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

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #11: Moonraker

* So here we go - Moonraker! Woo hoo! Named so because it's... something that... uh... rakes the Moon? What the hell does that even mean? I dunno.

* The movie starts off with a pretty cool space shuttle heist. The whole scenario seems oddly familiar, but so does about 75% of everything in every Bond movie since the '60s. I get over it, and enjoy the scene, although it's a bit over the top, even for a Bond movie.

* There's a great parachute scene with 007 and Jaws that seems to have inspired a few other action scenes since. At least, it starts off great, until Jaws actually survives his fall by dropping into a circus tent (thus highlighting the clown-like nature of the "Moore era" in the 007 franchise).
Much later (in an unrelated scene), Jaws will show up wearing a clown costume, and fail to kill a helpless woman.
Seriously, what's with all the clowns?

* Roger Moore has really started to look old now - much of the skin that covers his face has completely lost contact with the underlying structure. I keep thinking that I don't wanna see him involved in any even vaguely erotic scenes anymore, because he just looks like some gross, horny uncle you should stay away from.
But I know I won't be spared: It's a Bond movie, so we're constantly shown that 007 is a chick magnet. It's a bit like being told that Sarah Jessica Parker is hot, and that she doesn't have the face of a mule.
Suspension of disbelief only goes so far.

* The loose face skin actually comes in handy during the space centrifuge scene, as 007's face ripples under the strain of massive G-force. The scene is one of the most memorable ones in Moonraker - which should tell you a lot about the overall quality of the movie.
The scene also offers the worst acting in the entire history of the James Bond movies. Watch and marvel at the Nasty Asian Henchman's disappointed face as 007 blasts the centrifuge to a halt with his sleeve dart. He looks like somebody just flushed his puppy down the toilet.

- "So did the centrifuge make you feel sick, mister Bond?"
- "It's not that, you bint, it's this whole, bloody film that makes me want to vomit!"

* Later, the same, stupid henchman tries to kill 007 by using a wooden sword. This takes place inside a mansion where five hundred and sixty eight billion real weapons are at display in some kind of convenient gallery of violence.
Perhaps this henchman has learned everything he knows from the movie's bad guy - Sir Hugo Drax - who also tries to kill Bond. He does this by having a sniper aim at the agent from a tree in the distance. When said sniper fails, Hugo seems uninterested in using his own shotgun to blast Bond's head off.
What was the plan, Hugo? You're insanely wealthy and influential, and you have Bond standing at your own estate. If the sniper succeeded, would you claim it was a "hunting accident"? So could a shotgun blast to the head be! It would even be more plausible than a rifle shot with a downward trajectory. Planning to hide the body and go with the "never seen the man, officer" approach? Shotgun will do the trick! Use the shotgun, you idiot! Christ!

* In Moonraker, the obligatory chase scene is boring, unoriginal and annoyingly "humorous". Another boat chase, this time with a friggin' gondola - sped up for super extra funniness.
Later, in the same movie, there will be another damn boat chase! I won't comment it any further. It just makes me so angry that I want to punch the screen, although I'm completely aware that the screen itself has nothing to do with the quality of the movie I'm watching, and that punching it thus would be utterly absurd and fruitless.

* So after writing the shitty gondola scene, the writer thought: "'gondola'? Isn't that just another name for 'cable car'?" and promptly wrote an equally shitty cable car scene.
Enter the immortal Jaws, who bites over a cable to stop 007's cable car or something, instead of just biting over the cable that would send the gondola lift crashing to the ground. I'm not a cable car expert or anything - but nor is the screenwriter, I suspect.
Jaws and Moore then fight so slowly, it looks like they're underwater, before Jaws crashes into a concrete wall at 200 mph and survives, just like he does everything else.
Then Jaws meets a girl, and there's instant romance, because she's petite and blond and has glasses, and that's funny and cute, because Jaws is big and dark and has no glasses, and he's really a big, cuddly bear and I think I'm going to be sick.

