Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Pierce Brosnan's second outing as James Bond is a particularly notable one for me, because it marked the first time I saw a Bond film in the theater, way back when I was 14. To this day "Tomorrow Never Dies" brings with it a rush of nostalgic feelings for me: The padded theater seats, the smell of stale popcorn on the floor, the sugary buzz in my head after slamming a half pound box of Mike & Ikes. I distinctly remember sitting there watching the opening montage with the sexy silhouettes dancing on multicolored see-through guns as Sheryl Crow wails "Until the world falls away" and whatnot. It was not the first Bond movie I saw, but this time it felt official. Seeing it larger than life on the big screen was a special thing, and since then I've always greatly looked forward to doing it again for the next installment.

"Tomorrow Never Dies" has gotten something of a lukewarm reputation over the years. I think there are two reasons for that. The first is that, quite frankly, after "GoldenEye" the chances of it being a step down is significant on the basis of "GoldenEye" kicking out the freaking jams all over the place. And the Bond series had at that point had three fantastic films in a row with Dalton's powerhouse pairing of "The Living Daylights" and "License to Kill" coming before it. The streak had to end sometime I guess.

Still looks damn good while doing it, though.

The second reason is that was the start of the downward trajectory that the Brosnan series unfortunately took. Now, don't get me wrong: "Tomorrow Never Dies" is not a bad film. In fact I find it to be a damn solid Bond flick, and it's a lot of fun. But facts are facts, and despite "Tomorrow Never Dies" being a respectable Mt. McKinley, "GoldenEye" is still K2. You can't argue with numbers, and the Brosnan movies did consistently go downhill, starting with "Tomorrow Never Dies." But that first step down was not a huge one. It was more like a slip before taking a header off a pier.

The film finds Bond investigating a news mogul named Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), a Steve Jobs meets Rupert Murdoch type who wants to start a war between Britain and China for the sole purpose of having exclusive broadcasting rights, a concept I'm sure made more sense back in 1997, before the Internet was as it is now. Using his own satellites to screw with navigation and his own stealth ship to attack, he orchestrates the sinking of a British frigate while making it look like the work of the Chinese, then steals a missile from ship to launch into Beijing when the British fleet arrives to provoke a retaliation, and officially kick off a war.

Holy crap! The car actually gets to DO stuff in this movie!

Having only 48 hours before the British fleet arrives in the China Sea, Bond gets to work, going to Germany and then to China as he follows the clues to expose Carver and prevent the conflict. Along the way he teams up with Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese spy whom I suppose functions as the Bond girl this time out, although she's a bit too competent to easily fit into that category. Together they track down Carver and his stealth ship, infiltrating it in a climax that is oddly similar to the end of "The Spy Who Loved Me" only on a much smaller scale.

I found this to be a fun, fun movie despite its faults. Brosnan is, as always, charming as all holy hell in this. In "GoldenEye" he was more stone-faced, playing it fantastically but still a little safe, most likely because it was his first outing as Bond and he wanted to be taken seriously. In "Tomorrow Never Dies" however, he seems a bit more comfortable in the role and brings a contagious sense of glee with him. Both he and the character are having a blast, and when he smirks while messing with Q or gives a laugh at the awesomeness of his car's gadgets or delivers a one-liner like it's the most profound thing anybody has ever said in the history of the world, it's impossible to not give a mental high-five to the dude.

This little two second reaction shot is seriously one of my favorite Bond moments ever. It's so fun to see him having fun.

I mentioned previously that I thought Natalya from "GoldenEye" was the best Bond girl ever, and I stand by that still, but Michelle Yeoh also deserves special mention as she is one of the only ones capable of handling herself in a fight. But not only that, she is one of the only characters who could probably straight up kick 007's ass. He wouldn't stand a chance. And yeah, Grace Jones was tough, but she didn't have close to the moves that Michelle has. There's a couple of sequences with her that are ripped straight out of a martial arts movie, and the sight of a powerful woman like Michelle flipping around and smacking punks with her kung-fu is such a shock that it almost seems like we've put in the wrong DVD. In a series where the most a girl is likely to do in an action scene is to scream "JAMES!" over and over until he saves her, seeing that was borderline cathartic.

Ah! Megaman grew a hand! And became kind of hot! D:>

The supporting cast is also a lot of fun. Götz Otto is a decently despicable hulking henchman in the most classic Bond tradition. Joe Don Baker makes a return as Jack Wade, injecting a little comedic foil that's actually pretty funny. Vincent Schiavelli (you know, the subway ghost from "Ghost") is hysterical in a small part as a German torturer and provides some of the best lines in the movie. And it also has the second best bit of repartee between Bond and Q that they ever had, as Desmond Llewelyn goes down a checklist asking which kinds of insurance Bond will be needing for his car. It's all fantastic.

All of this goes on in front of a backdrop of constant action that doesn't slow down. From a motorcycle chase though Chinese city streets, to Bond remote controlling his car from the backseat and shooting rockets everywhere, to a HALO jump, to Michelle Yeoh kung-fuing people and Brosnan stealing jets and sneaking through numerous buildings before tearing them the hell up with gunfire, "Tomorrow Never Dies" is the farthest thing from dull you can imagine. Is it ridiculous sometimes? Of course it is. It's Bond. But unlike some other Bond films that made the mistake of talking too damn much, it's never boring. And the plentiful action is well filmed and exciting, with a sense of fun that allows it to be over-the-top without becoming goofy. Honestly it's one of the most efficient entries in the entire series as far as all that goes.


The film one-ups "GoldenEye" in one respect, actually. The music is back to its original style from the experimental, out of place, synth-heavy soundtrack from earlier. The music here is much more classic Bond, full of swagger and sleaze and bombast. So much is added to the film because of the music that it really can't be understated. I also would feel remiss not to mention the opening theme, which is hands down one of my favorite songs from the franchise. It's...just perfect. I can't sum it up better than that.

If there was fault to be found in "Tomorrow Never Dies," it's probably that Elliot Carver isn't a very good villain. His plan is nefarious, and he is sufficiently insane, but like Julian Glover, Michael Lonsdale and Curd Jürgens, they just don't do enough to make me afraid of them specifically. They're just some dude who surrounds themselves with henchmen. I like a Bond villain to be like Alec Trevelyan, Scaramanga or Silva, meaning that they themselves pose a physical threat to Bond. Otherwise the ending fight is never as satisfying as it could be. Although Carver does get one of the most gruesome death scenes I've seen a Bond villain get, perhaps not in terms of how graphic it is, but in the idea. At least it was probably quicker than what Benico Del Toro got in "License To Kill."

Probably about as messy, though.

