Still having fun playing on the new M-231 highway, even if it only has three entry points. Tonight we drove out from Warner to Lincoln -- realized that the Stop signs at Lincoln and 120th Avenue are now on 120th, rather than Lincoln -- and hopped on to M-231. That means only one traffic light at M-45, rather than two.
It's been three years since Skyfall (DW) came out. Judi Dench's swansong. The new Bond film does not ignore what happened in the last one.
Holland 7 Theatre 5, 6:50pm, 2×$9.25
Bond. James Bond. How can we skip a Daniel Craig .007 movie? It's a huge franchise and even the bad ones feature big budget action sequences. Like Star Wars, nothing else quite fits like Bond. I'd heard a certain amount of buzz on NPR and print and Internet -- more than the usual run-ups -- and a lot of them complained about a lackluster story.
Look, here's the thing. Movie scripts are closer to short stories and novellas, than novels. And the thing about a short story, we are constantly being told, is that the main protagonist isn't just have a bad day, they are having The Worst Day Of Their Life™. And boy, does James Bond's life suck by that metric.
We expect the cars, the tuxedos (black and white), the drinks, the exotic locales -- and the women and the far out there opening credits. And this time we get homages to many earlier films. Of particular note, was the early Connery From Russian With Love, which featured good old-fashioned spycraft and a wonderful game of cat-and-mouse on a train. More than one commenter had noticed this feature and more than one has mused that maybe Sam Mendes spent too much time on nostalgia and not enough on a script.
To some extent, who cares? The opening in Mexico City features massive street parades for the Day of the Dead and much of it is filmed in one continuous tracking shot. Carnivale has been featured in more than one Bond outing.
The 800-lb. gorilla in the room is obviously keyed on the title. SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) is well-known from early Bond films in the 60s and 70s. But, despite having seen someone say what the acronym stands for in one of the early trailers, in this film I don't recall hearing anyone bring it up. Indeed, SPECTRE is largely unknown to the British secret service, and is hardly mentioned by name at all. That said, the dastardly criminal super-enterprise has many bits of iconic details for us. Including the one where they just simply fail to shoot Bond the moment they capture him, instead of explaining the whole plot to them. (grin)
The funny thing about the Double-Oh agents, is kind of like Treadstone and Jason Bourne, they seem to work alone. We rarely see any other Double-Oh agents -- and usually when they're dead or jumped to the dark side. The thing is, the other agents always seem off... .007 is cool, calm, collected and -- despite having a luxe wardrobe -- is capable of being the taciturn Everyman and blend in. The other guys always seem to have Personalities™, like humor. Though we don't see .009, what we learn about him/her doesn't seem inspiring. (grin)
There's a great cast. Ben Whishaw is the new young Q from Skyfall. And the new Moneypenny -- though you can be forgiven if, given some of the hype I've seen, that she doesn't have as substantial role as I expected. Also the suspicious characters -- given their previous films, you can never trust a Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz or Andrew Scott.
Then there's Bond's backstory. Have you ever noticed that as an ensemble cast in a TV series continues, we learn "new" things which should've been obvious earlier -- if they'd been written, that is. You know, how Character B is revealed in Season 3 to be an orphan, and in Season 5 to have been abused as a child, but in Season 6 is revealed his parents were pedophiles and so B killed them at age eight. All of which makes no sense because B is the happy-go-lucky one of the ensemble. Well, I keep getting the nagging feeling they're doing that to James. I suppose it makes sense -- the man is a cipher after all and we really know very little about him. In fact, I had a theory for decades that Commander James Bond, RN, was actually a job description and not a person, which is why we had a succession of Bonds -- Connery, Moore, Lazenby, Dalton, Brosnan and now Craig. Alas, they seemed to doom that theory in Skyfall, which kind of pissed me off.
Well, at 24 films, the Bond series is practically a TV series in length. And so they're still mucking up and inventing new things about Bond's history. Sigh. Save us, O Lord, from people who want to muck up and make their mark on iconic characters.
Transportation always figures heavily in Bond films. Cars, of course, but also boats, planes, helicopters, etc. There's a North African train which struck me for two reasons. Beautifully kitted out in First Class, the train geek in me also noticed a very modern, long and very powerful new diesel locomotive. Certainly not the broken down African trains used in a lot of other movies. Even if the roadbed ends up buried in sand in some places. (grin) But then there's the sumptious interior. Every train I've been in has had sturdy interiors. Trains are high stress and high vibration systems. No way would walls be tissue paper thin, even in a fight. And where the hell did the crew go, let alone the passengers?
I will say two other things about transportation: (1) the threat and deed of collateral damage, which almost puts Bond in the superhero category and (2) a plane sequence which starts out good, but ultimately descends in what I can only hope was a campy homage to some of the excess of the Roger Moore era.
The movie runs a full two-and-a-half hours. It still leaves some questions unanswered, leading me to wonder what was left on the cutting room floor -- or whether writers simply never thought it out.
Is this the best Bond film ever? Well, at around $300 million, it sounds like it's the most expensive. But no. On the other hand, it's not the stupidest -- Moonraker I'm looking at you.
And although the octopus symbolism from Octopussy is used for this incarnation of Spectre, I think that a hydra might be a better example. The ending invites a whole lotta possibilities for the next flick, to say nothing after over fifty years of having a huge iconic 25th movie. Craig has one more to go in his contract, but isn't sure if he has it in him. I hope he does, because given where the plot needs to go after Skyfall and Spectre, I think the trilogy would not be the same with a new Bond. It just wouldn't.
[Edited to add:] Oh, and though I don't drink, even I know if you order a dirty martini, it shouldn't be clear. My father was a formulations chemist, and I learned about cloud points as a kid.
RECOMMENDED For The Bond Fans -- You Know Who You Are
Trailers: In The Heart Of The Sea -- this trailer actually shows a wrapper story with Mr. Melville interviewing an old salt while researching Moby Dick. Ron Howard movie opens 12/11. 13 Hours -- January, a notorious month for either general release of Oscar fodder from December, art house films or movies that suck, brings us "the True Story you were never told..." about Benghazi -- as told by that noted history and realism movie artiste, Michael Bay. Concussion -- previous trailer of Will Smith movie about football injuries. Ride Along 2 -- Huh, a sequel that opens the same weekend as Benghazi. Atlanta drug cops, with a side character played by a Rizzoli & Isles Boston cop, which takes place in Miami. A buddy cop movie with an impending wedding. What could possibly go wrong? Didn't see the first one -- we don't do most comedies. Secret In Their Eyes -- Great cast with Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Revenge for a daughter's murder? Will wait for the reviews, probably catch it on Netflix if it's good. Opens in two weeks. We'll be at The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II that weekend...
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