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2013-06-22: Transfered all of my 2011 "My Year in Music" posts from Facebook.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #22: Quantum of Solace

Disclaimer: This will be a short review. Not because of Goldeneye or anything, but because Quantum of Solace annoys me, and I don't want to dwell on it too long. I apologize that this has to be the one to close up the Superficial Bond Reviews. Blame Marc Forster, Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, to name but a few.

* First of all: "Quantum of Solace"? Worst name out of all the 22 bond movies. It's a big, steaming pile of nonsense, and it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, now does it?

* Quanundrum of Solstice starts with the worst car chase I've ever seen. The director has no sense of direction, continuity, axis, movement or anything that can give the audience a proper idea of what's going on. Instead, it's the ol' "shaking the camera violently" trick that useless, uncreative directors have utilized ad nauseam for years now, because they don't know how to create a sense of intensity the proper way.
I wonder how much the camera would shake if I smashed it into the director's skull, and if it would add intensity to the experience. Thanks for the headache, shithead.

* The direction of the fight scenes in Quaalude of Surprise is perhaps the worst I've ever seen.
First, there's this film school freshman attempt at "art", where Bond is chasing someone, and it's intercut with a horse race. I laugh my "oh, that's so sad" laugh and shake my head, even though there's nobody there who can see me. I just can't help myself. Well, at least it isn't freerunning again.
That chase leads to a ridiculous scene where 007 fights the bad guy while hanging from ropes and bumping into some scaffolding, and besides the fact that this kind of shit belongs in an old Jet Li movie or in Cirque de Soleil, the direction/editing is so shitty, you can't even see what's going on anyway.
This guy couldn't make a coherent fight scene if he nailed two actors to the floor opposite each other and told them to punch rhythmically.

* There's another boat chase. Unoriginal. Also: director is shit.

* There's a shootout at the opera. The director uses some intercutting of the action with what transpires on stage. It's very film school freshman-like, meaning "it's shit".

- "I'm bored!"
- "Well, I'm MORE bored!"

* Bond is topless again! I'm actually surprised that the camera has stopped vibrating for a long enough period of time that I'm able to see this.
It strikes me that in that respect, the director may be the perfect one for Daniel Craig, since his ShakyCam is actually able to mask the fact that Craig has the face of last year's Halloween pumpkin.
You can keep your shirt on now, Daniel!

* There's an airplane duel scene, which is... hm, not so shit, actually. Interesting. And then, there's an elevator fight, which is brilliant! I'm so confused!
Maybe... no. The rest is shit.

* The so-called Bond girls are so poorly written here, that I'll ignore them completely, and skip directly to the bad guy - Some French Dude.
Some French Dude is bad because... well, I can't remember. He's so bland, I can't even call him "shit". He's like beige, odorless shit.
His sinister plan has something to do with stealing water or some kind of boring eco crime nobody gives a crap about, and his awe-inspiring lair is a cluster of shitty, wooden barracks in the middle of a featureless desert.
For some poorly explained reason, the entire barracks is packed with gas canisters that will detonate easily, so that the explosions can serve as a substitute for real excitement.
007 goes there to fight Some French Dude, and all of a sudden everyone involved in making Quidditch of Slutchutch has forgotten that Bond just beat the shit out half a dozen agents in an elevator. Bond has to fight this guy, who has no martial arts skills, no fighting experience, nothing, for all we know - and has a hard time defeating him, just because he's the end-of-level boss.

* Bond defeats Some French Guy, who promptly commits suicide out of disappointment with the 22nd Bond movie.
I'm tempted, too - but choose instead to just call QoS "the worst Bond movie ever", alongside Die Another Day.
This was worse in many ways... but at least, it kinda tried to be a Bond movie.

