As a connoisseur of films, I’ve seen a lot of Christmas movies, special episodes, and the like. A lot of them serve their purpose of spreading good cheer fairly well, and most are kind of treated as background music (hence the 24 hour marathons of A Christmas Story, among others). But just because there’s a smorgasbord of holiday entertainment out there doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few special ones you should check out- or avoid. Below, I’ve put together a list (in no particular order) of the five best and five worst Christmas themed features. It wasn’t easy; I love theChristmas episodes of everything from Frasier to Scrubs to Adventure Time, and Lifetime has enough Yuletide garbage to make a “Bottom 50″ list. But consider this introductory list my gift to you!!
So, I’ve actually seen a ton of movies lately. Not all of them fit the pop culture/”geek” vibe I skew towards on this blog, but I figure I’ve sunk enough money into ticket sales that it would be a waste not to get another blog entry out of it. And besides, I know hearing my thoughts on films is what you guys live for. So without further ado, here’s Movie Review Lightning Round!!
I liked Cloud Atlas quite a bit for the sheer scope of it. It’s best synopsized as “Six visually stunning short films with broadly similar themes and the same cast in variously garish makeup, running together simultaneously.” The diversity of locations, effects, and especially tones (the story set in 2012 is largely a comedy in the vein of Monty Python, while the next story chronologically is a technicolor dystopian romance/tragedy) could have been too schizophrenic, but deft editing ties all of them together continuously while maintaining the right emotions for each. My only complaint is that after the wonder of these characters interacting and influencing one another over and over in different contexts wears off, the film is somewhat hollow. Statements like “love is good, freedom is good, selfishness is bad” apply here, but it’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff, and a film of this magnitude deserves themes that will be talked about along with technical proficiency. Still, it’s one of the most interesting film experiences I’ve had all year, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out sometime.
RATING: THREE STARS (OUT OF FOUR)
As a fan of the Canadian Caper, I was really looking forward to this movie, and it did not disappoint. Argo captures the tension and stakes of the operation perfectly, and managed to keep me hooked and on edge even as I knew from the get-go how it would end. Ben Affleck’s eye for detail and period elements is great, and there are a number of phenomenal performances, especially by bit players like Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman. Affleck’s acting is good but not great, but if a starring role for him is the price we have to pay to get movies like this and The Town, I’m more than willing to pay. A clear Best Picture contender.
RATING: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FOUR)
You can read my review in full here, but suffice to say I enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph immensely. Great characters, fun concepts, and although I think it loses a bit of imagination as it goes on, it’s a worthy addition to the Disney Animated Films legacy.
RATING: FOUR STARTS (OUT OF FOUR)
I didn’t review Skyfall as much as I philosophized on it at length. If it wasn’t clear, I loved it. It’s the best Bond film in about two decades, and one of my favorites overall. Daniel Craig finally “becomes” James Bond, and the film establishes a clear way forward for a franchise which struggles to stay relevant. A treat for the eyes and ears.
RATING: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FOUR)
I was glad to see Robert Zemeckis finally let go of his dream for all films to involve weird motion-capture animation, at least for now. That said, I was a little disappointed with Flight. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got. This may have been as much my fault as the movie’s, but there it is. Denzel Washington does a great job portraying the realities of alcoholism, and the meditations on religious faith were interesting (and not something I’ve seen often in Zemeckis’ work), but overall this felt like a film taking a lot of time to say very little. The plane crash scene may be the most gripping sequence I’ve seen in theatres this year though, and I can’t stay mad at a movie with John Goodman as a freewheeling drug dealer for too long. (As a sidenote, can we get John Goodman as a small but scene-stealing role in every film from now on? Cool, thanks.)
