Sunday, June 30, 2013

Alien (1979)

A quick aside before I continue: This my 200th entry in this blog, and I'm particularly proud for having done so many. Like my 100th entry, when I did a favorite of mine, "Demolition Man," for this one I'm doing one of my favorite films of all time. Thanks to everyone who reads this little experiment of mine!

In the late 70's struggling screenwriter Dan O'Bannon was living on producer Ronald Shusett's couch. He was homeless and had no money. His lone previous writing project had been "Darkstar," the sci-fi comedy which was also the directorial debut of a young John Carpenter. He was a man with great talent, but little success. Then Fox picked up a the rights to a screenplay he had called "Alien." To direct they got an unknown British television commercial maker named Ridley Scott and a barely tested stage actress named Sygourney Weaver to be the lead. It had a budget of $11 million.

And after it came out in 1979, the movie world was never the same.

There are a lot of movies I would call "one of my favorites," and plenty of movie franchises I would say the same about, but when it comes to the "Alien" series, the only thing that can even come close to comparing in terms of my all-time favorite sci-fi films is "Star Wars." And now that the prequels have come along to taint what was once glorious, I'm unsurprisingly leaning more towards Ripley and the Xenomorphs.

I played bass for "Ripley and The Xenomorphs."

"Alien" essentially created modern sci-fi horror. Before then space had been a sterile, clean place for the Kubricks, Roddenberrys and Lucas's of the world to make pretty and high-tech looking. After all, it's space travel! The future! Warp Factor 1, Kessel runs in less than 12 parsecs and "I can't let you do that, Dave" and whatnot. But "Alien" gave us a realistic, dirty, lived-in future which actually looked like what space travel would probably be like in our eternally less-glamorous-than-we-imagined reality.

Perhaps it was this sense of realism that made what the film had in store for its audiences so hard-hitting and shocking. Scary creatures from another planet attacking us was not something new by any means. Hell that's every 50's drive-in movie ever made. And the idea of a person becoming corrupted by the monsters had been done in "Invasion of The Body Snatchers." But that film didn't feature the shocking gore combined with the sublime direction and timing of Ridley Scott. It was almost like a proto-Cronenberg experiment in body horror - something inside you that you can't control, violating you and literally getting under your skin before it claws its way out, ripping you apart.

The infamous chestburster sequence, which also happens to be my personal favorite movie scene of all time, got such a reaction from audiences that it was famously reported that people were getting sick in the theaters. The level of gore on display was the kind of thing you saw in "I Spit on Your Grave," not a monster movie about something from space. Those movies are silly and unrealistic. Or at least, they were until "Alien" came around to inject that realism. It always seemed authentic, even with an outlandish creature running about, because it took itself seriously, contained real characters, and all the grit and grime that comes from a setting that feels legitimate.

They did not skimp on the dank, that's for sure.

Most people today seeing it for the first time would probably consider "Alien" to be slow and timid compared to what they're used to, and they wouldn't be too much to blame for feeling that way. Cinema has evolved a lot in the 34 years since it was released, and time is not kind to most horror movies, as it's the nature of the genre to push the envelope and ramp up the scares. And like the majority of horror films of that era, a good amount of time is spent with building atmosphere and characterization. This has the trivial consequence of making it so you don't want to see bad things happen to the characters, which makes you feel something when those things inevitably happen.

He died with his dignity.

And like any respectable horror film, much is left to the imagination. Despite the horrific gore-fest of the dinner scene, that's the most graphic "Alien" gets by a mile. The rest is done in quick flashes of violence and is actually kind of subtle, even though what's happening is that the alien is ramming its "tongue" through the brain of its victims, which is pretty hardcore. It's even implied that the alien may have raped the character of Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) before killing her, or for all we know she was killed because of the rape (if it happened), which is all kinds of horrible that's unpleasant to even entertain the thought of. But we're left to draw those conclusions based on what the movie doesn't show us. And that, for my money, is the way to go, because when let to their own devices, our minds always do far worse things to the characters than the movie could have shown us.

Speaking of characters, "Alien" also set the precedent for what is now commonly referred to as "The Strong Female Lead," although few have been as well written or portrayed. Sygourney Weaver's performance as Lt. Ellen Ripley is one of the great landmarks in sci-fi and horror movies in general. There hadn't been too many movie characters like her before: a strong, intelligent, resourceful woman who was capable of being a badass, all while being totally organic about the whole process, and not making a big deal (or any deal at all) about the fact that she was female.

Wow. It's almost like you're an actual person instead of simply being defined by your gender...

A lot of characters like that and the actresses portraying a tough woman, be it your Michelle Rodriguezs or Milla Jovovichs or what have you, tend to come off as really artificial to me, mostly because they're always so in-your-face about being tough. They constantly have to remind the audience with a sneer and a one-liner that they're a badass, and are often combative far past the point where any normal person would stop and take it down a notch, just for variety's sake.

With Ripley it wasn't like that. She is a normal person in every respect, and she acts like it. She gets scared, confused and desperate just like anyone else would. But she just so happens to be brave and clever (and lucky) enough to survive to the end credits when everyone else didn't. There isn't a single point during "Alien" which seems like the pandering moment where the women are supposed to say "You go girl!" to the screen. It's nice when a movie doesn't treat its viewers like trained seals.

That's not to ignore the rest of the cast, all of whom are just legendary in this movie. Ian Holm, Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton are of course phenomenal. But for me the two standouts besides Sygourney are Veronica Cartwright and John Hurt. Cartwright gives a performance which has to hold some kind of world record for a single person conveying that much fear. It's almost to the point of being obnoxious, actually. Had it not been for a stellar acting job it probably would have been. And John Hurt had an alien rip out of his ribcage. I'd say that earns anybody a mention when talking about memorable performances.


The only weakness to "Alien" is that there are aspects of it that time has not been kind to. This is mostly the specials effects on the alien itself. At the end of the day, it's just a guy in a suit. And while I'll prefer that any day over CGI, the problem is that since the suit was so awkward, and the poor dude couldn't actually see anything while wearing it (true story), there's never a great sense of gracefulness or predatory instinct when you finally get a good look at the thing. It's far too slow moving, almost like it's sleepy or drugged out of its mind, and there's one shot in particular (in Lambert and Parker's death scene) where it looks like the thing is a Thanksgiving Day Parade float, just smoothly cruising down the avenue, animatronic arms slowly moving up and down. It looks ridiculous.

