Category Archives: James bond

Arrow: Sacrifice

Finally we’re at the season finale of “Arrow.” It’s been a long road, sometimes bumpy, sometimes kinda cool. We enter shortly after we last left our hero. Stephen Amell’s Oliver was unmasked and unconscious, and at the mercy of John Barrowman’s Malcolm Merlyn. Amell’s chest makes a welcome return as Barrowman plays Bond villain and gloats a bit before leaving our hero hanging chained and flashbacking.

After a pretty dynamic escape, wishy-washily aided by Diggle, Oliver jumps from character to character playing emotional catch up. There’s a real sense of finality to it all. Tommy to potential villain, Laurel to potential girlfriend, Quentin to potential ally, everything but Arrow to the rescue. There’s a nice bit while Felicity is taken in for questioning, and she channels “Smallville”‘s Chloe to Detective Lance, saying maybe The Hood is a hero.

As the gears begin to click together, it seems that Moira Queen is more of a hero than anyone else in the cast. She calls a press conference, revealing The Undertaking and naming Merlyn responsible. The problems? You can’t stop John Barrowman, and Thea goes to The Glades to get Roy. Meanwhile Oliver and Diggle go after Merlyn while Felicity and Quentin look for the Markov Device. Why do I get the feeling someone’s not making it out of this alive?

I have to say I was surprised who it was that wasn’t going to make it. I have to wonder if it was a last minute decision by the showrunners as well. In hindsight, it seems to be more tidying up than anything else. I liked Tommy a lot, and would have dug his young, hip, and vengeful Merlyn the Magician.

The one thing that really bothered me about this episode was the lack of resolution, both on the island, and in the present. While the thinking behind Merlyn’s redundancy plan is sound and logical, it’s very unsatisfying storywise. I don’t want to see the hero lose. Maybe that’s something they can work in next season…

Skyfall

Skyfall ~ This twenty-third official James Bond film, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the movie franchise, seems to be at odds with itself in my opinion. There is a passion by the filmmakers to acknowledge the past here even as they backburner and mock it. To quote the new Q as he hands Bond simply a gun and radio, “What did you expect, an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that sort of thing anymore.” Much of the dialogue and the plot is dedicated toward saying the Bond way is passé, over with in this day and age, while simultaneously saying it’s needed. It is a nice balance.

I was not a fan of the first two Daniel Craig Bond films, not because of Craig’s humorless performance, or that they were rebooting the franchise for a new audience, mind you, but more because I resented them putting Pierce Brosnan out to pasture. I enjoyed Pierce quite a bit in the role. And actually Craig does a subtle humorous turn and smirk in this one. He’s winning me over. Daniel Craig is book perfect when it comes to James Bond, but I’ve been spoiled by the movie versions, and expect a little something extra, ya know?

What really brought this film to life for me was director Sam Mendes. His stunning and startlingly different visuals light up and dim the screen significantly and lend specific mood and atmosphere to every sequence. Most stunning are the Shanghai scenes, beautiful camera work. I recently had the chance to peruse and review Greg Williams’ book Bond on Set: Filming Skyfall over at Biff Bam Pop!, and while an amazing picture book, it doesn’t hold a candle to the actual film in vibrancy and spectacle.

Craig is flawless, as is Judi Dench as M, and new girl Naomie Harris, and Ralph Fiennes is a pleasant surprise. I absolutely loved Ben Whishaw as the new Q, but that was easy because I love him in everything he’s in, especially “The Hour.” A major complaint however comes in the form of Javier Bardem as the villain Raoul Silva. Not just over the top evil like most Bond villains, but he’s also a bit creepy in a stereotype homosexual pedophile kind of way, so creepy in fact, that he comes off like a bad joke. He is as out of place in a Bond flick as say… Jaws and his girlfriend in Moonraker. For a franchise trying to upscale itself in the audience’s eyes, Bardem was a mistake.

The opening action sequence is perhaps one of the best I’ve seen in a while (Tomorrow Never Dies is still my favorite). The title theme song by Adele better than average and appropriate. What makes me sad is that for a movie that embraces its heritage, gives nods to its history, and celebrates its characters, even adding to their origins – it seems to back step into a simple vengeance storyline rather than a clever spy thriller – which is what it should be. I mean, let’s face it, the last sequences of this film could have easily been a Denzel action flick or perhaps another Die Hard. Revenge is the easy way out. I want to see Bond save the world, for Queen and for Country.

All that said, I really enjoyed this movie, from the fantastic visuals of director Mendes to the titanic score by Thomas Newman, Skyfall was a terrific Bond film. Recommended.

Marvin Hamlisch 1944-2012

Celebrated composer Marvin Hamlisch passed away yesterday after a brief but undisclosed illness. He was a star of stage and screen, and won multiple awards, among them – Grammys, Emmys, Oscars, a Tony and a Pulitzer. He was 68.

Hamlisch was perhaps one of the most famous American composers, having created scores for many movies, TV specials and Broadway shows. He was conductor of multiple orchestras across the nation.

His most famous works include A Chorus Line, The Goodbye Girl, The Sting, Take the Money and Run, The Spy Who Loved Me, Ice Castles, Sophie’s Choice, and The Way We Were.

