from detoxing. The characters, aside from Mia, are each more insipidly forgettable than the last. Mia’s brother, David, is most notably put to waste as he falls for nearly every dumb demon trick in the book, nearly setting his sister free on numerous occasions despite her having murdered nearly the entire group.

If you had never seen the original “Evil Dead,” I feel as if the 2013 version would come off as a fragmented, Nomadic shell of a movie. The entire premise behind the reboot is hinged upon the fact that the audience has seen the original and making parallels to iconic imagery found in it (i.e., the tree scene, chainsaw, cellar, etc.). It’s a reimagined plot with almost no imagination put forth other than what was already in place from the original.

If that wasn’t enough, the Bruce Campbell cameo at the end of the credits is the definitive final nail that gets hammered down, coming off as a hackneyed last hurrah that reeks of desperation.

Even the trailers that came out for the film used the excessive blood-splatter as the main crutch for selling the film. However, I was rather impressed with the final sequence.  Unfortunately, it’s the only 10 minutes of truly thrilling action to be found in the entire movie. Considering the fact that the opening sequence is completely disjointed from the rest of the film, it’s especially aggravating to see the film finally hit its stride in the final moments.

The highly anticipated DVD/Blu-ray combo release is packed with special features. There is a commentary featuring the actors and director Fede Alvarez, as well as a slew of featurettes. As part of such, there’s a behind-the-scenes special-effects piece, a director interview, a look at the updated Necronomicon and a piece featuring Bruce Campbell as well. Unfortunately, the special features far outweigh the feature presentation.

I suppose Joss Whedon is ultimately to blame for my various qualms with this newest “Evil Dead,” as “Cabin in the Woods” single andedly deconstructed the entire genre and held a mirror up to every glaring flaw and redundant cliche present over the last three or four decades. Simply put, horror movies post-“CitW” have higher expectations put upon them, and “Evil Dead” simply failed to impress. Then again, it had some big shoes to fill itself.

Film: 2.5 Yaps
Extras: 4.5 Yaps

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You Only Live Twenty-Thrice: “Casino Royale” (2006) Fri, 26 Oct 2012 05:40:49 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

“You Only Live Twenty-Thrice” is Nick Rogers’ look back at the James Bond films.

Each Friday until the release of the 23rd official Bond film, “Skyfall,” Nick will revisit its 22 official predecessors from start to finish, with a bonus post for the unofficial films in which James Bond also appears.

“Like all harsh, cold men, he was easily tipped over into sentiment.” — Ian Fleming, “Casino Royale,” 1953

“You do what I do long enough , there won’t be any soul left to salvage.” — James Bond, “Casino Royale,” 2006

Knuckles. Forehead. Fingers. Chest. For a man not mortally wounded, James Bond is bleeding everywhere.

Some of the blood is his. Some of it belongs to the assassin whose life he just choked out in a stairwell. Regardless, crimson cakes the rim of his whiskey decanter. It dots the starched shirt he rips open. It drips in teary rivulets from his temples. It tinctures the half-filled sink. The water meant to cleanse is, like him, stained.

He massages his face. Downs a drink. Exhales. Closes his eyes. But those nerves aren’t truly steeled. Not now. Not yet. A hitch in his breath. A slight downward bow of doubt. Then, a gaze into what is becoming an abyss — his own face in the mirror.

This is not 007’s ordinary pause for replenishment and respite. This is nothing less than a moment to reconsider the life he’s chosen. Were any modern-day face built to harden into focused, violent confidence, it’s Daniel Craig’s. But that doesn’t happen in this scene of 2006’s “Casino Royale,” which, in the matter of a moment, radically reboots the Bond films by more or less reinventing a man we’ve known for 44 years.

Yes, Bond summons the energy to return to a Montenegro poker table — where MI6 has staked him millions to defeat indebted terrorist financier Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) in hopes he’ll talk to escape violent creditors like those Bond just killed.

But has 007 summoned the resolve to continue as a bred-to-be, Double-O killer for MI6? To judge situations dispassionately and remove his ego from the equation, as M (Judi Dench) has mandated? Only in the final minutes does the film — and Craig’s measured, blistering debut Bond performance — answer these questions in the franchise-preserving affirmative.

“Royale” rubs so much salt in Bond’s wounds to counter the sugar rush of its most immediate predecessor. With both the emotion and the action sequences running raw, “Royale” is as invigorating for its intimate revelations about its characters as for its hard-charging spectacle. The result is the greatest 007 film since “From Russia with Love” — perhaps not coincidentally Craig’s favorite Bond outing.