"Mammy! Doncha know me?! It's your lil' baby!"

Also, there's always been something that's bugged the crap out of me: When Dallas or Ripley are talking to Mother, the ship's AI, they interact with it by typing out questions into the computer. Well, they'll only hit like 5 keys, but those 5 keystrokes are apparently enough to type of something like "REQUEST EXPLANATION FOR SCIENCE INABILITY TO NEUTRALIZE ALIEN." I have no idea what that interface is like at that point. I know watching them type all that out isn't exciting, but come on. Type faster. Ripley one-finger types like she's trying her best to break the damn thing.


But those hardly ruin the movie, and most of the problems can be traced back to "Alien" being a product of its time, and for the budget they had it still looks fantastic. Even with the Apple II looking computers and their keyboards with buttons as big as cats. This is a film I could watch over and over and over again. Which I have done.

And somehow, in some ways, 1986 it got even better.

This trailer is a shockingly accurate representation of the movie. Starts slow with nothing happening, building an uncomfortable atmosphere before going INSANE at the end. Well done.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Alien" is one of the best science fiction films ever made. It's also one of the best horror films ever made. And it's certainly, in my opinion, THE best film to cross those two genres. And it's one of my all-time favorite movies. It shaped my tastes in sci-fi, horror, gaming, and film. I can't express my love for it enough.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Leviathan (1989)

Remember 'The Abyss?" Yeah, that was a really good movie. "Leviathan"...not so much.

Alright, to be fair to "Leviathan," it's not EXACTLY the same movie as "The Abyss," and while they both did come out in 1989, "Leviathan" did come out first by about 6 months. But then again, "The Abyss" was such a massive undertaking that they probably wrote, shot, edited and released "Leviathan" while James Cameron was still filming.

"Leviathan" was brought to us by George P Cosmatos, a director who's work was strange in that it's usually not very good, but most of it is still entertaining. "Rambo: First Blood Part II" and "Tombstone" both immediately come to mind. Here with this movie however, it's so similar to other films like "The Abyss" and "Alien" and "The Thing" that were made by much better directors like James Cameron, Ridley Scott and John Carpenter, that it really takes a hard hit. This is one of those "Damn, I could be watching something exactly like this but way better" movies.

They'd better be careful. I hear Ebirah is in the area...

A mining operation on the ocean floor finds a sunken Russian submarine, which seems to have gone down for no good reason. Salving some random things from the sub brings aboard a virus which kills and then mutates the crew members into a monster, picking them off one by one until there's only a few leave to escape. There's also the traditional "greedy corporation that doesn't care" angle going on as well, which is pretty expected for films like this. Since, you know, that was in "Alien."

The effects work is actually not that bad for a movie of this caliber. It's honestly a bit better than I was expecting when going into it. The monster is sufficiently gross and the blood and guts are enough to make you think about wincing when one of the dudes gets a 4-foot long parasitic worm with rows of teeth on him, which proceeds to do its best to find out the color of the human lungs by eating its way to it. It's never very believable, but I've seen worse.

Besides the contrived setup, the issue really plaguing "Leviathan" is the cast. I think Peter Weller was still under the impression that he was playing Alex Murphy after becoming Robocop with the amount of emotional range he has on display here. Hell, at least Robocop had an excuse for deadpanning everything. It's a strange because I know Weller is a good actor, but he's slumming it here big time. Dude does not seem to want to be there.

Pro-tip: Just because you say it really sleepily and add a "MOTHAFUCKA" to the end doesn't change the fact that you stole a line from "Jaws."

Three other things about the cast: Ernie Hudson is awesome, Daniel Stern does not make a very convincing sex-fiend because he's Daniel freaking Stern, and you can't convince me that Richard Crenna and Bryan Cranston aren't the same person. Seriously. I have a sneaking suspicion that Crenna did not die in 2003. He just found being on "Malcom in The Middle" far too time consuming to be both Richard Crenna and Bryan Cranston at the same time, so he just killed off one of his personas. How he pulled it off before I'm not sure.

"Come on, Rambo. Take the mission. Then afterwards we'll make meth. It'll be great."

That's about all I have for "Leviathan." I suppose I've seen worse monster movies, and at the very least the damn thing wasn't CGI, which made it a lot better than if it had been made in say, the late 90's or 2000's. So there's that.

Check out the trailer for "Leviathan."

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Leviathan" is an alright, if forgettable sci-fi horror film that will make you feel like you're watching someone do an imitation of better movies. It's not horrible, it's just kind of bland. But it works as a late night creature feature.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Relic (1997)

I remember seeing "The Relic" on HBO or something one night when I was a kid. I think I was like 14 or something. That was about the time I first experienced R-rated films on a somewhat regular basis - or at least was capable of watching them if I wanted. I was squeamish as a kid though, so whenever it came to watching any kind of horror movie that boasted any kind of gruesomeness, it was a pretty big decision on my part. Did I really want to see this grotesque orgy of blood and guts which will be sure provide nightmare fuel for weeks to come?

Of course they rarely ever wound up being as disturbing or gory as I feared. I swear to this day I still get myself absurdly worked up over movies that are supposed to be gory, and I almost always wind up saying to myself "That wasn't that bad." I still have yet to watch the "Hostel" series or any of the "Saw" sequels because of the violence (not that I want to anyway, because they don't interest me in the least), but I'm guessing if I saw them I'd probably be irritated that the gore was so much less than I anticipated.

The point I'm coming around to is that I remember that back when "The Relic" came out, it was toted as being pretty intensely violent and hardcore. I vaguely remembered a scene where a guy is dangling from a rope and gets bitten in half by the monster, and the guys hauling him up only bring up his torso. As a kid, that sounded frakking intense, man. I guarantee you I was watching that with my knees in front of my face, covering up the majority of the screen.

Naturally when I watch it now as an adult, "The Relic" is laughably tame and dumb. I can't believe I used to be scared of this crap. I guess that's part of the magic of being a child, am I right?

The story is honestly what you would expect to get from a random monster-of-the-week episode of "The X-Files," only stretched out to two hours and starring a bunch of people not nearly as talented as Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. The idea is that a shipment from the Amazon jungle goes to the Natural History Museum in Chicago, and inside is some stuff that causes massive mutations and creates a monster which runs loose in the museum and there's a big, important event going on that the mayor and everyone else is going to be at so there's no way they can close the museum even though people are getting brutally murdered and there's one cop who knows better but nobody listens to him and a whole lot of rich people get killed when the monster tears through them because they were stupid and didn't listen to the scientists who suspected something weird going on and stop me if you've heard this before.

