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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #07: Diamonds Are Forever

* As a reaction to the horrible shock of seeing James Bond making an ass out of himself by crying like a little girl in the previous movie, the Bond People decided to toss George Lazenby in a lake and bring back "the other guy".
To bad that guy is getting kinda long in the tooth. At first glimpse of 007, I cringe a little. Well, at least it's Connery.

* Pretty soon, I'm introduced to the trademark Bond villain, and it so happens there's two of them: Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. I really love those two guys. There's just something so unsettling and off with them and their behavior, that the brain immediately starts to create some back story for the characters.
There's a scene in the desert where the two lovebirds kill some dude by putting a scorpion down his shirt. I hope I get to enjoy that activity with my wife someday - we just have to find a common enemy first.

* I un-cringe about Bond's age when I see him fight some dude in an elevator. Like most of Connery's fights, it's excellent: dynamic, violent and believable.
I will later cringe again, when I notice that Connery is getting a little chubby. I don't wanna picture Bond as bloated and hairy.

* A lot of the time in DAF is spent on 007 simply discovering stuff, and exploration is not always the same as action. Especially when you're starting to lose interest in the whole movie out of boredom.
I could be that I just think there's something lame and camp about the whole diamond business. When the whole storyline eventually leads up to a giant diamond space laser, I'm thinking of replacing "lame" and "camp" with "laughable" and "brainless".

* I'm noticing that there's almost a heavier emphasis on wisecracks than action in this movie. So it basically feels like a Roger Moore movie, starring Sean Connery. I'm confused... but I'm starting to think it's got something to do with Bond's age. That, or the beginning of a very annoying epoch in Bond's history.

* As if the wisecracks weren't enough, there are visual gags for me to hate here as well. The Moonmobile, for example, which is like the Popemobile... if the Pope were an extra-terrestrial.
OK, that is actually not such a stretch, but the Moonmobile seems like part of a conscious plan to make James Bond seem like a dork.
There's a fine balance between 007 as a hero, as a cold killer, as a disarming gentleman, as someone with a sense of humor... and this just takes a giant, steaming dump on that balance.
I won't even get into the stupid water walking ball.


James Bond. Y'know - for kids!


* The car chase in Vegas - thankfully not including the wretched Moonmobile - is pretty cool. And I don't like many car chases. I like five, that I can think of, including this one.

* Bambi and Thumper have to be mentioned as well, under the category "wasted potential".
These two wonderful henchwomen seem to belong in one of those bad 70s porn movies with too much hair in them, but then I remember that it's a Bond movie, and there will be no nudity. After that initial disappointment, I start to expect another great fight instead... and I'm disappointed again. When you can actually see Connery pull his punches as if he feared being sued, and the two women taking a one-minute break between each useless somersault, you start to wish that they would speed this shit up, like they did with Thunderball.
Thankfully, it doesn't take 007 long to figure out that the two women are allergic to water, and defeats the dangerous damsels by way of dipping them playfully in a swimming pool. Wow. Dumb.

* I focus on my whisky while other boring stuff happens on screen, or even off screen (nobody seems to even be bothered with showing something as trivial as a missile launch. I think there's some kind of ransom scene that's off screen too).
Then there's a pretty good helicopter attack, and after that, Blofeld is dispatched in an insanely unfulfilling way. I drink.

* Finally, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd get fragged by Bond in a way that belongs in one of the Naked Gun movies, and a grotesque image of Leslie Nielsen as 007 flashes before my eyes.
I drink to Leslie's memory, and vow to never see Diamonds Are Forever again.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #06: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

* From the very start, OHMSS gives the impression that it wants to make a statement, and thank God that statement isn't "I'm going to suck".
The intro offers a rear view mirror-closeup of Bond's cigarette-wielding mouth, and he's driving a 60s Aston Martin that tells you he's a man's man among manly men.
To further emphasize that point, he proceeds to beat seven shades of shit out of some bad guys on the beach. Great fight. The director and editor use primitive tricks to make the fights seem more intense, and it works because it's good-primitive, not bad-primitive. At this point, I'm in love with everything that isn't a goddamn shaky cam.
Then our new hero, George Lazenby, gets to deliver some cringeworthy, self-referential line about "the other guy", because all Bond movies must try to ruin every good sequence. But I ignore it because I'm very entertained.

* The title sequence has one of the best - if not the best - tunes out of all the Bond movies. No screaming middle-aged woman, just cool music.

* The new Bond gets to smack some chick around a little. Good for him, and good for the tone of the movie. Like I said, not because I get some bizarre kick out of that sort of thing - but because Bond should be that kind of guy: someone who slaps a woman for pointing a gun at him.
Yeah. Slap her, George. Slap her!

* After a while, I realize that I'm forgetting to take notes. You know why? Because stuff happens, and I'm entertained.
I write down "I'm entertained" in my notes.

