GoldenEye

James Bond. Agent 007. That is a name that almost the entire world can easily recognize. He’s suave, sophisticated, and just such a cool character. Who do you picture when you hear someone introduce themselves as Bond…James Bond? Can you remember the first Bond movie you ever watched? GoldenEye (the 17th Bond film) happened to be my introduction to the world of James Bond and I can remember being very excited to rent it from the Blockbuster near my dad’s house. There was a rather large gap between Bond films as this premiered in 1995 and the previous entry “License to Kill” was 1989, so there were some definite expectations. But even with that extra added pressure Pierce Brosnan is forever emblazoned as Mr. Bond in my brain and this movie is the reason why.

First and foremost when discussing one of the legendary Bond films, you have to look at the man playing Mr. Bond. Pierce Brosnan is now the face that goes with the name James Bond. He was smooth and confident and at times also very funny. The story is entertaining even though it may not be the most ground breaking. Agent 007 has to save the world from some bad guys with a plan to hijack a military satellite and do a lot of damage. I really enjoyed the action sequences and there are several large set pieces where the tension is cranked up to 11 and keeps you locked in. Almost all the characters are fairly interesting and the actors came through for pretty strong performances. Two actors that really shine here (besides Pierce Brosnan) are Sean Bean as Agent 006 and Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp. They both really owned their roles and seemed to fully embrace their characters. Even the minor characters made big time impacts with limited screen time. A lot of things to like in this one and I could probably ramble for awhile.

While this movie is very enjoyable and memorable it is not without its minor faults. It feels a bit long in a few sections on its way to a 130 minute run time.  Only one character sort of let me down, Natalya, a Russian programmer. She spends equal parts being helpful and otherwise making shrill noises. There is also quite a bit of campy/cheesy humor along the way which is part of the James Bond experience but I understand how it can rub some people the wrong way. Even for me there is some over the top cheesiness, some extra cheese if you will.

Goldeneye holds a special place in my heart (and movie collection) since it introduced me to the super cool, super suave world of James Bond. It is a movie that I will watch every time it is on, even with commercials, and even though I own it. (full disclosure, may have a problem :P) I love the action and the witty one-liners from 007. Even on rewatches the movie still holds up after over 20 years of viewing. James Bond charms his way to a stellar 1 Apology rating and has started off the Pierce Brosnan era with a bang.

Suburbicon

I really enjoy watching trailers for movies, they really have one job: to make you want to see the movie being previewed. Suburbicon had a very intriguing vibe based on those trailers. It appeared to be a gritty, dark, noir thriller with an all star cast including Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Issac while being directed by George Clooney. Who wouldn’t want to see that? Mrs. Apologist and I went into the theater with pretty high expectations.

Suburbicon had such potential to be great but it definitely was a let down. Despite being such a disappointment there were a few strengths. The setting is an interesting one: little “picture perfect” community in the 1950’s where a shocking home invasion shakes things up. The real standout in the cast is Oscar Isaac who stole the show as an insurance investigator. He’s funny, sly, and easily the most interesting character in the fold. There weren’t many other redeeming qualities to be seen.

This movie did have an abundance of glaring weaknesses. It seemed to me that Clooney didn’t have any idea of which genre he wanted his movie to be. It looked like a dark, gritty thriller but functioned more like a dark satire. I found myself laughing throughout the majority of the movie. There are elements that don’t move the plot forward and that don’t develop any of the characters. They just happen with no purpose. The characters are all bland and boring besides Oscar Isaac. The story is fairly predictable as it plods along through the entire 105 minute run time, which ended up feeling more like 3 hours. Clooney delivers an absolute train-wreck of a film.

It is not often that a movie will disappoint so thoroughly from start to finish. The plot, almost all the characters, the dialogue, everything let me down. Oscar Isaac was the only reason that I stayed to finish this disaster. The person in charge of creating the trailers should be commended since they made Suburbicon look like a gem instead of the turd that it turned out to be. Being the movie lover I am (and since I’ve been told I’m quite forgiving) it is pretty rare that I give out such a harsh rating but this debacle earns the worst score I have given out to date: 8 Apologies! Even if its free on one of your movie channels I would advise you to steer clear and watch literally anything else.