Besides the admitted problem of having a relatively weak villain, I really don't think "Tomorrow Never Dies" deserves the "meh" reputation it has. Not at all. It had been a very long time since I'd last seen it, but watching it again I can safely say that it's a damn good movie, particularly when compared to some of the other schlock I've had to sit through in this series. And more than nearly any of the rest of them, it puts me in a good mood. I had a smile on my face nearly the whole time, and when you have a smile on your face while watching Bond, it's difficult to think of a better time at the movies.

Oh my god this trailer makes me want to watch it again.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Tomorrow Never Dies" is a fun movie. Everyone on screen is having a great time, the action is flying at you non-stop, and it's got some wonderfully fun moments. It's a fine example of 90's action done right. While it's not as good as its predecessor, it's still a solid flick. I had a blast.




Thursday, November 28, 2013

GoldenEye (1995)

Common consensus dictates that your favorite Bond is the one you grew up with. Older generations will only acknowledge Connery, Gen X-ers have a soft spot for Moore, people my age are supposed to like Brosnan, the kids like their Craig, and nobody remembers Lazenby or Dalton. Of course that's subject to change depending on the person, and Connery usually gets reverence placed upon him even by people who prefer the other guys. But while the theory is not 100 percent true for myself, as I enjoy all the Bond actors with the exception of Moore, there is a part of me that will always have a special place for Pierce Brosnan.

The reason I have an affection for Brosnan's portrayal of James Bond is because to this day he remains the closest representation of the image I have in my head of the character. That's not only referring to his physical presence, but also his voice, the cadence with which he speaks, the way he carries himself, the way his hair looks, the way he shoots a gun, the way he delivers a quip, the way he wears a suit and even the way he drinks a martini. Everything about this guy is spot-on the way he would look if you pulled him out of my head and put him on screen. And I say this while having first seen Bond played by Sean Connery, although I can't for sure recall when I was first exposed to 007. The important thing is that even though I can't remember the first Bond movie I saw, I know for a fact it was pre-Brosnan since there's no way it took till I was 12 years old to see a Bond flick. So even with another actor establishing the character in my mind, even as a kid I took one look at Brosnan and said "Yes. That's what James Bond looks like."

In 1995, after a six year hiatus during which Timothy Dalton got fed up with waiting and quit, the world was introduced to a new, sleeker, shinier and, if I may be so bold, sexier James Bond with the casting of Pierce Brosnan.With him the modern Bond film was introduced, starting with "GoldenEye." This new style of 007 films had a faster paced, very 90's feel to them. Everything was very glossy and slick, and they didn't take their time getting going. And as far as look goes, this was about as far away from the grit of the Dalton films as you could get. They do still harken back to the 60's with their sense of fun, however, and in many ways they are delightfully retro, albeit with a much more expensive and polished appearance.


When talking about the Bond series, often "GoldenEye" is listed as one of the greatest movies the franchise has produced, and while it does have its issues it's difficult to find much reason to not include it among the best of the best. It has arguably the most instantly likeable Bond actor giving a fantastic performance, the villain was the first memorable main antagonist the series had seen since 1974, the action is plentiful and exciting, the stunts in it are jaw-dropping on occasion, the Bond girl is, in my humble opinion, the best one the franchise has ever seen, and it's legitimately fun and even funny when it needs to be. "GoldenEye" has, quite frankly, all the ingredients to make it the best Bond movie ever made. Unfortunately it's not the best, due to some odd bunglings, but that's not to say it's not a fantastically strong showing, and in my opinion it's the best debut any of the Bond actors have had.

The story begins with 007 infiltrating a chemical weapons plant in Russia with the help of 006, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). During the mission, an alarm gets tripped, and Alec gets taken out. Blowing up the facility and jumping off a cliff to catch a plane (Oh my god so awesome), Bond escapes, completing his mission but losing his friend in the process. Cut to 9 years later and we find him investigating Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), a woman with a name so absurd that Pierce had to slightly break the forth wall when he first hears it, much like Connery did upon meeting Pussy Galore. Xenia is a suspected member of a shadowy group known as the Janus Crime Syndicate, and Bond has been sent to check her out in order to hopefully find leads to bring him to Janus, the head of the organization. All this ends with Xenia killing a dude with her thighs and then stealing a prototype helicopter.


Meanwhile at a satellite control station in Russia, computer programmer Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) is the lone survivor when her complex is attacked by a rogue Russian general, Ourumov (Gottfried John). Ourumov then destroys the place using a secret Soviet space weapon code named GoldenEye, which emits a powerful EMP, causing all electric circuitry to be destroyed in the blast radius. Making her way to St. Petersburg, Natalya goes on the run until Bond, following the trail of the stolen helicopter, finds her, hoping to use her knowledge to stop any further use of the weapon.

And who is behind all of this? Why, of course it's Janus, and unless you're very unobservant you'd rightly guess that it's Alec Trevelyan, who is not only alive but also is the villain of the film. One could easily anticipate that since Sean Bean is nearly always a villain, but hey, the man is damn good at what he does. So by all means, make him a bad guy. Far be it for me to ever complain about that.

Sean Bean is, naturally, dynamite as Trevelyan, and I really like his character a lot as the bad guy. He's the closest match Bond has ever gone up against. He's a 00 agent with the same training, and he's able to guess Bond's moves since he knows him intimately. It's to the point where, were this not a Bond movie, there would be a good chance that Alec could beat him. It's a great match-up, and Bean plays Trevelyan with the same smug confidence and swagger that Bond himself possesses - a mirror image of himself he has to battle. So the name Janus, referencing the two-faced Roman god of change, functions on multiple levels here, both as references to Alec's scarred face, to his betrayal and hidden identity, and to the dualistic nature between him and Bond.

It doesn't mean anything, true, but it's a nice touch of cleverness from a series that gave us such intellectual powerhouse ideas such as naming a character "Holly Goodhead."

The second villain that 007 must contend with is Xenia, and I have to say that of all the bad guys in the Bond series, she is arguably the most depraved of the bunch. She's obviously a psychopath, as is any action movie villain, but she actually gets off on killing people. And I mean that in the most biblical sense. Watching her face as she mows down a dozen people with a machine gun, you'd swear she was ready to start filming a porno right then and there. In fact her preferred method of killing involves crushing people with her thighs until they suffocate while she's having sex with them. We see this. It's disturbing. And yes, killing put Scaramanga in the mood so to speak, but it's really far more creepy to see Xenia in action since you actually see her do it instead of the depravities simply being vaguely implied, and Famke Janssen is really playing it completely unhinged, perhaps more so than any other Bond villain I can remember. Frankly I greatly enjoyed her character because she is so off-the-wall insane. And also because Famke Janssen is absurdly hot.

