Month: November 2012

November 30, 2012

Double-ovember, Dr. No

Dr. No: Historic
110min/Action/1962

First Bond Appearance


Villain: Dr. Julius No

Bond Girl(s): Honey Ryder
Sylvia Trench
Miss Taro

So here it is, the film that started a strong 50 year film franchise. Without this film who knows where the state of movies would be these days. This film is historic and its a damn good film.

Why is this film historic? Well the film had every odd against it and its amazing it even got made. Even if you might not like it, you would have to admit it is historic.

Dr. No is a fantastic film, might not be my number one but it is up there.  The story is good, again not the greatest nor the weakest. The films villain is Dr. Julius No (Is that a badass name or what?) His look and accent for me hit every note one could hope for. He sets the bar very high right out of the gate. To make a film is difficult on so many levels to begin with, but to make a film a classic is something wonderful. Production is second to none (Thanks Ken Adam). Music is great and Terence Young creates a wonderful formula.

There are a hand full of classic scenes, one of course is Honey Ryder’s out of the water shot. You know it if you have seen the film or not, that’s how classic it is. It really boggles my mind how they came up with so many classic introduction scenes in this film. From the first introduction of  these characters to the viewer is simply amazing. But the best is Bond’s. The way this is shot is perfect. Here we have one of the most historic characters of all time and they shoot it 100% perfect. First you hear of “some guy” named James Bond and you don’t see him. We are at a casino and all you see first of him is his hands. Then his back. Then his hands again, this time tossing the cards as he kicks ass at the table. He asks the lady’s name then she asks his name. Now you see his face for the first time as he says,

“Bond, James Bond”

Cue the music as he lights up a cigarette…

and so it begins!
   

November 28, 2012

Double-ovember: Casino Royale (Matt’s Take)

Casino Royale – Classy

If it wasn’t for my co-reviewer, DJ Valentine, I might not have posted another Bond review for the rest of the month.  As I briefly touched on in my “Skyfall” review, I’m not the biggest James Bond fan.  Not saying he hasn’t gotten into some great adventures in exotic locales, with sexy Bond Girls, but the spy-espionage-adventure genre isn’t one of my favorites.  But when you get the perfect storm of directing, writing, and acting, that’s something that I can appreciate and enjoy, and calling “Casino Royale” classy would be an understatement.

First, all the people calling for Daniel Craig to call it quits when it comes to Bond; quiet, please.  Unless you just woke up yesterday Craig had shown his acting chops before playing the newly-promoted 00 Agent. Please check out “Layer Cake” and you will see what I mean.  He had charm, charisma, and was still a dick to women, all common traits of our favorite secret agent.

Second, Martin Campbell knows how to shoot action scenes.  “Goldeneye” is my favorite Bond film from the modern era.* It had great action in which you can easily suspend disbelief, a very likable Bond, and interesting villains.  Plus, the movie moves swiftly and exposition didn’t weigh it down too heavily.

Last, and most importantly, the writing.  Cheesy writing will put anyone in a tift, but if it’s done correctly with the right actors doing the talking, it can be easily forgivable.  Paul Haggis, from “Crash” fame, does wonderfully as the third wheel of the screenplay which includes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (the screenwriting duo from “Goldeneye” to “Skyfall”).  You can tell who wrote the best dialogue in this film.

All this praise and I’ve forgotten to say anything about “Casino Royale.”  Don’t get this Bond re-boot confused with the 1960s “Casino Royale” there is nothing really in common outside of the name and the fact that there are about five different James Bonds, oh, and Orson Welles, but I digress.  The film follows a younger, sprier, more naive Bond, who is out to stop a network of terrorists and their mysterious accountant, Le Chiffre, played by Mads Mikkelsen (in my opinion he should have used his real name in the film, it sounds a lot more bad ass then Le Chiffre).  Unlike “Skyfall,” “Casino Royale” gives me what I want in an action movie.  Sure, there are some scenes in the movie that are over the top, but I never really thought anything was too out of bounds, even the incredible free-running opening action set piece that takes place in Madagascar didn’t make me suspend too much disbelief.  There are your typical double-crosses, moments of danger for Bond and his fellow Bond Girl Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green, and globe-trotting from Miami, Montenegro, and everywhere in-between.  The supporting cast is strong with Judi Dench and Giancarlo Giannini leading the way, but I would liked to have seen a little more Jeffrey Wright, even though he does take a larger role in “Quantum of Solace,” the continuation to “Royale.”

