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James Bond entertains in Skyfall, plus Remembrance Day cartoon, two gay films and Jewish Film Festival

Daniel Craig is back in action as Bond, James Bond

Nothing bigger than James Bond this week. And few competitors going up against him.  In Toronto, Abraham Lincoln is taking him on, but not here. That’ll be next week.  There are some other new or re-appearing choices, though.

Here’s the list:

Skyfall:   3 ½ stars

How to Survive a Plague:  4

When the Wind Blows: --

Jewish Film Festival:  --

 

SKYFALL:  I’m not in the “best Bond ever” camp. There’s a lot to like in 007’s 23rd adventure, chiefly the acting, the cinematography and a new villain, but I’ve got some quibbles too. Mostly that they’ve continued the move, that they started when Daniel Craig took over the role, to reduce the fantasy. They’ve cut away the fizzy fun that the best films in the series, Goldfinger for instance, gave us. Bond is morose through most of this one, grappling with obsolescence. His own. Does he still have a place in this era of no Cold War? Is spying a young man’s game, as he’s told more than once? Is it time to quit? Good issues to bring into the mix but this is no John LeCarre story. It bounces around on those themes without making much of them.

 

The story centres on mistakes made by M (Judi Dench), Bond’s boss. She lost a computer list of secret agents and then Bond too, in his frantic attempt to retrieve it. She becomes a target herself as an even older mistake comes back to haunt her. Her superior (Ralph Fiennes) suggests early retirement. She won’t  go though, and with Bond reappearing, a new computer-savy Q (Ben Whishaw) and a fresh new field agent (Naomie Harris),  MI-6  is at full strength, even after a bomb drives it to new quarters. Bond is off to Shanghai, a Macau casino, a deserted island near Japan and eventually his ancestral home in Scotland (the Skyfall of the title) to face down Javier Bardem playing an unctuous villain seeking revenge. The film, which drags along in the middle, livens up immensely when he finally arrives and gets snide, imperious and even a bit randy with Bond. 

 

There’s a thrilling sequence at the start of the film with a motorcycle chase on the roof of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and then a fistfight on top of a speeding train. That’s old-style Bond. But near the end there’s a long shootout and explosions sequence. You get that sort of thing in Sylvester Stallone movies. Bond is still entertaining but he used to be more fun.  (Dunbar, Dolphin, Scotiabank and many suburban theatres)  3 ½ out of 5        

HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE:  Exactly one year ago, a documentary called We Were Here came to town and told us a moving story about the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s. It showed how the gay community in San Francisco responded, feeling terror at first, then working together and helping each other.  This new film offers much the same message but with a much tougher and noisier route to get there. 

 

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