Is it inappropriate to get aroused by this? I'm so conflicted right now.

But as awesome as Xenia is, I absolutely loved Izabella Scorupco as Natalya. She is, and I stand by this, the best Bond girl they've ever had. For one, she's not stupid. As a computer programmer of some respectable skill, she manages to save the day on numerous occasions, including figuring out Trevelyan's location and stopping the GoldenEye from firing - two things that Bond wouldn't have been able to do jack about otherwise. Second, she can handle herself, or at least attempts to. She's not picking up a gun and going John Rambo on anybody, but she doesn't just stand there and wait for James to save her while she does nothing. True she does get captured a couple of times, and Bond does rescue her, but trust me - the mere fact that she's fighting the whole way and moving her ass when she needs to puts her LEAGUES above the rest of the useless bimbos who would simply stand there and shriek "JAMES!" over and over again like they're a basket full of helpless kittens incapable of even attempting to preserve themselves. At least Natalya's trying.

And lastly, she's the only Bond girl to completely give James a hard time. She comes across less as a lustful, helpless, doe-eyed treasure and more like an angry Russian bear whose cave you just made the mistake of camping in. She doesn't take any level of crap from Bond, not falling for his charms and treating him like the jerk he rightly would be treated like if that character existed in anything like the real world. She yells at him, she calls him on his crap, tells him he's a heartless bastard, kicks him in the shins - it's actually very entertaining to see a women give James the business. I was actually pissed when she decided to lock lips with him since it was out of absolutely nowhere. It seemed like the writers forget they were writing a Bond girl and were writing an actual person there for a minute. Oh well. But that's what a Bond girl is there for I suppose. At least she's pretty badass while she's doing it.

I hated you so hard in the N64 game, though. Nightmare fuel hatred.

The rest of the supporting cast is also quite fun. Joe Don Baker pulls a Charles Grey and returns in a completely different role, this time playing a CIA agent named Jack Wade, who I guess is supposed to be our Felix Leitner equivalent. And Jon Don Baker is always fun to have around. Robbie Coltrane is also entertaining as an eccentric Russian mobster, and provides one of my favorite bits in the film - a scene where he identifies Bond by the sound of the hammer of his Walther PPK cocking back. That's so badass. And naturally it would be remiss to not mention the introduction of Dame Judi Dench taking over as M, a role she would play a commendable seven times. In fact, and this is maybe because I kind of grew up with her as M, it's difficult for me to think of anyone other than her in the part, despite Bernard Lee being the reigning heavyweight champion. I think it's because her role was given far more room for characterization.

So why don't I consider "GoldenEye" the best Bond? Well, the main reason is what would appear to be rather trite: The music. I'm not exactly sure what composer Eric Serra was thinking when he wrote it, in fact he's a great composer who did the soundtrack to "The Professional" and one of my favorite movies, "Wasabi," but his synth-heavy score simply doesn't work for a Bond movie. It's not enough to kill the mood or anything, in fact sometimes it works just fine, but more often than not it kind of beeps and boops in the background, very unassuming and easily neglected. More often than not it's so forgettable that you almost forget it's even there, which makes it seem like there's no soundtrack at all. And that's a real problem because the music of the Bond franchise has always been like another character in of itself, and its absence is sorely felt.

Imagine if Sigor Rios did the soundtrack to this. It would be 007 shooting people to the sound of whales singing. Then only wind and a single note on a keyboard held for half an hour.

The best example of why this works can be found in the only scene from "GoldenEye" when you hear the Bond Theme in its fully glory (for all of twenty seconds). When Bond is in Russia, escaping from a bunch of soldiers, he jumps out a window and into a parking lot full of tanks. Up to this point the action has been great, but the score has been enough to put you to sleep, making it feel about 75% of the way there. Then Bond steals a tank and blasts through a concrete wall with it, chasing the bad guys down the streets of St. Petersburg like a armor plated monster. At that moment, the John Barry score flares up in all its glory, and you suddenly realize what it was that was missing the whole time. It's the best single music cue, and one of the best moments in the film. If the rest of "GoldenEye" had followed suit, I would safely call it a serious contender for best Bond film.

Also, as much as I loved Sean Bean here, and as great of a job as he does, he's not really given enough screen time. Part of this is because his reveal as the villain doesn't happen until probably an hour or so into the film. And that's far too long. The parts leading up to that are fine, but up until then it's dealing with Xenia and Ourumov, who aren't our main antagonists. It's clear they're sidekicks, and we're waiting for the Big Bad to show up for quite some time. While Bean kills it in the time he has and the dialogue he provides, giving a lot of characterization with very little, the fact that he had to be jammed in there so quickly due to time spent with everyone else makes him feel not as fleshed out as he should have been. Trevelyan has a great story, but it's clear we're only getting the novel's synopses written on a post-it note. It makes him seem stock when he's really the most interesting villain 007 has ever gone up against.

Best. Reveal. Ever.

On a side note, I'm not sure why I got such a kick out of Boris (Alan Cumming) when I was a kid. Me and everyone else used to think he was the best character in the movie, and shouted "I am in-VIN-sible!" all the damn time. Watching him again all those years later, I'm not sure the of the reason why. He's kind of obnoxious, honestly.

The Brosnan movies did a great thing by modernizing Bond. If anything, they provided a balancing act between the silliness of the 70's and the more gritty tone of the (very) early 60's and the late 80's. They did go downhill rather quickly, to be honest. But man did it start from high heights.


THE BOTTOM LINE - "GoldenEye" is damn near one of the best Bond films ever made. It's not the best, but it's at the very least in the Top 4. Easily. Taking an old-school vibe of fun and over-the-top adventure from the Connery era, a sprinkling of grit from Dalton, keeping the humor of the Moore era while actually being funny and not stupid, and then giving it all a sleek makeover and a fantastic new actor to play 007, "GoldenEye" created the modern Bond film. It's action packed, it's fun, it's sexy, it's everything a Bond movie should be. One of the greats.




Sunday, November 24, 2013

License To Kill (1989)

Timothy Dalton impressed me greatly in "The Living Daylights," bringing a cold seriousness back to the character of James Bond that had been sorely lacking for some time, definitely since Connery but arguably all the way back to "From Russia With Love" in 1963. It was a great change of pace to see the series grow up a little bit from the cartoonish sideshow it had become under the wacky yoke of Roger Moore. And after Dalton took the lead, the series was set to finally give us a Bond film that was adult and pretty freaking dark, almost like an experiment to see how far the franchise could push it and still maintain its audience.

