Friday, December 29, 2006
Monday, December 25, 2006
The Italian Job (2003) - My main two reasons for taking an interest in this movie were Edward Norton and a recommendation. Edward Norton is my favorite actor and a friend told me that I should give The Italian Job a watch. I'd been meaning to see it since it came out, but just never got around to it until recently. The best parts of The Italian Job were the heists. Undoubtedly you're saying to yourself, "No shit, Rian. That's what the movie's about, after all." It's true, though. Whoever came up with the intricate ways in which the characters made off with their goods did a bang-up job. The robberies were all exciting and interesting. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie was plagued by unrealistic characters, bad quips, cracks, and one-liners, and every other cliché that almost all action movies fall victim to these days. As though someone had a really good idea for a movie, but somewhere along the way lost interest and stopped caring. It's shows promise, but ends up just being too weak to hold it's own. The Italian Job was just too much like every other movie out there that you saw, reasonably liked, and promptly forgot about. In fact, if you saw it in the theater, I'll bet you'd essentially forgotten about it until I just brought it up in this blog. Perhaps the biggest disappointment for me (and I realize that this is only because of my love of the actor) was that Edward Norton was simply not used to his full potential in this film. After seeing him in such demanding roles as those he played in Primal Fear, American History X, and Fight Club, The Italian Job was severely disappointing as far as Norton's role was concerned. As for the other actors, I think that Mark Wahlberg was perhaps best in his role out of all of them. Charlize Theron is, easily put, the movie's piece of ass who learns a lesson and gives Wahlberg's character something to do when he's not stealing things. Seth Green plays the stereotypical young hacker who does everything on the computer by typing away on the keyboard because it's more visually interesting than using a mouse and has seemingly "Almost got it!" just when anything has to be done involving technology at the last minute. Jason Statham plays the cocky getaway driver who seems very unimportant since Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron's characters are also apparently professional stunt drivers. And finally we have Mos Def, the light-hearted demolitions expert who, despite blowing things up professionally, is made more accessible via a back story in which he accidentally lost the hearing in one of his ears by setting off a cherry bomb in the toilet at his middle school. Not a movie that I'd recommend, but it's shortcomings are mostly based on it's similarity to everything else out there and not on any particularly horrible filming/editing choices.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
I thought this new installation into the James Bond mythos was a good movie, but not necessarily a good 007 film. Personally I didn't think Daniel Craig pulled off the character all that magnificently. He couldn't deliver the quips properly and was much too serious for me at times. Bond is supposed to be debonair, but Craig just came off as kind of a prick to me. In addition to that, while I'm aware that this is only Bond's second mission as a double 'o' agent, he screwed up way too often for my taste and lucked out way too many times. The Bond girl of the film (Vesper Lind as played by Eva Green) actually saved his life on two separate occasions. The torture scene was overall pretty good, but again, someone else saved Bond from a situation that I really think he should have been able to escape from himself.
I wasn't the biggest fan of the opening theme song by Chris Cornell, and the intro animation was visually interesting, but very different from the other films. Namely, there were no silhouetted women in it. Also it was a lot brighter than the dark, mysterious ones from the previous movies. The score of the film was too lacking in the Bond theme for me, though it definitely got the deserving final shot.
The villain (Le Chifre as played by Mads Mikkelsen) was visually interesting and seemed like he would have been much better appreciated if they'd have explained what the hell happened to his eye. The characters comment multiple times about how his eye weeps blood, but we never find out why. I also never really felt much of a threat from the villain until the torture scene near the end of the movie because in all reality, he was the one who was in trouble for the majority of the film, and not Bond himself.
The la parkour scene after the intro credits was outstanding, as were the action scene at the airport and the scuffle in the stairwell of the Casino Royale, however I felt let down by the climactic fight scene in the crumbling building. First off, I didn't give a damn about any of the enemies in this scene, because by this point the main villain of the movie was already dead. Also, the fact that they were fighting in a building that was literally falling down around them didn't add much to the excitement of this scene, which seems unfathomable. While the movie had some great action, I was disappointed by the lack of a car chase. At one point Bond speeds after another car for about 20 seconds, but that's about the extent of the film's chase scenes unless you count Bond fighting a guy in a speeding gasoline truck.
All of the card playing was interesting and enjoyable, and I very much liked all of the high-stakes players. It's just unfortunate that we all knew what was going to happen at the end of the game. I think these were the scenes that Craig really dominated in the film.
I was disappointed that Q (previously played by Desmond Lewellyn) was nowhere to be found in the movie, but it didn't affect the experience any. One problem I did have that a lot of people will probably find picky is that M was played by Judi Dench. I thought her inclusion as the character in Goldeneye was wonderful and in my opinion she was one of the only saving graces of the following three films, but this being Bond's early years I would have preferred a male M. Moneypenny was also missing from Casino Royale, but something tells me if they make a sequel (Ha! If...) she'll come into play then.
One big problem that I had with the movie is that it seemed to go on too long after the 'climax', which to me would be the end of the poker game. Suddenly several more plot threads are tossed in the viewer's lap and we have to sit through another half hour of the movie with no clue what's going on and end up watching the aforementioned crumbling building scene with brand new villains that seemingly come out of nowhere. Something I was a big fan of, however, was the opening scene before the 'shooting down the barrel' shot, which leads into the intro animation. It was very well directed and gave meaning to why Bond does indeed shoot down the barrel, which wasn't necessary but was very cool.
