Monday, September 19, 2016


Year 8, Day 263 - 9/19/16 - Movie #2,455

BEFORE: So the news came down on Saturday night about a bomb exploding in Manhattan on 23rd St., and then they found another device on 27th St. - the two blocks involved just happened to be where the animation studio I work for used to be, and where it is currently.  It was hard not to read some significance into that, and I had to tell myself it was just an odd coincidence.  I walk down that block of 23rd St. at least twice a week, right by that residence for the blind.  It's a bit of a shock to the system, especially since I was only about one block away from the World Trade Center bombing - the first one, in 1992, not the big one in 2001.  But hearing people describe the sound of the bomb brought my memories of that day in '92 right back. 

Of course, I was nowhere near my workplace on a Saturday night - why would I be?  I was at home watching TV.  But watching the footage of a security noose tightening around a 4-block area of Manhattan, and I know that drugstore, I use that ATM, there's the place I get my Monday morning bagel, for cripes sake...  And not knowing the culprit or the cause, or what this means for the future, it's all very unnerving.  How much tighter is security going to be at New York Comic-Con, just a little over two weeks from now?  What does this mean for the election, if the bomber has ties to ISIS, does that mean more votes for Trump?  That might even be scarier than the bombings.  

Daniel Craig carries over from "Layer Cake" (and so does Ben Whishaw), and I'll see him one more time this year, at the very end of the Halloween chain.  Of course, I realized too late that part of this film is set during the Mexican "Day of the Dead" celebration, which is the day after Halloween.  So now I'm kicking myself, because this would have been a perfect film to watch on November 1.  But I'm locked into a chain now, it's too late to move things around.  And if I moved this film to Nov. 1, I'd have nothing else to link to - so I'm committed to watching it here.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Skyfall" (Movie #1,464)

THE PLOT: A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

AFTER: Speaking of terrorists, and bombs, James Bond finally faces off against SPECTRE, the organization behind all of the mayhem and mischief in the first three Daniel Craig Bond films.  And it turns out that Bond has a personal connection to the chief architect, the man with the plan (and the furry white cat).  How very "Count of Monte Cristo", to find out that his enemy was once his friend, and he carries a very personal grudge, for desiring what the other one had.  

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I watched the majority of the James Bond films back in 2013, even the one or two I'd seen before, just to be a completist.  And my biggest struggle was deciding what order to watch them in, since there were bound to be timeline problems and contradicting or overlapping information, no matter what order I chose.  I decided against watching the stories in the order that Ian Fleming wrote them, because the movies were all so different from the books.  I also decided against watching the films in the order they were released, because that didn't make sense either.  After all, Bond's origin movie didn't occur until the 21st film, "Casino Royale", as most people now discount the original "Casino Royale" from 1967, because it's a very silly film. 

What I settled on was watching the first two Craig films, "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace", then snapping back to "Dr. No" and progressing up through Connery, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan, to finally arrive at "Skyfall".  Of course, this didn't make much sense in the end either, because Bond's appearance kept changing, characters that died in one film were suddenly alive again in a later film, Judi Dench was "M", then she wasn't, then she was again, and so on.  But that was going to happen, no matter what order I chose.  Anyway, it was the best I could do to try and parse some kind of chronology out of the whole series.  

But if you just treat "Casino Royale" as a reboot and only count the four Daniel Craig films as the "new" Bond timeline, which I assume the newer generation is being encouraged to do, then "Spectre" is suddenly very important, because it marks the first appearance in the new timeline of a very important character, whose identity you've probably already guessed.  And while it's about as much of a surprise as the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch's character in "Star Trek Into Darkness", it still needs to be regarded with some respect. 

But first Bond has to stop a terrorist group from blowing up a stadium in Mexico City, and this means disrupting said Day of the Dead celebration with a sniper attack, a demolished building and a fight on a helicopter.  After exercising his license to kill, Bond beds that man's widow and finds out where the SPECTRE organization is holding their next meeting.  It's kind of like a deadly job fair, where assassins are recruited, and then there's a bake sale.  JK.  

After outwitting an assassin, Bond then goes to Austria to track down an old enemy - however, he's not supposed to be doing any of this, because the Double-O program is in the middle of being shut down, in favor of a new camera-based intelligence gathering service.  So he goes rogue with the help of Q, and some gadgets he's not even supposed to have, to get out in the field again, where he belongs. 

Geez, I haven't done one of these Bond breakdowns in quite a while, I hope I remember how...

LOCATIONS: Mexico City, Rome, Austria, Tangiers, London

VILLAINS: Mr. White, Hinx and you-know-who

BABES: Lucia Sciarra, Madeline Swann (what, no clever sexy puns?)

ALLIES: M, Q, Miss Moneypenny

PASTIMES: Chess (not really...) 

CARS: Aston Martin DB10, Aston Martin DB5

GADGETS: Just a watch with a little extra something

THEME: "Writing's on the Wall" by Sam Smith.  OK, so it's no "Skyfall", but it was perfectly serviceable.    

One of the biggest positives, I think, was the stunts - they really went all out on this one.  Sure, they're impossible, but that's what Bond does, the impossible.  The most unlikely, outrageous and jaw-dropping was probably when Bond flew a plane to take out a caravan of Land Rovers, which involved creatively destroying the plane as it crashed down a mountainside, and produced exactly the intended result of disabling three cars on the way down.  I can safely say I've never seen a movie stunt quite like that one.  The car chases, meh, I've seen dozens of them, but a PLANE chasing cars, well, that's something special.  

The destruction of buildings is another matter, and that happened THREE times during this film, three variations on the sort of collapsing building effects that were seen in the last two "Superman" films, and many other recent sci-fi films, and honestly, I'm over it.  It all seems like an unconscious reflection of what we all saw on 9/11, and I'm pretty darn sick of that.  Can't action movies find something more interesting to blow up than buildings?  I mean, any idiot can blow up a building, let's be a little more creative, OK?  

NITPICK POINT: Who the heck puts an Austrian Psychiatric Institute on the top of a mountain, where you need to ride a ski-lift to get to it?  What's the matter, was there no office space left in downtown Geneva?  What are you supposed to do if a mental patient is afraid of heights?  This made zero sense. 

It's probably not the last Bond film, but it ends in such a fashion that if it turns out to be that, there's something of a resolution.  Bond has worked out all of his relationship issues and defeated all of the bad men, although something tells me at least one of them will come back...  

Also starring Christoph Waltz (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Lea Seydoux (last seen in "The Grand Budapest Hotel"), Ralph Fiennes (last seen in "Maid in Manhattan"), Naomie Harris (last seen in "28 Days Later..."), Dave Bautista (last seen in "Riddick"), Monica Bellucci (last seen in "Under Suspicion"), Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear (last seen in "The Imitation Game"), Jesper Christensen (last seen in "The Interpreter"), Alessandro Cremona, Stephanie Sigman, Marc Zinga, with a cameo from Judi Dench (last seen in "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"). 

RATING:  8 out of 10 safe houses

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