Tag: action (page 1 of 6)

Movie Review: Red 2

As much as people will say “Lightning never strikes twice,” the Empire State Building in New York City would beg to differ. It’s why sequels keep getting made. The folks in charge of the production of entertainment like to keep giving the people what they want. Sometimes this leads to degradation through iteration, like seasons of Jersey Shore or movie adaptations of Star Trek: The Next Generation. At other times, though, quality is preserved for the most part, like seasons of Supernatural or the sequel Red 2.

Courtesy Summit Entertainment

Retired & Extremely Dangerous ex-CIA counter-intelligence asset Frank Moses is settling into a domesticated life with his main squeeze when his paranoid buddy Martin tries to rope him into a job. Martin’s car is bombed and Frank decides it’s time to strap his spurs on again. It turns out that an operation they did back in their heyday is coming back to haunt them in the form of a weapon of mass destruction hidden somewhere in the Kremlin. With the US government sending relentless goons and hiring expert assassins, and betrayal waiting around every corner, Frank must stay one step ahead while trying to keep his girl safe, even as she tries to be a bigger part of his life.

So here we are again, in a follow-up to Red, a harmless and somewhat formulaic action comedy based on Warren Ellis’ graphic novel about old folks kicking ass. To the film’s credit, it’s more than a little aware of its roots in the media of panels and dialog balloons, as transitions from one world-wide locale to the next find the characters rendered as art before they’re swept away. It was a little touch I appreciated, and I also liked that Red 2 feels more like a global film. Like Pacific Rim, it feels larger in scope than the unfortunately jingoistic tendency of Hollywood films to remain focused on America. I mean, this year alone we had two movies in a row about the White House getting smashed by terrorists.

Courtesy Summit Entertainment
Just another day out with friends…

The other aspect that Red 2 shares with Pacific Rim is the fact that not a lot of time is spent in emotional low states. This is a movie more concerned with having fun and keeping the story moving than being grim or brooding or even all that realistic. Like its predecessor, the aim is for largely unoffensive entertainment for audience members of age for its subject matter. The movie is kept afloat on its situational humor, some inventive fight and infiltration scenes, and a good deal of star power. If you’re interested in Red 2, chances are it’s because of who’s in it. A good deal of Anthony Hopkins’ role involves what I might uncharitably call fan service. While it’s enjoyable on the whole, a few elements feel slightly tacked on to emphasize this or that star. It doesn’t take anything away from the movie, at least for me, but it’s a flaw that bears a mention.

As much as Red 2 does what every sequel sets out to do – build on the experiences of the previous story, expand its scope, raise the stakes, and draw in more audience – it also bears mentioning that more of the same might not be what you’re looking for as a movie-goer. Then again, enough people went to see Man of Steel and Star Trek: Into Darkness to justify more of those same coming soon (and yes, I was one of them, so I’m just as guilty), so maybe I’m just making mountains out of molehills here.

Courtesy Summit Entertainment
Classing up everything she’s in.

Stuff I Liked: The broader scope works in keeping the formula fresh. The action remains inventive and, at times, quite funny. It’s nice to see a relationship dynamic that, while troubled, is stable enough that discussions do not explode into arguments or pointless shouting matches. There’s a maturity to this action comedy that I appreciate; no cheap jokes or toilet humor here, save for one scene.
Stuff I Didn’t Like: It’s still a formula piece, for better or worse. The motions the cast goes through are familiar and for some it may be a case of more of the same not being enough. There’s very little to challenge the mind, and the writers take no real risks with the material.
Stuff I Loved: I’m so glad they brought back Brian Cox, albeit briefly. I loved seeing Anthony Hopkins switch so easily from tottering old crazy man to razor-edged mad scientist. For someone who wasn’t a big fan of the GI Joe movie but appreciated the martial artistry of Storm Shadow, Byung-hun Lee was a delight to see in action. The entire cast is on board for this, they have a great time, and the fun is infectious.

Bottom Line: Red 2 is, ultimately, completely inoffensive. On the one hand, it’s a sequel so safe and linear that some might find it downright boring. On the other, though, it’s infused with more than enough character and just enough heart to keep any audience who liked the first movie interested in seeing the second through to the end. If nothing else, in a summer that seems overly concerned with making their movies grim and dark and brooding and serious, sometimes all you need is the sight of Helen Mirren shooting people with all of the elegance you’d expect from someone of her stature.

