Month: January 2013

THREE FAMILIES: The Guilt Trip, Silver Linings Playbook, The Impossible


In terms of age, this movie has certainly attracted a very diverse crowd.  I had the opportunity to speak with a seventy year old couple who had come to see it.  When I asked them if they were drawn in by Barbara Streisand, they shook their heads and told me they were actually fans of Seth Rogen.

My mind was instantly blown.

But it didn’t stop there.  You see, I’m a fan of Seth Rogen too.  Only, it’s more of a theory than anything else.  I remember the first time I saw him in a movie.  It was “40 Year Old Virgin,” and I knew right away he was a star.  I didn’t realize that he and Judd Apatow already had a history together, cultivated with “Freaks and Geeks” and fostered through “Anchorman.”  And no one could know that their careers would soon explode through mutual leadership or that they would be the new dukes of the comedy scene.  Judd would set the tone, and Seth would take his talents everywhere, including as a prolific cartoon voice.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t really care for Judd Apatow’s movies.  They tend to be too long, too strained to be taken seriously, and too obsessed with toilet and drug humor.  I mean, I’ve liked the best of them well enough.  When they work, they work, and when the star is strong with vision, the results are remarkable (i.e. “Freaks and Geeks,” “40 Year Old Virgin,” “Bridesmaids,” and the Will Ferrell comedies).  Overall, however, I find the formula a bit daunting, and what’s worse is when someone else snatches up Seth Rogen and shoehorns him into a comedy that tries to emulate the Judd Apatow model.

I hated “Paul.”  I hated “Zack and Myrie Make a Porno.”  I didn’t even bother to watch “The Green Hornet.”  So I guess in many ways, I’m a fan of Seth’s more in theory than in practice.  However, “50/50” was fantastic, so I have a lot of difficulty in writing him off altogether.

Mercifully, “The Guilt Trip” is transcendent.  It is funny, charming, and honest.  It is sentimental in the way that it will make you want to call your mother when you’re done watching it.  There are well played moments of incredible depth in this seemingly straightforward story.  It is imminently watchable and must-see for fans of Rogen and Streisand.

Barbara Streisand gives a perfect screen performance, channeling all of her maternal instincts into a woman that will surely remind you of the one that raised you in all the small ways your fading memories might.  She handily steals the show, reminding us what age, experience, and grace are worth even while we are so readily willing to dismiss the older generation for the new.



I didn’t really know what to expect when I walked into this movie.  Nothing but good things were said about it from those I had spoken to, but I wasn’t sure it was a movie that I really wanted to see.  When the Oscar nominations came out, the nods for Best Picture and in all four acting categories finally tipped the scale to convince me to sit down in the dark and give myself over totally to the film.

A very similar thing happened to me with “As Good As It Gets,” and I walked out with a grin of pleasant surprise.  Years later, I would find the same joy in “Little Miss Sunshine.”  We live in a time where we can all relate to the fictional character who is dealing with crippling mental health issues.  In their struggles.  In their progress towards sanity.  And towards their small victories.

“Silver Linings Playbook” tells the story of a nuclear family dealing with various degrees of psychological damage.  Pat (Bradley Cooper) is basically a violent stalker who is obsessed with winning back his wife despite the restraining order.  Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) is a bookie that suffers from an OCD that has him believing his little rituals are the difference between success and failure.  Long suffering Dolores (Jackie Weaver) mothers them both by playing along and offering kindness and ritualistic snacks.  Then there’s the older brother (Shea Whigham), who feels guilt about his own success.

The “family” is made ever larger by great actors in interesting roles that create the culture of the household, which becomes a refuge of sorts to those who don’t necessarily fit the rest of the world.  And then there’s Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who doesn’t even seem to fit in there.  She is possibly the most emotionally damaged and certainly the most accepting of her own “messy” parts.

This is boy meets girl, despite the fact that both are flailing.  You see, this story wouldn’t work with lesser actors.  It is about crazy people, but it’s not all about the spectacle and outlandishness.  In order for this story to work, it has to convince it’s audience that this world exists, that it’s real and that those who populate it are sympathetic characters.  It has to move you past the premise quickly and bring you along on their journey without restraint or judgement.  You have to be on their side and even see the world from their somewhat warped perspective.