And while it remains the least successful Bond film when talking about the US box office (despite it still being a respectable moneymaker worldwide), "License To Kill" is, in my humble opinion, one of the absolute best entries in the entire series. It showcases Dalton giving his best performance as Bond, some of the most hard-hitting, exciting action to be seen up to that point, and a storyline that is still probably the darkest one they've ever attempted. There's nothing cheeky about this. There are few things that are lighthearted in it. This film is about one thing and one thing only: James Bond getting really mad and laying a titanic smack-down on the poor fools who dared to piss him off. And I had a great time watching it.

At the beginning of the film James Bond is in Flordia attending the wedding of his good buddy Felix Leiter (David Hedison), but that doesn't mean that the two of them don't have to time to stop an international drug lord, Sanchez (Robert Davi), from escaping on their way to the church. So Bond simply jumps on to Sanchez's plane from a helicopter, lassoing it and pulling it out of the air. Then they both parachute out, landing outside the church right in time for the wedding like a collective boss.

I didn't know Bane was in the Coast Guard...

Unfortunately for Felix, things don't work out very well after that. Sanchez escapes after bribing a DEA agent, and he's not too happy about the whole situation. So his solution is to kill Felix's wife and feed Felix to a shark. After finding Felix missing a few appendages and having a note on him reading "He disagreed with something that ate him" (which is kind of darkly hilarious), Bond swears vengeance, going so far as to resign his post after M orders him to stand down and leave. Tracking down Sanchez, Bond poses as an assassin for hire in order to get close to him, which puts him in the middle of a huge drug trafficking ring. While digging himself deeper and deeper into Sanchez's operation, Bond covertly screws with him, using deceit and stealth to pick his operation apart bit by bit while ingratiating himself with Sanchez the whole time.

It's some of the most clever scheming we've seen Bond do, although that isn't that tall of an order, really. Let's be honest: Most of the time he kind of stumbles across clues and leads, and his good fortune is often the only reason he succeeds at all. How many times have we seen Bond get captured, only to retroactively look back and realize that had he not gotten caught, something he usually tries to avoid, the villain would have gotten away with everything? Being lousy at stealth seems to be the best thing that usually happens to Bond. Hell how many times has he been saved at the last minute by someone else? I still can't believe that he's wound up straddling a nuclear bomb not once but twice and has had to have someone else stop it out of nowhere since he has no idea what he's doing. It's just nice to see him in charge of a situation for a change instead of flying by the seat of his pants, although the man is forced to improvise occasionally.

You know, sometimes you're scuba diving, you see a plane, you gotta get away so you think to yourself "I'm gonna harpoon that plane," so you do, and you ski behind it a bit till it takes off and then you jump on the plane and fly away. We've all been there.

Dalton is on fire here, showcasing Bond at his most rage filled and vengeful we've seen him up to this point. There are scenes when he's talking to Sanchez in which I wasn't actually sure whether or not he was going to be able to contain himself and not just jump up and tear the guy's throat out with his teeth. But it's all part of the bigger plan. Bond wouldn't be content with simply killing him - He's going to DESTROY him. You can tell that he's both enjoying the hell out of toying with the bastard and kicking himself constantly for not putting one between his eyes already. It's fantastic.

"License To Kill" is also interesting because, apart from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," this is the most personal we get with Bond in terms of his relationships. "OHMSS" had his marriage and whatnot, but in "License To Kill," by starting off with Bond chumming about with his friends (who are about the only friends we've ever seen him have in the series) it grounds him far more as a character. We actually see his relationships with them as opposed to just being told they're his friends. That means that when bad things happen to his friends we understand why Bond is so pissed, and we empathize with him even when he's probably going a bit too far in terms of killing people in revenge. It's really the only Bond film that's done that to this extent.

Look how pissed he is. He's going to assemble the holy hell out of that gun.

The plot reminds me of "Quantum of Solace," although "License To Kill" is a much better movie, mostly due to the action being decipherable and easy to follow. It's got that same dark, intense story with Bond being more like The Punisher than a secret agent. But the difference is that while "License To Kill" is dark, it is still possessing of a certain "action movie esprit de corps" that allows it to be fun in an "Oh he just WRECKED that guy!" way, as opposed to simply being a slog through a depressed rage with an overly shaky camera and no fun to be found anywhere, which is exactly what "Quantum of Solace" ended up being.

The supporting cast is very strong, which isn't always the case. I liked Pam Bouvier as Carey, the Bond girl and CIA agent who helps James out in his investigation. I was a fan of hers because she's probably one of most useful female leads in the series, and definitely one of the more competent. She's a straight-up badass, too, packing more heat that Bond usually does when, upon us first meeting her, she whips out a shotgun like it's nothing and gives him a look like "What, you don't have one of these?" And I'm pretty she actually saves Bond more times than he saves her. How many Bond girls can you say that about?

The villain was cool, with Robert Davi doing his best Raul Julia/Joaquim de Almeida impression. I took great pleasure in watching how cold and methodical he was in every horrible thing he did. Even when he seals a guy in a decompression chamber and does things to the pressure so as to make the dude's head explode, there's really not much malice behind it. He's not even that mad. It's strictly business, and that makes the things he does almost more horrible. And having his main henchman be a young Benicio Del Toro doing his weird Benicio Del Toro thing was pretty fun, too. It was like Del Toro was playing Davi's wild, cracked out side that he couldn't himself display because he had to be the boss, and I liked that.

He does a good Christian Bale impression, too. Quick, somebody get that man two hookers and crank "Sussuido."

This is also by far the most screen time Desmond Llewelyn ever got as Q, and seeing him out in the field was an absolute delight. He's still doing his grumpy, exasperated "Pay attention, 007" bit, but now he gets to behold his gadgets in action, and you can kind of see the giddy pleasure he gets out of it. And any excuse to see more of Q is always a welcome thing to these films.

Oh for crying out - you are so holding that hat there on purpose.

I seriously liked this movie a lot. It's such a shame that Dalton only got two films to be Bond, because he had the potential to completely make the character his own. Now, he did manage to do that during his short tenure, but a couple more films would have cemented his legacy as more than just a passing reference and the only Bond actor brought up as little as George Lazenby. But alas, the next Bond film after "License To Kill" took a very long six years to get made. So long in fact, that Dalton declined to return for it. In many ways that's a damn tragedy, because it turned out to be one of the best films of the entire franchise. On the other hand, it also introduced the guy who was the Bond I grew up with, and whom I have nothing but great affection for. It also marks the beginning of the modern Bond film, for better and for worse. Either way, I'm excited.

