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Quantum of Solace (2008)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Judi Dench
Director: Marc Forster
Plot: After the woman he loved falls prey to a mysterious organization, super agent James Bond takes matters into his own hands to seek revenge for her death and stop a man-made environmental disaster in Bolivia.
Review: Quantum of Solace is the first time a Bond film gets a sequel - in fact starting off an hour after the first left off - and what we get is a straightforward, no-nonsense thriller that's short on story (and length, this being the shortest episode of the series) and high on testosterone. If you didn't get a chance to catch Craig's first foray, forget about trying to figure out the plot; it all goes down better if one thinks of it as the two-hour climax to Casino Royale, the film that re-invigorated the franchise. The film is brutal, relentless, and this new Bond (once again excellently portrayed by a calculating, viciously efficient Craig, playing a character who is more brooding than dashing) is a machine taking and dolling out beatings, bullets and quips with nary the bat of an eye. All the better to go up against the diabolical Quantum, a new organization that has taken over the cinematic reigns that SPECTRE did in the 60's and 70's. Director Forster would seem an odd choice for one of the most action-intense Bond films, especially considering his films have always been of the more independent drama variety like Finding Neverland or Monster's Ball. Strange, then, to see that he's over-compensated by taking the Bourne-series style and editing methods to a ridiculous degree. The Bond films always had terrific, imaginative stunts and they were so that we could see and enjoy every bit of it. Oh, there are some double helpings of bone-crunching fights and a myriad of wrecked vehicles, but it's so chaotically edited that we can barely understand the action; sure we get the sense of speed, but we barely have the opportunity to appreciate what's going on, especially in the film's two could-have-been-terrific opening action sequences. And for the faithful, the most glaring misses are the trademark spy gadgets, the zesty double-entendres and even the utterance of the "Bond, James Bond". Thankfully, there's still lots to appreciate amongst the set pieces that are varied in both quality and length, and there's no denying that it holds one's attention throughout. If there's little down-time to be had, the few dramatic moments do provide for some punchy dialogue and some very typical Bond moments thanks to returning scriptwriter Paul Haggis. And the exotic locales - from Italy to Bolivia - are still enticing, as is the set design. The cast is also up to the task with Dench returning as M, the svelte Kurylenko as the film's true Bond-girl giving our agent a run for his money, and Frenchman Mathieu Amalric (surprisingly down to earth) as the villain of the piece. For sooth, Quantum of Solace ends up being a solid, superbly efficient action flick on its own merit but a disappointing second installment to Bond's new direction.
Entertainment: 7/10

Quatermass and the Pit (1968)
Starring: Andrew Keir, James Donald
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Plot: Strange events start to occur in a London district after construction workers uncover a strange alien craft buried deep within the earth.
Review: The best of the Quatermass film series, Quatermass and the Pit (also known under the title 5,000,000 Years to Earth) blends the typical Hammer horror style with some major science-fiction elements and a great, imaginative script into one of the best B-movies of all time. Yes, the acting is overly theatrical (as were many English productions of the day), the low-budget special effects are terrible, the science laughable, and yet the story is well written, suspenseful, and interesting enough to pull you into the film, and occasionally even give you chills. A delightful, intelligent, and very "British" science-fiction film that aims high, and usually hits just the right marks. A sci-fi classic.
Entertainment: 8/10