Overall, since Casino Royale is dating back to before Dr. No in the James Bond timeline, even though it's obviously not in the same continuity, I wish the film leaned a bit more toward the Connery installments of the franchise rather than every other flashy action movie that you see today. It was an entertaining watch, but by no means the best Bond yet. Considering that while Dr. No is a great movie and it's sequel From Russia With Love is my favorite Bond film to date, here's hoping there's a sequel to Casino Royale and it's more well-rounded than this one.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Title: Dr. No
Year of Release: 1962
Bond: Sean Connery
My Synopsis/Critique: Dr. No, a maniacal Asian scientist with incredibly strong, but rather clumsy metal hands (the result of a failed experiment), plans to use radiation to botch an American space launch. Going into this movie, I’d only seen the more recent 007 films (i.e. the Dalton and Brosnan flicks). Thus, I found a few things odd about Dr. No (the movie, not the character). First, Q is nowhere to be found. Q, of course, being the scientist that gives Bond all of his neat gadgets. Along with Q, any and all gadgets are missing from this first film. Bond himself is a bit different in Dr. No, as is his relationship with M. Before Bond goes off on his mission, M has to take away his Beretta and force him to take a Walther PP7 instead. All the following films exclude Bond’s unwillingness to use the standard MI6 weapon. As opposed to later films where M trusts Bond completely, in this movie he regards him more like a child. Quarrel is a good character, and it’s sad when he dies at the hands of a ridiculous flame-throwing tank that’s painted to look like a dragon. This film includes the first mention of Spectre, which is an organization comprised of evil geniuses lead by Number 1 (who is the basis for the character of Doctor Evil in the Austin Powers series right down to the bald head, the scar across the eye, and the constant stroking of a white cat). Aside from a few small snags, Dr. No does a good job of setting the bar high for perhaps the biggest film franchise in history.
Title: From Russia With Love
Year of Release: 1963
Bond: Sean Connery
My Synopsis/Critique: James Bond heads to Russia to get his hands on a stolen Lektor coding machine. As it turns out, Spectre just wants to get revenge on 007 for killing Dr. No in the previous film. Enter: Donovan ‘Red’ Grant, who is a large blonde Russian who has been trained to hunt and kill James Bond. For being a bit of a slow movie, From Russia With Love is one of my favorites. This movie is the first time we see Number 1, and also the first appearance of Q and his gadgets. Speaking of which, the weapons and tools Bond is fitted with by MI6 in this movie are my favorite of the series. They’re practical, ingenuitive, and best of all, believable. No rings that emit sonic bursts to shatter glass here. We’ve got a sniper rifle that can be dismantled to about the size of a shoe, a suitcase with a tear gas bomb that goes off if it’s tampered with and a hideaway knife, etc. The best part of the movie is definitely the fight scene with Grant in a room on the Orient Express. Bond’s survival skills are really put to the test in one of the best close quarter combat scenes I’ve ever seen on film.
Year of Release: 1964
Bond: Sean Connery
My Synopsis/Critique: Gold-obsessed smuggler Auric Goldfinger plans to detonate a nuclear bomb inside Fort Knox so that, rather than stealing the gold within, it will become radioactive and thus untouchable for 57 years time, during which the worth of his personal stash of gold will greatly multiply in value. Great plot. I’ll give Goldfinger that much. My problems with this movie begin and end with Bond himself. Simply put, he is in captivity by the enemy in this movie more than he’s not. 007 gets captured early on in the movie, then escapes and is captured again, then escapes and is captured again, and on and on. Also, if it were left up to Bond, Goldfinger would have gotten away with his scheme. His attempts to warn his colleagues of Goldfinger’s evil plot are constantly thwarted, and it’s only thanks to Pussy Galore, henchwoman working for Goldfinger, that the army even knows where and when to intervene. Then on top of all that, the nuke would have gone off right in 007’s face if an American scientist hadn’t arrived on site just in time to diffuse the bomb. All Bond really did in Goldfinger was beat the title character in a game of golf by cheating, and trick Oddjob into electrocuting himself. After seeing the Hank Scorpio episode of The Simpsons where they parody the “laser slowly moving towards the genitals” scene in this movie, I was led to believe that Bond would somehow miraculously escape from said situation, but even that didn’t happen. He just talked his way out of it. One final thing that bugged me about this movie is that there’s no mention of Spectre whatsoever. Many of the later movies have nothing to do with the evil organization, but that’s because by then it’s been put out of commission, but at this point they were still running rampant. Just not in this movie.
Year of Release: 1965
Bond: Sean Connery
My Synopsis/Critique: Spectre hijacks a Vulcan Bomber equipped with two atomic bombs and holds NATO to ransom for the sum of $100,000,000. MI6 combats this evil plot by sending all 9 of its double “o” agents out to find and recover the explosives. The ante is definitely upped in Thunderball. This marks the first time we see any of the other double o’s. The pre-opening credit sequence scene involves James Bond flying around with a jet pack. Despite the fact that we’re talking about a movie with secret agents and evil organizations who want to rule the world, the jet pack seemed really far-fetched. Then we’re treated to a little scene in a health spa during which 007 is almost taken out by a guy who turns the level up too high while he’s on “the rack” (a device used to stretch the spine). You’d better believe Bond gets back at him, though. He locks the guy in his steamer and turns it all the way up. I didn’t realize secret agents were prone to childish pranks. Anyways, Thunderball is the first of many Bond films to pit 007 against sharks. The climactic underwater battle between good scuba divers and evil scuba divers was pretty good. Underwater battle is always slow-moving, but the sheer number of people being harpooned and having their oxygen lines cut made for an entertaining scene.
