Thursday, November 25, 2021

The 007 Project: A View to a Kill

 

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Bond is sent to France to investigate Max Zorin, a CEO specializing in microchips. Zorin plans to destroy Silicon Valley so that the value of his product increases. 

Memorable Quote:
Wow, what a view.  ~May Day
To a kill.  ~Zorin

Highlight:
The Eiffel Tower scene and subsequent car chase is brief but memorable. For one thing, how sweet would it be to eat in a restaurant like that in the middle of the Eiffel Tower. 

Lowlight:
The fire truck chase scene bothered me, like why couldn't Bond just explain things down at the station? Instead he leads these poor officers on a chase throughout San Francisco while doing untold amounts of property damage and risking the lives of the officers and bystanders. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
The first of this movie's Eiffel Tower jumps was so successful that the second jump was cancelled, thereby eliminating any further risk, cost, and time. However, as mentioned in Inside A View to a Kill (2000), two of the crew, including Don "Tweet" Caltvedt, allegedly went and made an unauthorized jump, as they were apparently so disappointed that they didn't get to jump off the Eiffel Tower. The non-permitted stunt jump cost them their jobs, as it jeopardized the remaining filming of the shoot in the French capital.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The opening is very good, though it was an inexplicable and startling choice to interrupt the exciting background theme by interjecting California Girls
  • Alison Doody, of Elsa Schneider/Last Crusade fame, appears as Jenny Flex. She was 19 when this movie came out. Moore, by comparison, was 57. 
  • There are a few other Indiana Jones connections:
    • David Yip, who plays ally Chuck Lee, was Indy's ally Wu Han in the opening to Temple of Doom
    • The San Francisco City Hall location is used at the end of Raiders when Indy is leaving his debrief meeting. 
  • The renaissance-style party at the big palace is cool, but I wonder how Sir Godfrey was able to "arrange an invitation" for Bond under a fake name -- as if Zorin's people would just go along with some dude staying at their mansion who they've never heard of. 
  • They say that Zorin was from East Germany and then moved to France, but he doesn't speak with any sort of German or French accent.  
  • 1:14:34 - That shrieking cat scared the shit out of me. 
  • Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton -- really bad actress, but perhaps the best looking Bond girl so far. 
  • I haven't seen many Christopher Walken movies -- in fact, I can't think of a single other one that I've seen, but he's a cool dude. 
  • May Day is a memorable character, and I like how she turns sides at the end. 
  • As the drama above the Golden Gate bridge unfolds, the cars on the bridge appear to be driving as normal and aren't distracted by the giant zeppelin directly overhead.  
  • Well, we've come to the end of the Roger Moore era. Moore is a likable guy but a little too casual for me, so I don't love him, but I rate him slightly better than Connery. 

Final Analysis:
I had only seen this movie once before, and my memory of it was that it was really bad and possibly the worst of the franchise. Upon viewing it now, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that it was not that bad, and in fact I kind of liked it. The first half was pretty good -- the second half not as much but not terrible.  Ranking it 9 out of 14. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The 007 Project: Octopussy


Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
An ambitious Soviet general and a wealthy Afghan prince lead a plot to detonate a nuclear bomb on a US Air Force base in Germany. Bond picks up the trail in India, where he crosses paths with Octopussy, a jewelry smuggler and the leader of a traveling circus. 

Memorable Quote:
I need refilling.  ~Magda
Of course you do.  ~Bond

Highlight:
India is the star of the show -- just a great locale for a Bond movie, and the producers do it up right with some great sets and locations. 

Lowlight:
While I'm not looking for realism in Bond movies, the plane scene at the end is a bridge too far. He jumps on the back of the plane as it's taking off and hangs on through its ascent -- for one thing I believe that he would be asphyxiated due to the change in air pressure. Then when the plane starts doing barrel rolls, he still manages to hang on. I would have rather just cut the plane scene and have them capture Kamal a different way. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
In his book, "As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride," Cary Elwes states that before he was an actor, he worked as a production assistant on this movie. One of his jobs was to drive Sir Roger Moore to work on the set of the movie. He further goes on to say that he was "a nervous wreck" being constantly afraid of getting in a car accident and accidentally killing Sir Roger Moore. On one occasion, Mr. Moore looked up from the newspaper he was reading while being driven to work by Elwes and stated calmly, "You can speed up a little if you want to."