The Queen (2006)
Starring: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell
Director: Stephen Frears
Plot: As England mourns over the death of Princess Di, newly elected Prime Minster Tony Blair tries to convince a restrained Queen Elizabeth II to provide a final eulogy.Review: 
Review: A fictional account of life inside the Royal Family during the days following Princess Diana's 1997 death, The Queen is much more than a simple melodrama, and far more interesting than one would expect. For one, the film doesn't comment on the validity of Diana's life or her passing, nor does it vulgarize or support the massive popular outburst following. The events are but a cloud hanging over the film's proceedings that allows for an exploration of the confrontation between old guard and new, of how the media has entered our social consciousness (for better and worse), and of how politicians and the Monarchy dealt with the surprising deep national mourning that followed her sudden death. That the film is wholly fabricated (save for the recreated media appearances) never once deters from the great story, and it's easy to believe that these speculated events unfolded very closely to what is presented here. The Royal Family is portrayed as traditionalists living in luxurious bubble, insulated from the world, who can't seem to understand the changes going on them, or the adoration reaped on "the people's princess". Director Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity) manages to walk a thin line between caricature and compassion, wit and wisdom, bringing a light touch on what could have been heavy theatrical material. Another plus, of course, is the fine script: Despite its sometimes harsh commentary on the state of the monarchy, it obviously cares enough of its titular character to give her a very human face, and as a character study alone the film manages to bring life to a somewhat cold and lonely media figure. A pitch-perfect performance from Mirren as Queen Elizabeth creates with precise body language and tone a portrait of a woman stuck in a stifling world bound by protocol. As for Sheen, he does a wide-eyed, sympathetic take on a young and upright Tony Blair, the modernizing figure whose popularity only grew in the face of the Queen's seeming disdain for the limelight. All told, The Queen is a fine drama with very British sensibilities that should prove fascinating for everyone.
Drama: 8/10

Queen Margot (La Reine Margot) (France - 1994)
Starring: Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, Vincent Perez
Director: Patrice Chereau
Plot: In 16th century France, an arranged marriage set to bring peace between Catholics and Protestants sparks the country's bloodiest massacre and plunges its royalty into a frenzy.
Review: Queen Margot is a grand-scale, fictionalized account of the people surrounding the events of the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre, where thousands of Protestants were slaughtered in the streets. The story starts off by rushing through more historical exposition and a large bevy of characters with unfathomable motivations than anyone can really comprehend in the first half-hour. Eventually, we manage to follow the proceedings, as the struggle for power takes on a more complicated and interesting turn involving court intrigue, political maneuvering, and assassination. These instances, and the story surrounding the background historical events, are the best moments of the film. However, to personalize the goings-on perhaps, the narrative focuses too much on Margot, a character we find hard to care for, and her amorous relationships which seem to border on the gratuitous. Worse, the supposed passion between her and Perez, which is meant to be the heart of the film's melodrama, lacks any real chemistry and feels unconvincing and desperately contrived. The actors are all quite good, though, with Adjani doing a good turn as the cold, insatiable Margot, but Jean-Hugues Anglade is a stand-out as the naive, simple-minded king lost amid the backstabbing of his mother Catherine de Medici. Director Chereau conveys well the feel of the times and is helped by the fact that this is an impressive production, with the pageantry and scenery constantly on display. The scenes of massacre and its aftermath of bodies being thrown into mass graves are also quite chilling, if a tad overdone. Part swashbuckling adventure, part historical saga, Queen Margot has a lot going for it but by trying to combine too many elements, and providing few characters to care for, ends up more confused than anything.
Drama: 6/10

