Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top 5: Most Anticipated Holiday Movies

December is an exciting time. Not only because everyone is decorating their trees, lighting their Menorahs, or doing whatever people who celebrate Kwanza do. This is the time when studios release the very best films they have to offer. Often, the closer we get to the Oscars, the better the quality of movies get, until the dumping ground season of January begins. Here now is my list of films that will make December 2012 memorable, even if the world doesn't end:

5. Les Miserables

I've never been a big fan of musicals, but the history buff in me really wants to see a big, epic musical about the French Revolution. I never saw "Les Miserables" on Broadway, but seeing that the French Revolution was not a very happy time in world history, this definitely won't be a musical where people sing and dance and suddenly all of their problems disappear. A song certainly can't stop a guillotine. "Les Miserables" is directed by Tom Hooper. I still think it's unfair that his "The King's Speech" beat out both "Black Swan" and "The Social Network" for Best Picture, but that guy truly has a gift for bringing the past to life.

Coming to Theaters: December 28

4. Not Fade Away

"Not Fade Away" is David Chase's directorial debut in film. If you don't know who David Chase is, you really should: he created "The Sopranos." "Not Fade Away" brings him back to New Jersey, and even reunites Chase with the state of New Jersey Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) himself. But those expecting a profanity-laden tale of gangsters might be disappointed, as this is instead a coming-of-age story about a rock and roll band. I saw another coming-of-age story about a band earlier this year  called "Fat Kid Rules the World." I was thoroughly disappointed by it, but I have a feeling that "Not Fade Away" will be infinitely better. It has "Almost Famous" potential. Plus, with a title inspired by a Rolling Stones song, it seems that "Not Fade Away" has its head in the right place.

Coming to Theaters: December 21

View the top 3 after the jump:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall

Now, this was the James Bond I've been waiting for. Or, more accurately, I didn't know there would be a James Bond quite like this.

After 2006's masterful "Casino Royale" redefined the series, 2008's mediocre "Quantum of Solace" set it back another few years. 007 makes a major comeback yet again with "Skyfall." When James Bond was rebooted, the intention was to radically start England's greatest secret agent over from scratch. Now, everyone seems comfortable enough with Craig in the role to bring back some classic Bond tropes. I didn't realize how much I even missed them until "Skyfall."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Movie Review: Argo

Ben Affleck pulled off the impossible and made a movie about the making of a movie that isn't cheeky or ironic. Then again, it's hard to be overly ironic when the movie you're making is fake and you're dealing with a hostage crisis.

"Argo" plays perfectly like a classic thriller: it's smart, suspenseful, and fun. "Argo" is both an entertaining thriller and a disturbing document of a very bad time in history.

"Argo" is equal parts reenactment, documentary footage, and artistic license. It starts off with a nice refresher  on the past 60 years of Iranian history. In just about a minute, it makes much more sense out of what happened to that country than CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News ever could combined. It goes up to 1979, the year in which the Shah was overthrown and the Iranian Revolution began. Director Ben Affleck gives us a full fledged reenactment of the Iranians breaking into the US Embassy in Tehran. This scene would have felt overlong, if it wasn't so important to the rest of the story, and directed with nail-biting intensity.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Movie Review: Lincoln

How do you bring one of history's most famous and important people to life, when the only knowledge we have of them is from still photos and documents? Simple: bring in Daniel Day-Lewis. Not only can that guy act his way out of a paper bag, he would also spend an entire year studying the life of a paper bag in order to prepare for the performance.

"Lincoln," however, is the first time I've seen Daniel Day-Lewis in a performance that doesn't totally dominate every frame of the film. No, he is also guided by an impressive ensemble, who will surely take home the big ensemble prize at the SAG Awards.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Top 5: James Bond Movies

The jetpack from "Thunderball": the peak of bad special effects humor.
This weekend, "Skyfall" opens in theaters. "Skyfall" marks a remarkable 50 years of the existence of James Bond onscreen. Directed by Sam Mendes ("American Beauty," "Road to Perdition"), "Skyfall" has already been receiving early raves.

No matter how repetitive or ridiculous it gets, I will have a strong fondness for the Bond series. Thanksgivings of my childhood were usually marked by watching the Bond marathons on AMC or TNT (or whatever other network showed them) with my dad and brother. From my years of watching, I compiled a list of my favorite Bond films, building up to number one. Here are my five favorite Bond films:

5. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

It's hard to fill the shoes of Sean Connery, but I believe Roger Moore did as good a job at it as anyone could. This is my favorite Moore installment, and it certainly doesn't shy away from the Cold War inspired madness of the time. While the villain's objective of creating a new civilization under the ocean should be completely ludicrous, it doesn't feel as unrealistic in light of climate change. Plus it's got a hot Bond girl, and Jaws, one of the few villains in the Bond series who got to come back for another film. If only Oddjob didn't meet his end in "Goldfinger," him and Jaws would have made a great team of villains.

4. Dr. No (1962)

This is where it all began. Bond had much less weapons to use, so he mainly relied on his own cunning. And while ejecting car seats are cool, it's even cooler to see Bond having to use his own wits, like watching "Spider-Man" try and scale the city when his web blasters run out. And speaking of spiders, there's a great scene where Bond battles a tarantula, which has the kind of slow-burning suspense rarely seen in movies anymore. I had the distinct pleasure to go to a beach screening of "Dr. No" while at Cannes this summer. To say that "Dr. No" has aged is an understatement. To say that because of that "Dr. No" is no longer funny or exciting to watch would be a lie.

See my Top 3 after the jump:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Movie Review: Seven Psychopaths

This is one of my favorite movie stills of all time.
"Seven Psychopaths" is one of those film in which its title is also the title of the screenplay a character is writing in the film. However, it's not one of those films that just ends with the final scene being typed out, so we can take comfort in knowing that everything that just happened was only in some writer's head.

"Seven Psychopaths" is an insane deconstruction of action movies that I loved every minute of. Perhaps Hollywood has reached a tipping point when it comes to telling crime tales, and "Seven Psychopaths" is exactly what it needed to put it back in line. Meta films walk a very tight rope, and "Seven Psychopaths" manages to consistently stay in line.