Title: You Only Live Twice
Year of Release: 1967
Bond: Sean Connery
My Synopsis/Critique: James Bond turns Japanese. Yup, I said it. 007 trains at a ninja school, marries a Japanese woman, and wears prosthetic eyelids that make him look squinty-eyed. Why does he do this? Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Number 1) has masterminded a plan to steal an American spaceship and then a Russian spaceship in an attempt to convince these two countries that each other is responsible for their missing shuttles with hopes of causing World War III. The secret base from which he runs this little operation is housed inside a volcano in Japan. Hence the racial switch. This film features Q’s first trip to deliver gadgets to 007, himself. What he delivers is a miniature helicopter called “Little Nellie’. In my opinion, one of the dumber gadgets to come out of Q Branch. The end of this movie is an all out war inside the volcano base. The Japanese army and the Japanese Secret Service Ninja Force versus hordes of jumpsuit-clad henchman. This is obviously the most copied/parodied film of the series. Overall it wasn’t bad. What was bad were the outer space scenes wherein one space shuttle would open up and engulf another before zipping off to deliver the stolen capsule to Blofeld. Try as they may have, those scenes were waaaaaay too fake looking to be taken seriously. Prior to filming, Sean Connery decided that he wanted to do more with his career than drink vodka martinis and have sex with beautiful women, so he informed the producers that this would be his last Bond film. This would account for why You Only Live Twice feels like an “ending” to the franchise.
Title: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Year of Release: 1969
Bond: George Lazenby
My Synopsis/Critique: Why did everyone hate George Lazenby as James Bond? Sure, he was an Australian model who’d never acted before, but I don’t see why people think he did such a bad job. Yet, somehow On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had the worst US box office gross of all the Bond movies, and everyone blames it on Lazenby. Blofeld is back, and this time he’s trying infest mankind with a virus that will be spread by a menagerie of beautiful women who he’s hypnotized into becoming his unknowing slaves. Bond pretends to be a genealogist to get closer to Blofeld, who has an odd obsession with being recognized as an important member of his family tree. Awesome car and ski chases ensue as Bond teams up with a girl named Tracy, whose father has it in his head that 007 should marry her because he saved her from committing suicide. Of all the action sequences, though, my favorite comes in the form of a battle on bobsleds during the film’s climax. It’s impossible that this fight scene could ever really take place, but watching Bond battle his archenemy on two speeding bobsleds was incredible. Even more incredible is the fact that Blofeld survives crashing into, and thus being suspended by his neck from, a v-shaped tree branch hanging above the bobsled course while going full speed down the incline. Overall I liked On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but I’m quite opposed to the ending. James Bond gets married (for real this time, not because he has to for the mission like in You Only Live Twice) to Tracy who, as they leave the wedding in their car, is assassinated by Blofeld. The movie ends with Bond cradling her dead body in the car as it sits on the side of the road. Apparently in the original take of this scene Lazenby actually cries, but the director replaced it with a shot of Bond just looking sad because he didn’t think it was characteristic of him to weep like a baby. I don’t really think it matters much, because the ending sucks anyway.
Title: Diamonds Are Forever
Year of Release: 1971
Bond: Sean Connery
My Synopsis/Critique: Money talks. After Lazenby’s “failure” to uphold the mantle of James Bond set by Connery, the original 007 was coaxed into playing the role once more by being offered a large sum of money by producers who were panicking that their cash cow of a film series was losing steam. What they ended up with (in my opinion) is a movie much worse than the one they were trying to recover from. Ernst Blofeld returns once more after having undergone plastic surgery to hide from a vengeful James Bond. His plan? To smuggle a bunch of diamonds in order to build with them a satellite that will use the combined power of their prisms to channel sunlight in the form of an incredibly powerful laser beam with which to blast world powers into oblivion. In my opinion, the plot of this movie was very weak, as was the main Bond girl, who bumbles around messing things up the whole time. Blofeld is finally killed at the end of Diamonds Are Forever, ending his tyranny of being played by three different actors in as many consecutive movies. For me, the highlight of this movie came in the form of a car chase between 007 and the Las Vegas Police Department. The scene in question (much like the rest of the movie) was overly cute and funny, but there were some really cool car maneuvers such as Bond driving through an alleyway much too narrow for his car by getting it up on two wheels (on the same side of the car).
Title: Live And Let Die
Year of Release: 1973
Bond: Roger Moore
My Synopsis/Critique: Mr. Big (the series’ first, and to this point only, black villain) plans to become to sole supplier of heroin in all of America by getting all of Harlem to kill anyone who tries to stop him. I didn’t like this movie for several reasons. One reason is that it felt more like a blaxpoloitation film than a spy movie. It really felt like the black community at large was evil in Live And Let Die, which really put me off. For the majority of the movie James Bond was essentially the only white guy around, and everyone else was trying to kill him. Another reason I wasn’t a big of this film was that Mr. Big felt like an unworthy adversary for Bond. He relied on his “loyal” psychic and her tarot cards to ensure him that things were going as planned at all times. When she is seduced by 007 and is no longer reliable in her predictions, he turns into a wuss. Perhaps worst of all was the final confrontation between Big and Bond. Q Branch has equipped James with bullets that release compressed air when fired so that when he jams one in Mr. Big’s mouth and punches him it inflates his body, sending him soaring up to the ceiling where he pops like a balloon. Oh, and lets not forget the comic relief in Live And Let Die, supplied by an over-the-top bayou sheriff who is foiled in all of his attempts to apprehend 007, not knowing that he’s a secret agent.