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Kristina Wayborn (Magda) appears in MacGyver episode The Escape as Sara Ashford. 
  • We also get the return of Maud Adams (Octopussy), who we saw in The Man with the Golden Gun
  • Here's Adams appearing in a screen test with James Brolin, who was offered this movie as Bond before Roger Moore changed his mind and came back. Not sure what they were thinking by planning on a Bond with an American accent. 
  • Octopussy says she got her nickname from her father, but that's not a nickname a father should give a daughter. 
  • The yo-yo blade is a creative and bad-ass weapon. 
  • The actor playing Gobinda does a great job -- very menacing. 
  • 1:31:34 -- No way Bond would fit into the costume of the little knife-throwing twin. 
  • 1:59:50 -- A bit of a Gauntlet-style hot air balloon -- no risk of it getting shot down, apparently.  
  • What a great photo of Christopher Reeve visiting Roger Moore on set while Reeve was in the studio filming Superman III. I've actually been rewatching the Superman movies lately (just finished III) -- Chris Reeve was the man. 


Final Analysis:
Great movie -- lots of fun. I didn't have too many comments, but I didn't know what else to say other than "I liked the opening, I liked the auction scene, I liked the casino scene, I liked the jungle scene," etc. Ranking it 2 out of 13. 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

The 007 Project: For Your Eyes Only


Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A British ship carrying a device that controls nuclear subs is sunk, and the device is stolen. Bond is sent to recover the device and teams with Melina Havelock, the daughter of a murdered marine archaeologist. They travel to the Italian Alps and then to Greece, where they battle the perpetrators for the device in a monastery atop a high cliff.

Memorable Quote:
Forgive me father for I have sinned  ~Bond
That's putting it mildy, 007  ~Q

Highlight:
Melina Havelock is one of my favorite Bond ladies -- beautiful and a bad-ass, but also seems relatable and kind.  

Lowlight:
In contrast to the Moonraker opening which was amazing, this opening leaves a lot to be desired. It starts out with a good hook of Bond visiting his former wife Tracy's grave, but it goes downhill from there. The villain controlling the plane is meant to be Blofeld, but they couldn't call him that because of the copyright dispute with Kevin McClory over the rights to Blofeld. Regardless, while the idea of revenge on Blofeld is promising, the Blofeld here is not the menace of old and instead is a bumbling fool with ridiculous lines of dialogue. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
Sir Roger Moore was not happy about the scene where he cold-bloodedly kills Locque by pushing his teetering car off of a cliff. Although Moore acknowledged that this was a Bond thing to do, he didn't feel that it was a Sir Roger Moore Bond thing to do. Michael G. Wilson also added that he and Richard Maibaum, along with John Glen, toyed with other ideas surrounding that scene, but ultimately everyone, even Moore, agreed to do the scene as originally written.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Some of the stars in this movie include:
    • Cassandra Harris as the Countess. She was married to Pierce Brosnan at the time of filming, and Brosnan visited the set and caught the eye of the producers.
    • Julian Glover as Kristatos. You might remember him as Walter Donovan from the best movie of all time. He gives a good performance here, although his accent sounds more Irish than Greek to me. 
    • Lynn-Holly Johnson as figure skater Bibi Dahl. You might remember her as Soviet agent Ingrid Bannister in the MacGyver episode The Enemy Within. Just as in that episode, I find her likable but not a great actress. Before she got into acting, she was an accomplished figure skater.
    • Bill Conti as composer. You might remember him as the composer of Rocky. The score here is decent, but there's not enough of the traditional Bond music for my liking, especially during the ski sequence.
  • Speaking of the ski sequence, it's great, and I like how they creatively incorporate the Winter Olympics venues, in particular the ski jump scene. It is funny how the bad guy who follows him down the ski jump screws it up for the other bad guys, who had Bond pinned perfectly from all directions. 
  • We're past the point in the series where Roger Moore just looks too old to be a secret agent, and he still has two more movies left. The ages of the actors during filming were:
    • Roger Moore: 53
    • Carole Bouquet: 23
    • Lynn-Holly Johnson: 22
    • Thats a big age gap and even too much for Bond when it comes to resisting the advances of Bibi Dahl. 
  • 53:20 -- the same dude again as in the last two movies, looking at Bond with surprise and then at his drink. Interesting also how all three scenes with him are in Italy. 
  • There aren't too many guards on the mountain monastery, so why not just approach by helicopter? Also, shouldn't there have been a guard or two at the base of the mountain?

