Thursday, January 19, 2023

The 007 Project: No Time to Die

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Bond leaves Madeleine after thinking that she betrays him, and he lives a quiet life in Jamaica. He is called back into action when a scientist is kidnapped who was working on a secret poison that targets people with a certain DNA. He reconnects with Madeleine and discovers that they have a daughter, and he destroys the facility on the poison island at the cost of his life. 

Memorable Quote:
You know, they come with fur these days.  ~Bond

Kind of a minor part, but I really like his house in Jamaica and the scene where he pulls up to the dock in his fishing boat and walks in.  Beautiful home. 

What else could it be other than Bond dying at the end of the movie, and in an overly emotional and dramatic way. I just don't agree with the choice -- why would I or anyone want to see Bond dying, it's a Bond movie for Christ sake and it's supposed to be fun, not depressing. While I do prefer serious over campy, the Craig era took itself a bit too seriously sometimes, never more so than the ending here. And if they were going to rewrite the franchise by doing something that had never been done before, why not remove his tragic figure persona and allow him to ride off into the sunset with his wife and daughter.

Also, why couldn't he have just gotten off the island? The whole problem as I understood it was that he got poisoned in a way that would prevent him from ever seeing Madeleine or Mathilde. But he didn't have to die, he could have still gone back to Jamaica and they could talk on Zoom or something.  Or maybe a cure would have been developed over time. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
Jamaican actress Grace Jones, who starred as May Day in A View to a Kill (1985), was going to make a cameo appearance in this film during the Jamaica scenes, however she quit shortly after shooting began upon learning how small her part was. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I wish Bond would give Madeleine a chance to explain herself instead of dumping her without a word. 
  • Excellent performances by Ralph Fiennes and Rami Malek. I liked Ana de Armas's character, though it seemed underutilized. 
  • How was Blofeld able to run the Cuban party from an English maximum security prison with a special eyeball?
  • On Daniel Craig, I like him overall and rate him second best Bond behind Brosnan. Craig is an excellent actor, and while sometimes a bit too serious, I prefer that over too campy, as I said earlier. And I love his swagger and arrogant mannerisms, like for example when he casually tosses the rich guy's car keys aside in the parking lot in Casino Royale

Final Analysis:
This movie was better than I remembered, but the ending is hard to overcome. Ranking it 14 out of 25. Also see the ranking page for my full rankings of villains, Bond girls, Bonds, and title songs.  

That wraps up the 007 project -- stay tuned for something new coming soon!  

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The 007 Project: Spectre

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Bond finally identifies Spectre, the criminal organization behind all the recent plots that he has foiled, and he learns that their leader is someone from his past. He vows to protect the daughter of former Spectre operative Mr. White and falls in love with her in the process. 

Memorable Quote:
You're a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr. Bond.  ~Mr. White

Lea Seydoux is my favorite Bond girl of the series. She's beautiful, smart, witty, kind -- I love everything about her.  

The end where Bond is in the old MI6 building falls flat and feels a bit cartoonish with the photos on the wall of former Spectre villains and Bond having to save Madeleine before the timer goes off. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
Following the success of this movie, Mexico City held its first The Day of the Dead parade, complete with floats, dancers, and giant marionettes, in 2016. Prior to this, no parade had ever been held, despite the movie scenes.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Fun setting for the opening with the Day of the Dead parade, though too much CGI at times. And apparently Mexico City doesn't have any air defense, as the helicopter is allowed to fly out of control over the crowded plaza. 
  • This is so cool -- it's the exact same hotel and elevator as License to Kill: 
  • The guy who plays Max Denbigh (aka C) is a great actor who I remember as Moriarty in the Sherlock series. 
  • My favorite scene is where Bond crashes the Spectre meeting and Blofeld calls him out in front of everyone. 
  • Looks fun to drive around Rome at night with no other cars on the roads. 
  • I don't know why Bond has to ditch his priceless car in the Tiber, he could have gotten away in it. 
  • The Austrian clinic is a great location, and in fact the filming location has been turned into a 007 museum
  • When Madeleine tells Bond about the time that "A man came to my house to kill my father," that's a reference to the beginning of No Time to Die
  • The train they take in North Africa is quite fancy considering they seem to be in the middle of nowhere. 
  • The storyline of Bond and Olberhauzer as foster brothers falls flat, mostly because their interactions in the movie don't seem to reflect a shared history or familiarity.  