Title: Man With The Golden Gun
Year of Release: 1974
Bond: Roger Moore
My Synopsis/Critique: Francisco Scaramanga is a hitman who never misses. In fact, he’s so sure that he’ll never waste a round that his trademark are golden bullets which he can afford because he charges one million dollars a hit. A small price to pay for a guaranteed kill. However, bored with his “day job”, Scaramanga coaxes James Bond into a deadly game of cat and mouse by convincing him that someone has put a hit out on him just so he’ll have some decent competition for once. With no real international crisis to deal with, Man With The Golden Gun doesn’t quite stand up to many of the other 007 films. Okay, at the end we discover that Scaramanga has a giant laser on his island, but there’s never much threat of attack from it. Amping up the intensity of the final gun fight, Scaramanga employs the aid of his midget manservant, Nick Nack (as played by Herve Villechaiz of Fantasy Island fame), in operating the funhouse-style maze in the basement of his house where he and Bond are forced to stalk each other. Of course, Bond is the victor. It’s a good thing Scaramanga had a dead on, life size replica of 007 in his funhouse that he could practice on for the real deal to take the place of, getting the drop on his enemy. Oh yes, and how could I forget? The annoying bayou cop from the previous film returns. He just so happens to be vacationing in Hong Kong when Bond steals the car he’s test driving for a car chase.
Title: The Spy Who Loved Me
Year of Release: 1977
Bond: Roger Moore
My Synopsis/Critique: Remember the plot of You Only Live Twice? You know, the one where someone steals spaceships from America and Russia in an attempt to turn them against one another? Well, replace “spaceships” with “nuclear submarines” and you’ve got the plot of The Spy Who Loved Me. However, this time, instead of just hating peace, the villain wants to force everyone to join him in living in the underwater paradise he’s building where it’s safe from the third world war that he aims to create on the surface. While ridiculous, this movie does have some redeeming points. The foremost of which is the introduction of Jaws, the man with metal teeth and jaw muscles strong enough to bite through metal. Something I didn’t like about the movie, however, is the buddy cop feeling it gets from teaming Bond up with a sassy female Russian operative. It just doesn’t feel right for 007 to be working side by side with another agent. Regardless, this film pulls off some great fight scenes including the battle between Bond and Jaws in the ruins of an Egyptian temple and the all out war in the main villain’s barge at the movie’s climax.
Year of Release: 1979
Bond: Roger Moore
My Synopsis/Critique: Millionaire Hugo Drax plans to murder the entire human race. All except for his hand-picked specimens that will be the parents of a new race of perfect humans, that is. Filling fifty satellites with a plant venom that is only deadly to humans, Drax expects to watch safely from his self-funded, undetectable space station as every last person on Earth kicks the bucket before reclaiming the world for himself and his small group of beauties. How does he expect to get away with this? Well, he’s hired Jaws for one. Speaking of the giant of a man from the previous film, Jaws is not done proper justice in Moonraker. He’s turned into a farce, and a mockery of himself. Falling in love with a nerdy girl from Venice, Jaws develops a heart and eventually decides to help Bond stop Drax’s evil plans and die with honor (and his new love) aboard the self-destructing space station. The question I have is, if this movie was released a year after the original Star Wars, how could the outer space and laser pistol effects be so bad? There is nothing realistic about either, but at least we know that James Bond is good at first person shooters as the end of the film has him blasting poisonous satellites out of the sky with a joystick while rocketing through Earth’s atmosphere.
Title: For Your Eyes Only
Year of Release: 1981
Bond: Roger Moore
My Synopsis/Critique: A British spy ship equipped with a hi-tech encryption device called an ATAC is sunk off the coast of a Warsaw Pact county and the race begins between the British and the Russians to recover it. There’s no megalomaniac to be found in For Your Eyes Only. Just some criminals trying to get their hands on the ATAC. Of course there must be some action, so the criminals in question either like to chase secret agents on skis and snowmobiles, in cars on windy mountain roads, across skating rinks dressed as hockey players, or up and down treacherous cliff faces in Greece. There’s little feeling of threat in this film, and it relies on its nutty action scenes to keep the viewer interested. The main female love interest is annoying at best as she continually either gets in 007’s way or refuses to listen to him when he tells her not to go around shooting people in the back with crossbows. I personally feel that Roger Moore is much better at the debonair side of the James Bond role than he is at the action side, and unfortunately for him, this movie has much more of the latter than the former.
Year of Release: 1983
Bond: Roger Moore
My Synopsis/Critique: It all begins with a dead clown holding a Ferberge Egg. But we’ll get back to that in a moment. A psychopathic Soviet general named Orlov is concerned that America is a threat to the Russian military, but is unable to get anyone to agree with him. So, what does he do? He devises a plan to load a nuclear warhead into the cannon used to shoot a performer out of at the circus that will soon be held at an American air force base in order to detonate it and cripple U.S. defenses. It’s a good thing he is affiliated with Kamal Khan, though, otherwise James Bond would never have been able to track them down by following the trail of the Faberge-obsessed Khan’s fake egg after he switches it with the real one at an auction. Khan eventually gets the drop on Bond, but luckily he’s in cahoots with a beautiful woman called Octopussy for 007 to seduce and turn to his side. What this all leads to is a scene in which James Bond must dress up as a clown to infiltrate the circus at the air base in an attempt to stop the bomb from detonating, which he does just in time. So the day is saved, but we still get to enjoy a scene in which Octopussy’s circus-trained beauties have to use their carny skills to invade Khan’s palace with the held of Bond and Q, who arrive in a hot air balloon. Sounds logical to me.
