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So, here’s our first real look at the new X-Men film, Dark Phoenix:

I really want this to be great, but I’m not yet feeling this one.  First of all, the continuity of these X-Men movies makes my head spin.  One of the things I loved about Days of Future Past was the way it adjusted the continuity of the previous films in order to undo some of the damage of The Last Stand and give these characters a happy ending.  Most relevant to this new Dark Phoenix movie was that, in the last moments of Days of Future Past, we saw that Jean Grey was still alive.  So I’m a bit flummoxed that they’ve continued making movies (X-Men: Apocalypse and now this one) set BEFORE the events of that Days of Future Past epilogue.  If Jean is alive in that epilogue, that sort of removes the suspense from this movie, no?  This is a actually a rare case where I wish they’d just do a reboot and start fresh.

Putting that aside and just considering this trailer, my next biggest concern is the degree to which what we see in the trailer seems totally different from the classic Dark Phoenix story from the comics (by Chris Claremont and John Byrne).  I’m not really seeing ANYTHING from the classic comic story here yet.  The Last Stand bungled the Dark Phoenix story, and so I am excited at the potential for a do-over.  But my hope for a do-over would be for the movie to hew much closer to the original comic story, which so far doesn’t seem to be what they’re doing here.  That really disappoints me.

What’s good?  I do really like this cast, and I am happy to see James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence back in these roles (after they all seemed like they were done after X-Men: Apocalypse).  And I’m happy that the new crew introduced in Apocalypse also seem to all be back as well: Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheriden as Cyclops, Alexandra Shipp as Storm, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler.  I’m particularly jazzed to see Sophie Turner (who I thought was a little underused in Apocalypse) given a chance to shine.  I love the new-look costumes (which seem to be heavily influenced by Frank Quitely’s designs for Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men back in 2001).  I’d love for Dark Phoenix (why have they dropped X-Men from the title?) to be a big, awesome X-Men epic.  Here’s hoping…

Here’s a nice juicy look at Daredevil season three:

After the disappointment of The Defenders, I have fallen behind on the Marvel Netflix shows.  I skipped The Punisher, as I’m just … [continued]

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The Top Fifteen Comic Book Series of 2015 — Part Two

And so we come to it at last, my final Best of 2015 list!

A few days ago I began listing my Fifteen Favorite Comic Book Series of 2015, listing numbers fifteen through six.

Here now are my Top Five:

5. Velvet (by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting) — What if Moneypenny was actually a former double-oh agent, now assigned to a desk at HQ but forced back into the field by a terrible betrayal?  That’s the brilliant hook of Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Epting’s phenomenal spy yarn Velvet.  The year is 1973, and Velvet Templeton has been, for eighteen years, the secretary and right-hand woman for the Director of Arc-7, a super-secret British organization of spies.  When their best agent (think James Bond) is murdered on assignment, Velvet finds herself framed for the deed and on the run from everyone she once trusted.  Velvet is a rich conspiracy thriller and a loving homage to the mystique of sixties-era James Bond adventures  Mr. Brubaker’s twisty story constantly has me guessing, trying to put the pieces together (just like Velvet herself is doing).  Mr. Epting’s art, meanwhile, is jaw-droppingly astounding, filled with incredible period detail.  I don’t know how he does it.  I love this book and, as I wrote last year, I desperately need it to come out more frequently.

4. James Bond (by Warren Ellis and Jason Masters) — One of the few 2015 comic book series that was better than Brubaker & Epting’s Bond-inspired saga is Warren Ellis and Jason Masters’ take on the actual double-oh-seven himself!  I’d never have expected to see the phenomenally talented Warren Ellis writing a licensed comic book series, but it’s a match made in heaven.  This James Bond series doesn’t feel like any other licensed comic book series that I have ever read.  This comic is brutal, take-no-prisoners story-telling.  I love Mr. Ellis’ depiction of Bond as a merciless “blunt instrument” of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  And Jason Masters’ art is extraordinary, with clean crisp lines that nevertheless manage to incorporate a staggering amount of detail into every panel.  It’s perfect for this series.  I love this team continues chronicling the adventures of James Bond 007 for many more years to come.

3. The Fade Out (by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips) — The latest collaboration between Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Phillips, the best team in comics, is a riveting whodunnit set in Hollywood of the nineteen-forties.  Hollywood screenwriter and drunk Charlie Parrish wakes up one morning to find himself in a room with the dead body of  young starlet Valeria Sommers.  As the story unfolds, Charlie finds himself in the middle of an ugly story whose tendrils stretch … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Spectre

Spectre, Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as Ian Flemming’s James Bond, is not a completely terrible film but it’s a huge missed opportunity for the franchise and is probably the worst of Craig’s four Bond films.  (That’s right, I think Spectre is weaker than Quantum of Solace.)  This film should have been the triumphant and thrilling return of the best and most iconic Bond villains — S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and Blofeld — after forty years on the shelf, but instead it’s a humdrum head-scratcher and I am left wondering what the heck went wrong.

Spectre.cropped

Spoilers ahead, gang.

One of my favorite things about the Daniel Craig Bond films has been the continuity between the films.  I loved that Quantum of Solace directly picked up on the events of Casino Royale, specifically Bond’s grief at Vesper’s betrayal, as well as bringing back characters such as Mathis and Mr. White, who was revealed to be connected to a criminal organization called Quantum (or perhaps Q.U.A.N.T.U.M.).  (One of my complaints about Skyfall, which I enjoyed but didn’t view as the triumph that most everyone else seemed to, was that it was a stand-alone adventure that didn’t continue the development of Quantum.)

This sort of continuity in the Bond series feels like a radical new idea, but in fact it’s a very old one.  Though the series became famous for each film’s being a totally stand-alone adventure, the original Connery Bond films had a gentle continuity between them.  Characters carried over from one film to another (such as Sylvia Trench) and we gradually got to learn more about S.P.E.C.T.R.E., the criminal organization behind much of Bond’s troubles, and its leader Ernst Stavros Blofeld.

A turning point in the Bond series — and what stands as the series’ greatest missed opportunity (though boy does Spectre give it a run for its money) — is the abandonment of that continuity following the terrific cliffhanger ending of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  That film under-performed and audiences did not respond well to the newly re-cast Bond, played by George Lazenby.  And so while the follow-up should have been the grand culmination of the story that had been slowly developed over the course of the first six films, an emotional and epic climax to Bond’s fight with S.P.E.C.T.R.E., now taken to an intensely personal level following the murder of Bond’s wife, the producers made the decision to totally abandon that story and quickly do away with Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E.  From that point forward, the films became stand-alone adventures and, following a brief and stupid appearance of a Blofeld-like character in the opening of For Your Eyes Only, that was the last we ever heard of Blofeld and … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

This trailer for SPECTRE is pretty great:

I am tremendously excited for the reintroduction of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and Blofeld to the Bond films — for the first time in four decades!! — and I really hope they don’t blow it.  This new trailer looks large-scale, and I am thrilled that this story looks to be combining threads from the first two Daniel Craig films, and the organization that was named as QUANTUM in the second film, with the mythology of SPECTRE.  Casting Christoph Waltz as Blofeld is genius.  The two things that worry me about the trailer is the re-appearance of the done-to-death idea of Bond going rogue from MI6, and all the hinting that Blofeld is somehow tied to Bond’s past.  I hate this oh-so-common trend in movies that the hero and the villain must be intimately connected.  The Joker didn’t shoot Bruce Wayne’s parents and I am not excited by the idea that Blofeld and Bond have some long shared history.  Well, I will hold my concern in check to see what the filmmakers have come up with.  Anyways, this trailer is slickly made and has me very excited to see this film.