RATING: TWO STARS (OUT OF FOUR)
There’s a lot to like in Lincoln. Great performances by Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sally Field, among others. A great score. Some beautiful cinematography. But at the same time, it felt like this movie was lacking something important. It’s rather myopically focused on the passage of of the Thirteenth Amendment, and it lacks the varied viewpoint characters teased by the opening scene, in the aftermath of a battle. It dives quickly and deeply into a political landscape almost totally alien to viewers in 2012, and is a bit dry and heavy to follow easily. My brother offered the comparison of “a really weird period episode of The West Wing,” which isn’t too far off. I didn’t come away from it feeling like I had any greater insight to Lincoln, the president, nor Lincoln, the man. But it does contain a number of rousing speeches and great character moments, and these are worth seeing at least the one time.
RATING: TWO STARS (OUT OF FOUR)
Skyfall, the 23rd entry into the James Bond film franchise, had a rough development initially, due to MGM’s bankruptcy. More than that, though, it followed the comparatively poorly-received Quantum of Solace. Skepticism abounded after rumors of Bond forgoing a medium dry vodka martini for Heineken. What was Sam Mendes thinking? But thankfully (so, so thankfully), Skyfall is another entry into the core Bond canon, one that understands and respects the character and franchise’s lineage as it goes forward.
James Bond was created out of Ian Fleming’s military experience as a superman to fight the Russians on the stage of popular culture. He is the quintessential secret agent, defined as much by his tastes and his proclivities as his actions. The tuxedo, the martinis, the women and the quips; these are James Bond in the same way Connery or Moore or anyone else is. It’s the trappings of the story that capture our imagination. The sexy, smooth secret agent fighting the bad guys.
Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph has reportedly been in some stage of development since the late 1980s, which is something I can’t help but marvel at. Video games and their effect on popular culture have changed so much in the past few decades that it’s clear Wreck-It Ralph has been a number of films, and it’s interesting to imagine how different it would’ve been had it come out ten or even five years ago. But that’s neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is that Wreck-It Ralph is a clever, stylish love letter to video games that both longtime fans and casual audiences can enjoy.
It’s kind of hard to talk about The Dark Knight Rises without the context of the rest of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, and the reaction to them. Nolan’s hyper-realisitc take on the Batman mythos began with Batman Begins, but it was the 2008 sequel The Dark Knight which received widespread critical acclaim, in large part for the late Heath Ledger’s gripping portrayal of Batman’s nemesis the Joker. Personally, I believe that The Dark Knight is a good movie which is largely carried by Ledger and Aaron Eckhart’s (Two-Face) performances. However, I think it’s reached a level of deification among fans that it doesn’t deserve, and I wasn’t hugely excited for TDKR, since it lacked the elements which drew me to The Dark Knight.
BOY, was I wrong. The Dark Knight Rises is phenomenal, a fitting end to the series which ties elements of Batman Begins to themes explored in The Dark Knight, while simultaneously adapting and homaging a number of seminal Batman storylines. It’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t seen it, since historically the execution of a lot of these things has faltered. But as far as I’m concerned, TDKR tops The Dark Knight. Let’s take a look at why. (Mild spoilers ahead. Nothing too terrible, but don’t read if you want to go in completely cold.)
This summer, a lot of people have asked,”Do we really need another Spider-Man movie?” This is a ridiculous question. Of course we don’t need another Spider-Man movie. We also don’t need another Batman movie, or air conditioning, or multiple pairs of shoes. But all of these things are available to us, for one reason or another (in this movie’s case, it’s thanks in no small part to Sony’s desire to keep the movie rights to Spider-Man rather than letting them revert to Marvel Studios), so we may as well take advantage of them. So, is Amazing Spider-Man better or worse than the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy?
As of right now, The Avengers has had the largest opening weekend of any film in history. It’s received rave reviews, and generated its share of controversy. You probably have an idea of whether or not you’re going to see it, if you haven’t seen it already. But in case you need my take on it to convince you, here it is: The Avengers is really, really good. Not perfect, not the best movie I have ever seen in my life, but a genuinely enjoyable, funny, well-written and acted summer blockbuster which is definitely worth seeing.
I’ve seen The Cabin in the Woods twice now, and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit. As most of you are probably aware, it relies heavily on the audience being unaware of a lot of the elements going in (I’d say “twists,” but that’s not exactly what’s going on here, at least not in the usual M. Night Shyamalan sense). Most reviews have focused on broad strokes, giving a rough appraisal without spoiling anything. I think that’s good, but I’m also interested to hear what people thought of specific elements and choice the film made.