Final Analysis:
I believe I had only seen this movie once before, and so watching it now was kind of like watching it for the first time. Overall I enjoyed it, and other than the opening it was solid throughout. Ranking it 4 out of 12. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The 007 Project: Moonraker

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
After the Moonraker space shuttle mysteriously disappears, 007 is sent to California to question the shuttle's builder, Hugo Drax. Bond tails Drax to Venice, Rio, and outer space in an attempt to stop him from destroying the world and creating a master race in space. 

Memorable Quote:
My God, what's Bond doing?  ~Minister of Defense 
I think he's attempting re-entry, sir.  ~Q

Highlight:
The pre-credit parachute sequence is incredible. I'm not a film historian, but I venture to say it has to be in the top 5 of most impressive stunts of all time. I even like the surprise of seeing Jaws, though I will note that the pilot inexplicably puts up little to no resistance as Bond takes his parachute from him in midair. But then the moment at 5:07 where you think it's over and then Jaws comes flying in and the Bond theme starts playing -- wow. 

Lowlight:
Obviously the ending of Bond going in space requires a suspension of disbelief of the highest order, but the laser battle between the floating spacemen is a bridge too far, to put it mildly. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
Except for a few brief close-ups, the entire sequence of Bond, Jaws, and the pilot falling from the plane, with Bond and the pilot fighting for a single parachute, was shot in free fall. The entire sequence required eighty-eight jumps, and five weeks to film, just to produce the two minutes of footage in the final movie.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • This is the first time that I noticed that Moneypenny doesn't have a British accent. The actress, Lois Maxwell, was Canadian. 
  • Another highlight of the movie is the first scene between Bond and Drax. I'm putting Drax so far as the 2nd best villain behind OHMSS Blofeld, and Michael Lonsdale is terrific in portraying Drax as humorless and cold. 
  • 19:17 -- Holly shows Bond the centerfuge training machine and says, "Why not try it?" To which Bond should say, "What would be the point of me trying it?" rather than his actual response of "Why Not?" I do like how Bond disarms the machine with his wrist dart gun. 
  • 31:33 -- Fun scene where Bond and Drax go hunting, and Bond shoots the sniper in the tree. 
  • 40:48 -- The guy who can't believe his eyes and looks at his wine bottle when Bond drives the gondola through St. Mark's Square is the same guy who was in disbelief when Bond drove the car out of the water in The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Shouldn't the Venetian museum with the priceless china have some security? There is an alarm on one of the pieces that doesn't do a darn thing. 
  • The whole Jaws experience is kind of weird and too focused on laughs, but it doesn't bother me too much. The actor, Richard Kiel, does a good job of playing him with a sense of likability and was liked by the viewers, which is why he was brought back in this movie in the first place. 
  • 1:15:40 -- Apparently Bond's knowledge extends to identifying a rare orchid species from its chemical formula. 
  • After Bond comes down from his hang glider, how does he find Drax's hideout so quickly? The Amazon is a big place. 
  • The bad guys never learn to take Bond's watch after locking him up.
  • After Bond and Holly escape using the watch, they decide, "Let's just hop in the shuttle and take off!" And somehow they know exactly how to fly it and what all the buttons do. 
  • Then, when the US military gets the call to action, they send a shuttle up instantaneously! Is this what the new US Space Force is going to be like?
  • Dr. Holly Goodhead is ice cold, and it's the worst acting performance so far by a Bond girl (though there's one later that is much, much worse). Nevertheless, I'm still a big Holly Goodhead fan. I just think she's a babe.
  • In previous posts I've mentioned my fondness for the N64 Goldeneye video game. That game had a Moonraker laser weapon which was super powerful, and there was an Aztec Temple level that was based on Moonraker and included Jaws. It was the last level and the hardest one in the game, and it had one of the best video game themes I've ever heard. 
  • Just as in You Only Live Twice, the bad guys make the mistake of leaving Bond in the control room without any restraints or handcuffs. 

