Movie: Skyfall

| by Ken | in Review No Comments »

I’ll admit to enjoying the spectacle of an action film but sometimes it feels the intellectual equivalent of downing a large Coke – all sugar and caffeine with no substance to keep you going after the hollow initial high. I really dig the Bourne movies since they manage to provide stunning reality-based action while still providing a plot you can remember and think about later. While both prior Daniel Craig Bond movies did deliver the action, I felt the plots were weak – an unfortunate trait for a majority of Bond films through the years. So would this latest Bond movie be just another dumb action movie with great visuals or would it be more Bourne like?

The answer is definitely more Bourne like. The villain actually seemed like a bad-ass and not just a cartoon character. Oh, Bardem’s Silva was an outsize character to be sure and a megalomaniac in the grand Bond tradition but my quiet laughter when the character was on the screen was out of enjoyment, not derision. The action was a little more reality-based than even prior Bond movies but probably still appropriately a little absurd, again, in the grand tradition of Bond.

I always like when Bond is not entirely solo on his missions (I liked Halle Berry’s agent in Die Another Day and Michelle’s Yeoh’s agent in Tomorrow Never Dies) so Naomie Harris as a fellow field agent Eve seemed like a great set up for a future recurring character. You also have to give credit to Judi Dench for making such a memorable incarnation of “M” and to the new “Q” for making the role nerdy but able to stand his own with Bond. Great locations too – Istanbul, Shanghai, Macau, subterranean London, and an abandoned industrial island.

And yet, the movie still managed to disappoint. First, Sévérine was killed too early in the movie. I suppose her execution helped define Silva’s character, but it felt too cold for Bond and for a role which provided such an intense introduction in the casino bar, going out without a word seemed too abrupt.

I thought Eve was going to end up as a recurring agent associate of Bond but she turned into desk jockey Moneypenny.  The idea that she was trained a field agent and decided to get out of field work seems to make her overqualified for pushing the button on her desk to let “M” know that 007 has arrived. I always imagined Moneypenny’s backstory being more about her rise through the ranks of assistants rather than a field agent who could drive a car through crowded Istanbul streets and had weapons training. So to me, this reveal is a somewhat corrupting act.

The biggest problem is that the movie probably was about one quarter too long. The shootout during the public inquiry seemed like the right time to start the end of the movie. I liked that Gareth, Eve, and Bond all worked together to save M and the others in that room. But for that to have only been a setup for a country showdown that ran another half hour seemed silly. Instead, I think after Silva escaped the public inquiry and was driving in the getaway car, Bond should have chased him. M, who would have been wounded in that fight would have rallied and used her knowledge of Silva to figure out his next move so that she knew where the car chase would end, ultimately helping Bond kill Silva and then, yes, dying from her injury. Effectively, it would have been the same net result without helicopters, a country estate inexplicably named Skyfall, and Kincade. I’m a fan of Albert Finney, but really?  A member of the Bond estate’s staff has stuck around for years and somehow this one guy barely blinks when he finds out he is going to be pressed into service as a soldier even though he doesn’t know what Bond actually does for work?  If you really needed a knife in the back of Silva to happen in a chapel, that could have been where the car chase I described above ended and that whole scene would have been the same – just without Kincade removing his hat.

And I suppose a corollary issue is Bond’s backstory. I actually don’t mind learning about Bond’s backstory, but I think the script has it wrong. If I understand what I learned in the movie, Bond’s parents died long ago, perhaps before he was an adult and they were wealthy enough to have an estate with a staff. Now, all these years later, the property is still owned by some Bond legal entity and they now only employ one guy whose role at the property was not clear.  (Wikipedia says he was a gamekeeper. Okay.)  None of this seemed consistent with the backstory I had imagined for Bond.  You could have told me that he was born poor in the city or that perhaps he was just from normal suburbia but wasn’t a normal kid, etc..  But coming from a wealthy family with an estate and and senior staff member who mentors him sounds too much like Batman and therefore too much like a superhero origin story and not enough like a proper Bond backstory.

Rating:  7 (out of 10)

TV Season 2011 to 2012 so far

| by Ken | in Review 3 Comments »

When I last wrote about the TV season, it was the end of 2011 season and I was surprised at how a couple of shows had wrapped their season. Now, well into the next season, I thought it was time for another look at Chuck, Hawaii Five-O, Nikita, The Office, and The Good Wife.