He died in a bizarre gardening accident. Authorities said best to leave that one...unsolved...

That's it. That's the movie. It's a creature feature. Fine, there's nothing wrong with that. But there's four distinct things that make it not work.

First is the cast. Tom Sizemore as the one smart cop is basically sleepwalking through this movie, although I don't know if that's just Tom Sizemore being himself since he's kind of a crap actor to begin with. Penelope Ann Miller as a useless scientist who I think is supposed to be our Strong Female Lead™, and is a laughably boring character and sells both confidence and fear with equally tepid emotions. The movie actually kind of forgets about her for most of the third act when she gets locked in a basement. Oddly enough there wasn't too much that seemed missing during that sequence. Imagine that. Everyone else is equally as bland or forgettable.

Second, the CGI monster is really, really bad. It's that special kind of "bad 90's CGI" where it's clear that at the time they were actually really proud of what they had managed to achieve with their magical computer-machines, and liked to show off how realistically they can render things like fire. So naturally they'll have an entire scene displaying the creature on fire, which may have looked impressive in theaters (unlikely), but probably looked like old reruns of "Reboot" by the time it hit VHS.

Quire exciting, this computer magic.

Third, the "hardcore violence" is actually pretty tame, although severe violence does, in fact, happen. The issue lays with the fact that it's the same bit of violence throughout the entire damn film. The reason for that is because the monster does ONE THING: it beheads people. Oh man, if you think beheadings are scary, this will be the scary thing you've ever seen. But as for me, yes it's true that the first time we see a victim with their obviously fake head ripped off and laying next to their body, it's a natural reaction to say "Oh damn! He got jacked up, son." But after the fifteenth guy gets grabbed up into the creature's jaws, the fact that their head is 100% certain to come off their shoulders starts to make it a rather dull affair because it's like we're watching the same death scene on repeat for the last forty minutes of "The Relic."

And lastly, I don't know what in the world director Peter Hyams was thinking when he made this film, but this is by far and away the worst lit, darkest, murky film I've ever seen. This movie is so poorly lit, usually using only flashlights to light entire sets, that I rarely had the faintest notion what I was looking at or what was happening. I'm not exaggerating when I say I've seen a film lit entirely by a single candle which was easier to comprehend than "The Relic" was. The film's annoying habit of back-lighting people in already dark environments ALL THE TIME also makes it so that for most of the film, you're looking at silhouettes instead of faces, and you need to guess who's talking by their voice. It's insane, and I don't understand the purpose behind it besides trying to figure out how much more black could a movie get. Because I'll tell you: The answer is "none." None more black.

You can see yourself in...BOTH sides...

I guess on the plus side, I'd rather watch "The Relic" before I watched an episode of "Fringe." At least in "The Relic" the annoying characters get decapitated. That, I have to admit, is a point in it's favor, because I would pay hardcore money to see Joshua Jackson get ripped to shreds.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "The Relic" is a product of that wave of late-90's horror films that had just figured out that computers can do funky stuff for cheaper than doing it practically, at the expense of looking completely terrible within a year of its release. And like the vast majority of those films, this one sucks pretty bad. Pop in a random episode of "The X-Files" and you'll have a much better time.

(Why do I have the sudden urge to watch "This Is Spinal Tap?")

Sunday, June 23, 2013

World War Z (2013)

I knew that I was asking for trouble when I said in my last entry that I was sensing a trend this month in me seeing a disturbing streak of big budget movies with no soul to them despite the spectacle. I mentioned that I needed a break from all of that, and what do I do? Almost immediately after writing that, I go out and see "World War Z," the most expensive zombie movie ever made with its price tag of around $200 million.

I am not a smart person sometimes.

I won't lie, I was never fully on board with this one from the get-go. I'm zombied out. I just can't bring myself to care about anything zombie related anymore. This culture really has seemingly hit an event horizon of zombie obsession, almost like zombies ourselves oddly enough. And this over-saturation and rabid following and praise of everything zombie related simply because it is zombie related has completely killed the genre for me. I'm sick of hearing about them, and by the way, I don't care how good "The Walking Dead" is supposed to be. The fact that all I hear fans of the show do is complain about how bad it is speaks otherwise.

And while we're at it, I don't care about "Doctor Who," either. Shut up about it. I would have maybe shown interest in it if half the people on my Facebook wall didn't post 57 "Doctor Who" related updates and pictures every day.

Anyway, my expectations for "World War Z" were firmly in the ditch, seeing as it looked bad from the trailer, I don't care about zombies, the production history for the film was troubled to say the least, the whole "zombie swarm" thing looked dumb to me, and it's the only zombie movie I can think off the top of my head that is PG-13. Can't say as I was expecting much.

And what do you know? "Not much" is exactly what I got.

"World War Z" is basically the trailer. No, seriously. Everything you need to know about this movie can be ascertained by watching the trailer, in which nearly the entire film is laid out in near chronological order. And since it's a zombie film, it's basically on a plot railroad as it is. Zombie movies are nothing if not consistent, being that once you've seen a few, you've seen them all.

Look out, they're attacking you right in the CGI!

Brad Pitt is a guy who flees from the zombie apocalypse with his family, finding relative safety on a military ship, he has to go out and find a cure, which he (kind of) does, and the movie ends on the unforgivably overused note of "This is only the beginning." Because as we all know, closing your movie by saying those words is always a mark of a film that it totally not cliched and tired, and undoubtedly the ending will be satisfying. Except if you're in the real world, or in "World War Z," where that's actually really dumb.

The whole "cure" bit is really less of a cure and more of a band-aid which will allow people to get away from the infected zones. Brad Pitt discovers that if you are sick, the zombies won't go after you out of some bizarre plot contrivance that is either nature doing the "survival of the fittest" thing, or the zombies being picky eaters - Unless you're healthy, the zombies will leave you alone. Like, if you have some kind of really bad disease, they won't even touch you to kill you. This of course raises all kinds of issues, chief among them being the question of "What is the threshold of health that the zombies can instantly sense?" They won't go after Brad Pitt once he's injected himself with some terrible but curable disease, but what about people with heart conditions? What about people who just have colds?