As in “Russia,” Bond is rattled by how easily the bad guys seem to roll him — misinterpreting signals, screwing up and bleeding, a lot; Craig’s face and hands look perpetually scratched with staples.

René Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), Bond’s aide de camp in Montenegro, is clearly modeled after “Russia’s” Ali Karim Bey — advising Bond on the power of personality while being potentially duplicitous himself.

Nearly all of “Royale’s” action scenes focus on close-quarters hand-to-hand combat, reminiscent of 007’s train grapple with Grant and the climactic evasion of Rosa Klebb’s shoe knife. But it isn’t merely cheery homage: These moments place Bond face to face with mortality and suggest his ability to expedite it in others clouds the insights he needs to save himself. Plus, “Royale” also ends in Venice, only on a note of fatal finality rather than flippant flirtation.

And to think this refreshingly uncompromising rewind almost didn’t happen thanks to another round of Hollywood hardball.

In 1997, Sony Pictures announced intentions to produce its own James Bond movie. Having remade “Thunderball” 14 years earlier, Kevin McClory was again flaunting his court-upheld rights to that title — cozying up to Sony for a project to be called “Warhead 2000 A.D.”

Often in as much financial flux as Le Chiffre, MGM/UA — studio home to the official Bond films — sued to block “Warhead.” Adding fuel to the fire, both studios had prepped Spider-Man films thanks to that property’s own rights-holder loopholes. When the dust, and the studios, settled, “Warhead” was shelved and MGM recovered the rights to “Royale” — Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, sold long ago to what was then Columbia Pictures and produced as a 1967 unofficial Bond spoof.

Sony’s consolation prize came in at $3.2 billion (and counting), as MGM gave up its claim to Spider-Man. And Sony eventually got its hands on Bond anyway, leading a consortium to purchase MGM in 2005 and gain distribution rights to all Bond films starting with, yes, “Royale.”

Neither was “Royale” initially intended as a reboot. In 2004, screenwriters Robert Wade and Neal Purvis started the script with Pierce Brosnan in mind — even though Brosnan had already fulfilled his four-movie contract. Quentin Tarantino expressed interest in directing, but only in black-and-white and with Brosnan. However, in February 2005, Brosnan, pushing 50, exited the role, and producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli spitballed some 200 names to fill it.

Goran Višnjić of “ER” made the final four but apparently couldn’t master a British accent. So did a then 22-year-old Henry Cavill — reportedly director Martin Campbell’s first choice but vetoed by Wilson and Broccoli in favor of someone older. (While Višnjić remains franchise-free, Cavill will carry Superman’s mantle in 2013.)

So, Craig it was, much to the dismay of many an Internet troll. Craig is short, blond and pugnacious, they said, not tall, dark and handsome. They overlooked his diverse character turns in “Munich” and “Road to Perdition” as well as the cool he oozed in “Layer Cake,” instead citing his only real action credit to date (the admittedly unfortunate “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”). But this quote from Craig about his approach to Bond informs the exceptional work he’s done here and in 2008’s “Quantum of Solace” (which, essentially, plays out like an extended third act to “Royale”):

“The question I keep asking myself while playing the role is, ‘Am I the good guy or just a bad guy who works for the good side?’ Bond’s role, after all, is that of an assassin when you come down to it. I have never played a role in which someone’s dark side shouldn’t be explored. I don’t think it should be confusing by the end of the film, but during the film, you should be questioning who he is.”

Save its prologue, there’s nothing black-and-white about “Royale.” This noirish stylistic choice — a franchise first — forces the viewer to zero in on shadows, faces and uncertainty. Bond is en route to his second kill to attain Double-O status. He’s targeting a duplicitous MI6 section chief. Right away, we wonder: Is Bond truly eliminating a rotten egg or merely paving the way for another’s corruption?

We also see, in the blinding-white contrast of a flashback, Bond’s first kill — which primarily involves the drowning the section chief’s contact in a bathroom sink. (Water, as it turns out, is an evocative motif in “Royale’s” script, which Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis punched up. It metaphorically plumbs water’s properties of purification and suffocation, sometimes simultaneously.)

“Royale” continues to shatter expectations as it pushes the eye-popping pre-credits action sequence into the meat of the movie. But first, we meet Le Chiffre, who got the short end of the genetic stick: He’s a wheezing asthmatic with a vitreous left eye that weeps blood thanks to a deformed tear duct.