Just watch Dalton deliver the line "I'm more of a problem eliminator" and tell me he's not tearing it up.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "License To Kill" is a fantastic movie. It's action packed, it's clever, it's well acted, and it's also very well shot and put together, having had the 80's to figure out how to actually edit an action movie properly. It's difficult to argue that it's one of the darkest entries in the series, which may alienate fans of the more goofy films, but we'd been getting that crap for over twenty years. It was time 007 grew the hell up. Dalton is a dynamite Bond, and he spends the vast majority of this movie kicking ass. It's an awesome time. If you're picking a short list for the definitive Bond films to check out, make sure this one is on it.




Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Living Daylights (1987)

An ordinary hamburger can quickly become the most delicious meal you've ever had providing that all you've had to eat for months up to that point were old sardines on stale saltine crackers. Now, I'm not calling Timothy Dalton ordinary or "The Living Daylights" standard. In fact I'm a big fan of Dalton's portrayal of James Bond, and were he a hamburger he'd be at the very least a double Baconator from Wendy's. I am, however, calling Roger Moore an old sardine. And at this point I'm starting to lose grasp on this analogy, so I'll drop it and simply state that the breath of fresh air that Dalton provided to the Bond series was nearly a religious experience. Or perhaps like bacon. We can go with that.

After "A View To A Kill," Roger Moore was finally put out to pasture and the search for a new Bond began. They decided on Dalton, who had been considered for the role years earlier when they were thinking about retiring Moore the first time. But famously, "Never Say Never Again" happened, which meant that Dalton would have to wait while Moore puttered about, mugging at the camera and trying not to break a hip. After remembering that they were supposed to be making spy movies, in 1987 they decided that the Bond films needed to grow up a bit and made "The Living Daylights," a fantastic return to form that not only gave respectability back to the character of James Bond, but also to the films themselves since they ceased being borderline comedies.

"Hey man. 'Sup? Naw, bro. I'm just chilling on a yacht. Dude, you should have seen it. I was hanging off the roof of a jeep that went off a cliff and exploded. It was insane. So what're you doing? Oh, hold on a sec man. I think this lady here wants some Vitamin J, you know what I'm saying? Haha. Yeah man. You know it bro! Peace."

This time out Bond is tasked with stopping the killing of British agents. Acting as a counter-sniper, he smuggles a defecting Soviet general, Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé), back to England, who tells Bond that the killings have been done under the orders of the new head of the KGB, General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies). Knowing Pushkin, Bond is initially skeptical of the general going crazy, but he nonetheless takes the assignment to kill him after Koskov is captured again after an assault on the safe-house, and further damning evidence on the body of 004.

Tracking down the female sniper who tried to kill Koskov during his defection, Bond finds not only his Bond girl of the film, but further information that makes the situation far more complicated. It all involves Koskov staging his defection, Pushkin joining forces with Bond, a crazy arms dealer played by Joe Don Baker, a massive drug deal, and the Russian war in Afghanistan. It gets a little confusing, but then again I suck at following the plot of spy movies. But I suppose if I could follow "Octopussy" this one isn't that troublesome. The important thing is that it's exciting, and you kind of just roll with whatever is happening whether you understand it or not.

What part of "Boom" do you need spelled out for you?

I'll come right out and say that I really, really dig Timothy Dalton as James Bond. He encapsulates the smooth, almost playful smugness of Connery while giving what is arguably the most intense version of the character we've seen. You could argue that Daniel Craig is more intimidating physically, and I'd place Craig really close to Dalton in terms of intensity, but there's just something in Dalton's eyes that is ice cold. It's clear that this man is a killer, and when he gets that look you know some punk is about to eat a face-full of lead. He may not be as charming as Connery, Brosnan or even Lazenby, but I fully believe him when he's kicking someone's ass. After seven movies of not having that, it's a very welcome sight.

He put on his "For Serious" eyebrows today.

That intensity is enhanced by the action, which hits hard, is consistently paced, and is taking itself just seriously enough to not be goofy despite the absurdity. Dalton carries himself very well as he did most of his own stunts, and there are a number of set pieces that are very memorable, including a thrilling opening scene which starts with a parachute jump and ends with Bond hanging on the roof of a truck as it goes off a cliff, the return of Bond's Aston Martin as it takes place in a high speed pursuit involving rockets and a frozen lake, and a climax that is one of the most insane sequences I've ever seen in a Bond film which features 007 fighting a guy while they're both hanging off a cargo net trailing from the tail of a plane. It's a wild flick.

I would also like to note the fact that I actually did laugh out loud at this film, partly because I was having fun, and also because the parts that were funny were actually funny. Like Connery and Brosnan, Dalton can really deliver a funny line if it's written correctly, and thankfully "The Living Daylights" doesn't insult us by spelling out when we're supposed to laugh, giving the jokes an opportunity to actually work. About the goofiest thing in the movie is Joe Don Baker, and he's playing it pretty straight for a crazy person who stages mock battles with toy soldiers, strobe lights and prerecorded sound effects to enhance the drama of his huge dioramas. It's pretty incredible that that character can exist while being played by the same guy who played Thomas Jefferson Geronimo III and Mitchell and it's still not as silly as "Moonraker."

Think you can take him? Go ahead on.

Maryam d'Abo makes for a better Bond girl than we're used to, as she's not horribly incompetent nor irritating. She may be slightly easily duped, but some of that can be forgiven since she's not a spy or anything - she's a cellist. It's not like Agent XXX or Goodnight, two supposed spies who couldn't find their way out of a car wash while strapped to the moving conveyer belt. I'm not going to split hairs over a professional musician being played for a sap by member of the KGB. At least she flies a plane for a little bit with seemingly no training without managing to crash it. I've seen far more useless Bond girls.

All of this adds up to what I found to be a really good time. This is the kind of Bond movie I like: Hard hitting, a little dark, and taking itself seriously while throwing in enough over-the-top stunts and dry wit so as to get a chuckle out of me once in a while. The fact that it also came on the heels of one of the weakest films in the series makes how good "The Living Daylights" is that much more impressive. The pair of Dalton outings are fascinating to me in that they really seem to set the blueprint for what is to come, particularly for the Pierce Brosnan era. From that perspective it's a very important film in the franchise, because they were going to be copying the formula for some time afterwards. And going a couple years ahead, I think that what's to come is potentially one of the best films in the whole series.

Welcome back, 007. I missed you, bro.

Dude, this trailer rocks. That's how you get stuff done, son.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "The Living Daylights" is an awesome movie. If you like your Bond more on the serious side, both this and Timothy Dalton are for you. It's action packed, the acting is fantastic, Dalton is a great James Bond, and it's got John Rhys-Davis and Joe Don Baker. What's not to like?