Final Analysis:
Overall this is a decent movie, but it's not particularly inspiring to me. Lea Seydoux is outstanding, and Christophe Waltz deliver an excellent performance, but the story doesn't have a lot of depth or meat on the bone. Ranking it 15 out of 24. 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

The 007 Project: Skyfall


Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Bond is presumed dead after being shot on a mission by Miss Moneypenny (who was aiming for Bond's target). He returns to England after a bomb is detonated in MI6, and the culprit is revealed to be Silva, an ex-agent who has never forgiven M for leaving him to be tortured. Bond and M retreat to Skyfall, Bond's childhood home, where they await Silva for a final showdown. 

Memorable Quote:
How much do you know about fear?  ~Severine
All there is.  ~Bond

While I do love the scene where Bond meets Q in the museum, I'm going with Bond and M getting in the Aston Martin while the Bond theme plays. Also love Bond threatening to use the ejector seat on her. 

I'm not sure what the neon lights in the background are supposed to be during the fight on the top floor of the Shanghai skyscraper -- just seems very bizarre and out of place. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
The role of Kincade (Albert Finney) was originally written with Sir Sean Connery in mind. Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson originally wanted Connery to come out of retirement and make a surprise cameo. Director Sam Mendes told "The Huffington Post", "There was a definite discussion about (Connery playing Kincade), way, way early on. But I think that's problematic. Because, to me, it becomes too... it would take you out of the movie. Connery is Bond, and he's not going to come back as another character. It's like, he's been there. So, it was a very brief flirtation with that thought, but it was never going to happen, because I thought it would distract."

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Fantastic opening with great music, and the Adele song is the best opening song of the series for me. 
  • I like the guy who plans Tanner (Rory Kinnear) -- he's a good actor who can say a lot with his expressions.
  • The dialogue throughout is well written and smart, such as between Bond/Moneypenny, Bond/Q, and Bond's word association with the therapist.
  • Q's "Were you expecting an exploding pen" line is a reference to Goldeneye
  • The Bardem intro is memorable, as he performs a soliloquy while walking towards Bond, all in the same camera shot. 
  • 1:27:00 mark -- Cool scene where Q is analyzing Silva's code while it spins in a 3D model (even if developers probably don't look at their code this way). And I like how Bond figures out before anyone else what is going on and is the first to sprint down to where Silva was being held. 
  • 1:34:50 -- Tanner whispers to M that Silva has escaped and they need to get her to a secure location immediately but then they don't do anything. Get M to safety! 
  • Poor Bond, Skyfall looked like a very depressing and bleak place to grow up. 
  • 2:00:02 -- I love the shift in music from the happy-sounding Boom Boom song to the dark and ominous themes.
  • Why did M even need to be in the house when Silva came, like he wouldn't know at that point if she was there or not. She could have holed up elsewhere. 
  • Why does Kincade need a flashlight? He's lived there his whole life. 

Final Analysis:
Incredible movie. Of all the Bond movies, it's has by far the most depth and is the one most like an Academy Award type-movie given its dramatic and serious nature, the exploration of Bond's past, and his relationship with M punctuated by her death. At the same time, it manages to still be very entertaining and rewatchable, with great acting and characters (including Silva, Mallory, Moneypenny, and Q), clever dialogue, and a top-notch soundtrack highlighted by Adele's opening number. Tomorrow Never Dies is still my sentimental favorite, but this one is close behind. Ranking it 2 out of 23. 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

The 007 Project: Quantum of Solace

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Bond and MI6 continue to investigate the organization behind the events of Casino Royale and Vesper's death. The trail leads Bond to Haiti, Austria, and Bolivia, where he discovers their plot to keep a dictator in power in exchange for control over the Bolivian water supply. 

Memorable Quote:
Can I offer an opinion? I really think you people should find a better place to meet.  ~Bond

The entire opera scene is great, especially the line referenced above where Bond speaks on the Quantum frequency. 

