James Bond Month – Spectre (2015)

Director: Sam Mendes

Writer: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth (Screenplay) Ian Fleming (Characters)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista

 

Plot: A cryptic message from 007’s past sends him pitted against a mysterious terrorist organization called Spectre, and learns of its involvement in previous events of his most dangerous missions.


Tagline – The dead are alive

Runtime: 2 Hours 28 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Tries Too Hard to be an Espionage Movie

 

Story: Spectre starts as James Bond (Craig) heads to Mexico in search for his own reasons where he learns about a mysterious terrorist known as the Pale King, he doesn’t leave without causing damage, which forces M (Fiennes) to ground him from active duty.

James goes against orders, going in search of the terrorist group which after his actions in having one of its first meetings in years, to appoint a replacement to the table, where the leader (Waltz) and M have now made James their number one target, forcing James to turn to an old enemy for help.

 

Thoughts on Spectre

 

Characters – James Bond has reached the peak of his experience, he will still break the rules when it comes to tracking down a lead, only now he will need to learn to overcome modern technology placed on him to elude his superiors. James will need to take on Spectre the very group which has been involved in trying to cause chaos in all his mission. Blofeld is the leader of Spectre, the man that has been pulling all the strings, a man that has faked his own death to rise to the position of power, where his ultimate control will see him seek the power to watch the world. Madeleine is the daughter of an old enemy, she has become a target for Spectre, which means she must come out of hiding to work with James, not willing to be one of the women in James’s love life though. M is trying to keep James in line, while also dealing with the ideas that somebody C is trying to push through a new surveillance that would see the 00 branch closed. Hinx is the main hitman that is tracking down James, his is the silent type, that is bigger, more powerful and even smart, a pure brute of a hitman.

PerformancesDaniel Craig continues to not put a foot wrong in this role, handling the action and giving the cold responses to anything asked of him. Christoph Waltz just doesn’t reach the levels we know he can, it is partly because the character isn’t given the deserved time though. Lea Seydoux does well in her role, but often takes second fiddle to the scenes with Daniel in surrounding the action moments. Ralph Fiennes does step into this role well, while Dave Bautista does make for one of the more memorable hitmen in the Craig era of Bond.

StoryThe story here follows James Bond on his latest mission, which sees him coming face to face with one of the most famous villains in the franchise history Blofeld who has had hand in each of the missions he has been involved in. The base of this James Bond mission is everything we have seen before, seeing him travelling the world to fight the villain of the piece, the problem with the storytelling comes from focusing too heavily on the side part of the film which sees M needing to prove the worth of the 00 branch which is connected to the bigger picture, but takes away the reason we enjoy these films about an all out action spy star. The fact the story does continue to operate in a universe where each film is connected is also a big plus because the consequences of the actions in the previous films are being felt throughout this one.

Action/AdventureThe action in this outing does once again give us a brilliant opening sequence, which slowly turns into enhanced versions of what we have seen before through the franchise, though we do get more of a feel of an adventure here, with the locations James visits.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to give us the unique moments in the film, be it the opening in Mexico, the Austrian mountain range or the Italian meeting place, they all give the film a unique look at how everything unfolds.


Scene of the Movie –
Mexico City.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Monica Bellucci is criminally underused.

Final ThoughtsThis is an entertaining Bond movie, when it comes to the spy side of everything nothing feels out of place, but as soon as we start looking at side stories, things start to fizzle out.

 

Overall: Entertaining Bond Outing.

Rating

 

 

James Bond Month – Skyfall (2012)

Director: Sam Mendes

Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan (Screenplay) Ian Fleming (Characters)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney

 

Plot: Bond’s loyalty to M is tested when her past comes back to haunt her. When MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

 

Runtime: 2 Hours 23 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: The Most Intense Bond Film

 

Story: Skyfall starts as James Bond (Craig) and Eve (Harris) working on the latest daring mission which ends in failure with James killed in action after an order from M (Dench). M finds herself being forced into early retirement by Gareth Mallory (Fiennes) with her wanting to clean up the failures of her last mission, which brings James out of his hiding to return to help M with the missing information which could expose every spy in every terrorist organisation.

James must travel to Shanghai and look into M’s past for answers as the identities have started to leak online targeting M for her past sins, James will come face to face with Silva (Bardem) a former agent hellbent on revenge for being abandoned.

 

Thoughts on Skyfall

 

Characters – James Bond has a different arc to the normal, this time he has semi-retired after being killed in action, he doesn’t stay retired for long as he needs to prove he is ready to return to action, as he will need to go face to face with a former agent who has gone rogue. This does continue the arc of learning who James can trust which keeps the character feeling like he has continued his own story, rather than just being on another mission. M is left to make the difficult decision which sees James killed in action, her actions put her in the firing line of the government who want her replaced, she isn’t going to leave her post without cleaning up her latest mission failure, but she doesn’t want any more innocent people killed, it is her past that is causing the actions of Silva, she knows she made the right call with him and now trust James to fix the problems caused. Silva is a vengeful former agent that has put together a plan to bring down M for what he believes was her abandoning him to be tortured by the enemy country. He has spent years putting this plan together and isn’t going to let James be the one to bring him down. Gareth Mallory is the man assigned to create the transition between M and her replacement, he understands the middle ground and isn’t going to accept what is best for the country. Eve is the field agent that has been working with James, only for her to be the connection to help from the headquarters. Severeine is the woman that James uses to get close to Silva, we really don’t get enough from this character though.