Friday, November 15, 2013

Escape Plan (2013)

Some things in life are certain. Death. Taxes. Stupid things coming out of Kanye West's mouth. Like heat causing particles to move faster, some forces at work in this vast universe are akin to an unstoppable juggernaut - heedless of anything other than their own indomitable wills. Recently we bore witness to another one of these irrefutable aspects of nature: The awesomeness of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

Like gravity from a black hole, it's impossible to deny the inherent glorious majesty of these two titans of action. Their presence, physicality, action movie acting chops and humor bring an inescapable aura of fun and badassery to the films they star in, often adding watchablity to what would otherwise be worthless. Oh, they have their detractors, it's true, but I choose to believe those who doubt them are simply blinded by the sheer manliness of their presence - A cowed, shriveling girly-man who is lashing out in fear at what they do not understand.


Schwarzenegger and Stallone have both had films this year already, and while Arnie's return to lead roles in "The Last Stand" was solid, sitting through Stallone's "Bullet To The Head" was a painful, joyless experience. "Escape Plan," the first feature these two legends have ever headlined together, seemed like a fun, action packed romp that smacked slightly of 80's and camp, which to me made for a promising setup. That is, with the exception of the name inexplicably being changed earlier this year to the terribly bland title "Escape Plan" from the more mysterious and stylish moniker "The Tomb," which is a decision I really don't understand.

"Escape Plan" didn't unfortunately reach the heights of "The Last Stand," but it was head and shoulders above "Bullet To The Head." It's what was promised in the trailer, and is pretty much exactly what you'd expect it to be. It's silly and kind of campy while taking itself dead serious, not a whole lot makes sense but it's just plausible enough to not be technically impossible, the actors all look like they're having a good time, some so-bad-they're-good one liners happen, and by the end we are given what we paid money to see: Arnold Schwarzenegger mowing down hordes of bad guys while shooting a gun the size of an El Camino. I don't feel ripped off in the slightest.

The man's like Rembrandt with a .50 caliber. His victims become Jackson Pollock paintings.

"Escape Plan" is about Ray (Stallone), a man who makes his living and fortune by getting himself sent into the world's most secure prisons and then escaping in order to show the flaws in their security, kind of like a quality control job where each contract takes a few months and involves shanking. When he is presented with a super top-secret job to try and escape from a new prison that is reportedly 100% escape proof, he takes the assignment only to find himself in a prison that is incredibly dangerous and really does seem inescapable.

Wanting to pull the plug on the whole thing, he gives his extraction code only to find that the warden, Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), has no clue or interest in what he's talking about, proving that Ray has been backstabbed and has been left to rot in the one place he can't get out of. After making quick friends with Emil (Schwarzenegger), another prisoner who seems oddly anxious to go to the wall for Ray considering that they're strangers, together they craft the eponymous scheme to bust out and find the double crosser.

Occasionally confusing shakey-cam sequence aside, the action in "Escape Plan" was hard hitting and entertaining enough, and the last shoot out when Arnold gets to do his thing is a pretty awesome sight to behold, and proves the man still has it in spades. Although considering it is an R rated film it probably could have been a bit more graphic and not lost anything. Not saying that we needed something like "Machete" levels of gore, but when the villain who is second only to the Big Bad is taken out by falling down the stairs (off camera, by the way) it tends to smack of unsatisfying. But like adding it wouldn't have hurt anything, not having it really didn't take anything away, either.

Stallone is...decent here. It's not that he's not good, in fact his acting is fine, but I think all the lumpiness has officially reached the point of distraction for me. In "Rambo" he had that on-and-off-again-steroid kind of body, but he was still cut. Here he's just kind of a big mass of muscle and sinew like a sack of skin that had a bunch of bones stuffed inside in no particular order. And am I the only one who has noticed that he has the most absurdly small sausage fingers ever? Have they always been like that or have his hands gotten huge and started eating his fingers from the knuckles up?

At this point Stallone looks like a PS2 era video game version of himself.

Schwarzenegger runs away with this film, honestly. It's not Stallone's fault, since being the snarky one who knows more than he's telling, Arnold has the more fun character to play. But Arnold also seems to be putting slightly more effort into the role. And I've always liked Schwarzenegger as an actor, but I can't express how much fun it is to watch him having fun acting. It's infectious, and it becomes the reason we care. Stallone's character exists to move the story along, but Arnold's character is why we get invested in what we're seeing.

That's not to say "Escape Plan" is a brilliant film by any means. It's got its share of problems. The biggest fault with it is probably the fact that, with the exception of some of the bigger "trailer moments," it's not a very memorable film. That's not to say it's boring, but it's nothing very unique. Now that's not an automatic bad thing in of itself because what's important isn't originality but how well a film does what it set out to do. And "Escape Plan" does what it does well. But the fact that it's generally pretty predictable doesn't help it in the "stick in your mind" department. Again, that's not because it's bad but because it kind of runs together with a lot of other movies similar to it.

But on the other hand, what were his options? NOT getting to da choppa? That's what you do.

And like any action flick, a lot rides on the performances of the villains. "Escape Plan" is sadly lacking in that department. Jim Caviezel is really bad at being a bad guy, and comes across as more obnoxious than threatening. He simply acts really uppity, fixes his tie a lot while brushing off his lapels and snaps his fingers anytime he wants something done, a character trait which gets annoying really quickly. Essentially he's just a monocle short of being the snooty rich guy in a cartoon who inevitably gets a pie in the face. Intimidating he is not. That role belongs more to Vinnie Jones as the #2 Baddie, but there's really not anything to him other than being a slightly larger and more psycho prison guard. He doesn't do anything to make me particularly notice him besides being an actor I recognize. And every other guard is literally faceless. It's difficult to care much.

You know, all these thing are pretty easily overlooked for me. I'm easy to please when it comes to Stallone, but even more so when it's Arnold. When he's spouting lines like "You hit like a vegetarian," there's bound to be some smiles to be found on my face. Even the post-kill one liner he has at the end that was so bad that it was honestly kind of awesome managed to put me in a good mood. By Crom, I missed that man.

Check out the trailer for "Escape Plan."

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Escape Plan" is a solid action flick. It's a good time, and just entertaining enough to forgive some of the sillier nonsense. If you maintain a forgiving mindset and thoroughly suspended disbelief, it's as much fun as any random 80's action flick starring one of these guys. Its biggest fault is weak casting in the villain department, but Stallone and Schwarzenegger more than make up for it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Europa Report (2013)

Way back when I first started this blog I did an entry for a movie called "Apollo 18." In fact it was only the third post I did. You can tell because it's not as good and far less long-winded, although there is a really good Dr. Zoidberg joke in there that still makes me laugh. Anyway. The only reason I bring it up is because I was struck by how oddly reminiscent "Europa Report" was to "Apollo 18," and I find it fascinating to see two films with similar premises but different outcomes in terms of quality and effectiveness. That's not to say "Europa Report" is some masterpiece, because it's not, but it does enough things well so as to make me say to myself "Huh. It's like "Apollo 18" but better."

