Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 359 - Skyfall

Before reading any further, let me warn you - this is going to be filled with spoilers on the new Bond film, Skyfall, and why I didn't like it.  And without further ado...

Apparently I am one of the very few people in the world who didn't care for Skyfall and here's why.

1. It reminded me of Never Say Never AgainNever Say Never Again is the terrible remake of Thunderball starring Sean Connery as Bond, and the whole idea of that film is that Bond is too old to do his job competently.  And then he proceeds to save the world making Mr. Bean happy.  Skyfall spends the whole film saying Bond is getting too old, when all the while Bond, at least to us, appears to barely have lost a step.  It'd be one thing if we see him stumble in the field (as opposed to at the firing range), but we never do.  So I could never get behind that central conceit.

2. He lets Severine (Berenice Marlohe) die.  Every Bond film has a sacrificial lamb.  It's part of the story.  But what has happened in every previous film, is that Bond was unable to do anything about their deaths.  In Goldfinger, Jill Masterson is killed after Bond is knocked unconscious.  In For Your Eyes Only, Ferrara is killed while Bond is fighting off angry hockey players.  In each of those instances, Bond can do nothing about those circumstances.  In Skyfall, all Bond has to do is stall for about 20 more seconds and Severine (a woman who is acknowledged as a (former) sex slave) would have been rescued.  As a woman whose life up to this point can't have been very good, this seems like a cheap and wasteful way to die.  And for the more "emotional" Daniel Craig Bond, not another thought is given to her.  That to me is poor writing.

3. Kincade - as played by Albert Finney.  It's like the film thought that we hadn't seen a character like J.W. Pepper (Live and Let Die) in such a while that it felt it needed to fill that gap.  I really dislike him.

4. The "Home Alone" style ending.  So Bond has two gadgets - A palm-reading gun, and a tracking chip.  And the tracking chip is just something you carry in your pocket?  They couldn't have even given him a hidden tracking chip?  I mean, he's had one in his shoe (Goldfinger) and radioactive lint (Thunderball), and this tracking chip is the best "Q" can do?  However, in this gadget-free Bond film, we get to see explosive light bulbs.  I was waiting for Bond to put a hot plate on a doorknob.  Give him gadgets!  I'm more than willing to suspend my disbelief then.  By the end I was just waiting for Ralph Fiennes to get his new title.  (And let me tell you, that was, by far, the most telegraphed thing in the film.)

There were a few things I liked.  I thought the pre-credits sequence was amazing.  Everything I expect from a Bond film.  Javier Bardem did a bang-up job the first time you see him, but by the time he's crazily shooting up the courtroom I had lost all sympathy for the character.  Daniel Craig is still a great Bond.  And I enjoyed the new "Q."  But did we really need to see him get his comeuppance in his very first appearance?

Maybe I just don't need to see Bond's origins.  I don't care where he came from.  I just want to see him be the best secret agent in the world, which is what the first 15 minutes showed me.  But the rest of the film didn't.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 344 - Marble Cities

Marble Cities is the new play that was created and produced by Cleveland's Theater Ninjas.  And while it is a play, it's also an experience, because it's very much an assault on your attention span.  This is not a play to go see if you want to sit back and relax.  This is one that, from the very first moment, grabs you , and doesn't merely not let you go, but flings you around.
The amount of dialogue that comes at you, while being informative, is almost mind-numbing in its quantity.  But that's a lot of why it's there.  I don't think the audience is supposed to fully grasp what the characters are saying.  I don't think the audience can fully grasp everything that's said.
There are eight characters, and all of them have been given an invitation to attend this gathering - except for one, who may be a moderator or may be something more.  But the other seven have been tasked with creating/building a civilization from the ground up.  But each of the characters is flawed and while their flaws may make things interesting, they also make their relationship strained at best.
And, really, that's my best guess at what's happening. Explaining the "story" of the play is not what's important.  What's important in Marble Cities are ideas.  And there are plenty thrown around.  If you have a theory as to why we're here, it's given a voice.  If you have a theory on social politics, it's here.  If you have a theory about nearly anything, it's probably here.  Each one of the characters represents a different social class, and each of the characters is given a specific voice.  I don't think we're supposed to pick a side, but we're they're to listen, because by listening, it gives credence to what the characters say.
This is a captivating and complicated piece.  This is a play, that in order to keep up, you have to be willing to let stuff go.  If you dwell too long on any one sentence, you've already missed a half dozen other ideas.  If there's any complaint, it's that the play has too much going on.  Even half the ideas within are more than enough to sustain a whole play.  But who am I to say that something's too ambitious?  If anything, at least the actors are uniformly amazing.  They give this piece their complete attention. If any of them had given any less than their all, the play would have suffered.  But by the end, each of the actors had really imbued each of their characters with realism, intelligence, and sympathy, and that alone makes this worth seeing.
There's one more week's worth of shows - Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  I may not be able to explain what's happening, but I definitely think it's worth seeing.