In that, the performances are the star.  Bradley Cooper’s dilated eyes both push you away and draw you in.  Jennifer Lawrence flies on broken wings, and Robert De Niro. . .  Well, let’s just say this is the first time I’ve seen De Niro move out of his comfort zone of sleep walking through a role since “Meet the Parents.”  The original one.

If you’re a fan of the two films I mentioned in the second paragraph or even of “Napoleon Dynamite,” I’d suggest you find out why the Academy was so enthusiastic about this film.




While most of my reviews do not include spoilers, I don’t feel I can properly write about “The Impossible” without going into greater detail.  So if you haven’t seen this movie but plan to, please do not read this review.


Okay, let me get my corny one-liner out of the way first.  *Ahem.*  While a wave only rolls once, my eyes can roll over and over again.

There.  So now you have a pretty good idea of how I feel about this movie.  Let’s move on.

Despite having watched several documentaries on the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, I still cannot say that I actually know what it would be like to live through such a tragedy, but I feel like I can tell you one thing.  Watching “The Impossible” is definitely the wrong way to try to gain that understanding.

The first major problem I have with this movie is that the story doesn’t ring true, and yet the central premise is that this is the true story of one family caught up in this disaster.  As to the true story, there doesn’t seem a way to compare the film’s narrative with what really happened to the Belon family.  The story doesn’t seem to be recorded anywhere other than in this movie, and this movie is the stuff of Hollywood manufactured fiction.

I’m not saying that I don’t believe the central tenants.  I believe the Belon family (who were Spanish and not British) came to vacation in Thailand and were survivors of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.  I believe they suffered.  I believe they struggled.  I believe they clung to debris, climbed trees, and searched desperately for one another.  But I have a hard time following the “American Tale”/”Serendipity” audience manipulation that drives the last twenty minutes of the film.  It seems that the filmmakers were too troubled by making a tear-jerking disaster tale that would fit the model for a Lifetime original movie to make a truthful account of real world struggles.  Unfortunately, the honest sentimentality was completely drowned by a flood of false sentiment.

That isn’t to say the movie is totally without its moments.  The tsunami itself was presented well enough, though the nightmare that Naomi Watts has late in the film seems much more inspired by the actual footage.  The make-up work was top drawer, and I’d suggest that it is more how she looks than the actual performance that won Naomi Watts the nomination for Best Actress.*  The scenes leading up to the disaster all worked well, and I felt like I could sympathize with the family.  It’s just a shame that everything after the wave strained that good will for me.

There were even a couple of truly honest moments in this otherwise formulaic film.  The first was awkward and felt totally out of place.  The second worked very well and should have been the bar by which the rest of the film was raised.

First, when Lucas sees his mother’s exposed breast, he turns his head.  Later, when his mother is asleep in the tree, his curiosity is peaked and the camera teases that he is contemplating taking another look.  When doctors cut away his mother’s shirt, and he has another opportunity, he chooses chivalry and turns away again.  I wonder how truthful these moments were or if they were yet another forced idea.  Certainly, it was not a very fleshed out concept.

The other moment was when Enrique asked another wealthy tourist if he can use his phone.  The rich man responds by saying, “Look around.  Everyone needs something, and I need my battery.”  It is apparent that the only thing this man and his family has suffered is inconvenience, and yet he and his wife are angry and frustrated, demanding to know when he can get satisfaction from the natives who have lost everything.

There are lingering shots that float across the faces of the other families.  Some of those we see playing on the beach or in the pools before the wave will not live.  Those we see after are living out their own personal nightmares.  They all have a story.  They all have a voice.  And that brings me to my last problem with this movie.

Why tell the true story of just this family in the first place?  You would think that their tale would be enough to fill a two hour movie with texture and complexity, but they had to know in the screenplay process that this was not so.  Instead they added cinematic tricks and gimmicks to add meat, and for some viewers, I’m sure that’s enough.  But not for me.  To me, this was simply a missed opportunity made all the worse by ridiculous punctuations that caused me to lose my patience and roll my eyes.  Instead of just brushing on the experiences of others, if they could have expanded the circumference to give us a more accurate glimpse of this tragic day, it would have carried with it the ring of truth. But I’m willing to bet that was yet another gimmick.

These filmmakers didn’t want to show us death, only a family that came out unscathed.


Can you tell which of these three images is from a Hollywood film?  If not, you’ll probably like “The Impossible” more than I did.


* I love Naomi Watts and don’t really care that it was the make-up that got her the attention.  Though I don’t think this performance will win her Oscar gold, I’m really happy for her.



