Lawrence of Arabia

For most of this year I had made it a goal of mine to finally sit down and watch Lawrence of Arabia.  Now, that was definitely easier said than done, as I have this inane compulsion to only watch movies in the theatre or on Blu-ray, having almost done away with watching movies on DVD.  For Lawrence of Arabia, at the time of my decision, it was only available on DVD at that time, but I could also not even find a DVD copy of the movie to watch anywhere locally.

Finally, it seemed that the opportunity to watch the movie was coming my way as my local theatre does classic movies every month for two showings, and for the month of November the movie chosen was Lawrence of Arabia.  The two viewings were at noon on Sunday the 11th and at 6pm on Wednesday the 14th.  Sadly, I ended up working both of those days so I missed that opportunity.

On the Tuesday of last week, the 13th, I was at my local Future Shop and saw much to my surprise that Lawrence of Arabia had been released on that day to Blu-ray, so I quickly snapped up one of the remaining two copies and purchased it.  I didn’t have ant time to watch the movie until two days later when I was home sick from work, so I finally laid down to watch one of the biggest classics of all time that I had never seen before.

Before I go much further, I would like to mention something about me: I’m a history guy.  I love reading about it and I try to watch historical movies in context, knowing full well that the movies are in no way 100% accurate, and that is what we have with Lawrence of Arabia, and I am okay with that, as I know that nothing ever is able to be filmed 100% accurately.

I loved how Lawrence of Arabia was filmed.  Not many movies are filmed this way anymore, with a grand scope in mind, but you can tell that this movie was filmed to be an epic, and that it is.  At almost four hours in length it did have a few slower moments, but other than at the hour mark or so, I didn’t find them to be tedious at all.

The one thing I did find with watching it was the volume when it was just characters speaking to each other seemed to be quite low and that at times it was hard to catch what was being said, especially in the first half an hour of the film or so.

That issue aside, Lawrence of Arabia tells a dramatic story of the Arab Revolt during World War I against the Ottoman Empire and their fight for autonomy.  T.E. Lawrence was a British soldier assigned to assist the Arabs in the Middle East front against the Turks and Lawrence of Arabia follows a stylized account of his history in the region during the Arab Revolt.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lawrence of Arabia.  That being said, it definitely is not for everybody, but I would absolutely recommend it for anyone that is into history in general, or World War I or the Middle East in particular.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Skyfall

I finally had the opportunity to watch Skyfall last night, and I will tell you this, they have successfully made me into a Bond fan.  Sure, Casino Royale re-invigorated Bond for the masses when it was released back in 2006, but much of that positivity was washed away with what many considered to be a sub-par effort with Quantum of Solace in back in 2008.

With MGM going through all of their financial issues after the release of Quantum of Solace, many worried that we would never again see James Bond in theaters.  Well, that issue has now been worked out, and four years since his last appearance in the role, Daniel Craig is back as the best James Bond for our current generation in Skyfall, and it was well worth the wait.

The over the top action was back, which has become much more of a hallmark of the Bond series since Daniel Craig was hired as 007 after what Matt Damon and the Bourne franchise did to kickstart the spy/action genre.  Also, situating the majority of the story in England and Scotland definitely increased the suspense level of the film and added to the audience attachment to the main characters.

Skyfall also introduced some new, recurring characters to the franchise and definitely felt like a bridge movie, taking us from the first two Daniel Craig led efforts to the next two, which are confirmed to be the first two Bond movies that tell one story, something that they have worked into the Craig movies so far, to a lesser degree.

Skyfall works on many levels, but possibly the best of these is how it brings to the forefront how cyber-terrorism is becoming more prevalent and the fact that this can be happening in the real world.  The spy genre of movies works best when presenting thrilling possibilities that make a person think, and Skyfall does just that, making you wonder just how realistic cyber-terrorism is and just how prevalent it might become in the future.

Skyfall also managed to keep me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the almost two and a half hour runtime, and when that happens, and you don’t notice the time passing, that is a great sign that the movie has done its job in keeping your interest, and Skyfall assuredly does this.