“Do you believe in God?,” a Ugandan warlord who will later come to kill him asks. “No, I believe in a reasonable rate of return,” replies the market manipulator who short-sells stocks in successful companies before engineering terrorist attacks to sink share prices. (In the franchise’s ballsiest moment of political realism, it’s suggested Le Chiffre profited from 9/11.)

Jump to Madagascar, where Bond pursues a bomb maker named Mollaka (Sebastién Foucan). Bond gives primal chase, a predator stalking his prey. Thinking of Mollaka as quarry, not an asset, lets him dissociate from the destruction he brings. Here, there’s none of the interaction and intimacy that will cloud the rest of his mission.

And in addition to its awesome acrobatics, the use of parkour, or free-running (of which Foucan is considered a founder) is thematically rich. Like “Royale,” parkour is about breaking rules set in stone — obliterating the boundaries of structures and surfaces and skittering into places you’re not technically supposed to go.

Cameras soar to vibrant, dangerous, precipitous heights over Bond and Mollaka’s slugfest atop a construction site — the first of many fights that look like they hurt for days. And when Mollaka seeks shelter in an embassy, we see this Bond gives no damn about diplomacy.

While M slams the “self-righteous, ass-covering prigs” in the media who latch onto Bond’s kill, she nevertheless admonishes him: “Self-awareness and arrogance rarely go hand in hand. … Any thug can kill. I need to know that I can trust you and that you know who to trust. And since you don’t know that, I need you out of my sight.”

Even more rules broken: Seemingly on vacation, Bond arrives at a Bahamian club in a … compact Ford? Fear not. He finds his way into an Aston Martin soon enough. Craig’s Bond may be infinitely more violent and vulnerable than his forebears, but this snub-nosed charisma occasionally downshifts into recognizable suavity.

In actuality, Bond is going up the chain of Mollaka’s contacts. And the man from whom he takes the Aston Martin is Dimitrios, who recruited Mollaka for Le Chiffre’s latest destructive mission. To discern the target, Bond brazenly marks Dimitrios’s territory — seducing his wife, Solange. But he abandons Solange in the heat of the moment to chase his latest meal: Dimitrios is headed to Miami to meet Carlos, another henchman, and bomb a prototypical plane to put $100 million in Le Chiffre’s coffers.

Because this Bond has trained himself to see everyone as bodies in various states of decomposition, it’s fitting that he offs Dimitrios at a “Body Worlds” exhibit. Given his Darwinian method of dispatching people, Bond is comfortable in dioramas of death.

And yet, he’s overeager in tailing Carlos, who makes him at the airport. What follows is one of Bond’s more seismic mid-movie thrills — a foot-and-truck chase onto the tarmac that sees a cop car caught in the wash of a roaring jet and 007 curling his face into a satisfied sneer at the trap he sets for Carlos.

Whatever gratification he gets from Carlos’s gory demise is snuffed the second he sees Solange’s body back in the Bahamas — strung up in a hammock and choked with sand. Here is Bond’s true introduction to collateral damage. He caressed and charmed this woman with intimations of intimacy that led to her death. Like the moment with the mirror, Bond’s gaze at her body is not perfunctory; Campbell and editor Stuart Baird linger long enough to suggest his cage is ever-so-slightly rattled.

M reinstates Bond to active duty, but not before microchipping him like a dog to track his whereabouts. The hunt she sends him on is one at which he’ll prove less adept: Reading those around him for bluffs and tells at Le Chiffre’s poker game, which Le Chiffre must win to cover his $100 million loss. By now, he knows Bond is an agent but lets him play anyway for the humiliation he seems certain to bring to MI6: If Bond loses, Britain’s government will have directly funded terrorism.

Accompanying Bond is Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a Treasury agent keeping tabs on his $10 million buy-in. Women have dressed down Bond before, but few of them have flayed skin as Vesper does in their introduction. Craig and Green’s conversational chemistry is instant, antagonistic and sharp-tongued in a scene that redefines the Bond girl as much as the man in whose arms she eventually seeks solace.

The ensuing card games could have been boring flips of cards and chips, hung up on defining table talk about “blinds” and “rivers.” Instead, they depict a gutsy, psychological battle of wills between Bond and Le Chiffre — the smart way, the only way, to successfully dramatize poker.

