SPECTRE Review: D. Craig Finally Goes Full 007, But Film Can’t Live Up To Namesake or SKYFALL


SPECTRE is a mixed bag; not as well crafted as Casino Royale or Skyfall, but less muddled than Quantum of Solace.

There be SPOILERS ahead, so read with extreme caution.

On the one hand, Daniel Craig’s 007 has finally fully blossomed into the more traditional James Bond we know and love. He is less “Blunt Instrument” and more charming and suave like his predecessors, still not completely losing his more realistic, brutal style that defines Craig’s outings as 007. The world of James Bond is also completely in place, with a new M, Moneypenny, and Q all present at MI6 after three films spent establishing the classic hero’s “origins.”

SPECTRE 007 James Bond Poster Daniel Craig Léa Seydoux Madeleine SwannYet, we’re not completely done with Bond’s past in SPECTRE, as the film does try to build on what Skyfall started, filling in more gaps in Bond’s upbringing, never explored in the films preceding Craig’s tenure as 007. In this case, Bond was raised by Oberhauser Sr. alongside the man’s own son (Christoph Waltz), a son who will become Bond’s “greatest” foe due to jealousy that his father treated James better than his own flesh and blood.

Whereas Skyfall used Bond’s past extremely effectively to tell a unique story we’d never seen, SPECTRE‘s use of Bond’s past almost feels forced. Does it matter that Oberhauser, aka Ernest Blofeld (duh), was jealous of Bond as a child? Does the head of the organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. being briefly raised with James Bond add anything to the story? Not really. Blofeld was an effective villain long before this “reboot” of his character and his connection to Bond feels as forced as Sandman’s unnecessary connection to Uncle Ben’s death in Spider-Man 3. Even though the personal element is the key to my favorite 007 villains (Silva from Skyfall and Alec Trevelyan from Goldeneye), it’s simply not necessary to make Blofeld and the organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. work as effective villains.SPECTRE Christoph Waltz Blofeld

Daniel Craig behaving with more class alongside a complete roster of MI6 allies isn’t all that makes SPECTRE feel more like classic Bond than any of Daniel Craig’s other outings as the Super Spy. The movie throws shout-outs to classic Bond scenes and villains even more so than Skyfall, giving us a lot of images 007 fans will eat up, but bringing with it some clunky scenes and plot points.

The whole production design seeks to recall classic Bond, from the White Tuxedo Craig stole from Sean Connery’s shriveled old body to sets that really recall S.P.E.C.T.R.E. bases and meetings of the old. You’ve at least seen the trailer: the film nails the classic look of cultish S.P.E.C.T.R.E. meetings from the Connery films. Blofeld’s secret hide-out  also looks like today’s version of an old set, nailing what we expect from a Bond villain’s lair.

Dave Bautista SPECTRESome of these classic elements and images are great! Dave Bautista plays a baddie who would feel right at home fighting Connery; one of the film’s strengths! Likewise, before the reveal that Oberhauser has renamed himself Blofeld, we get to see the classic white cat jump right on James’ lap! How’s that for classic S.P.E.C.T.R.E. imagery?

The 1st half the film’s weakness is that the pace and action scenes feel “classic” as well. Gone is the realism and brutality of the action sequences that made Casino Royale, Skyfall… and even Quantum of Solace memorable. The opening action scene with an impressive helicopter stunt is exciting, but it’s not as original as Casino Royale‘s parkour chase, not as intense as the opening car chase from Quantum, or as perfectly over-the-top as Skyfall‘s most impressive 007 film opening ever. In fact, there does come a car chase in the 1st half of the film which feels sluggish compared to the visceral brutality of the aforementioned chase that opened Quatum of Solace.

SPECTRE Train FightThankfully, the 2nd half the film brings the action back to Daniel Craig quality, starting with the very impressive fight between the mismatched James Bond and Buatisa’s giant character on the train. From this scene the film pivots into higher quality scenes all around, from much improved action sequences in comparison to said car chase or the plane chase in Austria, to better use of Christoph Waltz’s talents when he finally reveals himself fully to Bond.

Though just as talented as Javier Bardem who played Silva in Skyfall, Waltz seems underutilized in the very same way Sean Harris was in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Bardem was given plenty of screen time to establish him as a fantastic, eccentric yet dangerous villain of legend, while Bautista is a flat, albeit effective placeholder so that Waltz’s character can lie in the shadows. But, like I said, he spends too much time in the shadows to be truly effective.