* The tough guy image of 007 gets kinda punctured after a while, when they put poor Lazenby in a puffy shirt and a kilt. I'm unsure whether it's an attempt at humor or plain 60s fashion. Maybe 60s fashion was an attempt at humor in itself.

* Shortly after I ponder the significance of clothing, the tough guy Image of Bond is restored again, as Lazenby kicks some more ass.
I'm convinced that Lazenby's Bond is the one who could beat up all the other Bonds. You can say what you want about ol' Dumbo ears, but his natural athleticism is a great asset to the 007 character.

* Also, Telly Savalas is a great Blofeld... although that weird way of holding the cigarette is freaking me out a bit. Not enough so that it ruins the actual chemistry between the villain and the hero, though.
It would just be slightly worse if Blofeld was constantly sucking on a lollipop.

* Oooh! Mountain Fortress! How very Nazi of you, Mister Blofeld!
The Mountain Fortress is cool, but they should really have invested in a proper holding cell. Bond gets captured, as he always does, and putting a top British agent in a room with a huge hole in it (that leads to freedom), probably isn't the best way to handle him.
The Great Escape it ain't. More like the Awkward and a Little Dangerous, But Otherwise Quite Easily Achieved Escape.

* Ski chase! - and this is the only movie I'll be excited about that.
In OHMSS, the idea of a ski chase is new and fresh, and the stunts are awesome. The outfits also help... and there I go with the outfits again.
Speaking of which: the accessory to end all accessories, is Blofeld's truly amazing goggles. They can best be described as... indescribable.



"My eyes! The goggles do nothing!"


But amidst all the fun, I still notice that having a mastermind criminal like B-feld chase our hero on skis is just silly. Undignified, is what it is. Leave the slalom shenanigans to the hired help, or else you might end up crashing into a tree or something.

* From out of the blue, our sensitive sixties Bond declares that he "loves" his current squeeze, a woman he's known for about 20 minutes.
If it were the very first time I saw this movie, I'd cling to the hope that he was jerking her around for some kind of personal gain. Like sex, for instance. But no - he wants to marry her, and have a baby and a dog and a house and a picket fence and a red mailbox that reads "Mr. and Mrs. 007 and 006 1/2".
This is all wrong. Especially since he's got access to a regular babe-a-polooza in this movie.

* Then there's more skiing, and an utterly moronic chase on a bobsleigh track.
Blofeld, of course, wants to get in on the action, and, doing 100 mph, is promptly introduced to a tree.
Bond sees his arch enemy hanging from a branch, and thinks "oh, well, he's probably dead. I won't have to go back and check if the deadly and insane leader of SPECTRE, the #1 criminal organization in the World, is still alive. Because he looks kinda dead. I win."

* In the end, Bond is married, but Blofeld, still alive (!) and embracing his newfound love for the hands-on approach, does an old-school drive-by and kills the Hell out of Mrs. Bond.
I find that poetic: Being an idiot by asking some random chick to marry you, is canceled out through being an idiot by not finishing off your nemesis.
Nothing excuses Bond blubbering like an idiot either. "She's only sleeping..." he whines to some biker cop who looks at the sobbing man in disgust. Bleurgh. Yeah, that's what you do when you sleep: gush gallons of blood out of a dozen holes in your body.

* All in all, a great Bond movie - one of the best.
Just imagine what it could have been without the touchy feely lovvie dovvie schmoochie poochie element.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #05: You Only Live Twice

This fifth Bond installment is so poorly written that I've almost completely forgotten what my own notes mean, even though I just saw the damn thing. Lucky I'm not aiming for an in-depth analysis.

* YOLT (that's You Only Live Twice, dummy) starts with a space shuttle being eaten by a big space rocket. Spectacular and very Bond-like... even though the space effects are pathetic throughout.

* Then Bond gets killed, and I'm thinking "didn't I just see this?" Oh, it was just three movies ago. I'm not fooled this time.
Also, there's a completely idiotic sequence where Bond is buried at sea. He is picked up by divers at the bottom, and it's revealed that he's been using an air tank to survive the burial.
Hey, morons! Why didn't you just switch the body at a more convenient place? Like, say, the morgue? Oh, I guess you needed to have that meaningless underwater sequence in there. Well, then.

* There are several instances of utter stupidity and lacks of common sense, and I'm starting to get annoyed. Thankfully, the fights in YOLT are often good enough to keep me smiling. There's a good fight which involves flinging couches around the room, and a cool roof chase sequence at the docks. Thank heaven for Sean Connery.

* Speaking of heaven: there are a few aerial sequences in this movie - and, as can be expected from a Bond movie, they're all over the place. There's a ridiculous and completely unnecessary scene with a plane and a flare that I won't bother to explain; there's a really cool and funny scene where the bad guys' car gets picked up, mid-chase, by a chopper; and there's Little Nellie.