The stripped down style of this new Bond is welcome respite from the over-the-top Pierce Brosnan films (namely “The World is Not Enough” and “Die Another Day”) and there are rarely any moments that I would take away from “Casino Royale.” It brings the class back to the 007 Universe where its short on the one-liners and long on the witty dialogue.  You could argue that this Bond hasn’t developed his signature one-liners yet, and I can’t say I really missed them (I am partial to “No more foreplay” however).

Bottom line, I think the reason I like “Royale” so much is the fact that it doesn’t feel like a Bond film, just a great action movie with stunning set pieces in a world where Batman might reside.  It’s dark, gritty, brooding, and did I mention classy as hell.  There was no need to make it artsy and harken back to the Bond days of yore.  Sure you get the Aston Martin, but no fetishizing a car and playing a sprawling soundtrack as it leaves a garage…..cough….cough….Skyfall.  Stick to the basics; hot women, action that doesn’t make me roll my eyes (too much) and a good story with some dialogue I can sink my teeth into.  You get all this and more with “Casino Royale.”

Fun Fact:  Mikkelsen, who will be playing a young Dr. Hannibal Lecter for NBC in 2013, had Giannini in his pocket in “Royale.”  Oddly enough, Giannini was one of Lecter’s victims in 2001’s “Hannibal.”

*I count the Modern Bond era from 1995-Current.    

November 28, 2012

Double-ovember: License To Kill

LACKLUSTER

What is it about James Bond films that set them apart from other action/adventure films?  That question could be debated for years.  Personally, I think they transcend the norm by adding an air of mythos & magic.  Creating a universe where a governmental operative can exist alongside a metal toothed giant, a homicidal imp and a woman named Pussy.  There are bigger stakes to deal with usually, or at least bigger antagonists.  License To Kill forgets that formula and subjects us to a 007 film that just feels false. 
In License To Kill, James Bond goes rogue due to his quest for vengeance.  And though this is a similar set up to films like Quantum Of Solace and…(GROAN)…Die Another Day, Craig was at least battling a mysterious organization while Brosnan was tracking a Diamond Faced baddy bent on global destruction.  Dalton is fighting a drug dealer named Franz Sanchez.  That’s it.  A LACKLUSTER adversary for the world’s greatest secret agent to put it lightly.  Even Kananga in Live And Let Die was more interesting than Sanchez.  With as many megalomaniac, eccentric, psychopaths Bond has defeated before, a drug dealer who harmed his friend seems like a lame reason to quit MI6.  And seeing that the friend is fellow government agent Felix Leiter, I don’t see how things could logically escalate to that.  The CIA and MI6 could eradicate this poor Scarface rip-off from the face of the planet in less than two seconds.  Now, I don’t want to reenact my Brave review and rewrite the entire story.  But, if they had a more scary, untouchable threat and had Bond and Leiter teaming up to get him while both on the run from their respective governments, that would be a film I’d want to see.  We don’t really get that here.  Leiter has been a walking talking missed opportunity of a character for the entire franchise’s run.  You finally set him up with some semblance of a story, but then sideline him for a majority of the film.  Even head henchman Dario’s most interesting quality is that he’s played by Benicio Del Toro.  He sits out a majority of the film as well.  These aren’t big stakes or big antagonists.

The only character that positively stands out is Pam Bouvier, played by Carey Lowell.  She is strong willed, able to handle herself, and serves a purpose to the story.  She has very good chemistry with Dalton, and even though her character’s affinity for Bond feels rushed, the payoff for their romance isn’t.  I can’t say any of those things for her Bond girl co-star Talisa Soto.  Lupa Lamora is easily my least favorite Bond girl of all time.  She is just a put upon, abused, weakling of a character.  Does Bond try and rescue her from Sanchez’s clutches?  No, not really.  Does Bond try and rescue at all?  No, not really.  So, why does she love Bond?  Um…because.  Does she have a defining moment in the film?  Lying to cover Bond’s ass.  Well, does she ever stand up to Sanchez and get revenge for his earlier beatings of her?  If you don’t count the lying then…um..HEY, LOOK OVER THERE!

License To Kill is one of the most LACKLUSTER Bond films ever made.  It is a shame that this would be Dalton’s final Bond.  To go out on this note sullies all the great work he put in with the character.  Sing along with Gladysor even Patti…and if you watch it…and disagree…please tell me where the hell I’m wrong.