It sets the pace for elevated emotional stakes that whip into a froth in that stairwell, where Bond fights and kills the Ugandans whose money Le Chiffre has lost. Although this scene lasts barely more than a minute, it triggers a series of explosive emotional choices to linger in Bond’s memory for however long Craig chooses to hold the role.

Vesper has never seen such a sudden eruption of brutality — a chilling reminder that there’s much more than money at stake. When Bond finds a broken wine glass and a running shower upon his return to their hotel room, it’s a tense suggestion of menace — is Vesper dead? — that yields to unfettered tenderness.

In the Roger Moore era, Vesper would have sexually caved. Here, it’s merely a chaste offering of comfort. But as Bond glances at her prostrate body in bed, pausing before continuing the mission, we know what he’s as yet hesitant to admit: He has given himself over to Vesper.

That’s not to say “Royale” becomes a chamber piece of awkward silences and longing glances. Subsequent action and suspense serve to deepen Bond’s conflicting impulses and his love for Vesper. In fact, his inner turmoil becomes so distracting that he loses it all to Le Chiffre, who dupes Bond into thinking he has a tell.

In a panic, Bond turns to the only instinct that has served him well so far. But just as he’s about to assassinate Le Chiffre, CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) stakes him $5 million to return to the game.

Neither Moneypenny nor Q can be found in “Royale,” and there are barely gadgets. The closest Bond comes is a defibrillator in his car, which comes in handy after Le Chiffre poisons his drink. And although we know he can’t possibly perish here, he barely survives … thanks only to Vesper.

Eventually, Bond gets the best revenge — going all in with a $40.5 million hand to take the tournament right out from under Le Chiffre. They’re two stags butting heads, carelessly tossing and scattering chips and plaques in the middle of the table.

In their afterglow dinner celebration, Vesper plants the suggestion of a life beyond all this death and blood. Maybe, perchance, even a life with her. “You’ve got a choice, you know,” Vesper says. “Just because you’ve done something doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it.”

But Le Chiffre’s not done with either of them: He snatches Vesper, and Bond hits the road after her — hellaciously totaling his car to avoid mowing her down where Le Chiffre has left her tied up on a winding highway.

He’s then imprisoned and subjected to a scene of torture that will make any man squirm and which exceeds “Die Another Day” in a sliver of the time. Naked and strapped to a chair with the bottom cut out, Bond huffs and puffs in diaphragmatic distress. (On a side note: It’s the first Bond film in which he’s sexually objectified more than any woman. Even under threat of violence, Craig’s chiseled physique is given full display. And then there’s this earlier tit-for-tat homage to “Dr. No.”)

Only for so long does Bond put up a bollocks-to-you front against Le Chiffre, who sets about to mashing Bond’s manhood. As he hears Vesper’s screams, you can see the cocksure confidence draining from his steely, cold eyes. And just as Bond resigns himself to death, Le Chiffre’s trail of bad debt catches up with him.

Bond is surprised to awaken alive and at a Lake Como villa, where he’s recuperating from his wounds. Believing Mathis to be the one who betrayed them both, he has the man arrested, then vouches for his virility with Vesper in an empty recovery room. Only then does Bond lay out his last card.

Vesper: Does everyone have a tell?
Bond: Yes. Everyone. Everyone except you. I wonder if that’s why I love you.

It’s an ultimate leap of faith — compounded by a tendered resignation and a flight to Venice. Bond unequivocally believes that, over time, Vesper’s good will balance his karmic ledger and soothe his savagery. Finally, out of everyone he’s met, Vesper is the one person he can trust. She can’t possibly have any guile, any angle, any game.

Ah, but it only sets the stage for the Bond canon’s grandest tragedy — a death tougher to watch than Tracy’s in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” as the character investment runs so much deeper.

Bond learns his winnings were never deposited back to the Treasury. And from a message Vesper leaves open on her phone, he knows she’s meeting the villains above Le Chiffre with the money. (It’s not until “Solace” that we come to know them as Quantum.)

Craig perfectly captures the confusion flashing across Bond’s brain: Did Vesper leave the message open in hopes he will find and save her? Or is she pure evil, so certain she’s snowed him and screwed all suspicion out of his mind?

He follows her to a building, propped up by inflatable supports, where she’s handing over the money. Gunplay ensues, the supports pop and Bond kills Quantum’s bad guys as the building sinks, with Vesper trapped in a lift. Her last words before it plummets into the water offer no answers: “I’m sorry, James.” And then he dives after her, now as enraged as he is enamored.

