More Films to See Before You Die: #94 Skyfall

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Skyfall (2012)

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Naomie Harris, Judi Dench and Javier Bardem

Synopsis: When one MI6 hard disc with the identities of NATO’s agents is stolen, James Bond (Daniel Craig) chases the agent through Istanbul with the support of the local field agent Eve (Naomie Harris). M (Judi Dench) orders Eve to shoot the agent on the top of a train, but she misses the target and hits 007 that falls in a river and is presumed dead. When M’s computer is hacked, the MI6 building is blown-up and the agency moves to an ancient bunker that belonged to Churchill. Then, five MI6 agents have their identities exposed and three of them are executed and M has her authority and procedure questioned by her superior Gareth Mallory. Out of the blue, 007 reappears from the shadows and hunts down the responsible for the theft of the HD. He reaches Severine and uses her to find the responsible for the actions, the former top-notch MI6 agent named Silva (Javier Bardem), who had been betrayed by M and now is seeking out revenge against the veteran leader of the MI6.

Trivia: The passport used by Daniel Craig was not created by the props department, but an authentic document as issued by the British Home Office, according to producer Michael G. Wilson. Everything from the paper, print, photograph and jacket are entirely genuine on James Bond’s ‘official passport’. However, as a security measure, the passport is encoded with information that would instantly flag its improper use in any official transaction. The actual details shown on Bond’s passport in the film are as follows: Name = John Adam Bryce; Date of Birth = 16th December 1968; Sex = Male; Place of Birth = London; Date of Issue = 22nd June 2012; and Expiry Date = 22nd August 2029.

Why Should You Watch This? I really like what they have done with this newest incarnation of Bond. The series has a very real life feel to it making it less silly than the earlier Roger Moore movies and closer to the Sean Connery ones. Daniel Craig does an excellent Job in his third run as agent 007 and Javier Bardem does very well with another villain role. More on par with Casino Royale than Quantum of Solace in terms of quality with Sam Mendes doing a great job directing. Looking forward to the next Bond film next year.

More Films to See Before You Die: #95 Carlito’s Way

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Carlito’s Way (1993)

Director: Brian DePalma

Cast: Al Pacino, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo and Sean Penn

Synopsis: Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) is freed after serving 5 years of a 30 year sentence on a legal technicality exploited by his lawyer, Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn). Upon release from prison, Carlito decides to return to his old neighborhood of Spanish Harlem where, he reconnects with old associates. Carlito vows to be through with crime but is persuaded to accompany his cousin Guajiro to a drug deal at a bar. Guajiro is betrayed and killed and Carlito is forced to shoot his way out, he takes Guajiro’s money and uses it to buy into a nightclub. Carlito is approached by a young and ambitious gangster Benny Blanco (John Leguizamo) about a business partnership to which he quickly declines. He also reconnects with his old girlfriend Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) who he left behind when he went to prison. Carlito plans to save money in order to retire in the Caribbean with Gail. All of his plans are threatened when his lawyer gets in hot water with a powerful mobster client and asks for Carlito’s assistance.

Trivia: The exterior of the hospital where Carlito visits his bedridden attorney is the same one where Vito Corleone is taken in The Godfather (1972), also starring Al Pacino. Director Brian De Palma wanted to shoot the climax of the film at the World Trade Center in New York but it was the target of a bombing, and he had to shoot it in “another railway station again.” (De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) also featured a scene at a railway station.)

Why Should You Watch This?: Brian DePalma has made some great films my personal favourites are his mob films. My favourite being the Untouchables but what makes Carlito’s Way so special is how different it is from Scarface. Sean Penn is wonderfully slimey as Carlito’s attorney and Penelope Ann Miller has great chemistry with Pacino who anchors the film with yet another solid performance.

