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Skyfall (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Skyfall (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 awards, of which it won 2.
Nominated for Cinematography (Roger Deakins), Music-Original Score (Thomas Newman), and Sound Mixing (Scott MillanGreg P. Russell, Stuart Wilson).
Won Music-Original Song “Skyfall” (Adele Adkins, Paul Epworth) and Sound Editing (Per Hallberg, Karen Baker Landers).
Watched September 3, 2013.

After 50 years and 23 Bond films, I was mildly surprised by this latest installment in the franchise.  I saw it last November in theaters and the film was so far off from what I had come to expect from 007 that I didn’t quite like it.  However, after watching it a second time I have come to appreciate it much more as a stand alone film.

 

What is great about Bond is that if you have seen none of the films before, you can jump right in and know what is going on.  It doesn’t generally have a complex plot that stretches through the years of films, but each installment focuses on its one story alone, with perhaps a little bit of carry over that isn’t too hard to figure out.  What makes Skyfall so unique is its story, its ending, and the fact that it dwells on characters that we don’t usually get to spend this much time with.

 

The tradition in the last three Bond films, which feature Daniel Craig as said hero, has been to go a bit more deeply into 007’s emotions and past than is normal.  The 20 films preceding them generally followed the same formula while having similar elements–ie. the Bond girl, the bad guy, and the gadgets.  These recents films, instead, have focused more on Bond himself and have only brought in the other three factors when prudent.

 

In Skyfall, MI6 itself is under attack, both from the Prime Minister and from a super genius computer hacker by the name of Silva (Javier Bardem) who has been slighted in the past by MI6 and M.  Having been attacked on their home turf, the secret service shows a remorse for loss of life that has rarely been seen from the franchise.  We see more from the home front than we do on location and the opening sequence, which of course includes a car chase, guns, and a fist fight atop a moving train, are punctured here an there by tense moments with M at headquarters helping her agents make tough decisions.

 

Bond’s loyalties are put to the test in this thriller, and although Bardem’s villain as well as performance has been compared to the late Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight, his psychological and physical attacks are much more direct.  Having been an agent and a favourite of M’s in the past, he is bitter that he was not considered more important and determines that one person is to blame.  It becomes Bond’s task to stop Silva at all costs.  These attacks and action sequences are much more personal than normal, and as such, we get to know Bond and his past a lot more than we have before.

 

Judy Dench as M has always been a wonderful pairing, and being one of the greatest actresses of our time, she finally gets to show her incredible skill in Skyfall.  While the special effects, editing, cinematography, directing, and over all vision of the film are exquisite, the acting sets it over the top.  While one might expect the Bond films to merely be guy flicks with guns, explosions, and hot women, this 2012 favourite has taken the franchise to another level.

 

As I mentioned before, it follows a slightly different formula than normal, which is why I did not care for it very much at first.  I had expected some light hearted entertainment, whereas I got something much deeper.  Without spoiling it, I didn’t much care for the ending and felt the entire film unnecessary because of it.  However, disregarding the outcomes of Silva’s rampage, the entire film was pieced together so well that you can’t even see the stitches.  Sam Mendes’ first action film is a success.

 

I would certainly recommend Skyfall, not just as a James Bond flick, or a 50th anniversary celebration, but as an excellent film that deserves some attention.

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Margin Call (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Margin Call (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Original Screenplay (J.C. Chandor).
Watched September 5, 2013.

  

Whether or not technical jargon or financial speak is your thing, your forte, your niche–Margin Call is a thriller without ghosts and guns but with speech, money, and meetings.  What The Ides of March is to politics, Margin Call is to banking, but with a twist.

 

It is 2008, roughly 24 hours before the entire US financial system went in the tank.  It opens upon an amazing cast playing bankers within an institution roughly based on Lehman Brothers.  Over eighty percent of the employees are let go in one day, including head of the risk department, Stanley Tucci.  As he enters an elevator with a box of his possessions, he hands his employee Peter (Zachary Quinto) a flash drive with the words “Be careful.”

 

Peter, who is essentially a rocket scientist but got into finance for the paychecks, takes to the task immediately and discovers something that causes the entire upper management to panic and hold meeting after meeting in the wee hours of the morning.

 

I wasn’t able to understand the technical jargon all that much, which is why I appreciate that the CEOs don’t really comprehend it either, and therefore as Peter continually has to explain himself on more and more simple levels, I came to understand what was happening slowly as the movie went on.  Their stock was essentially worthless.  The entire system was going to come crashing down, and if they did not act, they would lose everything.

 

It is a battle between money and morality.  Do you risk losing all of your customers or do you sit by and watch everything fall away?  It is a quick, simple decision that affects the entire economy.

