Spectre (Movie Review)

I like to think that Daniel Craig got the part of James Bond by murdering Pierce Brosnan with his bare hands and taking his suit. Would you really be surprised?

Everyone’s favourite alcoholic, mass-murdering man-whore is going back to the basics! And by “basics”, I don’t mean “Scottish accent, casual 60’s sexism and villains/women with extremely implausible names. ”

 Spectre

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Produced by: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli

Screenplay by: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth

Story by:  John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade

Based on: James Bond by Ian Fleming

Genre: Spy. Duh.

Starring: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci

Music by: Thomas Newman

Cinematography by: Hoyte van Hoytema

Plot: After an unauthorized assassination mission in Mexico City gets slightly out of hand, James Bond (Daniel Craig) decides to investigate a shadowy, malevolent organisation named Spectre that seems to be controlling world events is somehow linked to him for unknown reasons. Ignoring M (Ralph Fiennes), he decides to  venture forth into the world to find out what Spectre’s deal is. Meanwhile, back at home, M is involved in a power struggle with C (Andrew Scott), the head of the Joint Intelligence Services, who wants to get rid of the “00” program and institute a global intelligence organisation that would make the NSA look like kids’ stuff. Shenanigans ensue

If you were to take the opening Mexico City sequence of Spectre, cut out everything that comes after it, and present just that scene as a James Bond short film, I would be absolutely thrilled with it. This sequence is incredibly aesthetically pleasing, with an action scene that ranks among the best in the franchise, a tracking shot that would make Martin Scorsese feel a slight twinge of jealousy, and Day of the Dead imagery that generally looks awesome. It was amazing, and as the first act clipped along, Spectre had me by the throat. It was so much goddamn fun.

And then the second and third acts happened, making that first act one of the more prominent examples of cinematic blue balls in the history of film.

Before I start shitting on Spectre, I should point out that it’s really not even that bad of a movie. It’s not particularly good, sure, but it’s not like it’s overwhelmingly bad, either. Instead, it finds itself floating in the purgatorial ether, being not good enough to overwhelmingly praise, but also not so bad that I can go Fantastic Four on it. That’s frustrating for me, seeing how I’m pretty much incapable of conveying any emotion on a movie besides exaggerated positivity or overwhelming hatred, but such is life.

There are things to like about Spectre thouh, and they do help make up for some of its many faults. Daniel Craig continues to impress as a Darker and Grittier Bond who, interestingly enough, is referred to as being an “assassin” frequently throughout the movie, which I kind of like, as the job title kind of fits the tone that the Craig movies are going for.  At this point, it’s a toss-up between him and Sean Connery in the race for my Favourite Bond, but I’m leaning towards Craig, as he kind of looks like he could break Connery in half with only his pinky finger.

Right after curb-stomping Roger Moore, drop-kicking Timothy Dalton and eating George Lazenby alive.

The other cast members also do a solid job, although that compliment comes with some caveats, which I’ll get into later.

As was the case in the other recent Bond films (Even, you know, that one. Please don’t make me speak its name), the action, when it does occur-

*Cough*.

-is extremely well-directed by Sam Mendes, cementing his newfound reputation as an excellent action director (Which is what we had all predicted after watching American Beauty, obviously). Even more impressive is the gorgeous cinematography from the excellently named Hoyte van Hoytema and the score from Thomas Newman (Although admittedly, when the bare minimum you’re expected to do in the score is this, that simplifies the composer’s job of pumping up the audience, I would expect)

Just the very act of hearing that theme makes me want to chain-smoke, binge drink, speak with a Scottish accent, and punch a racial caricature in the face.

With that out of the way, do you remember that obvious foreshadowing from a few paragraphs ago? Well, it’s time for it to come into play!

While the action in Spectre is extremely impressive, these kinds of scenes become few and far between from the second half onward, and the fact that this movie has a two-and-a-half hour long runtime doesn’t help one bit. In the meantime, we’re left with Bond’s relationship with Lea Seydoux’s character, his relationship with Christoph Waltz’s character, and the M vs. C subplot, straight out of Mission:Impossible- Rogue Nation. Out of those three, the last one is probably the most entertaining, but that’s only because M and Q have some funny lines in them, it’s not because that subplot is anything worth writing home about.

