Tag Archives: craig

Spectre

Image via Wikipedia

I saw Spectre when it came out, but never got around to writing the review – probably because I tend to write my reviews on the couch where I can push pause and make some notes. Harder to do that in a movie theater! But I thought I would cross one big item off my to-do list for 2017 and get the reviews finally up to date! -Eira

Plot in twenty words or less: The world’s intelligence services are duped into a global surveillance system run by an international crime syndicate.

How it’s aged: Spectre only came out in 2015, and it certainly seems quite contemporary (surveillance technology – specifically DRONES! – and signal intelligence as a replacement for human intelligence). But in the context of watching this again post-Brexit and the entire upside-down chaos of the last couple years, M’s awkward (and overly-romantic) defense of the 00-program as not just a superior approach to intelligence, but as a bulwark against the anti-democratic surveillance state seems a little…. dubious, to me.

At the same time, it is pretty interesting and a bit subversive by Bond standards that the movie makes the point that surveillance states play into the hands of terrorists – and in this case, it’s the terrorist organization that is designing and selling the global intelligence system that M’s nemesis, C, is hellbent on strong-arming the world’s superpowers into using for international intelligence sharing.

I forget whether I’ve discussed this in previous posts, but there are some intriguing theories around what the Bond series represents as a multi-decade cultural phenomenon, and my favorite one is that Bond represents the end of the British empire. As a post-colonial power, what is Britain’s role in the world? How does Bond personify that? Following this line of thinking, the depersonalization of intelligence apparatus from that of a white guy with a license to kill to a fleet of drones (also with a license to kill) doesn’t represent The Future Departing From The Past so much as it represents The Past Dressed Up as The Future.

Something that was just weird and/or WTF y’all: When Bond and Dr Swann break into the secret room in the Americain Inn in Tangier and find the old ~*~*~DUSTY~*~*~ satellite phone computer console…how….did it….power….up? I love how in movies old electronic devices just TURN RIGHT ON, if that happened in my life as a digital archivist, my life would be much easier.

Another annoying thing: surely British intelligence files don’t just use a newspaper story as proof of death?! But they kept saying THE FILES SAY OBERHAUSER IS DEAD!!! (oh wait, nevermind, he’s alive under an assumed name!) Did no one try to get a coroner’s report? (Though I guess Blofeld could have fabricated that and planted it too)

Obligatory feminist commentary: Bond starts out the movie on a mission sent from beyond-the-grave-Judi-Dench’s-M, and would not have been able to complete critical parts without assistance from Moneypenny and Dr Swann. There is a pretty excruciating scene at the end where Blofeld taunts 007 in front of Dr Swann that every woman he’s loved in his recent life has died, which I’m sure you can spin out somehow into the aforementioned symbolism of Bond-as-postcolonial-symbolism.

Completely hypothetical cultural reference points: Not at all hypothetical, but Sam Mendes seems to be keeping up the tradition of throwback Bond references. The most obvious one in this movie was Blofeld’s mean looking white cat. But I was scratching my head because I think there was another movie back in the day where Bond and a female guest were essentially prisoners in a hotel and given special clothes to wear.

Superficial Thing that did not Amuse Me: When Bond and Dr Swann jumped out of the old MI6 headquarters, how the hell was there such a convenient net at the bottom to break their fall?!?!

Superficial Thing that highly Amused Me: It’s been a while since we had a good alpine scene in a Bond movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the updating of it by Q working on his laptop in a ski lift – the only thing he was missing were some hex stickers.

Interesting and possibly dubious thing I learned from Wikipedia: Spectre made a comeback because Eon finally settled an intellectual property claim case around its use. Also, the opening scene with the giant parade in Mexico City is pretty incredible and made me miss New Orleans’ parade culture like crazy, but according to the ‘pedia, no such central Día de Muertos parade existed in Mexico City until the city officials capitalized on Spectre and put one on in 2016 (!!)

Martini rating: Six martinis martini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblog

Administrative information concerning this viewing:

Drinks consumed: Red wine
Food eaten: Cheese, crackers, jam, homemade bread
Viewed on: December 31, 2017 (Happy New Year!!)
Viewing Partner: Husband and Cat (yes, between this review and reviewing Skyfall, Fiance is now Husband!)
Posted in review. Tagged with .