-Movie Apologist

Assassin’s Creed

Sometimes the hype for a movie can be built up so high that it can’t possibly reach those lofty expectations. There can be many factors that lead to hype: good actors, great premise, and captivating previews among other things. I had built a substantial hype for this movie myself. It has actors that I really enjoy (Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons) and was based on a video game series of the same name with a very interesting premise. Even if the movie was pretty good it probably wouldn’t have matched the hype level that had been established.

For those of you that have not played any of the Assassin’s Creed video games, the plot revolves around a centuries long conflict between the Assassins and the Templars. While this movie does not follow the games exactly, the basic idea is very similar. Both factions are in search of an artifact called the Apple of Eden which the Templars want to use in order to control mankind and the Assassins work to keep the Apple out of Templar hands. As the movie opens we see Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) running away from home as a youngster after his mother is murdered and then we jump way ahead to an adult Cal on his way to his execution. He awakens later inside Abstergo Industries and Dr. Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) informs him that he is legally dead but he is still needed for important research at Abstergo. They have developed a machine, called the Animus, which allows someone in the present to relive memories of distant ancestors. Sophia and her father Alan (Jeremy Irons) need Cal to continually enter the Animus and to locate the Apple of Eden for the Templars. They claim to want to use the Apple to rid the world of violence but their bosses seem to have more nefarious motives. Cal does not know of the history between the two factions as he relives his ancestor’s memories. I won’t drone on with the plot too much but its more of the same: Cal enters the Animus, fights some people, exits the Animus and talks with Sophia and the cycle repeats.

There wasn’t an abundance of strengths in this film but there are indeed a couple that keep it from being too much of a train wreck. The set design and the costumes were easily the standouts in the movie. When Cal is using the Animus and is “in the past” through his ancestor’s memories the sets and buildings look great. All the Assassins and Templars all look the part during these “memories”. Another strength here is the action sequences are entertaining when the “shaky cam” doesn’t try to take over. Unfortunately there isn’t much more than that to enjoy.

Where to start on the weaknesses? This movie is flat out boring. I’m not sure how you take such quality actors and mix in some story from an entertaining video game series and end up with almost 2 hours of pure snoozefest.  I definitely dozed off for a bit as did Mrs. Apologist and the movie seemed to go on forever. The acting was a big disappointment which I’m attributing to the poor script since the actors themselves are strong in most of their other roles. The dialogue is unbelievably dry and absolutely wastes the acting talent. The story becomes more of a minor part since most of the movie is used as a method of character development to set up the sequel. The movie feels incomplete and more like a set up for the sequel instead of a standalone movie.

This movie left a lot to be desired. I was very excited to see it since I loved playing the games, the actors are usually very enjoyable and the previews made it seem like a can’t miss blockbuster but Assassin’s Creed is the perfect movie to put on if you need a good nap! Get ready for muddled plot lines, unbearable dialogue, with just a sprinkle of action to keep you from sleeping all the way through. I woke up to give this bumbling adventure 7 Apologies and we’ll wait to see how the sequel does.

-Movie Apologist

 

 

Young Frankenstein

I first saw this classic comedy when I was a kid, although I am not quite sure exactly how old I was. What I am sure of is that I was not interested at all in watching it. If not for my father forcing me to watch it, it would probably have been many years before I would have seen it. My opinions have changed greatly since then and I have very fond feelings for this film now. This movie is easily seated among the best comedies of all time and I can’t help but wonder if spoof type comedies would be as popular without this movie leading the way. As Gene Wilder just recently passed away it seemed a fitting time to sit down to re-watch Young Frankenstein and see how many apologies it deserves. Needless to say this review will contain significant spoilers but if you haven’t seen this movie over the past 42 years, then it is long overdue for you to watch it before reading on.

