REVIEW: NO TIME TO DIE (2021)

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NO TIME TO DIE (2021)

Daniel Craig says goodbye to his tenure as 007 in this final flick that wraps up some of the story arcs that were woven within his now five films. This adventure picks up where Spectre left off with Bond (Craig) retired from active duty and romancing Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). When Spectre attacks and Bond feels betrayed, he parts ways with Madeleine and goes off to live a solitary life in Jamaica. Five years later, he is drawn back into action, when CIA buddy Felix Leiter asks for help, when a traitorous MI6 scientist (David Dencik) hands a dangerous new nanotechnology over to vengeful madman Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek). Things get even more difficult when he finds Madeleine is somehow involved.

Twenty-fifth Bond is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga from his script and story with Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Pheobe Waller-Bridge. Fukunaga brings the action, intrigue, glamourous locations and sizzling romance we expect from this series, while adding a stronger than usual emotional undercurrent with Madeleine and Bond’s personal drama at the center of things. There are some dynamic actions scenes, some fun new characters—like Lashana Lynch’s double-o, Nomi and Ana de Armas’ scene stealing CIA agent, Paloma—and an effective and fiendish villain in Rami Malek’s Safin. The nanotechnology tech was an interesting plot MacGuffin and added some nice tension and a couple of chilling scenes. We also got a welcome return to the maniacal villain with an island lair for Bond to infiltrate, which makes for an emotionally charged climax. If the film has any drawbacks, it’s that at 163 minutes, it could have used a bit of a trim, with some of the scenes between Bond and Madeleine stopping the film’s momentum at times. Otherwise, this was a fitting and solid entry for Daniel Craig to say goodbye with.

A very good cast with Craig in top form as Bond. He plays a man weary of world intrigue and hardened by too many betrayals. He is still lethal and dangerous when provoked. Léa Seydoux is good as Madeleine Swann and gets a much meatier part this time to play. Rami Malek is an effective and spooky villain as the scarred and vengeful Lyutsifer Safin. He is a man with a deadly purpose and he is one of the creepier Bond villains in some time. Malek plays him disturbingly calm and it makes him all the scarier. As mentioned, Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas were welcome new additions as new double-0 and ditzy but dangerous CIA agent respectively. Returning cast members Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q and Geoffrey Wright as Felix, all perform their parts strongly. We even get a spooky cameo by Christoph Waltz as Blofeld. A top notch cast.

In conclusion, it may have been a tad too long and deviates from the action a bit more often than needed, but it is still a solid Bond flick and a proper farewell to Daniel Craig as 007. We get a worthy Bond adversary, some lovely and lethal ladies and some really good actions scenes in globe hopping locations. In the end, what more do you want from a Bond film?!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Aston Martins

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: CHERRY FALLS (2000)

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CHERRY FALLS (2000)

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Slasher takes place in the town of Cherry Falls, Virginia where in the opening scene, a teen couple parked in a secluded wooded area is slaughtered by what appears to be a women in black with bright red nails and long raven colored hair. The next day it’s all over school and soon after, another teen falls victim to a gruesome death. Local sheriff Marken (Michael Biehn) discovers one odd clue about the vicious serial killings, which is that the victims are all virgins. This is especially of concern to Marken’s daughter Jody (Brittany Murphy) who is a virgin herself. As Jody is indeed targeted by the mysterious killer, the town teens plan a massive party to end their virgin statuses and avoid the killer’s blade. Jody however discovers the story of Loralee Sherman, a high school girl who, twenty-seven years earlier, claimed she was raped by four affluent teens, including the now principal and Jody’s own father. Loralee disappeared after none of the boys were brought to justice and was never heard from again. Is this wronged woman the killer stalking the streets? Has Loralee finally returned for revenge on the town of Cherry Falls?

Despite being made in the post Scream era, slasher avoids the self-awareness and pop culture reference over-indulgence and gives us a more traditional slasher with the twist of it’s killer stalking the usually safe virgins. The script by Ken Selden is not without some sly humor, but is clearly more influenced by the 80s slasher era than with the films spawned by Wes Craven’s hip 90s classic. The film is well-directed by Geoffrey Wright, who plays it fairly straightforward, though it does have some style and atmosphere. It isn’t overly suspenseful and some of the sequences involving the subject of virginity and sex among the town’s teens don’t quite click…although one figures some of the awkwardness is exactly how parents would act and feel discussing the subject in public, or when Marken asks Jody to go all the way to protect herself. There are some intense action sequences, the kills are gruesome and quite bloody and the reveal is interesting and actually works in context of the story, if not a little over-the-top. There is a fitting score by Walter Werzowa and some atmospheric cinematography by Anthony B. Richmond.

The cast works well. Brittany Murphy is solid as Jody. She is a bit of an odd girl and Murphy plays her with an eclectic touch. As the sheriff’s daughter, she can handle herself and as our final girl, we certainly get a glimpse of that aspect of her character. Murphy adds some nice little character moments, such as a scene when Jody’s father lands on top of her during self defense training and she seems to have a brief moment of arousal. She also plays well an awkward attempt at sex with on-again, off-again boyfriend Kenny (Gabriel Mann) that shows Jody may have some budding fetishes as she comes of age. An underrated actress. Michael Biehn is good, as always, as Sheriff Marken. He plays him tough as nails and by-the-book, but not without some nice moments where the dad in him comes through with Jody. Gabriel Mann is a typical teen boy as Jody’s love interest Kenny. Doesn’t know what he wants. Candy Clarke is good as Jody’s mom who is trying a little hard to be a MILF or one of the girls, but has a good relationship with her daughter. Rounding out is Jay Mohr who gives English teacher Mr. Marliston a bit of an eccentric flair. Jody has an attraction toward Marliston which adds to the whole ‘coming of age’ scenario as the older crush which most of us had as teens at one point.

Overall this may not be a classic, but it is a good slasher. The flick is far more influenced by the classic slashers of the 80s than the pop culture reference filled slashers that came after Scream. It has a good cast with a refreshingly offbeat final girl/leading lady in Brittany Murphy’s Jody and there is plenty of vicious kills and some nice atmosphere. Not everything works and Geoffrey Wright’s style is fairly straightforward, but the reveal is fun and does gives us an entertaining and over-the-top finale, that shows just enough restraint to not appear unbalanced from the rest of the flick. A bit of an underrated horror, IMO.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 cherrys. Unbroken at the moment.

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