November 24, 2012

Double-ovember: Casino Royale (DJ’s Take)

REAL

Lets face it.  Die Another Day sucked.  I haven’t reviewed it yet, but in case I don’t get a chance to, let me save you the suspense.  Die Another Day sucked.  James Bond deserved better than that.  At the time, 007 was hit by a perfect storm.  Pierce Brosnan was getting too old for the role, producers thought Bond should compete with and emulate the extreme sports sci-fi spy film xXx, while they underestimated the the rise of Jason Bourne.  It didn’t take them long to rectify those mistakes.  Eon Productions decided to not only recast Bond, but reboot the series with a more gritty and REALISTIC feel.  Bond’s beginnings is Casino Royale.  And it is f*#king awesome.  Wait, that isn’t a very professional review of it.  So, let me just say that Casino Royale reinvents the James Bond formula and world with an amazing flourish that extends the franchise’s cinematic life for decades to come.  But honestly, it is f*#king awesome.

So, who do you recast Bond with?  You have to give it to the producers of the franchise.  They are not afraid to shake things up a bit.  Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan are as similar to each other as members of The Muppets.  But no other Bond in history has been criticized and scrutinized more than Daniel Craig.  Even to this day.  People lost their minds over his hair, his thin acting resume, and his rugged looks.  So much so, there were online petitions to have him removed.  In retrospect, these critics of Craig were not understanding the central point of Casino Royale.  Casino Royale is essentially the origin story of James Bond.  He isn’t suave yet.  He isn’t debonair.  He isn’t the man who always has a plan.  He is just a cold-blooded killing machine.  If I can’t capture my target, I’ll kill him instead.  I might beat you in a fight, but not without receiving my fair share of damage.  I’d rather just skip the secret identity crap and get right to the bad guy confrontation.  Craig fits that role to a tee, in my opinion.  Craig is what a REAL secret agent would probably look like.  Not some pretty boy underwear model who uses as much skin moisturizer as he does bullets.  A man who has been in a few scrapes and survived.  A man who has just qualified to be a double-0, but not a seasoned one.  Oh, and despite his, then, thin resume, Daniel Craig had acting chops that were on par with or better than any other Bond before him.  He has plenty of range, and shows it off in this film.

Director Martin Campbell knocked GoldenEye out of the park.  But the odds were in his favor.  Craig casting controversy made this film an underdog from the start.  On top of that, Casino Royale did not have as many action beats as his previous outing.  So, it would have been easy for the film to feel flat and tedious.  However, Campbell makes Royale anything but.  A scene where six guys are sitting around a table feels as compelling as a car chase or a shootout.  He directs the Paul Haggis script with perfection and gives the movie the ‘Almost Bond’ feel it needs.  I just love how we start to get hints of a typical Bond feel in scenes, but are suddenly pulled back because we aren’t there yet.  You see, James isn’t James until the last five minutes.  Campbell, Craig, Haggis and even composer David Arnold all knew that.  Critics didn’t grasp it until now.

In every Bond review I’ve done so far, I have talked about the validity of the Bond girls in each film.   I’ve differentiated them by how weak they are as characters.  How much of a pawn they are for the villain or Bond or both.  I’ve said that the stronger the Bond girl, the brighter 007 shines.  And, for me, there is no stronger Bond girl in the entire series than Vesper Lynd.  She is my ultimate Bond girl, hands down.  She is beautiful, she is smart, she is witty, and most importantly, she is the one Bond girl 007 can’t read, can’t play, can’t impress.  At every point where you think Bond has figured her out, Vesper throws him for a loop.  And SPOILER ALERT…this is probably the only instance where the Bond girl makes Bond a pawn in the plot of the story.  She is not the typical, “I just met you five minutes ago, but I love you James” weakling most Bond girls are.  James and Vesper’s relationship feels REAL.  It feels earned.  Eva Green is amazing in this film.  Her chemistry with Craig is perfect and the range of emotions she displays throughout this film always floors me.  You can actually see her fall in love with James and instantly regret it.

If there is a weakness Casino Royale has, it is the villain.  Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre isn’t bad by any means.  The plot just doesn’t allow for a satisfying final confrontation between Bond and Le Chiffre.  Casino Royale is thinking bigger than that.  It is setting up a more dangerous organization along the lines of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. during Connery’s run.  And because the reveal of this mysterious organization has not been immediate, Royale’s set up for it feels unfulfilled.  Again, this is a small weakness seeing as the main focus of Casino Royale is Bond.  Everything else falls to the wayside.