In the aftermath, M informs Bond that Quantum kidnapped Vesper’s boyfriend and blackmailed her into cooperation. She was only delivering the money in exchange for Bond’s life.

Of course, M could very well be mollycoddling her most ferocious animal before placing the next bloody steak before him. In the most annihilative way possible, Bond has learned M’s lesson the hard way: Trust no one. And his terse sign-off to the phone call speaks more strongly to the whispers and screams in James Bond’s mind better than any line before it.

In “Royale,” the classic “Bond, James Bond” line is no longer a boilerplate catchphrase. It’s a captivating coda — a scene that would, two years later, lead directly into the opening of “Solace.”

And it’s as perfect a moment as any to mull over the film’s theme song. Heard casually over the stylish opening credits, Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” is a swaggering orchestral-rock number, fusing the Soundgarden singer’s ragged howl to a driving beat, crashing strings and intrusive brass.

But its chorus is haunting in hindsight — especially considering Bond’s eventual revenge mission in “Solace” is as much about vindicating himself as it is avenging Vesper. It’s almost as if it could be broken up into M’s advice and 007’s response:

Arm yourself because no one else here will save you.
The odds will betray you and I will replace you.
You can’t deny the prize. It may never fulfill you.
It longs to kill you. Are you willing to die?

The coldest blood runs through my veins.
You know my name.

We thought we knew 007. Indeed, we knew only his name. But by the end of this grand, bold reinvention, we also know the soul, the complexity, the now-steeled nerves, and the exciting potential in Craig’s characterization of Bond going forward.

Next week: ”Quantum of Solace”


Blink and you’ll miss a cameo from Virgin brand impresario Richard Branson getting trapped in a security checkpoint at Miami International Airport. You couldn’t see him at all in British Airways’ in-flight version of “Casino Royale.” The longtime product-placement partner to Bond, which provided a Boeing that became the fictitious Skyfleet S570, also deleted a shot of a Branson-provided Virgin Atlantic plane.

Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron were contenders to play Vesper Lynd, as were Cecile de France of “Haute Tension” and Audrey Tautou of “Amelie,” who instead chose “The Da Vinci Code.”

“Royale” includes the largest-ever Bond-film rig — a 90-ton apparatus inside a tank at Pinewood Studios that controlled the climactic sinking of the Venetian house. The elevator inside the tank could withstand immersion in 19 feet of water. And an exterior model built to one-third scale is the one that eventually crumbles into the canal.

Daniel Craig has now starred in the two longest Bond films — “Royale” at 144 minutes and “Skyfall” a shade shorter at 143.

Another mission, another impressive (if costly) world record — achieved when Bond swerves to miss Vesper in the road. An air-powered cannon behind the driver’s seat of an Aston Martin allowed the car to complete seven full barrel rolls for the record of vehicular barrel rolls assisted by a cannon. It proves two things: 1) Guinness will verify anything. 2) Price matters not for perfecting a Bond stunt, as one afternoon of filming destroyed three cars to the tune of $300,000.

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Mon, 11 Jun 2012 04:30:58 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

The only way I could accurately describe my hatred for the putrid “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” would be to tell you that I would rather watch Eddie Murphy in “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” over and over and over and over.

This time around, Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage), afraid of his inner demon, is hiding away in Europe. A monk named Moreau recruits the reluctant Blaze to help save a young boy whom the Devil himself desires. Johnny Blaze must now embrace the demon known as Ghost Rider to be able to save the boy and himself.

I’m not really sure how to eloquently put this, but “Ghost Rider 2” is an epic waste of valuable minutes of my life and money. It absolutely perplexes me how anyone thought that it would be a good thing to make a sequel to “Ghost Rider.” Granted, I didn’t hate the first film. It was cheesy and over the top, but it still had an element of fun in spite of itself. The irony isn’t lost on me. But it’s a fact that the sequel’s filmmakers intended to make a film that surpassed the original but in actuality made the original look Oscar-worthy.

It is also sort of funny that everyone, me included, gives Tom Cruise or Charlie Sheen a hard time for slowly slipping into madness but rewards Nicolas Cage. His acting is absolutely atrocious, even for him. All he does is twitch, scream and cry about being cursed with a demon. I won’t even waste my time on the rest of the cast. Most of them are quite talented and I will award them a mulligan for being a part of this train wreck.