There’s actually quite a bit in common with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation that doesn’t do SPECTRE any favors. In addition to villains that deserved more screen-time but ran shadow organizations (Rogue Nation’s “The Syndicate” is more or less S.P.E.C.T.R.E.), both films hinge on the plot point that the hero’s spy organization is being shut down with 00 Agents being put out of work in SPECTRE just as Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Crusie) IMF being shuttered in Mission: Impossible. Simply bad timing on SPECTRE’s part.

Andrew Scott as C in SPECTRELook, it’s not all gloom and doom! Though I’ve cut SPECTRE down a peg, it’s still an enjoyable James Bond movie, even if it doesn’t live up to Skyfall or the story you could tell based on the film’s namesake organization. Andrew Scott (Moriarty on BBC’s Sherlock) is brilliant as a sort of secondary villain hidden in plain sight. Blofeld and his organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. still make for great villains, even neither hits their full potential. And, though forced, it is a cool idea that Waltz is behind all the villains Daniel Craig has faced previously (even if Quantum‘s villain is only mentioned once… barely). Plus, how many 007 films let the villain live? Besides Mr. White? We may be seeing Blofeld again (please!).

Definitely see SPECTRE if you like Daniel Craig’s Bond films… or any of the others for that matter! Though SPECTRE fails to reach its full potential, there is still a lot for a Bond fan to love!

5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

The 7 Best 007 Films # 7 – # 4: Sean Connery Begins


It’s mid-October, so we are merely weeks away from what will likely (hopefully?) be one of the greatest Bond movies, SPECTRE.

Don’t count my chickens before they hatch, you say?

Let’s start counting anyway! You have Daniel Craig, the best 007 (don’t crucify me for that, just because Sean Connery played James Bond 1st, doesn’t automatically make him the best), director Sam Mendes hot off Skyfall, and Academy Award Winning villain actor Javier Bardem replaced by an equally (if not more) enjoyable double Oscar Winner Christoph Waltz. What could go wrong? Hell, SPECTRE has Dave Bautista of Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy fame playing a very classic feeling henchman with some flavor.

Again, I’m counting unhatched Indominus Rexs… err… chickens before they hatch. But at least I have these seven hatch-lings: The 7 Best 007 movies from Dr. No through Skyfall.

In order to keep this post a manageable length, we’ll cover my 7th favorite through 4th.

7. Dr. Nodr no sean connery james bond 007

The very 1st 007 film, Dr. No sets most the pieces in place for a franchise that has gone strong (mostly… mostly) for 50 years. Sean Connery clearly establishes the tone for all the James Bond actors that followed (even Daniel Craig’s less-sophisticated, more “blunt instrument” portrayal).

Dr. No‘s real strength is showing us the super-spy/detective side of 007, with less gadgets but a perfect Bond Girl in name and body – Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder – as well as a villain that sets the tone of all the SPECTRE and SMERSH eccentric agents that follow – Joseph Wiseman as the title character, Dr. No.dr no james bond ursula andress honey Honey Ryder

The focus on 007’s skills as a spy and detective aren’t featured as front-and-center again until Casino Royale. My favorite scene, which really sets up Bond’s skill-set, comes when he places a hair on the door to his hotel room, allowing him to tell if his room was entered and tampered with. No film that follows has shown cool spy techniques in the same way as Dr. No, instead focusing on faster paced stories with more action, gadgets, and sexy women.

The franchise is still finding it’s footing at this point, almost a rough draft of the franchise before Goldfinger established the franchise’s more popular and enduring elements.

6. Quantum of Solacequantum of solace daniel craig 007 james bond

I know, I know, Quantum of Solace is a pretty dumb Bond movie when it comes to the writing and overall plot; nearly a phoned in 007 film like all but one of Pierce Brosnan’s adventures. I blame the writer’s strike for that, though the film is still enjoyable as hell, even with its faults.