More Films to See Before You Die: #96 The Dark Crystal

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The Dark Crystal (1982)

Directors: Jim Henson & Frank Oz

Cast: Jim Henson , Kathryn Mullen and Frank Oz

Synopsis: Another planet, another time. 1000 years ago the Dark Crystal was damaged by one of the Urskeks and an age of chaos began. Now the time of the great conjunction of the three suns is near. If the crystal is not healed now the control of the evil Skekses will last forever. Jen the last of the Gelflings nearly exterminated by monsters controlled by the Skekses starts his dangerous journey to find the missing shard of the crystal. While on his journey Jen meets another Gelfling, Kira who agrees to help Jen find the shard and heal the crystal. Hot on their trail is a banished skekses named Chamberlain who wishes to help the Gelflings in their quest. After Kira is kidnapped by the Skekses guards the Garthim Jen must find the courage to save both her and his world.

Trivia: Pre-production work revolved around Brian Froud’s designs without a finished script. When Froud originally presented Jim Henson with concept drawings for the crystal, Henson seemed totally perplexed. When Froud asked why, Henson said he had no idea what the designs were for. As it turned out, Froud had misunderstood Henson during early production conversations – Henson intended the film to be called “The Dark Chrysalis,” referring to the Skekses dominance over the world. Henson, however, loved the concept art and integrated the idea of the crystal into the storyline.

Why Should You Watch This?: I love Jim Henson’s work on the Muppet show and movies with the uniquely happy world he created. His and Frank Oz work on The Dark Crystal is such a refreshing change of form its hard to believe this is the same production team. The world they have created here is very dark and mysterious and will appeal to people of all ages. This is a good companion piece to The Labyrinth but unlike that film The Dark Crystal doesn’t have a single human appear in it a rarity for a live action film. This movie is a real treat to watch and come highly recommended.

More Films to See Before You Die: #97 Beverly Hills Cop

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Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Director: Martin Brest

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher, John Berkoff and Ronny Cox

Synopsis: Detroit cop Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is delighted when he receives a surprise visit from his best friend Mikey Tandino, who lives in California. Not long after Mikey arrives in Detroit, he is killed, right in front of Axel’s apartment. Axel quickly takes a couple weeks vacation and heads to Beverly Hills, California. Axel visits his friend Jenny Summers (Lisa Eilbacher), who works in an art gallery and got Mikey the job. Jenny points Axel in the direction of her boss Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff). When Axel starts to question Maitland about Mikey he is quickly ejected from the building and arrested. While in the Police Department he meets Taggart and Rosewood ( John Ashton and Judge Reinhold) who question Foley about his interest in Maitland. Their superior Lt. Bogomil (Ronny Cox) informs Foley that he has spoken to his superiors in Detroit and if he is investigating Mikey’s murder than he can find a new job. Now Foley must avoid Taggart and Rosewood as well as solve Mikey’s murder making this his toughest assignment yet.

Trivia: The movie was written for Sylvester Stallone, with the character of Michael Tandino being his brother, and Jenny Summers being his love interest. Two weeks before filming was to start, Stallone was suddenly out and Eddie Murphy was in, prompting massive rewrites. Bronson Pinchot got the accent and mannerisms for his character Serge from a crew member he worked with on a earlier project. Like his character, that crew member always said, “Don’t be stupid.”

Why Should You Watch This?: This is a hilarious movie with Eddie Murphy at the top of his game. The performance that Murphy gives in this film is proof of how talented an actor he can be given the right script. John Ashton and Judge Reinhold are wonderful in their supporting roles as Taggart and Rosewood. I enjoyed the second one wasn’t too impressed with the third but am still looking forward to the fourth one in 2016. Check this one out if you haven’t already it’s a lot of fun.