Honestly, I hated this movie so much that I can’t waste the time going into any more of the movie. How can anyone take a movie seriously when the hero pees fire? This bit alone made me want to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t having a nightmare.

I know I’ve said this before, but please, please do not buy this movie. It is a ridiculously moronic sequel that never deserved to see the light of day. If you’re a curious person and just have to see this movie, then I suggest you get your best friend to rent it for you.

I’m sure the movie has special features, but the movie left such a bad taste in my mouth that I didn’t dare look at the bare-bones features.

Film: 0 yaps
Features: 0 yaps

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Heroes of the Zeroes: Star Trek (2009) Tue, 05 Oct 2010 04:01:06 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Star Trek”
Rated PG-13

Although given the Starship Enterprise’s keys, geek-culture maven J.J. Abrams warped the Federation vessel like he stole it in 2009’s “Star Trek” — a sleek, stylish reboot that achieved jailbreak momentum through deft pacing, dense plotting, passionate principles and perfect casting.

Resourcefully entwining the Enterprise crew’s origin story and first mission, screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci rebuffed the idea such plots couldn’t creatively find breathing room in the same script.

Going further, they severed canon-continuity ties, using an alternate-reality gambit that probably irked aging Trekkies as much as rap-music cues like “Sabotage.” But this “Trek,” like none since “First Contact,” boldly and passionately pushed the franchise where it hadn’t gone before.

James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) as Starfleet Academy buddies before battling a time-traveling Romulan (Eric Bana)? Too easy.

Instead, “Star Trek” takes unpredictably scenic routes to heroism through impossible decisions, challenging sacrifices, personal tragedies and snarling clashes of Spock’s Vulcan logic and Kirk’s human guts.

This focus on them doesn’t detract from the strong support of John Cho, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban and Anton Yelchin, filling out the Enterprise crew. (Even as a purely functionary one-and-done villain, Bana gives it his spit-spewing all as well.)

Thrilling and aggressive without stooping to brutality or bombast, “Star Trek” found invigoration in fresh, exciting storytelling rather than musty, dues-paying nostalgia that led the series into a situation with worse odds for success than the Kobayashi Maru. This franchise is now set to stun for several sequels.

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How Many Sequels? Tue, 07 Sep 2010 04:02:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

This weekend the fourth Resident Evil film is coming out, which has made millions of Americans wonder, “When in the world did they make four Resident Evil films?” Some sequels are big event movies like the welcoming of another Star Wars or Indiana Jones. Most sequels just arrive and are immediately forgotten like the taste of an individual chip. To hopefully prove my point, I’ve created a team of panelists to see if they can remember how many sequels a certain franchise actually has.

So this is my panel: Joe Shearer from this lovely site called The Film Yap; Keith Jackson and Kenny Jones from the immensely popular And the Nominees Are podcast; and Stephanie Bristow, the host of the Ball State entertainment news show called The Reel Deal.


Joe: Ummm, let’s say 6.

Keith: This is a series? No don’t write that! STOP WRITING! 4.

Kenny: Oh s***. 12?

Stephanie: 6.

Real Answer: 9.

Final Destination

Joe: There are 4, currently with the fifth one coming.

Keith: Uhhh, there’s 4 right now but there is going to be five.

Kenny: Do they have…I remember three of them. 3.

Stephanie: 6.

Real Answer: 4 with 5nal Destination coming soon.

Friday the 13th

Joe: If we’re counting Freddy vs. Jason there’s 11—not including the remake, which makes 12.

Keith: Arent there like, 8?

Kenny: Oh s***. Does that include the remake? (Yes). 11?

Stephanie: (Deep sigh) Three.

Real Answer: 12, including Freddy vs. Jason

Nanny McPhee

Joe: There’s two I think.

Keith: There’s two.

Kenny: 2!

Stephanie: 2.

Real Answer: 2.

Police Academy

Joe: (Laughs) Oh, let’s see. I want to say I think there’s 8.

Keith: 4.

Kenny: 4?

Stephanie: Oh I don’t even know. I’ve never even—I’m so ashamed. 2.

Real Answer: 7.


Joe: There were 4, but my wife is saying five.

Keith: Oh, um, 5.

Kenny: (Flustered) 5.

Stephanie: Oh.. 4?

Real Answer: 4


Joe: There were 6.

Keith: 6.

Kenny: 6 including Rocky Balboa!

Stephanie: Isn’t there just 3?

Real Answer: 6


Joe: Wow, Rugrats? I’ll say 3.

