8 – 8.5

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

(screenshots from JoBlo.com)

Disney’s 52nd animated feature is essentially a Toy Story for the digital generation, Wreck-It Ralph. In it, characters from video games in an arcade inhabit a connected electronic world and live their lives after all the humans have left. They are able to visit the individual games by passing through the arcade’s surge protector, which acts as their central station. Their respective games function as both a career and a home world for them to live in.  Their actions during gameplay are like theatrical performances, their lives essentially a reality show with some human interference. It’s a brilliant concept and full of references to classic games. More than that, Wreck-It Ralph features a very funny (if by-the-numbers) script and a wide appeal that should leave everyone satisfied.

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The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

James Bond film #10 (Roger Moore Bond)

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Released in 1977, The Spy Who Loved Me comes three years after The Man With the Golden Gun, the longest gap between Bond films so far. The series benefits from this brief hiatus – instead of feeling like the same movie we’ve seen nine times already, there’s something fresh to this film. Starting with an amazing pre-credits scene and never letting up, The Spy Who Loves Me brings  a new standard of excitement and artistry to a series 10 films deep.

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The Hunger Games (2012)

Film #28: The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games is the highly anticipated film adaptation of the 2008 Suzanne Collins novel of the same name. I read The Hunger Games and its two sequels last year, so I’m familiar with the world of Panem and Katniss Everdeen. Since the books are interesting and easy to read, I’m assuming that most of the people going to see the movie have also paid dues with the source material. For those who haven’t, I’ll recap the backstory: In an undisclosed point in the future, North America has become Panem, a nation split into a Capitol and 12 subservient districts. At one point, there was an uprising from the districts against the Capitol. After this rebellion was put down, the 13th district getting destroyed in the process, the Capitol instated a rule to remind the districts of their failure every year. An annual raffle is held (“the reaping”), during which one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are drawn from each district. These 24 children are placed in an arena and have to fight to the death. The winner takes home a lifetime supply of food (valuable in the resource-scarce world of the districts) and glory for their district. This deadly battle royale is called The Hunger Games.

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21 Jump Street (2012)

Film #24: 21 Jump Street (2012)

21 Jump Street is an action-comedy film loosely based off the TV series of the same name that ran on Fox from 1987 to 1991. I never saw the show, but apparently all the 2012 film takes from it is the premise: Youthful-looking police officers are placed undercover as high school students. The two youthful cops that the film follows are Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum). They’re much the same as they were in high school – Schmidt intelligent but awkward, Jenko athletic but an idiot – but this is 7 years later, so even though they were at odds in their schooling days, they quickly become the best of friends during training. They’re terribly incompetent cops, though, and are stuck patrolling a park on bicycles. They get reassigned to the 21 Jump Street program after Jenko irresponsibly detains a perp, eschewing reading the Miranda rights in favor of humping the drug dealer while telling him to suck it.

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Midnight in Paris (2011)

Film #19: Midnight in Paris (2011)

Midnight in Paris is, impressively enough, Woody Allen’s 41st film. A three-and-a-half minute opening montage of Paris leads the viewer to believe that this will be a heartfelt dedication to the City of Love, similar to how Allen’s 1979 classic Manhatten was a love letter to New York. Although the film does make a point that Paris is a magical place, and protagonist Gil (played by Owen Wilson as Woody Allen’s proxy) is, indeed, infatuated with the city, Midnight‘s sentimental story has more commentary about nostalgia than anything else, along with Allen’s ever-present self-awareness of art and the artist.

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The Artist (2011)

Film #17: The Artist (2011)

When was the last time a silent movie came out? I certainly couldn’t tell you, and I have a degree in film studies – but after this year, any casual film fan will be able to tell you. The Artist, a French film directed by Michel Hazanavicius, is a silent film emulative of the earliest popular Hollywood era, even choosing the classic 4:3 aspect ratio instead of modern-day widescreen. It’s also set during that time period, between 1927 and 1932, and in a very Singin’ in the Rain-esque story, examines the impact that talking pictures had on the industry’s original silent stars. The Artist made a huge splash when it came out late last year, and it’s nominated for no less than ten Academy Awards at this year’s Oscars. Is it possible that all this acclaim stems from the film’s harkening back to a glamorized past of the industry? Probably a bit, but that doesn’t mean The Artist isn’t a great movie in and of itself – it most certainly is.

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Goldfinger (1964)

Film #14: Goldfinger (1964)

James Bond film #03 (Sean Connery Bond)

Goldfinger, the third in the Eon Productions James Bond series, sees Connery return to the role for what many consider the quintessential 007 film. Amidst the usual babes and bad guys, Bond is after eponymous villain Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), who plans to attack the United States’ gold depository at Fort Knox. Goldfinger takes the formula that From Russia With Love established and adds many things that would become staples of the series. It’s also chock-full of iconic lines and scenes. Many things that spoof Bond pull dialogue and imagery from this third installation, so if you’re watching this for the first time (like I was), you’ll undoubtedly be stricken with a constant sense of déjà vu.

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From Russia With Love (1963)

Film #12: From Russia With Love (1963)

James Bond film #02 (Sean Connery Bond)

With the success of Dr. No, the makers of the first James Bond film were given double the budget to do it all over again. And boy, did they. From Russia With Love, released a year after its predecessor, ups the ante on everything that made Dr. No such an excellent flick. Taking place mostly in Turkey, this installment sees Bond (Connery once again) agree to help a beautiful Russian agent (Tatiana Romanova, played by Daniela Bianchi), purportedly defect, in order to obtain a cryptographic machine known as a Lektor. Little do either of these absurdly attractive secret agents know, the entire engagement is a ploy by the terrorist organization SPECTRE, which is plotting to kill Bond in vengeance for the death of Dr. No.

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Dr. No (1962)

Film #11: Dr. No (1962)

And all of a sudden, I started the James Bond series. I don’t know how long it will take me to get through all 22 films, but join me as I do it. Or else.

James Bond film #01 (Sean Connery Bond)

Dr. No was the first movie based on Ian Fleming’s series about British secret agent James Bond. This is the one, man. The one that started it all. The first step down a road that would eventually see 22 (and counting) movies, 6 different actors taking up the role of Bond, and nearly $5 billion in domestic box office revenue. Coming just after the fll of the studio system, this is the movie that created the secret agent genre, pitting a ridiculously adept protagonist against the forces of evil in the political world. It’s now been fifty years – a full half a century – since Dr. No was released, and there’s simply no other way to view this film than with the knowledge that it was the start of something huge.

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Buried (2010)

A minute into Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried, Ryan Reynolds wakes up to find that he has been… well, buried. With his awakening, the audience begins its 90-minute stay underground. We are allotted no breaks via flashbacks, no breathers via cutaways. From start to finish, we share Ryan Reynold’s claustrophobia in this well-plotted and very suspenseful film.

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