Snap-review: SPECTRE

IMG_1821Hello Bond fans! Been a while since I’ve posted and it’s wonderful to see all of you again. Not much has happened in the past year that I can recall. In fact, only three significant events come to mind. First, my dear friend Tom and his wife Lesley had a little baby boy so congrats to them! Second, the mighty mighty Mets made it all the way to the World Series and came damn close to winning it all. They blew leads in the 8th once and in the 9th twice, but who’s counting! We’ve all moved on right, right? Right. And the third big event, why the release of Bond 24, AKA SPECTRE! Along with quite a few of you ($73 million worth of you in America alone) I shelled out my $14.75 this weekend for big screen Bond experience and I will now dutifully report on what I … experienced. As I did with Skyfall (2012) three years ago (Three years!?!?!? Jesus I’m getting old) I will not give SPECTRE the full Blog James Blog/ martini glass rating treatment until the home video release. This is so I can re-watch bits for close study and so I don’t give away any spoilers for those who have yet to make it to the theater. So, on with the official, spoiler free, Blog James Blog, snap-review of SPECTRE. Enjoy.

SPECTRE is a throw-back in the best sense of the word. Blofeld returns, in the person of Christoph Waltz, for the first time since Connery tussled with SPECTRE’s #1 in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) (I’m not counting the For Your Eyes Only (1981) open) and the Bond universe is better for it. (And GTFO of here right now if you’re acting like you didn’t know. We knew last year, just scroll down two posts…) The Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion has come a long way since the 70’s and this film sets the table perfectly for the tentacles of the shadowy organization that “is everywhere” to weave into the fabric of our surveillance reliant 21st century. The return of the “gun barrel” open telegraphs this will be the first Craig Bond in what I would call the “classic” style. Gone is the heavy psychological torture that has defined Craig’s take on 007. In its place we see Craig in the “world is my oyster” and “gadgets, gears, and guns boys and their toys” mode. In other words, Craig finally loosens his tie and has some fun. This isn’t a full 180 degree swing back to Moore era Bond but a more of a slight tack left into bemused Connery “You must be joking” mode. Twice do we get the wide-eyed, disbelieving stare from locals as they watch Bond pull of an impossible feat, a staple from “classic” Bonds that fits right into this new adventure. It’s not to say there are no stakes, SPECTRE is involved after all so you know the world is in peril, but it’s more of the “you-have-three-minutes-to-save-the-girl-from-the-ticking-timebomb” variety (with some cool funhouse/horror lite elements thrown in for kicks.) To my mind, it’s a logical course correction after the emotionally heavy and quite dark Skyfall. Not that that film was a downer or a drag. It was a ton of fun in its own way and it’s one of the best Bond films because it pulls of the near impossible high wire act of being heavy without crushing Bond or the audience. But I think it’s a trick that can only be pulled of every once in a while (On Her Majesties Secrete Service (1969) comes to mind as the other time this worked for Bond.) To continue down the “heavy, dark” path would be to sinking into Nolen Dark Knight Rises (2012) territory, or worse, Dalton Bond, and suck all the fun out of the thing. (Not to mention, we can only kill M once.) No, SPECTRE doesn’t have nearly as much on its mind as Skyfall but that is not a bad thing. Sadly, SPECTRE falls short of its predecessor in the looks department but boy howdy does it have its moments. The opening shot plays as an apology for the slash and hack that was Quantum of Solace (2008). From there we get a cat and mouse game played in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebration that makes for a stellar pre-credit sequence with a “you are there” immediacy. Along the way we also get a car chase through Rome complete with Craig delivering Han Soloesque “It’s not my fault” lines when the car gadgets malfunction; not one but two secrete bases, one on a snowy mountain top and the other in a desert crater; a fantastic silent villain with a signature kill move; and a train (we love trains!) winding gun-1through the desert sands like a 20 car long snake. Blog James Blog was also thrilled to see Q and Moneypenny in expanded roles and Ralph “Don’t call me Ralph” Fiennes settling quite nicely into M’s storied leather chair. And Waltz, well, let’s just say Blofeld’s back baby, and while this may be Craig’s last spin in the Aston Martin, we hope #1 and his white, furry, friend stick around for years (and films) to come.

Cyber-Attacks and Leaked Intelligence

thor-movie-character-posters-new-4A commenter wrote over the holidays (Merry-merry to everyone by-the-by) asking for Blog James Blogs reaction to the sentence “Idris should be the next Bond.” What the Internet is treating like a Christmas gift from the movie gods may very well be something else. Lets unpack this. Much like Bond’s briefcase in From Russia With Love (1963), not all is what it seems …