(Click here for a wonderfully in-depth analysis of the SPECTRE trailer.)

The entire Back to the Future trilogy is being re-released back into theatres???  I am there!!  (Click here for my review of Back to the Future’s 25th anniversary screening on the big screen…)

As readers of this blog know I have been pretty disappointed by DC’s recent slate of direct-to-DVD animated films.  But I’m pleased that DC Animation mastermind Bruce Timm seems to be returning to the fold, and I am quite curious at the idea that he is overseeing an animated adaptation of Alan Moore & Brian Bolland’s violent and disturbing Batman: The Killing Joke.  How could that possibly work without having all of its controversial edges shaved completely off?  I dunno, but I’ll admit I am curious.  And the news that Mark Hamill will be playing the Joker has me delighted.  They’d damn well better be casting Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne!!

I can’t wait for Netflix’s Jessica Jones series!  Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias was brilliant.  I hope this adaptation lives up to the original.

I am impressed by the vibrant, colorful costumes seen in these peeks at Bryan Singer’s upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse film.  It’s fun to see these Marvel-movie colors in a Fox X-Men film, which has used mostly far more stripped-down, color-less looks.  I felt that X-Men: Days of Future Past was a great conclusion to Mr. Singer’s X-Men films (click here for my review) and I wish this new film was a … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Well, everything I have seen or read so far of the Terminator reboot Terminator: Genisys has looked abysmal (and good lord I hate that ridiculous title more each time I write it).  But I have to admit this trailer is intriguing:

I love how the first half looks like it’s the behind-the-scenes of what we already knew happened just prior to the start of the original Terminator film, and then when Sarah Connor crashes that truck through the department store window we see that we’re in some sort of alternate timeline.  I am curious how they’ll explain the cause of this alternate timeline, but I like much of what I see so far.  She looked ridiculous in the early photos that were released, but here in the trailer I can see why Emilia Clarke was cast — she’s fantastic as Sarah Connor in this glimpse.  And while I still think that including an aged Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film was silly, seeing old Arnie and CGI young Arnie and the new Terminator played by Byung-Hun Lee is exciting, they all look pretty great.  My biggest concern is how horrible Jai Courtney seems as Kyle Reese.  Absolutely none of Michael Biehn’s charm and presence.  I still think it’s pretty likely this film will suck, but at least this trailer makes me somewhat excited and curious to see the film, so that’s a big step-forward in terms of T-5’s marketing.

In more important sequel news, the new James Bond film will be called Spectre.  Excellent.  Ever since The World is Not Enough, I have been dreaming of the return of Blofeld to this series.  The first trailer for that film featured a glimpse of a bald Robert Carlyle, and at the time I dared to hope he was playing Blofeld.  Not so.  That character has been tied up in lawsuits for decades (all stemming from a conflict over who wrote what for Thunderball back in 1965).  But finally last year that lawsuit was resolved, and I am thrilled that SPECTRE is finally returning to the Bond series.  They’re playing coy, though, as to whether Blofeld will be in the film.  It’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t be, unless Bond 24 is a long tease for the villain’s return in the next film, Bond 25.  I could see that happening.  But for now, I am really hoping that Christoph Waltz (who is starring in the film, reportedly as a character called Oberhauser) will be Blofeld.  That would be amazing.  I am thrilled the film is called Spectre, I love that return to the old Bond style of the villain’s name being the title.  (Ex.: Goldfinger.)  The only thing that would have … [continued]

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It’s interesting that the only two network half-hour comedies that I watch these days… happen to be run by the same individual, Mike Schur.  He made his bones on The Office (where he also played Mose), and he’s one of the show-runners of both Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  Here’s are two wonderfully detailed interviews with Mr. Schur, the first of which looks back at the first season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and the second of which looks back at season seven of Parks and Rec, with a focus on the season finale.  These are great interviews and well-worth your time if you’re a fan of either show.

This is a terrific, in-depth interview with Mel Brooks, discussing Blazing Saddles.  Get comfy and enjoy.

R.I.P. H.R. Giger.

I was sad to read of the passing of Efrem Zimbalist Jr.  He had many great roles but for me he will always be the iconic voice of Alfred from Batman the Animated Series and many subsequent DC animated projects.  He was absolutely perfect as Alfred, and when I read the character’s dialogue in any comic book I always hear Mr. Zimbalist’s voice.  I am really heartbroken that we’ll never again get to hear him voice Alfred in any future DC animated film or show.

Speaking of Batman, I’ve gotta say, this first official glimpse of Ben Affleck as Batman (in Zack Snyder’s upcoming untitled Superman Vs. Batman film) is pretty great.  Love the costume.  Love the small bad ears.  Love Ben’s Batman chin.  Love that classic look of the Batmobile.

So, I bashed The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in my review.  I’ve been glad to see that I’m not alone in my disappointment with the film.  Click here to read Film Critic Hulk take the film apart.  Click here for io9’s very funny list of Amazing Spider-Man 2 FAQs.  (Their one-sentence answer to the question “What is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 about?” is hysterical and 100% spot-on.)  Finally, this article No One Cares About Peter Parker’s Parents is also 100% spot-on and echoes a point I made in my review.

This is cool: apparently back in the day, Criterion released the first three James Bond films on laserdisc, with commentary tracks featuring candid comments from many of the people involved in the making of the films.  When Bond producer Albert Broccoli objected, the discs were recalled from stores.  Here’s the full story.  Now the commentaries have re-surfaced and are available to download for free here!  I have downloaded them all and look forward to giving them a listen soon.  Should be fun!

This is a cute article, tracking the many appearances of … [continued]

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This is fantastic: The Seinfeld reunion episode from Curb Your Enthusiasm season #7, edited together.  Enjoy!

This is a great site that lists the various actors and actresses who played multiple characters in different Bond films.  Great fun for the Bond fans out there!

Speaking of Bond, there was BIG NEWS last month that the James Bond movie producers and MGM have finally ended the nearly fifty-year-long legal battle with Kevin McClory, the co-writer of Thunderball.  I’ve known about this rights conflict before, of course (it’s what led to another studio being able to make the competing Bond film, Never Say Never Again, that was released the same year as Octopussy), but what I didn’t realize was that this rights situation was what was preventing MGMN’s bond films from using Bloefeld or SPECTRE.  My reviews of the Daniel Craig Bond films have been lamenting the absence of those two classic villains, and I am overjoyed at the idea that now the way is open for Bloefeld to be revealed as the head of Quantum, and/or for Quantum to be revealed as a branch of SPECTRE.  I desperately hope the next Bond film walks through this now-open door!!

Hey, comic book fans: I’ve recently discovered two comic-book-related tumblrs that I am now obsessed with.  First is John Byrne Draws, which is chock-full of absolutely gorgeous scans of Mr. Byrne’s original art from the decades that he has been working in the industry.  There was a long, long time during which John Byrne was my very favorite comic book artist (and writer!), so this was a real treat.  Then there is comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis’ tumblr, which is a showcase for two things: 1) amazing, extraordinary scans of classic comic book art from across the decades — work by many different artists from many different eras, being linked only by being some of the finest comic book art ever drawn, and 2) Bendis’ incredibly open, honest, funny and insightful Q & As with his fans.  Both aspects of the tumblr are equally valuable — together, they’re an irresistible time-suck for me.

This is a fun article on 10 parts of the Indiana Jones films that bother the writer.  I hugely agree with numbers 4 and 5.  (Don’t worry, the article only focuses on the original Indy trilogy, rightly ignoring The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)

This Star Trek reference-laden conversation between a Netflix employee and a customer is apparently real, and it is amazing.