Continue reading »

DVD: Hoodwinked Too!

| by Ken | in Review No Comments »

No, definitely not as good as the original Hoodwinked, which was a quirky surprise. The sequel didn’t have quite the same heart as the original. But it would be really hard to make a sequel that did have the same heart as the original without it feeling like exactly the same movie. It’s hard to believe but I think another loss from the original to the sequel was losing Anne Hathaway as Red – Hayden Panettiere just didn’t seem to impart the same warmth into the character. Patrick Warburton was still hilarious as the Wolf and his lines were as funny as the first. And Twitchy the squirrel was still hilarious too, though there was one scene where Twitchy actually sounded a little normal and that seemed wrong. (If you haven’t watched the original Hoodwinked, do so now and you’ll see what I mean about Twitchy sounding normal being wrong.) And then, Kirk, the woodsman was a complex guy in the first film but in this second one, he’s now just a punchline.

The first movie actually had a soundtrack because there were so many good songs but the second one just had the normal movie background music. As far as the animation goes, I think it was a little better and a little smoother. It was also much more complicated since the “sets” were really detailed city-scapes. The animation may not be as good as a Pixar, but that’s okay – it doesn’t always need to be.

Overall, I’d say Hoodwinked Too! was more for the adult crowd than the children with characters like the way Moss The Troll talked and lines like Boingo talking about “Clarice” in a Silence Of The Lambs kind of way. But at the same time, the plot was more of a children’s plot so I think the movie made the mistake of providing only limited appeal to both audiences. Or put more simply, it just wasn’t as good as the first.

Rating: 3 (out of 10)

Movie: The Descendants

| by Ken | in Review No Comments »

When I become aware of a movie that I might be interested in, I don’t read reviews about it other than to look for stars or grades or whatever. If I know I want to go see a movie, I try my best to learn about the movie during the movie as it was intended to be. I don’t want to know about the movie ahead of time and then feel like I’m watching a repeat while watching the movie for the first time. So I went to see a movie called the Descendants that I thought was going to be a quirky movie about a guy whose ex-wife dies and he gets to know his 3 kids better after her death when he discovers that she was seeing somebody else. What the movie is actually about (and if you follow my advice, you’ve either already seen the movie or you will stop reading now) is a guy whose wife (not ex) ends up in a coma for most of the movie and during that time, gets to know his 2 kids better while finding out she was cheating on him in the short time before her accident. The actual movie was a much better story than the movie I had guessed I was going to see from the pictures and trailer. I was more emotionally involved for all the characters than I would have been with the movie I thought I was going to see. And this is exactly why I do like to see the movie for the first time without much prior knowledge. It makes it all the more impactful.

Much was made of the older daughters ability to “cry underwater” which still doesn’t seem like that great a feat. However, acting for much of the movie with George Clooney in the scene does seem like a great feat for a 20 year-old and good for her. (No, not Oscar worthy, but there will probably be more good movies for her in the future.) And damn if I didn’t get choked up when it was time to say goodbye to the mother/wife in the coma.

I did have a one major complaint. I had seen pictures of Clooney walking with 2 girls and a boy and naturally assumed all three would be his kids. Turns out the boy, Sid, was just a friend of the older girl. Okay. But the silliness is that he’s new to the family, accompanies them on the mission to tell people about the imminent death, acts doltish, and yet isn’t jettisoned by the otherwise smart Doug. We don’t learn why he is helpful to the older daughter until later in the movie and we realize that he is actually helping everybody by the end of the movie. But I think Doug needed to have learned that earlier in the story for him to allow Sid to stay in the story at all. At least at the very end, it was just Doug and his daughters in the outrigger and on the couch.

Rating: 8 (out of 10)

Movie: The Muppets

| by Ken | in Review No Comments »

I’m a big Muppet fan and have been since I was a kid. I loved the original Muppet Movie and still enjoy watching that today. Reruns of the Muppet Show still crack me up. The Swedish Chef, Animal, and Beaker are my favorites. So it was good news for me that a major Muppet Fan, Jason Segel, was behind the making of this movie.

I was a little disappointed, then, in the result. I guess I wasn’t surprised, though, because part of the magic of the Muppets was Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Jim Henson died years ago and Frank Oz is in semi-retirement so without either of them, it’s not really the same Muppets. Jason Segel and Amy Adams were earnest enough to fit in with the cast. But I think some of the charm of the original Muppet stories was about how they tried to cope in a human world – different from Sesame Street where the Muppets and humans were equals in the pretend world. The Muppets were wowed by Hollywood and Manhattan and by every place on their epic road trip in the early movies. But in this one, the Muppets themselves seemed tired and that left the story feeling sadly flat.

There were some great gags, some cool cameos, and a couple of decent songs. I loved Animal in anger management therapy and Jack Black as an unwilling guest host. Also, it should be noted that this was less a movie featuring the Muppets and more like a pretend documentary about how the gang got together for one last Muppet Show. And therefore, it was a little more like a long version of The Muppet Show, so perhaps expecting it to be a full feature film was unreasonable.