  • Idris is Idris Elda, the 42-year-old London born actor best know for his TV roles in “The Wire” and “Luther.” He is also beloved as the 100% badass Stacker Pentecost in Pacific Rim (2013) and, most important to fan boys, intergalactic gatekeeper Heimdall in the Marvel Movie Universe. He also happens to be a black man. This last bit, sadly, becomes more important then all the other stuff, because it’s 2014.
  • Sony co-chair Amy Pascal in an internal email intended to be seen by whoever it was being sent to and no one else wrote the sentence in question. Thanks to the Sony leaks, we now know about the sentence but not much else. I have yet to see who was meant to be on the receiving end of this email (I’ve heard possibly Barbara Broccoli but have not seen that confirmed. If anyone knows different please post below in the comments.) We also don’t know when this was sent or what was said in the rest of the email. Was it responding to the Internet rumors that popped up about Idris playing Bond way back in 2013? Was it a brainstorm on what should be done when Daniel Craig’s two-picture deal expires? Was it a movie executives “12 things I want for Christmas list” which also included the lines “We should make the Breaking Bad movie with Walter as a zombie,” and “We should pass a law barring Tim Burton and Johnny Deep from ever working together again,” and “We should start a francize where Seth Rogen and James Franco go on to kill every unhinged strongman in the world including Vladimir Putin, Bashar al_Assad, and Mayor Tom Ford. I mean, just look how much publicity we got from The Interview!”

    Blog James Blog's pick for the next Bond

    Blog James Blog’s pick for the next Bond

  • We know very little about how EON casts their films. As far as the public knows in the past the current Bond stepped down before the search for the new one got underway. I also wonder how much power Sony or Pascal has, if any, in casting Bond. I would think at this point EON gets the first and last word on who will play 007. Also, what if SPECTRE (2015) makes one billion dollars? I’d think there would be an effort made to get Craig back in the saddle.

Right, so I guess what I’m say don’t pen Mr. Elda in for Bond #7 just yet; too many unknowns at this point.

Now, all that said, if we are playing What if… then hell yah! Idris is badass actor with major chops, he looks great even when wearing that ridiculous Heimdall get-up, and he has the perfect British accent to deliver both tough guy threats and quip happy puns. And most deliciously, Idris + Bond = All the right people pissed-off for all the reasons that prove they are gun-1insufferable assholes. And by the by Rush, only one out of the last six Bonds was Scottish, so me thinks there maybe something else your upset about ….

Happy holidays everyone and best of luck in the New Year.

SPECTRE will return

SPECTRE2“We had to destroy the myth because [the Austin Powers movies] f**ked us. I am a huge Mike Myers fan, so don’t get me wrong, but he kind of f**ked us, made it impossible to do the gags.”

The above quote came from a still-wet-behind-the-blonde-Bond-ears of Daniel Craig in 2005. It was his colorful way of explaining why his Bond would be “darker” and “less silly” then the quip happy (Moore) or unintentionally hysterically over-earnest seriousness (Dalton) of Bonds in the past. The quote makes sense. For years after Mel Brooks’ undisputed masterpiece Blazing Saddles (1974) no one would dare make a Western. Saddles surgically dissected every trop in the genre to the point that even a man riding a horse into town would cause audiences to laugh. (“What did he say?” “He said the sheriff is near!”) While Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) is no Blazing Saddles, Myers and crew do a rather good job of making SPECTRE in large and Blofeld specifically into one big gag. I’m sure there are many raised on Powers that can’t watch Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice (1967) without blowing soda through their noise. But here we are, December 2014, and Christmas, at least for this Bond fan, has come early. Thanks to official announcements and Sony email leaks in the past week we now know that next year Bond will be back in SPECTRE (2015)!

I love SPECTRE. I love Blofeld as the Joker to Bonds Batman; the nemesis he can never get. The move to bring back one Ernst Stavro Blofeld now makes perfect sense, and not only because we are far enough away from Austin Powers and Mike Myers is currently serving a life sentence in movie jail (Possibly for parole in 2024). Call it the “Marvel Factor.” I think Broccoli and brother-in-law Wilson see Bond world building possibilities and want some of that sweet Marvel movie action. I could be wrong but we are kind of starting with a clean slate… again. New M in the old office, Moneypenny and Q are now on the board and ready to play, why not get some serialization going where Blofeld can build up a bullpen of baddies (numbers 2 thru 34) and dispatch them over a multiple film run? I mean, even the title suggest the beginning of something very different. From here we could go SPECTRE: Winters Solder or SPECTRE: Mocking Jay Pt.3 or even SPECTRE vs. SHIELD; may the best anagram win! OK, perhaps not but what I’m trying to say is I couldn’t be more jazzed about the return of the most classic baddie in the Bond canon and I look forward to SPECTRE being a major player once again. I just have one, itsy bitsy, issue. Lets talk Waltz.

Love me Christopher Waltz. If you have a soul you do too. Is he going to make an amazing, fantastic, magnificent, top three Bond villain? You’re God damn right! The man can freeze your blood by drinking a glass of milk for crying out loud.


