Rapid Review: Spectre (2015)

spectre poster

“You are a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr Bond.”
– Mr White

SYNOPSIS: 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. – via IMDB

SPECTRE DAY OF THE DEAD

GRADE 7After all this time I finally got to see Spectre over the weekend. I know, I am like the last person in the world to have watched this and to churn out a review for it, but so what? I have been looking forward to this movie for far too long. Right off the bat, I think people are being way too harsh on this movie. Granted, it is not like the other Craig Bond films we have come to expect, it wasn’t as serious or as gritty as the others, which is something that I missed, but it did not mean that there was nothing to love. Spectre was shot well, and looks great, and is carried by some solid performances. Craig is, of course, a phenomenal Bond and my favourite (though that is well known by now, I am sure), and Ben Whishaw makes for a wonderful Q, I still think that he represents a modernised Q perfectly. After I realised that this Bond might have more campier moments to it, I could even embrace the silly comments, and Q being a lot, uhm, more ridiculous than previously. He used to take things seriously, and next thing I know he is complaining about his cats and sniggering at his terribly awkward Aston jokes. Ralph Fiennes’s M started quite rocky here, as I definitely expected more backbone from his character. I have been itching to see Christoph Waltz take on Bond, and I was not disappointed. He was fantastic every moment he was on screen, which is nothing less than I expected. The man is such a phenomenal actor and excels at any role he decides to take on. I am totally looking forward to seeing more of his character in the upcoming Bond films, no ways did they bring him in just for this one. The scene with Madeleine and Bond in the traincar felt like a throwback to Casino Royale, but just didn’t sit right. In actual fact, there were tons of throwbacks to the older Bond films, and some worked better than others. I do enjoy how the last few Bond films (the Craig era) have all linked up nicely. Spectre also featured so much… well, Bond banging the world again, which was really disappointing, as the Craig Bonds have not really featured that aspect much, which was something I always appreciated. Monica Bellucci was case in point… she served no real purpose but to look beautiful. Léa Seydoux’s Dr Madeleine Swann was a really good Bond girl, she is a strong woman who can hold her own, so definitely a solid addition. Also, while Bautista may have been a villain of few words, I really liked him, and a throwback to the quieter henchman that just did their thing. I could not buy into South Africa being the holdouts on the whole Nine Eyes intelligence thing because, well, have you been reading anything smart about South Africa in the papers? Didn’t think so. Our government and intelligence agencies are a joke. Not even being nasty, but really, there is nothing there anymore, it’s embarrassing. I also really disliked that Sam Smith song Writing’s on the Wall (I have no idea who he is, I don’t listen to the radio, but he is not someone I will be listening to anytime soon – totally not my cup of tea), and I was no fan of the opening credits. I cringed. What a pity, too, because the whole octopus thing would have been fine, but instead was bordering on some extreme Hentai crap, and Daniel Craig could not have looked more awkward. Well, I am glad we got that out of the way. I was a huge fan of the opening sequence with the Day of the Dead parade, it was just gorgeous, but I do wish there had been some more to it. The action was top notch here, as always, and I liked little things in the movie that highlighted, once again, how emotionally damaged Craig’s Bond is (his flat that is bare, his drinking, how he can still not bare to deal with anything that touches on Vesper). Yes, Spectre has some drawbacks and shortcomings, and no, it was not quite the film I was expecting, but it is well worth a watch and it is fun, and it does go back to older Bond roots. It is totally not the disaster it has been painted.

Review: You Only Live Twice (1967)

You Only Live Twice (1967) dvd cover

“As you can see, I am about to inaugurate a little war. In a matter of hours after America and Russia have annihilated each other. We shall see a new power dominating the world.”
– Ernst Stavro Blofeld

New drama arises between the East/West when an American spacecraft gets hijacked in space. The United States is positive it is the Russians, who in turn have nothing to do with it. The British are sure that it has nothing to do with their little Cold War, but more to do with someone else, after all, it appears to have something to do with the Japanese.