PerformancesDaniel Craig continues to grow into the James Bond character, he handles the action with ease, shows the determination required through the film. Judi Dench gets the biggest role for the character of M, she is fantastic in this role never looking out of place showing that a person of power can become vulnerable. Javier Bardem does make a delightfully evil villain that has his own plan for revenge. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris both provide great supporting performance, only Berenice Marlohe doesn’t get enough time to shine.

StoryThe story here follows James Bond as he must work with M to bring down a man that is determined to get revenge against her and is always one step ahead of the two. This is easily the most personal and intense story we have seen in any James Bond story, this is refreshing because we don’t get a villain who want money or destruction, they want one person to pay for their own action. The idea to dive into James’s past is interesting, it shows how he was selected in the first place, only it isn’t the best idea when you think back to the idea that each actor could be a different agent with the same code name. This story does have moments that wink to the previous films which is enjoyable to pick up on them.

Action/AdventureThe action in the film does take centre stage, the opening sequence is the best in the franchise, the rest are filled with high octane chases through cities where it feels like we are watching stakes on the line.

SettingsThe film keeps the settings on the simpler side, with most of the film being set in London which shows how personal this has become against M. when we hit the final act, we do get another unusual location that previous ones haven’t had before.


Scene of the Movie –
Was that meant for me?

That Moment That Annoyed Me Going too personal about James’s past.

Final ThoughtsThis is the most intense Bond film to date, it puts different stakes on the line which is refreshing to see and is easily the one that standouts from the rest in the franchise.

 

Overall: High Octane Action Film.

Rating

 

 

Maggie Gyllenhaal Weekend – Secretary (2002)

Director: Steven Shainberg

Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson (Screenplay) Mary Gaitskill (Story)

Starring: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeremy Davies, Lesley Ann Warren, Stephen McHattie, Patrick Bauchau

 

Plot: A young woman, recently released from a mental hospital, gets a job as a secretary to a demanding lawyer, where their employer-employee relationship turns into a sexual, sadomasochistic one.


Tagline – Assume the position.

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Strangely Intriguing

 

Story: Secretary starts as young woman Lee Holloway (Gyllenhaal) gets released from mental home after her self-harming went too far, released to attend her sister’s wedding, she returns to her self-harming techniques, not in a suicidal way though. Wanting to be part of the world Lee gets her first job as a secretary for lawyer Mr Grey (Spader).

Working for Mr Grey gives Lee a new lease for life, she stops self-harming, while letting Mr Grey giving her the punishment she desires.

 

Thoughts on Secretary

 

Characters – Lee Holloway is a troubled young woman, she has been self-harming for years now, it has put her in a mental home for a time too, now she is ready to enter the world to have a normal job. She gets obsessed with BDSM which her boss punishes her with, the one thing that stops her self-harming. Mr Grey is the lawyer that Lee starts to work with, he demands the best from his secretary and doesn’t mind giving her punishment to make her better, he hides from problem clients and seems to live a lonely life. Peter is the potential new boyfriend for Lee that tries to have a normal relationship, while she is on her own voyage of self-discovery.

PerformancesMaggie Gyllenhaal is fantastic in the leading role, she is by far the star of this movie and showed us all the abilities she had in the acting field. James Spader is great too, he has always been able to walk into these types of roles well.

StoryThe story here follows one woman that wants to find comfort in the world, where the only comfort she has had before has come from her own self-harming, she has problems which will be getting fixed as she enters the real world. this shows how mental illness can create a way for voids to be used to help create moments of peace in lives. This does give us the important discussion to be made, which is fine because people need help to understand the problems people can be fighting with.

Comedy/RomanceCertain moments do have a comical tone to them, while the romance of the film is mostly about how Lee became obsessed with Mr Grey.

SettingsThe film is set in a big American city which shows how the people in each life can have their own personal interests which can come off stranger from the outside.


Scene of the Movie –
The cheque.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The Lee and Peter relationship is strange.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good movie that tackles mental illness that people are living with everyday, we have a brilliant performance from Gyllenhaal that put her name firmly on the map.

 

Overall: One to be watching.

Rating

 

 

State Like Sleep (2018) Movie Review

Director: Meredith Danluck

Writer: Meredith Danluck (Screenplay)

Starring: Katherine Waterston, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Michiel Huisman, Mary Kay Place, Julie Khaner, Bo Martyn

Plot: A woman grapples with the consequences of her celebrity husband’s double life after he commits suicide.

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: No Intensity

Story: State Like Sleep starts when photographer Katherine’s (Waterston) actor husband suddenly commits suicide, which shines the spotlight on her life and her relationship with Stefan (Huisman). With her mother Elaine (Place) latest visit seeing her end up in hospital, Katherine much look after her mother in Belgium, who is there to help her deal with the grief she is facing.

