Saturday, July 25, 2009

Capsule Review Cavalcade: Movies Volume II

It's time for another installment of Capsule Review Cavalcade! It's another set of movies that won't get the full treatment, but receive my pithy insight and out-of-five star score anyway.

QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008) – Rated PG-13, 106 minutes
The Bond title no one could pronounce ("Quantum of Soul-less?"). It's the usual "supervillain tries to take a slice of world power; Bond stops him with luxury cars and has sex" stuff. This has the added angle of a Bond scorned, coming off the events of the first Daniel Craig film. That gave Bond a different edge than before. I haven't seen "Casino Royale," and from what I've heard, I'm missing something special. This, unfortunately, was like all the Pierce Brosnan Bonds I saw - decently entertaining, but nothing I'd remember too much about once I left the theater. My first impressions of Daniel Craig were positive, though. ***¼

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946) – Not Rated, 172 minutes
Best Picture for 1947, "The Best Years of Our Lives" follows three World War II veterans as they return home to the states. Al returns to his post as a banker, where the rules of lending don't mean as much as they did before he saw action. Fred can't seem to find a job better than soda jerk. His pre-tour of duty marriage is also in disrepair. Homer lost both of his hands, something everybody's adjusting to. If you would've told me I'd like a near-three hour film from the '40s about war, I would have laughed at you. But this has quality performances and great representations of the struggles vets go through. In an era concerned with the production code, it still feels rather unencumbered. People joke about "the sledgehammer of plot," where the audience is hit so hard over the head with an impending detail, that its eventual reveal is anticlimatic. The Fred character was a victim of this; clearly destined to work in the drugstore, and to lose said job later in the movie. But it didn't hurt too much. The movie was slow in spots, but worth staying for. ****

NETWORK (1976) – Rated R, 121 minutes

Peter Finch plays Howard Beale, a news anchor in the twilight of his career who gets fired over slipping ratings. The decision makes him go mad. First he vows to kill himself on the air. He atones and comes back to deliver a goodbye statement...where he says "bullshit" about a dozen times. The crazy rants are big ratings for the fledgling fourth network. The programming department takes over the nightly newscast to play up on the tabloid. Howard speaks to a live audience in a sermon-like fashion. There's tarot card readers and other stunts. I suppose when it first came out, this was a more cutting-edge, scathing look at media and how it's slipped into a money-grabbing joke. Viewed now, it's not far from the truth. I wasn't sure if this was supposed to be dark serious or dark funny. I'll just plead ignorance. Maybe I latched on to details I wasn't supposed to care about, and got confused. I was just so bored. The film was sluggish. There was nothing to look forward to while I was watching it. I saw a lot of screaming monologues - some of which were alright. I feel like I know little about these characters. My hopes were high given that I'm a student of broadcasting, and that this movie found AFI's Top 100. *¾

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