Casino Royale is not just a successful reboot of a franchise.  It is a well made, well acted, Bond film that set the bar high for every Bond film to come.  I’m especially thankful to it because it completely washed the taste of Die Another Day out of my mouth.  Seriously, that movie sucks.  Sing along with Chris Cornellstop touching your ear…go all in…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

November 24, 2012

Double-ovember: GoldenEye

QUALITY
GoldenEye is the third gold titled Bond film I’ve reviewed as well as my third recast Bond debut film.  And of those three, it is easily my favorite.  It hits on all the Bond tropes I look for.  Great action, great villains, great wit, and great style.  Most remember Bond 17 because of the epically popular Nintendo 64 game.  Hell, I was practically raised on it.  However, GoldenEye should be heralded as possibly the most well received relaunch of the franchise ever.  And that includes Casino Royale.
In hindsight, Casino Royale is way more successful than GoldenEye.  However, Craig’s casting as Bond was not lauded as a good choice at all.  Even after starring in three films, all being the three highest grossing Bond films in history, Craig is still criticized.  Pierce Brosnan was not.  Bond fans, along with the producers wanted Brosnan years before.  However, he was unable to put on the tux due to his commitments to the television series Remington Steele.  When Brosnan was finally free to play Bond, the anticipation was at a fever pitch. 
I’ve stated before that I have a soft spot for Roger Moore, seeing as he was the first actor I saw play James Bond.  After GoldenEye, however, Brosnan became my favorite Bond of all time.  Not the best Bond.  (Connery.  I know!  Sheesh!)  Just my personal favorite.  I measure my Bonds on two and only two things.  Tactical believability and social charm.  Some Bonds are better at the action like Dalton, Lazenby and Craig.  And some are better with the charm like Connery and Moore.  Brosnan, in my opinion, displays the best balance of those two traits.  He nails every single action beat he does and can charms the pants off of anyone.  You see Brosnan straighten his tie casually while driving a tank through Russian streets and say, “That’s James Bond.”  He’s someone who you would love to have a drink with, but someone who you would never want to fight.  Daniel Craig (My second favorite Bond) is what I imagine 007 to be like if he existed in my world, but Brosnan possess more of the mystique and romantic super spy aura, while still feeling believable. 
GoldenEye’s QUALITY carries on from the revamped Bond to his fearsome foes.  An S & M henchwoman that receives orgasmic pleasure watching people suffer, and an (17 YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT!!!) evil former double-0 with a grudge.  They are great Bond villains.  Not in the sense that they have metal teeth or golden guns.  They are great because they are a great challenge for James Bond.  Logic suggests that MI6 ranks their double-0s in descending order by skill.  That said, Alec Trevelyan, 006, is supposed to be a better Bond than Bond.  Better at combat.  Better with the ladies.  Better all around.  To pull that off, they had to get an actor who could believably outclass James Bond.  I personally think they did that with the casting of Sean Bean.  Bean has been stealing scenes for years.  From Lord Of The Rings to Game Of Thrones.  You can’t help but like his characters, no matter their faults.  Trevelyan is no different.  Many Bond villains tend to be less cool than Bond.  Trevelyan more than holds his own with Bond stylistically and even physically.  When he says the line, “I was always better James” you believe it.  Xena Onatopp is a much sexier version of View To A Kill’s May Day.  You can tell Famke Janssen is enjoying the hell out of the character.  Her chemistry with Bond is great.  Especially in the baccarat scene, that pays tribute to Dr. No.  Alan Cumming also injects some really fun stuff with the hacker Boris. 
Natalya Simonova is less of a Bond girl pawn and more of a victim of circumstance.  It can be argued that she is a forgettable character compared to her predecessors and successors.  However, she does bring something more to the table than, say, Honey Ryder in Dr. No.  Though her chemistry with Brosnan isn’t very palpable, Natalya’s story is interwoven with Boris.  Their rivalry at least gives her a satisfying arc.  This is also Judi Dench’s first go as M.  What can I say about the famous Dame that I haven’t already said in my Skyfall review?  She is outstanding.  Right off the bat, she puts Bond in his place faster than any other M I have ever seen.  Proving she has what it takes to control MI6 and him. 
GoldenEye is a QUALITY classic in the Bond series.  It is easily Brosnan’s best outing in the role.  Director Martin Campbell did such a great job with it, EON Productions picked him to relaunch Bond again with Casino Royale.  Which begs the question…WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO HIM WITH GREEN LANTERN?!?  Sing along with Tina…play the old 64 game…but not against me.  I’ll kick your ass…Watch it…keep your eyes open for a strange Minnie Driver cameo….then tell me I’m wrong.  