The zombies are wiping out entire cities with gusto. In fact we see Philadelphia get annihilated. Everyone got eaten. We didn't hear reports of sick people walking out unscathed. You're telling me every person in Philly was the epitome of health? What about fat people? They aren't healthy. Why aren't fat people immune from zombie attacks with their high cholesterol and blood pressure and clogged arteries that will kill them? If that was the case America would be the last country standing. U.S.A! U.S.A!

The whole issue of "choosing a healthy host to propagate the virus" becomes even more stupid when you take into consideration that the zombie's bodies aren't even living, so the fact that they were healthy doesn't matter one damn bit. But hey, what do I know? I'm not a professional screen writer.

By the way, it's interesting that Brad Pitt's whole family, and in fact everyone in the world just kind of rolls with the situation. There's nobody freaking out, or even a question of "What's happening?" They just kind of all say "Well, looks like it's the zombie apocalypse. Let's do this thing." It's almost like they're zombie movie fanatics themselves.

All of this could have been slightly overlooked had the action of the film been at least halfway passable. But as it is, the action in "World War Z" is so absurdly shaky, undecipherable and dark that it is nearly impossible to tell what the hell just happened for about 90% of every action sequence. Now this movie is loaded with action, which is one of the only good things I can say about it, but what does it matter if you can't tell what's happening?

For as much plentiful action as there was, there were very few points during which I felt a solid understanding of what was happening or who I was even looking at half the time. The camera jolted and jostled around so much, and the editing cuts were so quick and frantic that I felt like my eyeballs were going to explode. And then I remembered it was directed by Marc Forster, the hack who brought us "Quantum of Solace," which had the worst filmed action scenes of any Bond movie ever, and it all made sense.

Huh. When you look at the zombie swarm in a still frame it just kind of looks silly doesn't it?

But the thing that kills, utterly KILLS "World War Z" before any of the lame plot devices, the uninspired paycheck collecting acting, the random useless might as well be nameless characters, and the terrible action was the absolutely unforgivable rating of PG-13. This is a movie that was clearly intended to be rated R, as was pretty much every single zombie movie ever made. But since we can't be having gore in a movie about PEOPLE GETTING EATEN, we need to have black blood (if any blood at all), confusing editing, and shaky camera so we never get a good look at the supposed carnage. If I had never seen a zombie movie in my life, I'd say the zombies just go around tackling people, because that's about all you ever see happen.

Listen to me very carefully. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Because I'm about to once again, drop the science.


Pictured above - A credible movie critic.

LESSON #95 - "A few extra butts in seats is not worth a PG-13!"

Listen. It's a hard fact, but it's time to accept the truth. Zombie movies suck. Almost all of them do. It's just a fact of life. Embrace it, and know that no matter how bad it sucks, you will still have a built-in, hardcore audience that will see it no matter what.

And do you know the reason for that? It's because of the gore. Blood and guts. Carnage. People getting torn limb from limb while being eaten alive. That's literally the only thing your audience wants in a zombie flick. What, do you think they're going for the social commentary? That message was overdone and old in the 70's. Yes, consumerism. Loss of humanity. We get it. Even the masters of putting that message in their zombie movies have stopped giving a crap about that hackneyed moral.

We want blood. It's literally the only thing keeping most of us awake during this crap. Don't deny us that. Otherwise you look like a pansy.

 This is what happens in zombie movies. Accept it.

/science drop

 That's about all I have to say about "World War Z." I don't care about zombies, and this has done little to change my mind.

And I'm still not watching "The Walking Dead."


THE BOTTOM LINE - "World War Z" may look pretty, but like all that I have seen before it this month, being pretty does not excuse the fact that it's boring, dumb, and soulless. The fact that it's PG-13 just makes it insulting on top of being a waste of time.

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

This must be the month of "crappy snoozefests with too much CGI" given the movies I've seen lately. Between "After Earth," "Oz the Great and Powerful," "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" and now "Jack the Giant Slayer," I should have made June a themed month or something. This is getting really old, man. I need to shake it up or something. All this expensive but meaningless schlock is starting to wear on my nerves.

"Jack the Giant Slayer" isn't honestly as bad as those other films were. It's nowhere near the CGI-frosted horrors of "Oz the Great and Powerful" or the laughably pathetic acting of "After Earth." That much credit I must give it. It's probably the least bad of the four films on that list. Even while "Hansel and Gretel" was honestly a little more entertaining, I cared more about the protagonists in "Jack the Giant Slayer" since they were actually kind of likeable.

That doesn't mean it was good though. It just means that I wasn't pissed off when the credits started rolling. And the reason I wasn't pissed off was because it wasn't worth it to be since "Jack the Giant Slayer" is such a nothing of a movie as to barely be worth having any emotion at all over it.

What can I say about this? You already know the story. Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a farm-boy who ends up trading a horse for magic beans, they grow into a giant beanstalk, they climb up the beanstalk, there's a land of giants up there, the giants come down and attack the kingdom, Jack and everyone else defeats them, happily ever after, the end. Just add a whole lot of CGI and a useless princess to rescue to it and you've got your movie. Great, let's move on, shall we?

Alright fine, I can't end it there. Talking about something too much is in my nature, after all. Jack is a standard hero-type who is bland as all hell because there isn't anything particularly special about him besides the fact that his name is in the title of the film. I liked Nicholas Hoult as Beast in "X-Men First Class," but there isn't much for him to do here besides gape at the majesty of the CGI landscapes and grin like a dope every time the princess Isabella (Eleanor Tomlinson) is on screen. Whatever.

They had a lot of leather hoodies in ye olde Darke Age, did they?

The far more interesting character is Elmont (Ewan McGregor), a soldier who is tasked with looking after Isabella, and who leads the expedition up the beanstalk to the land of the giants. Out of everyone there, Elmont is hands-down the most proactive member of the cast and under any other circumstance I'd just assume he was the main character. But alas, he is not. Elmont, a bad-ass who takes charge and performs more heroic actions than Jack does is relegated to being merely a background character who pops in every once in a while to be awesome and then leaves.

He and that glorious mustache are too good for this movie.

There is a side plot involving a dude named Roderick (Stanley Tucci), who I guess is the king's adviser or something, and his attempt at controlling the giants with a magical crown so that he can take over the world. I'm assuming he's the king's adviser since it's always the king's adviser who ends up being totally whacked and evil and traitorous. Why kings even had advisers I have no idea. All they do is turn on you.