Lea Seydoux is a great actress, and I’m glad she’s getting a lot of work now, but I wanted to punch her character in the face every time she appeared on screen. I’m still waiting for an explanation  of how she mattered to the plot in any extent, and her whining about her daddy issues and how Bond is an asshole for saving her are both tiresome tropes that should’ve died out in the Mesozoic Era during which they were conceived.

Some of the drama in the movie also revolves around the question of “Is this the girl who’ll finally be the one to win Bond’s heart?” Fuck that. It’s not so much that this trope bothers me if it’s done well (As in: Every single spy movie known to man-fucking-kind), but if THIS was the girl to turn Bond from a badass killing machine into, I dunno, a fucking soccer dad, I would probably lose all faith in humanity.

And now we get to the villain. I could name a million reasons why SPECTRE and Franz Oberhauser make no fucking sense and are generally stupid and idiotic. I’m going to name two.

First of all, Christoph Waltz in any role should be a home run (Just ask Quentin Tarantino!), especially as a villain. He isn’t helped out by the plot though, and he kind of comes across as though he’s phoning it in. It doesn’t exactly help that he appears in exactly three scenes, and we have to wait almost two goddamned hours just to see him again. We sure have learned a lot of backstory about him, though! A backstory that is so phoned by the Powers That Be that my eyes rolled so far into the back of my head that I can’t see anymore. I’m actually screaming this into a tape recorder, and it’s going to be written into the blog by a street urchin that I’ve kept chained up in my basement for this very purpose.

Seamus, if I come home, and you’re still bitching about your goddamned dead parents, I’m rescinding your privilege to look me in the eyes when speaking to me!

Where was I? Oh. Right.

Second of all, even with this half-assed backstory, we learn very little about him. How did he become the leader of Spectre? What does he hope to get out of Spectre? How did he get his fearsome reputation? And how exactly did he and Spectre engineer the events of Casino Royale, the second one, and Skyfall? Wouldn’t you like to know? So the fuck would I! After the sophisticated, intricate  storytelling of Skyfall, I guess the filmmakers decided audiences would be happy with a villain whose character is even more minimalistic than those from the early Bond films, with none of the personality.

I dunno, maybe audiences are gonna be fine with it. I’m happy with whining pretentiously from my high horse, though.

Overall: I enjoyed Spectre for the things that it does well, but it’s shortcomings are just too numerous for me to call it a “good” movie. Look at it way: 2 out of 4 in baseball ain’t bad!!!

Rating: 6/10

The opening titles are fucking incredible though, so there’s that.

Guardians of the Galaxy (Movie Review)

 

Am I alone in thinking that Ronan’s face paint makes him look kind of adorable?

Sooo……Better late than never!?!?

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

Directed by: James Gunn

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Screenplay by: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman

Based on: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Franchise: Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tenth installment)

Genres: Superhero, Science fiction

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael  Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro

Music by: Tyler Bates

 

 

Plot: Twenty-six years after he was abducted and adopted by a group of intergalactic space pirates led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), now a fully-fledged outlaw, has gone rogue, trying to steal a mystical orb of sorts and hopefully make some money off of it. However, his plan hits a snag when he is sent to…Uh, space prison, I guess, by the famed Nova Corps of Planet Xandar. While in the clink, he meets several interesting characters, namely a notorious assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a hyper-violent, vengeful badass named Drax (Dave Bautista), a tough-talking, trigger-happy genetically altered racoon bounty hunter named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and finally, Rocket’s sweet-natured sidekick, a giant talking tree named Groot (Vin Diesel).

Yes, Marvel greenlit this movie instead of, say, a Black Panther or Captain Marvel movie. Two years ago, that line of reasoning was kind of confusing to everybody, wasn’t it?

Anyways, this motley group of intergalactic rejects discovers that this orb has a little bit more to it than being a shiny thing they can sell for cash, and they must travel across the galaxy in order to keep it from falling into the hands of a genocidal maniac and terrorist, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and his henchmen, Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Korath (Djimon Hounsou).

This month, Marvel and Disney proved that not only can they adapt pretty much any D-list product from the annals of Marvel’s archive into a movie, they will also make a shit-ton of money off of it, and get every critic to cream themselves over it. The movie is a soli 92% over on Rotten Tomatoes and is on pace to become the highest grossing movie of the year in the U.S. and Canada, although it’s still expected to fall short of the billion dollars that Transformers: Age of Extinction made internationally.

Thanks for that, China. Fucking assholes.