MI6 agent James Bond (Sean Connery) is sent to Tokyo to fake his own death, which goes down well. The papers report the news, and his enemies seem to breathe. He meets up with M (Bernard Lee) on a submarine, and is advised that he needs to find out what the hell happened to the missing spacecraft and soon – the Americans are to deploy another spacecraft soon, and the Russians before them even. Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) gives Bond the things that he needs, and the passcodes set up with Japanese intelligence agencies. Bond sets out for Tokyo, and is met by Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), who works for Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba), Bond’s elite Japanese contact. Tanaka puts Bond onto Dikko Henderson (Charles Gray), the local MI6 operative. He claims that he has evidence of the rogue craft that is picking off the spacecraft, but is killed.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE BOND

Bond takes it upon himself to investigate Osato Chemicals, and escapes with stolen documents that lead him further along the way to finding out what is going on. Bond finally meets Tanaka in person, and they further their investigation. Bond returns to Osato Chemicals to meet with Mr Osato (Teru Shimada) himself as a potential new buyer. Osato orders his secretary, Helga Brandt (Karin Dor), to dispose of Bond the moment he walks out the door. Bond checks out the docking lead that he and Tanaka have, and is imprisoned by Helga. He bribes his way out, and Tanaka rescues him. Q (Desmond Llewellyn) supplies some toys to assist Bond in his mission. Bond establishes that their is an island with nothing happening on it, but he now knows that SPECTRE is behind the missing spacecraft, headed up by Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence), aka SPECTRE Number 1.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE BLOFELD
“James Bond. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld.” – Blofeld

This new information means that Bond needs to go deep undercover – he needs to become Japanese to get onto the island for infiltration and find out where SPECTRE is doing what before the United States and Russia go to war. His undercover wife, Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), shares critical information with Bond that will lead them to the location of the SPECTRE base. Will Bond be able to pull it off in time? Can he stop Ernst Stavro Blofeld in his tracks, throw a spanner in the works and save the day again as always?

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“No honeymoon. This is business.” – Kissy Suzuki

You Only Live Twice scores only a 6/10. I don’t know, the content was not particularly gripping, and I know the movies are old and the special effects are sometimes questionable, but they were downright dubious and ludicrous in this one. It just looked terrible. The acting struck me as stiffer than usual, and there seemed to be a lot of filler stuff crammed into the movie to give it some body. Overall, not my favourite Bond film, and it left a lot to be desired. It was good to finally have a look at Number 1, though, so props to that at the very least. I must say, the script was very superficial, and not much was given forth about anything in You Only Live Twice, not even more about SPECTRE, really. There was again some cheese to it, but this cheese just didn’t seem to gel so nicely with the movie overall. Not the worst Bond so far, but definitely did not excite me at all.

Review: Thunderball (1965)

04 - Thunderball (1965) cover

“Like your friend you’ve been a little too clever, and now you are caught!”
– Emilio Largo

MI6 007 agent James Bond (Sean Connery) attends the funeral of a SPECTRE operative, Number 6, in which he discovers the death is faked and 6 is posing as his own widow. Bond finishes the job and returns to England, where M (Bernard Lee) sends Bond off to a clinic for his health. SPECTRE has placed Count Lippe (Guy Doleman) at the clinic. Bond recognizes him, and Lippe attempts to kill Bond. He is saved by Patricia Fearing (Molly Peters).

French Nato pilot François Derval (Paul Stassino) is killed by SPECTRE henchamn Angelo (played by the same actor), who is put in his place and has undergone tons of surgery and years of training to pass off as the deceased man. Derval was tasked the mission to fly two atomic bombs aboard his aircraft on a training mission. It is soon discovered by Bond that Derval was murdered and replaced to steal the atomic bombs, and soon they drop off the face of the earth. Angelo gets greedy and it angers SPECTRE Number 2 Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), resulting in Angelo’s death. The plane that he hijacked goes down around the Bahamas, and naturally that is Bond’s next stop after all 00 agents are called to Whitehall. At Whitehall they learn that  SPECTRE has it in their heads that they will exchange the bombs for £100 million worth of white flawless uncut diamonds. If NATO does not make that happen, they will destroy a city in either the United Kingdom or the United States. Bond establishes that Derval was impersonated, and that the plane with the atomic bombs was actually hijacked.