Hey, Kids!

2012 was a rather eventful year in many contrasting ways.  There was good and bad.

The Bad:
In October of 2011 I scheduled a store meeting for my employees at GameStop.  One of my employees came to the off-hours meeting under the influence of alcohol, and I decided to deal with the problem myself.  My former boss and the human resources department decided that I showed poor judgement and decided to terminate my employment.  I spent the entire year seeking out new opportunities.  The market is pretty rough, and it’s taken until December for me to find anything.  I now work a part-time, entry level, barely above minimum wage job at a movie theater.  I’m very worried about how ends shall meet, and I am still seeking out something more.

The Good:
So far, I actually really enjoy the new job.  The people are great, the work is helping me regain lost confidence, and the fact that it’s at a movie theater and allows me to see free movies has reignited the fire I have for movies.  I started writing movie reviews on my blog (, and they’ve already helped generate more interest.

Chalkskin released it’s first album as a full out rap group (my second album as MC Chalkskin).  It’s gotten nothing but positive reviews and has gotten universal praise from the leaders in the nerdcore hip hop subgenre.  If you haven’t already had the chance to check it out, you can listen to “PayDay” for free right now!

I released two episodes for a new sketch comedy web series I like to call “The Sheepdog Show.”  The first episode had Kariem Marbury (D.J. Pop’N’Fresh, Are You Scared?) as our special guest.  The second featured Ashley Bank (Monster Squad, prolific child actor).  You can check out the show at

This month, will premiere two new series from Wolf In Wool Productions.  In Chalkskin 10, MC Chalkskin interviews prominent celebrities.  In Gamer_Bob (starring Dominique Gilbert, who is best known as El Gun Legro; co-produced by Angela Englert) takes on passionate nerdy issues.

I’ve become dedicated to getting a book ready for publishing by the end of 2013.  I don’t want to go into too many details, but if you’re interested in checking out the prologue and give me your feedback, you can do so on my blog.

I’m now in a committed relationship with a wonderful girl named Stella.  If you’d like to see more of her, she’s actually a cast member on “The Sheepdog Show.”  She’s the one with the mustache and sunglasses!

I always love this time of year, because it’s my chance to catch up with so many people that are so very important to me.  Please let me know what’s been going on in your neck of the woods!!


1. The winner is the person who chooses the most winners overall. There are no bonuses for picking any one category.

2. Submissions must be turned in to me through e-mail ( . . . or snail mail, if you’d like … but it must be in written form for verification purposes) before the award ceremony begins (Sunday, March 7th, 5 pm PT, 8 pm ET ). Entries arriving after that time will be discarded.   I will reply to your e-mail to let you know that I’ve received it.

3. No one may “reply to all” under any circumstances. I don’t care how happy you are about winning or ticked off you are about coming in last or turned on you are about someone’s name in the list. Please do not write to anyone on the list who you do not know. And please do not use this as an opportunity to snag that addy for your ex so you can finally tell them off.

4. Please don’t get mad at me for writing this e-mail as a mass e-mail or even just for sending this to you. I look upon this contest as a gesture of friendship in an effort of fun. If you are on this list, I have put you on it for a reason. Either I like you, respect you, think you’re keen, or misspelled someone’s e-mail address (or all of the above).

5. Multiple selections within the same category may not be made.

6. In the event of a tie, a tie breaker question will be asked to all participants in the tie. This will continue until a clear winner can be found.

The prize:
Okay.  It’s time I face the facts.  DVDs are pretty much dead.  Besides, I suck at getting out a physical prize, and I’m broke.  So the prize will simply be bragging rights.  But I think that fifteen years of history gives a lot of reason to want to win!


Best motion picture of the year

  • “Amour”
    Nominees to be determined
  • “Argo”
    Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
    Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
  • “Django Unchained”
    Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
  • “Les Misérables”
    Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
  • “Life of Pi”
    Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
  • “Lincoln”
    Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
  • “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
  • “Zero Dark Thirty”
    Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers

Performance by an actor in a leading role

  • Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables
  • Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
  • Denzel Washington in Flight

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

  • Alan Arkin in Argo
  • Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master
  • Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln
  • Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Achievement in directing

  • “Amour” Michael Haneke
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Benh Zeitlin
  • “Life of Pi” Ang Lee
  • “Lincoln” Steven Spielberg
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” David O. Russell