This is a great article on two of my very favorite novels: Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun.  Oh man do I love those two … [continued]

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Ben Affleck is Batman? And Other News Around the Net

So Ben Affleck will be playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel (currently titled Superman vs Batman).  How about that?  I have very mixed feelings about this announcement, but this isn’t coming from a place of being an Affleck hater.  Quite the contrary, I have been a fan of Mr. Affleck since the beginning of his career (I’m talking School Ties days!).  I’ve always enjoyed his work.  I think he’s a terrific actor, equally adept at playing comedy or drama.  I’ve always thought so, but what really made me a fan of Mr. Affleck was listening to his candid and hysterical participation in the commentary tracks for Kevin Smith’s early films, specifically Mallrats and Chasing Amy.  Mr. Affleck is OK in Mallrats and superb in Chasing Amy, but he is so funny, so genuine and so likable on the commentary tracks that I was solidified as a huge fan of his.  When considering Mr. Affleck as a superhero, one must of course consider Daredevil.  I am in the minority here but I am a big fan of that film.  I think it’s great, a nice serious take on the Daredevil character, and I thought Mr. Affleck was terrific in the title role.  I have always been bummed we never got a sequel (particularly since the narrative was positioned, at the end of the film, for a sequel to take on the classic Frank Miller Daredevil story-line “Born Again,” which I would KILL to someday see on a movie screen).

So why am I having a hard time imagining Mr. Affleck playing Batman?  To be honest, I’m not sure.  It might be that he is just too big a name for the role.  He’s a great actor, but not necessarily the type who vanishes into his different roles.  I am wondering if he as Ben Affleck is too well known to portray this character — will be be able to see Batman when watching him, rather than Ben Affleck?  Or is the issue that I have always found him to be a very likable performer — might he be TOO likable to portray Batman, a very grim character?

I am dubious, but on the other hand I am pleased that Warner Brothers are shooting high and looking to assemble a high-profile cast for the Superman sequel.  We’ll all see how it turns out on July 17, 2015…

In other news:

This could be one of my favorite articles I’ve ever read on-line: Devin Faraci at badassdigest.com on How Lost and The X-Files Are Exactly Like All His Failed Relationships.  So funny, and his analysis of those two shows that both collapsed in the ninth inning is … [continued]

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OK, this is the greatest thing I have seen in a long time (BUT BEWARE SPOILERS IF YOU ARE NOT UP TO DATE WITH GAME OF THRONES!!!)

I love The Princess Bride!

I’ve completely lost faith in M. Night Shyalaman over the past decade, but that being said I still think Unbreakable is his best film, and I would so love for the long-rumored sequel to someday happen.  The one flaw with Unbreakable, in my mind, is that the story feels incomplete — it feels like the first act of a larger story.  So every time Mr. Shyamalan talks about a possible sequel, I am happy.

So this is interesting: in the months after the success of Skyfall, there was a lot of talk that Bond 24 and 25 (the next two Bond films) would be two connected films.  That was denied by the Bond producers.  But amidst the recent news that Skyfall Director will be returning for the next Bond film, the 24th, comes this rumor that Mr. Mendes is going to commit to helm the 25th Bond film as well!  I love the idea of a two-part Bond film, that would be super-cool if that happens.

Zack Snyder (director of Man of Steel) and Bruce Timm (mastermind behind Batman: The Animated Series) are collaborating on a Superman short film in honor of Superman’s 75th anniversary?  Awesome!

I have Superman because of my huge anticipation for The Man of Steel (which I hope to see this weekend!!), so now’s as good a time as any to read this terrific piece looking back at Superman II!  That film was a HUGE part of my childhood…!!

There’s been a lot of rumors flying in recent weeks about the inclusion of the character of Quicksilver in both Fox’s upcoming X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, as well as the Disney-owned Marvel Studios’ upcoming Avengers 2.  It will be fascinating to see how this all shakes out!

(Speaking of Days of Future PastNixon!  Love it!)

Anytime anyone is talking about Escape From the Planet of the Apes, I take notice!

And with that, my friends, I wish you all a great weekend.  I’ll be back next week with my thoughts on Man of Steel, season four of Arrested Development, and cartoons making fun of Star Trek Into Darkness.  Hope to see you all back here soon!… [continued]

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At last!  Our first glimpse at footage from Game of Thrones season three!

This is a very funny article: Six Horrible Aftermaths Implied by Movies with Happy Endings.

Here is a terrific, in-depth interview with the show-runner of the phenomenal Parks and Recreation, Mike Schur.  It’s no coincidence that the first half-hour of last week’s Parks and Rec double-episode felt like it could have been a series finale — that’s because it was designed to have served as such, had NBC not ordered nine additional episodes for this season.

Kristen Wiig will be appearing in the new episodes of Arrested Development??  And she is playing a young version of Lucille Bluth?  Brilliant!!

I just wrote about Layer Cake the other day, and I am excited that Matthew Vaughn — who also directed Kick Ass (click here for my review) and X-Men: First Class (click here for my review) — in addition to producing the next X-Men film (the adaptation of the seminal Days of Future Past that will be directed by Bryan Singer, returning at last to the franchise he began) has also signed on to produce Fox’s upcoming Fantastic Four film (which will thankfully be a total reboot, scrapping the two lame films directed by Tim Story).  I love that crazy comic book writer Mark Millar (who wrote the comic book Kick Ass, which Mr. Vaughn directed as a film) will be overseeing Fox’s upcoming super-hero films (X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc.) and I really love that his frequent collaborator Mr. Vaughn also seems to be stepping into a larger supervisory role.  It’s obvious that Fox is attempting to shamelessly imitate the success of Marvel Studio’s crossover Avengers film, but if it results in more great super-hero films for us, then I have no problem with that!

Speaking of Bryan Singer’s upcoming X-Men film, Days of Future Past, I really hope he’s serious about fixing what Brett Ratner did to the franchise in the catastrophically disappointing X3.  If they’re playing around with time-travel and alternate timelines, this is a golden opportunity to at long-last course-correct this franchise back to what worked in the first two X-Men films.  I home Mr. Singer can pull it off.

Sticking with super-hero movie news for a second, this is an interesting comparison of the Spidey-Suit in this past summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man and the far superior, re-designed look for the sequel.  (And I agree with the author of that post — MY cooler of haterade for Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man ALSO runs deep!  Here’s hoping the sequel is better.)

And here is an AWESOME look at Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3!  I … [continued]

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“Let the Skyfall… when it crumbles…”

November 15th, 2012

UPDATE: Sorry gang, that Skyfall video has been removed.  To assuage the pain, here are some older, great Bond opening songs:

Original post:

OK, this is cool — the complete main title sequence from Skyfall is now online, with all of the text credits removed.  Check it out:

http://vimeo.com/53583701

What a gloriously weird sequence.  It makes a little more sense after having seen the whole movie, but dang, that is a weird one.  It’s growing on me, though!  As is Adele’s song.

Am I the only one who thought of Lost after the eyeball close-up shot??… [continued]

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Fifty Years of 007: Josh Reviews Skyfall

November 12th, 2012
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Well, after an unexpectedly lengthy hiatus, James Bond has returned, just in time for his fiftieth anniversary.  To the pleasure and relief of fans of Bond, James Bond, Skyfall is evidence that the redoubtable secret agent (and his franchise) has plenty of gas left in the ol’ Aston Martin tank, though I must confess that this is the second Bond film in a row that doesn’t quite succeed at living up to the promise suggested by Casino Royale.

NOTE: This is a hard film to write about while avoiding spoilers.  I will avoid ruining any of the big plot twists, but I would nonetheless advise not reading this review until you’ve seen the film.

