Published at KCActive.com on February 8th, 2013
It’s a good thing MGM went bankrupt. If it hadn’t, the James Bond series might have gotten stuck in the creative rut that was Quantum of Solace. The bankruptcy gave 007’s handlers time to write a real script for Skyfall and make sure it lived up to the standard set by star Daniel Craig’s first outing in Casino Royale.
It does that, and then some. Skyfall may not be the best Bond movie of all time, but it’s definitely in the top five. The plot, involving a cyber-terrorist (Javier Bardem) endangering MI-6’s agents, is slightly more linear than most Bond narratives, although if you’re still trying to untangle the
se things after 50 years, you should re-evaluate your priorities. What matters are the great action scenes, the colorful supporting characters, and how good 007 looks in a suit.
Director Sam Mendes is best known for smaller, more personal films like American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, but he acquits himself spectacularly here. He stages the kind of set pieces we’ve all come to expect (the Shanghai sequence is the best), but he also gives the film a calmer, more focused feel than usual. Ironically, that seems to help the more amped-up scenes — they’re easier to appreciate when you’re not annoyed/worn out by jittery camera work and bad editing.
The attempts at humor and emotional backstory don’t always work, and the only interesting female character is Judi Dench’s formidable M. But those are minor quibbles compared to the sheer fun of watching Skyfall. Maybe more studios should go belly-up every few years. It can do wonders for a franchise.
Extras: Four making-of features on the standard DVD, with several more on the Blu-Ray; Blu-Ray also has commentaries by Mendes, producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and production designer Dennis Gassner; premiere footage. (PG-13) Rating: 4 – LL
After making gazillion dollars with his Madea plays and films, Tyler Perry has decided to branch out into serious roles, written and directed by others. With this rebooted adaptation of James Patterson’s crime novels, Perry succeeds in not embarrassing himself, but that’s about it.
Going back to its title character’s Detroit roots, Alex Cross pits the psychologist and detective against a twitchy, torture-loving madman (Matthew Fox). As the bad guy threatens the people he loves, Cross uses his considerable deductive skills to track the man down.
Perry and Ed Burns (playing Alex’s partner) do their best work in the movie’s quieter moments, where they have a likable buddy-cop rapport, and moments of real emotion are allowed to play out. Those scenes are few and far between, thanks to director Rob Cohen (XXX), whose response to every storytelling dilemma is “blow something up!” He can’t even use a location like the old Michigan Theatre ruins effectively — the climactic fight takes place there, but it’s so dark and hyperactive, there’s no way to really see what’s going on.
Fox seems to take his director’s style to heart, hamming it up to an alarming degree. When the man who played Madea is the subtle one, you know you’ve got a problem.
Perry could probably continue playing Cross in future installments, but he’ll need a much better director to make this work in the long term. Either that, or the studio could just turn these into full-on dumb action movies, and dispense with the drama entirely. It won’t make them any better, but at least everyone will know what they’re getting into.
Extras: Commentary by Cohen; a feature on the adaptation process; deleted scenes. (PG-13) Rating: 2 – LL