Performance by an actress in a leading role

  • Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emmanuelle Riva in Amour
  • Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Naomi Watts in The Impossible

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

  • Amy Adams in “The Master”
  • Sally Field in “Lincoln”
  • Anne Hathaway in “Les Misérables”
  • Helen Hunt in “The Sessions”
  • Jacki Weaver in “Silver Linings Playbook”

Best animated feature film of the year

  • “Brave” Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
  • “Frankenweenie” Tim Burton
  • “ParaNorman” Sam Fell and Chris Butler
  • “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” Peter Lord
  • “Wreck-It Ralph” Rich Moore

Adapted screenplay

  • “Argo” Screenplay by Chris Terrio
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
  • “Life of Pi” Screenplay by David Magee
  • “Lincoln” Screenplay by Tony Kushner
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” Screenplay by David O. Russell

Original screenplay

  • “Amour” Written by Michael Haneke
  • “Django Unchained”Written by Quentin Tarantino
  • “Flight” Written by John Gatins
  • “Moonrise Kingdom” Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
  • “Zero Dark Thirty” Written by Mark Boal

Achievement in cinematography

  • “Anna Karenina” Seamus McGarvey
  • “Django Unchained” Robert Richardson
  • “Life of Pi” Claudio Miranda
  • “Lincoln” Janusz Kaminski
  • “Skyfall” Roger Deakins

Best foreign language film of the year

  • “Amour” Austria
  • “Kon-Tiki” Norway
  • “No” Chile
  • “A Royal Affair” Denmark
  • “War Witch” Canada

Best documentary feature

  • “5 Broken Cameras”
    Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
  • “The Gatekeepers”
    Nominees to be determined
  • “How to Survive a Plague”
    Nominees to be determined
  • “The Invisible War”
    Nominees to be determined
  • “Searching for Sugar Man”
    Nominees to be determined

Best documentary short subject

  • “Inocente”
    Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
  • “Kings Point”
    Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
  • “Mondays at Racine”
    Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
  • “Open Heart”
    Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
  • “Redemption”
    Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

Achievement in film editing

  • “Argo” William Goldenberg
  • “Life of Pi” Tim Squyres
  • “Lincoln” Michael Kahn
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
  • “Zero Dark Thirty” Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Achievement in costume design

  • “Anna Karenina” Jacqueline Durran
  • “Les Misérables” Paco Delgado
  • “Lincoln” Joanna Johnston
  • “Mirror Mirror” Eiko Ishioka
  • “Snow White and the Huntsman” Colleen Atwood

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling

  • “Hitchcock”
    Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
  • “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
    Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
  • “Les Misérables”
    Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

  • “Anna Karenina” Dario Marianelli
  • “Argo” Alexandre Desplat
  • “Life of Pi” Mychael Danna
  • “Lincoln” John Williams
  • “Skyfall” Thomas Newman

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

  • “Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice”
    Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
  • “Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from “Ted”
    Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
  • “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi”
    Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
  • “Skyfall” from “Skyfall”
    Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
  • “Suddenly” from “Les Misérables”
    Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Achievement in production design

  • “Anna Karenina”
    Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
    Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
  • “Les Misérables”
    Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
  • “Life of Pi”
    Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
  • “Lincoln”
    Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Best animated short film

  • “Adam and Dog” Minkyu Lee
  • “Fresh Guacamole” PES
  • “Head over Heels” Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
  • “Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” David Silverman
  • “Paperman” John Kahrs

Best live action short film

  • “Asad” Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
  • “Buzkashi Boys” Sam French and Ariel Nasr
  • “Curfew” Shawn Christensen
  • “Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)” Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
  • “Henry” Yan England

Achievement in sound editing

  • “Argo” Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
  • “Django Unchained” Wylie Stateman
  • “Life of Pi” Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
  • “Skyfall” Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
  • “Zero Dark Thirty” Paul N.J. Ottosson

Achievement in sound mixing

  • “Argo”
    John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
  • “Les Misérables”
    Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
  • “Life of Pi”
    Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
  • “Lincoln”
    Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
  • “Skyfall”
    Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

Achievement in visual effects

  • “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
    Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
  • “Life of Pi”
    Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
  • “Marvel’s The Avengers”
    Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
  • “Prometheus”
    Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
  • “Snow White and the Huntsman”
    Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael DawsonImage

Prologue – Would You Read this Book?

This is one fucked up way to end the holidays.

Those were the words that entered his mind in that moment.  If he had believed they might be the last words he ever thought, maybe he would have something else to say about everything, but as it was, it seemed a fitting enough way to sign off.