* Towards the end, Moonraker just seems to give up being its own movie. It sheds the last bit of self respect it has, in order to capitalize on other movies - and I'm not sure whether to call it "prostitution" or "cannibalism". I'll just call Moonraker a cannibal whore and be done with it.
007 and his chick hijack a space shuttle, and shortly after takeoff, they realize that they're not heading for some moon - it's a giant space station!
The station's purpose is to serve as a modern Noah's Ark, and it's owned and operated by the villainous Stromber... Drax! who wants to save the World by creating armageddon himself.
The government sends a lot of diver... astronauts! to defeat him with friggin' laser guns, but Draxberg's divers are also many, and the ensuing battle is the most bestest in all of Thunderball.
Then Jaws turns good for no reason whatsoever, Darthx walks backwards out of an airlock because of a special backwards-walking poison, and James Bondwalker and Leia hunt down the remaining Tie Fighters who are heading for Earth.
Honestly, who do I even bother?

* Some of the choices in this movie are a violent stab in the testicles for the Bond franchise's credibility, and after watching this, I'm amazed that the franchise survived Moonraker.
Is it because of some inner quality of the Bond series? Is it because of the massive patience/stupidity of the audience?
That's something to be explored on a later date. Now, I have to scrub away the foul imprint of this movie from my brain. Whisky? Electric shock treatment? Surgery? I don't care.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #10: The Spy Who Loved Me

* The Spy Who Loved Me starts off strong, with a bunch of nuclear submarines vanishing without a trace. Good buildup. Nukes are good.

* We're also presented with a super hot, Russian female agent that could prove to be a worthy counterpart to 007. Or maybe not - she always seems to be half an inch away from a nip slip, and she has a stupid agent handle: XXX. How very porn. Why not call her Sukja Fukokova while you're at it, boys?

* There's a ski sequence - again - and it's not even half as good as the ski sequences we were treated to only four movies back. The Union Jack parachute thing is legendary, though I think I'd enjoy it more if my brain weren't twisting in pain from the shit music they put on top of this sequence.

* Then, while listening to Bach, this movie's bad guy watches some dude get eaten alive by sharks.
The baddie is a white-haired, Caucasian male with a German-sounding name (Karrrl Strrrrromberrrggg!), which means he's instantly believable as an evil, evil man. Plus, he's insane in that good way: the ambitious way.
He will later also utter such idiot phrases as "let them get to shore - and then kill them" (why!? Kill them now!), and he's got a zillion minions in stupid uniforms working for him.
Now this is more like it! He's a proper Bond villain, not some second-tier thug who grows pot in the jungle (see Live and Let Die). He even has a lair, an underwater lair, making him some kind of unholy hybrid between Hitler and captain Nemo.
Too bad I start to giggle every time I see it, while the words "it's only a model!" echo through my head. Whenever this lair rises from under the surface of the sea, it really looks like it's about ten inches in diameter. Hot tip for future filmmakers who want to do Bond movies: Don't hire exchange students to do your miniatures.

* Roger Moore tries to fight again, this time on a rooftop, and I'm starting to believe his freedom of movement is impaired by brittle bones or gout or something. He looks awful.
Then, from out of nowhere, one of the best little scenes in the entire Bond series emerges: what I call the Tie Interrogation Scene. To put it short - 007 gets vital info from some bad guy in return for sparing his life... and kills him instead.
In the blink of an eye, Moore's 007 manages to be believable, über-cool and pretty darn cold and frightening. I'll go ahead and say it: It's an even better moment than Dr. No's "you've had your six".

* Oh, and then there's Jaws - the Bond series' henchman #1; universally loved, metal-mouthed maniac. I guess he's kinda cool - visually, at least - but the more I see of him, the more irritating he becomes.
First of all, he's so incredibly stupid that I don't believe for one second that anyone would use him as an autonomous contractor. As a bodyguard - maybe, but letting him use independent thought? Never. When you fail to kill two people who are already locked inside your van, you have no business working in crime.
1) Back your vehicle into a wall, blocking the doors. 2) Set fire to vehicle. 3) Watch while vehicle/enemies burn.
Christ, the guy has to be at least a half-tard, if he isn't a full-on 'tard - and this leads me to the other thing I dislike about the Jaws character: His crazy-ass strength.
It's not like I expect him to be 100% believable, but he does have to operate within the framework of the real world. If he had retard strength in addition to his colossal size, and was on steroids, aaand we added 25% for stylistic purposes, he still wouldn't come close to what's presented to us here. I mean, he's even beyond chimp strength, and approaching Spider-Man strength, tossing stone blocks around and tearing cars apart with his bare hands. Sorry, I just won't accept that - it doesn't match the rest of the 007 world.
Did I mention that he's slow, too? Well, sometimes he's fast enough to catch Bond, but whenever he goes in to bite someone, he slows down to Bela Lugosi-Dracula speed. Why? It's not like anyone's strong enough to withstand his retard/Spider-Man/gorilla strength, anyway.

