Movies allow us to experience life through another person's eyes. Video games allow us to experience life through another person's eyes -- and to control their decisions. We spend hours upon hours with these video game characters, until we feel like we know them; Mario, Sonic, Pac-Man, their adventures are so memorable, and their personalities so vivid that they almost seem alive. But of course their adventures and their personalities are all predetermined by programming, and they remain forever trapped by their unbreakable directives. If these characters weren't just a series of electronic impulses and computer code, it would be a tragic existence.
That, essentially, is the premise of 'Wreck-It Ralph,' a manic children's film about the souls of video game avatars. Made by Disney, it greatly resembles the premise of Disney's (and Pixar's) modern classic 'Toy Story,' in which toys are revealed to have lives and thoughts of their own when no one's around to play with them. Here we learn that when a suburban arcade shuts down for the night, the characters inside all the games cross over into each other's universes to socialize.
We live in a world where an iPad is considered obsolete six months after its introduced. How does a character like James Bond, who made his first appearance on screen (officially anyway) fifty years ago, remain relevant in 2012? That is what the unusually thoughtful new Bond picture, 'Skyfall,' seeks to find out.
This twenty-third Bond film (officially anyway) contains all the franchise's requisite elements and characters -- including a few that were excluded from the last couple installments. It is thrilling, sexy, and beautifully photographed. There are chases and sex scenes and elaborate fights, and at one point Bond drives a motorcycle onto a train because that looks a lot cooler than just getting on at the station. But 'Skyfall' also contains some sincere contemplation of what Bond means to the world half a century after his introduction. The 007 franchise has outlasted five leading actors, along with countless supporting players and their replacements, not to mention the entire geopolitical environment that birthed Ian Fleming's gentleman spy. Why is he still here? What are we still watching for?
Matt had just typed out the title of his 'Seven Psychopaths' review, his byline, and the rating (seven -- no, make that eight --out of ten?) when his wife Melissa walked into the room.
"How was the movie?" she asked as she flopped down on the couch and flipped on the television.
"Good. Really good," Matt replied. "Interesting."
"Interesting? Why interesting?" Melissa said. She started flipping channels.
"It's about a writer who writes himself into his work. Colin Farrell plays this struggling screenwriter named Martin -- and the movie was written and directed by this guy, Martin McDonagh, who wrote that play we saw on Broadway with Christopher Walken in it."
"Right. That was weird."
"It was," he said, nodding. "Weird but good. So, anyway, Colin Farrell plays this writer named Martin. He's come up with a title he really likes for a screenplay -- 'Seven Psychopaths.' But that's all he has, the title. He doesn't even have the seven psychopaths. But then these people in his life -- or perhaps these characters he's invented -- are all revealed to be psychopaths, and he gets caught in the middle of this elaborate gangster-slash-revenge comedy with them involving a kidnapped dog."
Melissa yawned again. "A writer writing himself into his work? That sounds like a terrible idea."
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