 

There was a lot about this film that I loved, and not very much that I disliked.  The cast is out of this world, including appearances by Kevin Spacey, Paul BettanyJeremy Irons, and Demi Moore.  Even though the lowest representative on the totem pole makes a quarter of a million dollars a year, his character represent the every man–obsessed with money, how to make it and continue gaining it–and how the crashing economy results in him bawling in a toilet stall because he has lost everything.  Those with higher positions make big bucks and earn promotions, while those on the selling floor are let go the minute they get rid of most of their stocks.

 

Besides some quiet audio and perhaps a rather complicated subject for those with no background in finance, there are very few weak points in this film.  I found it interesting, sad, and although I already knew what the outcome must be, it was still nail biting.

 

If you have the patience for well written films with zero explosions, I recommend this one be moved to the top of your list.  I really enjoyed it.

Anna Karenina (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Anna Karenina (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 4 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Original Score (Dario Marianelli), Best Production Design (Sarah GreenwoodKatie Spencer), and Best Cinematography (Seamus McGarvey).
Won Best Costume Design (Jacqueline Durran).
Watched June 6, 2013.

The story of Anna Karenina is perhaps one of my least favourite so far among the 2013 nominations, which is of course no fault of the screenwriter as it is based on Leo Tolstoy‘s classic novel.  Those who love the story, as well as Tolstoy, don’t worry.  Although my feelings toward Anna and her plot line are less than favorable, I did quite enjoy the stories surrounding her, as well as the interesting style of this latest film.  While the artistic direction may be a bit distracting from the story, I found it quite enchanting and it made me wish that it had been bestowed upon a different story, because then I would have liked to watch it again.

 

This may all be a very complicated way of saying that I have a love-hate relationship with director Joe Wright’s interpretation of Anna Karenina.  It is the story of a woman (Kiera Knightley) in the Russian high society  who does not love her husband (Jude Law).  Instead of remaining faithful so that she may be with her beloved son, she runs off with Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)–whose mustache is very silly if I do say so myself–and therefore suffers the social backlash.

 

It is this story that I found very annoying.  I didn’t care for Anna and therefore understood none of her decisions.  Her husband, although a bit weak when it comes to home life, was an admirable character.  Vronsky was young and had no idea what he was getting Anna into, and her poor abandoned son doesn’t get much screen time.  I appreciated the story in that it shows an example of why it is morally wrong to cheat on your husband, although Anna mainly suffered the surface repercussions–none of her friends would hang out with her any more.  If the book goes more in depth about this, then perhaps there was not enough time to explore the depth of it more than that in the film.

 

Despite my dislike for the story, again, I quite appreciated the production design and the costumes.  In fact, my love for period pieces is what kept me going through the over two hour film and I wished that the beautiful consuming and innovative sets could have been bestowed on a different plot line.  I liked the side stories, although they seemed somewhat out of place, despite showing a complete turnaround from Anna.

 

I will very readily say that I won’t be seeking out this Anna Karenina adaptation again any time soon, and unless you 1. like the story or 2. have incredible patience, I would advise against watching it just to see the aesthetics.

Footnote (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Footnote (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film (Joseph Cedar).
Watched June 1, 2013.

Footnote is an interesting Israeli film full of comedy and family drama.  The story of the film is fairly boring, but perhaps that is what makes it so good.  Despite the fact that it is a foreign film, the story is so every-man and ordinary that the circumstances, both comical and heart wrenching are relatable for even yours truly.

It was not my favourite film, but it borrowed techniques of humor and story telling from some of my most beloved styles that I appreciated it for what it was.  The wonderful camera work communicates the extensive family drama.  There is even  an arch nemesis.

It is the story of a father and his son, Eliezar and Uriel Shkolnik who are both scholars in the same field.  Uriel has been significantly more successful than his father, whose life’s work was stolen from him and published directly before Eliezar was set to release his Talmudic Studies work.  As such, his only published acknowledgement is in the footnote of another noteworthy scholar’s book.  Eliezar has studied the same thing his entire life, and although he has been nominated every year to receive the Israel Prize, he never receives it.  In turn, he is very critical of his son’s work, which is much more philosophical and less grounded in fact, as he believes.  Despite this, Uriel has been exceedingly successful in his career.

The rest of the plot I will leave for you to discover.  The characters are very interesting.  Uriel always feels as if he has to overcome his father’s poor reputation in the scholarly community, while Eliezar  believes that he himself is one of the most knowledgeable scholars.  He will publicly criticize his own son, despite his own failings.  The marriages and father-son relationships are strained and cyclical.

Yes, I did say that there is a comedic element to this film.  It is constantly teetering between character implosion and circumstantial humor that makes it a somewhat stressful viewing experience.

The film is beautiful, the acting is wonderful, and the characters are deeply complex.  It is the story that I found as slow as molasses.  I believe that Footnote is worth one viewing, but after that I would rather spend my hours on something else.

If you generally enjoy foreign films and don’t mind a slower pace, this is something that I would recommend for you.  Otherwise, I would recommend viewing something else.

(WARNING: Trailer contains major spoilers!)