Skyfall Review

Skyfall is quite the film. I loved Casino Royale, it was just this perfect telling of James Bond’s first mission and I couldn’t help but think I’d never see a better Bond film. It was that good. I’m also one of the few who loved Quantum of Solace. Was it Casino Royale? No, and it wasn’t trying to be. It was Quantum of Solace, a fast-paced and precisely devised action film that continued the real and raw drama that began in Casino Royale. Skyfall was something completely new and not only is it the greatest 007 movie I’ve seen, it’s one of the greatest films ever made.

The film opens with a black and blurry silhouette of a man. The man walks towards us eventually having his eyes illuminated revealing the pearly blues of the greatest James Bond in 50 years and 23 films. The film jumps right into it with a thrilling chase sequence, the kind of action you have to expect from the Daniel Craig versions of the character. The scene is a better action sequence than any of the previous Craig movies and there were even better action sequences still to come. If one were to look at the film for its action elements it’s one of the best ever crafted, but action plays second tear in this epic of characters, emotion and the ways of old and new.

While no Bond film has ever cut deeper with such powerful themes, the true center of this film is James Bond. It’s his show and in this perfect 007 movie James Bond may go on his most spectacular mission yet, but that’s not all. Director Sam Mendes actually takes his time and asks questions about this character who has been going on missions for the past 50 years. For example, what makes James Bond James Bond? But more importantly he asks, how much longer can this man be doing this? In Skyfall, the greatest secret agent of all time must prove himself against the most formidable and sinister adversary he’ll ever face.

Raoul Silva (formerly Tiago Rodriguez) is a malevolent mastermind not bent on world domination mind you. No, he’s much more concerned with revenge against the person who means most to Bond in this world. A good villain usually makes for a good movie and Silva is one of the greatest villains in film. In the beginning, there is a mystery that is the villain of Skyfall, with only whispers of some evil menace plotting in the backdrop. Then Silva makes his grand entrance almost halfway through the film, his audience being a captive 007. Silva is a theatrical and confident man with a single agenda, he’s a former MI6 agent and now he’s a betrayer dedicated and bent on vengeance against M. James Bond is dedicated to his duty and in this case it’s very personal; the protection of M.

Judi Dench is given much more territory with M this time around and she excels with it. Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris are great. Ben Whishaw is a real delight to watch as Q, a new school tech guy who juxtaposes extraordinarily with Daniel Craig’s seasoned veteran. The Skyfall interpretation of James Bond and Raoul Silva are simply two of the greatest characters in film. Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem have their unique characters realized down to a “T” both giving tremendous performances.

Skyfall is a film that is very derivative of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Legend (or The Dark Knight Trilogy if that tastes better going down). Sam Mendes has openly stated that he was inspired by Nolan’s work with Batman. I can’t fault Mendes for being inspired by the best. Skyfall is a different film and it was made to perfection. It utilized an icon to delve into broader motifs and darker territory. This is a James Bond film made by people and for people who appreciate the beautiful art form that is film.

Skyfall is one of the greatest films I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. It’s a film that looks and feels beautiful. It emotes so much depth and artistry, while masquerading as a simple action piece. This is just an example of a film getting every single finite detail perfectly, whether that be a character arc, the film’s extraordinary structure or even something as simple as a one-liner. Skyfall is nothing short of a masterpiece of the highest caliber.

Grade: A+

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Top Ten Movie Characters

It’s no wonder I’m making this list, how could I not? Movie characters are my bread and butter. I love movies and without the the heart and soul of a movie’s characters, a movie would be nothing. This is my list and homage made for the greatest characters in film. It was one of the hardest I’v ever felt the need to make. Awhile ago I made a Top 50 regarding this theme, but things have changed and I wanted to make a new and definitive “Top Ten Movie Characters” list. Before I get into it, here are the four lists I made prior that helped in the creation of this list…

And here we go…

10. Kikuchiyo (Seven Samurai)

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When I say Kikuchiyo I mean Kikuchiyo as he is my favorite of the seven samurai who, for nothing, band together to protect a helpless village of farmers from ruthless bandits. However, I think if any one of these seven brave and powerful warriors is mentioned you have to at least mention the rest and all their heroism. Each samurai is unique in their own way, but there’s a special oddity that is the seventh samurai. He’s a confident and savage warrior and like any other samurai he’s wandered and seen the world. Unlike many samurai he doesn’t wearily look at the world with tired eyes, he looks at the world and laughs because what else can you do?