I can't wait for Bond #23! Woo!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #21: Casino Royale

* So I guess it's time for what may or may not qualify for being called a "re-imagining" of the Bond movie series - Casino Royale.
OK, I'm ready. Re-impress me.
The first thing we see, is some gritty black-and-white shots. Oooh. Gritty. Re-imaginy. There's some intense chatting between an older fellow, and a dude with a head like a potato. Then, an action scene, kinda intercut with the talking: Mr. Potato Head kills some big guy in a toilet.
Then it slowly dawns on me that the guy with the turnip face is the new Bond - Daniel Craig!
Holy macaroni - is this part of the re-imagining thing? Instead of finding a tall, attractive man with lots of charisma, who can sell the suave playboy image of 007, they find someone who looks like a Polish onion farmer instead? Hm. Interesting.

* The title sequence is certainly worth mentioning:
Elegant, excellent design - and Chris Cornell has understood that you have to scream when you're doing the Bond intro tune. "You know my name" is a good line - just the right amount of subtlety, so that when you're thinking "Bond. James Bond", you actually feel a bit clever, even though you're not.

* Another action scene soon follows, impressively showing off Craig's physical prowess. It can't be easy to run with the wind resistance from those Dumbo ears.
It all takes place in and around a construction site, and 007 and the dude he's chasing are doing some kickass freerunning that the movie audiences can marvel at, just like they've marveled at the presence of freerunning in every single action movie for the last five years.
At least, it's excellent running - and that partly compensates for the utter lack of originality.

* I laugh a lot whenever I see a scene where Daniel Craig talks to a woman or some chicks walk by him, and they instantly send him favorable looks and/or turn their heads and go "mm-MM!". It's not often I see the Sarah Jessica Parker Effect* used on a guy.
(*as I've mentioned before: the effect of repeating on screen that an unattractive person is attractive, to convince the viewer that the person really is attractive).
You know - I could easily believe in him as a womanizer, if they tried to build Craig's Bond up as someone with wit and charm, and who knows exactly what to say to women to make them give in to him - but trying to sell him as an instant head turner? Come on! How many girls do you think saw, say, Road to Perdition, and thought about Craig as someone they wanted to bang? If he weren't playing James Bond, none of you would even spit on his head if his face were on fire.

* Just notice that Craig is more often topless or naked in this movie than all the previous Bonds in all the earlier movies, combined. This is, of course, a way of compensating for his distinctly Neanderthal features and make him into a sex symbol (for those who dream of monkey sex, I guess).
What I notice about his body, though, is that it looks like a body that's generated by some personal trainer over a shorter period of time. He just looks big, not strong - and his squat frame doesn't communicate that pure athleticism you could find in Connery and Lazenby.
In a fight, both of those guys would beat the crap outta Craig - how could they not? He has a head the size and shape of a bean bag chair, and he's barely taller than my mom.

* But I'll give this to him: Craig's physical makeup is well suited for great action scenes, like the one at the airport. Props also to CR for letting Bond have cuts and bruises after going through one of his ordeals - having our hero come out of dicey situations with his hairdo intact and with no wrinkles on his suit, was always a bit on the silly side for my taste.
What I also believe, is that Bond can be a cold assassin. That icy lack of emotion that you could only see traces of in the other guys is ever-present in Craig. Maybe it's because he looks like a Serbian war criminal.

* To match 007, this year's Bond broad is Eva Green - playing someone called Vesper.
I'm being told that this Vespa is a beautiful woman, but I'm not sure. First of all, because she looks a bit like a girl, and not a woman. Secondly, because she looks like a girl who's raided her mom's makeup drawer, without quite knowing what to do with the content.
Seriously, this Green chick - does she have a special clause in all of her contracts, where it states that she has to look like a raccoon, or she won't play the part?
Anyway - this girl causes all kinds of crap in Casino Royale, mainly making 007 into a blubbering, lovestruck wimp. One minute, he's snarling that he doesn't give a shit how the bartender makes his martini - the next, he randomly invents some fruity drink with lemon peel in it, and names it after his wannabe girlfriend. Awww! Sorry, I thought I was watching a Bond movie, not Cocktail.
Later, there's a scene where Vespa cries in the shower with her clothes on after seeing some violence, because it, like, symbolizes that she feels dirty. So instead of telling her to get naked or get out of the damn shower, Bondetta gets in there and hugs her. It's like seeing a couple of emo kids in a music video.
Luckily, she eventually gets killed, so that 007 can start growing his testicles back and act like the douchebag he's supposed to be.

