In the midst of the current boom of comic book movies, it’s easy to forget that was similar, but smaller Hollywood infatuation with the genre in the wake of the Tim Burton Batman movies. Most of the them were quickly and deservedly forgotten but this take on the old radio serials probably deserves to be remembered better than it has been.
In some long-running TV series, especially science-fiction (and doubly so for the multiple incarnations of Star Trek), there is a phenomenon to explain the inevitable lapses in continuity, which is called “retroactive continuity” or “retcon.” This is either canonical (invented by the writers in later episodes) or non-canonical (invented by the fans), and usually they fall down on some logical level.
One of the more famous fan-based retcons tries to explain why James Bond has been played by multiple actors and appears to have aged forwards and backwards since 1962. According to this theory, “James Bond” is just a cover identity, which multiple double-oh agents have assumed over the years. The films On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, The Spy Who Loved Me, and For Your Eyes Only render this nonsensical, and the Daniel Craig movies have rendered the whole thing moot.
I never guess. It is an appalling habit.
The Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are enjoying a bit of renaissance at the moment, with modern takes on the character on television on both sides of the pond. This take, however, based on novel by Nicholas Meyer, is modernization of a different sort, inserting contemporary concerns into a thoroughly traditional Holmes story.
This movie comes with two irresistible conceits. Continue reading
If I didn’t already know this was based on an existing graphic novel, I might have assumed that the title was a leftover “working” title, and no one could be bothered to come up with anything better when the film was completed. Despite the major-league production values and the marquee value of Indiana Jones and James Bond in the cast, this is a forgettable pot-boiler that does proper service to only one half of its title.
A nameless stranger (Daniel Craig) wakes up with no memory of who he is, a wound in his side, and a large and strangely unremovable metal bracelet on one wrist. He reaches the nearest town, where people recognize him as Jake Lonergan, notorious stagecoach robber. Awkward.
Wanted is the ultimate vacation movie, meaning that first your brain takes a vacation, followed by the laws of physics. Finally everything resembling logic just sort of buggers off and joins them on holiday. It’s bloody, sexy, brutish, noisy fun.
Yeah, that’s right. I said fun. As pleasures go, this one is guiltier than O.J.
Maybe it’s a side-effect of just watching The Fighter, but the title Frost/Nixon makes this film sound more like a prize fight. The comparison is not wholly inappropriate. David Frost (Michael Sheen) was a media bantamweight trying to move up in class while Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) was a political heavyweight looking for an easy tune-up for his eventual rehabilitation from the Watergate scandal.
The hero of this film is an insomniac (Jeff Goldblum) who doesn’t really know where his life is headed. Watching Into the Night left me with a similar feeling, and I don’t necessarily mean that as a criticism. This whole movie seemed infused with that groggy, discombobulated feeling you get when you’ve been awake for thirty-six hours straight. Continue reading
Beyond cleaning up at the Oscars, the true lasting impact of Gladiator is that it marks the beginning of the longstanding cinematic “bromance” between director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. It is also the high water mark for that creative team. They’ve done good work since but not on this level.
Some movies are made to entertain us, others to inform, titillate or provoke. This one seems to have been made expressly for the purpose of winning the Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction. It certainly wasn’t produced to give us a rigorously authentic account of Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) at the time of the Spanish Armada or a deeply insightful examination of England’s Virgin Queen as a human being. While 1998’s Elizabeth was fairly sober-sided historical drama, director Shekhar Kapur has this time offered up As Ye Olde World Turns.
It was probably inevitable, but a faint hint of repetition has crept into the Jason Bourne franchise. This third movie feels an awful lot like the second, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. There is enough energy to what’s happening on screen that you don’t notice the similarity between the two films.
Of course, film franchises thrive on a bit of familiarity but we can at least hope that they have the sense to stop long before they have to use ever-increasing numbers of stunt persons to double a geriatric Matt Damon.
Given his initials, it’s probably not a stretch to think that Robert Ludlum was inviting comparisons between his character Jason Bourne and Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Not being a huge reader of Ludlum’s novels, I’m not able to comment on the literary character, but as played by Matt Damon, Jason Bourne exists as almost a complete antithesis to the cinematic character of Bond.