Because of the history of the Bond franchise, with Skyfall being the 23rd movie in the series, may have other favourite films within the series, and a favourite Bond as well, but for myself, I find that Daniel Craig is my fave 007 and Skyfall is definitely fighting with Casino Royale as my top Bond flick, and I will have to wait for the release of Skyfall on Blu-ray in 2013 to finally rank them in order as number one and number two.

I highly recommend Skyfall not only for those that enjoy Bond in general, or the Daniel Craig films in particular, but to anyone that enjoys a movie with good action, good emotion and one hell of a good story.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers

Cloud Atlas

So, last evening I went and saw Cloud Atlas.  I had heard great things about the movie due to just how amazing the visuals were in the movie, as it was set in six different time periods, including two in the future.  I had also heard that the story was not really the greatest and to some people was actually quite a letdown.

For me personally, the visuals were in fact quite stunning, especially the ruined island in the farthest set time period in the future.  When you find out what island it is, it was like a punch in the chest for me.  But the true sign of how good Cloud Atlas was for me was the actual storyline.  While many others have panned the story as not being good, the story really, and I do mean really, touched me.

I try to not give away a lot of the plot or story of movies in these blogs when I write them, but I am inclined to touch a little bit on it in this one, just to explain why this movie moved me the way that it did.

Because I have never personally found a lot of stock in organized religion, I have had a lot of trouble defining just what I do believe in and how it impacts me.  While I may not definitely believe in re-incarnation, a part of me does believe in the ability for lives to be connected across time, even connected to the universe somehow, and that is the main point of Cloud Atlas, and that is why I was able to lose myself for almost three hours in this movie.

I freely admit that I got choked up a couple of times in this movie, and for once it was because of something that I have a belief system in, and that was nice.  What I will say though, is that with the way that the movie was structured, the beginning was hard to get into, but that as Cloud Atlas continued along, I found it easier to understand.  In the end, everything really tied in well together, and I really appreciated that.

While Cloud Atlas clocked in at just under three hours long, it really didn’t feel that way.  The only times when I remembered that it was that long of a movie where a couple of times when I stopped to ask myself, “I wonder just how much is left”, and not in a negative way at all.

Cloud Atlas is definitely not a movie for everyone, that much I will say.  But I will also say this: I feel everyone should give it a chance, be it in theatre or at home.  I was told that the story wasn’t all that great, and because of that, I took a flyer on Cloud Atlas on a cheap night when there were no other options for me to see a film.  I am one hundred percent okay with taking a chance on Cloud Atlas.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers all.

Disney and Star Wars: Together At Last

On Tuesday afternoon of last week, Disney completed another coup in the world of entertainment as they purchased LucasFilm for $4.05 billion in cash and stocks.  There are two key things in this deal.  George Lucas was sole owner of LucasFilm, so he gets all the cash and stock, and the second part is that Disney now owns Star Wars.

Disney, in the course of six years’ time has acquired Pixar, Marvel and now LucasFilm, three of the most prolific movie studios currently operating worldwide.  Five times since 1995 a film from one of these studios has released the top grossing film of the year, and 18 of the 23 major movie releases from the three studios have finished in the top 5 for box office receipts in the year they came out.

During the press conference to announce the purchase, Disney CEO Bob Iger also announced that Star Wars 7 is in an early stage of production and is expected to be released in 2015, and that plans are already mapped out, with input from Lucas, for 8 and 9 to follow every 2-3 years after that.

And the fun doesn’t end there; Disney also plans to continue releasing Star Wars movies every 2-3 years after the third trilogy is complete as well.  In the expanded Star Wars universe, there are many, many stories that can be adapted to feature films, and with this deal, expect some of those to get made.

Now, this deal also includes the Indiana Jones property, although it was not the cornerstone that Star Wars was for the deal.  The only issue Disney will have going forward is the existing deals that LucasFilm had with 20th Century Fox for distribution of Star Wars and Paramount for distribution of Indiana Jones, but as Disney and Paramount have already figured out how to make deals in the case of Marvel Studios, I don’t expect a lot of headaches moving forward, I just wonder if we will get an Indiana Jones 5 anytime soon.

