Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A View to a Kill (1985)

I like this one better than Octopussy, and I admit I saw it more than a couple times in the theater when it premiered, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its share of issues.  However, it has humor and a far more interesting bad guy to offset the lameness.  The fact that I saw it more than once in the theater might also have more to do with the fact that Duran Duran did the theme song than anything else. 

Anyway, A View to a Kill.  Kind of a plot similar to Goldfinger.  Mad industrialist Max Zorin intends to cause a giant earthquake in the Bay Area that will flood Silicon Valley, thereby making him the sole provider of microchips.  Impossible, but fun, and I can go with it.  Christopher Walken plays Zorin, and he amuses me no end.  Of course, when is Walken not amusing?  Some people can chew up the scenery and it’s just normal, not over the top, and he’s one of them.  Zorin makes me laugh just about every time he's on screen, in a good way, and this movie sorely needs that. 


Grace Jones plays May Day, his lead henchman (henchwoman?).  I can’t say I liked her much when I first saw this back in '85, but I quite like her nowadays too.  She’s as impossible as the plot, but a good match for Zorin and the film in general.  They’re all crazy!  And soooooo 1980’s.


What I don’t like.  Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton.  See, you can tell she’s a misstep right off the bat with such an blah name.  Her character just makes me cringe.  She can’t really act, she runs around screaming and crying for James, and I just can’t take it.  So far, she’s definitely my least favorite Bond girl.

This movie does has some nice action sequences.  I love the zeppelin and the fight at the top of the Golden Gate Bridge.  That’s pretty amazing.  There’s a chase up the Eiffel Tower with a character parachuting off, followed by a pretty cool car chase.  And the flooding of Zorin’s bomb site is well done.  However, this movie also has a rather stupid “escape from an elevator in a burning building” sequence followed immediately by an even stupider fire truck chase.  I HATE that fire truck chase. 

Overall, this movie has a few strengths, and it’s more amusing than not, but it’s nothing to rival the great Bond movies either.  And, I admit, I can’t really watch the Eiffel Tower chase without superimposing Duran Duran’s video for A View to a Kill over the movie. 

Favorite parts:  Russian agent Pola Ivanova, played by Fiona Fullerton.  I love her, even if she has a tiny role.  I always wanted to get my hair cut like hers, except in the 80’s my hair was long.  Zorin’s zeppelin.  The fight on top of the Golden Gate.  James Bond with a cat on his lap.  Moneypenny at the horse race.

Music:  Good score, not great
Theme song:  Well, I love it, but I almost love it more as a Duran Duran song than a James Bond theme song.  It’s hard to remember it does go with the movie.
Credit sequence:  Holy neon makeup, Batman! 
Bond girl:  Um, no.  Just no on Stacey Sutton.  But I love Pola Ivanova.  And I’ve grown fond of May Day.
Bad guys:  Love Zorin.  Best part of the movie.
Overall personal rating:  2 out of 5

Monday, July 29, 2013

Octopussy (1983)

Okay, let’s get this one out of the way.  I’ve long considered this my least favorite Bond film.  I didn’t like it when I saw it in the theater when it premiered.  Watching it on television every now and then did nothing to change my mind.  So, how did it fare this viewing?  Well, I will admit it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  That doesn’t mean it was good, or that it still isn’t going to end up at the bottom of my personal list, but, the best thing I can say for it was wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

I couldn’t remember the pre-credit sequence at all when it started.  I finally vaguely remembered the cute little plane Bond escapes in when it appeared, but yeah.  I was VERY hazy on what happens in most of this film.  Actually, I’m still hazy on it.  There’s a renegade Russian colonel who wants to start a war, there’s a fake Faberge egg which contained something he needs, there’s Louis Jordan doing his own thing, and Octopussy doing her own thing, and it all sort of ties together in India and Germany and for someone who love plots, I guess I really sort of tuned out of this one.

But that’s part of the problem with it.  There’s nothing memorable here.  There’s nothing really wrong with this movie, it is just heavy on the blah.  The stunts in this one are far more exciting than the rest of it.  The little plane escape in the beginning, a car chase through Indian streets, Bond gets hunted through the jungle by Louis Jordan on elephant back, there’s a fight on top of a moving train, and a fight on top of an airplane. This movie outdoes itself with the crazy action.