The Ron Jeremy of orthodontists' porn

* And would you believe it - there's another fight on a train! That's three train fights in ten movies. I have to check if this trend of being painfully unoriginal continues into the next Bond adventures.
Anyway! This time, it's Jaws who fights 007, and never mind that he has to be about five hundred times as strong as Bond - our hero prevails through being slightly less slow, I guess.

* The dynamic I hoped for between XXX and 007 just doesn't happen, and that's a shame. The reason it doesn't happen, is that the writers don't give a shit about building it up, maybe just thinking "whatevuh, it's a Bond movie. The chick is there, Bond is there. They bang". One moment, there's just a bit of (genuinely good) banter going on between the two agents - the next, it's all "oh, James!" and they start sucking face.
If you object to the phrase "suck face", just try to watch Roger Moore pretend-kiss on film. He really sucks his cheeks in, for some ungodly reason - I guess it's something he picked up back in the silent movie era, when he made his debut. Either way, it makes me want to puke.

* Some people may have an issue with 007's car - the Lotus Esprit.
It's not exactly an elegant and suave car, and may not suit James Bond as a character in that respect, but I do like that it sort of looks crazy, like the deLorean in Back to the Future. You believe in it when these cars start doing crazy shit, like turning into a sub or escaping a helicopter. Classic Bond, if you ask me. And you should.
Plus, it's an English car. Just imagine if the arch-English James Bond, on Her Majesty's Secret Service, were to use - ha ha ha - a German car or something as his Bondmobile! Ha ha ha! *Cough!*

* Towards the end, everything goes apeshit, in an entertaining way.
There's a huge tanker that opens up and swallows submarines - which is nothing at all like that huge spacecraft that swallows the smaller space pod in You Only Live Twice. Because this is a tanker, see. And it's not in space.
Anyway - there's a huge shootout inside, that lasts hours and hours, and more people are killed every two minutes than in the previous Bond movies combined. It's epic.

* Then Bond goes off to face Blof... Stromberg, and the scene where he disposes of him is another great Bond moment, in my opinion.
Bloberg tries to kill Bond, but fails, and Bond pops four caps in his ass. Yeah, you read that right: 007 shoots the now disarmed Stromfeld four times while the old man is still sitting down in his chair, to make sure he's dead. He's come a pretty long way from letting criminal masterminds hang slightly bruised from tree branches.
This is something you normally see bad guys do on film, but here, it's a reminder: our hero is a cold, merciless assassin if he has to be - as long it's for queen and country. We need this reminder, in the middle of the submarine cars, the Russian tits and the exploding henchmen, just to ground us a little.

* To ground us even further, 007 lifts Jaws with a giant magnet and drops him into a shark tank, then Jaws bites the shark to death and swims five thousand miles to safety.

* Note that the strong and independent Agent XXX gets captured and held hostage, so that the mighty Prince Bond can come and rescue her from the villain's castle.
This is the reason there's no International Feminist James Bond Appreciation Group.

* All in all - a great Bond movie!
No, I'm not kidding. I find it very entertaining, and the fun parts completely outweigh the stupid, annoying, and unoriginal parts.
For once, the standard two hours of James Bond fly by, and it's not even necessary to empty a bottle of single malt to make it happen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #09: The Man with the Golden Gun

* I'm trying to make this review short, for several reasons.
1) Short is sweet. 2) Many of my previous reviews have been long and thus... unsweet. 3) The Man with the Golden Gun is too bland to spend much time on.

* So tMwtGG starts off with something that looks similar to Enter the Dragon (at least it's borrowing the mirror scene), perhaps in an attempt to draw from Bruce Lee's immortal coolness. It will fail, and it's not only because of the horribly dated funky intro.