November 17, 2012

Double-ovember: Goldfinger

ICONIC

If you looked in the spy movie encyclopedia and searched for James Bond, the first film it would reference would be Goldfinger.  It is an ICONIC example of the world Ian Fleming created all those years ago on the beaches of Jamaica.  It is the starting point for all the other spy movies in this encyclopedia I just made up.  It stars the most ICONIC Bond in Sean Connery.  It has one of the most ICONIC villains in Goldfinger.  It has one of the most ICONIC henchmen in Odd Job.  It has the most ICONIC Bond girl in Pussy Galore.  The car, the kills, the gadgets, the catchphrases, the song…all ICONIC.  There have been many great Bond films since, but in my eyes, none have surpassed the notability of Goldfinger.
I have stressed before my belief that the best kinds of Bond girls are not just beautiful.  They are not just a pawn for which Bond can casually move around for his own benefit.  They are women who can hold their own with Bond physically or mentally or both.  The larger the challenge they give James, the brighter he shines.  Bond girls in the beginning were victims of the time.  Female empowerment was rarely seen in cinema in the 60s.  Goldfinger, however, manages to have two girls that bucked that trend.  Jill Masterson, who has probably the most ICONIC fate in Bond history, does fall into the pawn category.  However, her vengeful sister Tilly does not.  She makes it her life’s mission to find and kill the man responsible for her sister’s demise.  Even if that means shooting through 007 to do it.  She still  pales in comparison to Pussy Galore.  Pussy is beautiful, a pilot, proficient with firearms, and a judo master.  The first time Bond meets her, she pushes him around at gunpoint.  The next time they meet, Pussy knocks Bond on his ass and recaptures him.  The next time, they both have a Judo showdown in a barn.  Pussy Galore is the opposite of a pushover.  Even her relationship with Goldfinger seems more like one of competitive equals than employee/employer.  Pussy Galore was the benchmark Bond girl for me until Vesper Lynd came along.  But that is a conversation for another day.
Goldfinger and Odd Job shouldn’t work as villains on paper.  A British born, Dutch sounding, gold obsessed, spoiled sport teamed with an Asian chauffeur who likes playing ring toss on people’s heads with a lethal, metal brimmed bowler.  However, they are two of the Bond franchise’s most referenced villains.  You’ve never seen a Bond retrospective without seeing THIS…or THIS.  But other than ICONOGRAPHY, how do they stack up as villains?  Goldfinger’s plan is surprisingly sound, even for today’s standard.  Hell, a version of it was used in Die Hard With A Vengeance.  He should also get props for making Sean Connery’s Bond appear actually desperate.  That laser scene always reminds me of this amazing scene in Mission Impossible 3.  Goldfinger’s obsession with gold falls short only to his obsession with winning.  If Francis from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure grew up to be a Bond villain he’d be Auric Goldfinger.  
A henchman’s scariness and effectiveness usually depends on their commitment to their boss’s cause.  Suffice to say, Odd Job is committed.  So much so, when the authorities begin to close in to stop a bomb he’s transporting, Odd Job locks himself inside a vault with the bomb and kills a nearby henchman to make sure he won’t diffuse it.  He’s more than a match for Bond physically and uses a weapon so implausible that it would make Q scoff.  That is a great henchman.
Goldfinger is literally James Bond 101.  If you ever need a refresher course on what exactly a Bond film should feel like, I advise you to …sing along with Dame Shirley Bassey…buy back all your gold from this guy…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong. 

November 13, 2012

Double-ovember: Skyfall (DJ’s Take)