The way Bond drops Mathis's body in the dumpster with such disdain is disrespectful and doesn't make sense given how he was tenderly consoling Mathis moments earlier in death. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
In a later interview, Daniel Craig revealed that the script originally wasn't intended to be as much of a sequel to Casino Royale (2006) as it ended up being. However, because of the writer's strike, they had only the "bare bones" of a script, and Craig and director Marc Forster ended up re-writing a lot of scenes between them, with many decisions being made on the fly, and at the last second. Much of the content that made it such a direct sequel to Casino Royale (2006) was a last-second addition. Also, the title was chosen more or less at random, with Craig saying that most Bond movie titles are "meaningless" anyway, and they hoped it would sound intriguing. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Solid and intense opening car chase punctuated by Bond opening the trunk to reveal Mr. White while a cool version of the Bond theme plays. 
  • I don't like the Another Day to Die song at all, just doesn't sound good to me. Ranking it as a solid last on the song rankings
  • At the moment that Mitchell breaks his cover, it would have been smart of him to shoot Bond first instead of the other random security guy. 
  • 15:12 -- Nice quick musical cue as the scene shifts back to London
  • 32:28 -- A solid boat action sequence ending with another cool musical cue. 
  • 54:00 -- Great scene where Bond takes one look at the run-down hotel and walks out. "So shoot me, I'd rather stay in a morgue."
  • 1:05:20 -- "He'll make much more when he sells us out." So it's a crappy looking plane to begin with, and you know that the guy is gonna sell you out -- not Bond's finest plan. 
  • At the very end where Bond exposes the Vesper's old boyfriend, the Canadian agent just leaves very meekly and doesn't show any surprise or emotion. "OK, this guy betrayed me, thanks, see you later." The actress is actually the lady from Castle (a show I saw maybe one episode of). 
  • End credits score is good. 

Final Analysis:
This movie doesn't do much for me -- it's ok, and I like the music (not including the title song), but it's kind of bland and devoid of any real highlights. Additionally, the lead villain and Bond girl aren't that memorable. Ranking it 13 out of 22. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The 007 Project: Casino Royale

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Bond is a newly promoted double-00 agent, and his investigation into a bombmaker eventually leads him to Le Chiffre, a terrorist financier. After Le Chiffre loses a hundred million dollars after Bond foils his plan, he holds a poker match at Casino Royale to win it back. Bond enters the game under the supervision of treasury representative Vesper Lynd, who he later falls in love with. 

Memorable Quote:
Vodka martini.  ~Bond
Shaken or stirred?  ~Bartender
Do I look like I give a damn?  ~Bond

A lot of great scenes to choose from. I'm always a sucker for the Caribbean locale, and I'm gonna go with the scenes in the Bahamas, first where he pretends to be the valet and wrecks the guy's car (and I love the arrogance with which he casually and disdainfully tosses the keys aside), and second where he wins the Aston Martin in the poker game. 

The opening scene falls flat and isn't very compelling. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
This is the first movie in the forty-four years of James Bond where it rains.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • This movie is directed by Martin Campbell, who also directed Goldeneye and The Mask of Zorro
  • The chase scene in Madagascar is fantastic, as is the subsequent embassy scene. The actor who Bond is chasing is a real-life parkour master, meaning that he can basically run and jump and climb like a cat. These scenes are also a great introduction to Bond's intensity and determination. 
  • 28:58 mark -- What are the odds that when Dimitrios receives the phone call from the bombmaker, he'll be right in line with the camera Bond is reviewing? What if he was in his hotel room?
  • 32:00 -- What a beautiful scene with the nighttime pool and surrounding trees and steel drums playing softly in the background. I just now looked up the filming location, and it actually is called The Ocean Club and is in the Bahamas. I would not mind going there someday. 
  • How does Bond get through the standard airport security?
  • Excellent opening scene for Vesper on the train -- well acted and great dialogue and chemistry between her and Bond. 
  • 1:10:33 -- It's clear that Bond does not enter "Vesper" as the password. 
  • Instead of Vesper leaving a "message" for Bond in the hotel room on her phone, why couldn't she have just talked to him about it.  Always better to talk things through. 
  • 2:17:00 -- Regarding Vesper's Algerian boyfriend, M tells Bond that "We should have picked up on it." No shit, M, you just said the same thing in Die Another Day with Miranda and Moon on the fencing team together. Doesn't anyone in MI6 do background checks?
  • Two interesting casting notes: the actress at the poker table in the Bahamas appeared in Thunderball, and the actress at the poker table at Casino Royale appeared in You Only Live Twice.

