Skyfall – Movie Review

This is the end. Hold your breath and count to ten, Adele croons as Skyfall’s breathtaking opening scene comes to an end. A car-turned motorbike-turned train chase in the busy streets of Istanbul is as big of an adrenaline rush as you can get. The one-two hit of Skyfall‘s opening ten minutes is more than enough to keep you hooked in your seat for the ride that is going to unfold.

James Bond is assumed dead. MI6 is threatened, right in its heart. And M is taking all the blame for it. But she is resilient and set to find out who’s the player in the shadows causing all this mayhem – after all, it can’t but be someone she has worked with before, someone who knows MI6 as well as she does. Could M and James Bond finally meet their match in the series’ most unhinged villain, so reminiscent of The Dark Knight‘s “The Joker” in its complexity?

Daniel Craig’s greatest legacy as James Bond is bringing humanity back to the character. Long gone are the gimmicks, the overt supernatural technologies that filled installments such as “Die Another Day.” Long gone are the days of James Bond being near indestructible, near invincible. Long gone are the days where James Bond doesn’t show his emotional side. Long gone are the days where James Bond is just a killing machine that doesn’t fail physical tests, doesn’t get shot. Long gone are the days where James Bond is anything but weak. We had gotten a glimpse of that with Casino Royale. It slipped in the horrid Quantum of Solace. But Skyfall is a great return to form for the character and the actor.

Judy Dench as M is captivating as the wounded agent who has given her life for the agency that’s now crumbling before her eyes, trying so hard to cling to the only thing she’s ever done well and terrified at the prospect of having everything she knows change.

The new additions to the roster such as Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem do exceptionally in their corresponding roles. Skyfall boasts a terrific British cast that knows what they’re doing every second they are on screen.

Sam Mendes, the director of this installment, has to be credited for breathing new life into a series that seemed to be nearing its final breath with Quantum of Solace, a movie that threatened to bring the reboot to its knees. His take on the franchise roots it in the real world than any other 007 entry, making Skyfall oddly relatable and passionate for a movie about a spy agent.

Skyfall is definitely an addition to the 007 series to be proud of. It is a movie that will make you stand tall after it’s done and as everything crumbles around our favorite agent. The lengthy run time of over two hours will feel surprisingly short as you’re immersed into their oddly familiar world. I believe it is one of the best 007 movies of the entire series. And as the movie reaches its climax, you realize that Skyfall is where it ends. Skyfall is also where it begins again. So hold your breath. And count to ten.

9/10

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The Dark Knight Rises – Review

Opening 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises opens with an optimistic Gotham city enacting the Harvey Dent act that has made the city more secure. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and Batman haven’t been seen in those 8 years. There was no need for them. It is then that a masked man named Bane (Tom Hardy) kidnaps a Russian scientist from a CIA extraction operation and kills everyone on board of the plane so the wheels of his plans start spinning. Bane wants to bring Gotham its reckoning. He wants to break the city that has sunk so low in decadence.

In the meantime, Wayne enterprises is no longer making profit because of a very ambitious and expensive environmental-friendly project. There’s also a new player in town: Selina Kyle (Ann Hathaway), a very cunning jewel thief, who’s seeking a way to absolve her past. And as events progress, Gotham and its people sink into despair as a false sense of justice is set in. And as Bane rises, the necessity for the Batman rises as well. But will he be able to match Bane? Or will the Bat break, taking with him any hope Gotham city might have?

Simply put, The Dark Knight Rises is a very slow movie to start. And at an almost three hours running time, that’s a lot of time for it to get going. The sad part is when it gets going, it doesn’t capture the epic feel of its predecessor. It doesn’t come close to the sense of urgency that The Dark Knight entailed. It doesn’t come close to the sense of dread, fear and danger that the Joker was able to put in us – even though Bane’s plan was more dangerous.

Tom Hardy does a good job at portraying the masked villain. He is ruthless, powerful, dominating and frightening. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and the Batman does his best portrayal of the character in all three movies of the trilogy. His characters are weakened, losing hope, wanting to feel strong again and wanting to save the city they love. He manages to convey all those opposing emotions very well.

Marion Cotillard, as Melinda Tate, a board member of Wayne Enterprise, manages to hold her own but her character is so underdeveloped that her entire presence feels underwhelming. She doesn’t manage to do what she does best and that is steal the show whenever she’s on screen. On the other hand, Michael Cain as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler, and despite the little screen time that he gets is great as the man who wants to keep the boy he raised safe, out of harm’s way, and most importantly alive.

However, the most interesting cast choice was actually Ann Hathaway. She was absolutely brilliant as Selina Kyle and was probably the most fun to watch. She is terrifying, fun, quirky, powerful, afraid, vulnerable, strong…. And she manages to bring forth empathy in the viewer despite her many flaws. She’s fits into the tone Nolan set for the movie perfectly and betters it.

Gary Oldman returns as commissioner Gordon. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as John Blake, with an interesting middle name, a new addition to the police squad and a firm believer in the Batman. Morgan Freeman returns as Fox, the genius behind all the Bat techs. There are also many other characters from the previous Batman movies that will make an appearance as well. The purpose of The Dark Knight Rises is to bring things full circle.

However, instead of bringing things to a closure with a bang, The Dark Knight Rises fizzles away and ends the epic trilogy with a thud. Perhaps I expected more from the movie. Perhaps its only purpose was to bring the Bruce Wayne story arc to its emotional end. But with the long running time and the employment of so many different story lines that don’t go at odds with each other, the stage was set for The Dark Knight Rises to be much more.