Title: Never Say Never Again
Year of Release: 1983
Bond: Sean Connery
My Synopsis/Critique: Never Say Never Again is an enigma to me. Come along as I explain to you the oddest James Bond film ever made. First off, it came out the same year as Octopussy. Second, it stars Sean Connery as Bond twelve years after he stated for the second time that he wouldn’t be coming back to play the character. Third, MI6 has changed considerably. Anyone who reads comic books is no doubt familiar with the term “Elseworlds”. Elseworlds are stories about characters we all know and love that take place out of context of their normal everyday goings on. For example, Batman is a playboy millionaire who lives in Gotham City and dresses up as a bat to fight crime. However, in an Elseworlds title, he could be fighting dinosaurs as a caveman just because the writer of the book thought it’d be neat to see it happen. This doesn’t have to work into his normal continuity because it’s an Elseworlds book. Never Say Never Again feels like and Elseworlds James Bond tale. The M we’ve known in the films up to this point has left MI6, and a new, younger M has taken over. The new M is a prick who thinks that secret agents and wacky gadgets are a thing of the past, so he has all but disbanded the double “o” program. He sends an ageing Bond to a wellness center to get back in shape, during which time a nut job decides to steal two nuclear missiles, forcing M to thrust 007 back into the field. He doesn’t get much help from Q as Q Branch has basically been shut down. Also, Desmond Lewellyn doesn’t play Q. It’s some younger guy. Anyway, Bond is able to stop the attack, and the movie ends, but not before Sean Connery turns and winks to the camera. Ugh. In addition, we’re not treated to the normal “gun barrel” view at the beginning of the movie where bond shoots at the camera, and there’s no opening montage of silhouetted hotties floating around while the theme song plays. In addition to all that, 007’s best friend, Felix Leiter, who has been played by many actors over the course of the series, suddenly becomes African American for this one. Finally, playing Bond’s bumbling informant is Mr. Bean himself, Rowan Atkinson. Would someone please explain to me who the fuck is responsible for this movie and why anyone thought it was a good idea?
Title: A View To A Kill
Year of Release: 1985
Bond: Roger Moore
My Synopsis/Critique: Christopher Walken plays crazed industrialist Max Zorin, who plans to create a worldwide microchip monopoly by flooding, and thereby destroying, Silicon Valley in California where 90% of the Silicon used to make microchips originates. Luckily James Bond is able to figure all this out by investigating a horse racing scam involving steroids that are injected into the horses by devices hidden in the jockey’s whip handle. Of course, being the cultured fellow he is Zorin is involved with this little horse scheme on the side. Walken does a great job of pulling off the maniacal rich guy façade and seems to actually pose a threat to the aging Roger Moore. Speaking of which, A View To A Kill could have really used a younger 007. Moore was well past his prime by the time this movie was made. Regardless, the climactic battle, while ridiculous, really tied this movie together. Nothing beats Christopher Walken wielding an axe and trying to kill James Bond atop the Golden Gate bridge after his private blimp was crashed there by Bond. Also of note about this movie is that it includes the most hideous woman Bond has had sex with to date, being Zorin’s eraser-headed female assassin, May Day.
Title: The Living Daylights
Year of Release: 1987
Bond: Timothy Dalton
My Synopsis/Critique: Even while watching him portray James Bond, I can’t help but see Timothy Dalton as a villain. However, somehow he did an incredibly good job as 007. The Living Daylights was a much more violent and serious take on the super spy business than any of the previous films, which was a great move on the part of the filmmakers considering how ridiculous some of their more recent efforts had been. James Bond aids a defecting Societ general by the name of Georgi Koskov in escaping from his homeland before discovering that he was actually just pulling an elaborate ruse to be recaptured by his own government to put him in the clear long enough to become rich by smuggling some drugs out of Afghanistan. 007 enlists the aid of Koskov’s girlfriend to track him down, pretending to be friends with Georgi to ease her suspicions. There are some spectacular action scenes in this film including the botched training mission that starts the movie off and the chase scene in Czechoslovakia during which Bond and Koskov’s girlfriend sled down a hill on her cello case while being pursued by assassins on skis. The only real downfall to The Living Daylights is that it’s the first film (that actually fits into the series’ continuity) that doesn’t feature the original M and Moneypenny.
Title: Licence To Kill
Year of Release: 1989
Bond: Timothy Dalton
My Synopsis/Critique: James Bond is on his way to the wedding of his best friend, American CIA agent Felix Leiter, when Leiter is summoned to take down the biggest drug lord in America, Franz Sanchez. 007 tags along as they capture Franz in mid-air-getaway, and then he and Leiter proceed to parachute to the wedding. After bribing another CIA agent 2 million dollars to help him escape, Franz proceeds to murder Felix’s wife and torture Felix to near death, feeding one of his legs to a shark. When Bond discovers this, he wants revenge, but MI6 forbids him to involve himself in the matter, as it’s not their problem. The only way to stop the maniacal Franz Sanchez is to quit her majesty’s secret service and go rogue, which is exactly what he does. Keeping up the realism and intensity of Dalton’s first Bond film, Licence To Kill delivers a great super spy experience. Q even comes along for the ride, acting in the field to help 007 stop Franz, who has hatched a scheme to smuggle drugs by diluting them in gasoline and extracting them later. The film’s climax is among the best of the series as Bond embarks on a high speed chase after four tanker trucks full of drugged fuel down the side of a mountain. On a side note, Benicio Del Toro does a fairly poor job of portraying one of Sanchez’s knife-wielding goons.