Thumbs Up for London, Epic Fail for NBC

I just watched most of the opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics. I had to turn away. NBC, in the form of Meredith Viera and Matt Lauer, destroyed any enjoyment I may have gotten from the show.

The opening ceremonies were amazing, and fun, and a spectacle to behold. I amused myself thinking that this is what we would get if the UK ever got off its butt and actually won Eurovision for a change. Yeah, it was that kind of spectacle.

There was a battle between Voldemort and Mary Poppins, a jab at America and our lousy healthcare system, appearances by Mr. Bean, JK Rowling, Daniel Craig and The Queen, tributes to the world wide web and children’s literature, and a touching love story told through the history of British pop music. We even had a three second audio cameo of the TARDIS sound during “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Like I said, amazing.

The problem was NBC had Viera and Lauer over-explaining everything to the audience at home. This isn’t the freaking Rose Bowl Parade, and we are not dull children. We have brains, and failing that, Google, we don’t need you to explain it all. I don’t know what shocked me more – the things they did not know or what they thought we did not know. I know I will never watch any program with them involved again. Even with thousands of Twitter folks telling them to shut up live, they continued their idiotic banter.

A note to the folks at NBC who put this together… Do you ever wonder why the rest of the world hates the United States? Tonight, it’s because of you.

Quickies 7-15-2010

Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes ~ This campy comedic superhero film is badly acted and directed, in an almost unintended Rocky Horror or Lost Skeleton of Cadavra way, but its script and heart are in the right place. If you rent it, stay with it. The most intriguing part of the flick is its gay-centric cast and community, a trick that really works well, and doesn’t overpower the rest of the movie. Look for fun cameos by Noel Neill, Lou Ferrigno and Nichelle Nichols as well as Marv Wolfman and Len Wein. Tom Tangen is hilarious as multiple characters, writer Vincent J. Roth is charming in the title role, and do not miss the costume party. This is a lot more fun than it at first seems, check it out.

Empire Records ~ This cult favorite pseudo-remake of FM, only at a record store instead of a radio station, is a pleasant surprise. While painfully predictable, it’s also a lot of fun and has a killer soundtrack. Great Gwar cameo and bonus, Renee Zellweger not only sings, but her eyes are open for most of the movie.

Pirate Radio ~ Great sixties soundtrack, but wow, not a great movie at all. It also has a terrific cast, most of which is wasted here. I think this is the first Richard Curtis flick that I haven’t liked. I guess everyone misses sometimes.

Franklyn ~ Really? Darkman meets Dark City with just a touch of Repo! The Genetic Opera thrown in for good measure – really? This is what you were shooting for? This is pretty, this is stunning, but it is very much style over substance. There were whole sequences that were so boring that I fell asleep. It’s a steampunk Tim Burton wannabe visual overdose without much story to support it. Eye candy, but that’s all.

Killers ~ This one was quite a surprise for me. I was fully expecting a mindless romantic comedy here. I don’t like Ashton Kutcher and as I don’t watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” I have no point of reference for Katherine Heigl. She was painfully adequate for 27 Dresses but that called for that type of performance. But Killers, other than being a bit more predictable than I would have liked plotwise, is a lot of fun. I really enjoyed this romantic dark comedy with a twist. And director Robert Luketic should definitely be plugged in to work on the Bond films because he has the eye needed. Recommended.

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Jimmy Dean Passes Away

Most folks knew him as the visible head of his sausage company, but generations previous knew him for his music and his television series. Yesterday Jimmy Dean passed away at the age of 81.

We all know Jimmy Dean Sausages but I remember fondly his crossover hit “Big Bad John” and even its two sequels. I also remember his various TV shows that first featured the piano-playing muppet Rowlf the dog, who was notably the first muppet star – even before Kermit the Frog. And then there’s his film role as Willard Whyte in one of my favorite James Bond flicks Diamonds Are Forever. He’ll be missed.

Below is an October 2009 performance at the Grand Ole Opry by Jimmy Dean of his classic “Big Bad John.” Enjoy.

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New Moon

New Moon ~ Unofficially called The Twilight Saga: New Moon for the folks too dim to realize it was a sequel to Twilight, happily the actual credits of this film read just New Moon. Remember back in the day we didn’t have to be reminded what we were watching? We know a James Bond movie without having to see his name in the title. I wish this kind of nonsense would stop, and yes, I blame you, George Lucas, for starting it.

Let me start by saying that New Moon is no Twilight. I was quite surprised by the first movie despite the hype both good and bad, and liked it quite a bit. The sequel is a serious drop in quality of story and character development – a true disappointment. After the first flick I was ready to read the novels, and after this one, I think I’ll pass. New Moon is the kind of crap I expected when I first watched Twilight. It’s emo, it’s melodrama, it’s just bad.

When vampire Edward pushes our heroine Bella away, she becomes closer to werewolf Jacob. It is literally gothic romance meets afterschool special with some horror undertones. The flick gets a bit disturbing when Bella starts taking dangerous risks and Edward seems to be psychically stalking her ever step. Creepy. It does get mildly exciting toward the end when Bella encounters the Voltari, the masters of the vampire world, but it’s far too little, far too late.