As Katherine starts looking into Stefan’s life, she starts learning about his secrets including Emile (Evans) who supplied him with drugs and maybe more, while turning to American Edward (Shannon) for support in her troubled time.

Thoughts on State Like Sleep

Characters – Katherine is a photographer who is in a marriage which is starting to fall apart, things get worse when her husband commits suicide, which puts her in the spotlight, dealing with the aftermath with an overly attached mother-in-law and secrets which she is only searching to unlock to learn why he took his life. Edward is a neighbour in the hotel, he offers her friendship in her time of need. Emile is one of the secrets from Stefan’s life, he is from a club, which isn’t afraid to supply the drugs which is one of his vices. Stefan is the actor husband, about to get his worldwide break, only his strange actions have led to his suicide, his secret life is what is driving his wife in search for answers.

PerformancesKatherine Waterston does every she can to make her character seem more interesting, but the character is written into grief to be so dull, it is hard to follow her journey, with only her haircuts to tell apart the two times. Michael Shannon does all he needs to without every reaching his best, while Luke Evans gives one of the most disappointing roles of his career to date, he just never gets going in his role. Michiel Huisman likewise doesn’t get too much to work with here.

StoryThe story here follows a grieving wife that must look into her husband’s last few days and learn about his secrets to see if she every really knew him before he passed away. While the core of this story should be very interesting to follow, it does seem to fall into the slower paced style, we could focus on grief of a celebrity spouse dealing with added pressure after a suicide, only we get a weak look into his secret life and Katherine’s search for something new in her life. There was so much more we could have explored here only we get the very basics covered, with a mystery that just doesn’t get going or give answers that make much sense.

SettingsThe film is mostly set in Belgium, which is different for a mainstream drama, it does have chance to go to the bigger known locations, but they don’t seem important to what is going on.


Scene of the Movie – The bar dinner.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It just doesn’t get the going.

Final Thoughts This is a film that just feels like it is clogged down by not much going on, which only just about gets solid performances out of the cast.

Overall: Disappointing drama.

James Bond Month – The Spy Who Loved me (1977)

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Writer: Christopher Wood, Richard Maibaum (Screenplay)

Starring: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jurgens, Rich Kiel, Caroline Munro, Walter Gotell

 

Plot: James Bond investigates the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads, with the help of a K.G.B. Agent, whose lover he killed.

 

Runtime: 2 Hours 5 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Moore’s Best Bond

 

Story: The Spy Who Loved Me starts when both a British and Russian submarine are hijacked with nuclear weapons on board, James Bond (Moor) and Russian agent, Agent XXX (Bach) are assigned by their countries to learn the truth, putting them on a collision course with each other.

The mastermind behind the hijacking is Karl Stromberg (Jurgens) who is using his men including Jaws (Kiel) to kill anyone who was involved in the project, it is up to Bond and Agent XXX to stop this mastermind before he uses the weapons.

 

Thoughts on The Spy Who Loved Me

 

Characters – James Bond we can’t really say anything new about this character, only to talk about his role in this film, he must work with a female agent from Russia to track down nuclear weapons, he doesn’t get everything his own way when it comes to the ladies this time and gets to face his biggest opponent in Jaws. Agent XXX is the Russian agent that is forced to work with James on her mission because Russian warheads have been stolen too, she isn’t going to fall for James seductive ways and is easily the smartest Bond girl to date so far. Karl Stromberg is the marine biologist that has taken the weapons in an attempt to cash in, he lives under the ocean and sends his hitmen out to kill anyone that can give away his secret. Jaws is arguably the most iconic of all the Bond villains, his size is huge which only makes him a threat in a fight with mental teeth one character you will never forget.

PerformancesRoger Moore is wonderful in this leading role, this is his best performance to date in the role, where we do believe everything that is going on for his character. Barbara Bach is a delight in the Bond girl role going against the normal character mold we have seen in recent film and while Curd Jurgens is a good villain it is the introduction of Richard Kiel to the franchise that will give you someone to remember.

StoryThe story pits British and Russian spies together to locate nuclear weapons and submarines that have been taken by an unknown mastermind. By putting two rival intelligence agencies together this does become more interesting because both agents know they can’t give away secrets while also knowing they are both just doing a job. The story also gives us the most iconic of all the henchmen in the Bond franchise Jaws. The villain does have a good plan and does feel like a threat to everyone involved which is a big plus from the last outing, this puts the franchise back where we like to see it.

Action/AdventureThe action in the film follows chase sequences, a massive base battle and the fights with Jaws which show his pure power. The adventure does put Bond on a trip around the world to locate the truth which is big for the film, showing us this could be a worldwide threat.

SettingsThe film uses the settings well because the bases that we see our characters fight in are wonderfully constructed for this movie and our worldwide trip takes us to Egypt this time around.


Scene of the Movie –
Jaws.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The villain does seem average compared to his henchmen.

Final ThoughtsThis is easily the best Bond outing for Roger Moore, it increases the peril involved in the film which was need after the last one and gives us a character we will never forget in Jaws.

 

Overall: Back on track.

Rating