Skyfall

Image via Wikipedia

Well here we are, friends. The last Bond review I’ll have to crank out until the new theatrical release (oh, you thought this whole thing was over? think again! but now you’ll have to go two years between updates or however long it takes for each subsequent release). It only took me just under a couple years to get from Dr. No to this point. Skyfall is actually a really great movie to end this phase of the blog — it’s so self-referential to several previous Bond movies that I think I appreciated it more this time around than the first time I saw it in theaters.

The first sound starts with the opening strain of the Bond theme. And the pre-credits chase scene is Bond 101, with a beautiful woman conveniently driving up a getaway car while KNOCKING OVER ALL THE MARKET STANDS!! And although we’ve come to expect parkour with Daniel Craig, this time we get MOTORCYCLE-PARKOUR!

Adele is such a perfect pick for the Bond theme song — definitely reminiscent of Shirley Bassey in a way I don’t think we’ve heard since… Shirley Bassey.

I’m not sure which reintroduction makes me happier – Moneypenny or Q. Although no one can replace my beloved Desmond Llewellyn, and I fear with new-Q’s quip that exploding pens are a thing of the past, we won’t see any more weirdly dorky gadgets again.

Plot in twenty words or less: A former agent gone rogue is behind the leak of several MI6 agent names. It’s the most self-referential Bond movie.

How it’s aged: This is almost a very silly question to ask, and it’s hard to think about how this movie will be perceived in the future. But the first thing that struck me is that it is very “of its time” — when M sees how her computer has been compromised, she gets a sort of video that seems vaguely inspired by a meme you might see from a mild stew of Anonymous/chan culture/the places on Reddit you’re routinely warned to avoid. Then the terrorist cell starts leaking videos to YouTube — also very familiar.

Random thought — as we’re seeing Bond delve more into the word of what’s arguably signal intelligence, does this mean GCHQ would begin to play a role in the Bond world? I know very little (read: nothing beyond what I can find on Wikipedia) about British security/intelligence apparatus, but in real life would all of the intelligence work we see depicted in Skyfall really happen in the wheelhouse of MI6?

I wonder if it was really weird for British folks to watch all the mayhem happening with the Tube considering the 2005 London attacks deliberately targeted the city’s transportation system.

Something that was just weird and/or WTF y’all: I originally put this in the feminist commentary category, but moved it up here, because there’s precedent for talking about “Bond’s issues with consent and boundaries” in the WTF category:

Ugh, so we’re going to have to get the most problematic scene out of the way first. The rape-y shower scene. And the fact that Bond knows Severin was sold into prostitution as a young child makes it extra jacked up. I don’t really know what else to say about this scene except it really sucks and casts a real shadow on what is otherwise an almost pitch perfect Bond movie.

Obligatory feminist commentary:  Now on to the better stuff.

I really don’t think there’s enough digital ink spilled on the very tender relationship between Judi-Dench-M and Bond. My old boss and I used to talk about this (hi Lee, I know you read this!) and I think it’s a really underrated aspect of Daniel Craig’s turn as Bond. I don’t recall M having any children, and when Bond is addressing her, to my American ears it often sounds more like “Mum” than “M.” When Bond shows up at M’s apartment in Casino Royale, M tells him if he ever does that again she’ll have him killed, but when he does it again in Skyfall, she doesn’t tell him anything except not to sleep there tonight. It’s sort of like Bond knows that however badly he effs up, however lost he gets, he can always stop by the closest thing resembling home. I tend to be a movie-crier, and so I’m sure I probably weeped at M’s death when I first saw this in theaters (and I got a little misty-eyed on re-watch). I have faith in Ralph Fiennes at the new M, but I don’t see him having quite the same connection with Bond.