All the Roderick stuff just ends up being kind of pointless in the end anyway. He doesn't get much accomplished and fails pretty catastrophically during an exceptionally short reign over the giants. But you knew that was coming anyway. I thought the whole thing was a pretty stupid plan from the get-go considering that the giants are far from immortal or unstoppable, and their numbers aren't exactly overwhelming. Roderick couldn't take over the world with just them even if his plan had worked.

Roderick also is not helped by his incredibly obnoxious and frankly confusing assistant, Wicke (Ewen Bremmer) who is this psychopathic wormy dude whom I believe is supposed to be intimidating but is more annoying than anything else, especially so when he starts killing off characters cooler than himself. But thankfully the film sends him down the gullet of a giant in the beginning of the second act, so we're not dealing with him for long. But since it's PG-13 we can't even have a satisfying death scene for him, because the movie always abruptly cuts away from any significant violence just before it happens. This is common throughout the film, makes it look watered down and wussy, and gets really annoying really fast.

By the way, at no point am I buying that Stanley Tucci is a threat to the king when the king is played by Ian McShane. Ian McShane passes more intimidating things through his GI tract than Stanley Tucci and his little minion. Although "Jack the Giant Slayer" makes McShane, the Eternal Bad Ass himself look ridiculous in chintzy golden armor that looks like paper mache, and keeps it pretty low key. So there is little of Al Swearengen to be found here. What a waste.

Seeing Ian McShane in that absurd outfit causes me physical pain.

I can't even get excited about Bill Nighy playing the head giant, Fallon, although his voice work is, as usual, excellent. That classic Nighy quirkiness is present, although Fallon, like everyone else, is such a cardboard cutout of a stock character that it really doesn't matter that Bill is doing a great job. Again, what a waste.

I totally believe that giant is real. Not at all fake looking. Nope.

I think the most significant idea that "Jack the Giant Slayer" had was to imply at the very end of the movie that civilization advanced to our modern age without hot air balloons, blimps, airplanes, satellites, or a day without total cloud cover considering that the last shot of the film shows a very real and still there land of the giants floating in the sky and out of sight past the clouds. Whatever. It's a dumb ending to a pointless film. I can't even get that mad at it since it doesn't matter.

A standard trailer for a standard movie.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Jack the Giant Slayer" is a pretty looking fairy tale as told through the lenses of the most standard and stock movie making machine you could assemble. It's got skill and craftsmanship on the technical side, but there's no imagination or innovation in the script, and like "Oz the Great and Powerful," it has virtually no soul. It's another 9-figure budget extravaganza that left me feeling like I wasted my time.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

I think I was the only person on the face of this big, wide planet who didn't hate "Van Helsing." Seriously, it wasn't that bad. It was loud and stupid and had a bit too much CGI, true, but it had a lot of fun action, it was sleek and stylized, and it was loaded with homages to the classic Warner Bros. monster movies. I saw it as a love letter to those films, and I was down with that. Why everybody hated it I'm honestly not sure. Between that and the fact that I apparently am the sole person who like the Benicio Del Toro remake of "The Wolfman," I guess I'm just a sucker for those movies. What can I say?

The only reason I bring "Van Helsing" up is because that's probably the first place your mind will go when first hearing about "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters." And if your opinion of "Van Helsing" was low to bad to "Put a bullet in my head to make the pain go away," which was a popular opinion based on conversations I've had, than there's not much hope for you with "Hansel and Gretel." One reason being that the two films do share a relatively similar feel. The other (and likely more significant) reason being that between the two is that while I thought "Hansel and Gretel" was passably alright, I will say without hesitation that I liked "Van Helsing" better. Much better.

Just imagine "Van Helsing" as an R-rated buddy movie that can't decide whether or not it's action/horror or action/comedy, which has an odd penchant for exploding heads, directed by a guy who seemingly really wants to be Timur Bekmambetov . Then you've basically got "Hansel and Gretel." Speaking of Timur, there's more than a little hint of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" here, although this film isn't nearly as boring as that (literal) train wreck was.

Dude, I didn't know Marduk was in town! Play Throne of Rats!!!

Everything you need to know about the plot you can guess from the poster. Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are two siblings who kill a witch when they were younger after stupidly going into a house made out of candy. Since their parents get killed during the whole debacle, they decide death-dealing is their calling in life, and they go around the countryside like the Ghostbusters, riding the world of witches wherever they find them.

And, like "Van Helsing," naturally they have an arsenal of anachronistic weaponry of the "almost steampunk" variety which make no sense at all given the setting. At least with that movie it was KIND of plausible. They laid out the foundations of how Van Helsing's automatic crossbow worked, and conceptually it made sense. Here though, the weapons and tech are just kind of there without any reason or sense. But hey, what are they going to do? NOT give Hansel a large clip, semi-automatic shotgun made from vague Dark Ages technology that looks like it came out of "Gears of War?" We wouldn't have a movie without that.

"Where does he get those wonderful toys?"

You can sing the rest of it along with the movie as it goes. They are called to a town having a witch problem, they stop a girl from being unjustly burned as a witch even though it's so horrifyingly obvious she's going to turn out to actually be a witch later, they investigate, things get out of control, lots of townsfolk die, they find out things about their past which would have been surprising had I not seen them coming half an hour beforehand, they learn not all witches are evil, they have a final confrontation with the bad witches, they win, roll credits.

That's really the biggest problem with the film. It's really generic and doesn't do anything you haven't seen thousands of times before. The craft with which it was made is acceptable I suppose, but that isn't enough to make it interesting. You could get Christopher Nolan to direct a Spiderman origin story and it would still be boring as hell because shellfish on the ocean floor know the origin of Spiderman, and they're sick of seeing it too! It doesn't matter how well it's made.

Oooh, how edgy: A dark, gritty re-imagining. Viva la revoluciĆ³n.

Most people would see it for Jeremy Renner, being on everyone's hot list now for reasons that I guess I can understand. I guess. He's alright. I'm not as huge of a fan of his as other people are, but he reminds me of a young Gerard Butler. I think it's the way they both are always pursing their lips. It's annoying. Although between the two of them Renner is definitely the better actor. He's okay in "Hansel and Gretel" but it definitely comes across more like a paycheck movie.

The rest of the cast is either forgettable or bad, with the exception of Famke Janssen, who, in her vast hotness is both alluring and reasonably intimidating as the main baddie. That's unsurprising when you consider she played one of the best (and hottest) Bond girls ever, Xenia Onatopp. However, this film oddly enough contains another Bond girl with Gemma Arterton as Gretel, who was in one of the worst Bond films ever, "Quantum of Solace," and is an all-around horrible actress. I still have 'Nam flashbacks of her in "Prince of Persia" that makes me want to lobotomize myself with an egg beater.