* The first part of the movie translates like this:
Blah blah blah Scaramanga, blah blah. Scaramanga? Blah blah blah blah Scaramanga, blah. Scaramanga, Scaramanga, blah blah blah.
Then all of a sudden, it's - AAAARRRGGGHHH! - a close-up of Scaramanga's third nipple! For God's sake, why?
Not only does the titular (pun intended) bad guy walk around in an outfit that suggests he's either about to barbecue something, fondle a school boy in gym class, or both - but he has to have a physical attribute that's... just kinda bizarre, without even being freakish enough to be interesting. That's no way to treat Christopher Lee - the mighty Saruman.
I guess I'll just have to be glad that the physical attribute wasn't a third testicle.

* Roger Moore is still good-looking, and carries his substantial age well. The filmmakers don't let him take as many clothes off now, and that is a relief.
They even manage to produce an excellent and brutal (albeit over the top) fight in there, too. Most impressive, when working with a stiff.

* Gradually, the weird focus on fighting loses all sense of direction. There's a lot of dwarf fighting, which makes me feel like I'm watching Tom & Jerry or something, and a strange sequence in a martial arts school that has no impact whatsoever on anything else that happens in the rest of the movie.
The one-kick fight is great, though.

* One good thing about tMwtGG: it uses its locations expertly.
Often, you get no sense of the country that the Bond movie is supposed to take place in, but this feels like it's trying to fix that. (It's Thailand, isn't it?).
The communications center inside the half-sunken ship is good as well, but the best example is the meeting scene inside the Thai boxing arena. It's a great, tense scene, and one of the times in the entire series that I feel the most like I'm watching a spy movie, and not something that's written by a fifteen-year-old.

* By the way, the filmmakers are trying to make me believe that Maud Adams is an attractive woman. It wouldn't have worked, even if they put her next to a burn victim - and putting her next to Britt Ekland is like some sick joke.
Don't know who Britt Ekland is? Well, google her, and spend the next hour thinking about your taxes before you're able to stand up again.

* Of course, no Bond movie without a half-assed chase scene.
This time, it's... boats? Wait a minute... didn't that happen in the last movie? And, as if the lack of an imagination isn't obvious enough, there's even a cameo by the redneck cop who chased Bond in the last movie! As if anyone even liked that horribly misplaced joke of a character in the first place.

- "God, what's that smell?"
- "That, my friend, is the rotting carcass of the James Bond franchise."

* Later, this Bond movie (?) turns into an episode of Dukes of Hazzard, as Bond's borrowed car takes a flying, spinning leap off a broken bridge - to a "humorous" flute sound!
The only thing that keeps me from vomiting with insane rage, is daydreaming about setting my own foot on fire and stomping it out on the director's head. Thankfully, Saruman's flying car is so damn ludicrous, it totally derails my anger and lets me keep on watching.

* Finally, I get to the climactic showdown between 007 and the dangerous Saruman, and it's so insanely exciting that I can't remember anything about it.
I remember that there's a huge laser thing in there somewhere, some horrible special effects and some shit about solar cells that I don't give a rat's ass about. Yawn.

* All in all: The Man with the Golden Gun is not a completely useless movie, although it gets close. There are some shiny pearls in there, but they're few and far between, and floating in a sea of feces.
Not worth the dip, then.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Superficial Bond Reviews --- #08: Live and Let Die

* After a so-what opening with some dudes being killed, the Live and Let Die tune blasts off, and it friggin' rocks!
So Wings did something worthwhile, after all.

* So we get to meet the new James Bond - Roger Moore - and there's hardly anything new about the man at all. Strangely, though, the new guy (old Moore) seems to carry his age in a more fitting way than the old guy, old Connery, even though the young and the old Connery looked better than the old Moore, and Lazenby was too young.
What I'm trying to say is that if you must have an old Bond, Moore is the guy... up to a certain point. We'll get back to that on a later date.

* I immediately dislike that we get to see Bond's apartment.
It's a piece of information that tears down a part of the mystery surrounding 007, and adds nothing of value. You may think that it's no big deal, but that's because you're an idiot.
We know that Bond probably has a home, but knowing is not the same as showing. By showing, you open the mind for thoughts like: Bond toasts bread, has a sock drawer, has had to call a plumber when his toilet got clogged, avoids his senile neighbor every day, has a smelly bathrobe, does his laundry...
One of the essential things about the James Bond mythology is that it gives us a break from the real world. It may hint at consequences, pain and darkness, just to keep us grounded a bit... but hint, don't peek into Bond's sock drawer!