Movie Review: Man of Steel

I kidnapped my father to see Man of Steel in celebration of both Father’s Day and his birthday, which fall on the same date this year. I will admit I went into the movie theater carrying some fears. It was my hope that Zack Snyder’s visual panache, Hans Zimmer’s music, and the performances of these actors could put those fears into the Phantom Zone and I could truly fall in love with Superman on the big screen. It’s difficult to put yourself in front of a big summer blockbuster and eject all preconcieved notions from your had, but I did my best when the lights went down and this film began.

Courtesy Warner Brothers

Krypton was a world destroyed by its own hubris. Having exhausted its resources and bent its population to a strict genetic template, it was on the cusp of disaster when its most brilliant scientist, Jor-El, chooses to have a natural born child with his wife, Lara Lor-Van. At the same time, General Zod and his officers stage a violent coup. When Zod comes for the Codex, a Kryptonian device containing the aforementioned template, Jor-El fights him off while Lara launches the rocket containing their son, Kal. Kal-El lands safely on Earth while the last act of his doomed homeland is to banish Zod and his followers to the Phantom Zone. Thirty years later, Kal (known as Clark Kent thanks to his adoptive parents) is on the cusp of unlocking the secrets of his past, while a mysterious spacecraft makes contact with Earth.

That’s about as concise as I can make the synopsis of the plot of Man of Steel. It’s a little convoluted and some things are explained at great length, but then again, this is David S Goyer and Christopher Nolan we’re talking about. Now, I like these guys. They gave us three very good Batman movies in the Dark Knight trilogy. But something DC Comics writers discovered years ago is you can’t write a Superman story the way you write a Batman story. Batman is all about a lonely man waging a neverending and possibly self-destructive war on crime with his wits and funds. Superman is about a truly alien immigrant making a place for himself amongst puny creatures that, for all of their flaws and failings, he really admires and finds himself fond of. He’s supportive of us, as a whole. He wants to challenge us to aspire to greater things. He’s whimsical about us.

Courtesy Warner Brothers
And damn if he ain’t a fine-lookin’ specimen.

My big hangup with Man of Steel, the thing that keeps me from outright loving it as a whole, is that there’s no whimsy. There’s no levity. There’s barely even any humor at all. Much like the Dark Knight trilogy, the film is solidly grounded, quite cerebral, and intent on explaining everything to us in detail. I very nearly shouted “SHOW, DON’T TELL!” at the screen at least once. As much as I admire the time spent with the Kryptonian world-building (more on that in a bit), so much of it was laid out in plain English rather than relying on visual storytelling that it fails to engage on any emotional level whatsoever. A story like this needs pathos to overcome its more fantastical elements, not an in-depth schematic on how those elements work. Time spent outlining the particulars of those schematics is time that could have been spent making characters people instead of ciphers.

Thankfully, one of the things Man of Steel has is an extremely talented and very well directed cast. Zack Snyder, on top of his legendary visual chops, has a habit of getting good performances out of his actors even when the material involves superhumans rearranging atoms or half-naked warriors spouting fatalistic platitudes. And Henry Cavill, our new Kal-El, has an easy and natural charm about him, an aspect that’s clearly evident whenever the script lightens up enough to let him crack a smile (which isn’t often enough). Amy Adams is a clever and pro-active Lois Lane, but again, the script undercuts her and requires her to put forth more effort to connect both with her co-star and with us. I loved Russel Crowe’s Jor-El for a variety of reasons, even if the script seemed to be pushing some messianic overtones extremely hard. And while Zod may be bound by his genetic template to be a conqueror, Micheal Shannon not only makes this role his own but gives us depth and nuance to what would otherwise be an extremely one-dimensional villain.

Courtesy Warner Brothers
Zod could have been cartoonish; instead he has pathos, drive, and surprising humanity.

The more I think about it, the more the problems I have with Man of Steel seem to be squarely in the writing department. Zack Snyder has yet to direct a film that does not jump off the screen at you, even without the ridiculous 3D markup. While Sucker Punch is still on my to-watch list, his work with 300 and Watchmen remains firmly in my mind. This is a man who grasps iconic imagery, well-paced action with clear camera work, proper scene construction, even facial tics and body language to make an actor state something without saying a word. He brought his “A” game to Man of Steel, and a good thing too, as he hammers great moments, from the most destructive of fist-fights to the most touching of family scenes, out of a script that must have been terrible to read through multiple times in perparation for performance.