Queen of the Damned (2002)
Starring: Stuart Townsend, Aaliyah, Lena Olin
Director: Michael Rymer
Plot: Re-awakening after a centuries-old slumber, a vampire decides to make his presence known to mortals as a rock star, driving the ire of his fellow undead and the attentions of the ancient Mother of the Vampires.
Review: With little redeeming feature, Queen of the Damned boils down to a direct-to-video sequel to the rather impressive Interview with a Vampire. With its second-rate acting throughout, adequate but cold minimalist sets, and rather ludicrous story, the film never even hints at the terror, sensuousness or thrills of the first. In fact, the whole thing seems to be very self-mocking and shallow. From the very start, the movie feels more like a distorted, condensed version of a TV-movie (think Forever Knight or Buffy the Vampire Slayer) than an adaptation of the popular international best-seller. Heck, along with the lack of any actual stylishness to the proceedings, there isn't even any horror and barely any eroticism in evidence, two supposed hallmarks of the genre. As for the rock-star sub-plot, the music-video montage for these scenes (which take enough running time, thank you) don't give justice to the power that is supposed to drive his popularity. One wonders how director Rymer (In Too Deep) got the job, but he admittedly does a decent job at keeping things together despite a facile script. And that's the problem: the adaptation may keep the important scenes from the book, but fails to bring it all into a cohesive, or interesting, whole. Aayilah, in her only film role before her untimely demise, vamps it out to campy excess, and the pasty Underwood does an almost passable job as the Vampire Lestat, though he lacks the charm and ferocity needed for the role. The characters, and even the "hero" of the piece, are never fully formed and so we never get to care for what happens to them, and thus never quite get to feel any tension when the final (rather anti-climactic and predictable) showdown happens. Indeed, the vampire lore, the inner struggle and passions of the characters that are such an important part of Anne Rice's books, never make it to the screen, and that's the film's fatal flaw. To be fair, Queen of the Damned does have its moments, albeit there are few of them, and fans of the novels may get a kick seeing this universe brought to the screen once more. All others can abstain.
Entertainment: 3/10

The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Starring: Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe
Director: Sam Raimi
Plot: Seeking revenge for her father's death, a woman enters a quick-draw competition in a Western town ruled by a wicked outlaw and populated by some dangerous inhabitants.
Review: The first things that's evident when watching The Quick and the Dead is that the filmmakers have gone out of their way to revitalize the Hollywood Western and make this a blast of pure entertainment. Sure, the plot is predictable and as linear as anything we've ever seen, but there's a good load of suspense and thrills in here, as well as lots of tongue-in-cheek humor, that's sure to please fans of the genre. This is a highly stylized homage to the Spaghetti Westerns like Sergio Leone's For a Fistful of Dollars and its sequels, one where the traditional aspects have been greatly exaggerated, from the atmospheric music, dust-swept settings, to the multiple close-ups of squinting, sweating faces, and the sudden outbursts of violence. Director Raimi (Spider-Man, Darkman) uses the spectacular dynamic camera tricks, bizarre angles, and impossible shots he so expertly used in Evil Dead 2 to best effect, giving the film an extra oomph; adding some great cinematography to the mix, the film looks nothing if not absolutely splendid. In fact, Raimi is showing us in one slickly made package what we might remember of the Westerns we watched in our youth. The gunfights are tense, inventively choreographed and (thanks to some judicious use of special effects) provide some good diversity, but it's the colorful characters (including Ace showman / gunslinger Lance Henrickssen), exaggerated Western themes, and over-the-top circumstances / situations that make the film so much fun. Hackman, as the vicious town owner, chews the scenery in his own inimitable way, yet also gives a much rounder sheen to what could have been a stereotypical evil role. Stone, taking lessons from the Clint Eastwood school of acting, looks the part of the ultra-cool cow-girl, and Crowe, then relatively unknown, gives a terrific, charismatic performance as the killer-turned-priest. The film also stars a young, stringy actor by the name of, yes, Leonardo di Caprio who does a fine turn as the teen gunslinger looking for respect. Mixing elaborate visual flair, high camp and referential cleverness with a stellar cast, The Quick and the Dead is as entertaining a Western as you'll ever see.
Entertainment: 8/10