More Films to See Before You Die: #98 Legend

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Legend (1985)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, David Bennent and Tim Curry

Synopsis: The Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) is planning to end his isolation in the shadows by destroying the guardians of the Power of Light. Darkness instructs his goblin minions to kill the unicorns and bring him their horns so can be free to roam the world after it becomes an eternal night of cold darkness. Meanwhile, Princess Lili (Mia Sara) goes alone to the forest to meet her friend Jack (Tom Cruise), a forest dweller who teaches her the languages of animals before showing her the unicorns who have arrived to the forest. Against Jack’s pleas, Lili approaches the stallion before the unicorn is hit by a poisoned dart from Blix’s blowpipe. The unicorns bolt, and Lili makes light of Jack’s fears and sets him a challenge by throwing her ring into a pond, declaring she will marry whoever finds it. But as the stallion dies from the poison with the goblins taking his horn, the pond freezes over with Lili running off in terror before Jack manages to break free. Taking refuge in a frozen cottage, Lily hides when the goblins arrive and overhears how she “led the beasts to bay” as she follows them while vowing to make it right. The unicorn mare and Lily are kidnapped by Darkness in an attempt to make her his wife and banish the Power of Light forever. Now it is up to Jack and some new found friends led by the elf Gump (David Bennent) to free Lily and save the world from forever being engulfed by Darkness.

Trivia: Filming stopped when the “007” soundstage burned to the ground. The remainder of the film was shot on hastily-constructed sets. The famous scene in which Princess Lily is taken to see and touches the Unicorns by Jack was actually filmed within the gardens of Pinewood Studos as at the time of filming, the vast Forest set had been destroyed by a fire.

Why Should You Watch This?: This is a wonderful film in the vein of the Grimm fairytales that are so popular and still being adapted to this day. What makes Legend so special is that this an original fairytale created from the mind of Ridley Scott. Like Blade Runner another Scott film the production was very troubled and it took them 3 years to complete the film which started production in 1982. Also like Blade Runner, the Director’s Cut is in my opinion superior to the Theatrical Cut. What makes Legend so special are amazing looking sets and the incredible job done with prosthetics which in a time before CGI make it that much more impressive. Tim Curry’s scenery chewing performance alone is worth the price of admission.

More Films to See Before You Die: #100 Desperado

Desperado (1995)

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi and Joachim de Almeida

Synopsis: A man (Steve Buscemi) walks into a bar in Mexico and begins telling the bartender of how he witnessed a massacre at another bar by a Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) with a guitar case full of guns. The bartender doesn’t become interested in the mans story until he hears that the man was looking for Bucho (Joachim de Almeida) a local gangster and drug lord who is responsible for the death of his lover. It isn’t long before El Mariachi visits the bar looking for Bucho and all hell breaks loose. El is wounded in the battle and takes refuge with Carolina (Salma Hayek) the local bookstore owner. When El finds out that Carolina works as a courier for Bucho he uses this as a way to get closer to Bucho. This leads to a final confrontation with Bucho and a person from El’s past that he never would have expected.

Trivia: This film cost approximately $7 million to make, 1000 times the amount of money Rodriguez spent to make it’s predecessor El Mariachi (1992). For most of the killings they used a gun that essentially fired fake blood at the characters instead of squibs. This unfortunately created too realistic of an effect resulting in them having to edit out much of the deaths for the censors.

Why Should You Watch This?: I have always enjoyed Robert Rodriguez earlier films but mostly the ones that don’t cater to children. His adult oriented films are as entertaining and engaging as any other film makers. He is one of the few directors that can make style over substance work to his advantage. The “El Mariachi” trilogy is arguably his greatest accomplishment as a film maker and proves that you don’t need $100 million to make a really good looking film. Also this movie officially introduced Antonio Banderas as a viable and bankable movie star as well as Salma Hayek.

