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

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #03: Goldfinger

* Following the excellent policy of subjecting (bad) women to violence in the name of equality, Bond lets some broad take a club to the head. I've hardly settled in the couch with my beers and my whisky, and I'm thrilled already.
Sadly, my mood is spoiled when Bond camouflages himself by wearing a duck on his head. Here starts the nasty trend that Roger Moore will later perfect: Making Bond look silly and ridiculous instead of wry and witty.

* The title sequence is perfect, timeless and elegant. The tune is fitting, too, even though Shirley is screaming like a wounded buffalo. I'm making a mental note that this may be the best title sequence of them all.

* It doesn't take long before i notice that the director actually seems to give a crap about his job as well. That aerial shot of the hotel is great, and there's good craftsmanship all around.

* The gadgets come into full play here, and we get to see Q's gadget lab. It's about time. It's funny and scary at the same time: grown men treating deadly weapons like toys.

* And Jesus F. Christ - the car. They go from no car whatsoever and directly to an Aston Martin DB5 with the optional extras. It's beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, and it makes boys and men alike want to be James Bond.

Dude, I know how you feel.
* Goldfinger is a cool bad guy too, against all odds. I give a truckload of credit to the actor portraying him for this feat - Gert Fröbe. He takes what could have been an underwhelming Bond villain and lends him credibility and humor. That, combined with the character's greed and total disregard for human life, makes him very memorable.
He gets to deliver my favorite piece of dialogue in all the Bond movies, too. I love you, Gert.

* I have mixed feelings about his henchman Oddjob, though. I like that he seems to love to fight, and is even amused at times, by the fact that Bond thinks he might be able to defeat him. I do not, however, like his stupid hat. Why? Because I'm not seven years old, that's why.

* Using Fort Knox is good. Whenever the Bond movies use recognizable landmarks, it seems to anchor the series in reality and add scope. Except when it's done stupidly. That's going to happen a lot from now on.

* So third time's the charm. Goldfinger is the first Bond movie that really delivers, and everybody knows it. Still, people waste time on Dr. No and From the Soviet Union With Camaraderie. Tsk, tsk.

* Spoiler: Goldfinger doesn't actually have a finger made of gold.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #02: From Russia With Love

* The opening sequence of From Russia With Love is really exciting, with a fun twist. That whole sense of lurking danger is established right away when the bad guy murders a Bond double, and you carry that anticipation of a showdown with you for the whole movie.

* The big, bad henchman is introduced to the series, and we've only reached the second movie. Cool.
Also, that henchman is a Nazi version of Quint. I'm crapping my pants on behalf of Bond... and that's a good thing.
The scene where Frau Blücher punches Nazi-Quint in the gut with brass knuckles is fantastic. Makes one laugh and say "aaawwwwyeahhh!" at the same time.

"'Bond'? Isn't zat a Jewish name?"
* Bond finally gets a suitcase that does more than carry documents. It does cool stuff. This, finally, qualifies as a gadget, and makes up for the lack of gadgets in Dr. No. It's also a kind of general gadget, like a Swiss Army Suitcase. It's not one of the gadgets that is painfully specific, and that coincidentally is exactly what Bond needs to get out of trouble. More on this later.

* There's some genuinely sexy moments between Bond and the Russian chick, and also some interrogation via the "smacking the bitch around a little" technique. I've always found this element to be very good for the James Bond character. It de-romanticizes him and lends credibility to 007.

* The whole SPECTRE thing starts to unfold, and that's exciting. It expands the Bond universe and hints to real ambitions concerning the film series.

* From Russia With Love is also about 20 minutes too long.
There's a pretty random sequence with the Gypsies that has a genuine WTF moment in it. Chick fights aren't always entertaining.
Also, there's a half-hearted North by Northwest ripoff that I don't care about (with a helicopter), and an equally unexciting boat chase.

* Scratch that - it's probably 30 minutes too long. The climactic train sequence is slow and boring. It doesn't really build up to Bond's fight with Nazi-Quint, as it should, it just drags on. If they just gave Bond a car already, he wouldn't have to travel by train like some hobo.

* The Train Fight is excellent, though. It looks real and intense, it uses the confined space brilliantly, Connery gets to use his obvious athleticism, and the two combatants seem evenly matched. It even ends in a nasty, gritty way.
You useless, untalented, upstart directors who feel you have to shake the camera around in every fight scene like the camera operator has cerebral palsy, you can all piss off and die. Or learn from this.
Jason Bourne my ass.

* There may be some lame scene with Frau Blücher and a knife shoe at the end of From Russia With Love, but I'm not sure. This whole movie is dead after that train fight anyway, and I don't care.
The second film is also, like Dr. No, a "valiant effort", in that it shows promise of something that may become cool at some point of time... but by itself, it's pretty bland. Some sex and one great fight, with lots of fluff around.
Better luck next time.

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #01: Dr. No

* Dr. No opens with that iconic title sequence, and everything seems fine for a while. Then the Underneath the Mango Tree song pops in and ruins the whole experience.
Clearly, it's an attempt to cash in on Harry Belafonte's Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), which is much better. Also, it has nothing to do with the feel of the James Bond experience whatsover - it belongs more in some shitty Elvis movie, where the King muses, glassy-eyed, over some cheap chick he banged "undaneath di mangoe treah".

* Sean Connery is awesome, and handsome enough to warrant a solid, lasting man-crush. The "Bond, James Bond" line doesn't get tired, not when it's delivered like that.

* Bond doesn't even have a car in this movie. He just gets rides everywhere. Also, he doesn't have any gadgets. He does get a new gun, but it looks like a girlie gun, and it doesn't help that he's told "it's good. No, it really is!" or something to that effect: It's still a lame, un-manly gun.

* Thankfully, Connery gets the chance to show Bond's coolness/coldness with the lame-ass gun. "You've had your six." POP! POP! Awesome. If you don't know what I'm talking about, shame on you.

* It doesn't take long before we're presented with some old-school shades of racism. Bond's hired black helper is, of course, a drunken, superstitious simpleton who panics and gets burned alive by a fire-spewing truck doing 3 mph. Oh, well.

* At least Honey Ryder is surprisingly complex. Initial expectations about that other -ism, male chauvinism, is confused by the fact that Ryder is self-sufficient and possesses a lot of knowledge and inner strength. Yeah, she does eventually get captured and needs to be rescued by Prince Bond, but hey - you can't get everything at once.

I haz complexitay

* Bond also gets captured - just because he can't fight worth shit. In Dr. No, all it takes to beat Bond is possessing a pair of fists.
Thankfully, the writer is as dumb as Bond is crap at fighting, because our hero is being held captive in a room that is 40% air duct. The entrance to this duct is guarded by a grate that's rigged to fall apart by itself if you touch it.

* Dr. No himself is also a pretty crappy villain. He's a half-breed, which makes him evil; and has amputated hands, which makes him a freak, and thus even more evil. He fights even worse than Bond, allowing our hero to prevail after an epic, 23-second fight. You should've invested in a henchman, dude.
Thank God Dr. No's hands are operated by the same type of hydraulics that makes the flamethrower car move forward.

* Dr. No's sinister plan is lame enough for me to have forgotten about it already, and that's a shame. The movie is OK, but there's no real sense of danger or urgency. Or real fun. Or epicness (?). Or drama. Or depth of character.
I'd call Dr. No a fair attempt at something that might be cool some day.
At least, they got the casting right.