And what's up with you dropping f-bombs all the time in this movie? It's really distracting.

And can I PLEASE go just a few months without having to sit through another freaking movie with Peter Stormare? I HATE that guy and his nasally, wheezing, "Where in the hell are you even from" accent. At least he gets his head crushed by a troll in the beginning of the second act. That was satisfying.

Man this movie was pretty dumb, now that I watch the trailer and am reminded all of I had forgotten.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Hansel and Gretel" isn't offensively bad, but it's not very good. It's more forgettable than irritating. If an R-rated version of  "The Brother's Grimm" with an abundance of oddly out of place gore sounds appealing to you, go for it. Personally I would watch "Van Helsing" three times in a row before watching this again. But at least it had the good taste to be under an hour and a half. Can't fault them on that.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

You know, Fudderwacking was bad, but at least when Johnny Depp Fudderwacked all over our faces in that popped zit of a Tim Burton nightmare "Alice in Wonderland," he wasn't Fudderwacking all over a cinematic masterpiece. Because let's be real here: "Alice in Wonderland" is a cult-following thing. It's got a loyal, Hot Topic going fan-base that loves their Alice with a bloody knife posters, Cheshire Cat tattoos, and clove cigarettes. But as far as importance to film goes, it's not that notable. Honestly it's probably one of Disney's weaker films from that era. With "The Wizard of Oz," however, it's a different story. That's rightly considered one of the best films of all time.

Which makes "Oz the Great and Poweful" even worse than the new "Alice in Wonderland." Oh yeah. It's that bad.

Gaze upon me and despair.

I can't say I expected great things from "OtGaP." Not least among the reasons for that being that it was over 70 years late to the party. But given that I like James Franco and (generally) Sam Raimi, I was hoping for some entertainment at the very least. Most likely stupid entertainment but entertainment none the less. What I got made me feel like I had just wasted my time watching a commercial for CGI.

Oh yeah. It's like I'm back in 1939. That's going to be SEAMLESS playing the films back-to-back.

"OtGaP" follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a circus magician from Kansas who finds himself in another world after being sucked into it via tornado. He immediately finds himself involved in a vaguely defined power struggle between three witch sisters, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are painfully naive, obviously evil, and blandly good, respectively. A vague prophecy has foretold that Oscar will lead the land to freedom or something, so in the interest of making money off of it, he agrees to help.

Along the way he meets a talking monkey in a bellhop suit, played by the painfully unfunny Zack Braff, who follows him around the whole time doing his irritating, awkward comic relief, since heaven forbid we don't have one of those. There's also a china doll who is never named and pretty much is useless until the end of the film when she inexplicably runs what has to be nearly 2 miles in under 5 minutes, all while having legs like 5 inches long. I must admit - that's impressive.

"Oh no! It's been 14 seconds and I haven't said something awkward and stammering yet! I'm losing my touch."

It's a standard story of a jerk becoming slightly less of a jerk because he helps the "good guys," not so much because he realizes the error of his ways but because the other side threatens to kill him. And of course since we knew exactly what happens since it's a prequel (you know Oz lives, you know Glinda lives, you know one of the other two sisters is turning into the Wicked Witch of the West and the other into the Wicked Witch of the East), it becomes not only standard but a waste of our time, like we're in grade school being sent back to the third grade after skipping from second grade to forth. We know all this. A talking, unfunny monkey isn't going to make up for the fact that "OtGaP" is completely unnecessary, and feels like it.

Like I said, I normally am a fan of James Franco, but here he's pretty dreadful and more than a bit miscast. Although maybe he would have done better had it not seemed like he had smoked bales of weed throughout the process of filming. Maybe he needed it to see Oz since it's clear that nearly nothing he was looking at was really there, and was put in later via computer. Guess they've got me on that one.

Oh look. She found James Franco's trailer.

On the other hand there's no excuse for the three ladies playing the witches, who were across the board terrible. Mila Kunis is acting like she's straight out of a high school play with all the believability she conveys. Michelle Williams has nothing to work with being the boring one of the group, and boy does she sell that. I suppose Rachel Weisz was the best of them, but she's so over-the-top comic book villainous that it comes off more as parody than actual menace. And how Mila Kunis' character doesn't get the fact that her sister is irrevocably evil is beyond me, and just makes her character that much more unrelatable and irritating.

And when she becomes The Wicked Witch of the West...this is the effect they go for. Yeah. They thought that looked good.

Also not helping matters is that the script has them all having what is essentially the same conversation over and over and over again for nearly two hours:

Oz - "You know I'm not really the Wizard, right?"
A Witch - "We need you to be the Wizard, though."
Oz - "I know, right? But I don't think I am."
A Witch - "You could lie about it and just say you are."
Oz - "I know, right? I should do that."
A Witch - "Okay then. But seriously, are you the Wizard?"
::repeat till credits::


And they could have a least done us a small favor and made "OtGaP" actually look like the original film, seeing as it's supposed to be a precede to it. In much the same way that the "Star Wars" prequels made everything shiny and fake-looking and basically nothing like the originals, this film smacks us in the face with the computer generated landscapes and creatures that make me feel like I'm watching "Avatar," because you know, that's a movie that looks JUST like "The Wizard of Oz." And like "Avatar" and unlike the original, here everything looks fake, because for the overwhelming majority, it is. Nothing is practical when it could be done in a computer in this film. They go so far as to even have fake snowflakes, because I guess the technology to freeze water is just beyond the filmmakers.

What part of "Wizard of Oz" screamed $200,000,000 budget? I'd really like to know.

How about this: Make "OtGaP." Nobody asked for it, but go ahead. But do everything the way they did it in 1939. I'm talking actual sets, matte paintings, costumes, and old fashioned camera tricks. No CGI at any point. I don't care about the old argument that "Practical costs more," you cannot tell me that it would be anywhere close to $200,000,000. It'd probably be 20% of that at absolute most. And hell, you've got Sam Raimi, who has proven in the past to be very good at practical effects when he wants to be.

Guess what? People will still see it. It's a sequel to "The Wizard of Oz." And you've spent so little on it that there is no way you won't get your money back. Who cares if people will probably complain about the old-fashioned nature of it? You obviously don't care from the start about quality based on the film I just saw. AND it would actually look like "The Wizard of Oz." What a thought.