No more words.  No more deeds.

As a boy, he had never been able to open his eyes underwater, but somehow he was looking around without any burning. All around was murky, muddy water, shady and blue. If he couldn’t save himself, he would breathe it all in, filling his lungs. The world would darken around him, and he would sink into the quagmire at the bottom. He would have to act quickly if he wanted to live.

Only, he wasn’t sure he wanted to live.

No more dreams. No more nightmares.

And to think. . . I actually shaved for this.

He had had enough of this world, and it seemed to know he thought so. After all, it was the earth that was trying to kill him.

Bubbles rose from his nostrils as he looked up at the thick sheet of ice above his head. He couldn’t see a break to the surface, but he knew if he looked hard enough, he’d find the opening his body had made that landed him in this silent, frozen hell.

No more debts. No more harassing phone calls from creditors.

Where’s my left shoe? I don’t remember losing that.

There was no telling how long he had been in the cold water, but he knew there couldn’t be much more time before everything would start happening. Already, his fingers and toes were numb. Already, his chest and stomach were crying out for warmth. Yet he found serenity in it all. Maybe it was God’s hush bringing this calm. Yeah, maybe that.

Or the head wound.

No more tooth decay. No more hair loss.

Did I remember to pay the waitress?

Blue hands hung in front of him. They reminded him of the limbs of a tree, blown lightly by a passing summer breeze. He knew they were his, but he couldn’t feel them anymore. It struck him funny that this was all there was left. Just to float. And then to die. No fanfare. No trumpets or a flickering film of his life passing before his eyes. Just this.

Just water and cold and pain and death.

No more sunrises to break the dawn. No more stars burning overhead.

I wonder if they’ll ever find me down here.

He forced himself to recall the events of his life, to the moments that led to his demise. He conjured the faces of those he loved into the dusky bog. It almost made him feel criminal to do that; to bring them down here with him. So he closed his eyes. Life had just one last lesson for him:

How to let it all go.

No more fading memories. Just. . . no more.

Wait a second! I wasn’t the only one that fell in!

Book Cover 01


The DOs and DON’Ts of Action Flicks: A Tale of Skyfall and Jack Reacher




Tom Cruise: “I didn’t say an auto parts store.  I said the auto parts store.  Which auto parts store comes to mind right away?”

Cut to Jack Reacher walking into a large warehouse shop called. . .  *I kid you not*  DEFAULT AUTO PARTS STORE.

Enter “Jack Reacher,” the default action movie.  Only, this one is so lackluster and wooden that it will probably not be the movie you fall back on for a fun, action-packed viewing.

The book must have been a great read.  How else would it’s adaptation attract Tom Cruise AND Robert Duvall?  After all, Jim Grant has written over a dozen successful Jack Reacher books under the alias of Lee Child, and Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote and directed this movie, also wrote “The Usual Suspects” and the Tom Cruise vehicle “Valkyrie.”  The difference here is that while McQuarrie graduated high school with Bryan Singer, they clearly have different skills, and Lee Child’s books are the kind of over-the-top normal guy/superman detective stories that modern films generally figure out ways to flesh out the character with genuine emotions and maybe a weakness or two.

In the books, Jack Reacher has the uncanny ability to know what time it is without ever looking at a clock.  He has a perfect physique without ever working out.  He has a fascination with mathematics and physics and uses both in his fighting techniques, of which he knows many.  He is the only non-Marine to ever win the Marine Corps 1000 Yard Invitational rifle competition.  He lacks remorse.  He doesn’t talk much.  He says “That’s for damn sure” an awful lot.  And he’s great at having sex with lots of sexy ladies.

Not that he doesn’t have a few weaknesses peppered in here and there.  Jack Reacher doesn’t feel he has much skill in fighting a man with a knife, and he doesn’t do well in crowds.

Maybe the film should have tried harder at finding the character traits that would work in a film like this.  The quiet man who is slightly agoraphobic, perhaps.  The film touches on the drifter aspect and even tries to use it as a motivation for why local law enforcement has difficulty trusting his findings, but they have gone to such pains to prove to the audience that Jack Reacher is THE MAN, that it feels strained.  McQuarrie could have gone a long way had they spent some time with “First Blood.”