* Gadget time. Bond gets a wristwatch with such magnetic force that it could deflect a bullet. That's so ludicrous, you could be a fanatic Bond fan with almost no sense of physics (or logic) at all, and still moan about it.
I'm still shaking my head by the time some assassin tries to kill Bond by not shooting a poison dart at him, but at his driver instead. Obviously, the assassin can predict that the driver's foot will freeze on the gas pedal, and run the car off the road so that they die. That's some advanced poison, man. Too bad it can't also paralyze my brain, so that I can accept this bullshit.

* Everything takes a lot of time in this movie. Thank God I've established a routine where I drink while watching. I revisit my theory about there being some kind of 2-hour ideal that the filmmakers aim for, and note that LaLD is 121 minutes long. Fine, but why do I have to suffer for it?

* Roger Moore in a suit, wearing black leather gloves, looks like a million bucks. (That's saying a lot. One million 1973-bucks is more than 4.9 million bucks now, adjusted for inflation).
The whole suit and glove thing makes him look like an assassin, and brings something out in Moore's Bond that no other Bond can match: coldness.
If he could just stay in that suit, everything would be fine. Without a shirt on, Moore looks a little doughy. And is he shaving his chest or what?

* The action finally starts to pick up a little. There's a "funny" chase scene involving a student plane in the airport that I don't care about, and a chase scene with a double-decker bus that somehow manages to be completely unexciting. I can't believe this director is the same dude who made Goldfinger.
I wonder if part of my lack of interest is due to the fact that the main bad guy is nothing but a drug dealer. Who cares? That's a job for Steven Seagal or some random cop, not James Friggin' Bond! Not even the man with one of the coolest names in history, YAPHET KOTTO!, can inject excitement into that.

* Still - Live and Let Die tries to compensate for the underachieving drug dealer premise by adding a couple of genuine 007 elements. Kotto's henchman - Huge Dude with Claw - is awesome and incredibly inefficient, which is proper for a Bond villain. In fact, dozens of people have an opportunity to kill 007 in this movie, but simply choose not to. It actually defies parody at one point, when Huge Dude with Claw drives Bond off to a swamp, doesn't shoot him or use the claw or any other weapon, leaves the lethal spy alone on a pond with gators surrounding him, and then proceeds to leave the area while nobody watches James Bond die.
All that for the opportunity to let Bond run on the backs of some reptiles. It ain't that fun, people!

* The endless boat chase has some merit to it, though, even if it gets repetitive about one third in.
And that redneck cop makes me want to stab someone in the face. If I wanted to watch Smokey and the Bandit or whatever, I'd do that. Cutting every sequence featuring that scene-raping character could improve the movie's overall quality by at least 50%.

* Another element that annoys me, is the whole voodoo thing.
I mean, it's OK that young Dr. Quinn believes that 007 bangs the Tarot-readin' mojo out of her by popping her cherry. That is because everything can be explained by her being an impressionable simpleton, and by Kotto being a superstitious black dude (like the "cute" racism in Dr. No).
But then that whole Baron Samedi shit starts to happen, and all of a sudden - WT holy F!? - Samedi's head gets shot open, and cracks like an egg while he rolls his eyes like a cartoon character! I feel like I'm watching Tim Burton's James Bond, and it makes me angry. Like the Planet of the Apes remake.

"I squish your head, Mr. Bond. Like this. *Squish!* You die."

* But anger is good. Anger gets me through the uninspired Bond Bad Guy Lair, through another batch of harmless sharks, and through Kotto's ridiculously cartoony death by explosion.

* Finally, it all ends with a train fight that would be OK, if it weren't for the fact that it's already been done, only a few Bond movies back. Oh, and it also doesn't help that Roger Moore can't fight at all. It actually looks that this is the very first time Moore tries to act like he's fighting.
The last thing we see in Live and Let Die, is the laughing Baron Samedi sitting in front of the train. What's that irritatingly redundant character laughing at, you may ask? Probably the fact that young Dr. Quinn is inside the train, getting a celebratory bang by a guy who's three times her age.