Yeah, it's as bad as the trailer made it look.

THE BOTTOM LINE - This is a film without any kind of soul whatsoever - a hollow, vapid exercise in using pretty things to distract you from the fact that nothing of any substance is happening, nobody in the film cares about being there, and nobody involved in the creation of it had any intention of giving us anything other than a tech demo of the capabilities of their computer software. No imagination is to be found. No wonderment. No spirit. No emotion besides bad melodrama and James Franco looking stoned off his ass.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You can throw all the names you want at me. Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, yes that's all great. I love all those guys. But telling all that to me is just wasting air. All you had to say was Christopher Walken. Baby, you had me at the poster that has him wearing a cravat. Are you telling me we're FINALLY getting a full-length version of "The Continental?" Truly this will be glorious.

No, of course this isn't an SNL movie. There's too much actual comedy for that. And if it was it'd probably have Kristen Wiig and Will Forte in it. Ew.

"Seven Psychopaths" is the second film by Martin McDonagh, who's only other film "In Bruges" I'd never gotten around to seeing, but now I'd really like to. I'd heard good things about it, and if it's anything like "Seven Psychopaths" it's bound to be pretty solid.

This is an odd film to describe, as it is quite quirky in a pseudo-Guy Ritchie way. It's a dark, crime-based comedy along the same lines as "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," "Snatch," "Nobel Son" or anything else that somehow makes horrible people doing horrible, violent things funny. Where "Seven Psychopaths" comes off as a bit unique is the framing device it utilizes, which almost comes across as breaking the forth wall but stops short of that, leaving it self aware while still taking itself at least a little bit seriously.

Even with Rockwell's hat, Walken's cravat and Farrell's hair.

Marty (Colin Farrell) is an out of work screenwriter who is working on a movie script. So far he's got the title: "Seven Psychopaths." And he knows he wants it to be about seven violent, crazy people. But he doesn't want it to be a violent movie. That's about all he's got. Marty has a lot of work to do.

His friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) is an out of work actor who also helps an older gentleman, Hans (Christopher Walken) run a dog-napping racket on the side. Unfortunately they end up dog-napping the adorable Shih Tzu of Charlie (Woody Harrelson), an exceedingly unstable and dangerous mobster whose only love in life is that little dog. As the whirlwind of violence and murdering that the dog-napping creates envelops Marty, he finds himself using those various psychopaths around him as inspiration for his screenplay, which is being written as the movie progresses like a film within a film.

There is some really clever writing going on in this film that on the surface may seem quaint or merely a ripoff of the likes of Tarantino or Ritchie when they get cute with unconventional storytelling while winking at the audience. But there's more too it than that. There are some pretty neat parallels in the screenplay that Marty is writing and the story the film has him going through, which makes sense since he is using those people around him as inspiration. But the themes that Marty is hoping to convey in his screenplay, foremost among those being love and peace, end up being reflected in the actual movie. Not Marty's movie, but "Seven Psychopaths." The one you're watching, not the one he wrote. Well, that one too, but whatever.

It's got layers, is what I'm saying.

What will sell a movie about terrible people though is the performances. After all it's difficult to like a horrible character unless the actor is very likable in their horribleness. Colin Farrell throws down a solid dramatic performance as he plays the relatively straight man to everyone else's zaniness, proving once again that he's a really underrated actor. Sam Rockwell is entertainingly over-the-top and unhinged which is very fun to watch, channeling his inner "Brad Pitt in "Fight Club."" Tom Waits was also a lot of creepy fun as a killer of serial killers who carries around a white bunny at all times.

But you all know me. I'm a sucker for the Walken. And while his turn in "Seven Psychopaths" is probably his most subdued in a long time, it's also most likely one of his better performances, at least in terms of comedy/drama. And the amazing thing about Christopher Walken is that even when his line delivery is drier than James Bond's martini, it's still full of intensity. The man just burns with it, even when he seems half asleep. Of particular note is a little monologue he has near the end of the film, which ties together the themes of revenge, forgiveness and love and is quite moving and somewhat heartbreaking.

The only guy who matched Walken was Woody Harrelson. It's been a long time since Woody has been scary, but his portrayal of Charlie is outright terrifying. Harrelson has this fantastic detached coldness going on that makes watching him fun, and it's probably the most intimidating performance he's given. True he was nuts in "Natural Born Killers," but Mickey Knox was fire whereas Charlie is ice. And I usually find ice a bit more entertaining. That's why Alan Rickman is awesome.

It's too bad Walken and Harrelson only have one scene together. But man, is it a good one.

"Seven Psychopaths" also happens to be reasonably funny. At least to me it was. I don't know how much comedy others will take away from it, as it is a bit mean spirited occasionally, but I did get some good laughs out of it. Most of these unsurprisingly had to do with Christopher Walken saying things like "It's not possible, it is? For someone's head to explode when it gets shot?" (By the way this movie is a bit violent.) And come on. The Shih Tzu's dog tag says "Bonny - Return to Charlie Costello or You're Fucking Dead." That's funny.

There's a lot of heart to "Seven Psychopaths." On the surface it's quirky, a bit foul and mean spirited, but looking past all that there's some real depth to the characters, and it actually has something to say at the end. You just have to be okay with some pretty dark material.

Check out the trailer. By the way, neither one of those ladies is one of the psychopaths. Actually, one of the psychopaths is actually two of them, and another isn't actually's complicated.

THE BOTTOM LINE - I liked "Seven Psychopaths." It's an interesting movie which may go on just a bit too long at just under 2 hours, but it's never boring, and it's filled with some outstanding performances, great dialogue and some very clever writing. And it has an adorable dog in it. For those who like their movies a bit different and quirky, this is a must see.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

While making my way through the Bond franchise, it sometimes becomes difficult to care about the gentlemen whose time as 007 was limited to one or two goes. This is especially true for poor George Lazenby. He's the only official James Bond who had but a single turn at playing the World's Most Famous Secret Agent. Nobody really laughs at Timothy Dalton, but Lazenby is something of a punchline. I guess two films and you're set, but a one-off is enough to get you mocked.

I've always found that a bit unfair. George Lazenby was actually not a bad choice for the part. And I damn well prefer him over Roger Moore. The dude had style, swagger, a strong physical presence, was decently good looking, and while he wasn't great at the one liners, you could tell he was at least trying. I think he was actually attempting a Sean Connery impression, and you know what? If he was, it wasn't that bad. He wasn't doing the voice, but that would have been silly.