Final Analysis:
I'm surprised to say that I enjoyed this movie a great deal. Surprised because I didn't remember being a huge fan of it, but other than the space battle, I didn't really dislike any of it. Drax was a great villian, the California, Italy, and Brazil settings were all fun, and I liked the title song more than I remembered. Ranking it 2 out of 11. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The 007 Project: The Spy Who Loved Me


Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
When British and Soviet nuclear subs mysteriously disappear, Bond teams up with Russian agent Anya Amasova (aka Triple-X) to investigate. 

Memorable Quote:
The answer to the question is yes, I did kill him.  ~Bond
Then, when this mission is over, I will kill you.  ~Anya

Highlight:
The Lotus Esprit emerging from the water onto the beach, to the shock of the beachgoers. 

Lowlight:
At the 26:00 mark, Bond is about to seduce the lovely assistant to Mr. Fekkesh, when she gets shot in the back. It's not clear to me whether Bond turned her into the path of the shot or if it was just bad luck on her part, but either way, it bothers me that Bond just left her to die without even checking on her to see if she was still alive. I mean, I know he's a misogynistic dinosaur and all, but it still would be nice to see at least a little bit of empathy. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
Richard Kiel (Jaws) could only keep the metal teeth in his mouth for about half a minute at a time, due to the excessive pain and discomfort. He often had to show comic expressions, which was quite contradictory to the way he was feeling, wearing the extremely uncomfortable braces. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I've read all the Ian Fleming books once upon a time, and I remember thinking that The Spy Who Loved Me was my favorite, although Fleming hated it. The book is completely different from the movie. I don't remember a lot about it, but I remember that it's different from all the other books in that it's told from a woman's point of view, and the first part of the story is about her life. Then she meets Bond at a motel in rural New England and he saves her from some two-bit mobster villains. I liked how Fleming told her story in great detail before bringing Bond into it, so that as the reader we are very curious to see where the story is going and how Bond is going to fit in. 
  • This is the first out of six appearances by Walter Gotell as General Gogol, though he did appear in a different role in From Russia With Love. Gotell appeared in two MacGyver episodes: GX-1 and Gold Rush
  • Fantastic opening to the movie culminating with Bond skiing off a mountain and opening a Union Jack parachute (which was originally George Lazenby's idea). The dangerous stunt was performed in the Canadian arctic and had never been done before. 
  • Also, the opening ski scene features some great music, which segues into Carly Simon's Nobody Does It Better, which I'm a big fan of and is going to the top of the song rankings (for now).  The composer for this film was Marvin Hamlisch, who also scored The Sting
  • The design of the Stromberg Atlantis set is very cool, both inside and out. 
  • We get a rare sight of Bond in his navy blue commander uniform -- the only other times are in You Only Live Twice and Tomorrow Never Dies.
  • We also get to hear the real names of M (Miles) and Q (Major Boothroyd). 
  • Bond and Anya take a train to Sardinia, which doesn't make sense because Sardinia is an island. Then, they meet Q who gets off a boat with their Lotus car. So instead of Q meeting them with the car, why not just take the car themselves and travel the way that Q did? I guess the writers really wanted to get the train scene in. At least it leads to some fun Bond/Q dialogue:
    • Q, have I ever let you down?  ~Bond
    • Frequently.  ~Q
  • 1:31:47 -- great moment when Bond when looks over at the helicopter attacking them and Naomi responds with a wink and a smile. 
  • Barbara Bach, an American actress, does a nice job portraying a Russian. In real life she's married to Ringo Starr. 
  • They kind of gloss over the fact that two nuclear bombs go off in the ocean. Better that than going off in major cities, but there would still be some significant environmental ramifications. 

