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SPECTRE (2015)

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After delivering one of the best entries of the series, the 2012 Skyfall, Daniel Craig returns as James Bond and Sam Mendes returns to direct, with 007’s latest adventure, Spectre. While it doesn’t live up to the previous installment, it is far better than Quantum Of Solace and returns to the Bond franchise one of his most famous adversaries, the evil organization Spectre.

The film opens with 007 (Daniel Craig) in Mexico City on one last personal mission for an old friend. The mission leads to disciplinary action and the discovery of a secret organization headed by a man named Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) who shares a past with Bond. Now as the shutting down of the “00” division looms due to an intelligence merger, Bond must disobey orders and track down this organization whose goal is global terrorism and world domination.

To get the negatives out of the way, one of the things that holds Spectre back a bit is that the script, credited to four people, could have been a bit tighter. As a result there are some uncharacteristic lapses in logic with this generally clever series and the film, even by Bond standards, is about 10-15 minutes too long. The film also lacks a sense of urgency as there seems to be no real pressure for Bond to track down Oberhauser and his organization. It’s only in the last act where the clock is ticking. We also get some obvious conveniences to help Bond along…like a net showing up out of nowhere…where he had to work a little harder in previous films. The good stuff far outweighs the bad, though and when the action comes it is fast and furious and Daniel Craig is as lean and mean as ever as Bond. There are some great chases and fight scenes, especially when Bond tangles with assassin Mr. Hinx (Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Dave Bautista). There are the usual exotic locations as Bond goes from Mexico to Austria to Tangiers to Morocco and once we finally get inside Spectre itself, there is some welcome nostalgia of the secret lair and a very familiar white cat. There are some of the usual Bond beauties, this time represented by an assassin’s beautiful widow (Monica Bellucci) and the daughter (Léa Seydoux) of an adversary turned ally. Sam Mendes once again creates a marvelous looking movie with Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography and there is a solid score by Thomas Newman. As for the traditional Bond song, Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall is serviceable, but nowhere near as memorable as Adele’s Skyfall, though it fits well in the opening credits sequence. A solid Bond film, if not slightly flawed.

As said before, Daniel Craig is once again in top form as Bond. He’s got an intensity to him that really drives the action…and love scenes. He keeps us interested, as here and in Quantum, even when the script could be better. Christoph Waltz is a delightfully out-of-his-mind villain as Oberhauser and it is sad the script doesn’t get he and Craig together sooner, as they work well together and Waltz had the potential to be a really impressionable villain. Léa Seydoux is pretty and a bit feisty as the Bond girl of the moment, but she doesn’t get all that much to do and obviously falls for Bond far too quickly to be convincing…don’t they all. Dave Bautista makes a lethal and fun villain as the assassin Mr. Hinx. His character has only one word of dialog, but why speak when you can poke out someone’s eyes with metal tipped thumbnails. Returning cast members are all fine. Naomie Harris is sexy and smart as Moneypenny, who is constantly dodging Bond’s advances, as is the tradition. Ben Wishaw is very likable as the computer nerd version of Bond gadget maker “Q” and Ray Fiennes actually gets to step out from behind his desk and see action as the stern “M”.

I liked Spectre a lot. It is certainly no Skyfall, but it was still very entertaining, there was some intense action and I really liked the nostalgic return of one of Bond’s most infamous adversaries. The script could have used another pass or two, the film could have used a bit more of a trim and the plot needed to put a bit more pressure on Bond to achieve his objective…adding suspense for the audience. Overall, it is still a solid enough entry in the series and one that makes us hope Craig returns at least one more time to explore the possibilities this flick sets up with the return of Spectre.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 Aston Martins.

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SKYFALL (2012)

This Sunday night on the couch I decided to revisit James Bond’s latest adventure!

Skyfall is a very interesting and entertaining entry in this 50 year old series in that it gives us all the classic elements that we’ve come to expect from a Bond film and yet, takes it into new and unexpected territory. Not everyone is going to like where it goes but, I certainly did. The story is actually quite simple. After a mission goes awry, 007 (Daniel Craig) is thought dead but, is actually living in secret, drowning the negative effects of his job with sex and booze. But, when a mysterious and sinister individual targets MI6 and M (Dame Judi Dench) in particular, Bond returns to action despite doubts from some of his superiors that he still can handle the job. Writers Robert Wade, Neal Purvis and John Logan craft a story that is part spy thriller and part Silence Of The Lambs as Bond faces not a villainous organization or rogue government but, one very dangerous and psychotic ex-MI6 agent known as Silva (Javier Bardem), who is bent on avenging what he feels is a betrayal by his former boss, M. It’s a daring direction to give this Bond film a more personal focus despite it’s scope and having Bond defending, not Queen and Country but, the one person he can even remotely consider family, M, from a man whose motives for revenge are equally personal. And director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road To Perdition) is more then up to the task. Mendes gives the film the epic scope we’ve come to expect from these movies as the film travels from Turkey to Shanghai and from Macau to London and Scotland but, never looses focus on the characters or story. He directs the action in a refreshingly old fashion manner, no more evident then in the thrilling train set pre-credit sequence. No quick cuts or shaky-cam, just good intense action and the result is very exciting and also accents the story, not becomes it. He gets great performances out of his cast. Craig is sensational as a Bond, who is a bit burnt-out and bitter yet, is driven by duty and loyalty to return to a life he has a chance to escape… a life that maybe is right for him after all. Bardem is simply brilliant as the demented and dangerous yet, disturbingly flamboyant, Silva. A man who is Bond’s equal in many way’s but, is twisted by his inner pain and thirst for revenge. Dame Judi Dench is wonderful as usual in an expanded role for M. She and Craig are magic together and it’s great to see them share so many scenes after Quantum Of Solace kept them apart for almost that entire film. The supporting cast including Naomie Harris (Eve). Ralph Fiennes (Mallory) and Ben Whishaw (a young, computer geek-ish Q) are all excellent and provide great support for the principles. Mendes makes this flick look great with some stunning camera work such as the Blade Runner-esque Shanghai and the moody moors of Scotland. The film is deliberately paced but, it is more thriller then action flick although, there is plenty of the latter. Round that out with a very Bond score by Thomas Newman, a classic Bond theme song by Adele and one of the best opening credits sequences in some time and you have a solid James Bond flick that is both charmingly familiar and yet boldly treads new ground. Bravo!

3 and 1/2 Aston Martins!

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