James Bond

Spectre – Review #52

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Good God the opening shot felt so good. No, not the tracking shot, the one before that. That shot.

SpectreSpectre, directed by Sam Mendes, is the 24th official film in the James Bond franchise. Daniel Craig once again plays Bond, this time doing a more personal assignment in Mexico. When things get out of hand, and by out of hand I mean demolished a building, Bond is grounded by M. And speaking of M, he’s having a power struggle with C, the head of the new Joint Intelligence Service. The JIS is planning to make an agreement between nine countries called the ‘Nine Eyes’ agreement, which would render the ’00’ section of the MI6 useless. So you can see why M doesn’t want that. Bond, disobeying M’s orders, travels to Rome. I won’t spoil much else, because frankly, the storyline’s way too thick to describe quickly in one paragraph.

This movie, being the 4th Bond movie in the Craig-era, and following after the great Skyfall, has a lot to live up to. Is it better than Skyfall? Well, it depends on how you want your Bond. Skyfall was a grittier Bond film, with the movie having more focus on the issues with the characters. It’s not that there’s no wit and charm, it’s just that it’s severely under-played to fit the darker story, if I recall correctly. Spectre, on the other hand, is a more traditional Bond film, just with a darker coating. It’s Goldfinger wearing Casino Royale, and it wears it pretty well for the most part. Hearing ‘gritty grunty’ Daniel Craig Bond say flirty one-liners can be pretty strange, but you get used to it. Heck it even has some of the more ‘out there’ cliches concerning Bond films. Car with numerous gadgets and gizmos? Check. An near unstoppable mini-boss for Bond and Bond girl to defeat? Batista says hello. Outrageous villain with a love for domestic animals? All hail Christoph Waltz. While the cliches themselves are nonsensical if you think about it too much, director Sam Mendes is able to downplay it not too much as to become boring, but not too little as to retain its goofiness.

Speaking of Sam Mendes, this is his second Bond film, and it is one of the best Bond films I’ve ever seen, from a visual standpoint. Then again, I’ve only watched 4 Bond films, including this one, but I digress. This movie is the freaking dictionary definition of the word ‘slick’. Everything about it is just…slick. The way the camera ‘glides’ with its shot setting, the yellow hues from the lighting, all of it just works. It looks like those car commercials you see with a night time setting and a very expensive car. Imagine that, but with James Bond.

The cast is still great as always. Daniel Craig is again great as Bond. He’s still the grittier Bond that we see from Casino Royale onwards, but this time his humor is amped up just a bit. Ben Whishaw is Q, the gadget guy and the source of most of the comic relief. His chemistry with Craig is great, with them exchanging witty dialogue when they meet every time. Ralph Fiennes is the new M, following the great Judi Dench, and while I’m sure he’ll grow into the role with subsequent films, here he’s a bit vanilla. Léa Seydoux is Madeleine, our resident Bond girl for the movie. She’s one of the few Bond girls I remember that actually helps Bond when he gets in a kerfuffle, and I really hope that the relationship that they have doesn’t end à la On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. My poor heart-and Bond’s- will break. Dave Bautista is our Oddjob, and yeah, I can buy that he’s this grizzly bear of a man. Nothing else to add. Christoph Waltz is our main villain Blofeld, and good God does he eat every scene he’s in, all 3 of them. Yes, people have criticized the movie in that Blofeld isn’t in it much, but I think that’s a good thing. Yes. he’s only in 3 scenes, or set pieces to be more precise, but those scenes are long enough for him to establish himself, and not too long for him to out-stay his welcome. Who DOES out-stay his welcome though is Andrew Scott as C. It’s less about the actor and more about the part, really, although his acting in this does feel like he’s rehashing Moriarty. His character’s entire sub-plot felt rushed, and you could see the ‘twist’ from a mile away. Overall though, the cast is well rounded.

And before I conclude, special mention goes to Thomas Newman for the music throughout the movie. I don’t have much to say about him, just wanted to compliment his work. The strings that accompany most of the movie’s sound just fit. Oh, and Sam Smith sang a song I think whatever.

All in all, Spectre is like Goldfinger remade with the stylings of today. Grit with cheese, dirt with sprinkles. This might turn some people away as it deviates slightly from the much more serious Craig-era Bond films like Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, but I personally really liked it. Maybe if the script was re-worked a bit more, it may have been better, but I still enjoyed what I got.

So I guess I should watch Casino Royale now to ease the wrath of Bond fans.


Dr. No – Review #33

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I have no idea what’s happening to me. After a peculiar episode of a peculiar show, I am finding myself in a spy craze.So, to ease my sudden craving, I decided to go back and watch a film from an era when Sean Connery still had hair and Daniel Craig was just a gleam in his mother’s eye.

Dr. NoDr. No, directed by Terence Young, tells the story of James Bond, a secret agent working for the MI6. One night, as he is playing poker, he is called upon by his superiors. An SIS station chief has been killed in Jamaica, and he is sent to find out what happened. What follows is a tale of beautiful babes and tactical espionage that started the Bond obsession that continues to this day.

James Bond. Men want to be him, woman want to be with him. He seduces females like a normal person eats dinner and he can kick all sorts of ass. Of course, our image of this testosterone-in-a-body did not just appear in our minds. It had to had originated from someone, and who else is better fit than Sean ‘Sexiest Man of  the Century’ Connery? He is everything you would expect from James Bond. He’s suave, charming, witty, and any other synonym from ‘handsome’. However, as this was the first film, he doesn’t quite yet hold his scenes like he will in later pictures. Sometimes you can sense that he doesn’t feel quite sure about what he says. Not a bad performance by any means, just not a flawless one.

The rest of the cast ranges from pretty good to below average. The Bond girl, Honey Ryder, is a beauty for the eye to look at, and somewhat set the standards for future buxom babes in the films, both in physique and weird name. The villain,  the titular Dr. No., is also a joy to watch, although he’s not the most memorable one. The worst has to go to John Kitzmiller though, as his constant shouting of the word ‘Captain!’ and stereotypical portrayal of a Jamaican goes from amusing to annoying rather quickly.

You know, as I was watching this movie, there was a thought that kept lingering in my mind.

‘This doesn’t feel like a James Bond movie.’

After re-analyzing the film, I understood why I thought that. This movie doesn’t have the ‘Bond’ feeling, because this was the film that would start it. The nifty gadgets and doo-dahs that he would have had are not present. The jazzy openings, with blaring trumpets and violins, is not present, instead we’re greeted with a calypso song, ‘Three Blind Mice’. With the music that we’ve associated Bond with, hearing this instead of something like ‘Goldfinger’ by Shirley Bassey threw me for a bit of a loop, especially so since it followed the iconic James Bond Theme. I cannot compare the attitude of Bond in this movie and in the later Connery-less sequels, because frankly, I have no watched any of them, minus Skyfall, but Bond is a more realistic and grounded character here. This movie was trying to show Bond as an actual agent, rather than the luckiest man alive that I’ve heard he becomes.

In conclusion, Dr. No may not be the slickest of Bond films, but by itself, it’s an entertaining watch. I recommend it to anyone interested on how James Bond started, but Goldfinger is the film to go to if you want to see Connery truly capture the role of 007.