To be honest the biggest problem with George Lazenby wasn't his performance. I think it was the poofy shirt. That was out of control.

Well, that and the screenwriters having him quip to the camera, "This never happened to the other fella." Ugh. That was bad.

"On Her Majesty's Secret Service" is somewhat of an enigma. On one hand, it's considered by many to be one of the best entries in the entire series. On the other hand, this is one of those Bond movies nobody you ask seems to have ever seen. I think the reason for that is twofold.

The first reason is that, like I mentioned above, I think the fact that this is the sole outing for Lazenby grants a certain stigma to the film. Almost like it's announcing that it's unnecessary to care about this one because the dude didn't come back for another. We all moved on after Lazenby. In fact we went straight back to Connery for another go around with him, almost like an apology.

The second reason is that this movie is a weird one. And it may have earned that reputation enough over the years to make it so that people generally avoid it out of principle. I can't fault them too much for that, because "OHMSS" is a strange entry in the Bond franchise, the strangest aspect of it being the utterly black downer of an ending that is so contrary to the tone of the rest of the film and the series as a whole that it's actually a work of outright genius.

Are those reasons to not see it? No, because it's not a bad film. It's alright. I don't consider it among the best like some do, but it's better than a lot of the others that came later.

The plot this time finds Bond getting acquainted with a mob boss named Draco (Gabrielle Ferzetti). The mob boss promises Bond information as to the location of Blofeld, whom MI-6 has considered a lost cause not worth pursuing, much to Bond's rage. Draco promises Bond the location of Blofeld on the condition that Bond tame his wild daughter, Tracy (Diana Rigg) by, and I'm quoting here, "dominating her." For this, Draco promises Blofeld's location, his daughter's hand, and 1 million British pounds. And James accepts, much to the ire of Tracy, who wants nothing to do with any of it. Eventually she comes to love James, despite not really knowing anything about him besides how good he is in the sack.

You know, I just realized that these movies are ever so slightly misogynistic.

True to his word, Draco tells Bond that Blofeld is in hiding in Switzerland under a new identity, and wants receive the title of Count for some reason, most likely because being called Count would be badass. Going undercover as Sir Hilary Bray, a genealogist who will verify Blofeld's claim, Bond infiltrates his mountaintop stronghold to uncover what he's up to this time. And he'll do it wearing a kilt.

Have I mentioned Lazenby's wardrobe is kind of out of control?

What Blofeld is up to involves allergy research, brainwashing, and lots of pretty ladies for James to plow, since you know, he cares about Tracy and is totally monogamous now (LOL). What it all comes down to is that Blofeld has created a chemical that will utterly destroy a very specific crop, and prevent it from ever growing again. The aforementioned ladies, who were there under the impression they were getting their severe food allergies treated, will be the ones to unknowingly release it after they've been sent back out into the world. Blofeld's asking price to not go through with it is a full pardon for his past crimes. This seems like an odd choice, as it seems to me that he's not really planning on retiring from crime, but whatever.

Blofeld is played this time (ugh CONSISTENCY please) by legendary tough guy Telly Savalas, and while I did think that his portrayal was acceptable and surprisingly refined, like Charles Grey he's just not slimy enough. I just don't think anyone can top Donald Pleasence. Telly Savalas is also slightly difficult to take seriously when his ear lobes are taped back. It's just a bit distracting.

Not as much as the freaking weird way he smokes his cigarettes, though.

And a rather large plot hole pops up in the fact that in "OHMSS" it's portrayed as the first meeting of Bond and Blofeld, which is egregiously and demonstrably incorrect. Unless of course we go into the theory that 007 is not a single man but merely a position in MI-6 (something I subscribe to as a pretty reasonable theory), but that just makes less sense when you consider that at the beginning of the next film, Sean Connery is seeking vengeance on Blofeld, implying it's the same person. Whatever. It doesn't matter that much in reality, but it is a pretty big WTF.

But seldom is the plot what we come to Bond movies for, right? We're here for the action, and while "OHMSS" does boast a good amount of it, there's just enough lack of it to make the 2 hour and 20 minute run-time feel a bit overly long. In addition to that a few of the sequences tend to go on a bit long, most notably the final confrontation between Bond and Blofeld in a bobsled chase (okay, point for originality). And it's not that the bobsled chase wasn't exciting. It's just that there are only so many things you can do with two people fighting in a bobsled. And the film runs out of things for them to do about a minute into what feels like a 5 minute long sequence.

What's that?! You like skiing!? WELL GOOD! Here. Have ALL THE SKIING EVER.
(So much skiing in this movie...)

And from a technical standpoint, while "OHMSS" is actually well edited, a significant amount of the action is slightly sped up in post, which is very obvious and makes it come off as exceedingly cheap. I know they did it for Connery too, but they didn't do it all that often. With this film it seemed like every other action beat was from a Benny Hill skit.

The only aspect of "OHMSS" that stood out to me as something that was really noteworthy is the ending, because it's so nuts that it's amazing. But it's also really sad. So yeah, spoiler alert here on a 40+ year old film, but at the end, after James and Tracy get married, the assumed-dead Blofeld drives by with his henchmen and guns down Tracy in the car as they drive away from their wedding. The movie ends with James cradling his dead wife of less than a few hours in his arms, as he tells a police officer "It's quite alright. She's having a rest. There's no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world."

Um...cue John Barry?

Man, that's just mean. That's mean, man. Far be it from me to criticize a movie for having guts, but what exactly was the point of all that? Was it to establish that James has now been turned into a distant, uncaring, sociopath who can never form attachments to people because they'll just get hurt? That would be great if James Bond hadn't been THAT EXACT CHARACTER THE WHOLE TIME TO BEGIN WITH. That's kind of his thing. Essentially, "OHMSS" just dangled the carrot of character change in front of both James and the audience before yanking it back, stabbing us in the eye with it, and then eating it.

I kind of like it.

So Lazenby wasn't a bad Bond, and his movie wasn't worth the obscurity it possesses. Like I mentioned before I'm slightly neutral on it apart from the ending, which is so bad it's brilliant. And of course I have Roger Moore to look forward to now, which will make good old Georgy Boy look even better in comparison.

If didn't know any better, based on the trailer I'd assume the name of this movie was "Different!"

THE BOTTOM LINE - "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" is a mixed bag which some might find more agreeable than others. If you like your Bond movies less gadgety this one might be a good one for you. I thought it was alright. Too much damn skiing, though.