Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Re-viewing Bond - LICENCE TO KILL (1989)

Because of an unexpected Christmas gift (from someone who I should expect such things from already) came the Blu-Ray disc of LICENCE TO KILL. This was given to me in response to my re-evaluation of QUANTUM OF SOLACE on the format and the idea was that perhaps LTK was the QOS of the 1980’s. I immediately disagreed with this description of the second Timothy Dalton Bond film as I really liked it when I saw it in a Cookeville, TN movie theater in 1989. I liked it a lot more than a much bigger hit from that year that is much better regarded- INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE. To this day I think the third Indy film is a mess and hold TEMPLE OF DOOM up as superior just before I duck my head to avoid the rocks thrown by the Movie Police.

Back to LICENCE TO KILL. I liked the film then and I thought it would be a blast re-visit it with the new format (‘Blu Was Made For Bond’ insists the packaging). I was right- it was a blast- but one that left me sadder than it should have.
The beef against the film for years has always started with those who despised Dalton in the role. I am NOT one of those folks. I read the Fleming books long ago and know that in looks, manner, attitude and general bearing Dalton comes much closer to the character on the page than anyone before him. I will always love Connery above other Bonds as he was fantastic and defined the role but Dalton was just what this lover of the books was more than thrilled to see onscreen after Moore’s series of movies declined into intentional and unintentional jokes. Thank God, said I, for a serious James Bond throughout an entire film instead of one that turned into a cartoon character on occasion for the sake of a dumb joke.

But the second usual complaint about LTK turned out to be something I had to end up more or less agreeing with. Namely that by 1989 the series was trying to be too much like the other action movies being made at the time. Immersed in the period at the time myself I didn’t see that as a problem- bring on the violence; kick some drug lord ass; destroy a major re-occurring character to set up a standard revenge plot- full steam ahead! At the time it seemed like a new, bold direction for a single adventure- the ultimate ‘This time it’s personal’ action movie BS grafted onto Bond. And for the most part this element still holds up today. I like the idea of putting Bond on the vengeance track and Felix was certainly the way to do it but 20 years later it does seem a bit too … 80s. Don’t get me wrong- one of the things I love most about the series is the flavors of the movies from the different decades. The cool of the 60s as the films defined a new screen style and aesthetic and the more detached snark of 70s as the character morphed into a parody of itself too often than was smart are part of the reason I love revisiting these movies. They reflect the prevailing cinema winds of those times in a way that is both fun and educational for any with a mind to pay attention. But with LTK I think the series may have made the mistake of following the trends rather than trying to set them. Parts of it feel like they could be from just about any action film of the late 1980s. Far too many times the movie doesn’t feel like a Bond picture. It’s always well done with solid storytelling and a fairly interesting plot but it feels kind of generic in ways it should not. And that’s a shame because Dalton is quite good here as are the supporting cast. Two very gorgeous ladies add to the long list of fabulous Bond girls and even if Q should never have been wedged into the script Desmond Llewelyn does what he can.

The action scenes are good except for the opening DEA assault which begs the question ‘Where the Hell are all the other agents?’ Much has been made of the amped up violence that was eventually cut to avoid a possible R rating but it isn’t any more bloody than average as it stands.

Overall, I’m glad to have re-watched this one but it lost a notch or two in my opinion this time around. It’s still a good Bond film but it only falls into the middle range for the series and just barely at that. I still wish Dalton had gotten the chance for at least one more film but maybe a hiatus is what the series needed.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Movies I am ashamed to admit I haven't seen

Over my many years as a cinema nut I have always championed trying to see as many of the great classics as possible if for no other reason than it gives a film fan different perspectives and insights into what inspired today's movies and filmmakers. But also some of the best movies in the world are the type rarely seen by the general public just looking for whatever is on the New Release rack right now. I wouldn't give up my viewings of Kurosawa, John Ford, Sam Fuller or Anthony Mann movies for anything. But I have been thinking recently about the ones I haven't yet seen. The big and small movies held up as ones well worth seeing for more than just their fine stories. Those held up as good examples of movie making at its best on one level or another. Here is my hastily compiled list of movies I haven't seen that I feel I really should.

SHANE (1953)
42ND STREET (1933)
GIANT (1956)
LA STRADA (1954)
8 ½ (1963)

Some of these might be a surprise to my friends but I swear I have never seen them. How I've kept from watching all of MIGHTY JOE YOUNG is beyond me but there it is! So in the next year I intend to cross some if not all of these off the list.

And if there are some others I can think of I'll add them as I go. Come to think of it, there are a few Kurosawa's that I haven't caught up with yet.....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Everyone knew this was going to eventually happen after what the Easter Bunny said about Mrs. Claus.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Images of Santa

With Christmas only a couple of days away my thoughts are on the white bearded guy Santa Claws...uh...Claus. Here are some of my favorite images of the big fellow.

And one comic panel showing how the season can still be a time of repelling alien invasions with the tools at hand! Even those made of snow.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weird Christmas movie tradition

Each December for almost a decade and a half I've watched the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of this film-

(and I'd love to see this comic book!)
Or, because I love a good rumble between Santa and Satan, this one-

But this year I'm having trouble deciding which one to view. I think some more strange Christmas music is in order. Maybe from this compilation--

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

AVATAR (2009) - lawsuit ahead?

Sadly, the more I see of James Cameron's return to science fiction film making the less interested I am in watching it. From the trailer I can see the broad outline of the story and its looking pretty predictable. Indeed, its looking a lot like some thing I've seen before....namely an Outer Limits episode from 1964 called The Chameleon. As a matter of fact it looks like the same basic story with a love interest wedged in to appeal to the female demographic.

