Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: The Living Daylights Ultimate Edition DVD

I have a bit of a sentimental attachment to The Living Daylights; it's the first of Timothy Dalton's films and I was excited to have a new Bond, despite Roger Moore being the one who introduced me to the character. I felt that Dalton could be my Bond, rather than the Bond I inherited, and I appreciated his approach as Moore's occasional smugness was starting to appear silly to me even as a young teenager. The teaser is still one of my favorites and is a perfect way to introduce Dalton to the audience: an exotic location, a murder, a serious chase without gadgets, and a quick punchline with a pretty lady.

This is the last of the cold war bonds and the 4th in a row for John Glen (the first time anybody's done more than 3 consecutive). The more serious tone works great; there's humor but it's around Bond, but usually not coming from Bond. There's a long-absent grittiness to some of the action, too, such as with the excellent kitchen fight. The audience is clued in to the bad guys' plan early on but Dalton's fine work carries us thru his discovery of it. The move to Afghanistan is unexpected and exciting but on the down side, it's a little embarassing today to see Bond joining up with some of the forerunners of the Taliban in the last reel.

There are some hammy villains in this film, but when you've got Joe Don Baker in your lineup you know you're in good shape. Jeroen Krabbe is great as the series' final "renegade Soviet" and Andreas Wisniewski does fine work that reminds one of Red Grant. The introduction of John Rhys-Davis is welcome and it's too bad he couldn't have shown up in more films. Maryam d'Abo doesn't quite pull her weight and we only get a cameo of Felix Leiter played by John Terry but the first new Moneypenny is well handled by Caroline Bliss. King of Bond composers John Barry shows up as a the orchestra conductor in the final scene, fitting as this was his final Bond score. The music isn't his best but is also special to me, as it was the first Bond sountrack I bought and wore out in my tape deck, with his Pretenders collaboration, Where Has Everybody Gone?, one of my favorites.

Bonus features for the DVD set include the title tune's music video by a-ha (what every 007 fan wanted) and a making-of said music video! There are some deleted scenes but it would be nice if it had some of the alternate takes I've read about, lots of bits where Dalton angrily spits out the jokes rather than forces a smile for them. It's also unfortunate that we don't get a commentary from Dalton but only a few archive interviews of him from the time of the film's release.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Goat report, 11/26/13

Baby goat meets mirror.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The BFI Sight & Sound Poll and Flickchart

Last year the British Film Institute released the results of their latest decennial poll and got some attention for Vertigo "overthrowing" Citizen Kane at the top of the list. They posted the results and ballots all online, which makes for some interesting searching. There are two sets, one for film directors and one for critics, and I was a little surprised to see that critics have nothing from the last 10 years in their top 50 save the excellent Mulholland Drive. The average year of their top 10 is 1946! Did film really hit its peak in its first 50 years?

In recent years I've put together my own list, using the neat system at Flickchart. I spent quite a while comparing the BFI results with my own top movies and didn't find much in common: among the top 250 critics list, I have seen only 34 and of the director's top 100, I have seen a mere 18. My own top film shows up on only one list, from the Farrelly brothers, and several of my favorites (Adaptation, Total Recall, Holy Grail, Naked Lunch) don't appear on anybody's list. Of all the ones I looked thru (and it was a lot), I have to say I liked director Matthew Vaughn's list the best and was pleased that at least one person put Starship Troopers, a film with a very serious message I think many viewers didn't catch, on their list.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Goat report, 3/11/13

A goat was exonerated for eating flowers; I wonder if they cited The Scorpion and the Frog as precedent.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Review: The Man With the Golden Gun Ultimate Edition DVD

The Man With the Golden Gun is another weak entry in the series, though it's better than Diamonds Are Forever (both of which were directed by Guy Hamilton). The whole film is slow moving and it feels about an hour longer than it actually is; this is probably due to the lack of many action sequences in the first half of the film (as pointed out by an excellent film critic). I liked it a lot more when I was younger; I recall the title song being my favorite song in the world for a few months back in the 80s. Watching it recently was somewhat less exciting and mostly made me realize that I'd love to live in a house designed by Ken Adam.

It's an unfortunate waste of a decent cast, too. Christopher Lee is menacing enough and the supporting cast includes the amusing Clifton James and stalwart Soon-Tek Oh, both of whose work I always enjoy. The weakest part of the cast is Britt Ekland, tho she fills a bikini like few others. Storywise, there's not much tension as Bond is hunting down a man we think is hunting him. The truth of the matter and its connection to some early dialogue isn't that interesting, really. Truly, the biggest stars of the film are the Asian locations and the sets; both the slanted headquarters and Scaramanga's funhouse are cool and there's some great miniature work for the power station's destruction.

Bonus features include a few different video bits about the spiral car jump, still an amazing stunt. I'm not a huge proponent of creators revising their work years later but I'm not sure why they didn't just erase the slide whistle sound from the car jump, especially since nobody says anything good about it in retrospect.

The commentaries have lots of talk about how the production of this movie discoved the Phang Na area for the rest of the world and how it's all a huge tourist mess now. There's also some good talk about the cast, with many saying that Herve Villechaize was quite the ladies' man when not working. Roger Moore has a commentary to himself, as well, and does a very informative job, making a repeat viewing go a lot easier than it should for this draggy film.

Update (2/23/13): interesting to see this film has the lowest bodycount of all the Bonds and Bond himself only kills one. Come to think of it, he hardly draws his gun.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Goat report, 1/27/13

Do you know how many goats you are worth? I got 9!


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Review: Diamonds Are Forever Ultimate Edition DVD

Diamonds Are Forever was the first weak James Bond film. There are certainly weaknesses in all of the films before it but this is the first that's weak overall, saved only by an excellent score from John Barry and lots of shots of Las Vegas in 1970, almost making it a time capsule. It already had this quality in the early 80s when I first saw it, as the film has numerous shots of open desert outside the casinos, something my parents made great note of as we visited Vegas a few times around that time.

So what went wrong with this one? In the filmmaker's commentary, the screenwriter says it was the big car chase on the nighttime streets of Vegas happening in the middle of the film, which served as an early climax as it overshadowed the oil rig battle at the end. While that certainly was well done, there are other problems that are more serious. First of all, casting as the main villain a guy with no f-ing neck who not only wasn't very menacing (or even bald, like the previous Blofelds) but appeared as a good guy just 4 years prior. Connery gave the part the absolute minimum it required and the female lead was poorly written and played by a lesser actor. Series-wise, it seems to have no connection with the drama of the preceding film's end; Connery doesn't play the search for Blofeld as a man out for revenge as much as a cop who's eager to solve a case.

There are plenty of positives to this movie, with the elevator fight at the top of the list. Jimmy Dean was amusing and, unlike some, I never had problems with the henchmen Wint and Kidd, tho their homosexuality was creepily portrayed. And so nice to see Crispin Glover's father in the role of Wint, one can certainly see some of Crispin in him. There's a nice reveal of multiple Blofelds and a decent set of investigation by Bond to figure out what the smuggled diamonds are being used for. Again, great sets by Ken Adam and even one he didn't design, a real house I'd love to live in.

The DVD has another commentary from director Guy Hamilton and even includes a deleted scenes with Sammy Davis Jr., which would have been a rare celebrity cameo in a Bond film. The making-of material is quite candid, even mentioning the obvious crowds watching the Fremont Street chase and the "fixed" blooper at the end of the chase.

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