And yet it was feature film length and in theaters so it was a feature film. I wanted to like it more than I did. And if Jason Segel can convince Disney to get the Muppet Show back on TV with a new batch of “special guest stars” (NPH, Hugh Jackman, Ellen Degeneres, Kristin Chenoweth, Drew Carey, to throw out a few names that would be fun), then even better. But the movie on its own just doesn’t get me too excited.

Rating: 5 (out of 10)

DVD: Jump Tomorrow

| by Ken | in Review 1 Comment »

A wacky little movie that showed up in my Netflix queue though I can’t remember how it got there.  (Either me or the sig. oth. obviously, but neither of us remember.)  Jump Tomorrow starts off a little strange and doesn’t really lighten up.  It follows George as he somewhat reluctantly roadtrips to his arranged marriage.  George and the characters he meets are all eccentric but for the most part are believable and that makes the movie fun to watch.

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Yes, another 80s music-related post.  But this is only barely related to the 1980s.  Everyone knows that Duran Duran got popular from their 80s music.  And most people know that Duran Duran is still making music – at least few would be surprised.  And a lot of people probably know that Duran Duran has had its share of personnel changes.  But not enough of the people who were fans of Duran Duran in the 80s are aware that their latest record is a perfect blend of their 1980s sensibilities with 2010s sound.

“All You Need Is Now” is being talked about as the follow-up record to “Rio” that Duran Duran should have released instead of “Seven And the Ragged Tiger”.  (Thanks for that tip, Eogan.)  To a large extent this is true and quite evident in many of songs on “All You Need Is Now” – the title track, “Blame The Machines”, “Being Followed”, “The Man Whole Stole A Leopard”, “Too Bad You’re So Beautiful”, and “Before The Rain”.  There are a lot of songs that I listen to and make me think, “yeah this sounds like…” but then I can’t find the specific song or the similarity isn’t as obvious as I thought.  Like “Runway Runaway” has a certain breeziness to it that reminds me of the song “Rio” but it is definitely not the same song.  And parts of “The Man Whole Stole A Leopard” and parts of “Before the Rain” both remind me of “The Chauffeur”.  But even though the songs share the same heritage, you can tell they are contemporary songs and not just Duran Duran wishing they were releasing AYNIN in 1983.  The sounds do fit in with current Top40 yielding a nice melding of classic Duran Duran heritage with a spiffy current sound. Probably the most dance-y song on the disc is “Networker Nation” which sounds a little more like songs from “Astronaut” or “Red Carpet Massacre” but still has more Duran Duran-ness about it than those previous records had.

All the songs aren’t winners, though I’m having a hard time calling out any as true losers.  Just an overall impression after listening to the record a number of times that there are songs that are forgettable.  There’s also some classic Duran Duran weirdness such as a leopard metaphor that escapes me.  Also, I’m a little disappointed that there isn’t more guitar.  Yeah, it’s New Wave music, but the Duran Duran of Rio had some rocking guitars that are in short supply on AYNIN.  Great keyboards and great bass, though.  And Simon LeBon’s voice hasn’t changed much in all the years – 30 friggin years since the debut record! – and that’s either a good thing or a not so good thing depending on your viewpoint.  I think it’s good that it hasn’t changed; it can seem a little strained if you listen to too much of it (as I have for writing this blog post) but a record’s worth a time is just about right and it definitely suits the music.

Rating: 8 (of of 10)

Concert: Kip Winger

| by Ken | in Review 1 Comment »

Okay, first of all, stop laughing and put away the snark.  Lost in the decade that was the 1980s is that a lot of talented musicians happened to be performing then and the way you performed in the 80s was with big hair and ripped t-shirts.  But that’s just what they were told to wear and doesn’t define them any more than what we wore in the 80s defines who we are today. Granted, some of the 80s musicians’ talent may all have been in their hair but Winger’s talent has always been in his songwriting. In fact, he just finished writing an classical music piece that is being formed with a ballet.  So, if we can dispense with the “Kip Winger?  Really?” then let’s move on to the review of the show…

The show rocked.  Kip’s voice was in great form.  It was just Kip and his 12-string guitar.  The show was scheduled to start at 7:30pm and Kip walked out on stage without any fanfare at 7:31pm.  The venue was an odd place – a brand new club-sized hall in the same building as the movie theater at the stadium where the New England Patriots play.  The size was right but it just seemed too new and clean for a rock concert.  (For comparison, the last place I saw Kip Winger was with his full band at The Middle East at the lower level – a dark sludgy place much more typical of a rock concert.)