The Opening/The Music: Skyfall’s opening sequence is thrilling, surely ranking amongst one of the very best Bond opening sequences. It’s a spectacular extended chase sequence, from car to motorcycle to train and beyond. (It’s a far more coherent action sequence that Quantum of Solace’s thrilling but hard to follow opening car chase.)  It’s a tremendous, thrilling opening, and I was totally hooked in. But thing got a little shaky as soon as Adele’s theme song began, and for much of the next hour I was a little worried about how things were going.  More on that in a few minutes.  I am lukewarm on Adele’s theme song.  It’s fun to have a Bond song once again using the same title as the film (after two films in a row in which the songs had different titles than the film, a divergence from the standard Bond-movie procedure), though trying to make a song based on the bizarre title of Skyfall, without spoiling the terms’ meaning in the film, is a task in which Adele and her team do not quite succeed.  Also, I tend to prefer my Bond songs to have a bit more of a propulsive beat, and to be a bit more hummable.

The bad: After the terrific opening sequence, the film hits the brakes and it takes a good long while, in my opinion, to really get going again.  The first hour is very hit and miss.  The film looks gorgeous with some truly stunning, cleverly designed sequences.  Bond’s fight with an assassin atop a Shanghai skyscraper, bathed in the reflection of neon lights, is particularly notable.  But I found myself filled with questions as to the unfolding story.  All sorts of little plot points niggled at me.  Why the hell did Bond keep those bullet fragments in his arm all that time?  Why perform surgery on himself when hes right in the middle of MI6, with plenty of trained medics all around him?  Wouldn’t that only further damage the usefulness of … [continued]

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Fifty Years of 007! Josh Reviews Quantum of Solace (2008)

With Skyfall almost upon us, I’ve re-watched Daniel Craig’s two previous James Bond installments: 2006’s Casino Royale (click here for my review), and now Quantum of Solace. (You can click here to read my original review of the film from when it was released back in 2008.  You can also click here to read my friend Josh Lawrence’s advance review of Quantum of Solace, which I referred to several times in my own original review.)

The film: Quantum of Solace remains a somewhat perplexing film to me.  On the one hand, there’s a lot that is great about the film.  On the other hand, it’s a clear disappointment as a follow-up to the terrific Casino Royale. I’ve now seen the film several times, and in my mind it comes down to the following schism. Quantum of Solace is great in that, like Casino Royale did, it treats Bond seriously, crafting a tale that — while filled with high adventure — feels gritty and “real.”  Most importantly, there is a serious and compelling emotional arc for the character of Bond, as he wrestles with dealing with the emotional fallout of Vesper’s betrayal and death from the end of Casino Royale. That emotional story-line was absent from pretty much every single previous Bond film (let’s not kid ourselves, you know I’m right), and that basically the whole purpose of the film Quantum of Solace is to explore the consequences of the previous film’s ending continues to delight me at every turn.

The problem is that, on the other hand, the action-adventure/spy story (basically, all of the events that occupy Bond while he is dealing with these heavy emotional issues) is extremely thin, and falls back on one hoary, weak Bond-movie cliche after another.  After the breath-of-fresh-air that was Casino Royale, it’s a disappointing relapse.

The good: First of all, Quantum of Solace looks dynamite.  It’s a gorgeously filmed movie, filled with exotic locations from around the globe that were beautifully photographed by the cinematography team.  (And I LOVE the playful, differently-styled text graphics on-screen for each different location in the film!  It’s a really nice touch.)

After the rather-talky Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace really ups the action.  The film is packed with action, particularly in the first half, with one inventive set-piece after the next.  There’s the car chase that opens the movie; Bond’s foot-chase of the MI6 traitor in and around the streets and rooftops of Sienna, Italy that culminates in their fight tangled amongst construction scaffolding; the boat chase after Bond rescues Camille (Olga Kurylenko) from General Medrano’s men; the shoot-out at the opera where Quantum’s leaders are meeting; the plane fight over the desert … [continued]

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Special ADVANCE REVIEW of the New James Bond film: Skyfall!

November 7th, 2012
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Guest-blogger Josh Lawrence lives in London, where the latest James Bond film Skyfall has already been released.  Josh submitted an advance review of Quantum of Solace back in 2008, and was kind enough this morning to send in his thoughts on Skyfall!  My own review will be up next week, after I see the film this weekend…  Take it away, Josh…

Skyfall, the 23rd installment of the Bond franchise, is an enjoyable action-packed movie that nonetheless will leave the avid Bond fan a bit disappointed.

After a rather tepid mission in Quantum of Solace, Bond is back to the darker, broodier character introduced in Casino Royale. But instead of the newly-minted “00” agent humbled and hardened by the loss of the love of his life, this time around Bond’s dark attitude stems from anger at M.i.6. for interfering with his current mission and, the movie hints, from some deeper secret.  Needless to say, this deep secret is connected to “Skyfall” — how else could one explain such a bizarre title.

For the old-school Bond fan, the movie follows a very familiar trope: Bond saves the world from say nuclear disaster—and is clearly the only agent capable of doing so—but M and his or her cohort and Q all treat Bond like some sort of a rakish self-centered idiot who can’t be trusted to do anything right.  Maybe it would be better for Bond to take a break and recover from his shoulder injury, his superiors suggest, as he is probably not fit for service?  Bond agrees but of course goes rogue — this time it’s personal — identifies the criminal gang behind the next threat, gets some grudging support from key people at headquarters, and then is welcomed back into the fold when he saves the day.

This time around the villain does not have a diabolical plot to radiate the gold supply or give racing horses steroids (phew!), but predictably has spent years developing a needlessly elaborate form of revenge for his grudge.  The story strains to make the point that non-state actors are the real risk in the modern world, and that the cloak-and-dagger services (and “00” agents specifically) are still relevant.

Of course the bigger challenge is in making the Bond films continue to be relevant, and this is where the movie was less successful.  As with Casino Royale, this movie owes a lot to the Bourne movies for its big action scenes, though director Sam Mendes is not as adept at using close-action cameras that lent Casino so much grit and brutalism.

The central problem is that the plot does not stand alone, or rather, could only be credible as a plot … [continued]

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Fifty Years of 007! Josh Reviews Casino Royale (2006)

November 2nd, 2012
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So, about a year ago I had an idea that I’d try to watch one or two Bond films a month, starting with Dr. No. I thought this would be a fun way to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Bond franchise in 2012, and a great lead up to the release of the new Bond film.  Well, I wasn’t able to get too far in my efforts!  (But you can click here for my in-depth review of Dr. No, here for From Russia With Love, here for Goldfinger, and here Thunderball.)  I love Bond, and I do intend to continue re-watching the series in order, though it might take me until the NEXT Bond film before I finish!  Meanwhile, with the release of Skyfall fast approaching, I decided to skip ahead and re-watch Daniel Craig’s two previous Bond films: 2006’s Casino Royale and 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Let’s dive into Casino Royale today, and I’ll be back next week with my thoughts on Quantum of Solace. (Then of course I will have my review of Skyfall up as soon as possible!)

The film: Casino Royale really knocked my socks off when it was first released, and it has held up extremely well after multiple viewings in the years since.  This felt to me like the Bond I’d been waiting for — serious and intense, with great action coupled with a compelling (and suitably downbeat) emotional arc for the main characters.  The Bond franchise has been rejiggered before during the transition between Bond actors, but this was the first time the series was ever started over from zero.  (What we like to call a “reboot” these days.)  I tend to despise prequels, and I was worried that Casino Royale was just an ill-fated attempt to cash in on the success of Batman Begins from the previous year.  And while there is no question in my mind that Casino Royale would not exist without the success of Batman Begins, that connection has justifiably been forgotten because the film works so fabulously well.