And here’s a review that’s becoming overly long and verbose in response! I’d hate to give the impression that I did not enjoy Man of Steel, because I did. The scope of the movie is grand and bombastic, worthy of the big screen. The action sequences are spectacular to behold (if a bit long towards the end). The world-building done for Krypton in the first 15 minutes is concise and fascinating, well worth the price of admission (even if it gets a re-tread 45 minutes later). Hans Zimmer’s score is absolutely gorgeous, the overall look and feel of the film is amazing, and everything I said about Snyder’s direction and the work of these actors makes me want to love Man of Steel without reservation.

I can’t. But I want to.

Stuff I Liked: They did one of my favorite in-flight/in-space camera moves: wide shot, zoom in, track the object while focusing. It worked in Battlestar Galactica and Firefly, and it works here. The action is clean and sharp; no shakey cam or overt trickery here. CGI looks great. The palate feels fresh and real and grounded even if it’s a bit washed-out in places; I liked the feeling of weight everything had.
Stuff I Didn’t Like: The script feels drab, dour, and almost clinical in places. The action gets a bit long towards the end. They easily could have used either the opening sequence on Krypton or the history lesson Jor-El gives his son; they didn’t necessarily need both. They spent a lot of time explaining things in detail when they could have been fleshing out characters, or letting Superman rescue a cat from a tree or something. Come on, Chris, come on, David, lighten up, would ya??
Stuff I Loved: This cast, you guys. This. Cast. They are not just enjoying this opportunity to be these characters, they are working like crazy to give life to lifeless lines. Even the bit players amongst the military felt pretty fleshed out, and had actual presence alongside superhumans – great work by Christopher Meloni in particular. Zack Snyder’s direction brings out the best in the actors as well as driving home all of the action folks found lacking in Superman Returns; even the film’s most drawn out passages are quite watchable thanks to his touch. I’m still humming the score. I want a sequel, because I think this universe and these characters have so much potential to break out of the shackles of this dreary origin story. And I love the fact that I believe I will like it more if I see it again.

Bottom Line: Man of Steel is a great summer blockbuster and a decent Superman movie. Do not go in expecting the levity or whimsy of Richard Donner’s Superman films, or even the relfective humanity of Superman Returns, and you should be fine. Ignore what you can of the over-wrought, over-complicated script, and focus on the characters, the action, and the potential this has to become something even greater than it is. That, after all, is what Superman – and the human experience – is all about.

Movie Review: The Bourne Legacy

I’ve said in the past that the 21st century is more a Jason Bourne era than one for James Bond. Bond was struggling, torn between the old school sensibilities of fifty years of tales and the pace and focus of the modern age. While Jason Bourne has always had a problem or two (which I’ll get to), the films did a fine job of filling that cutthroat espionage action thriller niche that Bond wasn’t quite adept at filling any more, or so it seemed. Skyfall proved Bond can and does work in this era, and rather than respond with a new film with Matt Damon, Bourne goes a bit sideways with The Bourne Legacy, a movie meant to both expand Jason Bourne’s world and introduce us to a character that can do what Bourne does since Matt Damon was on the fence about the character for a while.

Courtesy Universal Studios

Treadstone, the super-secret government-funded project team that essentially created Bourne, is under threat of being exposed thanks to Bourne’s actions in The Bourne Supremacy, which takes place at the same time as this story. To cover their tracks, the people in charge begin liquidating their assets, from agents currently in the field to research and development teams trying to perfect the Super-Soldier Serum. (Wait, sorry, got my notes mixed up) One asset that escapes liquidation is Aaron Cross, who is part of a test group for a pill-based version of the genome-rewriting magic that makes ordinary men and women into super-assassins. He tracks down one of the doctors behind the secret formula and rescues her from her liquidators, fleeing to find more of his power-up pills before the bad guys can sic an even nastier surprise on them.

The Bourne Legacy is, from the outset, less concerned about its former leading man and more about expanding the world in which he lives. We’re given more of a vertical slice of many of the moving parts in the cloak-and-dagger world of this shadow government, with lots of men in suits and ties in expensive settings glaring at each other and making dire predictions and veiled accusations. It’s interesting that, with no other superpower to fight, many American tales of modern espionage looks for villainy within the cracks of its own government. While Skyfall functioned well making its threat based on an individual’s agenda rather than a government-backed scheme for conquest or subversion, The Bourne Legacy feels like even more of a vestige of Cold War conspiracy theorizing than any Bond film of recent memory.