"Europa Report" is about the first manned expedition to the titular moon of Jupiter, where scientists have long speculated that there may be a chance that life exists underneath the ice of its vast, deep oceans. While the destination is of course the highlight and takes up the back half of the film, it's just as much about the journey as it's a long damn trip of some two years to just get there, and a lot can happen in that time to people stuck in a tin can in space.

The film doesn't go all "Event Horizon" on us or anything, although that would have been freaking awesome, but there are enough things that happen on the voyage there so as to make the entire trip seem like a wholly bad idea. The film showcases just how unpredictably and quickly absolute disaster can happen, which often has a point-of-no-return of a couple of seconds and inches. There is no room for mistakes anywhere out in deep space, and often when a mistake happens, it means someone is going to die, which a rather horrifyingly effective sequence near the middle of the film that is hinted at throughout the beginning (as the film is told slightly out of chronological order) illustrates. It really puts the viewer on pins and needles any time anybody does pretty much anything.

 Lots of this expression going on here.

This tension carries over to when they land on the planet where things go pear-shaped almost immediately, and every single decision they make turns into a life-or-death situation. As the "or death" part of that gets more and more accurate as the film progresses, there's a distinct overarching sense of doom and hopelessness that takes over the film. And that may not be comfortable watching but it's certainly effective.

From that perspective "Europa Report" is a well done work of science fiction that may be somewhat bleak, but it's an interesting, suspenseful ride while it lasts. It's paired with solid performances all around, particularly from Embeth Davidtz as the astronaut who becomes our lead, Sharlto Copley who provides the film's most dramatic and heartrending moment, and Michael Nyqvist as the slightly unhinged guy who may or may not be losing it. And while I'm sure there are plenty of gaffes in how things would work in the real world, there's enough of a sense of realism so as to make it seem legit.

It's also quite pretty on occasion.

Where the issue, and it's the only big issue, in "Europa Report" comes into play is when we talk about how it was filmed and put together. Now, I was not expecting this, but to my surprise it turns out that this is a found-footage movie. I'm still not sure how I feel about that, since I've found the success rate of that genre to be shaky at best. I'd have to say that out of the found-footage movies I have seen, "Europa Report" is an example of a decently put together one, but that's not saying a whole heck of a lot, and it's certainly not as good as the best the genre has to offer.

At least this made some sense in terms of the "How are we seeing this?" question goes, as the footage is transmitted back to Earth. And at least there's really no hand-held cameras to speak of, which means that at least it's not headache inducing or incomprehensible. But the question remains as to why this is a found-footage movie in the first place. It doesn't add anything to the film. Shooting it like a normal film would have been just as effective, if not more so because then it would have eliminated the need for the other aspect that wasn't very effective: The talking heads.

Interspersed throughout the film, functioning as our narrators so to speak, are interviews with some of the people who had been overseeing the mission from Earth. This makes "Europa Report" come across more like a program on the History Channel or something, which tends to underplay the drama and, instead of having the clearly intended effect of grounding it in reality as if we were watching a documentary, serves to only shatter the fourth wall and break up the flow. It doesn't help that all they really do is pop up and explain to us what we just saw and already know, which makes them not only annoying but useless as well.

Helmet-cam also means we get freaking clinical with a number of the crew's faces.

In all honesty that's the only real issue with the film. Granted, "The way it's put together" is a fairly big issue, but everything else is pretty solid. It's a good science fiction story. It's just a shame that it couldn't have been filmed like a traditional movie instead of trying to use a gimmick that really comes across as pointless and somewhat distracting.

Check out the trailer.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Europa Report" is worth a look if you like sci-fi, but if you really hate the found footage genre, it's probably not going to be to your liking. At the very least it's not going to win over any converts. Worth a look for some pretty memorable and tense scenes, but overall it feels like it could have been put together more efficiently.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A View To A Kill (1985)

You know that feeling you get when you've been running for a while, and you guess that it's entirely likely you're about to puke or drop dead or both, and then you round the turn and realize that you're almost done? It's a glorious heavenly cleansing feeling that takes away some of that pain as you realize your suffering is almost at an end. And as I fired up "A View To A Kill," I was getting it all over the place. After this I was done. I was done with Roger Moore.

I can't describe accurately how amazing it felt to know that after I was done with this film, I would never need to watch another Roger Moore Bond film ever again. Of the seven movies he dragged 007 through the ham-infused mud as, there were maybe two that I thought were any good. Maybe two and a half. But they were always decent in spite of him, mostly being salvaged by a constant barrage of action that didn't give him time to raise his eyebrow and make a goofy face. That being said, they were never  necessarily good. They were just better than trash like "Moonraker." That's a bar as low as a limbo stick at carnival time. And that's as low as limbo sticks get.

So I don't even care. Even if this movie sucks like a puncture wound to the lung, there's still a silver lining in it for me. As long as I can grit my teeth for two hours and stop myself from punching my TV screen or swallowing my own tongue, I don't even think I'll be able to get that mad. But then again, it IS Roger Moore we're talking about, and the reputation of "A View To A Kill" does proceed it. We'll have to take it as it comes. Eye on the prize, Pat. Eye on the prize. Find your power animal.


We join James Bond as he recovers the body of 003, who had on him a microchip designed to withstand an EMP. Tracing the name on the microchip back to Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), an obscenely wealthy technology tycoon, he infiltrates Zorin's estate while posing as a horse breeder during a horse sale Zorin is holding. Right there is one of the more defining aspects of "A View To A Kill": The horses. While the poster and the climax both feature the Golden Gate Bridge, I'll always think of "A View To A Kill" as "The Bond movie with all the horses." Seriously, there's a lot of horses here.

Oh for crying out loud, the man looks like he just broke his hip. He's like the Crypt Keeper here.

Anyway, Zorin is naturally evil, he's a former KGB agent gone rogue, he's juicing his horses with microchips (?) so they win with the help of an old Nazi scientist, he wants to destroy Silicon Valley in order to get a monopoly on microchips, he's kind of a murderous psycho, and for some reason he has the same overly exacting model for Silicon Valley that Goldfinger had for Fort Knox. And of course, he's played by Christopher Walken, which really should have been the biggest giveaway as to his villainy.

That was the main reason I, perhaps foolishly, went into "A View To A Kill" with slightly elevated expectations despite the fact that it possesses one of the worst reputations of the Bond franchise. Christopher Walken being the bad guy is never a bad thing. I figured that, at the very least, I was going to get some awesomely bizarre villainy from one of my favorite portrayers of psychos.