But I don't like any of the characters, and nothing grabs me here.

Favorite parts:  Um... none?  Okay, I like the pre-credits sequence.  And I like the auction scene where Bond bids for the egg.  And the train chase has its moments.

Music:  Good
Theme song:  My least favorite song so far, please make it go away
Credit sequence:  Okay
Bond girl:  I like the woman who helps Bond in the pre-credits sequence, don’t like anybody else
Bad guys:  Do not like any of them
Overall personal rating:  1 out of 5


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Lone Ranger (2013)

As I learned a long time ago, what the critics say is totally irrelevant to whether or not a movie is going to hit my personal buttons.  I liked Lone Ranger a lot on the first viewing, loved it by the third viewing.  Yeah, I've been back to see it a few times.  It was much better the second time, as I'd accepted the things that bugged me, and I could just sit back and enjoy it for what it is.  Which is a highly amusing and enjoyable Western, with characters I loved, dialogue that made me laugh out loud, and that all important piece of the puzzle for me -- a very good score.  And considering the composer is Hans Zimmer, that is super high praise from me.  This is the first score of his I've truly liked since... well, since Black Rain.  It works perfectly in the film and I've been listening to it on repeat at home.

If you want to read a great review of this movie, one that is fair and hits the faults as well as the good, this review sums it all up perfectly.  He addresses all the critics' points, and his analysis is fascinating.  There's not much I can say about the good and bad of this film that he didn't say better.  Go read it if you want to see what Lone Ranger is really like.  It's well worth the read.

I should say I come to this film with no Lone Ranger baggage.  I did not watch the old series.  My parents did, avidly, so the Lone Ranger was something I was always familiar with, but not intimately so.  When the 1980 movie, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, came out, we all went and saw it.  And it stunk.  And that was the only Lone Ranger I ever knew.  (I recently re-watched Legend... and it was pretty much as bad as I remember.  Not terrible, just so cheesy that it was hard to sit through and not continuously roll my eyes.)

I love how the story is told by old Tonto.  For me, it's a great framing device that allows the story to be a little wacky and off.  It's the prerogative of storytellers throughout the ages to make up whatever they want.  And I love that there are questions the boy asks about the story, that Tonto doesn't answer. This is the kind of stuff my writerly half digs to pieces.

And I absolutely love Tonto.  Johnny Depp, for me, is perfect in the role in this particular version.  And I think he looks great.  Even on first viewing, this instantly became my favorite Depp character.  I loved the first Pirates movie, but could do without the sequels.  Tonto is a hundred times more interesting and awesome than Jack Sparrow, with a far more interesting personality.

But I was also impressed with Armie Hammer as John Reid.  Sure his version of the Lone Ranger may not be the ideal strong hero type out the starting gate, but he's so earnest and determined and full of high values and ideals, that I really liked him.  And I thought his growth worked well here.  And he sure does wear that suit, hat, and mask well.

I also loved James Dale Badge as Dan Reid.  I had seen him earlier this summer as the main henchman in Iron Man 3, but I didn't even recognize him in Lone Ranger until after I read his name.  He is so different in this, in looks, voice, actions, and he's perfect as a Texas Ranger and John's older brother. 

The bad guys all work for me too.  Hard to recognize William Fincter under that ugly makeup, but he's there.

And the horse... can't leave without mentioning that the horse is hilarious.

I also love that the script is quite smart, in that it doesn't dumb things down for the audience.  There are many subtle touches and moments in this film that I appreciated immensely. 

A lot of the scenery is Monument Valley, which is beautiful, though I wish the colors weren't so washed out.  That's one of my biggest complaints, which is really a minor thing overall.  I didn't find it too long, and didn't want to leave the theater.  I came out of the movie wanting to look for my horse, not my car... and that's what I want out of my movies... to escape, to immerse in another world, and to come out still in that world.

This one works for me.

For another review, check out Hamlette's take on it.  She comes from a very strong love of the Clayton Moore/Jay Silverheels versions, so I enjoyed reading her perspective.  I admit, the previews for Lone Ranger weren't that good, and I might have passed on this one if she hadn't recommended I go.  I'm so very glad I did.

Monday, July 15, 2013

10 things you might not know about me

Millie at ClassicForever tagged me on this one.  Here's 10 random facts about me you might not know.