* A lot - and I mean a lot - of time in this movie is spent on 007 playing poker.
We all know how fantastically entertaining it is to watch other people play a game, right? Then let's try doing that for half an hour! Whee! I'd rather watch Connery play that moronic computer game in Never Say Never Again... uh... again.
OK, that half-hour is broken up into smaller pieces by inserting a couple of suspenseful sequences and action scenes in between... but to me, that actually just serves to extend the poker sequence, since the poker is the central element anyway. Jesus, "poker is the central element" - you'd think I was reviewing Maverick.
To make matters worse, there's nothing really at stake for Bond in this neverending card game. There's a lot of money, but so what? They're not his money. It's so lame, you actually have poor Felix Leiter explaining to Vespa (read: the audience) why this should be really be exciting. Why should I care? Simple: I do not.
And poker? Poker!? What the hell? Not that I hate poker per se - but that's not Bond's game - that's everybody's game now: rednecks, neo-yuppies, stay-at-home moms who play it on the Internet, rednecks... you name it. "So what's wrong with playing a popular game?" you may ask, before you instantly regret it, remembering that I'm going to call you an idiot. It's wrong because it's well-known and popular.
Baccarat is the perfect game for Bond, because nobody understands it: not me, not you, not anybody you know. And even though I've seen Bond play it several times, I've never even been curious to find out how it's played. This is perfect because it puts James Bond above us mortals, where he should be: he draws a card, looks smug, says something in French, his opponent looks pissed off, and we go "what? Did he win? He won? Awesome!" and we're happy to be ignorant as to what just happened, we just know that he's the best, and we will never be as cool as him.
Having him win at poker does nothing for me - it might as well be darts or pool, for all I care. Look out for next Bond installment, where he'll triumph at Whist and/or Bridge and win a cake for M.

* Oh, and I almost forgot about the bad guy here, played skillfully by Mads Mikkelsen, who manages to inject some life into a bland character who does nothing but play poker and cry.
Plus, and he gets to torture the naked (again) 007 by whipping his nutsack with some rope, but we know by now that Bond can take it - his nuts kinda vanished the minute he met Vespa anyway.
Then Mads gets shot by somebody who isn't Bond (boring!), and the rest of the movie kinda fades away from me.
There's this scene where some buildings tumble down by CGI while a shootout goes on inside, and then the raccoon drowns while Bond weeps like Miss Moneypenny... but I'm already out the door, mentally.

* Casino Royale has some good action, and it is well-made... but it's no more of a "re-imagining" or "reboot" than any other time they got a new actor to play 007.
There are still a lot of the old mistakes, a lot of new ones, and - for the first time in Bond history - a 007 with a head like an upside-down pear that's been used for a softball.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #20: Die Another Day

Disclaimer: I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the following Superficial Bond Review. In this instance, the quality is not primarily a consequence of the Bond movie series having peaked with the movie Goldeneye, and the subsequent drop in interest from the articles' author (me), but rather that my half-assed efforts are still half an ass more than that which is displayed by the movie Die Another Day.
"Shit breeds shit", as they say.

* Die Another Day starts right off with 007 and some other agents actually surfing to a mission at night. There is no way this movie can recover from something as lame as this, and I already know I'm going to hate it.

* Shortly after, there's a bizarre hovercraft chase scene that isn't half bad, but I'm sucked straight back into hate when Madonna delivers the very worst Bond tune of them all. I've suffered through many bad songs before this one, but this is the first title sequence I really, really wanted to skip.
She's an old woman like Tina Turner and Shirley Bassey before her: why doesn't she just scream like a stabbed cow - "Dieee Another Daaaaaayyyyyyuuuuhhhh!" - instead of doing her awful robot voice thingie? "Die. A-no. Ther. Day. Just. Die. A-no. Ther. DAY!"
No, screw that. Die NOW.

- "Glad you could make it, Mister Bond. And I see you brought along
your leather-loving transvestite bodyguard as well - how quaint!"