The movie boasts brilliant special effects to the backdrop of a masterful score by Hans Zimmer, the best of which is Rise which plays at the movie’s last scene. But even with all of those epic components, The Dark Knight Rises falls short. It is definitely a good movie by all measures – perhaps even better than good. But the standards set forth by both of its predecessors and by Nolan’s previous works as well set the bar way too high and it seems Nolan has faltered and fallen short.

Should you watch it? Definitely. You will more than enjoy it. You will get goosebumps and you will get emotional. But you won’t go out of the movie theatre shocked like you were with The Dark Knight and you won’t go out of the theatre raving about the brilliant movie you just watched. One thing to be grateful for, however, is Nolan breaking the boundaries of comic book-based movies and delivering an Oscar-worthy trilogy that will never see any golden statuettes.

Rise, Nolan. Rise.

7/10

The Hunger Games Breaks Box Office Records – Sets Huge Debut

$155 million.

That’s how much The Hunger Games has grossed in its opening weekend, enough to place it third on the best opening weekends list of all time, behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Dark Knight. The Hunger Games has, therefore, grossed more on its opening weekend than any other non-sequel movie ever made.

That’s even more than the $142 million Twilight: New Moon made on its opening weekend. Here you go, yet another reason as to why The Hunger Games is not Twilight.

The appeal for the movie has been attributed to an array of factors ranging from the critical acclaim the movie has amassed, the high interest fueled by an engaging marketing campaign, the fandom of the books, to the wide range of audience that have seen it: interest was high among both female and male viewers.

The Hunger Games has also become its studio’s biggest hit ever in just three days. The previous best for Lionsgate was $116 million for Fahrenheit 9/11.

The next installment in the books Catching Fire is slated for a November 2013 release. With the reception this one has gotten, Catching Fire will be a volcano.

Captain America: The First Avenger – Movie Review

Having nothing planned on a Saturday night, my friends and I found ourselves going to the movies with this being as the only viable movie choice available.

Set in 1942, the movie stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, a disease-ridden and poor built American wanting to serve his country. Steve attempts to enroll the army many times, under different names and different hometowns, and gets refused every single time. On the eve of his best friend reporting for duty, Steve is overheard by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and is taken to a special training program. There, he proves to be the best candidate for the secret project the government is preparing, not because of his physical built but because of his great heart. The project turns out to be a set of injections with a serum that will transform Steve into a superhuman.

At the same time, Johann Schmidt, a Nazi officer, invades a town in Norway and steals an artifact with untold powers that he starts harnessing in building weapons. And soon enough, it’s up to Steve Rogers, who becomes known as Captain America, to stop Johann Schmidt.

Captain America is nothing groundbreaking. But it has heart. It’s rare to see a superhero movie where the main protagonist is unaware of his own power. The vulnerabilities of Steve Rogers’ weaker self are transmitted to his stronger self. And that is refreshing to see on screen: a superhuman who is, at the end of the day, human and weak and vulnerable.

Moreover, there’s an artistic tint to Captain America that you cannot help but notice. The movie feels like it was produced with old-fashioned craftsmanship: the movie cinematography feels associated with the era in which the events take place. After all, the plot is a retrospective view, similarly to X-Men: First Class.

The performances in the movie are nothing over the top but they do not underwhelm. And after all, a movie featuring both Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones cannot be that bad – no matter how hard it tries. And no, Captain America does not try to be bad.

The plot might be color-by-number, especially with the overdose of superhero movies that Hollywood keeps throwing at us, but unlike other superhero movies, this one is charming. Sure, it doesn’t come close to greatness like The Dark Knight but it holds its own and manages to entertain you at the same time. The action sequences are nothing extraordinary but they are very well done and complement the plot without overdoing it, like superhero movies tend to do.

At the end of the day, Captain America is a breath of fresh air and an enjoyable cinematic experience that will entertain you for the duration of the movie, serving as a good prequel to next year’s The Avengers. You will love the innocence and the genuine characters it portrays. At the beginning of the movie, and part of why Dr. Abraham Erskine takes on Steve for his project, he asks Steve: “do you want to kill Nazis?” to which Steve replies: “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies.” And that’s precisely where this movie differs from other superhero flicks: the ultimate message it attempts to convey. The 3D in it, however, is mostly useless.

Harry Potter Makes Box Office History: Shatters Opening Weekend Record

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 soared into the penthouse of the record books with its final installments as the movie grossed over $168 million in its opening weekend in North America alone, beating The Dark Knight’s gross of $158.4 million 3 years prior.

Part 2’s opening weekend also decimated the franchise’s previous best opening weekend with Part 1’s $125 million, set back in November 2010, and in doing so it accounted for two-thirds of all tickets sold over this past weekend.

Deathly Hallows: Part 2 opened up to both critical and audience acclaim (You can read my review here). It currently holds a 97% consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a score of 87 on metacritic, indicating overwhelmingly positive reviews.
It also broke both the Friday opening record and the midnight screening record, grossing $92.5 million, $43 million out of which were on its midnight screening, as previously posted.

Deathly Hallows: Part 2 would have also grossed over $307 million in international territories in a matter of days, beating previous record set by Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, at $260 million, bringing its total sum since its release to over $475 million, putting it on course to being the first Harry Potter movie to cross the $1 billion threshold.

Analysts are saying the excellent word of mouth the movie is getting, as well as the 3D premium, coupled with it being the final Harry Potter movie are all converging to make it shatter these records. I’m sure Warner Brothers couldn’t be happier.