Year of Release: 1995
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
My Synopsis/Critique: Does Goldeneye really need an explanation? This is the Bond film that captured a whole new generation, due in part to the video game based on it for the N64. Believing that Bond is responsible for his near-death at the hands of Russian general, Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov, former 006 Alec Trevelyan turns sides and joins up with Ourumov. Together they proceed to destroy one of two satellite-based lasers called Goldeneyes, leaving them in possession of the remaining laser, capable of devastation on a massive scale. While I personally prefer Timothy Dalton’s performance as 007, Pierce Brosnan does a good job of maintaining the more serious, realistic representation of Bond that Dalton created. Not only do we get a new Bond with this film, but also a new M played by Judy Dench. The writers made a brilliant transition from the old M to the new one by adding a new level of reality to her relationship with Bond. Joining up with one of the two surviving members of the team who ran the destroyed Goldeneye, 007 sets out to find the second laser and put it out of commission. Exceptional use is made of Q Branch with the grenade pen that comes into play late in the film thanks to the other survivor of the original Goldeneye, who is working for Trevelyan. Some great action scenes lie within this movie including the scene in which Bond steals a Tank and proceeds to chase Ourumov through the streets of Russia. Also worthy of note are the fight with Ourumov’s sexually crazed sidekick, Natalia, and the final battle between 006 and 007, suspended high above the ground on the huge satellite dish used to control the remaining Goldeneye laser.
Title: Tomorrow Never Dies
Year of Release: 1997
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
My Synopsis/Critique: Sadly, Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as the over-sexed agent of MI6 loses points in my book for going back to the Roger Moore era’s trend of employing villains that are more goofy than believable. Enter: Elliot Carver, a media baron with dreams of one day owning and operating the most influential news channel in the world. So influential, in fact, that he plans to use his shows to control the way the world works. When a British battleship disappears just outside Asian waters, James Bond is sent to investigate what is actually Carver’s first attempt at creating news with the intent to use it to provoke world events. Ideally, a war between Britain and China. Bond allies himself with Wai Lin, a member of The People’s External Security Force of China, and the two of them soon discover that Carver has stolen a missile off the British ship which he plans to unleash on the Chinese. While the plot may have gone south with Tomorrow Never Dies, the action maintains the standard of quality set in the previous three films. Of note are scenes in which Wai Lin and 007 are attempting to escape Elliot Carver’s grasp while handcuffed together. The ending is a bit ridiculous, though, as Bond takes down an entire stealth ship single-handedly and kills Carver by sending a large industrial drill flying in his direction.
Title: The World Is Not Enough
Year of Release: 1999
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
My Synopsis/Critique: After successfully returning a large sum of money that was stolen from an oil tycoon, James Bond discovers that he’d played right into the thief’s plans when the money is used to blow up said oil tycoon, and a large portion of the MI6 building. The money in question had been meant to pay for the release of the tycoon’s kidnapped daughter, Elektra, who was able to escape before the payment was made. Her captor was a man named Viktor Zokas who, after being shot in the head, became impervious to physical pain. Stealing the components of a nuclear device, Zokas attempts to blow up the oil pipeline that Elektra inherited from her recently deceased father, but with the help of nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones, Bond discovers that Elektra is in fact in cahoots with Zokas. Apparently they fell in love while she was in his captivity. This marks the first time in the series that the villain is a female. Why would Elektra want to blow up her own pipeline, though? Well, that’s simple. She wanted to get close enough to MI6 to kidnap M, who she blames for advising her father not to pay her ransom. Immediately after MI6 is attacked at the time of the oil tycoon’s death at the beginning of the film, one of the best scenes of the movie occurs as Bond chases a sniper through London with an experimental boat from Q Branch. While the set-up of a rivalry between Bond and a man who can’t feel pain sounds like the equation for a great fight scene, when the scene in question finally comes about, it’s fairly disappointing. Perhaps most disappointing of all, though, is the exit of Desmond Lewellyn as Q. While in the movie, his character makes it quite clear that he won’t be returning. He is replaced by famous funnyman John Cleese in the role of R, the bumbling fool now in charge of Q Branch…or is it R Branch now?
Title: Die Another Day
Year of Release: 2002
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
My Synopsis/Critique: Ah, last but not least. No, wait. Let me rephrase that. Ah, last and most definitely least, we have Die Another Day. Personally, I wanted to die several times while watching this movie. So, James Bond is attempting to stop a diamond smuggling ring in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea when he is taken captive and MI6 disavows all knowledge of his existence. Six months, a whole lot of torturing, and a Madonna theme song later, and his captives decide to give him up. Well, actually they plan to kill him while pretending to give him up, but who’s counting? So after meeting up with Halle Berry’s character, Jinx, who’s another secret agent, they jet off to the unveiling of a new triumph of science at the hands of millionaire Gustov Graves, who just so happens to be the Korean guy from the beginning who Bond thought he killed right before he was captured. Of course, he’s undergone some reconstructive surgery to look like an American, and has apparently taken LOTS of English lessons. Anyway, Graves has created a new satellite that stores up solar energy and can then reflect it in all kinds of cool places to solve our energy problems. In all reality, though, he plans to use it as a weapon. Can anyone say Goldeneye or Diamonds Are Forever? So, the controls to this satellite are built into a big robotic suit thing that Gustov wears that can also channel electricity while in hand to hand combat. I think you can see where this is going. The hovercraft battle in the beginning is all right, but none of the other action really qualifies as a saving grace for this movie. In essence, it sucks.