STIRRING
See what I did there?  But no, my above one word review of Skyfall is not a joke.  Well, maybe a little bit.  Bond 23 is easily the most dramatic Bond film of the franchise.  It finishes an origin trilogy of Bond, M, MI6, Q branch and many other elements of Ian Fleming’s universe.  Yes, a nutshell synopsis of Skyfall has fairly been labeled, “What If Bond, Not Batman, Had To Stop The Joker?”  I personally think that concept is an interesting one.  The events of The Dark Knight and Skyfall are similar.  However, the two heroes in it are not.  Bruce Wayne is not James Bond.  Bruce is a bit of a softer character than Bond.  That doesn’t make Bruce weak by any means.  That just shows you how hardened Bond actually is.  Where Bruce’s childhood trauma made him somewhat bipolar, Bond’s made him somewhat sociopathic.  He is way closer to the line than Bruce.  So much so, that his constant defiance is the only thing that keeps him from crossing it.  That dynamic is what differentiates the two films. 
It is a pleasure to see such an accomplished director like Sam Mendes and a living legend cinematographer like Roger Deakins take on James Bond.  This is a franchise that thrives on creativity and style.  Something that is totally brought to the table here.  Both men show off how excellent action scenes and films can be when they are put in capable hands.  Deakins displays such a mastery of composition, color, and shadows, you’ll want to gorge yourself on each well painted frame.  That is a little too technical for a film review, so let me just say your eyes experience is all the better for having this duo at the helm. 
I sort of guessed beforehand as to the ultimate role of Naomie Harris in Skyfall.  However, she still makes her part feel surprising and memorable.  Her chemistry with Craig is great and provides some of the lighter moments of the film.  The other buxom Bond girl, Sévérine, does not make that great an impact unfortunately.  Her story, though interesting, is rushed.  This was assuredly done to make room for the biggest Bond girl narrative of Skyfall.  That is the M, played by Dame Judi Dench.  I may just be showing my bias toward the franchise here, but I wish people could recognize the absolutely perfect performances Dench has been delivering as M since Goldeneye for crying out loud.  This is the heaviest lifting she’s had since her arrival and she does not disappoint.  I would bet green money there was a hesitation at first to focus a large part of the film around M.  A hesitation quickly followed by the chuckling realization that M wasn’t being played by some minor character actor, but Dame Judi f*#king Dench!  Casting  a women as M was unheard of back when Goldeneye came out.  Now her presence is as comforting as a warm blanket.  
This brings me to the Joker of this picture, Raoul Silva.  Javier Bardem needs to do another comedy immediately.  If he continues to convincingly play these raving psychotics, he’ll be typecast forever.  Silva is easily the best villain Craig’s Bond has faced and possibly one of the creepiest Bond has ever faced.  His path, his plan, his will is frighteningly focused.  Bardem’s choice to make Silva always appear friendly on the outside while hinting at the extensive damage underneath is terrific.  Unpredictability is the ultimate foil for any hero.  
Some critics have also been wary of the new Q, played by Ben Whishaw.  Mainly, because he is younger than Bond.  However, I think it represents the new generational dichotomy of modern technology.  In the 60s and 70s technology was stereotypically run by the old and lost on the young.  Nowadays it is the complete opposite.  Don’t believe me?  Ask your parents to input their name and number into your smart phone.  As long as Bond has zero respect for the effort Q puts into his work, the age swap doesn’t matter.  And besides, Whishaw is great in the role.  His lecturing of Bond feels just as natural as when Desmond Llewelyn did it. 
Skyfall will critically be a victim of its own hype.  It will be harshly judged because of its 300 commercials a day, its 10 beer related contests, and bold claim to be the best Bond ever.  Resentment towards hype should not influence what you see in Skyfall.  It is action packed, surprisingly moving, franchise faithful, and most of all, fun.  Renew your license to kill…sing along with Adele the song that is a lock for a Best Original Song Oscar nod…take the bloody shot….watch it….then tell me I’m wrong.   

November 13, 2012

Double-ovember, Skyfall (Justin’s Take)

Skyfall: Beautiful
(143mins, 2012, Action)

Beautiful both visually and story.

Lets just get this out and say, Skyfall is the most beautiful looking film I’ve seen this year and I might even say within a few years. Roger Deakins has made a stunning looking film that wowed me at the theater. Thanks Roger you made the best looking Bond film in years.

Skyfall might not be the best Bond film ever like a lot of people are saying, I believe From Russia With Love holds that title, but Skyfall is in the top 10.

Why? Because it is a different side of Bond. To make films that span 50 years and each one touches a fan in its own way is a remarkable thing. You might remember the first Bond film you saw. You might have a favorite film and maybe you have a film that touches your life. Each Bond film has one of these toward a person who views a Bond film. But when you do the formula like what Bond has used so many times it will at one point get a bit tougher for new ideas. We can all pick a point where Bond films got weak but believe it or not there isn’t a bad Bond film. They’re all good in their own way.

Skyfall takes a completely different approach to the formula and I stand up and applaud it. Yet, it never goes off the formula that we all have come to love.

Spoilers

The star of Skyfall is M. I didn’t mind M being the star. I enjoyed it, but we also got Bond’s backstory. I always wanted to touch on Bonds family in a film, but I felt it was slightly wasted for Skyfall. But then again it was nice to see that finally. Daniel Craig gives his best performance as Bond. Q works well and I can see an awesome future with him. M shines and it was great to see that. Silva is Craig’s best Bond villain. That might of been the one weakest part of Craig’s Bond films. Sure CR and QOS had okay villains but we really got a great, classic Bond villain for Craig this time. We also have a new composer which was refreshing. Sam Mendes did a great job and I hope he comes back for another one. And I look forward to having Ralph Fiennes in the future Bond films. Always loved the guys acting.