Bond, James Bond: One thing that never worried me in the days leading up to Casino Royale’s release was the terrific casting of Daniel Craig as James Bond.  That whole kerfuffle over his hair color, etc., just seemed ludicrous to me.  Craig is an absolutely FANTASTIC Bond.  On the one hand, I love the way in which his Bond seems to be, of all the Bonds, the most similar to Connery’s version — the man is, in many ways, a thug.  Craig’s Bond has a brutality and a dangerousness that I don’t think any of the Bonds have had since Connery.  On the other … [continued]

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Skyfall!

July 31st, 2012
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Check out this new international trailer for the new James Bond film: Skyfall! This is our first real meaty look at the new film, and what a look!  Beware, it’s possible this trailer spoils a few things you might prefer to remain a surprise.  But it’s hard to criticize such a sweet trailer.  I am excited.

LOVE Bond calmly fixing his cuff-links after diving onto an exploding train!… [continued]

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James Bond Will Return!

May 21st, 2012
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Finally! After an unexpectedly long hiatus in the franchise due to MGM’s bankruptcy, James Bond is returning to our cinema screens.  Here’s the first trailer for Skyfall:

[continued]

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Fifty Years of 007! Josh Reviews Thunderball (1965)

Well, my apologies, gang, for the long delay between installments of my look back at all the James Bond films.  I’ve been eager to get back to this Bond re-watching project, but I’ve just found myself busy with other things and continually drawn to other films.  In the months since my last installment (my review of Goldfinger), I’ve had to change the title of this series from (Almost) Fifty Years of 007 to just Fifty years of 007, without the (Almost)!  Yes, we have arrived at the fiftieth anniversary of the first James Bond film, Dr. No. Can you believe that?  But I’m not here to talk about Dr. No. (I did that already — click here for my full review of that first Bond film!)  No, let’s dive into Thunderball:

The film: Thunderball is probably my least favorite of the first batch of James Bond films, starring Sean Connery.  (It’s way better than the later film that featured Mr.Connery’s return, Diamonds Are Forever, and my recollection is that it’s also better than the remake, Never Say Never Again.)  Thunderball isn’t a bad film — no, it’s still a pretty great Bond film and a pretty great film, period.  But for me, it lacks some of the magic of Mr. Connery’s first three Bond films, as well as the next film, You Only Live Twice.

The opening/The music: The film gets off to a rocky start with an opening sequence in which Bond attends the funeral of a SPECTRE operative.  But it turns out the bad guy isn’t dead, he’s just pretending to be one of the mourning old ladies.  Bond spots him, of course, and soon engages in an extended fight sequence with the dressed-as-a-woman SPECTRE agent.  Disregarding the lunacy of the whole set-up (if the SPECTRE agent was just pretending to be dead, why did he attend his own funeral??  Why wasn’t he 10,000 miles away??), the whole Bond versus a dude in drag fight is just ridiculous, and even less compelling than the Bond versus an old lady with a knife in her shoe climax of From Russia With Love. The fight also hasn’t aged well, as there are so many obvious camera tricks (over-cranking the film to speed up the pace, stunt doubles a-plenty) that render the scene silly to the modern viewer.  The whole thing has nothing at all to do with the rest of the film, and is best forgotten altogether.

Things pick up with the terrific theme song, sung by Tom Jones.  I tend to prefer it when the Bond themes are sung by women, but damn if Mr. Jones doesn’t turn in a winner of … [continued]

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News Around the Net

I’ve gotta open with Alan Moore’s article about his feelings on the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta (his brilliant comic book series, published in 1982) is now being used by protesters of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.  The piece is a fascinating read (and if any of you haven’t read the brilliant V for Vendetta, do so immediately!!  The film adaption is OK, but the original graphic novel is genius.).

Alan Sepinwall on Hitfix posted an article in honor of The Simpsons’ 500th episode (a ludicrously incredible milestone) asking fans to pick their favorite Simpsons episode.  The article currently has nine pages of comments and is still going strong.  You’ve got to read them — it’s a wonderful trip back down through memory lane, remembering classic Simpsons episodes.  By the way, my pick?  “Homer the Heretic” (in which Homer decides not to go to church and winds up having the best day of his life, then starts his own religion, then finds himself trapped in a fire from which he must be rescued by his friends of other faiths, “be they Christian, Jewish, or… miscellaneous.”  “Hindu!  There are seven hundred million of us!”).

And if you’re looking to kill any MORE time, check out Mr. Sepinwall’s follow-up post asking fans to pick their favorite Simpsons quote: “Pick Only One Favorite Simpsons Quote? That’s unpossible!” That article has NINETEEN pages of comments and they’re all so much fun to read through.  My favorite Simpsons quote?  “Man alive!  There are men alive in here!”

Capone at AICN has posted the start of a fascinating interview with David Wain.  I am very excited for his new film, Wanderlust, starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston.  Here’s the red-band trailer and here’s the green-band trailer.  They’re quite different and both are very, very funny.  (I especially love the green band trailer for including lots and lots of Party Down’s Ken Marino, who co-wrote the film with Mr. Wain.)

If you have eight minutes and forty-two seconds to spare, I encourage you to check out this video montage of Nic Cage’s 100 greatest quotes.

I’ve been watching this slightly-extended version of The Avengers’ Super Bowl spot a LOT lately.  I REALLY hope this movie is good!  In all of these trailers it still looks pretty small-scale to me, which has me worried… and I think the new versions of both Thor’s and Captain America’s costumes both seem a little more “costumey” and less real than the versions in their individual films.  Still, it’s nice to finally see a glimpse of the extra-terrestrial bad-guys (please let them be Skrulls please let them be Skrulls) and that circular pan of all the heroes … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Let’s kick the day off with a wonderful analysis on AICN about Why Star Trek II Works So Well.  The piece is a wonderful love-letter to Star Trek II (which happens to be one of my very favorite films of all time), and it’s a very thoughtful analysis of why the film is so ridiculously awesome, even thirty years later.  (THIRTY years!  That’s crazy, right??)

Speaking of Star Trek, I’m starting to get excited about the high-def upgrade of Next Gen for blu-ray.  This before/after comparison video is pretty staggering.  (Follow the site’s advice and expand the video to full screen, so you can get the full effect.)  If Farpoint looks that good, I can’t wait for the later seasons.  (And Deep Space Nine!!!)

Did you know there was an alternative, rejected main song for Quantum of Solace? And it was sung by Shirley Bassey??  Give this a listen:

That is a fun case of cinematic might-have-been.  “Where is the solace that I crave?”  That makes me laugh and laugh.

I love movie posters.  I have quite a few hanging in my home!  So I really enjoyed this look at the top ten movie posters of 2011.

Speaking of cinematic might-have beens… I enjoyed the first six-episode season of The Walking Dead, but for some reason all of the season two episodes are still sitting unwatched in my DVR.  Maybe show-runner Frank Darabont’s outster the news of all the apparent behind-the-scenes turmoil has cooled my interest.  This detailed letter from Mr. Darabont to AICN reveals a major story that Mr. Darabont was planning that will now never come to be, and it’s a damn shame.

Is there a possibility that there might actually be a Party Down movie???  I highly doubt it, but man would that be great.  Click here for my reviews of season one and season two of this brilliant, tragically cancelled-before-its-time TV show.… [continued]

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(Almost) Fifty Years of 007! Josh Reviews Goldfinger (1964)

I’m only three films into my year-long (if not longer) project to revisit all 22 James Bond films, and I’ve already arrived at my very favorite Bond movies, and one of my very favorite films of all-time: Goldfinger.