Final Analysis:
Fantastic movie and script, ranking it 2 out of 21. It's a long movie, but I don't feel like any of the scenes are wasted. Even the poker scenes, which go on for quite a long time, are captivating throughout. Daniel Craig is excellent as Bond -- I can see why there were some doubts about him just based on his appearance, like he doesn't have quite the leading man look. But he plays the role very well with intensity, arrogance, and humanity. I also appreciate that this movie, while being grittier and darker than some of its predecessors, isn't quite as dour or depressing as some of the movies that follow. Martin Campbell delivers once again. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The 007 Project: Die Another Day

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Bond is captured on a mission to assassinate a young North Korean colonel. The colonel, presumed dead, ends up transforming into a wealthy British businessman who hopes to reunify Korea using his powerful satellite. 

Memorable Quote:
Plenty of time to sleep when you're dead.  ~Graves

Fantastic opening, right from the jump with the big-wave surfing. The North Korean sinister landscape is perfect for a Bond movie, and the whole lead-up where Bond meets Moon and Zao followed by the action sequence is outstanding, with great music to boot. We're now 4 for 4 in great openings to the Brosnan movies. 

As great as the opening surfing scene is, the scene where Bond windsurfs using a makeshift parachute has some of the worst CGI that I've ever seen in a movie. It doesn't really make sense that it could be that bad, like I don't understand what they were thinking in leaving that scene in the movie as it was. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
While filming their love scene in Cuba, Halle Berry choked on a fig, requiring Pierce Brosnan to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Not only are we 4 for 4 in great openings in the Brosnan era, but we're also 4 for in great title songs too. I'm actually putting this song as number one on the list for now, but it's very close to Tomorrow Never Dies (#2) and Goldeneye (#3).  
  • Remember in my Tomorrow Never Dies review that I said I loved how Bond was unstoppable in that movie? Well, Bond being captured and tortured for 14 months is on the other end of the spectrum to that, and I remember seeing this movie in the theater and being stunned and appalled at the time, like it really bothered me. Now, it doesn't bother me, though I still think that 14 months is too long, like they could have just said 3 months.  
  • 23:03 mark -- M says, "If I had my way, you'd still be in North Korea." Jesus, M, show Bond a little goddamn respect.  
  • 23:28 -- Bond says, "I never asked to be traded. I'd rather die in prison than let him [Zao] loose." Jesus, Bond, show yourself some goddamn respect -- you're like 100 times more valuable to the world than Zao is dangerous.
  • 24:54 -- M says,"You're no use to anyone now." STFU, M. 
  • 25:30 -- Bond escapes by stopping his heart and inducing cardiac arrest, but is able to regain his pulse when he chooses to. I don't think that's possible. 
  • 27:33 -- I love when he enters the hotel confidently and like a boss despite being soaking wet, half dressed, and unshaven. And then a great line from Bond: 
    • Been busy have we, Mr. Bond?  ~Chang
    • Just surviving Mr. Chang, just surviving.  ~Bond
  • 33:57 -- Bond picks up the Field Guide to birds in the West Indies book which was written by an ornithologist named James Bond, and it's the book by which Ian Fleming got the idea for the character's name. 
  • The entire Havana clinic scene is great -- I love the setup of the jerk guy and how Bond punches him and then shoves his wheelchair into a crowd as a distraction (and then sneaks a grape from a patients room).
  • Halle Berry is not a great actress in this movie, though compared to Denise Richards, she is Meryl Streep. 
  • Rosamund Pike (Miranda Frost) is stunningly beautiful. 
  • Tremendous fencing scene between Graves and Bond -- I was very close to making it my highlight over the opening. 
  • 58:52 -- Miranda breaks up the fight, saying "That is enough!" Wasn't it "enough" five minutes ago when they were destroying the club?
  • 1:05:39 -- When Q gives Bond his watch, he said it's his 20th (since it's the 20th Bond movie). Just before that, we see Bond looking at a shoe with a blade like in From Russia With Love. It is too bad John Cleese wasn't in more movies, he's good. 
  • I like Zao's look with the diamonds in the face -- distinctive.
  • It's hard to believe the North Korean dude from the beginning (Moon) would be able to pull off being a charming English gentleman, but it's a movie.
  • The ice palace set is impressive.
  • The morning after Bond and Miranda spend the night, Bond leaves the room to snoop around. Wouldn't Graves have someone watching the room and following Bond?
  • I'm not a fan of the fight scene between Bond and Mr. Kil with all the lasers spinning around them -- just seems too unrealistic that they could be fighting and perfectly avoiding the randomly spinning lasers. And yes, I realize I'm complaining about a Bond scene being unrealistic. 
  • Kind of a brutal death scene with Graves getting sucked into the propeller -- too much for me, honestly, I don't care for that. 
  • The Moneypenny virtual reality scene is quite clever. 