I argue Quantum of Solace is the perfect companion piece to Casino Royale; the latter serving as a slower story re-introducing the character and his origin with Vesper (Eva Green) and the former balancing it out with full-on action in every scene and the continuation of whatever Mr. White’s organization was in Casino Royale. Quantum is also one of the only “direct-sequels” that references and builds off the previous Bond film, giving it an extra element of intrigue. That means we also get more character/actor carryover from one film to the next with Jesper Christensen back as the aforementioned Mr. White, Jeffrey Wright back as Felix Leiter, and even Giancarlo Giannini as Rene Mathis.Mr White Quantum of Solace With M and James Bond 007 Daniel Craig

Spoiler Alert (not), the shady organization is called Quantum (hence one of the franchise’s worst titles) and will eventually become SPECTRE (the studio making 007 films didn’t have the rights to the name SPECTRE at the time). I love the set-up for this organization that has infiltrated every government, starting with Mr. White escaping and continuing with the reveal of Quantum at the Opera (one of the franchise’s most artistic scenes).

Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene (yes, apparently all Quantum agents have colorful last names… literally) is an underrated villain with his eccentricities and  role within the Quantum organization. The final action scene is the film’s 2nd best, with Greene showing the rodent he is in the sloppy/angry battle with 007 that has him slicing his own foot with an axe. Plus, there was something weird going on between him and his #1 henchman, that was never unnecessarily explained.

5. Goldfinger

goldfinger-james-bond-007-sean-connery-white-tuxedo

Goldfinger is the 1st Bond film to have ALL the elements in place. Q-branch gadgets like a car with an ejector seat. A Bond girl with a not-so-subtle name, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Another title super-villain – Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger, with a strange obsession with gold, a laser, and a ridiculously amazing evil-plan. The 1st amazing henchman, Oddjob (Harold Sakata), who throws a sharp hat (no, not a shoe… that was Random Task in Austin Powers). And that classic dialogue.

“Do you expect me to talk?”

“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

Everything we’ve watched for the last 50 years that wasn’t established in Dr. No, was put in place by Goldfinger; the ultimate Bond formula to stick to.

Those Goldfinger Fans looking forward to SPECTRE will likely recognize Daniel Craig’s new getup on the poster is borrowed from Sean Connery in the above photo.

4. From Russia With Love

From Russia With Love James Bond 007 Sean Connery Robert Shaw Grant

From Russia With Love has one of the greatest SPECTRE agents 007 has ever faced, Robert Shaw (of Jaws fame) playing Grant, 007’s perfect doppelganger. And there is not archetype of villain I enjoy more than a doppelganger; a villain that reflects the hero in nearly every way. Robert Shaw’s character really is the opposite side of the Sean Connery coin. Dashing, brutal, and just serving his “country” (or, rather, organization).

No scene in the film sticks out in my mind like the train sequence between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw, one of the most classic showdowns in 007’s history.

So that’s a start; my 4th through 7th favorite 007 films.

Read about Numbers 3 through 1 NOW… Not that you can’t guess where the list is going…

My 7 Most Anticipated Films of 2015


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… 2015 is going to be fucking ridiculous… when it comes to the year’s movie slate.

He told you he'd be back.
He told you he’d be back.

There’s a lot to gush about; new movies in classic franchises like ‘Jurassic World,’ ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ ‘Mad Max: Fury Road, ‘ ‘007: SPECTRE’ and ‘Terminator Genisys.’ Following Marvel’s most successful year, when it came to quality of movies, we have a sequel to 2012’s ‘The Avengers’ as well as the origin story of  a new Avenger in ‘Ant-Man.’ Even 20th Century Fox is shilling a non-X-Men Marvel property in the form of their ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot.

But what looks the best? What are the 7 movies I really can’t wait to see (couldn’t narrow it down to 5…)? Can I put them in order?

Yes I can, other Nick. Yes I can.

7. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENSX-Wings in Force Awakens

While several of the titles I used in my intro don’t make the list at all, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ (formally ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’) gets the bottom spot.

Why?

We haven’t seen much footage at all, I work at the movie theater and have seen the trailer a dozen times in 3D and the final scene still makes me nauseous, and it’s so damn far away in comparison to most the titles on my list.

Plus… we’ve all played this ‘Star Wars’ anticipation game before and it backfired, horribly.

Star Wars Crossguard Lightsaber

I’m actually a fan of the new lightsaber! And I know the trailer is supposed to showcase new characters in classic vehicles and uniforms (the stormtrooper armor), which were fun to see, but I want to see Han Solo, dammit!

 

6. ANT-MANAnt-Man rides an ant

Great trailer, but still a hard sell. The trailer jumps back and forth from a darker tone akin to that of ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier’ to the comedy stylings of Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man (but still not ‘Guardians’ funny).