The film: The greatness of Goldfinger lies in how the film contains everything that is iconic and wonderful about the Bond series, side-by-side with moments that are outrageously jaw-droppingly dated and unintentionally hilarious.  The film features an incredible theme song; gorgeous, ridiculously-named women; a compelling villain; a menacing henchman; an Aston Martin, gadgets, deathtraps, and great action.  The film lives and breathes a tone of “cool” — that unique 1960’s vibe and the allure of a hero who is never without a quip, a fancy drink, and a three-piece suit.  The script is fast-paced and very witty, stuffed-full of very funny bon mot.  Then, of course, there are the moments that are astoundingly out of date and quite unintentionally laughable: Bond’s casual sexism (never more on display than in this film), weak special effects, and, of course, that terry-cloth robe.  But rather than hurting my enjoyment of the film, there’s something so innocent about those flaws that they actually enhance my enjoyment!  I can enjoy myself just as much laughing at something the filmmakers wanted the audience to laugh about (like Felix’s good-natured resignation at how his friend James can always be found preoccupied by “a drink or a dame”) as I can laughing at those moments that were definitely NOT intended to be funny (like the over-the-top miming done by the actors playing the hoods as they’re being gassed by Goldfinger).  There’s literally not a single moment in Goldfinger that I don’t love.

The opening/The music: This is the first time that a Bond film began with an opening sequence that had absolutely nothing to do with the main plot of the film.  It’s basically just a fun action set-piece designed to draw the audience into the film.  (This would become a common device used by a majority of the Bond films to follow.)  Even though I’ve seen Goldfinger countless times, I often still forget just how jam-packed the opening sequence is with iconic, often imitated moments.  There’s the scene in which Bond pulls off his wet-suit to reveal a perfectly pressed white tuxedo underneath (mimicked by Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies), or the moment when Bond sees an attacker reflected in the eyes of the woman he’s kissing (imitated in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery).  There’s a great fight scene (my wife felt sorry for the girl, when Bond uses her as a shield against the attacking thug, but I always thought the implication was that

[continued]

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(Almost) Fifty Years of 007! Josh Reviews From Russia With Love (1963)

May 23rd, 2011

I’ve just begun what promises to be a year-long project to revisit all 22 James Bond films.  (I plan on also re-watching Never Say Never Again, though I will most likely be skipping the 1954 and 1967 versions of Casino Royale.)  Click here for my lengthy article on the very first James Bond film: Dr. No!

The film: The second Bond film, From Russia With Love, has always ranked among my favorite of the Bond films, and this latest viewing only reinforces that opinion.  Just like Dr. No, the film is a tense, fast-paced espionage thriller, only I’d argue that this installment is even more ambitious and slickly produced than that first film.  From Russia With Love takes place in a myriad of different locations, and is filled with some impressively elaborate-for-the-time action set-pieces, such as the helicopter attack on Bond’s purloined truck and the terrific speed-boat chase late in the film.  There’s none of the silliness or bloat that would infect later installments in this series (well, except for a number of absolutely TERRIBLE puns that Bond utters several times in the film after disposing of one bad-guy or another).

The film demonstrates a confidence right from the get-go, as James Bond (the ACTUAL James Bond, not counting the Mission Impossible style face-masked Bond impostor in the opening sequence) doesn’t actually appear in the movie until about twenty minutes in!  That’s a pretty surprising and bold narrative choice, when you think about it.  The film takes a great deal of time, at the start, to ratchet up the tension by introducing us to all of the new adversaries that Bond will now be facing.  It’s a gutsy move, to take so much time before ever introducing your film’s main character, but that’s just one of the many things that I love about From Russia With Love.

The opening/The music: Speaking of the opening sequence, whereas Dr. No started right with the opening credits, here in From Russia With Love there’s a short sequence (the buff hit-man Donald Grant stalking the Bond doppelganger on “SPECTRE Island”) that comes before the opening credits.  Opening the film with a pre-credit action sequence would become one of the Bond films’ most notable stylistic devices, and it’s fun to see that begin here.

The opening credits themselves are just as weird as those in Dr. No. In this film, the credits are projected on the writhing body of a belly-dancer.  It’s a pretty bizarre, kinky way to start a film!  As a fan of the writhing bodies of belly-dancers, I heartily approve, though it’s sort of weird that a film titled From Russia With Love would choose to emphasize the gypsy … [continued]

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(Almost) Fifty Years of 007! Josh Reviews Dr. No (1962)

It is absolutely unbelievable to me that it has been nearly FIFTY YEARS since the release of the first James Bond film, Dr. No, back in 1962.

(I don’t think the 1954 television version of Casino Royale counts.)

Let me say right at the outset that I am an enormous James Bond fan.  My enthusiasm for the film series began when I was in college.  After a bunch of my friends and I went to see Goldeneye in theatres, and enjoyed the heck out of it, we decided to go back and start re-watching all of the earlier films.  Over the next several years, a group of us became quite fanatical about the Bond films, watching and re-watching them all the time (often — I will admit, gentle reader — in various stages of intoxication).

But time passes, and I realized the other day that, while I’ve watched the two Daniel Craig Bond films several times, it had been quite a number of years since I’d seen most of the earlier films.  So I’ve decided to go back to the beginning, and re-watch the series in order.  I’m not going to rush things.  I’m not commiting to watching a film a week or anything like that.  Like a fine bottle of 1953 Dom Perignon (which is probably a lot harder to come by today that it was when James expressed his preference for it back in 1962), this is a series that should be savored!

The film: What a pleasure it was to re-watch Dr. No.  It’s astonishing to me how well-made the film is.  Despite its age, I think it holds up remarkably well.  It’s a taut action thriller, one that takes its time to develop the story without ever losing any of the fun or the tension.  Dr. No is a much smarter film than much of what passes for action movies these days.  But it’s also very fast-paced, keeping the film interesting to a modern audience.  (A number of participants on the wonderful commentary track on the DVD comment on the groundbreaking nature of Dr. No‘s editing.  It might not seem fast-paced to us today, but the filmmakers took great pains to cut the film in a manner that would keep the story zipping along.  I think that’s a big reason why the film still works so well today.)

Dr. No was made on a tiny budget, but you’d never know it.  I continually find myself amazed by the broad canvas of the film — it takes place in countless different locations and sets, and everything looks convincingly real to my eyes.  I’ll discuss this further later in my review, but the impressive set … [continued]

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From the DVD Shelf: Josh Reviews OSS 117: Lost in Rio

Last spring I wrote about OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies, a French parody of the Sean Connery era James Bond films.  I really liked the movie — I thought it was a spot-on Bond parody and very, very silly — and so I was very excited to watch the 2009 sequel: Rio Ne Repond Plus.  (The English subtitle is Lost in Rio.)

Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, French secret service agent code-named OSS 117, is assigned a new case: to track down and pay-off an ex-Nazi, Professor von Zimmel,  who has a list of French collaborators from WWII.  Hubert is quickly intercepted by a group of Mossad agents, who want von Zimmel captured and brought back to Israel for trial.  So Hubert reluctantly teams up with Israeli colonel Dolores Kulechov.  They decide to locate von Zimmel by using his son, but quickly find themselves beset by double-agents, masked wrestler/hit-men, groovy hippies, and a lot of Nazis.

Once again, Jean Dujardin plays Hubert.  The over-the-top Francophonic Hubert is arrogant, racist, and misogynistic.  But in an endearing way!  Well, fairly endearing.  Lost in Rio pushes the humor of the series even further outside the bounds of political correctness than the last installment did.  For the most part, the boundary-pushing humor works, because Mr. Dujardin imbues Hubert with such happy cluelessness that he’s hard to dislike.  And the film is pretty clear that it is Hubert himself who is the buffoon, and the subject of our laughter.