Keith: Like the cartoon? (Laughs) I think was at least the one. I mean duh. They went to Paris that one time. I don’t know if that’s the first one. I think that was the second one. I’m going to say 3.

Kenny: Movies? Ummmm, I saw the one. 4?

Stephanie: 3.

Real Answer: 3.


Joe: Saw is 7 coming out this year.

Keith: The next one is going to be the…seventh.

Kenny: 6! That one I’m pretty sure about.

Stephanie: There are 6.

Real Answer: 6 with the 7th coming out in October.

Star Trek

Joe: I better not get this wrong. Counting the remake is 11.

Keith: There’s 11.

Kenny: Oh Jesus Christ. 14! There’s a lot. That’s all I know.

Stephanie: Oh gosh. 7?

Real Answer: 11.

The Thin Man

Joe: I don’t know. I’ll say 3.

Keith: 6.

Kenny: 7. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Kenny apparently only said seven because he looked at my DVD shelf and saw 7 Thin Man boxes not realizing one was a documentary. If he hadn't looked at that he would have said six.] [ADDITIONAL EDITOR'S NOTE: This matters so much!]

Stephanie: Yeah no clue so I’m going to say 4.

Real Answer: 6.


Joe: This was the third one out now so 3 to date.

Keith: There is going to be 5 films but four actual stories, right?

Kenny: There are going to be 4 with a two-part third one.

Stephanie: Obviously there have been four books so four but there have only been three so far or have there been two? No I’m just going to say 4.

Real Answer: 3 with two more on their way.

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Heroes of the Zeroes: Casino Royale (2006) Tue, 23 Feb 2010 05:01:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.

“Casino Royale”
Rated PG-13

Daniel Craig’s 2006 role as the sixth film James Bond proved more rewarding to the character than most previous efforts —namely a harder-charging, unhinged Bond.

Still suave but more violent and vulnerable, this Bond misinterpreted signals, screwed up, received serious reprimands and bled … a lot. (His face and hands often looked as if they’d been scratched with staples.) Craig could’ve been as dour as Timothy Dalton, but, as a “blunt instrument,” he roared with animalistic charisma.

This series didn’t need a dire do-over like Batman, but the series’ continuity shook and stirred into an intoxicating whirl with the rewind story of Bond’s first mission. No double entendres, Bond drives — gasp! — a Ford, and there even is a medical explanation for the villain’s filmy left eye that weeps blood.

Resident Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (with help from Paul Haggis) meet an invigorating challenge to match this stripped-down mentality with restrained, but exciting, gunplay, hand-to-hand combat, car chases and explosions. And the casino scenes are no boring flips of cards and chips — instead a battle of wills with a stairwell sword attack and cardiac arrest for kicks.

The conclusion is “Royale” with cheese, and its setup led to a feature-length conclusion in 2008’s “Quantum of Solace” that felt like a journeyman action film. But the final minutes sowed seeds for all we’ve come to know about Bond — his reliance upon gadgets, emotional detachment and a trust-no-one attitude.

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Sony is Rebooting Spider-Man…With Whom? Thu, 14 Jan 2010 16:48:47 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Spider-Man as we know him in cinematic form is no more.

Sony and director Sam Raimi (along with his cast, including Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst) fumbled talks on bringing back the web-slinger on a fourth and fifth installment, leading to a break and the news that Raimi and his actors will not be back.

This is something of bittersweet news, and the sour taste of “Spider-Man 3″ continues to linger on our palette like so much spoiled cottage cheese, but the promise of a new day and a fresh start for Raimi was encouraging, at least initially (the rumors of Vulture and his daughter “Vultress,” played by John Malkovich and Anne Hathaway, wasn’t exactly setting fanboys’ spandex on fire), but calls for a Spidey reboot will now be heeded.

Mike Fleming of Deadline Hollywood reports that Sony’s short list to helm this new Spidey franchise includes James Cameron, David Fincher, Wes Anderson, but the frontrunner might be “(500) Days of Summer” director Marc Webb.

Webb is both the riskiest and safest choice for the studio; he’s a young up-and-comer, would come cheaper than the others, and is probably the most likely to play ball with the studio. But he can still be the face who can inject some fresh blood into the franchise. He certainly captured young-adult angst well in his previous effort, but how would that translate into midair action sequences?

Most tantalizing to me is perhaps Wes Anderson, whose big-screen web-slinger would surely be the sarcastic quip-machine Raimi’s wasn’t, but would still probably have a hint of the irreverence his predessor brought to the table as well.