1.  If my hair isn't long enough to braid at least sections of, I tend to be unhappy.  I blame this on Lee Marvin and his character of Tully Crow in The Comancheros, whose single random braid was the first I imitated.  I'm thinking of this because I'm wearing one like that right now...

2.  I'd much rather do yardwork than housework.
3.  I love catching snakes.
4.  I am attracted to Men in Scarves.  Seriously.  Show me a bunch of pictures and I am immediately drawn to the ones with a scarf around their neck.  So much so that I have started collecting pictures of my favorite actors in scarves.  Just because.
5.  I am not a very forgiving person.  I'm working on that.
6.  I am a good baseball player.
7.  I am allergic to wheat.
8.  I own and know how to use a bullwhip.
9.  I will run immediately to the grocery store if the cats or dog are out of food, but if I am out of human food, I usually opt to skip dinner instead. 
10. I bought a new sewing machine from Amazon seven years ago.   I have never opened the box it was shipped in.

I'm going to tag Patti, Tom of Motion Picture Gems, Rabia, and Laura, but please feel free to ignore if not inclined to participate.  I know I'm personally terrible about memes and being tagged myself, so just disregard.  And if anyone else wants to join in, by all means, do so!  It's always fun to learn more about the people I "hang out" with the most.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

In lieu of a real post about this movie, we'll just post some delicious pictures of Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian.  

Just look at that last picture.  Yowza!  No, Rhett Butler is most decidedly not my favorite Clark Gable role.  Fletcher Christian is.  Gable should have played a few more swashbuckling pirate/sea captain roles back in the day, he does it so well.  And I'm one who prefers him without the moustache, though he undeniably wears that moustache very well.  But this look right here?  Just can't be beat for sheer attractiveness.

Fletcher Christian has long been one of my all-time favorite characters, from both this movie and from the book, but I realized it was definitely this particular movie that cemented him as a favorite character (and role model) very early on for me.  Christian is darker and moodier and less noble in the book.  In the movie, he's constantly trying to protect the men from Bligh while doing what he can to stay within the law.  As "protection" is one of the most prominent character traits I love, of course, I love this version of Fletcher Christian.  It's perhaps a more "Hollywood" version of Christian than the other later movies present, but that's not a detriment for me.   If I want to watch Mutiny, this is the version I will always turn to.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

The Night of the Generals (1967)

What an intriguing story concept this one has! It's 1942, in German-occupied Warsaw. A prostitute is brutally murdered, and a frightened witness swears he saw a German general leaving right afterwards. When it turns out the prostitute was also a German agent, intelligence officer, Major Grau (Omar Sharif) dives right into a murder investigation, fully intent on bringing the general to justice. There are three generals in Warsaw that do not have alibis for that night, and they become his chief suspects. The generals are played by Charles Gray, Donald Pleasance, and Peter O'Toole.

Of course, linking generals to murders is risky business, particularly in wartime, and Grau finds himself promoted and summarily shipped off to Paris before his investigation can get anywhere.

Two years later, 1944, another prostitute is murdered. Grau recognizes the MO, and also discovers that all three suspect generals are once again together. He resumes his investigation, but this time the background has shifted to post D-Day invasion, and also the German officer plot to kill Hitler.

I love this idea. I love the murder mystery set against history, from the German point of view. I love the idea that Grau is so intent on justice that he is willing to take down a German general while the war is causing the world to fall down around them.

But this movie doesn't quite reach the level of brilliance it should. It gets a bit derailed by various side plots. There's a whole subplot involving a secondary character's romance, and a very long bit while that secondary character works as Peter O'Toole's orderly and escorts him around Paris. And while I love the whole plot to kill Hitler as background... it takes over a portion of the movie and the murder investigation, the most interesting part, is pushed aside. The movie also jumps time periods, from the 40's to the 60's, with parts of the story told in flashback. It works, but some of the transitions were awkward. And Omar Sharif, who I thought was the lead of the film, disappears for long stretches at a time. It's almost like the movie couldn't make up its mind what it wanted to focus on, and it tries to do everything at once.

But that aside, the cast is great. Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole are fabulous. Charles Gray and Donald Pleasance are both perfect (and it's quite interesting seeing two actors who both played Blofeld in James Bond movies together on screen!). The dialogue in this movie is smart and very good, and I think Donald Pleasance gets the majority of the best dialogue. Phillipe Noiret plays a French Investigator, and I quite liked him as well. And Christopher Plummer has a small role as Rommel, which was most welcome.