THUNDERBALL UNDERWATER STORY
“You wish to put the evil eye on me, eh? We have a way to deal with that where I come from.” – Emilio Largo

Bond requests M to send him to Nasseau to meet with Dominique “Domino” Derval (Claudine Auger), Derval’s sister. What he does not count on is that Domino is Largo’s mistress. Felix Leiter (Rik van Nutter) joins Bond at the hotel, and together they catch out a SPECTRE henchman who is killed by Largo for incompetency. Bond attempts to infiltrate Largo’s ship, but is almost killed, and later taken captive by Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi), though he escapes. Bond and Felix come together and search for the fallen aircraft, sure that it is somewhere beneath the water seeing as Largo has been doing some midnight diving expeditions.

THUNDERBALL BOND AND DOMINO
“How do you know that? How do you know my friends call me Domino?”

Will Bond find out where the bombs are located before the governments pay out a ridiculous amount of money to terrorists? Will he flip a source and find a way to get into Largo’s company without alarming anyone or tipping them off of his game? Will he be able to save a city from destroy and ruin by uncovering the truth or bending to insane demands?

A 6.5/10. I don’t know. This movie disappointed me so much. It had all the right potential to be amazing. It had lots of sharks, both in the ocean and in the round swimming pool, it had scuba divers and harpoon guns, underwater fight scenes, decent villains, a theoretically interesting plot, cats and eyepatches… pretty much the recipe for awesome. But it failed to catch. It lacked something so large and I could not put my finger on it. It was so disappointing. The effects right at the end with the boat speeding along, the stuff you see outside the windows and approaching islands, it looks absolutely terrible. But aside from that it is watchable, but a let down in terms of the potential that it had and how far awry they went from it, for me at any rate.

Review: From Russia With Love (1963)

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE COVER

“Corporal, I have chosen you for an important assignment. It’s purpose is to give false information to the enemy.”
– Rosa Klebb

SPECTRE is still smarting from the death of Dr No, and wish to punish James Bond (Sean Connery) for his part in taking their colleague down. Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) devises an in depth plan to steal a Lektor cryptographic device from the Soviets through the English, then sell it back to the Soviets, all the while playing the two nations off against each other. It cannot really end well. SPECTRE Number 1 puts Number 3, ex-KGB Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) in charge of the mission to kill Bond and get the two nations’ backs up. Klebb gets a beautiful young girl, Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), to seduce Bond with the story that she is deflecting and has a Lektor is her possession and Donald “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw) to assassinate Bond.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE BOND AND KERIM
“All of my key employees are my sons. Blood is the best security in this business.” – Kerim Bey

M (Bernard Lee) sends Bond on the mission to recover Romanova and the Lektor and bring her back to England safely. She will apparently only go with him after pulling his photograph from a Soviet intelligence file. Bond leaves for Turkey, and befriends the station head Ali Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendáriz). Together they want to spy on the Soviets, and eventually get Romanova in on it so that they are spying from beneath the embassy. Romanova gets the floor plans, and Bond and Kerim plan an invasion. Stealing the Lektor, the three flee onto the Orient Express, where they are sure that they will be safe. Their plans are to successfully help Romanova defect as well as get the Lektor to MI6. Grant, however, has other plans for the trio. Before they know it, there is murder on the train, and Bond finally begins to suspect that there is something suspicious about Romanova.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE TRAIN MURDER
Murder on the Orient Express, anyone?

With Number 1 getting edgy about the outcome of the famous Lektor plan, the efforts to assassinate Bond and turn the Allies against the Soviets grows in crescendo. Klebb herself is sent into the field to handle the issues. What will Bond do with the news that Romanova is a traitor? Will he be able to inform the government of SPECTRE’s evil plan, or will he be taken care of before he has the opportunity to say anything?

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE BOND AND TATIANA ROMANOVA

A 7/10 for From Russia With Love. This story of the girls just falling all over their feet to jump Bond and marry him on the spot after just saying hello is completely beyond me! However, the story was not too bad on this, and again I loved the remastered images and sound, it really made it wonderful to watch. The villains in this one are not so impressive, but it is cool to see a bit more of SPECTRE, as well as seeing Number 1 in all his glory (though never facial). The story was a little bit crazy, and all over the show, but overall not so bad that you could not follow it. I thought the dynamic between Bond and Kerim was highly entertaining, as it was a fun game for them, though at the same time it was serious. Who said work and fun cannot be interlinked? Another good entry to the ever-growing Bond franchise!