Cameron and Fincher too would be two directors with a singular visual style, and Cameron’s work with Avatar could conceivably continue with Spider-Man, especially if plans for a 3D Spidey continue to move forward.

The current script, written by James Vanderbilt, calls for the new film to focus on a high school-age Peter Parker who is coming to terms with his powers and how to use them. Personally Spider-Man is one comic franchise that could work like James Bond does, where we can have multi-film arcs, but also can make a new film with an entirely new villain without hitting the reset button.

In comic book terms that could now be the “Incredible Hulk” corollary, where the reset occurs without having a new origin story (which among genre fans is quickly becoming passe anyway), but just jumping into a new story and continuing from there. It frees the filmmakers from the limitations set by the franchise without necessitating a whole new, ponderously long restart, and allows them to almost pick and choose what they want to keep and jettison.

Is it a cop out? Sure, but that doesn’t  mean it’s  not a viable option or will keep the film from being good.

And here’s another thought: as with previous Marvel characters, there is a time limit that the studios have before rights revert back to Marvel. If that happens, Spidey could be melded back into the Marvel Universe, leaving him free to interact with heroes with existing film franchises like Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk, and forthcoming ones like Captain America and Thor, not to mention the Fantastic Four and Daredevil, who have both been rumored to be getting Marvel reboots of their own.

Either way, the golden age of comics-to-film is still going strong.

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Does Abrams owe Trek fans an apology? Sun, 17 May 2009 12:47:20 +0000 Continue reading ]]> captainkirk

To get it out of the way first and foremost, I watched J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek and really enjoyed it. It had what most of the previous installments of the franchise lacked and that was energy.

Being a lifelong Star Wars fan, I’ve dabbled in Trek and found that I could only really stomach the original series. The later series just didn’t have that certain magical quality the original had.

Abrams’ interpretation of Trek was intriguing. It has flair, non-stop action, cool as hell visual effects — all the elements of a certain saga set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

He pulled the ol’ switcheroo. He dangled Star Trek in front of us and when we weren’t looking gave us a Star Wars style tale. Bam! He went to all this trouble and still couldn’t come up with a creative way to include our beloved Starfleet captain?

I completely get crafting a Trek story with a Wars skeletal structure. What I can’t fathom is giving us a newly updated, hip, cool beginning to the franchise and not finding an inventive way to include William Alan Shatner. The slickest Starfleet captain in the cosmos and you leave him out? Show a little respect, sir.

For that fact alone, Abrams should call all Trek fans one-by-one and personally apologize. But to include a beloved astromech droid from another space saga is almost beyond repair.

The logic of “we would have liked to include him, but forcing him in would be cumbersome” doesn’t hold water. They did it with dialog throughout the film and that didn’t seem to bother them.

It’s Shatner; you find a way to get him in.

If Spielberg or Scorsese wants to direct your film, do you tell them no? If Connery decides to come out of retirement and eyes your project, do you say no? I don’t think so.

It’s a matter of respect. I’ve read about the lost scene of old Kirk that was cut out of the film and it would have worked brilliantly. It would be a voiceover in hologram form that would reveal to young Spock the depth of Kirk and old Spock’s relationship. The voiceover would go over the final scenes where Kirk gets his medal and his commission on the Enterprise.

Roberto Orci stated that they decided to abandon it because it wasn’t enough to justify wasting his time. Really? Buttoning up a recharged Trek with Shatner providing a weighty voiceover sounds like a waste of time?

Great call.

Abrams has said it was a matter of Shatner not wanting to do it; Shatner says he never saw the scene.

It’s easy to sit back and say what you would have done in the situation, but it just logical. Maybe Shatner truly didn’t want to do just a cameo, but aim at the horizon.

“Alright, listen Bill, we would like you to do a cameo in the first film — now, now hear me out — but we would like to expand upon that after we reveal our alternate timeline. It would get the fans excited to see you as Kirk and then we can give them even more in the following films.” BOOM! It’s that simple.

J.J., I hope the check is in the mail.

I mean no disrespect to Chris Pine. Pine is a star. He captures the same arrogance and quick wit as Shatner and I think he does a great job with the character, but I think he would even agree with my view.

Abrams did everything right to revive a film franchise that set on the brink of oblivion, but the one thing he excluded cast an enormous shadow over the entire film — William Alan Shatner.


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