9. Django (Django Unchained)

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In most westerns you’ll find mysterious or violent antiheroes, but in Quentin Tarantino spaghetti southern you’ll find one of the greatest heroes in film. Django is a freed slave who sets out with his new found friend, Dr. King Schultz, to rescue his love from an evil plantation owner. As his journey progresses, Django establishes himself as a mighty warrior, a mythical avenger against the savagery of slavery in this fairy tale of a western. Django is just the epitome of cool, a badass who you want to stand up and cheer for.

8. William Munny (Unforgiven)

William Munny is an old western legend. He’s a vicious and feared killer, but he “ain’t like that no more.” He’s a good man and a loyal husband and father. His days of blood and gun fights took place long ago, but a life so grisly is hard to escape. In a world ruled by lawlessness and violence how else is a once dead-eyed killer to react to the brutality of it all. There’s no room for good men in the desolate west.”We all have it com in’ kid.” Can a cold-hearted killer be a good man?

7. Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood)

“I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.” There Will Be Blood examines the idea of the American nightmare and it does so through a character study of Daniel Plainview. Daniel Plainview is driven by greed, consumption and hatred. He’s a despicable basterd who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. What he wants more than anything is to be alone. It can never be denied that there are bad people in the world. There Will Be Blood tells a poetic and powerful story of one such man.

6. Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

Tyler Durden is a symbol for anarachy. He’s in a constant battle with conformity and all that is normal. It has been cited that Heath Ledger’s Joker is chaos, but The Joker is evil through and through. Tyler Durden isn’t good or evil, he is the personification of chaos. He was born out of a bored generation, but he won’t be white collar slave.  There’s a Tyler Durden in all of us who every once and a while has an understandable need to fight against the grain. Anyone who tries to ignore that fact or impulse could just as easily go insane.

5. Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men)

No Country for Old Men is poetic magnum opus of morality and violence created by some of the greatest filmmakers to have ever graced the screen with art, the Coen Brothers. The villain of this blood-soaked tale could be looked at as death incarnate. Anton Chigurh is a heartless killer. He would sooner murder a person than hug them. He’s calm, he’s collected, he’s efficient, he’s disciplined, he’s intuitive, he’s soulless and he can’t be stopped. This theme of unrelenting malevolence is at the heart the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece.

4. Col. Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)

Col. Hans Landa, otherwise known as The Jew Hunter, is something far worse than a high ranking officer of the Third Reich. He’s crafty detective who is as wise as he is evil. He does the things he does for his own gain. He’s not a nazi officer because he believes Adolf Hitler’s poisonous lies. He’s efficient at hunting Jews because for the time being it’s in his best interest. Once the situation changes, the slimy basterd will do what he has to in order to insure his own survival even if that means the betrayal of his country. There’s a certain charm and eloquence to him, but at the same time he just oozes wickedness.

3. Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)

Bane is the most formidable opponent imaginable. He is the personification of despair to Batman’s hope in The Dark Knight Rises. The animosity that grows between these men is just breathtaking. “Let’s not stand on ceremony here, Mr. Wayne.” Bane understands their relationship before even the detective, Batman, does. They belong in the battlefield, not sharing pleasantries from across the room. One will triumph over the other and in the end, nothing will matter more to Bane than accomplishing that goal.

In order to feed the people of Gotham hope to “poison their souls”, Bane rebels for the oppressed and against corruption in Gotham. He’s a revolutionary tyrant, he’s his own General and he’s his own greatest soldier. His true agenda is the torture and destruction of Batman and everything he loves. In the end, we find that part of the beauty to Bane, as one of the greatest villains and characters ever created, is in the way that everything this monster of man has done has been for love.

2. Batman (The Dark Knight Legend)

The icon that is Batman is the greatest hero ever created in story and the realistic adaption of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Legend (or Trilogy if that tastes better going down) makes for one of the greatest characters of all time. In what is the greatest story ever told we watch as three tales unfold charting the growth of the greatest hero to have ever existed. Batman Begins is the perfect hero’s journey as we see exactly how a man became the hero, Batman. In The Dark Knight Batman must become the pure good to The Joker’s pure evil In The Dark Knight Rises, we see the solidification of a legend as a weathered Bruce Wayne must dawn the cape and cowl once again to triumph over utter despair. Batman is the greatest hero ever crafted in a story.

1. The Joker (The Dark Knight)

Movies would be nothing without villains. It could be argued more so that movies would be nothing without conflict, but villains are just conflict personified. I placed four movie villains on this list and they all made it into the top 5. I couldn’t help myself. Villains make for some of the best characters and the best villain and character in film can be found in The Dark Knight. The villain in The Dark Knight and the antithesis to Batman is The Joker.