And yeah, I guess I kind of got that. A little. This is not one of Walken's best roles, although he does give it the good old college try when the film actually feels like utilizing him, which is upsettingly little. Naturally they kept the best aspect of the movie in the background, barely having him say more than a few words until the second act, and not unleashing him until close to the end.

And dammit, when you have The Walken, you don't restrain him!

Walken does get a few moments to shine, particularly any time he has to yell or say something snarky or evil. True, the lines aren't anything the caliber of "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die," but when you've got Walken, even kind of lame lines like "This is gonna hurt him more than me" can become shockingly funny. Seeing that he's a very funny guy I get the feeling most of his best lines were probably improvised. And that's why you cast Christopher Walken: He gives you gold from crap.

But long before we get to that, "A View To A Kill" immediately reminds us that even with the genius move of casting Walken as a villain, we're still dealing with a Roger Moore film. It comes up and smacks us right in the collective faces when a halfway decent opening scene featuring 007 flying down a mountain on skis as he escapes from bad guys (Seriously what's with all the skiing, Bond franchise?) becomes a joke when, after inadvertently inventing snowboarding in desperation, the soundtrack fires up with the Beach Boys crooning California Girls.

Because nothing screams "palm trees and surf" like arctic snowgear.

Not only does that not make any sense since we aren't in California in that scene, and there are no girls around, and even if there were girls there I don't recall Bond ever mentioning having a particular fondness for ones from California, but even if you were going to make that STUPID joke there are roughly a dozen Beach Boy songs that would have worked better. One about surfing, perhaps? True they aren't in the States in the scene in question but Surfin' USA would have at least been more appropriate to the situation. (Better song, too.)

You know, even with Brosnan's invisible car, the Bond franchise never reached these levels of face-palming WTFery as they did with Roger Moore.

That's a perfect example of why I can't stand the Roger Moore Bond films. It's not that there are jokes in them. It's that they always shatter the forth wall while doing so. There's a huge difference between Bond saying something witty, and having the humor artificially jammed down our throats with zany music, wacky editing or people mugging to the camera. It's the difference between doing some work to write an actual joke that would exist in the world that the film creates and just jangling keys in our faces like we're infants. And I find it insulting.

"Um. Guys? Little help?"

Whenever crap like that happens I get a mental image of some poofy haired old git in the editing booth whom, in his youth, was told by his mother that he was hilarious and should be a comedian, since that's what everyone says to anyone young of halfway decent wit and grasp of wordplay. Then he attempted to make it big on the standup circuit but could never evolve past "lousy prop comic," and after many rubber chickens, overly large bow-ties and crushed dreams, he mercifully quit and became a film editor. But still he tries to cram that hackneyed schlock into the films he edits in an attempt to prove his mom right. But it's still no better than comically large teeth and a flapping dickie.

"Bond frappa dickie rong time."

It really kind of continues like that for most of the film. Although the decent action scene can be found here or there, there is enough goofy crap that pops up at a consistent enough rate so as to make "A View To A Kill" fairly obnoxious to watch. Every time it starts to get going a car gets cut in half but is still driving, or a bunch of bungling cops show up, or Bond is plowing through the streets of San Fransisco hanging off the ladder of a fire truck in an incredibly reckless escape that probably left dozens of people and police officers dead, or Q has a little robot he uses to peep on Bond having sex in the shower (gross) or that one Russian chick says "The bubbles tickle my Tsiolkovsky!" It's thoroughly distracting.

I've mentioned Walken, but as far as the rest of the cast goes, with a few exceptions it's pretty weak sauce. Moore is absurdly old in this film, being 58 at the time, and boy does he look it. It certainly doesn't help that he's still banging women who look almost a third his age at this point. Grace Jones as Zorin's henchwomen possesses the charisma and personality of an industrial washing machine, and is generally just dull as hell. About the only smaller role that was any good was Patrick Macnee (formerly John Steed on "The Avengers") as Bond's alley Sir Godfrey Tibbett, but of course they kill him off, which was one of the only moments in the film which affected me on some level since he was about the only likeable protagonist.

In the interests of sanity I won't dwell long on Tanya Roberts as the Bond girl of this outing. In the annals of terrible Bond girls, there are many different flavors of bad. Some are terrible actresses and some are just playing terrible characters, but very seldom did we get a terrible actress playing a terrible character. Tanya Roberts is special in that regard. In addition to her character of Stacey being a useless liability that does nothing of value, Tanya approaches the role using the Tara Reid method of acting, showing zero emotion even after people just tried to break into her house and kill her, and delivering lines like "He must be stopped" with the same urgency as someone complaining at Wendy's that they got pickles on their burger when the order explicitly said "No pickles." About the only thing she has going for her is that she is pretty outrageously gorgeous. Well, that and shrieking "JAMES!" over and over and over.

This is the only time you'll ever hear the phrase "You were better in "Beastmaster.""

If I had to come up with positives about the film, I would admit that there are a number of action scenes that are pretty good. And even though it's clear that it was always a stunt double for Roger Moore, that did allow the action to be a bit harder hitting than some previous entries. I liked the chemistry between Moore and Macnee. There's also are a few times when the film actually got a bit dark, and while Moore himself disliked those parts, particularly when Walken mowed down dozens of people with a machine gun, it was a nice change for me because it made the villain more threatening, rather than having him essentially be Evil Bill Gates. And I must admit that the final fight on top of the Golden Gate Bridge is actually pretty awesome.

The Duran Duran penned opening is also one of the best Bond theme songs ever. Period. No discussion.

So how do we wrap this up? How do we call this one? Well, it's honestly not the worst Bond movie, although common consensus usually places it near the bottom. That being said, it's still pretty damn bad. As far as the Roger Moore series goes, it's close to the worst, but it's slightly less stupid than "Moonraker" and it's far more entertaining than "Live And Let Die." Take that for what it's worth.

Either way I'm done, son. Roger Moore is officially behind me. I guarantee you there is no person on the planet who is happier to entertain the notion of watching Timothy Dalton. The Bond series is about to grow up a little bit. The tears of joy on my face feel so good.

I have no words. They should have sent a poet.

Hey. You know what's more awesome than Duran Duran playing throughout the trailer? Optimus Prime narrating it.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "A View To A Kill" is goofy, somewhat confusing, and in keeping with Bond tradition, over-long. It's also got some really bad acting from everyone besides Macnee and Walken (and I suppose if you like him, Moore). It's not boring, however, which makes it watchable by technicality. Fans of Roger Moore will probably find it entertaining, but I found it somewhat obnoxious; Much like I found the rest of the Roger Moore series to be.