Largely because it's set at Christmas, and mostly because it's fun, we watch Richard Curtis's Love Actually every year in December. This year, Nick sat with us on the couch and saw it on the first time; as expected, Rowan Atkinson's super-fussy sales clerk was a favourite.
Here's a diagram that maps out how the characters in the overlapping storylines are connected to each other. As seen here, on I Love Charts.
We were engaging in one of those meaningless but always enjoyable conversational riffs: which James Bond movies do you enjoy the most. Mine vary from time to time, but include On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice (each considered, on release at least, to be something of a box office disappointment) not to mention all-out blockbusters like Thunderball and Goldfinger.
"Ahh," said our son, "you go for the early ones."
Well, yes, I guess I do.
I think I'll be revising my proverbial list (I always do, anyway); on Friday night, we braved the mall - it was MIdnight Madness, the weekend when the stores stay open late and they bring in security to conduct the traffic - to see Skyfall on its opening night. Yep, we're that kind of James Bond family.
It turns out the generous reviews have been on target. Skyfall really is that good. I put a lot of the credit with director Sam Mendes, who emphasizes story and character as much as spectacle and dazzling visuals ... and the latter are there, too. The investment of the reboot of Casino Royale six years ago pays off splendidly here, and the franchise brings back several key elements, chief among them the Bond sense of humour. There's actually a whole theme of what the movie calls the old ways: key characters are reintroduced, and not just Q (I'll leave the other as the surprise that the movie earns) but ongoing riffs and nods. See above for the return of the Aston Martin, whose ejector seat makes for a one-liner.
There's more: the gadgets are back, with a knowing reference and a scaled-down appreciation. With Javier Bardem's Silva, a villain worth putting up against Goldfinger himself. The globe-hobbing locales. And, yep, the guitar riff of the theme. (Not to mention a theme song that will probably get Adele an Oscar nomination, if not a win.)
Speaking of Oscars, the calibre of the cast is something else. Mendes, a winner himself, brought back not only Craig and Judi Dench, but adds Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Bardem to the screen. The Bond pattern was usually to get curiosities and character actors to round out the parts. Consequently, with a decent script (cowriter John Logan is arguably one of the best currently in the business, in any genre) and a confident director, the cast make for a Bond movie that has something new: genuine depth. Go figure.
I'm game to see it again: not to revel in the performances, mind you, but to absorb the whole spectacle again, and, yes, enjoy the jokes. As a Bond movie, Skyfall really works on that level, too.
One of the podcasts I like listening to while I make coffee and putter about the house is Alec Baldwin's Here's the Thing, which is produced by WNYC in New York. The show is an extended chat with a notable person, often someone in entertainment, with often insightful results; Baldwin, it turns out, has a knack for conversation. Last night, I listened to the latest show, with Andrew McCarthy - yes, the Andrew McCarthy who was in movies like St. Elmo's Fire and who is still best known as being a member of the so-called Rat Pack of Eighties movie stars. And since then, he ... well, I had no idea.
As it turned out, McCarthy has continued to work in movies, TV and theatre, often as a director, but he's made a very different niche for himself as a travel writer. The thing that put him on the Here's The Thing is a memoir called The Longest Way Home, which seems to be not so much as seeing the world as learning how to grow up. (McCarthy is about to turn 50.)
I like hearing interviews of people whose work I know well, but I also like being surprised, and finding something interesting in something I had never (to be frank) cared much about.
Nick and I enjoyed one of the best things about a holiday weekend: a Monday matinee. We (and half of St. John's, I think) went to the mall for the movies. Our choice was Looper, which has been on our list since we first saw a trailer for the sci-fi/crime/thriller.
We liked it. I won't give much away - we benefited from not knowing much about the plot beyond the starting point, and that Joseph Gordon-Levitt had prosthetics to look more like Bruce Willis, who plays his older self - and I quite liked the plot twists. A few involve Emily Blunt, playing a woman trying to run a small farm while raising her son.
One thing I quite liked: a plot pot that is mentioned in the early minutes turns out to be absolutely critical, and nothing is made of it for about (I'm guessing) an hour and a half. It also turns the movie on its head, which is impressive, since the audience is already being given food for thought on things like time travel, fate, destiny, paradox, parenting ... and organized crime in the decades to come.