* James Bond gets captured in the very beginning, and subsequently held in a North Korean prison for 14 months, where he is interrogated and tortured. Hm. Here comes my rant:
You idiots!
I guess I have to school whatever moron came up with this scenario, because it's obvious that he/she/they haven't even understood the significance of the Bond character.
Bond is escapism, Bond is a refuge - James Bond is freedom from fear and responsibility. He doesn't get captured and held for months - he bloody escapes, that's what he does! Whether it's from calling a chick after he's banged her, from deep and troubling emotions or from a jail cell, he gets away clean.
Audiences come to experience a world where the hero is a handsome and invincible boy who doesn't want to grow up, where the bad guy is recognizable and utterly mad, and where international conflicts can be solved by cool toys and fast cars. Gritty realism is fine - just put it in another movie series. And for god's sake, if you do want to make a statement and "reinvent" Bond a little - stay with it! You can't have Bond being tortured in the same film where you have invisible cars and robo-gloves that fire lightning.

* (DAD is kinda all over the place, so I'm having a hard time structuring my review. Please excuse me if I ignore any form of chronology or thematic link between segments).
So how 'bout that Halle Berry, guys? When she walks out of the water in that "we want you to think of Dr. No, so that you believe this is a proper Bond movie too" scene, it's like your erection needs to rent another erection, just to take care of that extra work load. Har har! Woof! Woof!
But there's a disgusting, sweaty sex scene between Berry and Brosnan, and that shit doesn't belong in a Bond movie. "But there's a lot of sex in Bond movies!" you might interject, but then I have to remind you once again that you're an idiot. Sex is more suggested than flaunted - there's the start of sex, the aftermath of sex, hints and winks - never this 80s movie crap that makes me want to find a bucket.
Anyway: a bikini doth not a Honey Ryder make. They try hard to make Berry's character into a strong one, but I just don't care enough about that two-dimensional cardboard chick to be excited when she's trapped inside a melting castle, and Bond has to rescue her in his invisible car.
No, I'm not joking. This movie really is that dumb.

* Normally, I'd wet my pants with joy over the fact that DAD features an Aston Martin Vanquish, but when Q Branch jokingly renames it "Vanish", and introduces some highly implausible technology that can make it invisible, I'm completely turned off.
Later, it's in a car duel on ice with a diamond-faced henchman who's also got a gadget car, for no reason whatsoever. That's before the snowmobiles come out of nowhere, and I guess it's right before the diamond-covered satellite sends its death ray towards Iceland, and then the hotel melts, and Bond has to go inside a plane and fight with bad guy Gustav Graves, who is really a genetically modified Colonel Tan-Sun Moon, who 007 fought with in the beginning of the movie, and later fenced with (as Graves), but now it's Jinx who fences with Miranda Frost (Graves' chick) as Moon/Graves fires bolts of lightning at Bond through the glove of his super suit before Frost is impaled and Graves is sucked out of the plane and into a jet engine, stopping the diamond satellite's death ray.
The end! Wait, WHAT!?

* Die Another Day is the worst mishmash of incompatible elements I have ever seen in Bond movie history:
The original ideas that are actually in here, are all wrong and belong in a completely different category of movies - like, say, a Power Ranger movie or a similar lump of cinematic feces.
The rest is a bunch of stuff they stole from other Bond movies - almost every other Bond movie - and try to pass it off as "tributes" or "references".
Die. A-no. Ther. Day.
Worst. Bond. Mo-vie. E-ver.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #19: The World Is Not Enough

* There's a good start to the World Is Not Enough - plenty of action, plenty of fun.
Then there's another shitty boat chase, and I'm instantly annoyed again. This has got to be boat chase #15 or something, and this time they let Bond zip around in some strange, little "special" boat that I have to assume Q has made for him. This boat is in my mind the aquatic equivalent to those little cars that handicapped people drive around in... only with guns.
When that boat starts skidding around on land, I'm beyond annoyed and suffering severe flashbacks from the Roger Moore era. This whole scene is not just stupid, it's Moore-stupid.