Thus, I’m posting a recap/discussion of some of the elements of the film. Obviously, it’s going to involve spoilers. If you haven’t seen The Cabin in the Woods yet, stop reading this and go out and see it. Don’t read any other reviews, don’t even watch the trailer, just see it. It’s not really very scary, and it’s definitely worth seeing. You won’t really have much of an opinion or anything to discuss regarding what I’m about to say if you haven’t seen it.
So seriously, spoilers ahead. Don’t read unless you’ve seen it.
The Muppets! I don’t exactly know where to start with this one, so I guess I’ll give you guys some background. The Muppets are a series of puppet characters created by Jim Henson who starred in a television series, as well as a number of films. Initially a smash hit, their popularity has waned in recent years, due to a couple of factors including Henson’s death, and a subsequent lack of direction. When it was announced that Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller were in the development stages of a new Muppets film, there was a bit of a backlash online. “How can these guys know what the Muppets are really about?” they asked. “It’s disrespectful!” Never mind that the film hadn’t been released yet.
This post is part of the Animation Wednesday series, a weekly column which looks at animated TV series and movies of the past, present and future.
I like a lot of different things. I like the Halo video game series, and the accompanying fiction, be it the campaign modes, books, comics, or anything else. I like expanded universe stories, stories set in the world of a popular series like Star Wars or Star Trek which spotlight minor or new characters and events from the main series. I like animation (obviously). And I especially enjoy when something brings my various interests together, like Halo Legends.
Halo Legends, like The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight before it, is an anthology of anime short films set in the continuity of a larger series. Here, that series is the Xbox sci-fi FPS series Halo, which chronicles the battle between Earth’s military and the alien alliance the Covenant through the eyes of John-117, an armored super-soldier known as the Master Chief. While Master Chief is the focus of one of the seven shorts (The Package, a stylish, candy-colored CGI action piece), the rest of them center around other soldiers and their lives (and often deaths). Almost all of them are new material, rather than adaptations of previous stories, and it’s interesting to see the different takes on the source material.
Vampires are played out. The enormous popularity of series like Twilight and True Blood has inspired countless imitators, adaptations and remakes, and it’s left these creatures of the night feeling a bit tired. With Breaking Dawn and a Buffy reboot on the horizon, it’s tempting to skip some of the lesser-known properties out of sheer vampire fatigue. But please, please, don’t skip Fright Night.
Fright Night is the rare example of a vampire movie that does everything right. A remake of Tom Holland’s 80s vamp flick, it follows Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin), a nerd-cum-cool kid who faces off against his neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell), a vampire who preys on the locals. To help protect his mother (Toni Collette) and girlfriend (Imogen Poots), Charley seeks out the aid of Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a Criss Angel-style Vegas stage magician who’s also an expert on the occult.
Of all the movies I’ve seen this summer, I don’t think I’ve had a more conflicted reaction than I did to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I’m a big fan of the original film series, and Tim Burton’s sad attempt at a remake in 2001 didn’t leave me with much confidence in future films. I can confidently say that Rise of the Planet of the Apes exceeded my expectations. It’s a well-crafted, thoughtful movie inspired by the earlier series with great writing and visual effects. I can also confidently say any new movie series that follows it will be terrible.
Cowboys & Aliens is a great movie. This may come as a surprise to a lot of people, and I don’t really know why. A lot of great movies have been made from strange premises, and a lot of bad movies have been made from solid premises. Just because aliens didn’t invade earth in 1873 doesn’t mean they couldn’t have, and it’s a nice change of pace from the riot-gear cops and harrier jets that usually fight aliens in this day and age.