Strange. Cameron has been down this road before and it cost him a lawsuit.

I wonder how long it will be before he or his producers are in court on this one. Or have they already paid off the Outer Limits creators?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Re-viewing Bond - QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)

I picked up the Blu-Ray disc of QUANTUM OF SOLACE recently because it was bundled with the Blu-Ray of FOR YOU EYES ONLY. Now, I had no desire to buy QOS after the intense disappointment I felt when I saw it theatrically, but………and I had no intention of re-buying the Bond films on Blu-Ray since I’m perfectly happy with the releases I have of them all on DVD, but……….the price tag for both of these discs was $17.88! Dammit! That’s less than $9 for each Blu-Ray Bond film! Someone knows my weaknesses too well! Of course, I was amused at this pairing since a major plot element of QUANTUM copies one from FYEO very closely. Surely linking these movies for sale wasn’t pure chance? Plus, I consider FYEO to be one Moore’s best outings as 007 with a solid story, few gadgets and one of the single most bad-ass scenes in Bond film history.

So when I broke out QUANTUM and watched it at home I was shocked to find myself liking it more this time. With the movie shrunk down to my television screen I could actually see what the hell was happening in the action sequences which was a big help. The action is still far too edited-to-death for the film’s own good but being able to see briefly where cars are, who is shooting guns, where people are in relation to each other and what the setting of the fights looks like was a big change from seeing QOS on the big screen where everything was a blur of movement with no context. I’d pay good money to have a different editing team re-visit those sections of the movie. There’s a really good film in there somewhere that got lost in post-production.

I haven’t played with FOR YOUR EYES ONLY yet but I bet I will soon. I’m curious to see how well that film holds up 28 years later.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Monday, December 07, 2009

L'il Cthulhu's big day!

For some reason this puts me in the Christmas spirit!

Friday, December 04, 2009

What I Watched In November

I got out to the theater only a couple of times and then only to the $1.50 place to catch some second run stuff. My one trip to Nashville's fine Belcourt Theater was to see HOUSE OF THE DEVIL which was good 70s horror style fun. I also finally saw a couple of classics including BOB LE FLAMBEUR which was great fun. I saw the remake a few years ago and really enjoyed it too but now I need to rewatch it to see if it lives up to the original.

I'm still watching and enjoying FLASHFORWARD even if Joseph Fiennes is one of the lamest actors working regularly today. He's less wooden here than in ELIZABETH but its a close thing. FRINGE remains fun but I can see that Fox will be canceling it after this season. Moving to Thursday night seems to have shot the series in the head as far as the ratings are concerned and FOX only has two settings for genre TV- 'huge hit' or 'off the air'.

JENNIFER’S BODY (2009)- 6 (not as smart or witty as it wants to be, but not bad)
THE STEPFATHER 2 (1989)- 6 (good follow up)
LINK (1986) – 7 (excellent thriller from Richard Franklin)
HEADER (2006)- 5 (interesting but hampered by low budget and terrible southern accents)
PLAGUE TOWN (2008)- 4 (a combination of the crappy [acting, dialog], the clumsy [plot] and the creepy [monster design] ultimately fails)
THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS (2009)- 6 (bizarre, offbeat and humorous tale told with a straight face- too bad they couldn’t find a good ending)
CAPTAIN SINDBAD (1963)- 5 (not bad but not in the same league as the Harryhausen films)
THE SPIDER (1931) – 6 (oddly titled but intriguing mystery)
THIRST (1979)- 7 (fascinating take on vampires)
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE (1962)- 6 (Chris Lee without his own voice in a German Holmes film)
THE PACK (1977)- 6 (pretty good killer dog film- the book was better)
THE FOREST (1982)- 3 (slow, sad slasher)
HALLOWEEN 2 (2009)- 1 (damn)
NIGHT OF THE DEVILS (1972)- 7 (nice Euro-horror version of the wurdulak story)
HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009)- 6 (good throwback to 70s/80s horror thrillers- in almost every way)
JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN (1971)- 8 (amazing piece of work)
HARDWARE (1990)- 4 (rewatch)
THE POWER (1968)- 7
BOB LE FLAMBEUR (1956)- 9 (Melville can do no wrong!)
PONTYPOOL (2009)- 8 (excellent modern horror)
ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS (1966)- 6 (fun EuroSpy from Jess Franco)
MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973) – 7 (fascinating arty horror film)
THE MILLION EYES OF SUMARU (1967)- 7 (fun Sax Rohmer inspired spy adventure)
TWINS OF EVIL (1971)- 5 (maybe the least of Hammer’s Mircalla films- but still worth seeing)
THE SORCERER (1967)- 6 (Reeve’s Karloff film is a good one)
BARBED WIRE DOLLS (1975)- 4 (typical Franco WIP tale)
QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)- 6 (rewatch) (got better on the small screen-I can understand the still far too fast edited action)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Paul Naschy R.I.P.

The news that one of my monster heroes has died reached me today and I must admit it caught me unawares. I knew he was getting older and looking more frail but it just never occurred to me that El Hombre Lobo might die. I first encountered him not onscreen but in the pages of this wonderful magazine devoted to Euro-Trash cinema.

After reading this issue I sought out his movies and still continue that hunt today. I haven't seen all of his films but the unwatched list shrinks every year. For me he was one of the last surviving Great Horror Stars and I regret never getting to meet and thank him for the hours of entertainment he's provided me.

The world is a little less fantastic with his passing. Goodbye Senor Lobo. I will miss you.

Frankenberry commercial

Nicely uses footage from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN so its like Karloff is selling me breakfast cereal.