The Dark Knight Rises: Film Review

* This review is dedicated to the victims in Aurora, Colorado. My heart goes out to all of them and their families.
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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Morgan Freeman

Synopsis: It has been 8 years since Batman (Christian Bale) took the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes and he is long since retired leaving the city in the hands of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman). A rival of Wayne Enterprises has hired the mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy) to cause mayhem throughout Gotham. He also hires expert thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) to steal Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints all in an attempt to seize control of Wayne Enterprises. After it becomes clear that Bane is going to be to much for the Police to handle Batman comes out of retirement against the wishes of his longtime friend Alfred (Michael Caine). After their first confrontation Bane severly injures the Batman and exiles him from the city. After taking Gotham by force Bane forms and army that will give control of Gotham to the people. Batman returns with an army of his own and wages all out war in an effort to defeat Bane.

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Review: I went and saw this last night and I have to say I have been waiting for this movie since The Dark Knight and I wasn’t disappointed. This is by far the best third chapter of a superhero series even though there isn’t tons of competition on that front. Tom Hardy stole the show in my opinion he was just amazing as Bane the ferocity of his performance coupled with his massive size made for one of the most intimidating villains in a long time. Christian Bale brings the goods again as Batman and the core cast of Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are great as usual.  Anne Hathaway does a very good job as Catwoman but she couldn’t top Michelle Pfeiffer. This is just a very satifying end to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and I suggest you go see it because there won’t be anything like this for a while. A+

A Perfect World: Blu-Ray Review

A Perfect World (1993)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Kevin Costner, Laura Dern, T.J. Lowther and Clint Eastwood


Film – 5/5: Butch Haynes (Kevin Costner) and Terry Pugh escape from prison and steal a prison officials car. While looking for a new car specifically a Ford, Terry invades the home of Gladys Perry and tries to get rough with her but Butch prevents him from doing so. A neighbour sees the commotion and tries to stop them but they are able to get away with a hostage, Gladys’ son Philip (T.J. Lowther). Early on Butch gets rid of Terry and carries on alone with Philip who he nicknames Buzz. It’s not long before a state wide manhunt is put in motion led by Chief Red Garnett (Clint Eastwood) who is accompanied by state criminologist Sally Gerber (Laura Dern) who has insight into the mind of Haynes. While on the road Butch and Buzz develop a close bond with Haynes acting as a sort of father figure to the young boy. This all leads to an eventual confrontation between Haynes and Garnett who have a history together.

Video – 4/5: I used to own this movie on DVD and I can confidently say that this is the best this movie has ever looked. The detail is strong throughout and there does not appear to be much DNR. The grain is very natural and looks just like the movie was meant too.

Audio – 4/5: While the Audio is not perfect for this film it like the video transfer and is the best it has ever sounded. You can clearly hear the background noises and the dialogue is very clear too. Some of the car chases are not as loud as some of you standard action fare but it is still very good.

Overall Score and Recommendation – 4.5/5: I remember watching this movie a few years ago when I was on an Eastwood kick and I stumbled onto one of his best directorial efforts. This is my personal favourite of Kevin Costner’s performances and the bond that grows between his Butch and the young boy is so tender and sweet it alone is the price of admission. Clint is good and so is Laura Dern but the real focus is on Butch and Buzz. Like Unforgiven this film is a great example of why violence doesn’t actually solve anything. I love this movie and am very pleased with Warner Bros. for their incredibly faithful Audio and Video transfers. This is a wonderful film that comes highly recommended.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: Blu-Ray Review

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace

Film – 4.5 /5: Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is investigating a seemingly unrelated series of crimes around Europe, believing them all connected to Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), a criminal mastermind just as smart as Holmes. Meanwhile, Holmes takes Dr. Watson (Jude Law) out with his brother Mycroft for Watson’s stag party, and saves another intended victim of Moriarty’s, a fortune telling gypsy named Sim (Noomi Rapace). Holmes meets with Moriarty, who warns Holmes that if he persists in investigating him, Watson will become a target. Holmes stows away on the train taking Watson and his new wife Mary to their honeymoon destination, knocking Mary off the train to the safe hands of Mycroft while he and Watson battle Moriarty’s men. When the duo arrive in France, Holmes tells Sim that Moriarty targeted her due to her brother Rene’s work with him, and she was a loose end. Holmes surmises Moriarty’s next target is a peace summit, where he will create an incident between world leaders to spark war.

