Skyfall Asleep Review

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I went with some of the nuclear family (thank you LPA) to see the latest James Bond movie Freefall, no, Skyfall, wait is that two words? Actually, I think it’s a proper noun in the movie, the name of a ranch or something on the Isle of Skye (I might have made this up) where Bond supposedly grew up, nothing to do with falling.  Or maybe to do with it, falling asleep that is, as one in our viewing party did.  Now the movie wasn’t boring.  I liked it ok, but it didn’t have quite the cool factor that I’ve come to expect in Bond films.  There weren’t many nifty gadgets except for the old sports mota (as the Brits say) with the machine gun headlights.  I mean my black and white e-reader would have been as impressive as any technogadget from the flick.  Star Trek gadgets from the original series would have been an improvement.  And the screenplay was just too serious.  Not campy enough for my taste.  And where was all the wry British humour?  No where, that’s where.

Daniel Craig is a good James Bond, but no Sean Connery or Roger Moore.  He could have been their stunt double in this one.  You know who he reminds me of – an older version of Matt Damon from the Bourne series, which, incidentally, I thought were much better movies than the three Bond films Daniel Craig starred in.  But there is something likeable about him.  He’s like the Rocky character who gets repeatedly knocked down but keeps getting up only because he’s suffered one too many head blows and doesn’t have the good sense to stay down.

Javier Bardem’s character, the rogue agent and villain in the movie should get the nod for best actor in the film, and even so, I found him oddly inauthentic.  And here’s why – he looked too much like F. Murray Abraham who played Amadeus Mozart in the film Amadeus.  Every time he appeared I said to myself, “I need more popcorn and hey, it’s Mozart”.  Bardem’s character also vaguely resembles Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes and from time to time I forgot I was in a James Bond film.

I only saw the movie a few days ago, but I’ve already fogotten a lot about it and that’s more of an indictment on my memory than the flick, so I’ll just say this:   it wasn’t the best of the lot – my favorite, by the way was the one with all the skiing, wait a a bunch of them had skiing – maybe it was the one On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, anyway, the other thing I remember about FreeFall was that I ran out of a lightly buttered and heavily salted popcorn right after the movie previews and was left with 92 ounces (for just 25 cents more) of diet Pepsi to sip on for the rest of the movie.  I was a little annoyed that I hadn’t ordered the matching tub.  A medium popcorn in a bag; what was I thinking?

The End.

Argo Review

You couldn’t make up this stuff.  Well, maybe Kurt Vonnegut could, but seriously folks, a low budget science fiction movie as cover for a CIA rescue plan in revolutionary Iran? No way.  Way!  It happened and Ben Affleck tells the story as actor and director brilliantly in his latest film, Argo!  And what a story.

Just to set it up, and don’t worry, I won’t tell you everything, Islamic militants storm the U.S. embassy (sound familiar) in Tehran in 1979.   Many Americans are held hostage, while 6 American staff workers manage to escape to the Canadian ambassador’s residence. Argo is the story of their rescue attempt.

So just how does one rescue 6 Americans who are in hiding from revolutionaries in Iran whose capture would mean certain torture and possible execution? Easy.  Send in a CIA agent posing as a Canadian filmmaker to smuggle them out as his production crew.  But does it work?  You’ll have to see the flick to find out.

Ben Affleck assembled an excellent cast for the film.  Alan Arkin deserves serious Oscar attention for his portrayal of a cranky, semi-retired movie producer. John Goodman plays the role of a likeable, and obscure B film make up artist.  Ben Affleck cast himself in the starring role as Tony Mendez, the CIA agent who cooked up the improbably ridiculous and brilliant rescue plan.  Bryan Cranston (Hal, from Malcolm in the Middle) plays Affleck’s CIA colleague.  The 6 embassy staff workers are all played by lesser known actors who certainly looked the part, and you’ll know what I mean at the end of the movie.  And do stay for all the credits; you will be rewarded for doing so.

For a suspenseful action thriller that had me holding my breath with a cupped hand over my mouth, the characters were surprisingly well-developed.  Each actor played his or her part as if playing the main character, as Affleck believes they should, adding depth and personality to their roles, something much easier to do in print than on film.

On the random observation front:

  • The extra large size of the eyeglasses the embassy workers wore annoyed me.  What was with that late 70’s to early 80’s style where the rims practically covered the entire face? I felt Affleck mocked the style just a little, or at least I hope he did.
  • Folks sure smoked up a storm in 1979, in offices and even on airliners.   How did any of us survive?
  • Argo was a science fiction script that was never actually made into a movie.  We get bits and pieces of the plot and it is so outrageously fantastical that it might have actually worked better as a comedy.  And you know what it reminded me of?  This:  Venus on the Half-Shell by Kilgore Trout.  And if you know Kurt Vonnegut, you know Kilgore Trout.

Go see Argo.  It might not win an Oscar, but it should.  And I’ll say this – it may the best film I see all year; maybe the best you see too.  Cheers!

The Social Network

I finally got around to seeing The Social Network.  I don’t know how many people have seen the movie, but I would venture to guess far fewer than there are members of Facebook, once called The Facebook.  There were only about 20 movie goers in the theater on the Sunday evening I attended.  The truth of the matter is that The Social Network, the movie about the beginnings of Facebook, is just an ok flick.  Sure, it had good acting and smart dialogue. And I got a kick out of seeing Cambridge and Harvard Square on film because I’ve been there a million times but the movie might have been better as a documentary – even a mocumentary.  There were certainly some stereotypes of the Harvard community on exhibit from the nerdy socially inept beer drinking geeks, including the Facebook inventer, Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jessie Eisenberg, to the wealthy arrogant rowing twin fraternity brothers who may have made it to Harvard via privilege and legacy and not perfect SATs.  And the filmmaker takes a jab at the elitist secret Harvard “Final” clubs, not Finals clubs as Zuckerberg points out to his friend, Erica Albright, played by Rooney Mara, the girlfriend he lost; the one he never had, and the one for whom Facebook was launched. The same girl who tried to excuse herself from the date gone bad by saying that she needed to go study only to be told by Zuckerberg that she didn’t need to study because she goes to BU.  The same Mark Zuckerberg who is told by a young female lawyer that he is not an asshole, but just tries too hard to be one.

It’s odd to think of the origins of Facebook as a prank to get even for a rejection. In fact, that Facebook has any roots at all is a strange thought.  For me, Facebook has just always been around – kind of like TV and computers. That some Harvard geek invented or perhaps even “stole” it from some others at Harvard who had the idea first, but not the technical know how to create it is kind of a letdown.  It makes Facebook seem not so cool in the end.  And if you’ve seen the movie, you understand the reference to coolness. Maybe there was a time when Facebook was really cutting edge fresh and cool, but I think that time has long passed.

My favorite part of the movie came at the end when Zuckerberg friend requests Erica, the woman who started it all.  He just sits at the computer hitting refresh over and over again.