Courtesy Universal Studios
Thank God someone decided to use more traditional cameras. A Bourne movie that doesn’t induce nausea!

Fortunately, the strength of The Bourne Legacy comes more from individual performers than any major plot concerns. It seems that one of the driving forces of the film is to ensure that Jeremy Renner can carry something action-heavy on his own. The Hurt Locker was more drama than action, and as much as the man has turned up in other works in roles both villainous and heroic, a Hawkeye movie doesn’t seem to be in the cards until Marvel Studios greenlights the story of what happened between him and the Black Widow in Budapest. For the most part, he does seem to have the chops for this sort of role, from the physicality for stunts and fights to the pathos necessary to make the audience care about him. Rachel Weisz is in the sort of role that seems well-suited for her: she’s smart and observant, doing her best to actually support our hero rather than be a burden to get dragged along. It worked well for her in The Mummy and it works here, too. Ed Norton feels underutilized in his bad guy role, however, as he behaves with the same moderate amount of intensity that you get from any of the villainous masterminds in a Bourne film.

The biggest problem that the movie suffers from is that a great deal of time is taken to set everything up and tie the story into the existing Bourne mythos. It feels like an extended origin story for Aaron Cross, a sort of springboard into his own line of tales, but just when we’re getting a handle on who this guy is and why he’s interesting, the story comes to an abrupt end. There’s also the fact that not long before that end, an aspect of his character that felt really interesting and added some pathos and depth to him gets resolved within just a few minutes of its reveal. After over an hour of build-up, to have everything stop so suddenly left me feeling disappointed. While it’s a good idea to leave your audience wanting more, you also want to provide some sense of resolution. I guess the idea is to watch The Bourne Supremacy again to see how things line up, and wait for Matt Damon to do a team-up with Jeremy Renner to put the entire thing to bed. We can hope, at least.

Courtesy Universal Studios
“Here we see the nascent super-solider in his natural habitat…”

Stuff I Liked: I always like seeing Ed Norton. This film ditches the shakey-cam of previous Bourne films and I never felt confused trying to follow the action.
Stuff I Didn’t Like: For all of its talk of conspiracies and chemical compounds, the film feels insubstantial. While the idea of tying into the existing franchise while being its own animal is neat, the execution feels like it wanted to go completely one way or the other and couldn’t make up its mind. Much of the plot feels muddy and outside of immediate threat to the likable protagonists there’s no major tension to speak of.
Stuff I Loved: I like both Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz, and they have good chemistry (no pun intended), so that made the majority of the film quite watchable. The drone attack was pretty neat, especially the ways in which Cross deals with them.

Bottom Line: The Bourne Legacy isn’t bad, but it isn’t all that great or memorable, either. It’s competently built with good people in both the leading roles and behind the scenes, it’s part of an extant successful franchise, and there’s just enough interesting character stuff to keep it going for its running time. I questioned some of the decisions made in telling the story, and bits felt insubstantial, but I never fell completely into boredom while watching it. If you like either of the leads, or just have to know what happens next in Bourne’s world, you’ll have a decent time with this one.

Movie Review: The Boondock Saints

In the past, before the likes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone changed the action hero scene with big muscles and borderline incoherence, there were men like Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood, men who were neither bodybuilders nor loud, boisterous speakers, who carried action movies. Rather than undertaking their murderous rampages for something like patriotic duty or survival against alien beings, their quests tended to be more personal, and while the aforementioned beefcakes did occasionally embark on a journey towards revenge, by the time they did Bronson and his ilk had entrenched themselves in the hearts and minds of young men, like Troy Duffy, writer/director of The Boondock Saints.

Courtesy Miramax

Our heroes are fraternal twins Connor and Murphy McManus, seemingly your typical pair of Irish Catholic young men living and working in South Boston. When Russian mobsters show up to close their favorite bar on Saint Patrick’s Day, however, things go awry. The next morning, the Russians are dead in the alley behind some illegal loft housing, the brothers are wounded, and FBI special agent Paul Smecker is interviewing them. While clearly a case of self-defense, the items on the mobsters collected by the brothers and an odd experience in the night convince them that they’ve been put on a path of righteous vengeance, seeking justice for the victims of those who believe themselves above the law. It only gets worse when their friend, a low-level package boy for the local Mafia don, finds himself caught up in their quest.