Actually, the above is a part of a series of cartoon posters for cult movies, from Creature from the Black Lagoon to Beetlejuice ... and, of course, Blade Runner. They're by Ïve Bastrash, a Canadian illustrator, and they have such a charm of their own, you wonder about what the movies themselves might have been like with such a style.
Duane Hall, the brother with violently disturbing dreams and the hush-quiet voice made creepier by Christopher Walken's deadpan delivery, is here. So is Cheech, above, the gangster who finds he has a natural gift for dialogue. There's Fielding Mellish: he goes in for his name alone, but the fact that everything he does is hilarious certainly helps.
It's a list from Total Film of the 50 greatest Woody Allen characters - most of them played by the very fine actors (and unusual cases, like Marshall McLuhan) who have lined up to be in his films. It's a good list, not to mention a decent prod for picking a movie for an autumn night.
I got around to watching a film that's been on my list since it was released: last year's adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I watched mini-series from 30ish years ago starring Alec Guinness (and of course would now like to see that again), but quite enjoyed watching the formidable Gary Oldman doing so much with facial restraint.
It's quite the cast, too: Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds and John Hurt, plus newer talent like Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy and Mark Strong.
It occurred to me, while looking at the batch of them, that while they're all accomplished actors, most have played it big for popcorn, too.
Is there another movie that's had a cast also collectively known, if you will, for bringing us Commissioner Gordon, Sherlock Holmes, Mr. Darcy, Dobby, Julius Caesar, Sinestro and Bane ... among others.
I made the most of my last weekday of vacation by taking Nick to see The Dark Knight Rises; nothing like a Friday matinee to feel like an indulgence, (even under the grim shadow of the mass killings at a midnight screening in Colorado overnight).
I liked the movie. I won't give away any spoilers, but Christopher Nolan has done a nice job of concluding the trilogy he wanted to make, while (I think) keeping fans happy. It also opens doors for DC and Legendary Pictures to continue with the seeds planted in this film, or reboot the whole story again.
The scope of the film impressed me the most. The script was written long before the Occupy movement and the 1-per-cent tropes of us-vs-them that have played out in the news and pop culture, but they're embedded in the movie .. in addition to themes of terrorism, crime, overreaching laws, hero worship, idealism, corruption, loyalty, and on and on. It's all pretty ambitious.
The set pieces are stunning, and I kept looking at the aerials of Gotham to figure out how Nolan's digital team pulled off creating a city that looks a lot like New York, but is not.
To go by Nick's judgment, we'll be seeing a second time before the summer is out.
Alfred Hitchcock was still making movies around the time I was getting fascinated with them, although my primary exposure to him as a kid was less seing things like Family Plot (his 1976 farewell) than reading The Three Investigators book series, which went out under his imprimatur. Soon enough, though, I couldn't get enough of watching his older films, and I still find many of them a thrill.
I'm looking forward, then, to see what Anthony Hopkins does in the forthcoming film Hitchcock, which is about the making of Psycho. The movie started shooting last month. The publicity photo released at the start certainly indicates Hopkins will transform himself for the role, as he's done before.
We're so accustomed to cinematic sleights of hand, especially since the CG era began, that we often don't blink when we see something astonishing on the screen. Well, we think, they figured out a way of doing that.
But sometimes what we see is what was shot. I was reminded of this while reading this list on Paste of movie scenes that were much more real than what we might have thought. It's a diverse list, from Harrison Ford's panicky lines at the Death Star (he deliberately did not read his dialogue, to ensure that what came to mind would be spontaneous) to Edward Norton popping Brad Pitt one while filming Fight Club.
This clip, though, is from another realm altogether. I remember seeing Hearts of Darkness and being amazed to learn that Martin Sheen was a) drunk and b) genuinely falling apart while he was shooting a scene in which Willard is in that very condition. The smashing of the mirror and the smearing of the blood were all unexpected consequences; Sheen insisted that the cameras keep rolling.
This video was made last August, while The Avengers was being filmed in Cleveland, but it's getting a new life (a billion bucks at the box office will spark a lot of interest in anything A-team) lately. Tom Hiddleston, who plays the villainous Loki, proves himself to be an all-round decent chap for a crowd of fans looking for a little excitement.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.