So, once again, the question must be asked: Do I think that this movie as good as the critics say? Or is it just a overrated, overblown corporate CGI turd that somehow brainwashed critics into liking it?

Of course I loved it. I’m not made of stone. There are a couple big flaws though, so let’s get them out of the way first.

The first time I saw this film, I was kinda thrown off in the first act or so, as the pacing is kinda, well, sloppy. I just felt that there was too much crap being thrown at the audience to the point where the first thirty minutes or so feel busy or cluttered. It’s pretty much smooth sailing from then on, though. I guess the key is to just watch the movie multiple times until you get to the point where it doesn’t bother you any more.

One recurring fault that seems to, unfortunately, be becoming a trend in Marvel movies, is a lack of a really compelling villain (Loki, Winter Soldier and Red Skull notwithstanding). Unfortunately, Guardians doesn’t really do much to distinguish itself from the herd in this sense. It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with Ronan, per se. Lee Pace’s performance is great, and he feels threatening enough (If you discount the emo makeup, I mean), but his backstory doesn’t extend much beyond him being a crazy extremist. He’s good for some fine scenery chewing, but not much else. Especially when us Marvel nerds know that Ultron and Thanos are just around the corner. However, for all my carrying on about the villain, I honestly think it’s a minor problem at best. Why? Because it’s incredibly obvious that he was never ever meant to be the focus of this movie. He’s only ever onscreen when the audience is in need of some exposition, or when he’s interacting with one or more of the Guardians.

Which brings me to the main characters. As much as the special effects are fantastic, the score is phenomenal and the movie, in general, is hilarious when it wants to be and pretty heavy when it wanted to be, the best part of the entire movie is anything to do with the Guardians of the Galaxy themselves. I already kinda liked the characters, thanks to my prior knowledge of the comic book series (Albeit, not the classic ’08 series. Just the recent series.), but I downright fell in love with them in this movie. Hell, I’m already planning my Star-Lord costume for Halloween! I haven’t gotten this excited about that silly holiday since I was, like, eight and dressed up like Harry Potter!

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord is great, and while I admit that I had my doubts about him, those opening credits absolutely killed, and extinguished any worries I may have had about him. Think Han Solo crossed with Peter Venkman, and you’ll probably end up with a good idea of this character. Also, there’s a pretty cool backstory connecting him to the awesome, 80’s infused soundtrack of this movie, so listen up for that.

I liked Zoe Saldana as Gamora, in her millionth role as an alien, and her thousandth role as somebody with an unusual skin pigment, and her character had some pretty great backstory, although when listening to her dialogue, I kind of got the impression that they weren’t sure whether to make her a more modern, witty heroine (Like Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender, for example) or a more stoic, eloquent badass, like her teammate, Drax. Ah well, that’s just me nitpicking, I suppose. It worked fine, and I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Speaking of Drax, I was kind of worried that Dave Bautista would be the only weak link among the fantastic cast, considering that he doesn’t come from an acting background, and is better known as the wrestler and MMA fighter Batista, and wrestlers don’t exactly have a long and storied connection with non-wrestling visual media.

Case in point.

However, Bautista blew away my expectations. It’s not like he’s Oscar-worthy or anything, but he was irreplaceable in the part of a character who, surprislingly, isn’t merely there to kick ass and take names (Although don’t worry, there’s plenty of that too). He has some of the best lines in the movie, in terms of both comedy and drama, and he displays some pretty impressive comic timing.

And I’m not just saying that because he could mangle my puny ass, although it does play a part.

My two favourite characters though, are the consensus picks, though, being Rocket and Groot. Oscar-nominated Bradley Cooper was an odd choice to voice a tough talking CGI raccoon bounty hunter and, I’ve gotta admit, it kinda smelt liked casting a celebrity for the sake of casting a celebrity. However, not once during the movie did his voice ever take me out of the movie (As even he best celebrity voices are wont to do), and he really disappears into this character.

I really love Vin Diesel as adorable Groot too. Weirdly enough, a lot of the criticism of the movie has to do with Vin Diesel voicing a character who only says a handful of different words. Could another actor have voiced Groot? Eh, maybe, but I think that Riddick did a fantastic job conveying emotion and conversation in such limited dialogue.

And besides, who doesn’t love Vin Diesel?

Overall: I don’t think it’s quite as good as The Avengers, but Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantastic sci-fi adventure that, while not faultless, is still probably the best movie of the summer.

Face it, you could do worse.

Rating: 9/10