The plot follows Frederick Frankenstein (played terrifically by Gene Wilder) who is a respected doctor, researcher, and lecturer. Frederick works very hard to distinguish himself from his infamous grandfather, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the mad scientist from Transylvania. He does not like to be associated with his grandfather’s research and even changed how his name was pronounced (Fronk-en-steen). When he learns that his grandfather has passed away and he stands to inherit the family castle, he travels to Transylvania in order to inspect his inheritance and maybe learn a thing or two about his grandfather’s work. Once there he meets his new hump backed servant Igor (masterfully played by Marty Feldman), who comically says his name is pronounced like Eye-gore in response to being told Frankenstein is pronounced Fronkensteen. He then meets his other servant Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman) and his lab assistant Inga (the beautiful Teri Garr) who is fun and flirty and the complete opposite of his boring fiancee (Madeline Kahn). It seems the longer Frederick stays in the castle, the more he can feel a connection with his grandfather. With help from Inga, he discovers Victor’s secret lab and personal library with all his research on reanimation. As he spends time reading through all Victor’s notes and books, Frederick starts to think he can continue his grandfather’s research and even reanimate a dead body! They come up with a plan to steal the gigantic body of a recently executed criminal and implant the brain of a renowned scientist to create a being with great physical strength and superb mental ability. Igor is sent to steal the brain but ends up stealing an abnormal brain that ends up being used in the monster (Peter Boyle). Frederick does succeed in reanimating his corpse, but soon realizes something is not quite right. Igor admits to using a brain from someone named “Abby Normal” which infuriates Frederick. Meanwhile the local townspeople have grown weary of having a Frankenstein back in the castle, since the last one was a mad scientist, and they want him gone. They send Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars) to visit Frederick and make sure another Frankenstein monster is not going to happen. During this meeting the monster escapes. Here they hilariously spoof scenes from the original Frankenstein movie with the monster’s interactions with a young girl and then a blind man (cameo by Gene Hackman). Eventually, Frederick and his team recapture the monster and plan a show to reveal his scientific success. It is a hilarious song and dance routine that leaves you laughing no matter how many times you see it. The monster manages to escape again, this time kidnapping Frederick’s visiting fiancee and having his way with her. She does not seem to mind much since the monster is very well endowed and she is superficial. The townspeople become the stereotypical mob with pitchforks and torches and Frederick is forced to take drastic action to save his creation by transferring some of his intellect into his monster. The procedure is a success as the monster is now able to rationalize with the angry mob. Frederick also received some endowment of his own from the monster in the transfer process that made his new wife Inga very happy. His former fiancee is also happily married to the now intellectual monster and everyone enjoys a happy ending.

I have already talked about several of the strengths in this film. The writing by Brooks and Wilder is outstanding with constant jokes flying left and right the entire movie. From subtle humor like Igor’s hump switching sides periodically, to some tasteful sexual humor (what knockers!), and plenty of physical humor gags to balance it all out. The actors all do a phenomenal job of being silly without being over the top all the time. Even the way the film is shot in black and white to appear older than it is was a wonderful directing decision. I also think the scenes that pay homage to the original movie through spoof are a very nice touch.

I don’t really have many negatives for this movie. I did feel that the fiancee was a pretty weak and boring character for how hilarious everyone else was. The only other character that had noticeable flaws in my eyes was Inspector Kemp. He had too many gags involving his prosthetic arm. Even with all the sexual jokes, the scene in which the monster takes advantage of Frederick’s fiancee seems out of place with the good natured feel of the whole film.  I would say the film seems to drag a little too long, despite only having 106 minute run time.

As I said before, this movie is a classic comedy and one of the best comedies of all time. It offers plenty of laughs each time you see it and it is also a refreshing throwback to a time when people were not as concerned with political correctness. I enthusiastically give this movie only 1 Apology in between fits of laughter. Leave a comment with your favorite scene from this movie or another Wilder movie you like!

Rest easy Mr. Wilder and thank you for so many years of entertainment.

-Movie Apologist

The Departed

When you think of a modern classic movie, what comes to mind? I would hope that The Departed winds up on the short list in most of your minds. This movie combines everything you would want: a phenomenal cast playing the perfect characters, fantastic story line, well paced action, believable emotions, and some very well placed humor. It is currently sitting as #43 on the best movie list on IMDB, which I personally think is much too low. It has been a favorite of mine for 10 years now. This review may contain spoilers so I do recommend watching it first, coming back to read this, and leaving your thoughts below!