I liked Skyfall’s Bond girls but for Sévérine I thought she was underused. I would of like to have seen more of her instead of making her a throwaway. Eve was good and I’m curious to see her evolve in the next few films.

When I reviewed The Dark Knight Rises I said this was made for Batman fans, well Skyfall was made for Bond fans. There are a ton of Bond references in this film that came off really badass.

A older couple was sitting to the right of me and they just kept telling me how they have seen all the Bond films at the theater since the start. They said Skyfall remind them of that early time period and they liked that about it.

Speaking of the ending as a fan, this is the ending we needed. We are now back to the classic formula. Moneypenny, a new M and Q is finally back. That scene at the end in the office gave me chills because we haven’t had that in such a long time. Even the set design with the dark wood and coat hanger just got me excited. I even kept hoping that Bond would throw a hat onto that hanger.

It felt so awesome.

Skyfall is a wonderful film. It’s fantastic film with a few issues, but hey almost all films have some nitpicks.

I didn’t like how the story of the film was about the lost drive and Bond was trying to track it down. Then half way into the film after making so much fuss about it not a word comes up on it again and it becomes protecting M. I understand why, but I just would of like a better transfer of the two parts.

I felt the komodo dragon scene was okay on till the eating. I know they went for that classic Bond death but it came off a bit odd.

And the last thing was all about Bond being old…Might be my most hated thing about this great film. Two films before it, it was the rage that he was all young and new. Now he just too damn old. And I like the old storyline but maybe in a few years when Craig is ready to say goodbye. Not now. Sorry I felt that was out of place and it got to me.

The Skyfall scene was fantastic. It felt so different but yet so Bond-ish. And I just can’t get over the beautiful look of this film. Really beautiful lighting and composition. The song by Adele was great, felt like the great classic Bond themes we all love!

All in all I thought it was a great film. It looks amazing in IMAX even taught it didn’t use IMAX cameras and even the Sony 4k viewing I saw in the small theater looked fantastic. (even though their audio sucked. Theater’s fault not the film.)

Go see Skyfall its a good time and a damn good Bond film.

November 10, 2012

Double-ovember: Skyfall (Matt’s Take)

Skyfall – Dysfunctional

I’ll set the record straight; in no way am I as big a fan of James Bond than my co-reviewers.  I’ve seen the more well-known Bond films (Goldfinger, Thunderball, and the Pierce Brosnan flicks).  I enjoyed the re-done “Casino Royale” and thought Daniel Craig did a great job as a young (and crazy) 007.  However, watching “Skyfall” I found myself wondering; when did it become so cool to become a nihilist?

Let me start from the beginning before I lay into “Skyfall,” the 23rd Bond film, and third to feature Craig as the MI6 agent.  When I watch these new Bond movies I can’t help but realize that everyone wants to go the Christopher Nolan, Batman, route.  If I had to rename this film I would probably call it “The Bond Knight Rises.”  By the end of “Skyfall” James Bond has become Bruce Wayne in many ways, and I have a hard time understanding why they decided to go that route, oh wait, I know; it both makes money and is a sure-fire plot device.

When you think of iconic characters you could say Batman, Indiana Jones, John McClane, and James Bond.  They are part of our pop culture DNA and while I do appreciate a darker, more anti-hero, aura around heroes, it comes to a point where the soul is sucked out from them and they become a hollow shell with few redeeming qualities.  Apparently this is what our society has comes to.  They crave blood, vengeance, and nihilism.  For my money I might call “Skyfall” one of the most polarizing, and dysfunctional entries in Bond’s 50 year cinema history.

I don’t want to say too much bad about “Skyfall” because I know I’ll catch hell for it.  But, I’m going to do it anyway.  The plot, as paper thin as it is, includes a stolen hard drive containing important MI6 information, a former MI6 agent now terrorist, and a plot to kill M (Judi Dench).  There is a lot of MI6 stuff in this film as you can tell.  As we’ve come to know this new breed of Bond we know that he hates authority, hates women (sort of), but loves his country.  If anything can be said, “Skyfall” can live by the monikers, “Britain Soldiers On,” or “Bond Kills a Lot of People Without Remorse.”

Another issue I have, and this comes right back to dysfunction, is the identity of “Skyfall.”  The atmosphere is stark and everything seems critical and any wrong move can mean someone’s death.  Then you have something ridiculous where a komodo dragon eats someone (you have to see it).  This goes back to our review for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”  Either be serious or silly, you can’t be both, especially after how serious both “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace” were, it seems like the writers jumped into their DeLorean and decided to revive plot devices from “Die Another Day” one of the more ridiculous Bond films in recent memory.