The Quiet American (2002)
Starring: Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Tzi Ma
Director: Phillip Noyce
Plot: In 1952 Saigon, at the height of the Vietnamese struggle against French colonialism, an aging British reporter feels threatened by a naive American doctor who he befriended and now has fallen for his local mistress.
Review: Based on the novel by acclaimed author Graham Greene, this second film adaptation of The Quiet American hits all the right notes as both a drama and a political thriller. On the one hand is a love triangle set out against the backdrop of growing civil unrest in Saigon. Yet the silent battle between the old Brit and young Yank suitors for the hand of the young Asian maiden, the jealousy, the lies, the deceptions, are only part of the game. All this is well fleshed out, but the story's real purpose is to explore the beginnings of a shameful war and present a fierce comment on the disaster that was the American meddling in the region. There may be nothing very new here, save perhaps for the choice of period - being before US took an active role in the 1960's - but the feel and narrative work wonderfully and make for an engaging affair. That the smart script plays to the strengths of Green's original work and themes as well as to the subject matter's moral complexity is a definite reason for applause. After a great career in Hollywood directing such high-powered thrillers as Clear and Present Danger, Noyce has taken a step back and with terrific results. Here he hits just the right note in every scene, depicting both the humid, exotic air of the country and the horrors of a conflict that was already brutal much before America turned its attention to it. The cinematography is also exceptional, capturing the beauty and the lush surroundings while always keeping the characters in clear focus. The pacing and editing are quite efficient, with nary an empty moment. Kudos as well for not trying to be a "big" film - its more modest scope in cast, setting and production allows it to shine where it counts. If there's one fault here, however, it may be that at less than 90 minutes the film feels a tad rushed. Caine is perfect for the role of the world-weary journalist looking for a piece of paradise, whose rising jealousy forces him to take sides. Fraser, also, ends up being excellent in the role and is wholly convincing. The Quiet American is a finely tuned feature that brings a fresh approach to the Vietnam conflict and manages to be a fine thriller and a fine drama as well.
Drama: 8/10

The Quiet Family (North Korea - 1998)
Starring: Na Moon-Hee, Park In-Whan, Song Kang-Ho
Director: Kim Ji-Woon
Plot: A family decides to buy a lodge in a remote hiking area. Their first customer commits suicide and the distraught family buries his body to avoid the bad publicity. But their luck gets worse, the bodies start piling up, and the family becomes frantic to rectify the situation.
Review: A very amusing and very black comedy, that plays on the failings of the different family members. A good amount of suspense is combined with the laughs, the film mixing a comedy of errors with slapstick and (many) bloody corpses. Wicked fun definitely not for the whole family.
Comedy: 7/10

Quills (2000)
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix
Director: Philip Kaufman
Plot: Imprisoned in a lunatic asylum in the early 19th-century in the last years of his life, the notorious Marquis de Sade manages to involve and affect all the characters around him in his sexually deviant novelizations.
Review: Mingling fact and fiction, Quills, the latest incarnation of the tale of The Marquis de Sade, is an interesting adaptation by director Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being). The film is engaging and intelligent, but its surprisingly not very sexual or erotic in nature considering the subject matter. The real crux of the film is the triangle between its main characters, the innocent chambermaid and the young priest who runs the asylum, both attracted to each other but not allowed to be, and the strange friendship they have with their famous charge, the Marquis. When the story stays focused on the interaction between these characters it really shines. Sure it plays up the melodrama, but there are some fine moments throughout the film thanks to a sharp script with some good ideas and something to say. Rush, as de Sade, manages to create a character who is playfully, flamboyantly perverse and immoral, and yet still sympathetic to the audience - a pure fantasy, perhaps, of the real personage but one that is necessary for the themes the script brings forth. For looking below the surface it is obvious that this is really an excuse to bring forth contemporary themes of rebellion, of love, of censorship and of artistic freedom, where perversion is really only the means with which to affront and confront the social and religious constraints bearing upon us. Winslet and Phoenix also manage some solid performances, but the inclusion of Michael Caine's character, a degenerate alienist shown as the cursory villain of the piece (and its real sadist), is either under-used or pointless except to create a foil of "science" against the Marquis. The sub-plot with his young wife is even more of a throw-away to give the film a little more required "sexiness", and waters-down the proceedings. Still, this is a minor aside, and the careful cinematography, good script and interesting observations make Quills a captivating drama.
Drama: 7/10

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