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.

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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:

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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 Rogerebert.com says it best, “Roger Ebert loved movies. Except for those he hated.”

Snap-review: Skyfall

Saw Skyfall (2012) this morning but first a quick programing note. I will not being doing my full on Blog James Blog break down of Bond 23 until it’s release on home video. The reasons are two; first, when doing my full posts I watch the films at least twice and then re-watch scenes, DVD extras and even get into commentaries in order to make damn sure I get the drink orders right and I know exactly how many baddies were in that jeep Bond sent over the cliff. Needless to say, that’s a little difficult to do sitting in my local multiplex. The second and more important reason is that my normal write-ups by their very nature and design are chock full of spoilers. They are written with the assumption that those reading them have seen the film at some point in their lives and have a passing knowledge of what goes down. Not so with a movie released less then 48 hours ago so I will avoid the typical Blog James Blog fine tooth combing of “what it all means … man.” This “Snap-review” will be written in the traditional style of a review; which is to say it is meant to let readers know if this film is something they should spend their $15 on. So, here is the short, down and dirty, “Snap-review” of Skyfall. The full on treatment and martini glass rating will appear down the road. Enjoy.

Thank you. Thank you to EON for getting this one right. Quantum of Solace (2008) can now be stricken from the record and called what it truly is, a poor man’s Bourne film. Sorry, the truth hurts. Skyfall on the other hand achieves a miracle in quantum physics in that it is both a classic and modern Bond film that occupies the same screen space at precisely the same time. In Craig’s third turn we have his best Bond performance by leaps and bounds as well as a top 5 out of all 23 Bond films. As we left the theater, the wife said it was her favorite and the first where she, as a woman, didn’t feel pandered to. Not bad for a fifty year-old dude in 2012. In the hands of Sam Mendes, the first Oscar winner to helm a Bond film, the series once again becomes a leader and not a follower; a more self-assured 007 film has not been seen since that Aussie dude wore a kilt. Indeed, On Her Majesty’s Secrete Service (1969) very well may be this films closest cousin in the Bond canon. With Skyfall, we get a story that has emotional resonance and connects us to Bond as a person, and by extension the world he inhabits, in ways which we have not been since Bond wept for his murdered bride. The film was shot by long time Coen brothers DP Roger Deakins who delivers the best looking and most cinematic Bond film in memory. A mid-film action sequence in the glass towers of Shanghai enters the realm of the surreal, a visual element that further permeates Skyfall when we visit an abandon, bombed out island and hits a final crescendo in a fog filled climax that allows the pictures to tell more then the words. Which brings us to the script, penned by John Logan who, as the AV Club recently pointed out, writes everything these days (and along with Daniel Craig has signed on for at least two more 007 pictures). One of the lazy clichés when it comes to Bond films is the “talking villain,” the bad guy who tells Bond his evil, world-dominating scheme over dinner. Here, Javier Bardem’s entrance as the grinning baddie Silva, around the halfway mark of the film, is indeed accompanied by a breakdown of his entire game plan. A game plan that notably is not one of clocks counting down to the end of the world or of conquering empires, but of personal and laser like focused revenge. But the explaining and yes, exposition, doesn’t feel forced. It’s all in the writing and acting. Ignore those reviews that don’t praise Javier’s Silva as a wonderful and a classic Bond villain; all detractors be damned. Back to the writing, at the end of his speech, Silva challenges Bond loyalties. A lesser film would have written Bond an on the noise retort. Here, Craig is given the trust to deliver his answer to both the baddie and the audience with his eyes. He succeeds. This is a modern film firing on all cylinders that works because the look and feel is firmly rooted in the cinematic language of the past. Add in the opening sequence that is rightly already being celebrated, the return of Q and the Goldfinger (1964) Aston Martin, a classic voice in the Adele theme, and on and on and the movie takes things we love about Bond (A thug gets eaten by a deadly animal! The villain lives on his own island!) and places it all firmly in the 21st century. Even for all it’s rightfully deserved praise in reinventing Bond, Casino Royale (2006) regrettably shed some of the soul and messy guts that make Bond Bond. Here, those elements are not only reintroduced, they serve as a happy reminder of why Bond films work and have worked for so long. Lets just say I found myself smiling ear-to-ear more then half a dozen times during Skyfall and most Bond fans will experience the same. If you care a lick about Bond, go see this film now and bring a friend. Afterward, you will want to discuss it with someone over a Heineken or a martini. They both get the job done, no point arguing over which is better.

Happy Birthday Mr. Bond

Just a quick public service announcement to call attention to some of the all kinds of 50th anniversary madness happening, including an excellent cover article in this months Vanity Fair (after last month had an amazing Fleming/Dr. No piece) and Craig hosting SNL this weekend. For those not in the know, tomorrow is officially James Bond Day and I think everyone should do a little something to celebrate. For inspiration, check out Not Exactly Ready for one long time Blog, James Blog friends plans. Have a great weekend everyone.

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