Video – 5/5: A Game of Shadows hits the ground running with a fit and faithful 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer that, stylistic quirks aside, rarely falters. As was the case with the first Sherlock Holmes, Oscar-winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselot’s photography has been subjected to dramatic color-grading but remains perfectly suited to Ritchie’s at-times almost monochromatic, late 19th century newsprint palette. The detail is spectacular throughout and in my opinion this film has a perfect video presentation.

Audio – 5/5: Warner’s tightly tuned DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track takes its shot and hits its target dead center, delivering an exacting, punch-for-punch, sternum-thumping lossless experience that doesn’t let up or relent. The LFE channel is bold, bombastic and discriminating, throwing its full weight behind every meaty thunk, explosive thoom and heavy boom Ritchie unleashes, all while imbuing weighty elements with convincing heft and presence. This is as good as it gets in the sound department.

Overall Score and Recommendation – 5/5: I loved the first Sherlock Holmes in 2009 it was one of my favourite films that year and it solidified the return of Robert Downey Jr. one of the most talented actors out there. Casting Jude Law as Watson was pure genious giving Downey Jr.’s Holmes a suitable partner. Going into this film I was a little wary because usually sequels to movies like Sherlock Holmes fall flat but this film was just as enjoyable as the first with Jared Harris providing the perfect nemesis as Moriarty. I am super excited for a third one even if it means waiting until 2014 it should still be really fun. The audio and video presentation for this blu-ray are reference quality and there are more than enough special features to keep everyone happy. Just another great release from Warner Bros., this blu-ray earns my highest recommendation.

Prometheus: Film Review

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Prometheus (2012)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Logan Marshall-Green, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce

Synopsis: In the year 2089, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her partner Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a star map among the remnants of several otherwise unconnected ancient cultures. They interpret this as an invitation from humanity’s forerunners. Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the elderly founder and CEO of the Weyland Corporation, funds the creation of the scientific deep space research vessel called the USS Prometheus to follow the map to the distant moon of LV-223 several light years from Earth. The ship’s crew travels in stasis at light speed while the android David (Michael Fassbender) stays awake at the pilot control to monitor their voyage. In 2093, the ship arrives in the orbit around LV-223. After being awakened from hibernation, the crew are informed of their mission to find the ancient aliens, called “Engineers” whom may be the original humans. But the crew of the Prometheus is not prepared for what awaits them on LV-223 a terror beyond anything they could have imagined.

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Review: I am huge fan of the Alien franchise and when this was originally touted as a direct prequel I was admittedly worried until it was later revealed this would be a semi-prequel with only a few things tying it into the Alien franchise but clearly a part of the Alien universe. Part of why I love going to the theaters is no matter what your expectations are for a film it is highly unlikely that will meet all the expectations you have for it which I feel annoys most viewers. I have a feeling that the reason this film is not getting rave reviews from critics is because it is a thinking man’s sci-fi film which usually falls flat with U.S. audiences (no offense meant). You need to be patient with this film but I have no doubt this movie will be considered a classic in the years to come. Michael Fassbender steals that show as the android David, he is so good it is hard to believe that is a real person playing the character. Noomi Rapace was very good in her first starring role in a major Hollywood picture and Idris Elba was great as usual as the ship captain. The only complaints I had were that Charlize Theron seemed out of place as the cold and calculating Vickers and Guy Pearce is totally wasted in his small role as the elderly Weyland that makeup wasn’t as bad as I has heard but it probably would have been more effective to just bring back Lance Henriksen. I did not see it in 3D so you can bet that I will be going to see this a second time hopefully in Imax 3D. I had a lot of fun and this is definitely worth seeing especially since this is Ridley Scott’s first sci-fi film in 30 years. A