Hey, get your sweaty hand off the car, lady. And stop blocking the chopper.


Little Nellie is a neat, little portable chopper thingie that is completely awesome, and promises a great action sequence from the first nano-second you lay eyes on it. Impossible to screw up, really.
But did I mention the shitty writing?
There's offered no explanation as to why 007 can't use a normal chopper (how about dodging a radar system or having to pass through some narrow canyon or something?), and when the bad guy choppers arrive... oh, man. No sense of danger or excitement, no "oh, dear, I'm going to crash!" moment. Nothing. Just Little Nellie joylessly firing off every weapon we've been told she has. Ooh. Aah. Yawn.

* At least Bond is able to take care of himself in the Nellie sequence. I've noticed that the great James Bond is ever so frequently being rescued by someone else in this movie, particularly Aki (one of the movie chicks), or by sheer luck.
I should've thought of it earlier. I would have counted the times some top assassin had Bond in his sights and missed for no obvious reason.

* And then there's the disguise... Jesus, the disguise.
Bond, a 6'2½" dude with more fur than a Gibbon, goes undercover, so he glues some pieces of rubber to his eyelids and cuts his hair... and LOOKS TOTALLY ONE HUNDRED PER CENT JAPANESE! ZOMG!


"Yesch, but of coursche I'm Japanesche!"


If you're unable to realize how stupid and offensive this is, try putting James Bond in the same scenario in Harlem and let him "disguise" himself by putting on a huge afro and covering his face with black shoe polish. That's how... just... wrong this is.

* There are ninjas in YOLT too, and they're incredibly lame, even by ninja movie standards. I guess they wanted to use commandos, but thought: "hey, this is Japan. Let's go with ninjas". Great - why not samurais while you're at it?

* Thankfully, there are lots of things to be happy about, too:
There's Blofeld, and he's played by the best guy for the job - my man Donald Pleasence.
There's Blofeld's Volcano Lair, with the all-important monorail system.
Also, this is not Thunderball, and thus not brain-numbingly boring.

* So who's the completely useless screenwriter who's generated all this cinematic misery? Why, none other than Roald Dahl himself.
You should've stuck to the Oompa-Loompas, douchebag.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #04: Thunderball

* First of all, it's an awesome title: Thunderball! C'mon! Say it like Tom Jones sings it! THUNNNNNDERBAAAAAHAAAAALLL!

* This fourth Bond movie starts out with a fight between 007 and a dude in a dress, and it's a good thing, believe it or not: The silliness of the situation/costume is perfectly balanced out with the excellent quality of the physical confrontation itself - long, brutal and kinda frightening. Great, great fight.
But I'm starting to learn that something always screws up a Bond sequence, and this time, it's the ridiculous jetpack he escapes in after the fight. He even has a stupid little helmet with him, as if he were a limp-wristed, scooter-driving Italian art student, and not James Friggin' Bond.

"I'm a jet-fueled penis."

* The ridiculous elements continue to pile up after a while, and I'm starting to lose interest in the movie very quickly. The ridiculousest of the ridiculous is a massage contraption that Bond gets caught in, that almost kills him. How, you ask? Because someone turns the machine all the way up to its "kill" setting!
I'd like to strap the screenwriter into one of those. Either that, or ask him what kind of gym he goes to, that's got machines that kill you if you don't watch the settings carefully. Lazy-ass hack.

* After losing my temper over the machine thingie, I kinda drift off. I can't even be bothered to fantasize about Domino (who's really hot), because I'm too bored.
I start think about my previous idea about the Bond movies being far too long, and Thunderball is no exception. Half the damn movie seems to be about equipment being moved - slowly - under water. It's like watching le Grand Bleu, without any drama, danger, excitement, romance or dolphins.
Seriously: a proper editor could've snipped this thing down to a Baywatch-length TV episode, and I'm starting to wonder if the Bond editors are explicitly told to aim for the two-hour mark, to "give the audience value for their money" or something.

* Then! Suddenly! Insane underwater harpoon mayhem!
Dozens of dudes are impaling each other, being stabbed, choked and beaten to death, and I'm thrilled and confused at once.

* Before I've completely oriented myself after having my nap disturbed by all that harpoony goodness, Bond is on a boat doing five hundred billion knots, and fighting like he's on the Benny Hill Show. Everything is so hilariously speeded up, I start to chuckle and sing the Benny Hill Show tune with such gusto I almost fail to notice that Bond actually kicks some serious ass in this movie.

* To sum up: Thunderball is long, weird and boring.
Any movie that can render the concepts "hot chick", "rocket bike", "SPECTRE electrocution" and "drag fistfight" insignificant, should be forgotten.
Thank God that the next movie out is You Only Live Twice. It can't be any worse, right?