Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Movie Day Reviews

Here's the 2008 sequels! And no Twilight this Monday--I couldn't bring myself to watching it by myself. (I didn't get the text message from the junior highers who went Saturday night). Oh well, maybe this week!


Quantum of Solace (2008): I think this is the best Jason Bourne sequel yet. Oh wait, it's a James Bond movie. Director Marc Forster must have studied under The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum's Paul Greengrass for the fast-paced shaky-camera action sequences that make up the vast majority of this film. 

The film picks up directly where Casino Royale left off, with Bond (Daniel Craig, quickly becoming my favorite Bond actor) escaping with the enigmatic Mr. White in the trunk of his beautiful Aston Martin. It's honestly difficult to explain the plot from this point onward, but I'll do my best: Bond traces the shady boyfriend of his deceased love, Vesper Lynd, to a secret organization only known as"Quantum," which is financing a military take-over in Bolivia while also illegally selling oil to other nations via government agencies like the CIA and Mi6. (Confused yet?) The bad guy leading this operation, Dominic Greene (aptly and creepily portrayed by Mathieu Amalric) has his own lady problems with Camille, a Russian-Bolivian woman bent on revenge for the death of her parents. James and Camille bond (pun intended) in their quest for revenge, though Bond continually insists that his motivation is duty to Mi6. 

The rest of the story plays out in scattered fragments, jumping all over the globe without any real clarity of what is really happening, culminating in an explosive gun/axe fight in the Bolivian desert. And perhaps that's part of the film--Bond doesn't even seem to know or care about what he's caught up in; he's just in it for revenge. Much of the film focuses on the action, especially the chases--there's a car chase, a foot chase, a boat chase, a few more foot chases, and an airplane chase. While many of these chases feel a bit forced in the plot--especially the airplane one--they're all legitimately intense and entertaining.

A classic Bond film trait has been favorably reinvented in these recent films: the "Bond girl." In the past Bond films, most of the women were tragically brainless eye-candy used to increase the sexuality-factor in the film. James sleeps with them, then tries to protect them, and they usually end up dying. Much of the time they added nothing of true value to the story arc, with a few notable exceptions. But both Vesper and Camille are strong, intelligent, and capable women, proving to be complex characters and strong allies. It's great to see the shift.

If Royale was about reinventing the character of Bond, Quantum is about reinventing the action of Bond films. Royale was the longest Bond film in the franchise; Quantum is the shortest (106 minutes). Royale had James falling in love with a strong and beautiful woman, only to lose her, thus creating a depth to his character unseen in any other Bond film. Quantum seems to sacrifice that character--perhaps purposefully--for the sake of intense and gritty action sequences. Ultimately, while Royale is a far better film, Quantum is a worthy action flick that partners well with Royale's character development. We've seen how Bond becomes a badass; now let's see what he can do.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008): This sequel is a bit more grown up on a number of levels. First, the sisterhood is now in college, living and learning as young adults. Where the first film dealt with divorcing parents and high school romances, this ups the ante with pregnancy scares and shotgun weddings. Even the whole "traveling pants" thing feels a little childish to the sisterhood now. It's like a leftover stuffed animal that you can't get rid of for sentimental reasons. The girls are continuing their separate lives with archeology, Shakespearian theatre, art school, and a New York video store.

The film itself is far from the warm-hearted and emotional rollercoaster of the first film. Instead of eliciting tears of empathy, I found myself wondering about the motivation for many of the sisterhood's decisions. Why break up with that guy? Why believe that girl? Why date that other guy? (And when did Lena get a sister? Where was she the first film?) 

Overall, while it's not a bad film, it's just not as good as the original. If you loved the first, you'll like the second.

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