The Joker is colorful while Batman is black, The Joker wears make up while Batman wears a mask, The Joker is killer while Batman is a savior,  The Joker is a villain while Batman is a hero, but most importantly The Joker is symbol for evil while Batman is a symbol for good. You’ll not find a character as purely evil as The Joker. Whereas Batman is good for the sake of being good, The Joker is evil for the sake of being evil.

The Joker is completely lacking in motives, plans and empathy. He’s just one of those rare men who “want to watch the world burn.” He is a twisted and sadistic force for malevolence who would literally die laughing for all that is evil. Due to a flawless utilization of the character by director Christopher Nolan and the greatest performance of all time (portrayed to perfection by the late-great Heath Ledger), The Dark Knight’s Joker is a legendary character that won’t soon be forgot. The Joker isn’t just the greatest character in movies, The Joker is the greatest character stories have ever had to offer.

Top Ten Movie Heroes

A very long time ago I posted my list of Top Ten Movie Villains. I love a good villain and a great villain almost always makes for a great movie. Just recently, I posted my Top Ten Movie Antiheroes and I’ll certainly I’ll edit those lists as I see fit, but before that I decided this was a list I had to make. Heroes are the kind of characters you love to see prevail because they do the right things when the right things need to be done.

Like many lists, this was a difficult one to come to a conclusion to. First off, I didn’t exactly know how to go about this list. Should I judge the heroes based on how much I personally enjoy the character or should I judge the heroes based on their intentions as a hero. I ultimately chose to make a list with both of those ideas in the back of my mind and this is the result.

10. Driver

Nicolas Winding Refn’s masterpiece is an allegory of the events and relationships that can drive a person to do the things they do. The nameless hero at the films core is a true hero and one for the ages. He’s mysterious, charming and most of the time he needs no words. He simply puts himself in danger for the people he cares about. Ryan Gosling plays the character masterfully.

9. Rooster Cogburn

One of my favorite genres in film is the western. In terms of the western genre most of the time the protagonists of the story can be considered antiheroes especially in my favorite Clint Eastwood westerns. You’ll find one of my favorite western heroes in the Coen Bros. masterpiece, True Grit. Jeff Bridges just may have given the greatest performance of his career as the alcohol chugging, foul-mouthed, trigger happy U.S. Marshall Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn.

8. Catwoman

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The Dark Knight Rises tells the perfect story it does because it’s made up of so many rich and meaningful characters. I love the part that Catwoman plays in the war that transpires between Batman and Bane. You never know what to expect from her. By the end she’s right where she belongs in this epic. Catwoman fits right in the middle between Batman and Bane in this story of hope. It’s a little reminiscent of the part Harvey Dent played in The Dark Knight only this time with more inspiring results. By the end, Catwoman can’t run away and fight what she truly is, a hero.

7. Sanjuro

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Sanjuro simply epitomizes the idea of a lone warrior and wandering samurai. Sanjuro is an enigma, but it’s hard not immediately side with him as he causes chaos in a village ruled by rival gangs. The clever ronin pits the two gangs against each other and the result is intense and completely enjoyable. Sanjuro is a cool, level-headed and wise samurai. He can’t be rattled and if he draws his sword with intent to kill then death is inevitable. He’s one of if not the most iconic samurai in film and he’s one of the greatest heroes to boot.

6. Gandalf

The Lord of the Rings tells one of the greatest stories in all of film and in said story there are many characters you can’t help but despise and many characters you can’t help but love. My favorite character in all of Middle-Earth is the great wizard, Gandalf. Where as some may argue that the shoes of the hero are filled more by Aragorn, Frodo or Sam I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you. However, the wise and powerful Gandalf is a hero on all accounts and he’s my favorite character in the tale so making this list with out him would be a sin. If you want a true showcasing of heroism just watch Gandalf battle the Balrog in the Mines of Moria.

5. R. P. McMurphy

At the heart of the masterpiece, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is a beautifully woven relationship between a hero and a villain. The power-hungry establishment is personified in my most hated villain (in a good way) ever put on screen, Nurse Ratched. The rebellion to think and act freely is led by one of the greatest heroes put on screen. Jack Nicholson gives his career-best performance as Randall Patrick McMurphy. The character is unbelievably likable regardless of his crazy antics. No matter the case, he has respect for the people that deserve it and though it may mean he stays in the looney bin forever, he’ll take a stand and do the right thing when no one else will. R. P. McMurphy is a truly magnificent character and one the greatest heroes in film.

