James Bond Review: #16: Quantum of Solace

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     The experiment was interesting, but ultimately a failing one. One of the only Bond films that is a true continuation from the previous installment, the filmmakers felt that this film should be light on story, character, and a huge emphasis on action since all that good shit was in the last picture. What the filmmakers forgot was, even if it is a continuation, you have to make a complete, satisfying movie.
     Picking up literally where Casino Royale left off, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is out for vengeance against the organization QUANTUM for the death of Vesper (Eva Green). But not is all what it appears, as Bond starts to uncover a global conspiracy to drain water from Bolivia, because reasons. So now, 007 is on the run without any support from M (Judi Dench) or even Felix Lieter (Jeffery Wright), he goes deeper into the lion’s den in order to find solace.
     My initial reaction to the movie was, what was this trying to be? Casino Royale ushered in this new era of Bond films, where the emphasis was on characterization over action, and the action was on a more grounded level. The opposite of that is true here. Continuation or not, the film has to feel complete on some level, and even the villain has an underwhelming feeling to him. The filmmakers seemed more concerned with providing a real world conflict, than an actual story.
     Daniel Craig does a decent job as Bond in this outing, but an actor can only be as good as its story, and here it doesn’t really exist. This is probably the only Bond film that feels episodic within the confines of its installment; the characters weave in and out of the story to make the plot move forward and nothing more. M just randomly appears at intervals, scolds Bond, he runs away, and M just lets him go about his business. That’s a lot of faith to put into a new double-0. Felix is a fucking waste here. If you grew up during the Brosnan era, then you don’t really know that Felix is one of his best friends and trusted allies, and instead of developing that, we just get random scenes of him talking to CIA cohorts. A lot of missed opportunities here.
     Sometimes I feel like I’m too hard on the film, it did follow one of the most critically acclaimed installments in the franchise’s history. I still look at it in the way that they should have gone the road less traveled, that 007 comes first in the story, and we responded so strongly to Craig’s Bond because he felt like a real person instead of a caricature. I was worried that they were already repeating the sins of the past, instead of forging ahead into the future.
    

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James Bond Reviews: #17: Die Another Day

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     Die Another Day is an odd duck in the pantheon of Bond films. Half of the movie is up there with the best, the other half is an unadulterated train wreck. It is a fascinating watch in that it came out the same year as The Bourne Identity and a year after 9/11, so the societal landscape completely changed at that point. Fans in general, myself included, wanted something a little more real, a little more grounded.
     James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) has been captured by the North Koreans, and subjected to about a year and a half of torture. After being exchanged for another prisoner, Bond sets out to redeem himself with the help of American agent Jinx (Halle Berry) where they must stop Gustav Graves (Toby Stevens) from harnessing the power of the sun to melt ice and destroy shit.
     Let me go into the shit that fails miserably. The fucking sun, really? The climax at a fucking ice castle was just plain silly. I don’t give a fuck if they actually exist, it has no business being in a Bond movie. That’s nothing really compared to the invisible car. You would think we’d be past the point of Roger Moore ridiculousness, but no, we get Bond para sailing a fucking tsunami wave. If you’re going to do something that outlandish, make that shit look convincing, you have money! Toby Stevens, a fine actor he may be, is a grating Bond villian. I wanted to punch that guy in the face so badly, with a shrill monotone voice.
     But that opening though! It’s so good. After 20 films, and 40 years worth of Bond films, we finally see 007 get captured. What’s even fucking nuts is that the title song and title sequence actually advance the plot. That’s some bold shit to do. I am a bit bummed out that this was Brosnan’s last film as 007, because he deserved better, even though he was always on top of his game. He is, hands down, the best thing in the movie. He always managed to have a lighthearted spark to his performance while being cold blooded. The ridiculous elements in the movie keep holding back the good elements, which is why Brosnan deserved better for a final outing.

James Bond Reviews: #18: A View to a Kill

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     Here we’ve come to one of the most hated Bond films in the whole canon. It’s not without good reason, looking at it though over the years, it started to grow on me. Yes, I resisted it, how can you admit that you don’t hate a Bond flick that is constantly at the bottom of most lists? Yes, the story is fucking preposterous, and Roger Moore has no business playing Bond at 57, especially when the ravages of time beat the fuck out of your face. There’s more to it than that.
     The story is pretty much a remake of Goldfinger, evil industrial millionaire Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) wants to flood Silicon Valley to corner the microchip market. I’m not making this shit up! And the movie starts strange too, involving some roided up horses or some such shit. Oh, and he wants to fuck with the San Andreas fault to flood Silicon Valley. Actually, this sounds hilarious.
     By all accounts, this isn’t what most people would call a good Bond film, more of a unintentionally hilarious Bond film. Yeah, Moore looks more like M than 007, and Tanya Roberts as Stacy Sutton is fucking shrill. She also looks like his granddaughter. It’s creepy, but funny as fuck too. To those who don’t know the film, Grace Jones is in the movie. Yep, androgenic 80s icon, Grace Jones. She’s more like Oddjob, than an actual character.
      This movie has Christopher Walken as the villain. That alone is reason to watch it. He Walkens it up so good. Only he can walk that fine line between charming and crazy. But in an actual good thing about the movie, is the score. It’s really fucking good and thrilling. I do wish that they would have reused some themes in the subsequent films, but when you get a horrible reputation they tend to want to ignore it. It is shame, because while the picture does have a lot of flaws, it’s not boring. Boring kills any film, especially an action movie. Trust me, there are worst films, this is the best worst Bond flick.