Final Analysis:
I hadn't seen this movie in a while, and while I've always liked it, it actually was a bit better than I remembered. The first half in particular is outstanding -- it's the second half where the wheels fall off a bit with really bad CGI and an over-the-top storyline. If it was just the first half, I'd rank it 2, but instead I'll rank it 5 out of 20. 

And so that's the end of the Pierce Brosnan era. I talked about him in the Goldeneye post, but in short, he's my favorite Bond, and overall his movies represent my favorite Bond era. 

Saturday, May 7, 2022

The 007 Project: The World is Not Enough

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Bond is sent to protect an oil heiress whose father was murdered, but he discovered that she is not as innocent as she seems. 

Memorable Quote:
There's no point in living if you can't feel alive.  

The boat chase on the Thames, beginning with the moment where Bond gets in the boat and zooms out of MI6 headquarters.  For me it's the best scene of any Bond movie, in large part due to the majestic musical score which is just perfection. Throw in the London locale, the action, and the raw determination that Bond shows in never giving up and apprehending his target, and you have my favorite scene. 

I generally don't like to critique actors too much, but it would be disingenuous of me not to mention Denise Richards's performance, aka the worst acting performance in a major motion picture that I've ever seen. Every time she opens her mouth, it's awkward and painful to watch. It's hard to even describe without just seeing it for yourself. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
The title is the translation of the Latin motto, "Orbis non sufficit", given to George Lazenby's Bond, when he researches his own coat of arms, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). The motto also appears in the original Ian Fleming novels. It was the motto of the Spanish King Felipe II.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • When Bond jumps out the window with the rope tied to the other guy, he's lucky that the guy grabbed the table leg and slowed his fall, or else I think Bond would have splattered on the concrete. 
  • Even if the boat/balloon lady is worried that Bond can't protect her from Renaud, at least she'd stand a chance of survival compared to blowing herself up, which gives her a 0% chance.  
  • Another excellent title song -- our third straight super opening and title song. 
  • 19:16 mark - I love how Bond flippantly tosses the x-ray aside. 
  • 22:50 - Q's descent beneath the floor is the last we see of him in the series, as Desmond Llewelyn died in a car accident three weeks after the premiere of this movie. He had a unique role in the franchise given that his appearances went all the way back to From Russia With Love, and in this movie he gives Bond a sage piece of advice that always stuck with me: Never let them see you bleed. I love that. I've always thought about it in terms of keeping your cool and not showing frustration or getting upset if you're in a competitive situation (like a sporting event) or if you're being bullied, because your opponent wants to see you frustrated and upset. If you can stay calm, you don't give them the satisfaction of seeing you down and out. 
  • Brosnan is starting to look a bit too old in this movie. It's kind of a shame that the Remington Steele contract prevented him from landing the role when he was younger. 
  • 39:46 - Kind of a powerful moment where Bond and Elektra are trapped in the snow and Bond tells her to look in his eyes to calm her down when she starts freaking out. What a man, like how could Elektra do him dirty after how great he is for her there. 
  • 1:03:51 - Once Renaud starts shooting in the underground area, if he were smart he'd go for Bond first instead of some random officers. 
  • I like how Bond does the time/rate distance calculation in his head. "106 miles from the terminal going 70 miles an hour. We have 78 minutes." I actually calculated it myself and it should be 91 minutes -- still a fun moment, though. 
  • Sweet blue and white outfit that Bond wears to the Russian safehouse. I'm not much of a fancy dresser, but I wouldn't mind having a suit combo like that. 
  • Fantastic scene with Bond and Elektra where Bond is held in the torture chair. Sophie Marceau is excellent in this movie, and she shines in this scene in particular. 
  • Famous last line about Christmas coming only once a year. 
  • The end credits score is fabulous -- thankfully they use a traditional Bond medley rather than a random song like they did in the previous two movies. 

Final Analysis:
This movie has a bit of a cold, dark feel, and Denise Richards really brings it down considerably. However there are also many positives, including Brosnan (as always), the musical score (incredible), and the opening boat scene (the best scene of any Bond movie). Ranking it 5 out of 19.