I won't spoil the mystery, but I was not surprised when the murderer was finally revealed. It was really the only logical conclusion. However, there was one plot twist in the film that caught me completely off guard, and I LOVE when that happens. It's hard to surprise me, and this was definitely a "whoa! I can't believe they just did that" rather awesome moment.

This is not a movie I need to own, but I'm glad I saw it for its cast and originality.

Monday, July 01, 2013

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

How interesting! I have always thought of this as my favorite Roger Moore Bond film. But this viewing... I was wondering why. I really love a few key scenes, and the rest... I want to skip to the good stuff. I do love quite a few of the characters, though, and as I'm really learning about myself: characters are key.  Overall, though, this is still a very strong film of the Roger Moore Bonds.

This movie has some funny history with me. My parents saw this one in the theater, but my sister and I did not, for some unknown reason. There was a Good Guys store in the local mall. When this movie came out on video, it was playing on their televisions non-stop, so whenever we went to the mall, we’d idle outside the store, and watch another segment (without volume, mind you). Sometimes, we caught the same scenes over and over, and we developed in-jokes about how we always caught the same parts. My mom would explain what part of the film we were at, if it was new. This might be why I like parts of this film, but not the whole. I never saw the whole film until much later. The parts we stood around for in the mall and watched over and over are still my favorite parts to this day.

The plot is simple enough - Bond's trying to recover the lost ATAC device, a British defense communication system, before the Russians get a hold of it.

So, what do I love? Topol as Colombo. Carole Boquet as Melina. Julian Glover as Kristatos. I just love the three of them. Colombo and Kristatos have all kinds of history, and it makes me laugh, because it means my favorite part of the film has nothing to do with Bond! My favorite part is the (glossed over, but still there) betrayed friendship angle and the final (too short) showdown between Colombo and Kristatos. Just never gets old, that theme. Thank you, Ben-Hur and Messala.

I love Melina. I think she’s gorgeous and hello! She carries a crossbow! How can I not love that? I am extremely fond of characters who use arcane weapons.

I particularly like the opening with the helicopter and Blofeld. I love when Bond and Melina get dragged through the water. And I love the final assault on the monastery. I think the whole ski chase is pretty amazing, however, it is a really odd scene. I mean, why does Bond just take off after Kriegler anyway? Because Bibi has a crush on him? He doesn’t know the guy, there should be no reason to suspect he’s working with Kristatos or Locque or anybody, but off Bond goes. Nonetheless, it is a spectacular chase, with some yowza moments. Like the ski jump, and the bobsled run. I also really like the underwater footage. Some of that is pretty spectacular too.

What do I dislike? The ice skater has to be one of the most annoying Bond girls EVER. The movie is rather long and filled with a million unnecessary chases. I always tend to forget about the whole Countess section because, again, it just seems to be random filler and not really relevant to the plot. I also tend to forget about the attack on Kristatos’s warehouse, though it leads into one of my favorite parts, where Bond pushes Locque’s car off the edge. I’m rather fond of Bond’s Italian contact, Ferrara, who Locque has brutally killed, so when Bond tosses the little white dove pin in the car and coldly kicks the car over the edge, I’m ready to cheer. (Yes, I tend to be fond of a lot of Bond’s contacts/other agents... and they always seem to get killed too. Hmph.)

Favorite parts: The pre-credit helicopter scene. Kristatos attempt to feed Bond and Melina to the sharks. The ending at the monastery. Bond dispensing with Locque. Anytime Melina uses her crossbow. When the Citroen flips over and it just takes a couple guys to turn the tiny car right-side up again. General Gogol’s cheerful exit. Columbo knocking out the wounded bad guy when Melina’s not looking.

Music: Lousy lousy and lousy.
Theme song: Yawn. Boring.
Credit sequence: More like a music video than a Bond credit sequence. Not a fan.
Bond girl: Love love love Melina! Bibi is just too annoying for words. The Countess is here and gone before we ever get to know her.
Bad guys: Kristatos is rather laid-back, but he is cool and sly and duplicitous and I like that.
Overall personal rating: 4 out of 5