The Departed at its most basic level is about crime and corruption. The two sides involved are the Massachusetts State Police and an Irish gang led by Frank Costello (played masterfully by the great Jack Nicholson). The other two main characters in the story are Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon). Billy is an undercover police officer assigned to infiltrate Costello’s gang, while Colin is working as a mole within the department for Costello. As both Billy and Colin advance up the ladder of their respective groups, it becomes easier to see how the stress of leading double lives is breaking them down. Both the police and Costello have become aware of a rat working for the enemy and attempt to increase their efforts in identifying said rat. The plot moves swiftly along for the entire 151 minute run time. Honestly, it really does not feel that long because you are actively captivated for the duration. I do not want to spoil the entire movie for those who have not seen it, but trust me when I say that it packs quite a punch.

The strengths in this film are quite numerous. The cast is easily one of the strongest casts assembled. Besides the aforementioned three, (DiCaprio, Damon, Nicholson) we also have Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, Ray Winstone, Anthony Anderson, and Alec Baldwin for our viewing pleasure. In addition to having great actors, the character portrayals are far from boring cardboard cutouts. It is wonderful to see how they all interact with each other. It feels very genuine and authentic. Another aspect I enjoyed about the characters and the dialogue was how they weaved so much humor throughout all the seriousness of the movie. It was quite refreshing to have the comedic breaks since without it the movie would be even more intense than it already is. As I mentioned before, despite the rather long run time, it travels right along quickly and does not drag during any scene.

I really don’t have any true weaknesses for this movie. The only real complaint is that I have a love/hate relationship with Colin Sullivan’s character played by Matt Damon. He is so easy to hate but that is only because he plays the character so well. Even that could really be listed as a strength since it takes some talent to create such disdain.

It was easy for me to decide on a rating for such an epic movie. With all the strengths stacked up against the lone negative (which is really another strength) the rating chose itself: 0 Apologies! This movie is cinematic perfection and rightly deserves a spot in everyone’s DVD/BluRay collection.

-Movie Apologist

 

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

I can remember seeing this movie in theaters and now it’s celebrating a 10 year anniversary, seems like a fitting time to write a review about it. This review may contain spoilers. I know not everyone is a Will Ferrell fan, but this movie is definitely one of his best efforts. The first scene sets the tone and lets you know what kind of movie you are about to watch. It is about a Nascar driver, Ricky Bobby and his rise, fall, and then rise again in the sport.

Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is a fantastic character. He is big, bold, brash, and hilariously stupid. His exchanges and interactions with his best friend and teammate Cal Naughton Jr (John C. Reilly) make up some of the best parts of the movie. One of my favorite scenes is after Cal moves into Ricky’s home and Ricky is living with his mom. Ricky is upset that Cal has betrayed their friendship by stealing his wife and home, but Cal still wants to be friends. Cal calls Ricky and is asking him how to have the stereo on at the same time as he’s watching tv, Ricky asks him why and Cal says “I like to party”. It cracks me up every time. Ricky keeps trying to end the phone call since he’s mad at Cal, Cal keeps extending the conversation. Ricky just exclaims “why am I still talking to you man?!” It is such a relatable situation, friends mad at each other and yet still sucked into conversation. We can laugh at that. What tops the hilarity of this scene is the level of dumb in the question Cal uses to initiate the conversation.

Another classic scene is when Ricky crashes his car and believes he is on fire. He strips down to just his underwear and helmet comically fast and is running around as he would if he were actually on fire. Cal leaves his car and rushes to “save” his him from the invisible fire. The ridiculousness in this whole scene leaves the commentators in the movie, as well as the viewers of the movie, to just sit back in awe and laugh. The film is saturated with scenes such as this, dramatic and comedic interpretations of Nascar culture and lifestyle, openly mocking the stereotypes.

Beyond just Ferrell and Reilly there are a number of high quality characters each played very well by the actors and actresses. Specifically, I enjoyed the contributions from Jane Lynch and Gary Cole as Ricky’s parents. They did not have the biggest roles but the scripts and humor fit the tone. Sasha Baron Cohen plays the main antagonist Jean Girard, a Formula One racer who was hired to beat Ricky. Sasha is known to play wild and crazy characters in his other movies and was appropriately cast for this unique character. He dialed back his usual intensity so as not to over shadow the main character. Overall it is a very enjoyable and funny movie, however it is definitely not what you would call a “smart comedy”. This is stupid humor but it will put a smile on your face over and over again.

Talladega Nights earns itself a very solid rating of  2 Apologies.