Final Analysis:
This is a good movie with a strong cast, music, and sets. It also has enough serious moments to outweigh the humor that was common in the Roger Moore era. The movie does feel too long -- the submarine battle in particular drags on a bit -- but the rest of it moves nicely. Ranking it 5th out of 10. 

Friday, September 3, 2021

The 007 Project: The Man with the Golden Gun

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Bond learns that he is being hunted by Scaramanga, a legendary assassin who uses a golden gun. Bond in turn seeks out Scaramanga, who has stolen a device that harnesses the sun and can make solar beam weapons. They have a final face off in a fun house on Scaramanga's private island. 

Memorable Quote:
I'm afraid I'll have to owe you.  ~Bond

Highlight:
Great scene where Bond and friends take on the 40 karate students in the temple, followed by the boat chase where he pushes the little merchant boy into the water. 

Lowlight:
For the second straight movie, the lowlight is Sheriff J.W. Pepper. I have to admit the part at the 1:02:44 mark where he recognizes Bond in the boat is mildly amusing, but they should have just stopped there and quit while they were only a little behind. Instead, they bring him back for an additional 8 minutes of screen time, which is 8 minutes too many and blemishes an otherwise good car chase scene.

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
The body count of only six, including James Bond's one single kill of Scaramanga, are the lowest in the official film franchise to date.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The opening is like Brainwashed meets Halloween Knights with a training ground for killers that is reminiscent of a carnival fun house. Also in the opening we see Christopher Lee (noted English actor), Maud Adams (reappears in Octopussy as Octopussy), anHervĂ© Villechaize (little person of Fantasy Island fame). 
  • Instead of Bond going all the way to Beirut to track down Scaramanga's bullet from a previous hit and analyze it for clues to his whereabouts, why not just analyze the bullet that Scaramanga mailed to them?
  • Soon-Taik (Lieutenant Hip) appears as the lead villain in MacGyver episode Murderer's Sky
  • Maud Adams's appearance reminds me a bit of Melania T. (I don't want to say the T word). 
  • The car spiral jump stunt was real and not a camera trick. There's a short video of the stunt being done a few years before this movie. 
  • One fun legacy of this movie: The Man with the Golden Gun mode in the Goldeneye N64 video game, where it takes only one shot to kill. 

Final Analysis:
I'm sorry this post is so short, but it's been like six months since I've watched this. This movie didn't do much for me, which might be why it took me six months to get the motivation to write. I'd still put it above From Russia With Love and Diamonds Are Forever in the 7th spot out of 9 on my list.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Vicki Mayk: Outstanding Author


Author:

Vicki Mayk is the author of Growing Up on the Gridiron, a book about Owen Thomas, a student and football player at the University of Pennsylvania who committed suicide.  Owen was also my next-door neighbor.


Matt, Morgan, Owen, Kathy, and Tom Thomas

Conversation:

Total run time: 38:24


3:59 - Why Vicki wrote this book
8:35 - My relationship with Matt
15:35 - My memories of Owen, including when he broke our window with a bb gun
21:38 - Penn professor Adam Grant on how Owen was special
25:28 - Football as a brotherhood, and if any changes to football should be made
32:05 - Impressions of Parkland School District



The embedded player works best in Google Chrome.  You can download the mp3 by clicking here, and the podcast is available in iTunes.