To say that I am excited by the seeming rehabilitation of Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris, would be quite an understatement. And luckily it looks like she’ll be around in Spectre. I think her character could be really phenomenal, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Completely hypothetical cultural reference points: When Gareth says “we no longer operate in the shadows,” this seems to be a direct reference to Stella Rimington’s (famous archivist, former MI5 head, and allegedly the inspiration for Judi Dench’s portrayal of M) efforts to be more transparent about MI5.

Also I think the scene in which Dench testifies before a committee is reminiscent of the final scene in The Godfather, which cuts between scenes of unfolding terror and scenes of major gravitas.

Superficial Thing that did not Amuse Me: It’s always really bothered me that you never really see how Bond survives his fall from the train.

Superficial Thing that highly Amused Me: Radio as a useful gadget! What’ll they think of next?! I like the way Bond plays this when the helicopters come to his rescue.

Interesting and possibly dubious thing I learned from Wikipedia: For about half a second Sean Connery was considered for the part of Kincade. Also, Silva’s island lair was inspired by this Japanese island which has a pretty interesting history.

Martini rating: Seven martinis!!! martini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblog

Administrative information concerning this viewing:

Drinks consumed: Hot tea and Sam Adams White Christmas

Food eaten: Leftover bibimbap

Viewed on: January 18, 2015

Viewing Partner: The Fiance and The Cat

 

Posted in review. Tagged with .

Quantum of Solace

Image via Wikipedia

So if you’ve ever doubted whether screen writers are worth the dough, or whether you could really just throw a bunch of monkeys on typewriters in a room and get a movie script, look no further than Quantum of Solace. Famous for having a half-baked script thanks to the 2007-2008 writers strike, this movie often ends up in many people’s worst Bond movies list. Look, this isn’t anywhere close to the top 10 Bond films, but I certainly wouldn’t place it at the bottom either. That said, let’s make sure the screen writers don’t have to go on strike again, because a “meh” Bond film is always a sad waste of 100 minutes.

Plot in twenty words or less:  The head of a criminal organization dedicated to overthrowing governments in developing countries is also behind a water privatization scheme

How it’s aged: The first post-credits scene in which the guy was about to be interrogated felt very much like some scenes from several post 9/11 movies or documentaries. Also thought it interesting that there were shots of the crowd minutes after Bond and the guy he was pursuing ran through because you rarely see the after-effects of Bond chase scenes collateral damage.

Something that was just weird and/or WTF y’all: How did Bond get his tux? It seems like he lifted it from an opera performer’s locker, but did he actually have a tux as his costume? Didn’t look like it from the scenes we caught of Tosca

Obligatory feminist commentary: I really appreciated the tender scene of Bond holding Matthis while he was dying, and it struck me that we see this again in Skyfall. Even though Craig is often credited with having an anti-hero swagger, I think he has an inner interior life we only really begin to appreciate in Skyfall. Building on the themes of M as a (reluctant) family figure… When Camille asks whether Greene tried to kill his mother, Bond replies “She’d like to think so” obviously referring to M.

I was trying to remember — I’m not sure if we’ve had any women acting out revenge narratives until now? On final reflection, this was the least amount of sexy times I’ve ever seen in a Bond movie — just some implied romps with Strawberry Fields and a chaste kiss with Camille at the end. Was he still nursing his sadness for Vesper or was it just because this script was a first draft (at best!)…?

Completely hypothetical cultural reference points: M’s debriefer is the Prime Minister from the first episode of Black Mirror. Also, did anyone else think the toppling of caskets off the top of the truck in Port Au Prince was an homage to the New Orleans funeral scene in Live and Let Die…? Obviously Strawberry Fields drowning in oil is the biggest self-referential scene of all time, back to Goldfinger.

Isn’t there another Bond movie where a bunch of people leave in the middle of some big public event? Or maybe some dystopian movie that came out in the last few years? Perhaps I’m having deja vu. I trawled the TV Tropes website in hopes of finding an answer, but came up short. If anyone can solve this riddle for me, I’d be grateful.

Superficial Thing that did not Amuse Me:  How the hell do they free fall through the air out of an airplane and Camille’s high heels are still on?