* The methods of transport will get even worse later, as John Cleese presents 007 with another, bloody BMW. I won't bother commenting any further this time.
Before I've even managed to pour the drink that's gonna shave the edge off my hatred towards the BMW, there are some bad guys in snowmobiles... uh... paragliding with... fans attached? What!? Is this "Stupid Vehicle Day" or something, and I missed the memo? Obviously, because later there's a chopper carrying giant, circular saws, and a toboggan thingie that goes though pipelines.
I get it. I'll play along: How about a giant, flame-throwing zeppelin with mechanical kangaroo legs? No? Next movie, perhaps.

* So let's talk about something nicer. Let's talk Bond girls, people.
In tWINE, we have, eh, Denise Richards playing, ha ha, Dr. Christmas Jones, hahaha, who is a, hahaHAHA, nuclear physicist! HAHAHAHAAAAAHAHA! Amazing! That's not the worst casting in Bond movie history... that's one of the worst casting choices in cinema history!
Thank Heaven for Sophie Marceau, who completely knocks it out of the park as Elektra King, and manages to be vulnerable, sexy, sweet, sadistic, vengeful and about fifty other things inside one and the same movie. Like Michelle Yeoh before her, she's a standout - but Sophie is more like an exotic island in a sea of garbage: It's hard to enjoy that time in the sun, when you're surrounded by the foul stench of rotting waste.

* The buildup for this movie's bad guy, Renard, is excellent.
It seems that 009 shot Renard in the head for looking too long at his chick or something, but Renard survived. Since then, the bullet in his skull has kept moving slowly through his brain, while killing off his senses along the way. We believe in this, because it is shown on a 3D model - like on CSI on TV.
This all means that our bad guy for this movie is an insane, murderous fanatic who can feel no pain, and doesn't fear death, since he's already a dead man. That's awesome! As soon as this is presented to me, my mind explodes with hundreds of possibilities for cool, Terminator-style scenes where 007 has to face this potent foe - and a million ways for 007 to kill him spectacularly.
You just know where this is gonna end, don't you? In disappointment, that's where.

* Speaking of bad guys - it strikes me that using Goldie as a henchman might be the laziest move I've ever seen. Those grotesque gold teeth are his own, so they just hire that washed-up DJ and let him hang around, doing nothing?
"Yeah, he's like Jaws. Only smaller. And not dangerous. But he's got weird teeth, too!"

- "Heeeyyy, everyone! It's me - the henchman!"

* As so often before, there is always one scene that soothes me, even in the blandest Bond movies. This time, it's the scene where Brosnan and Marceau get to play together, before 007 shows what he's made of and blows the bad girl's brains out.
What I love about this, is that this is not one of the cartoony Bond deaths that are designed to take the edge off: it's a straight bullet to the head. Shooting a woman in the head, no matter how evil she may be, is not something that should be taken for granted. So hats off to tWINE for showing some balls.
Granted, Brosnan tries to screw the scene (and the Bond character) up by going all emo, but I'm tempted to let it slide. Just watch the dude closely, and you can see that he's as bored with Bond as I am. The way he delivers the "Bond. James Bond." line in this movie is so flat and joyless, you want to punch someone, just to know you can still feel something.
Brosnan, perhaps. Just because he's there.

* Speaking of feeling nothing:
After the whole movie has passed, and nothing exciting has been done with the vast potential that is Renard, there's a "climactic" showdown between him and Bond at the end. For some reason, they fight by doing a mix between pole dancing and punching on some metal bars inside a submarine, and the whole shitty affair ends when Renard is impaled by... some kind of... metal rod that shoots out of... a... um... thing because... I just don't know!
Obviously, there's a thing inside a sub that shoots bars when you cut the right tube. It's just that nobody bothered to explain it to me.
OK. Whatever. Glad he's dead. Can I go now?

* The World Is Not Enough just seems so lazy and uninspired through and through, and guess what - it rubs off. Sure there are many other scenes in this movie I could comment on, but why bother? None of them are exciting, important, or even memorable.
Instead, I prepare myself for the next Bond movie - and from what I remember from it, I'd better get ready for some heavy drinking...