To wrap up my gripes, I’d also like to bring up the third act of the film which devolves into two things.  One, Bond’s past.  This I really didn’t mind but it felt force fed and not necessary to the overall plot of the film.  Like I said before, they tried to turn Bond into Batman, and it seems contrived.  Two, the clear “Home Alone” rip-off.  Yes, imagine James Bond, the most bad-ass spy of all time, taking cues from Macaulay Culkin.  Again, this is something that you will have to see for yourself because you might think that I’m kidding, but unfortunately, I’m not.  I was waiting for both Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern to slip down a staircase at some point.

The one saving grace is Javier Bardem, who plays the primary antagonist, Silva.  He is clearly a bad-ass former spy with some serious sexual confusion and seems to hate women, just like Bond.  Throw in some mommy issues, a bad soft palate, and you have the makings of a great villain, but just like “Skyfall” he falls short, with poor character development and not enough screen time.  This is the film’s biggest mistake which usually prides itself on larger than life bad guys.  Silva is by far the best villain the series has seen since maybe Sean Bean’s 006 or Christopher Lee in “The Man With the Golden Gun” and it feels like he is just window dressing.

With two Bond movies already under his belt, you have to wonder how many more films Daniel Craig will stick around for (he already is signed up for Bond 24 and 25).  Yes, “Skyfall” is going to bank a bunch of cash just based on the 007 name.  However, tread carefully, there are a lot of issues with this newest Bond installment; thin plot, fodder characters, lackluster action scenes (though I do appreciate how they used a lot of practical shots, in particular the opening scene), but worst of all, an identity crisis.  Fanboys will love it, especially the end, but the casual fan; you might find yourself scratching your head.

Fun Fact:  Before he was Bond, James Bond, Daniel Craig starred in the “Tales From the Crypt” episode, Smoke Wrings in 1996.

November 9, 2012

Double-ovember: The Living Daylights

WORTHY

Do yourself a favor.   If you haven’t seen The Living Daylights before or if you haven’t in a while, watch it again…and if you come away thinking it isn’t one of the most well made, WORTHY Bond films in the series…Please…PLEASE…tell me how on earth I’m wrong.  I usually save my signature catchphrase for the end.  However, after being recently blown away by this fifteenth installment of Bond, I wanted to put proper emphasis on how good it still is.  For me, there is only one small flaw that I can find in it.  And that flaw is Timothy Dalton.

Now, that is not to say Timothy Dalton is bad.  He is actually quite good here.  However, I just don’t look at him as James Bond.  Dalton is considered to be the roughest of the seven Bonds. (Including David Niven)  He was Daniel Craig before Daniel Craig.  The difference between the two is that Craig, though rough and tumble as well, comes to us at Bond’s beginnings.  Dalton’s Bond comes to us as an already established agent.  Craig’s Bond is built up before our eyes, whereas Dalton is forced upon us.  For two actors who were such big departures from their predecessors, Craig’s transition into the role is much smoother.  Dalton, to me, always seemed like another agent aiding the real 007.  Still, this is merely my personal preference.  A digressive critique of the well constructed film surrounding him.

The plot of The Living Daylights is right in the wheelhouse for Bond.  Russian defectors, megalomaniac arms dealers, governmental power plays, political assassinations, double-crosses, triple-crosses, CIA, MI6, KGB.  All there.  The first thing that really impressed me though, was the quality of the action.  Everything from the set pieces to the execution.  For a film made 25 years ago, the action is still WORTHY by today’s standards.  Any fan of the franchise will be in heaven during the terrific, gadget filled Bond car chase sequence.

It can be argued that The Living Daylights is a tad light in the Bond girl department.  The film revolves around the character of Kara Milovy, played by Maryam d’Abo.  Her naiveté and easy manipulation by Bond and others does weaken her as a whole.  And I do wish they would have played up her KGB sniper angle more.  However, I do give her props for actually taking action to help Bond during the film’s climax.  With a little more filling out of her character, she could have really been a great foil for Bond.

There is a character named Sgt. Hatred on the amazing television show The Venture Brothers.  And I am about 99% certain he was inspired by Joe Don Baker’s character Brad Whitaker.  Whitaker steals every scene that he is in and has a great showdown with Bond at the end.  He completely outshines Jeroen Krabbe’s General Georgi Koskov and even the great John Rhys-Davies.

The Living Daylights should be held up higher in the Bond lexicon than it is.  It seems like it has almost been lost in time.  I recommend you find it…Sing along with A-ha…watch it…and for consistency’s sake…tell me I’m wrong.  
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