Many continue to worry about the quality of movie that Disney may put out under the LucasFilm brand, and I simply point them to The Avengers.  Disney knew well enough to just leave Marvel Studios alone and we got one of the best and one of the most popular movies in recent memory out of the deal.  I would also point people to other movies that Disney has made in the past, such as Armageddon and Tombstone.  Most people don’t even know that those movies are Disney ones, but they are, and they are damned good movies.

Disney generally has a policy of leaving a studio alone when they purchase them.  They did it with Pixar, they did it with Marvel and I fully expect them to do it with LucasFilm, and I for one cannot wait for 2015 when Disney gives us The Avengers 2 and Star Wars 7.  That will be quite the year indeed.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Wreck-It Ralph

On Sunday night I had the pleasure of enjoying what I would say is Disney’s best movie in years: Wreck-It Ralph. I have long been a fan of well-done animated movies, and I have to say that Wreck-It Ralph is the best animated movie I have seen in years, that is how blown away I was by this movie.

For a Disney Animation or Pixar film, it has been five years since I have enjoyed a movie this much, the last one being Meet the Robinsons. Overall, Despicable Me was the last animated movie that I truly found no fault with. That is where Wreck-It Ralph falls to me. For all movies that I have seen in 2012, this movie is right up there with The Avengers and Argo as my favourites of the year.

I will say this, having spent a fair amount of time in game arcades in my younger days, like many of the youth of my time, Wreck-It Ralph managed to contain a certain amount of nostalgia, and that was well appreciated during this movie. With cameos from such classic arcade characters as Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter, Q*bert, Sonic the Hedgehog, this movie features many gaming characters that I grew up with.

Wreck-It Ralph was able to hit on a cross-section of emotions in its less than two hour journey.  I laughed, a lot, I had the starting’s of tears; I was contemplative, and I all around at a really good time watching this movie.  And isn’t that what movies are supposed to do, entertain you?

In the end, this is exactly the kind of movie that Disney was hoping for when they bought Pixar Animation and put John Lasseter, who had been running Pixar, in charge of Disney Animation as a whole, and they have succeeded.  If Wreck-It Ralph does not win the Oscar for Best Animated Film, they got robbed.

For anyone that enjoys fun, animated movies, for anyone that has ever played an arcade game or a video game at home, Wreck-It Ralph is for you.  This movie is a return to glory for Disney, and I am quite thankful for that.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Best Picture: Argo

I have seen a lot of movies so far this year, and a lot of movies that I had never seen before as well.  None of them, short of The Avengers, can hold a candle to the movie that I saw Sunday evening: Argo.

Argo is based on declassified information from events that transpired during the American Embassy hostage situation in Tehran, Iran from 1979 to 1981, particularly focusing on the exploits of six Americans who made it out of the embassy to the Canadian Ambassadors house, and the CIA’s attempt to exfiltrate them out of the country.

The movie was directed by Ben Affleck, and for the second straight time (the other being The Town), Affleck crafts one of the more underrated movies of the year.  As maligned as he turned out to be as an actor, due to some acting choices and his personal life, Affleck is turning into one of the better directors currently available in Hollywood, and it is no wonder that Warner Bros. contacted him about the opportunity to direct The Justice League.

Argo is the kind of film where you know what is going to happen and how it is going to end, but as you are watching it, you can’t help but wonder if they might not make it at certain scenes.  That is the true sign of a well-made, suspenseful thriller.  If you doubt for a second that the characters are going to survive, the film makers, and in this case Ben Affleck, have done their jobs wonderfully.

I found the casting to be very well done across the board, from John Goodman and Alan Arkin to Victor Garber.  At the end of the movie you see pictures of the actors in character side-by-side with actual pictures of the real life persons, and many look very, very similar.

While of course not historically accurate, as the role of the CIA was increased and the Canadian involvement was scaled back, this movie nonetheless held my attentions for the full two hours and I highly, highly recommend Argo to anyone that loves a good movie of any kind.  As I tweeted Sunday night after seeing, the best non-Avengers movie I have seen in 2012.  Hands down, bar none.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.