This movie was hard enough to get through without the douchebag factor, which ruined a couple scenes for me. Peter Facinelli plays Dr. Carlisle Cullen, a fact that meant nothing when I saw Twilight. Since then I have become acquainted with him as the obnoxious Twittering doctor on “Nurse Jackie,” and now I just can’t take him seriously whenever he’s on screen. I kept expecting him to start texting or to say something stupid, rather than be the wise patriarch of the vampire family.

Maybe some of that dark “Nurse Jackie” humor might have helped though. This dreary thing barely held my attention and was difficult to sit all the way through. Give New Moon a pass.

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Babylon A.D.

Babylon A.D. ~ In the first wonderfully designed special effects laden thirty seconds of this flick – the story is ruined. We know how this will all end. I’m not fond of flashback stories like this because too often those behind the scenes don’t succeed in making me forget the opening with what follows. It’s a gamble that rarely pays off. I still am unsure if it does – that’s how muddled the actual ending is.

Vin Diesel plays Toorop, a mercenary in a presumably post apocalyptic post-war near future world. He’s hired to transport a young girl from Russia to New York City. Along for the ride is Michelle Yeoh, as the girl’s bodyguard/nun/denmother. Don’t worry though, nun or not, she’s still Michelle Yeoh, and she still kicks ass. Charlotte Rampling and Gerard Depardieu are oddly cast, and against type, but fun.

At its core, this Blade Runner meets Road Warrior scifi Road movie actually reminds me a bit of James Bond flick, with all of its multiple locations and various stunt chases and fights. I’m sure Diesel had a lot of fun with this, because we all know how badly, and how impossibly, he wants to be James Bond.

When Diesel does die, as prophesized in the first minute of the film (so I’m not really giving anything away), the movie gets more than a bit weird. There is a nice twist on the whole ‘day I died’ rift, which was surprising. The ending and explanations (religious and otherwise) are quite muddy. That said, this was much better than it had any right to be, and worth checking out for genre fans.

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Quantum of Solace

This is the second of the rebooted James Bond series starring Daniel Craig as the classic Ian Fleming character. I have always had trouble with the concept of having to tell the origin of the hero. Think of the old movie serials, no origins, we were just dropped into a good exciting story, given a one or two line synopsis of our hero, and rolling with it. In many ways, it’s what we have been doing with James Bond for decades.

Here in Quantum of Solace, which takes place just minutes after the closing of Casino Royale (2006), we are still dealing with a assumedly green Bond, whose first mission ended in death and defeat. Not what I want at all. Sure, there may be such a beginning for Bond, but I want my confident, capable and virtually indestructible super-spy, not his wet-behind-the-ears baptism-by-fire wannabe starter. Furthermore, the Bond we get here is a vengeful killer, not the man of honor and action or the gentleman assassin we’re used to. He didn’t even get this bad when his wife was murdered years ago. Surely this Vesper chick wasn’t more special than Diana Rigg?

The cinematography is equally inappropriate. Bond is not Bourne, nor should it be. I don’t think the fast cut, moving camera effects are suitable for Bond. Just my opinion, but when one goes to see a Bond film, after more than twenty in the can, there are certain things one should expect. Shaky cam isn’t one of them. I’m not liking the stylized title cards for places at the start of scene changes either. Too… comic booky, especially in a franchise trying to remove itself from a camp perspective. And why the need to riff on the opening of Goldfinger in oil? More tacky than homage, and it barely makes sense in the story anyway.

Killer song this time out, “Another Way to Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys, and it’s probably the best thing about this movie. And that’s sad. I found the music video included on the DVD to be more entertaining than the film’s title sequence, and that’s even sadder. When you can’t even get a Bond title sequence right, that’s bad.

Finally, the last thing I should feel while watching a James Bond movie is bored, and I felt it here. It had action, it even had a couple trademark outlandish Bond chases scenes but for the most part I found myself bored and distracted by this latest entry in the series. I’m unsure if I’m looking forward to the next one. Daniel Craig impressed me in Casino Royale, but not here. Any chance of Pierce Brosnan coming back? Hell, I’d take Roger Moore at this point.

This isn’t just a bad James Bond movie. It’s a bad movie, period.

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Crash (2004)

Crash ~ This 2004 offering from writer/director Paul Haggis (who would later go on to revitalize the James Bond franchise – not that it needed revitalization, in my opinion at least) won several Oscars that may have been more worthy for the individual performances of the actors than for the entire film or screenplay. Several vignettes intersect in post-9-11 Los Angeles with a slant toward exposing many different kinds of prejudice and stereotypes. It never truly comes together in my opinion. And several scenes seem to have either been ghost-written by Quentin Tarantino trying to ape his own style from Pulp Fiction – or by someone doing a bad parody of the Q-man. Sandra Bullock shows her rarely seen acting chops in an unpleasant role, and Larenz Tate and Ludacris absolutely steal the movie from the much more experienced actors involved. Worth watching for the acting, but don’t expect an ending, happy or otherwise.