Cowboys & Aliens open with Daniel Craig waking up in the desert. He’s an amnesiac cowboy with a device locked to his wrist. After riding into town, he discovers he’s a wanted man, and although he stands up to a local punk and earns the admiration of the townsfolk, he’s scheduled to be taken to Santa Fe for trial alongside said punk, the son of gruff, wealthy cattle baron named Colonel Dolarhyde (HARRISON FORD). Then a bunch of alien spaceships kidnap some of the townsfolk, and he and Dolarhyde must a gather a posse to retrieve them.
Every summer, Hollywood redoubles its efforts to mine comic series and graphic novels for film franchises. And every year, people wring their hands and talk about how the superhero genre is played out, citing examples like The Green Hornet, The Spirit, and later entries in the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises as evidence of a decline in quality. A lot of this discussion seems to predict a superhero event horizon, when a movie will be so bad it sours Hollywood on adapting superhero titles all together. While the likelihood of that scenario is a separate discussion, Captain America: The First Avenger is most emphatically NOT that movie. In fact, it’s the best movie of the summer, and one of the best superhero movies of all time.
As you’re all aware, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow Part 2 was released in theaters about a week ago. I guess I’ll throw up some spoiler warnings, even though I feel the statute of limitations has expired on anything Harry Potter, not to mention the fact that this is the second half of Deathly Hallows, meaning it was entirely possible to see 6.5 movies and still read all the books before watching the final installment. But just in case, spoilers for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 follow.
We proudly present the first installment of the Gentlemen Behold Podcast!! THRILL as Joe, Nick, and Niko discuss Super 8!! CHILL at their opinions on J.J. Abrams, lens flares, and the acting prowess of Kyle Chandler!! Warning: this podcast contains thorough spoilers. It’s best enjoyed after watching the movie.
Nick is artist laureate of Gentlemen, Behold!! He designed the site logo and is currently composing theme music for future installments of GBPC. He’s also frontman for the band No Stars in Brooklyn.
Niko handles technical support in terms of recording and uploading the podcasts. He’s working on a way to embed the audio files directly on the site, and hopefully you’ll be able to download them at some point. He’s more Greek than Uncle Jesse on Full House.
Joe is the founder of Gentlemen, Behold!! and the guy who writes all the posts. He also writes a blog about sandwiches and has recently started writing for a local music publication. He has no strong opinions on the short-lived J.J. Abrams spy series Undercovers, which ran on NBC this past season.
Future installments will cover more and broader topics. Apologies for the delay in posting this, although by now hopefully everyone has seen Super 8.
Green Lantern is a superhero franchise with a rich history and cast of characters. It’s been one of DC Comics’ most popular titles for a while now, and many of the recent big crossover events have focused on the Green Lantern Corps and its members. Someday a movie will come out which will make Green Lantern accessible to mass audiences while still satisfying devoted fans. Unfortunately, Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, is not that movie.
There are two ways to discuss Green Lantern: as a summer blockbuster by itself and as a film adaptation of the Green Lantern mythos. Let’s start with the first. Green Lantern is the story of Hal Jordan (Reynolds), a rebel-with-a-heart-of-gold fighter pilot out to prove his fearlessness. His reckless ways cause conflict with Carol Ferris (Lively), fellow pilot, former flame, and daughter of his boss. Jordan discovers a dying alien who passes on his Power Ring and membership in the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic peacekeeping organization. While Hal is whisked away for some back story and a training montage, his old classmate Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is brought in to autopsy the alien, whereupon he is infected by Parallax, an ancient evil being which looks like a flying pile of dreadlocks. After the obligatory crisis of self-doubt, Hal accepts his duty and battles the villains.
2011 is the summer of the superhero. Well, in the same way that the summer of 2010 was the summer of the superhero, and summer 2012 will almost certainly be the summer of the superhero. The point is, there are a number of superhero and comic-based properties coming to theaters this summer. DC is pushing Green Lantern, Marvel continues to build towards Avengers next summer with Thor and Captain America, and there’s no end to geek movies like Cowboys and Aliens and Transformers: The Dark of the Moon. X-Men: First Class has kind of been lost in all of this media blitz, which is a shame, because it’s probably the best X-Men movie yet, and one of the best movies of the summer.