Ant-Man in the showerThe trailer does look awesome; only those flying ant scenes seem questionable, even though it’s an image straight from the comics. I like the mostly serious tone of the trailer, anchored by a pretty great speech by Michael Douglas as Hank Pym.

What’s the most unique thing about ‘Ant-Man’ when compared to the other Avengers in the MCU? He’s the only every-man in the group of billionaire science genius, another scientist who turned himself green, an every-man who leaves that life behind when he gets a super-soldier serum, and a God.

Scott Lang hangs his superhero suit in the shower.
Scott Lang hangs his superhero suit in the shower.

Sure, Capt. did start an every-man, but even with the suit and powers of Ant-Man, Scott Lang seems grounded, even leaving his super-suit hanging in the shower.

Oh, and he has a daughter; a first for nearly any superhero franchise. The only exception I can think of is Sandman in ‘Spider-Man 3.’ A similar situation is going on here (and will hopefully go better) with criminal Lang stealing for his family and becoming the hero his daughter thinks he is. Ant-Man is not saving his world, he’s saving ours.

 

5. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 5

Tom Cruise's latest crazy stunt.
Tom Cruise’s latest crazy stunt.

We haven’t seen any footage yet, but Tom Cruise’s new stunt is ko-ko-bananas, even in comparison to his scaling the tallest building in the world in the last installment, ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.’

3 out of the 4 films in this franchise have been better than good; theeeeeey’re GREAT!

While the first is the best, ‘Ghost Protocol’ was a very strong entry that revitalized the franchise and introduced us to team members Benji (Simon Pegg) and Brandt (Jeremy Renner). Joining them this time is Luthor (Ving Rhames) who has been on Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) task force every film except ‘Ghost Protocol.’

Same Team, minus Paula Patton's Jane and plus a Luthor.
Same Team, minus Paula Patton’s Jane and plus a Luthor.

Only reservation is the director: Christopher McQuarrie. Though he wrote ‘Usual Suspects’ and last year’s ‘Edge of Tomorrow,’ he also directed ‘Jack Reacher’ which was a terrible Tom Cruise thriller.

 

4. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Mad Max: Fury RoadTom Hardy is Mad Max! The trailer is glorious! There’s more stunt-work than you can shake a stick at, something very rare in Hollywood. Boom!

Sure, there’s plenty of CGI as well, but most that exploding carnage is done the old fashioned way with stuntmen and actual pyrotechnics!

 

3. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

You would think this would be at the top of my list (I thought so! Especially after the first trailer…), but my excitement has waned and worry has found a foothold in my brain.James Spader voices Ultron in 'Age of Ultron'

Let’s be honest here, ‘The Avengers’ is in my top 3 MCU movies (with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Winter Soldier’) mainly because it was literally a game-changer. It was the first cross-pollination of superheroes, part of a shared universe, coming together after each carried their own franchises. Everyone else is still trying to pull this off, including DC Entertainment. The plot wasn’t that great, action scenes were few and far between, but the movie will always be remembered for bringing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes together.Captain America Vs. Ultron Drone

‘Age of Ultron’ will need to step up its game to reach the quality of movies Marvel Studios put out in 2014. Likewise, it better be bigger and better, which it appears to be, but I hope that a great storyteller like Joss Whedon can avoid the movie from becoming a jumbled mess; cause there is A LOT going on between the two official trailers.Iron Man in 'Age of Ultron'

I also hope it’s good enough to avoid the fate of ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ (which I personally love) where most people were disappointed by the film, mainly because it had to follow the incredibly beloved ‘Dark Knight.’

In James Spader I trust.

 

2. 007: SPECTRE

007: SPECTRE PosterThis may be blasphemy, but ‘Skyfall’ is my favorite Bond movie… ever. It was so fucking good, bringing in the best 007 baddie of all time (Javier Bardem), and shaking up the 007 universe a bit.

The writers and director, Sam Mendes, from ‘Skyfall’ return and the title promises the revival of the terrorist organization SPECTRE (formally ‘Quantum’ in the D. Craig movies), as classic to the franchise as Vesper Martinis, shaken, not stirred.

Andrew Scott from 'Sherlock' would make a great Blofeld...
Andrew Scott from ‘Sherlock’ would make a great Blofeld…

Better yet? The villain cast is unbelievable with Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer from ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’) as a henchman, the incomparable Christoph Waltz (whose villainy can only be matched by Javier Bardem), and my personal favorite, Andrew Scott whose portrayal of  Moriarty on BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ is perhaps the greatest TV villain of all time.