WHEW! So, now that we got all that out of the way, here are some of my basic opinions about the series. In other words, this is where I make my enemies:
Best Bond: Sean Connery
Best Bond Girl: Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo) – The Living Daylights
Second Best Bond Girl: Tatyana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) – From Russia With Love
Best Main Villain: Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) – Dr. No
Second Best Main Villain: Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) – Licence To Kill
Best Tough Guy Villain: Donovan ‘Red’ Grant (Robert Shaw) – From Russia With Love
Second Best Tough Guy Villain: Jaws (Richard Kiel) – The Spy Who Loved Me
Best Fight Scene: Bond versus Red Grant on the Orient Express – From Russia With Love
Second Best Fight Scene: Bond versus Ernst Stavro Blofeld on a bobsled course - On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Best Bond Movie: From Russia With Love
Second Best Bond Movie: Licence To Kill
Worst Bond: Roger Moore
Worst Bond Girl: Jinx (Halle Berry) – Die Another Day
Second Worst Bond Girl: May Day (Grace Jones) – A View To A Kill
Worst Main Villain: Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto) - Live And Let Die
Second Worst Main Villain: Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) – Die Another Day
Worst Tough Guy Villain: Tee Hee (Julius W. Harris) – Live And Let Die
Second Worst Tough Guy Villain: Jaws (Richard Kiel) - Moonraker
Worst Fight Scene: Bond versus Mr. Big in the shark pool - Live And Let Die
Second Worst Fight Scene: Bond versus Gustav Graves on the plane - Die Another Day
Worst Bond Movie: Never Say Never Again
Second Worst Bond Movie: Die Another Day
Friday, July 14, 2006
On a side note, A Scanner Darkly, while still following suit by gathering big name players in what could very well be an amped up version of a classic story, has peaked my interest due to the use of roto-scoping technology in it's production. However, despite the fact that it's release has "widened" in it's second week, it's still not playing anywhere near me. Hence, I'll most likely have to wait for video. Proof that if a movie breaks the mold, nobody will trust it enough to gain the attention of audiences who apparently just want to see the same damn thing over and over again. For shame. This is why the Alien, Predator, and Terminator series' have turned into absolute shit over the past several years. We've stopped demanding quality and started expecting mediocrity.
Thursday, June 1, 2006
The French Connection - As I stated in my review of The Conversation in my last blog, I'm not a big Gene Hackman fan. However, I guess I just wasn't watching the right Gene Hackman movies, because I quite liked him in this. I was a bit surprised to see that the car chase scene everyone flips out about wasn't as much a car chase as it was a train chase. I expected two cars zipping around the streets of London. Instead I got one car tailing an elevated train in New York. It was still a great chase, though. I liked this movie, but it had one of those endings that a lot of movies based on real life events have that kind of leave me feeling jipped. I won't say what happened, but I felt that it was a little anti-climactic. I guess that's real life for ya. By the bye, this one was recommended to me by Rob Tornoe.
Cool Hand Luke - The first Kyle Haase recommended movie I've watched thus far has turned out to be my favorite of the bunch to this point. This movie had a few lines that I've heard over the years that I knew were from some landmark film or another, but I never knew what film it was. For example: "Now what we have here is a failure to communicate", which my father said along with the actor in the movie as he watched it with me. The coolest shot in the movie was by far the one where the camera zoomed in on the guard's glasses to get the reflection of Paul Newman speeding off down the road in the car he stole from the prison. My one question about this movie is how the hell did Newman lose the Academy Award that he was nominated for in this? My life's goal is now to see Kyle Haase himself eat 51 eggs in one hour to beat Luke's record.
X-Men: The Last Stand - As I'm sure several people have yet to see this movie, I won't give anything away. Instead, I'll just sum up the movie very briefly: from beginning to end it was a large steaming pile of shit. Don't waste your money. Just go watch X2 again and pretend 3 never happened.
The Conversation - Rob Tornoe recommended this movie to me saying it was my kind of movie and that I would like it. I won't be that enthusiastic, but I enjoyed it. The conversation was slow-moving and ultimately a bit anti-climactic in my opinion, but overall it spun a good tale. I had a good time trying to figure out the mystery for myself, although as I stated, I was a bit disappointed with the outcome. I've never really liked Gene Hackman all that much, but I think he did well in this role. I never really find him all that believable in roles that require a lot of extreme emotions, but his character in this movie (Harry Caul) is fairly quiet and emotionless. Overall, not a must-see, but worth a watch.
Romancing The Stone - Recommended by Bruno Lobato. I'd heard of this movie before but always thought it was a sappy romance movie. Of course, I was wrong, and even going into watching it had really no idea what it was. This movie falls somewhere between the action of Indiana Jones, the humor of Back To The Future, and the ridiculous adventure of The Goonies, however, I don't think it stands out as much as any of those. It was a fun movie to watch, but unfortunately, up against the other three that I named, I don't think it really has a chance (except against The Gooneis, because I personally despise that movie). For one thing, Michael Douglas didn't really pull off the adventurous lead male role in my eyes. For another, Danny DeVito and his tall, skinny, balding cousin didn't seem to pose too much of a threat as the bad guys. Once again, worth a watch, but not much staying power.
Rounders - My friend Ricky has been telling me to watch this movie for years. It's one of the few Edward Norton movies that I hadn't seen, and I'd been meaning to see it for quite a while, but it wasn't until Joel Lolar reminded me about it that it went on the list of movies I needed to see. I had a good time with Rounders. It kept my interest by constantly digging deeper and deeper holes for the main characters. I didn't like how Norton's character just sort of disappeared for the end of the movie. It made sense for the plot, but I think we should have gotten a little more of him after the climax at least. I think this movie was entertaining, but would have been a lot better had the ending not been the one that I'm sure everyone was expecting the entire time they were watching it.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
V For Vendetta - Another movie based off a comic book. I haven't read the comic before, but I thought the movie was pretty good. I actually had no real interest in seeing it, but Scott didn't have anyone to see it with and I didn't have anyone to see Slither with, so we made a deal that if I saw V with him he would see Slither with me. I had no real knowledge of what the movie was about going in, so I had no expectations. Scott on the other hand had read the book and said that while it was different, it did a good job of telling the same story. I particularly enjoyed the fact that you never see V's face. No offense to Hugo Weaving.