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #18: Tomorrow Never Dies

Disclaimer: This Bond Review and (almost) every Bond Review following this one, will be extra superficial, due to the indisputable fact that the Bond series peaked with Goldeneye, and any further in-depth analysis of the franchise will thus be viewed as meaningless.
* So Tomorrow Never Dies, eh? Woo hoo!
There's a nuclear threat in here, and that's good. International intrigue is what I like to see, and that always comes with nuclear missiles. Chinese and Brits and Americans and whatever, just aching to nuke the shit out of each other - that's Bond territory.

* Alarm bells are ringing when James Bond shows himself and punches out some cigarette smoking bad guy and simply goes: "filthy habit".
What? No! You smoke, man. You are a smoker! What does this mean? Are they trying to tell us that Bond never smoked? Or even worse - did Bond quit, and then became an asshole about it? Either way, it's a load of politically correct crap that doesn't belong here.
And what's with the line "filthy habit"? What was the writer thinking? That's not a dry, witty quip - it's just a humorless statement. No word play, no nothing.
Humorless and politically correct. Sheesh, I can't wait for the rest of this movie.

* The main bad guy, Elliot Carver, is a mean-spirited media mogul, and the movie seems to try to make some kind of statement about media manipulation, I guess.
It's hard to be sure, because Jonathan Pryce overacts so badly that I have a hard time focusing on anything else than his ridiculously arched eyebrow. Yes, he actually does the villain arch - perhaps he thought he was in Spy Kids, and not in a Bond movie.
Thankfully for him, he's surrounded by other, useless people - like the overacting Dr. Kaufmann, who belongs in an Indiana Jones movie; and the spray-tan robo-Kraut named Stamper, who really belongs in the German techno band Scooter.

* Along with the overacting comes the over-ridiculousness (ahem) that is often expected in Bond movies. There's a stealth boat, which I guess is OK, but then there's this stupid super-drill that chews its way through ships' hulls and seems to operate outside the laws of physics. Whenever I see that thing, I arch my eyebrow in disbelief, like some kind of Spy Kids villain.

* Teri Hatcher somehow pops up in TND, and we're told that she and Bond had a deep and meaningful love affair once upon a time. I have an easier time believing in an anti-gravity super-drill, especially when I notice how saggy Hatcher has become.
An actress nobody has given a crap about since she hung around with the dude with his underpants on the outside. Great casting, people.
Michelle Yeoh, though - she's something quite different. She plays a good, strong, character; she's a gorgeous, elegant woman; she has the ability to kick all kinds of ass.
She could kick Bond's ass (although I have to give props to Brosnan's fighting in here), and she could definitely kick Carver's ass, even if he displays some truly awesome skillz at one point.
Oh, the irony. What may be one of the - if not the - most impressive Bond girl of them all - wasted on a mediocre Bond movie.

Wai Lin: Whose motorcycle is this?
Bond: It's a steam engine, baby.
Wai Lin: Whose steam engine is this?
Bond: STFU already!

* Nobody has understood the significance of the Bondmobile, and I'm getting tired of pointing it out. However, I am also stubborn, so I will go on:
In Tomorrow Never Dies, they're sticking to their whore contract with BMW, and this time, they're taking the full step into lunacy.
Oh, it's not the car per se. It's a really boring model, dull enough that I won't bother looking it up, but still better than the horrible, blue BMW Z3 from Goldeneye. Where that car could've belonged to a dot com billionaire, this model could've belonged to a banker. Bland though it might be, at least it has a really cool remote control function, and its own kickass scene in a parking garage.
No, the true BMW horror comes in the shape of a motorcycle. Bond & babe have this crazy-ass rooftop chase scene on a motorcycle, and what vehicle is chosen for this particular event? Why, if it isn't the largest, clunkiest, least maneuverable lump of metal in the area!
Director: "We need a light and nimble motorcycle for this scene."
BMW guy: "Nein. You vill use tis von right here. Ve pay you."
Director: "Yes, Sir."

When sponsorship starts to interfere with logic and really sticks out in your movie, you might as well step into those pumps and call a whore a whore.

* Oh, and the uninteresting bad guy and the henchman I don't care about probably die in some violent, semi-ironic way that I can't remember.
I bet the goddamn drill is involved somehow.