Superficial Thing that highly Amused Me: Love that M called the Americans’ bluff right away when they said Dominic Greene was not a person of interest — and in the next scene we see the American section chief meeting with him while Felix looks on. No matter how much sheen the American Empire loses, the Brits will never let us forget our inferiority when it comes to Bond movies.

Interesting and possibly dubious thing I learned from Wikipedia:  Amy Winehouse recorded a demo track for the movie

Martini rating:  Three martinis (under this guiding philosophy) martini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblog

Administrative information concerning this viewing:
Drinks consumed: Sam Adams Old Fezziwig ale
Food eaten: Leftover soup
Viewed on: January 4, 2015
Viewing Partner: The Fiance and the cat

Posted in review. Tagged with .

Casino Royale

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

So. I am an unapologetic Daniel Craig fan. My only issue with him is that he makes me slightly misty for the quippiness of earlier Bonds like Roger Moore. But aside from that, he’s perfect. Earlier in the movie, Bond mentions he’s aware 00-agents have short life spans, which reminds me of the question of the continuity theory… but I’ll leave that continuing debate to the more passionate Bond fans.

The only downside to this movie is it’s just too damn long. Look, the world does not need a Bond movie that’s over 90 minutes. I wish the movie and publishing industry in general would realize that even in our oft-distracted culture, longer does not mean better. And what better place to turn the trend back to concision with the Bond franchise. One can hope, but Skyfall was also over 2 hours, so perhaps I shouldn’t hold my breath any time soon.

Plot in twenty words or less:  If Bond botches this big time poker game, the terrorists are going to win. Literally.

How it’s aged: This Bond is very post-9/11 War on Terror, especially when Bond taps into some NSA-like system to search “Ellipsis” in call/text log metadata, then M says that the administration doesn’t want to know what they do, just that they want them to do the dirty work. Sound familiar? The Bond torture scene when he finds out Mathis is a double-agent is very Guantanamo Bay/Abu Ghraib

I love the scene where Felix offers to stake 007 and turns down potential winnings — “Does it look like we need the money?” THANKS, AMERICA. It’s nice to see a cooler Felix.

Something that was just weird and/or WTF y’all: In the opening cobra vs. ferret scene, there’s totally a blond white surfer dude in the crowd of locals and it doesn’t appear to be a tourist destination..?

Obligatory feminist commentary: If I recall correctly (and this has been a long ride, so my memory isn’t infallible…) I believe this is the first time we see M’s apartment, when Bond breaks in. Without a doubt, Judi Dench will go down in Bond history as making M an actually interesting character as opposed to just window dressing. I do think showing M’s apartment is something that only happened for the first time because M was played by a woman in this particular title (insert feminist commentary here about the separate spheres of female life, the apartment as interior life, etc etc).

And then… OH MAH GAWD, James Bond said he loves someone! (to Vesper towards the end). And then a few scenes later he says he took care of “the bitch.” No matter how empowered Bond women get, ultimately they’re still all too often objects that get in the way of a clean mission. Which is why if the Broccoli family ever really wants to conduct a massive pop culture experiment in gender roles, they’d cast a woman as the next James Bond.

Completely hypothetical cultural reference points: Demetrios’ 1964 Aston-Martin key being put on the table at a poker game brings up shades of 60s Sean Connery Bond, and the end is very shades of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Le Chiffre’s use of the inhaler reminds me of Dennis Hopper using the oxygen tank from Blue Velvet

Superficial Thing that did not Amuse Me:  When Vesper was crying in the shower, why was her makeup perfect?

Superficial Thing that highly Amused Me:  When the guy was going through Miami security, RICHARD BRANSON was totally being screened next to him. I made my Fiance go back and we rewatched the scene to be sure. If you don’t believe me, Google it.

Interesting and possibly dubious thing I learned from Wikipedia: Quentin Tarantino claimed to play a role in getting the movie off the ground.

Martini rating: Seven martinis martini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblogmartini-glass-1-32px_blogjamesblog

Administrative information concerning this viewing:

Drinks consumed: Great Lakes Oktoberfest

Food eaten: Stir-fried tofu with cabbage and carrots

Viewed on: November 22

Viewing Partner: The Fiance and the cat

 

Posted in review. Tagged with .