The Boondock Saints was, at the time of its release, not terribly popular. Troy Duffy had a great deal of trouble getting along with Miramax, and word around many a Hollywood campfire was that the former bartender and bouncer was a pain to work with. The film was only in theatres for five weeks, with most established critics panning it. It was compared unfavorably to Tarantino’s work, and some claimed that Duffy was trying too hard to ape the auteur. It was accused of being all style and no substance, strung together with a threadbare plot, so on and so forth. And yet, the film has a strong cult following today, and its popularity has spawned a theatrical sequel, comic books, and many a young person of the 21st century reciting Catholic prayers. Why is this?

Courtesy Miramax

Part of the appeal that keeps the movie fresh in the minds of its fans is the chemistry between the brothers. Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus have a very natural cadence and rhythm with one another, moving easily between sibling rivalry and deadly penitence and back again. It’s very difficult to not find their relationship and antics endearing, in a way. While their characters never delve into deep philosophical issues or much existential angst, they do exhibit emotional complexity and intelligence, as well as being more than capable of dispatching armed goons of organized crime. Their characters may be somewhat stripped down (especially in one of the deleted scenes), but their straight-forward nature works given the context of the film.

There’s also the character of Smecker, played excellently by Willem Dafoe. A complex and brilliant man, he is also tortured by his own nature and questioning the rightness and wrongness of what he wants, be it a relationship with a man or to support the McManus brothers. David Della Rocco balances the competence and intelligence of the brothers with his well-intentioned bumbling, and the rest of the supporting cast fleshes out the city of Boston extremely well, from the imaginative but somewhat oblivious detective Greenley to Doc, the Irish bartender with Tourette syndrome. Duffy puts all of these elements together rather well, and while the end result has some weaknesses, it’s clear that it’s worthy of the cult status it’s gained, and remains a favorite St. Patrick’s Day tradition for many, including myself.

Courtesy Miramax
Say it if you know the words…

Stuff I Liked: Connor’s tendency to think in action movie terms, and Murphy’s frustration with this idiotic thinking. Rocco’s antics. The build-up and reveal regarding Il Duce. The trio of Boston detectives. Doc.
Stuff I Didn’t Like: A few scenes feel overly long. Duffy does the occasional camera trick that doesn’t quite fit. And that poor cat.
Stuff I Loved: The brothers. The endlessly quotable lines. The creativity of the kills. The way the action scenes are cut together with Smecker reconstructing the scene. Smecker in general. The family prayer.

Bottom Line: The Boondock Saints is proof that box office success does not always coincide with the quality of the film. Other more successful action movies are less interesting, funny, and intelligent than this. It may not be the best action flick ever made, but it’s definitely up there, and if you find appeal in normal men moved to vigilante justice, you’ll find this one right up your alley.

Movie Review: Skyfall

James Bond, now 50 years old as a franchise, has struggled to find his place in the modern cinematic scene. Both in his own universe and next to towering transforming robots and lush worlds of dragons and hobbits, the question is raised: is there still room for an aging but still spry warhorse like Bond? In a way, Skyfall represented a last chance for Bond. After the excellent Casino Royale was greeted with less than overwhelming praise, and Quantum of Solace earned a great deal of well-deserved stick, would this be Bond’s last hurrah, or the turning point of the series back towards success?

Courtesy MGM

As Skyfall opens, we catch up with 007 and a fellow agent named Eve in Istanbul as they pursue the murderous thief of a valuable hard drive. Chase scenes aren’t innovative in the world of the espionage action-adventure, but this one transitions smoothly from cars to motorbikes to a train, and heavy industrial equipment also gets involved. In addition to its shifting scale, the sequence is also wonderfully and cleanly shot, with clear establishing images and well-positioned fights. Then Eve tries to shoot down the thief while he and Bond struggle on top of the train and… well, let’s just say things go pear-shaped.

If the theme of Skyfall somehow eludes you after the opening sequence, M will nail it down for you. In the wake of the Istanbul incident, M is called before the civilian government and her headquarters is bombed. When Bond returns, he is put through some tests to ensure his skills are still up to scratch, and then is sent out after whomever is targeting M and find out for what purpose. By focusing on the relationship between 007 and his employer, and making them personal targets of the villain, Skyfall maintains a tight story focus that was lacking in Quantum of Solace while keeping the character-driven narrative that made Casino Royale such a success.