Slither - I was alone in my opinion that this movie would be good. In fact, even I had my doubts, but I held strong to my convictions and by God, I loved this movie. Not since Tremors has a movie so successfully combined humor and monsters into an experience that wasn't either too serious for it's own good or too ridiculous for it's own good. Slither is the perfect combination of all the factors that go into making a good, fun monster movie. As I said, it's got the humor of Tremors that comes less from silly situations and more from the reactions of the cast when put into situations that are alien to them. It has some of the best creature design and special effects since John Carpenter's The Thing, and much of it was done without computer effects. Another thing that I think is key to making a good monster movie is the originality of the concepts that go into it. For example, one of the biggest reasons for the success of the first Alien movie was the original concept behind the alien itself. No one had ever thought of a creature gestating inside a human host an bursting out of their chest before. It's new, good ideas like that which will trap in repeated viewings moreso than wild computer effects and cheap laughs. Slither has some wonderful concepts and original ideas in it, which in the end is what really made it such a great experience for me. Then of course were the hidden homages to other monster movies, many of which are the one's I've listed in comparison to Slither. For example, the name of the High School in the film is the Burt Gummer High School, which is Michael Gross' character's name in Tremors, or the general named after R.J. MacReady, which was Kurt Russel's character's name in The Thing. I recommend this movie to anyone who likes monster movies not because of their "B" qualities, but because they are an interesting piece of science fiction.
Saw II - After seeing this movie, I still prefer the first Saw. The original was made with a severely limited budget, but because of it's originality and an obvious amount of care infused from the creators, it made for an entertaining viewing experience. This is one of those sequels that felt more like it was made to make a quick buck off the popularity of the first one than because someone actually had a good idea for how to continue the story. Personally I found the acting horrible from a lot of the cast, but I have to admit that the ending was pretty good. They managed to tie things in with the first one in the last five minutes of the movie or so, but it wasn't enough to really make me care too much about it.
Jarhead - Sometimes this movie felt a little too much like Full Metal Jacket for me. Overall it's a decent war movie with more time taken to develop the characters than to blow them up, which I liked. The ending left me with a feeling of depression and hopelessness that I haven't felt since watching Dead Presidents. I'm honestly pretty sick of war movies, which have seemed to be all the rage for the past few years, but this one was a welcome change from the washed out macine guns ringing in your ears before they drop out the sound and show people yelling but you can't hear what their saying as the triumphant music comes in reminding you of the levity of the situatuion-style trend that began with Saving Private Ryan.
3 Extremes - "An Asian cross-cultural trilogy of horror films from accomplished indie directors." From what I understand, one of the films is Japanese, one is Korean, and one is Chinese. Call me simple-minded, but I couldn't tell you which was which. First we have "Dumplings". This short film is about a middle-aged woman who fears that her husband is becoming less interested in her so she goes to extreme measures to make herself more appealing to the eye. She visits a woman known as Aunt Mae (no relation to Aunt May from Spiderman) who makes special dumplings (leading me to believe that this may be the Chinese film since I've had dumplings at a Chinese restaurant before) that are supposed to reverse the aging process. The secret ingredient in these dumplings? Human fetuses. Yummy. Among the most disturbing scenes in this short are those in which we see Aunt Mae perform an abortion on a schoolgirl (i.e. watching a fetus drop from between her legs and into a bloody tub of water) and when said schoolgirl then bleeds all over her bus seat on the way home and some guy in white pants sits in it. However the part I found most apalling occurs after the cops come after Aunt Mae and she abandons her apartment, so the main character is forced to perform an abortion on herself at home with a metal clothes hanger in hopes of eating her own aborted fetus. The second short is called "Cut". An extra kidnaps a director who is a genuinely nice guy and tells him that he'll cut off one of his wife's fingers every five minutes unless he strangles a little girl to death. The little girl turns out to be a little boy, and not just any little boy, but the son of the kidnapper. This one felt kind of like a Tarantino story. It basically all takes place in one room as these four people go through all kinds of wacky and hellish experiences together. This was my favorite of the three films. Finally we have "Box". The most boring, most confusing, and probably my least favorite of the three shorts. Here we have the story of a girl who, in her youth (when she was about eight, I guess), was a contortionist alongside her twin sister. They worked for a magician who was a good twenty years older than them. Their act climaxed with the two of them squeezing themselves into a pair of tiny little boxes that no human should be able to fit into. When her sister begins sleeping with the dirty old man she becomes jealous and locks her in her box while she's practicing. Then the building accidentally catches on fire and her sister is trapped inside the box and dies. Now, several years later, she's haunted by her sister in the style of The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, and all those other Japanese-inspired horror flicks with creepy little girls in them.
Nothing - This is the most truly original movie I've seen in years. I picked it up because it's from the same director that made Cube, Vincenzo Natali. Basically what we've got are two friends who live together in a shitty house, have shitty lives and shitty luck. All at once they're being arrested, sued, and made homeless, when suddenly everything disappears. Yes, literally. About twenty minutes into the movie the world disappears and the rest of the film takes place in a white void. No sky, no ground, just white. What the characters come to realize is that they somehow have the ability to "hate things away". Basically, anything they don't like, they can make disappear. However, they can't make things reappear, so once they're gone, they can't come back. Just imagine what can happen in this situation when they start arguing. The special effects aren't always the best and it gets a little ridiculous at times, but overall I found it quite entertaining. If nothing else, it's definitely original.