The key to this is for the film to ensure that Hubert, rather than any of the people he mocks or puts down, is the primary idiot in every scene.  He can laugh about how useless his female partner is, but since we can clearly see her being extraordinarily brave and heroic, we know that the joke is on Hubert.  The only major mis-step of the film, for me, was the running subplot about the various Chinese hit-men chasing after Hubert all being hard to understand.  Hubert’s jokes about their accents are a little less funny because the actors portraying the hit-men DO all speak in a sort of silly accent.  The film wants us to laugh a little at the Chinese hit-men, not just at Hubert himself, and I think that’s a mistake.

But over-all, the film is extremely funny.  There’s a lot of pleasure to be had from the continued tweaking of Bond-era styles, from Hubert’s wardrobe — which includes a tiny blue Goldfinger-esque terry cloth robe — to the insanely over-the-top use of split-screens in certain sequences.  Some of the humor is very low-brow physical, while some is clever word-play.  (There’s an Au Revoir, Les Enfants joke that … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

This is a pretty funny assemblage of 1980’s movie references.  Don’t miss Topher Grace’s dynamite Marty McFly impersonation that comes at around 2:30.

I was sad to read of the passing of famed composer John Barry. He’s responsible for so many pieces of iconic James Bond related music, it’s staggering.  He wrote the scores for eleven Bond films, including Goldfinger and From Russia With Love.

In happier Bond news, is it possible that Javier Bardem will be the villain in the next Bond film?  James Bond vs. Anton Chigurh?  What an inspired idea!

In even-happier-than-that Bond news, comes this casting possibility.  I really hope these casting rumors pan out!  I’m very excited with the way Bond 23 looks to be shaping up so far…

Click here to read The New Yorker‘s fantastic profile of Guillermo del Toro.  It’s a lengthy piece, stuffed full of delicious tidbits of information on the many projects that he has in the hopper (and some — like The Hobbit with him as director — that sadly will never be).  I really hope that his adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness actually happens.

I’m a dreamer, and I dare to dream that someday we’ll get another awesome X-Men movie.  (I adored X-Men and X2, but was disappointed by X3 and thought X-Men Origins: Wolverine was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.)  I’m starting to think it just might be happening when I read articles like this about The Wolverine, the upcoming film directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan), written by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), and based upon Chris Claremont & Frank Miller’s famous, amazing Wolverine mini-series from 1982, set in Japan.  My hopes are VERY high for this one, gentlemen.  Please don’t let me down!

The moment I knew was coming has arrived: Brandon Routh is officially not playing Superman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming film.  Readers of this site know that I am a fierce defender of Superman Returns, and in particular I thought Mr. Routh was phenomenal as Clark Kent/Superman.  I totally understand that Mr. Snyder wants to set his film apart from Bryan Singer’s film, but I’m still really disappointed that we’re not going to get a whole series of films with Mr. Routh in the lead.  It’s a big disappointment.

And, I must add, this rumor that Jessica Biel is up for the role of Lois Lane has me VERY worried.  Urgh, that’s a terrible idea.  But then I read that that Jessica Biel rumor is just that — a rumor.  OK, whew, I thought, bullet dodged.  But then I read … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Apparently police officers in Pittsburgh spent eight hours investigating “the most grisly murder scene in 35 years” before discovering it was, in fact, a movie set.  Pretty funny.

The breaking news this week, of course, is that Jon Favreau won’t be returning to direct Iron Man 3.  I’m somewhat disappointed.  I like Mr. Favreau as a director, and I think he was a key component of the first film’s success.  And I like it when the creative teams for these super-hero sagas remain consistent from film to film.  (Look at what happened to the X-Men franchise once Bryan Singer departed after X2.)  On the other hand, as much as I adored the first Iron Man (click here for my original review), I think the second one was pretty mediocre (click here for my review of Iron Man 2).  So maybe some fresh blood is in order.  I’m a little nervous about just what Marvel has planned following their grand Avengers crossover film in 2012.  How does one go back to making Iron Man movies after The Avengers?  I hope they find a talented, steady hand to guide this franchise forward.  (And psst!  The Mandarin would be awesome!!)

Speaking of Marvel, last week they released the first full trailer for Thor, and it’s a much more substantial look at the film than I’d been expecting.  I really want this film to work, but I’m still a little dubious as to whether they’re going to be able to pull off all of the Asgardian stuff convincingly.  Fingers crossed….!

Speaking of trailers, have you seen the preview for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides? Click here to check it out.  Is this going to be any good?  So far it certainly looks of a piece with the previous three films, despite Rob Marshall’s taking over from director Gore Verbinski.  On the other hand, I was never all that wild about any of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, so it’s difficult to get too excited about the prospect of a fourth (and possibly a fifth and sixth) installment.

Since I’m posting links to trailers, I guess I should also note that, sigh, Paramount has released a trailer for the aren’t-they-missing-a-word-in-that-title third Transformers film, Dark of the Moon.  Click here to check it out.  It’s actually a pretty clever, well put-together trailer.  If I hadn’t seen the first two Transformers films, I’d probably be pretty excited.  But I did, so I’m not.  (Also, many on-line writers have already noted how the trailer is basically just a souped-up version of the original teaser trailer for [continued]

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News Around the Net

If you’re a member of facebook, check out this list (compiled by a key contributor to The Digital Bits, my favorite DVD/blu-ray-related web-site) of films that he’s still waiting to be released on DVD.  It’s a hoot.  While I’m discussing the Digital Bits, here’s something cool: In anticipation of the upcoming release of all four Alien films on blu-ray, they have posted an extensive look at the making of Fox’s amazing Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set from a few years back.  This was originally published in the book The Digital Bits: Insider’s Guide to DVD.  Since all of this material will appear on the blu-ray set, this is well-worth a read, if you’re a fan of these films.

The deleted scene from Return of the Jedi that was shown at Star Wars Celebration V has been taken down from youtube, but as of this writing it can still be seen here, so check it out.  It’s a cool moment showing Luke’s constructing his new lightsaber, and Vader trying to speak to his son through the force.

Speaking of Star Wars, I have waxed poetical many times on this site about the magnificence of Adywan’s e-edit/restoration of Star Wars: A New Hope.  (I am sick of referring to it as Episode IV.)  Here is a phenomenal visual guide to over 500 of the changes/fixes that Adywan has made.  If you have any way of getting your hands on this film (and fanedit.org is a good place to start), then do so immediately.

This is an interesting article about a new book about the Bond films: The Man With the Golden Touch: How the Bond Films Conquered the World. This is a book I need to read!  By the way, I don’t agree with the author of the article’s closing thought that the recent films have been entirely without artistic merit.  I was disappointed by Quantum of Solace, but didn’t think it was a complete catastrophe.  I also am not nearly so down as that writer on Pierce Brosnan.  I love Brosnan as Bond.  He was just in some bad Bond films.  (His first two were strong, but his last two — The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day — were TERRIBLE.)  But I don’t blame Brosnan for what went wrong in those films.  It’s a shame that MGM’s financial woes have put a halt to the series for now.  But James Bond Will Return.  Someday, I guess.

There’s a nice defense of Tom Cruise by Nick Nunziata over on CHUD, and I must say I agree wholeheartedly.  Speaking of CHUD, I was very sorry to read of Devin Faraci’s [continued]

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From the DVD Shelf: Josh Reviews OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is a French film that lovingly parodies the 1960’s Sean Connery era James Bond films.  It got very little play here in the U.S., but if you’re a fan of the Connery Bond films then this movie is not to be missed.