Yes, he’s going to kill it. So why, Oh why, has his character been listed as “Franz Oberhauser,” the alleged son of Bond’s climbing instructor and mentor Hannes Oberhauser? Look, if that is who is going to be OK. But doesn’t this smell a hell of a lot like “NO! Benedict Cumberbatch is not playing Khan in the new Star Trek II, not the Wrath of Khan (2013). He is playing Commander John Harrison, cross our heart, hope to die, stick a Klingon Kut’luch in our eye.” Man I really hope Broccoli and co. are not pulling the same crap. I want Waltz to be Blofeld, you want Waltz to be Blofeld, Waltz wants Waltz to be Blofeld and guess what? I’d be willing right here, right now, to put down a sizable bet that Waltz is Blofeld. I just wish they would come out and tell us. EON, you can admit that “Hey, we saw The Zero Theorem (2013) (what, you didn’t) and said immediately, that our Blofeld!” What’s wrong with that? This cheep JJ Abrams crap is beneath Bond and Broccoli. It backfired for Trek, big time. Look, Waltz is our new Blofeld and he is going to be perfect.

zero_theorem_photo-1024x556One last casting note, Dave Bautista, he of Drax Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) fame, has been listed in the cast. Do I smell another strong silent henchman out of the Oddjob, Jaws, Necros school? Oh how I hope so…

Bond is currently firing on all cylinders. With Mendes returning, Hoyte Van Hoytema shooting, Waltz as Blofeld (right? Right!), SPECTRE in the internet age, and the fact that EON followed Blog James Blogs advice and took more then two years between projects, I’d say everything is lined up for another stellar Bond outing. Now, lets see if Broccoli, Blofeld like, can wrestle that $300 million dollars from Sony.

gun-1A quick Blog James Blog programing note; I noticed to my horror and shame it’s been a year since I’ve posted. How time flies. This is the kick in the butt I needed. As much as it pains me, I will finish Never Say Never… and get it up soon. Thank you for you patience.


Terror Train

Hey Bond fans!

Been sometime since I’ve posted and as per the usual, I’m the only one to blame. I wish I could pin my absence on some kind of SPECTRE plot or at the very least being out of cell phone range but I can not. The truth is, I’m about 85% done with Never Say Never Again and I’ve been stalled for quite some time. It’s not a good film but its not terrible in A View To A Kill way, so I’m finding it really hard to come up with the energy, positive or negative, to finish it. I will post it at some point, but not today.

No, today I’m here to report on James Bond’s current whereabouts. He is in my hometown, and as anyone who has rode the MTA rails in the past few weeks can tell you, he’s up to no good. For those who do not live in the New York City metropolitan area or frequent the N train you may find what I’m about to share frightening and more then a little upsetting. In fact, what I’m about to tell you about our hero will leave you shaken to your very core. Dear Bond fans; agent 007 has officially left the reservation and gone rouge. In the past month, he has been spotted in the city on three different occasion … shooting unarmed innocents. So far I personally have witnessed him holding his Walther PPK to the head of a 9 year old boy, a child suffering from cancer, and even an Ex-President of the United States. The worst news, I fear there is more to come …

Don’t believe me? Exhibit A, B, and C, oh skeptical one:


gun-1Hopefully this is some kind of imposter and the true Bond will return in 2014.

Happy holidays everyone!

The Fat One

ebertThe fat one. That’s what I called him. Not an insult, far from it. It was a term of endearment, because I loved the fat one. More then the mean, bald one, that’s for sure. I couldn’t remember who was who so the guys on that movie show I liked were the fat one and the bald one. And that’s how; at age 10 or so, I came to know Siskel and Ebert and through them I came to know movies. How to watch em and how to talk about em. Which ones were good and which ones sucked. What made a Marty movie a Marty movie and a Carpenter picture a Carpenter picture. (It’s all in the lighting.) And Ohhhh the brilliant simplicity thumbs up or thumbs down. The binary rating that answered the most fundamental question all theatergoers must ask; is this film worth seeing? I’m a little late to the Ebert tribute party that’s been raging all over the web since his death (I was on the road for work) so I feel like I’m repeating what everyone has already said but say it again I must. My love of film, my discovery of the good stuff, and now, on this blog, the way I write about movies, all came from Mr. Ebert. I’m old enough and cynical enough to no longer get bent out of shape over celebrity deaths but this one hit me hard. (That said, when Bob Dylan final kicks it, don’t call or knock at my door for at least a week. I’ll be in seclusion in the east wing, listening to “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” on repeat.) Why did I react so strongly to Ebert’s passing? He was sick forever, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. The wife hit it, I think, when she said for me, Ebert was a long distance mentor. It’s true. Not only do I read him constantly, I quote him just as much. I not only do I continue to learn about film from him, I continue to learn how to write from him. I identified with him on a deeply personal level. He, like I, grew up in the suburbs (he of Chicago, me of New York) and as a young boy Ebert knew in his bones that when he grew up he would live and work in the big city. I know this longing; I lived it and like Ebert, I found a way to live my dream. The pride Ebert had for Chicago and all he encounter there came though in everything he did. In his books and on his blog he wrote about walking down a neighborhood street, talking to a barfly at the corner pub, and going to see a film in the big, old movie houses as romantic experiences. This is what I feel for my town and I wish I could express it a tenth as well as Ebert did. Then there was his Gun 1marriage, a bond to be admired by anyone who shares their life with another. I only hope if anything happens to my wife that I could be as strong for her as Chaz was for Roger. But I think most of all, what saddens me is there will be no new work, and man o man did the man work, right up to the end. It’s all been said and the home page at says it best, “Roger Ebert loved movies. Except for those he hated.”


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