Courtesy MGM
“Is… is that Jean Yves you’re wearing?”

Speaking of villains, Javier Bardem brings us the character of Silva. While he has no plans for world domination, he does have most other affectations of a classic Bond villain: a remote and menacing lair, a distinctive physical presence, and a tendency to do a lot of talking. Added to this are his past history with MI6 and the Byzantine nature of his plans, to the point that he becomes almost Joker-like in his anticipation of his enemy’s moves. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a turn of events towards the middle of the film that feel distinctly like they were cribbing notes from The Dark Knight. I can’t slight them for their choice in material, and it’s certainly not a direct copy-paste, but it’s not something you can just un-notice.

However, Bardem’s performance, like those of the rest of the cast, is full of nuance and personality. Daniel Craig’s Bond goes through the process of finally honing down that surly, unrefined edge of his, and seeing him suave it up in a Macau casino feels like coming home; this is the Bond we’ve been waiting for. Dame Judi Dench is incredible as always, making M even more personal and bringing her closer to Bond than she’s ever been. The newcomers are all top-notch as well, with Ralph Finnes supporting the democratic and bureaucratic process while his loyalty to MI6 and our heroes remains in doubt, Naomi Harris bringing levity, complexity, and sensuality to the character of Eve, French actress Bérénice Marlohe smolders in classic Bond girl fashion as Sévérine, and relative newcomer Ben Whishaw rounds out the cast as the new Q, a bespectacled technology expert that is wonderfully juxtaposed with our classic two-fisted hero. Despite winks to the audience here and there, nothing feels phoned in or strictly by the numbers. The cast has a natural ease with the material that makes them both easy and delightful to watch.

Courtesy MGM
I love that kitschy bulldog on M’s desk.

Also helping Skyfall‘s case is excellent direction and stunning cinematography. Sam Mendes is perhaps best known for slower-paced, contemplative pieces such as American Beauty, Road to Perdition, and Jarhead, but he clearly knows how to convey action as much as he does emotion. The sight of Bond jumping from the catwalk of a backhoe onto a train car is just as compelling as the look on Bond’s face at the firing range at MI6. He balances the emotionality of the moment with its movement and energy perfectly. He’s paired with Roger Deakins, one of the best cinematographers of our time – his credits include The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, Doubt, and most Coen Brothers movies including Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men, and True Grit. He makes every shot of Skyfall gorgeous, including some shots that could easily be framed and hung on a wall. Good writing with well-acted characters is usually enough to sell a movie, but Skyfall could also succeed on visuals alone. Put together, and we have one of the best Bond films to come along in decades.

Firing as it does on so many cylinders, flaws in Skyfall are hard to find. It does run a bit long, but given its focus on characters and narrative, this is somewhat understandable, and very little of the running time is spent idly. Some references and in-jokes may fly over the heads of some audience members, especially at the film’s conclusion. This, however, is also purposeful: the message is clearly that Bond has come full circle.

Stuff I Liked: Silva’s entrance. The inclusion of exotic animals of death. The practicality of Bond’s equipment. The sequence in the Shanghai skyrise. The fact that MI6’s bunker is, at least in part, connected to Churchill’s.
Stuff I Didn’t Like: We never find out what, exactly, Sévérine does for Silva. And while it’s not a gripe, I’m a bit confused by the timeline of things; considering this is a new Bond, I’m not sure he has a direct connection to the exploding pen mentioned by Q or the old Astin Martin. I’m not complaining about these things being in the film, mind you; I’m just not sure this Bond is the same Bond who used these gadgets. A minor point.
Stuff I Loved: The opening sequence. M’s characterization. The way Ralph Finnes’ character is clearly trying to do the right thing even if it’s pissing off M or Bond. The exchanges between Bond and Silva. The quips. The martini. Pretty much the entire third act of the movie. “Welcome to Scotland.”

Bottom Line: The best way to sum up Skyfall is with three words: Bond is back. In addition to being a great action movie with good characters in interesting relationships, it’s a Bond movie through and through. Here’s hoping we get more like this, and that the days of ultra-camp embarrassments like Octopussy and confused messes like Quantum of Solace are finally behind us.

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