Jurassic World Review (at long last)

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     Underwhelming is the key word in describing Jurassic World. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, just meh. Maybe I made the mistake of seeing it well after all the box office records were broken, and I thought this was going to be a grand scale epic. Whatever the reason may be in my mind, as the credits rolled I just thought, “That’s it? Oh, alright then.”
     It’s been 22 years since the Jurassic Park disaster, (the previous two films aren’t mentioned, but they’re not retconed either) and Jurassic World has been opened for about ten years now, being run by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and overseen by Masrani (Irrfan Kahn), the park has been a huge success. As they’ve run of dinosaurs to clone, they decide to genetically cross breed them so that more people can come and make a shit ton of money. Once they realize that you really shouldn’t play God, and create unholy hybrids, they bring in Owen (Chris Pratt) who is in succinct terms The Dino Whisperer, to stop the Indominus Rex.
     I mentioned earlier how I found the whole thing underwhelming, I thought a long while as to why and came to this conclusion: it’s exactly the same as Jurassic Park in terms of action beats. I recognized that this time the park is open to the public, but it’s pretty much the same movie. Claire is the stand in for John Hammond, Owen is a cross between Grant and Malcolm, and the kids are the kids. You need kids in danger in these movies. Vincent D’Onofrio even plays the obligatory evil corporate/military guy that pops up in the majority of the franchise. And even after ten years of operation, they’re still having moral discussion about what the fuck they’re actually doing? Actually, that’s pretty funny.
     As I always tend to be honest with what I feel, this is the best installment hands down in the series. Of all the sequels, I’d watch this one over and over again. Yes, I laughed a lot. I mean, more than I probably should have. While Pratt gave a serviceable performance, there were plenty of times if I was supposed to laugh at some of the lines he said. He delivered them so seriously, yet they were written so poorly that it lead to my confusion, until I finally just went with it. At the end when he holds a glance with a raptor this went through my head, “He’s totally going to fuck that raptor. Now that, would be an ending.” How can I fully hate, or not recommend a movie that caused me to have that thought. The filmmakers knew what they were doing.
     One thing I do need to comment on, something that made the filmmakers did to earn my respect, is that Jurassic World is a commentary on how Hollywood pushes franchises onto audiences, and then add shit to them so they seem fresh, and people keep coming back. Claire herself states that attendance goes up when they open up a new attraction, just like the grosses for Jurassic World fucking shot up with the promise of a new monster, or a Marvel movie adds heroes to their films to make audience come back for more. Granted, I’m probably the only who saw into that, but hey it made me enjoy it more. The irony was too fucking hilarious for me to ignore.
     In the grand scheme of things, Jurassic World sets out to do exactly what it strives to accomplish: chaotic entertainment. I found it fun, maybe not in the way that was intended, but still it was fun. If you’re expecting the end all, be all of Jurassic Park movies, well keep fucking waiting for that shit because this isn’t that. As a summer entertainment, I’ve seen worse, much, much worse. I’d say have fun, I sure as fuck did, even if it was generic in its plot beats.

James Bond Reviews: #19: The Man With The Golden Gun

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     Ranking a franchise is pretty hard work. They’ll always be those installments that you really don’t think about, the ones that make you go, “Oh, yeah…” In this case, it was choosing which film going above the other. What made me pick The Man With The Golden Gun, a film that generally is (rightfully) claimed to be one of the worst Bond films ever, over another that is considered “meh” at best? I have three words for you: Sir Christopher Lee.
     The story picks up with 007 (Roger Moore) getting an interesting package at MI6: A golden bullet with 007 engraved on it. Yes, he has become the target of the infamous assassin, Francisco Scaramanga, the man with the golden gun. This guy is so good, he only needs one bullet to kill you (the GoldenEye game is starting to make a whole lot of sense, doesn’t it?), that’s how skillful the guy is. Bond heads out to Beirut to find the Solex to give people solar energy.
     The problems run rampant in this flick, and Moore as Bond is the least of its troubles. The humor on display is ramped up to such an extent, that it becomes cringe worthy. As much as I love seeing Bond push a kid off a boat, it just felt a little out of place. They even brought back the redneck sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) from Live and Let Die and we know how that worked out. Jesus, then there’s Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), an utterly annoying, forgettable character. It makes me even more upset because she’s a regular character in the original Fleming novels, who has a relationship similar to Moneypenny. Thanks to this movie, the character never came back. And don’t get me fucking started on Nick Nack. Please, don’t make me.
     Yeah, this all sounds so immensely putrid, but when you see Christopher Lee on screen, that guy commands the shit out of it. I could have seen an entire movie of him hanging out with Bond on his island shooting the shit (and each other). The pistols duel is a very tense Bond moment, and the final action piece is crafted well. It’s bitter for me to write this since Lee had recently passed away, and it always felt to me that the man never got his due for this film. Yeah that’s a whole lot of suckage to be had, but then you get a great reward.