Monday, November 16, 2015

Movie Review - Spectre

  After our dinner at Rancho Adelinas (you can see the review here), Kathy and I headed to the movie theater to see the new James Bond movie Spectre which is the fourth in the series with Daniel Craig playing 007. The first two Bond movies featuring Craig portrayed Bond as more of an action hero than a super spy and I thought they were great. The last Bond movie Skyfall was one of my least favorites with Bond in ‘McGyver’ mode as he fought off an army of spies and soldiers in his childhood home in the Scottish highlands with some paperclips and a car battery. I also didn’t like the heavy emphasis on Bond’s childhood and past. When I watch a James Bond movie I like to see action, adventure, and witty dialog and Skyfall was short in all three areas while long on pontifications about how James Bond became James Bond.

  I had high hopes for Spectre with the expectation that since the origin sagas had been told and the familiar cast of characters like ‘Q’, MoneyPenny, and ‘M’ already introduced in Skyfall this movie would be long on Bond action and short on Bond angst. We sat down in the theatre with three dozen or so other movie goers and the movie began.

  I don’t want to give too much of the movie away and I don’t think I am by saying the first 15 or so minutes are as action-packed as one would expect from a James Bond movie with 007 hunting down a terrorist threat in Mexico City while the streets are packed with a ‘Day of the Dead’ parade. The parade allows for plenty of weird skeleton costumes and panic in the streets when Bond’s confrontation with the bad guys lead to a building being demolished and a fight aboard an out of control helicopter dipping and diving perilously close to the crowd while Bond and his companion take turns being almost thrown out of the helicopter that travels every direction including straight up and straight down. This opening action was almost as good as the chase through the African town in Casino Royale.

  What struck me the most about Spectre was how it seemed mix the classic Sean Connery Bond with Daniel Craig’s action oriented take on the character. Craig was certainly channeling some Connery smooth when he seduces the widow of the man he killed to get some information about the criminal organization that he worked for. Did I mention that the seduction occurred the evening of her husband’s funeral. There was also a Conneryesque fight on a train where a physically outmatched Bond fights a massive hitman and only escapes via a conveniently placed rope wrapped around his adversary’s neck and some beer kegs which the hitman follows off the train. Once the train fight is over we get to see Bond in Craig mode as he and his latest love interest lustily go at each other after she was professing hatred at Bond for exposing her identity less than a half hour beforehand.

  Another element that came straight out of a Connery movie was when the villain of the movie captures Bond but instead of killing him like any pedestrian super-villain, decides on an insidious plot to strap him to a chair and drill holes in his head to gradually take away pieces of his mind with a device he no doubt specifically designed for that purpose. Naturally Bond escapes only to captured, hooded, zip-tied, and held in a truck under the watchful glare of two massive armed guards. As the truck doors open, the Daniel Craig Bond appears and takes out both guards in hand to hand combat while hooded and zip-tied.

  Writer John Logan and director Sam Mendes continued their use of Bond’s past as one of the main plot drivers with the main villain using the resources of his global empire to not only take over the worlds information systems but also to revenge a childhood grudge against Bond by revealing he was behind the deaths of the former ‘M’ and Bond girl Vesper in the previous movies. Thankfully these tidbits of Bond’s past served to give the movie nudges in particular directions and not become the entire story.

  The only thing I didn’t like about this movie was the portrayal of MI-6 (the spy agency that employs Bond and runs the ‘00’ license to kill program) and the one of the most ineffectual agencies ever. This group had no clue that the mysterious ‘Spectre’ organization even exists and has so little intelligence on the members of their own group or the mysterious ‘C’ that is taking over the entire worlds intelligence gathering through the ‘Nine Eyes’ initiative that everyone is shocked when some of them turn out to be agents of ‘Spectre’. I would have enjoyed more of a battle of wits between two highly competent organizations instead of MI-6 waiting for Bond to save the day.

  Spectre is a great spy/action movie and the best of the Daniel Craig James Bond movies. It looks like the franchise has found a way to integrate the smoothness the character should have with the action oriented slant Craig brings to the role. Craig is signed on for one more Bond movie and then it may be time for a new Bond to appear. With a few ups and downs along the way the Bond franchise is still going strong and it appears the proper formula has been found to mix the secret agent and action genres. James Bond movies are over 50 years old. When I think of long lasting entertainment franchises only Star Trek comes to mind as a rival to James Bond. Both franchises have had reboots, cast changes, and went dormant in the movies for a period (Bond was movie less from 1989-1995 and Star Trek from 2002-2009). Star Trek is different in that it has ensemble casts and had multiple television shows. I can’t imagine James Bond ever being a television show but I can easily see it being one of the binge-watch type of shows that gets released all at once on a Netflix or Amazon Prime. Marvel and DC comics have shown the profitability of combining movies and television shows and I think it’s only a matter of time before the Bond franchise follows suit and cashes in with a television series.

  You may not have noticed but my computer aided basketball predictions went 4-0 on Friday to boost my record to 9-2 and my mythical winnings to $680. This has prompted me to add a 'Donate' button so the readers that are profiting from my basketball predictive prowess can throw a tip or two my way. The formula I'm using has a decided bias towards road underdogs which is a hard way to make a living in my opinion. The road dogs in Friday's games could have gone either way with the Timberwolves, Hornets, and Trailblazers all trailing by more than the point spread at some point in the last five minutes. My program went 2-3 over the weekend and has spit out five picks for tonight's games with four more road teams being picked. I want to see this formula in action a bit more so I won't be risking my bankroll on tonight's games but I will publish the computer predictions for information purposes only. My program likes Indiana getting 5 at Chicago, Boston getting 4.5 at Houston, the Thunder getting 2 at Memphis, Dallas giving 8.5 at Philadelphia, and the home Spurs giving 12 to the Trailblazers. The lines are from the lines as listed on the Yahoo Sports page and I want to stress again that I am not playing tonight's games, mythically or otherwise.