The movie is an extraordinary example of a by-the-numbers approach to action movies.  At the moment it is supposed to, the bad guy does something terribly evil to prove how awful he is.  It rains on cue for the final battle.  And Jack Reacher makes his entrance exactly on cue.  I mean exactly.  That’s the movie’s biggest intentional laugh.  If only they were in on the joke more, this movie could have been a romp.

Maybe forget Rambo.  Perhaps McQuarrie should have spent some time with “Shoot ‘Em Up.”

There are a few good scenes in the movie.  The opening scene, with the sniper’s P.O.V. is very first person shooter.  When the villain is proving his vileness, as I mentioned above, it culminates in a rather twisted concept for thumb biting.  And some of the pithy dialogue is fun, but it comes on the same wooden stilts that made the rest of the movie laugh-at-you rather than with.



When they heard James Bond was going to drink a Heineken in a product placement moment, the purists were in a frenzy.  And why not?  One of his catchphrases tells us exactly what he likes to drink, and it’s clearly not a bottle lager.  It’s so NOT double-oh seven!  But even though the film buff inside of me was able to take in the moment with the cynical knowledge that the lingering shot was just long enough to make the investment worth while financially, it works.  The filmmakers defended their decision to go with the ad by saying that even Bond can sometimes be the guy that just wants to have a beer, and when we get to that moment, we see that they’re right.

And that’s exactly why this movie is the polar opposite of “Jack Reacher.”  There is emotional complexity where the purists may believe they want detachment, and depth is the precise spice you need for a nourishing recipe.  A truly great action casserole has textures and layers and nuggets and morsels that will satisfy you long after dinner.

Roger Moore told Entertainment Tonight that “Skyfall” was “the best Bond film ever made.”  The journalist followed up by reminding Moore that he had publicly stated he did not watch Bond movies.  Moore replied, “I say I don’t, but I’ve seen all of them.”

I haven’t seen every 007.  I mean, we’re celebrating fifty years of Bond, and there are twenty-three films!  (Twenty six if you count the three unofficial ones, including the David Niven/Peter Sellers one and Sean Connery’s legendary return.)  I have seen most of them, and thanks to, I am equipped with a fairly educated position on the history of the films.  I’d have to agree with Roger Moore.  This is the best Bond.

The biggest reason that this movie is so transcendent is that it is at once about the James Bond that we all know and love, and it is also about the James Bond that we’ve barely met.  Daniel Craig has begun to perfectly fit more snugly into the tailored tux of the MI6 agent, and he has stepped out from under the long shadow cast by his predecessors.  Yes, even Connery.  This is a James Bond that can go a few weeks with facial hair and still be double-oh seven in his very heart and soul, and it’s great fun to see him go there.

During a psyche evaluation, we are teased with the mystery of Skyfall.  We learn later that the results of the test speak of substance abuse and an unresolved childhood trauma.  This is a chase scene that is heading in a new direction, and when we get to our destination, we will know exactly why Bond is such an enduring character.

Sam Mendes, who sharpened his tools with Shakespeare and won his Oscar with “American Beauty,” helms this espionage thriller with great care to properly balance the drama with the joy.  One of the great surprises in this entry is that it is at once fresh and new and at the same time, it makes an argument for “the old ways,” delighting with nostalgia for all that came before it.  This Bond is the old dog as well as the new, and he is just as comfortable with an exploding pen or an Aston Martin as he is with a Land Rover Defender and a handful of bullets.

Are you starting to see the complexity I’m talking about?

In following with the movie’s tone, Javier Bardem fits right into the Bond villain rogue gallery while bringing us – and James – into new, experimental ground.  The Oscar winner brings the giggling, key-stroking, Julian Assange-inspired menace with mommy and daddy issues to life with appalling clarity.    With range and emotion, Berenice Marlohe shows us all why you can’t just plug a Denise Richards or a Grace Jones into a Bond girl anymore.  Judy Dench is marvelous as M, showing the stiff British upper lip in the biggest crisis of her career.  Albert Finney is always excellent.  Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw, and Naomie Harris are well-cast and welcomed additions to the franchise.

In the past, I’ve watched Bond bounce from shark tank to space station to Christopher Walken defended satellite.  I’ve seen him kill and bed for his majesty’s secret service.  I’ve seen him race across ice caps and rooftops and aqueducts.  And I’ve been a passive witness to all of it.  With “Skyfall,” I felt like I was a part of it all for the first time.   This film had me tightly in it’s grip from Adele’s score to the closing credits.