Kip does like to chat with the crowd and even though the crowd was far from capacity (maybe only 35% to 40% of capacity?), the crowd was definitely into the show.  The place was set up for the crowd to sit but about a third the crowd stood for the whole show (which made the venue even weirder).  I loved that when Kip said that he would take requests, he had barely finished the word “requests” when people started yelling things out and there were lots of song titles from Kip’s 3 solo records – a sign that much of the crowd was well aware that Kip was more than the song “Seventeen”.  Kip himself even commented on that fact when complimenting the audience on their song knowledge.  I know that performers are programmed to say that every crowd is their best ever but either Kip is a great fibber or I think he genuinely found the Boston crowd to be his kind of crowd.  And that made the show all that much better.

Kip is a great storyteller too and enjoys chatting with the audience.  The loogie story is a classic and he also had a new one talking about how he wrote the lyrics to Pull, the third Winger band record: an outside writer was scrapped when Kip decided he could do better and during a long road trip in a new rental car that stretched for 7000 miles back and forth across the country, he wrote all the lyrics to Pull.

The best audience interaction came during the song Miles Away – a time when he frequently brings an audience member on stage.  He looked out into the audience looking for volunteers and had a couple of women raising their hands.  But when he grilled them about whether they could sing, they backed down.  After a little more prodding, another woman raised her hand and when he asked her if she could sing, she said no but her boyfriend would be great.  The boyfriend was reluctant but Kip said it was okay for a dude to sing with him as long as the dude didn’t look in his eyes during the song.  At this point, two other guys raised their hands and wanted in.  And eventually Kip found a woman to sing too.  So, the bit when Kip frequently has a woman join him on stage turned into one woman and 3 men.  At least one of the guys was really really good.  When the woman relaxed and got into it, she was good too.  And you could see that Kip was having a blast handing over singing duties to them.

Kip played for about 2 hours.  He added a mini-medley of requested songs or as he put it, a medley of the songs he doesn’t remember.  He also goofed around playing snippets of cover songs.  Here’s his set list from the night:

  • Cross – Songs From The Ocean Floor
  • Easy Come Easy Go – Winger II
  • Who’s The One – Pull
  • Steam – This Conversation Seems Like A Dream
  • Headed For A Heartbreak – Winger
  • Blind Revolution Mad – Pull
  • Free – Songs From The Ocean Floor
  • Resurrection – Songs From The Ocean Floor
  • Nothing – From The Moon To The Sun
  • Every Story Told – From The Moon To The Sun
  • Rainbow In The Rose – Winger II
  • Hungry – Winger
  • Daniel – This Conversation Seems Like A Dream
  • Miles Away – Winger II
  • Down Incognito – Pull
  • Blue Suede Shoes – Winger IV
  • Madalaine – Winger
  • Seventeen – Winger
  • Trade My Soul For Rock N Roll (encore goof) – Eerie Von?
  • Horse With No Name (encore goof) – America
  • How Far Will We Go (encore) – This Conversation Seems Like A Dream

If you are at all interested in Winger, Kip Winger, or great 12-string with great vocals, check out Kip on tour if you can.  If not, then at least you now know that some great musicians survived the 80s and Kip Winger is one of them!

Rating: 9 (out of 10)

2011 TV Season Wrap-Up

| by Ken | in Review 2 Comments »

This past TV season, there were a few shows that ended with some noteworthy episodes. Now that I’ve caught up on Chuck, Nikita, The Good Wife, Hawaii Five-O, and The Office, here’s my season and finale comments.

Continue reading »

Movie: Limitless

| by Ken | in Review No Comments »

Limitless turned out to be more fun than I had expected. I did have a little difficulty believing that Bradley Cooper was a burnout writer-wannabe at first but I did eventually buy in. Only just in time before the character begins his metamorphosis into the super intellect made possible by the magic pills. I know it seems silly, but I bought this too. And as the movie goes on, realizing that Cooper’s character isn’t the only one on the superpill – that some of the other geniuses in the world can be explained with superpills – gives an interesting subcontext to the story.

The part I had a hard time buying, though, was when Cooper’s character makes the shift from writer-wannabe to financial wizard. I understand that his mind could handle it but I didn’t buy that he would just meet new friends and that the new friends would take him off to exotic places because he was suddenly fascinating. I would have liked to have seen some other story help the character get from writing a book to being a financial wizard.

After that, the movie is a bit of an action movie with some mystery too. Where are the pills coming from? Who else wants them? How does Cooper’s character shed the skeevy loan shark that helped him get where he is? How can he keep Robert DeNiro’s businessman character happy while at the same time running out of pills and experiencing nasty side effects? And is he actually involved in a murder? Good stuff!

Oh, and the ending is great. I don’t want to give away too much, but I do like that things are left ambiguous. Brilliant.

Rating: 8 (out of 10)

All content Copyright © Katharsys LLC Created with Wordpress, Theme "Synergy" by Pagelines modified by Katharsys LLC