This is Washington’s movie from beginning to end, and full of little layers.
-Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger
One of Denzel Washington’s finest performances. And that’s really saying something, considering everything he has accomplished on screen.
-Clint O’Connor, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Flight is Robert Zemeckis’s first live action film in 12 years and he doesn’t appear to have lost a step. Clearly his current work isn’t going to hit the highs of such classics as Back to the Future, Forrest Gump or Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but Flight comes close, at times. Seemingly a vehicle for Denzel Washington to flex his acting muscle, he puts on an absolute show playing alcoholic commercial pilot, Whip Whitaker.
Flight contains the most intense plane crash sequence you will ever see on film. This visually terrifying sequence within the first few minutes of the movie really does a great job maintaining the reality of what would be happening in the cabin of an aircraft during such an emergency. The way the shots are set up showcasing how Denzel handles the situation is fantastic and really shows what we’ve been missing from Zemeckis the last decade. The final shot of the plane’s wing crushing a church steeple as members of an outdoor congregation scatter in fright is truly haunting and about as effective as any scene this year.
Whip Whitaker: No one could have landed that plane like I did. No one.
So, the crash sequence starts Flight out with a bang, but does the rest of the movie hold up? Yes and no. There are some moderate pacing issues with what goes on with the narrative through the bulk of the second act. It slows down substantially from the adrenaline rush of the first few scenes and it actually is kind of jarring, but it never stops being entertaining. A tense courtroom style scene towards the end brings the energy back up and nicely brings the the film to a thematic close.
There is some great acting to be seen in Flight, and not just from Denzel (who probably puts on his best performance since his Oscar winning role in 2001’s Training Day) The way he handles the mix of physical toughness and emotional fragility of his character with such nuance is remarkable and he will assuredly be in the Oscar conversation this year. John Goodman also shows up, chewing the scenery in a comic relief type role that really pays off plot-wise towards the end and Don Cheadle does his usual great work as well, playing Hugh Lang, an attorney assigned to Whitaker’s case.
Hugh Lang: The FAA placed ten pilots in simulators, recreated the events. Every pilot killed everybody on board! You were the only one who could do it!
Flight is the complete package, expertly mixing great scenes of intense action with a mostly slower paced and dramatic narrative that concludes with a hugely satisfying ending. Denzel Washington is a total scene stealer here, and there are some fantastic performances to be seen by the character actors as well. Flight will definitely get some mentions around Oscar season and is a definite must-watch, the crash sequence alone is worth the price of admission.
“Skyfall” is a different kind of Bond movie, one that works just fine on its own terms, but a steady diet of this might kill the franchise. One “Skyfall” is enough.
-Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
The new 007 adventure reaches for the sky but falls short. This does not prevent Skyfall from being a good Bond film, but it does flatten the film’s higher aspiration – which is to be more than just a good Bond film.
-Steve Biodrowski, Cinefantastique
Skyfall is a film about James Bond going back to his roots, of sorts. The success of which is open to interpretation. Avoiding some sort of wide-scale crisis for Bond to solve, this film is very self contained, attempting to paint a more intimate portrait of 007 and just what makes him tick. The result is a moodier and slightly darker version of Bond as a character, which is interesting to a point but doesn’t do the screenplay many favors.
Youth is not a guarantee of innovation.
Bond: 007 reporting for duty.
M: Where the hell have you been?
Bond: Enjoying death.
Bond: Everyone needs a hobby…
Silva: So what’s yours?
Javier Bardem, continuing his run of playing crazy evil villains with bad haircuts, plays Raoul Silva, a disgruntled former member of MI6 who has it out for agency head, M. The story is triggered when Silva steals a hard drive full of agents names and aliases (think the noclist from the first Mission: Impossible film) to use as bait. Bond is tasked with finding the hard drive and saving the day, as he usually is.
In terms of the Bond Villain, Bardem should receive some Oscar consideration for his role as Silva. It was that good. He doesn’t show up until maybe a third of way through the film, which is effective for the slow burn type of build up to his reveal in a fantastic one-on-one scene with Bond. Parts of the character’s back story are absolutely chilling and Bardem makes the most of it.
She sent you after me, knowing you’re not ready, knowing you would likely die. Mommy was very bad.
Life clung to me like a disease.
We are the two rats left. We can either eat each other…or eat everyone else.
This all sounds like a great setup for a typical action flick, but instead Skyfall almost turns into a James Bond character study:
- Is he getting too old to be a spy?
- Does he still have what it takes?
- What was his childhood like?
- What happened to his parents?
- How does he really feel about M?
- Just what is Skyfall and why is it the title of this movie?
Interesting, sure, but is that what we want in our escapist action films? Very light on action until a semi-ridiculous final set piece over does it a bit, Skyfall could have used a bit more fun throughout. It also loses points for the awkward way it name drops a few classic characters in the final moments to set up future installments.
Although leagues more entertaining/satisfying than any of the Pierce Brosnan series of Bond films, Skyfall doesn’t quite live up to the hype. It aims for a darker and more introspective version of Bond that doesn’t completely work. But there is some fun to be had (a fantastic villain, great secondary characters, gorgeously shot photography) and it’s definitely worth checking out.
The movie’s subversive sensibility and old-school/new-school feel are a total kick.
-Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
It’s impossible not to feel a strong sense of nostalgic amusement, if not sheer delight, at the comings and goings of all these characters.
-Dave McGinn, Globe and Mail
Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of how one video game villain became fed up with being the bad guy and quit his job. Fix-It Felix Jr. (presumably a take on the retro Donkey Kong Jr. arcade game) is the game that Ralph calls home, where his job is to “wreck” a skyscraper whenever a quarter is played in the machine. When Ralph realizes the characters of the game don’t like or appreciate him, he decides to quit and embarks on an unfamiliar journey.
Having the potential to be a truly different kind of animated film, after this initial setup, there isn’t a whole lot of new ground broken. A very unique beginning to the story kind of turns into a series of sugar coated (literally) takes on bullying, greed, acceptance, jealousy and other tropes that we have become somewhat accustomed to in animation from everyone not named Pixar.
Ralph: It’s hard to love your job, when no one else seems to like you for doing it…
Although gorgeously animated with top-notch voice acting (John C. Reilly was born to play the voice of Ralph), Wreck-It Ralph fails to break out and live up to it’s potential, instead relying on playing it safe after the first act and sticking to a very traditional story line.
There isn’t a whole lot more I have to say about Wreck-It Ralph, it’s an above average animated movie but really doesn’t hold a candle to the recent offerings of Pixar. It’s worth checking out if only for the beautiful job on the animation as well as the gallery of really cool retro video game characters (see above) that make appearances throughout.