OSS 117 actually began as a serious series of spy novels and films in the 1950’s (predating Ian Fleming’s secret agent by several years).  However, Cairo, Nest of Spies is anything but serious.  Now, this film isn’t total insane lunacy like the Austin Powers films.  Rather, this film represents a gentler form of parody.  In many respects, the filmmakers have lovingly recreated the world of 1960’s James Bond — through the sets, the costumes, the colors, the score, etc.  But when it comes to the story, everything is nudged several directions towards the silly.

Jean Dujardin stars as the titular OSS 117, Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath.  He’s a well-dressed, highly-trained secret agent, able of besting a skilled foe in hand-to-hand combat and wooing any lovely lady he sets his sights on.  Sound familiar?  But he’s also rather dim, ludicrously devoted to France’s president, and totally condescending to any culture and religion that is not French.  Dujardin is a riot, and the film succeeds primarily because he’s able to walk the tightrope between being an imbecile, but a lovable one.  He’s able to handle witty reparte as well as broad physical humor (the pose he strikes any time he fires his weapon made me laugh every time).

It can be challenging for a comedic film to work even when watched with subtitles, but despite that I still found Cairo, Nest of Spies to be very, very funny.  I’m sure there were a few jokes that would have worked better if I spoke fluent French, but not many.  It helps that many of the film’s best gags are visual ones.  My favorite moment: a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag about OSS 117’s bed-hair when he wakes up in his suite about mid-way through the film. (Though I will comment that I was disappointed that there were several spelling mistakes in the subtitles.  That’s unfortunately amateurish.)

This is an obscure film, but for a Bond nut like myself I am so glad to have seen it.  To any fellow Bond-fanatics out there, I highly recommend you track this down.  (And luckily, a sequel has already been made — OSS 117: Lost in Rio.  It hasn’t been released yet here in the States, but I eagerly await its arrival…)… [continued]

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Dead Bond Girls

December 9th, 2008

For the record, the dead Bond girls in today’s cartoon are (from left to right): Paris Carver from Tomorrow Never Dies, killed in her bed by the assassin Dr. Kaufman at the behest of her media mogul husband Elliot Carver; Miss Anders from The Man with the Golden Gun, shot by Scaramanga with the titular golden gun; Corinne DuFour from Moonraker, the personal assistant and pilot for the villainous Hugo Drax, hunted down by Drax’s vicious trained dogs; Aki from You Only Live Twice, killed when an assassin drips poison down a cord from the ceiling onto her lips (I hate when that happens); and of course the unfortunate Jill Masterson from Goldfinger, who might have the quickest sex-to-death time in all of the Bond movies as she suffocates after being painted gold from head-to-toe.  All of these lovely ladies befell their fate after (and as a direct consequence of) sleeping with our man 007.  Rough.… [continued]

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Quantum of Solace, Watchmen, and Star Trek!

November 17th, 2008
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So Steph and I caught Quantum of Solace on Friday — What a fun time in a theatre!

The showing started off with several exciting trailers for some of the big blockbusters that will be arriving in the spring.  Quite a few of them didn’t interest me, such as Angels & Demons, the Da Vinci Code sequel (or is it a prequel?).  But there were two that sure as heck did.

 

That was the new trailer for Watchmen.  (See a larger version here.)  Watchmen is the beloved graphic novel (called by Time Magazine one of the 100 greatest novels of all time) that was published by DC Comics in 1986.  The first trailer was just imagery, whereas in this trailer we get to see some plot and a goodly amount of dialogue, giving us a slightly better idea about how these characters are being brought to life.  And so far, so good.  The trailer sells the movie on its simplest level — that of a murder mystery.  (Costumed “heroes” are being picked off, one by one — but by whom??)  That’s probably a wise choice, but I do hope that there winds up being a lot more to the movie than just that — I want the film to capture some of the complexity of the graphic novel.  

(Much more than just a whodunnit, Watchmen is a fascinating deconstruction of our modern superhero myths, asking how the modern world would be changed if superheroes really existed, and what would the people who chose to put on garish costumes and go out and fight crime really be like?  The plot is intricate, and the character arcs consist of brutal psychological realism.  Visually it is a tour-de-force, utilizing symbolism, recurring visual motifs & parallel structure to connect disparate scenes and ideas.  I could go on and on about Watchmen…. and I’m sure I will in a future post as the movie approaches!  Suffice to say, I am a bit nervous and VERY excited to see the finished film in March.)

Then there was this:

[UPDATED — Click HERE to view a crystal clear official version of the trailer that just became available, or check out the shaky bootleg below.]

First of all, props to the Paramount marketing department because they totally fooled me.  I had read on-line that the first full trailer (there was a teaser released last Spring) would be shown with Quantum of Solace, and so I was watching carefully for it.  But when this trailer came up, starting with a kid racing a car through a desert, I thought “oh well, that’s not it, maybe the next one.”  It wasn’t until the kid said … [continued]

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A special sneak peek at Quantum of Solace!

November 5th, 2008
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Well this is very exciting!  I am quite pleased to welcome our very first guest reviewer to this site.  Josh Lawrence, who is currently making his home in jolly ol’ London, has sent us his thoughts on the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace! This is an special sneak preview, as the film doesn’t open here in the States until Nov. 14th.  (Please note that Josh’s review contains minor spoilers, but nothing that hasn’t already been revealed in the trailers or in the many articles that have been published promoting the film.)

So, what did Josh think?  Take a peek!

To say that Quantum of Solace is the 22nd installment in the Bond franchise is a bit misleading: the new film (already released in the UK) should truly be seen as the second film in a new genre of Bond films starting with the excellent Casino Royale.

In Casino Royale, a quasi-prequel with Daniel Craig in the title role, we see the virtual apotheosis of Bond, from a rough fighting machine who earns his “license to kill” to the determined professional who shows resolve and firmness but also a new humanity in his pursuit of the organization behind the villain Le Chiffre. The film’s closing, with his iconic introduction as “Bond, James Bond” delivered a phenomenal punch, conveying that Bond is now truly a double-o agent and leaving audiences breathless for the next installment and his pursuit of those responsible for Vesper Lynd’s death.

Quantum of Solace, a title that does not any more sense after one sees the film, is sadly a real disappointment in the wake of Casino’s compelling story which marked a new, grittier direction for the series.

The story picks up in the minutes after the previous film’s ending, with a promising fast-paced car chase, as Bond scrambles to transport his prisoner, Mr. White, to a hideout in Sienna for questioning. It is a rough chase, reminiscent in its sheer violence of the porcelain-crushing bathroom brawl in Casino, and could lead one to believe that Aston Martins are an adequate substitute for military-grade Humvees.

Sadly, it is the first of many violent, eventually excessive chases: over 106 minutes the audience is treated to several more car and motorcycle chases, a boat chase, and an imagination-stretching plane chase/dogfight.

If this sounds a bit like some previous Bond flicks—those wonderfully campy films that feature lots of chases, gadgets, booze, beautiful women and sexual innuendo—you are onto one of the central problems of Quantum: while it is unmistakably a dark, fast-paced film in the spirit of Casino, it is as if the producers deconstructed the earlier Bond films and borrowed … [continued]

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The Suantum of Quolace

August 12th, 2008

Could it be that the theme song for the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, has already leaked?

Well, no. But this is still pretty funny!!… [continued]

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Quantum of Bond

July 2nd, 2008

It’s still got a dumb title, but holy cow the trailer for the next Bond film is awesome:

http://www.moviefone.com/movie/quantum-of-solace/26922/main

Please please please let the bad-guy organization be Spectre!!!

Also, if Bond is taking things personally, Felix had better keep his eyes open for any shark tanks…… [continued]