4. James Bond

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James Bond is one of, if not the most, iconic character in existence. He is the definitive secret agent and he is an awesome movie character. My favorite incarnation is Daniel Craig. He takes the realistic world he’s been presented and dances circles around it. He’s a dutiful hero and a reactionary. His charm and charisma are second to none. Never was James Bond more masterfully explored than in Sam Mendes’ Skyfall. Not only are Bond’s roots examined, in the same film he meets his match. James Bond always has his fun with women and his drinks that are shaken rather than stirred, but at the end of the day he does his duty as secret agent, 007.

3. Kikuchiyo

Kikuchiyo

If you’re looking for heroism in film, look no further than 1954 and you’ll find a gorgeous masterpiece entitled Seven Samurai. Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai tells the tale of seven brave warriors who join forces to protect a village of farmers from bandits. My favorite samurai I’ve had the pleasure to meet through film is the seventh samurai, the clown, the triangle, Kikuchiyo. Toshirô Mufine is the only actor that makes the list twice and how could he not? The man is a delight to watch every single second he embodied Kikuchiyo. He was a confident master of the sword and seemingly he’s also a bit of a buffoon, why not have fun? He was an odd one as the other six samurai point out, but aren’t we all.

2. Django

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He’s a freed slave, he’s a bounty hunter, he’s a vengeful gunslinger, but most of all Django is a hero. He’s a courageous and benevolent force driven by love. His journey is an epic one, the story is gorgeous and Django is a character you feel the need to root for. He’s the fastest gun in the south and nothing will stand in the way of him and the woman he loves. Django is the epitome of a badass and his heroism is the stuff of legend. The character is defined and portrayed flawlessly. Django Unchained is a wild and eloquent excursion into southern slavery in the form of a spaghetti western fantasy and at its heart is Django, without a doubt one of the greatest heroes in film.

1. Batman

My favorite movie, without question, is The Dark Knight. My favorite villain in all of cinema is Heath Ledger’s Joker. It goes without saying, but choosing the number 1 slot for this list was no difficult task. What Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale first crafted in one of my favorite movies ever made, Batman Begins, was nothing short of the greatest hero’s journey ever put on screen.

They also succeeded in crafting the greatest hero in existence. Obviously, Batman was first created in 1939, but never was the character more realized than with what Christopher Nolan has been creating in his Dark Knight Legend. Both Nolan and Bale just show a complete understanding of their character at hand. What Bruce Wayne is, is a man with no responsibility or agenda. He could’ve done anything he wanted to, whether that be a powerful villain or a lazy, rich playboy that he seemingly is. Instead, he became Batman.

The symbol for hope and good in Gotham is Batman, a character like no other who literally is good for the sake of being good. The character may best be defined by the final line of Batman Begins. Lt. Jim Gordon attempts to show his gratitude, “I never said thank you,” he says to which Batman immediately replies “And you’ll never have to.” Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman for the thank you’s or the praise. He does the right thing because it’s the right thing.

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Quantum of Solace Review

Let me preface this review by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, but there is no doubt that I enjoyed Casino Royale much better. Casino Royale managed to change the entire Bond series for the better. It took the campy and corny old Bonds and brought them into the real world. 007 became a realistic action/drama movie, and for the most part Quantum sticks to the rules that Casino Royale set for it. 

Quantum of Solace is the story of James Bond finding a large quantity (quantum) of comfort (solace) in the avenging of a person he loved. In order to do so he must cross paths with a personal extremist named Dominic Greene who happens to control a company called Quantum that is trying to own the world’s must precious material. A different direction was took with this movie. It was extremely fast-paced and the running time was cut to the point of extreme. I loved the fast-paced direction it was going in, but it felt at times that the movie was rushing to its end instead of telling all the juicy details. 

Every action sequence was Bondish, but at the same time being very creative and intense. The dialogue was well-thought out and so were the character developments. Daniel Craig is great and I hope he does more with his career, but right now there is no one I would rather see playing this character. I loved the movie, but there are one large complaint I have with it. The greatest gimmick in film history ended because of this movie. In every single one of the 21 bond movies before this one, the line “the name’s bond, james bond” is uttered somewhere, but this movie just ended that tradition. And the question I ask is why?

For that reason, I was very mad walking out of the theater, but I can’t look past the fact that this was an extremely entertaining and well-thought out action movie that was at times even epic. The movie could’ve been better if it just changed a few simple details. I look back at my viewing and I see that I did just watch a very good movie that made one big mistake. Overall, Quantum of Solace was an extremely good movie and would have without question gotten an A+ from yours truly if it just said one more line.

Grade: A-