 

1. JURASSIC WORLDChris Pratt Hunts A Hybrid in 'Jurassic World'

It’s just too damn nostalgic. While I’ve watched the ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ trailer a million times and have had enough, I can still watch the ‘Jurassic World’ trailer anywhere, anytime.

Jurassic World AttractionsWe’re back on Isla Nublar! The movie is sticking close to the original and ignoring the sequels! Chris Pratt gets to hunt a new hybrid-dinosaur! There are child siblings in peril! Velociraptors!

And those notes from John Williams’ classic score… magic. Lightning in a bottle, at least as far as we can tell from the trailer!

The Park is Open, Mother Fuckers!

Goddamn is that trailer spin-tingly-great.

Enjoy 2015! I’ll be see you… at the movies.

Bond 24 Has The Best Title Ever: ‘Spectre’


SPECTRE!

SPECTRE is back!

For all you kiddies who’ve only seen the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig films; SPECTRE is the original QUANTOM-esque terrorist organization.

blofeldThe OG threat to Bond, 007 encountered many SPECTRE agents in the 1960’s, but none more famous than Bond’s ultimate nemesis, Ernst Stravo Blofeld; a character that was portrayed by several actors, just like James Bond.

You may recognize the most common look of Blofeld, from ‘You Only Live Twice.’ Let me give you a hint, he was bald, had a scar on his face, wore a silly silver suit, and stroked a white kitty.

Check out the teaser-teaser-teaser-barely-a-trailer below. Really, it’s a video revealing the logo.

Now, pay attention to the poster. Doesn’t that bullet hole look like a spider or octopus? Spectre Teaser Poster

If not, here is OG SPECTRE’s Hydra-esque logo.

Eh? Eh? Look familiar now?
Eh? Eh? Look familiar now?

The official plot 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.” Mr. Craig will be joined by Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista (as a henchman type character, I believe), Andrew Scott (Moriarty on Sherlock), and Monica Bellucci. Returning from Skyfall will be Naomi Harris (Eve Moneypenny), Ben Whishaw (Q) and Ralph Fiennes (replacing Judi Dench as “M”). Director Sam Mendes is returning, which makes this the first 007 film to be helmed by the same director twice in a row since License to Kill ended John Glenn’s run in 1989. Skyfall writers John Logan, Neil Purvis and Rob Wade are returning as well.”

But what does SPECTRE mean for Daniel Craig’s 007?

It means the movie will definitely bring back the feel of the old movies, less cold and brutal than ‘Casino Royale’ or even ‘Skyfall,’ bringing classic elements into the mix… and not just the SPECTRE organization.

Waltz in his breakout role in 'Ingourious Basterds.'
Waltz in his breakout role in ‘Ingourious Basterds.’

And the movie’s cast is loaded with great potential villains from the genius Christoph Waltz, to Andrew Scott whose Moriarty on BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ is the best TV baddie ever, and finally Dave Bautista (Drax in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’). And with that title, one expects either Waltz or Scott will be Blofeld!

Scott in BBC's SHERLOCK as Moriarty.
Scott in BBC’s SHERLOCK as Moriarty.

Really exciting title, that unlike ‘Skyfall’ gives us great insight into where the 007 franchise is headed. Great cast, Sam Mendes is back to direct, same writing team… how could it go wrong? (*Fingers Crossed*)

Mr. White of the Quantum organization from 'Casino Royale' and 'Quantum of Solace'
Mr. White of the Quantum organization from ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Quantum of Solace’

But what about Quantum though? ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Quantum of Solace’ set up Mr. White and the Quantum organization, that, like SPECTRE, has political influence and carries out terrorist activity across the globe. Does Quantum turn out to be SPECTRE? Or where Quantum and Mr. White lazily kicked to the side after Quantum’s poor reception?

All will be answered November 6th, 2015.

Add ‘007: Spectre’ to that list of 2015 movies to see that already includes ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ ‘Jurassic World,’ ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron,’ ‘Mission: Impossible 5,’ and many others. 2015 is going to be an expensive year for you geeks who don’t work at a movie theater.

Rejoice!

Is it too early to suggest Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain in ‘Bond 25?’

Benedict Cumberbatch for Bond villain OR 007 in 2017!
Benedict Cumberbatch for Bond villain OR 007 in 2017!