Thursday, November 27, 2014

Being fair


  In Live and Let Die, the 8th official 007 movie, Roger Moore assumes the role of the iconic British secret service agent and comes out swinging, so to speak. There's no mistaking it, Roger Moore is James Bond. He fits the suits, throws a mean punch, and can dole out Bond-isms with the best of them. He's a worthy successor to Sean Connery, and what's even better is that he's clearly not trying to play Connery, he's playing Bond... James Bond. His own take on 007. Less of a brawler, more of a lover- Moore seems completely content relying on his 'bedside manner' and quick thinking to get him out of situations instead of a right hook and a Walther PPK. Even his choice of drink has been switched up. Yet make no mistake, this is still the James Bond we know and love. Just a different shade of the same character. This movie is pure escapist fantasy, just shy of the more serious tone of entries like OHMSS and From Russia With Love, it lands itself somewhere between Dr.No and Thunderball.

  The unfortunate downside is that the tone of the movie is far more than a stone's throw from what we're used to in Bond. It's more in line with it's immediate predecessor, Diamonds are Forever. Simple and lighthearted, but even moreso without Connery's trademark wit and grit. Despite this, there's something about Live and Let Die that makes it so much more fun. It could be the colorful villains, or the settings, but whatever it is... it makes Live and Let Die a surefire guilty pleasure. It seems to be just a series of situations Bond finds himself in, each outdoing the last in sheer spectacle or even just good ol' fashioned danger. It's infectiously fun. It takes a page from the quicker paced Bond outings and makes sure that the story is always moving forward.

  Whether Bond is getting into fistfights, car chases, or having to escape from a crocodile infested lake... Moore handles it all with grace and a few well-timed quips. He's impervious. Even in the face of certain death, he's rarely concerned enough to do more than raise an eyebrow. You can see the gears turning in there as he's working out how to escape. One thing he doesn't seem to have trouble escaping from though, is Sean Connery's shadow. He handles himself like he's been playing the role just as long. The weakest link might be some of the supporting actors, ranging from flat out bad to borderline parodic. In the bad category, we have a rather obnoxious redneck sheriff, and then we have Gloria Hendry as Bond girl Rosie. (notable as the first 'African American' woman Bond puts the moves on.) I have no qualms with Bond bedding women of any ethnicity, the only problem here is that Hendry is annoying, melodramatic, and a drag. Thankfully she's not in the movie long.

  I do suppose 'bad' is subjective in a movie like this though. It has voodoo, clairvoyance, pimps, "pimpmobiles", sharks, snakes, rednecks and fake afros. Somehow the movie makes it all work. Investigating the death of three fellow agents Bond goes from Harlem to Louisiana, and a hostile Caribbean island, blowing things up and running into traitors all along the way. He discovers that a prime minister, Dr.Kananga is plotting to flood the streets of the United States with $1 billion dollars of free heroin, not only cornering the market, putting the competition out of business, but also creating a booming customer base. Bond goes through everything imaginable to stop him. Ending in a trademark showdown in Kananga's secret underground island lair. Which, while fun and cool, just comes off as cliche at this point. Given the glaring absence of the international criminal organization and franchise mainstay, SPECTRE, from this movie, you wonder just how many independent criminal masterminds have underground metal-walled fortresses like this.

  Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Paul McCartney's fantastic and eponymous title song. The tune is catchy and gets stuck in your head. It suits the movie perfectly in it's own weird way and ends up not only being a damn good song in it's own right, but one of the most memorable Bond themes to date. In fact, all the music for the movie is great. It's hard to miss, and speaking of hard to miss... Jane Seymour plays Bond's other squeeze in the movie. She's the clairvoyant tarot card reader for Bond's enemy Dr.Kananga. It's an odd little fiasco, and Seymour is not all that memorable in the role, but she doesn't do a bad job either. It just wasn't written that memorably. Which is a shame because despite the age gap, her and Moore had good chemistry. Or so it seemed, whenever she wasn't stressing out and panicking as a damsel with the threat of death looming over her is likely to do.

  Overall, Live and Let Die is fun for all the same reasons it's hard to take it seriously. It's silly... but I think that's okay. For now. It's hard not to have fun watching Kananga's henchmen chase, torment, and try to kill Bond. Amongst which are the flamboyant and un-killable voodoo priest Baron Samedi, the fat, raspy and quiet 'Whisper', and finally the giggly, metal armed thug, Tee Hee. With such a colorful cadre of villains, Bond had his work cut out for him. By way of boat chases, a strictly land based airplane chase, a bus chase, and a skirmish in a speeding car, Bond finally saves the day. As per usual. Far be it from him to let the credits roll without bedding the girl one more time though. Attaboy James, way to dig into cliche.

  Nevertheless, I should point out that Roger Moore makes great use of his sarcastic wit. He coins it and makes it his thing, much like Connery's did with his sharp and biting one-liners. He inhabits the role well and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to watching the rest of Moore's films, even if Live and Let Die isn't anywhere near one of the best. A word to the wise however, it's a better movie if you view it as Moore's introductory outing, instead of a sequel to the previous films. Not even the staunchest critics can deny that this one has some great thrilling action sequences. An open mind and a big bowl of popcorn go a long way towards making this one infinitely more watchable. It's a middle of the road 007 flick, but a strangely enjoyable one at that, and not a bad way to kill a couple hours.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Basic, but fun


  After Lazenby's infamous departure from the role of the titular secret agent, it was up in the air as to who would play Bond for the 7th outing, pitting him once again against SPECTRE and Blofeld. Of course, things shook out just the right way and for better or worse Sean Connery himself ended up back in the part. Diamonds are Forever is a nice Bond vehicle, but the darkness and seriousness that permeated OHMSS is nowhere to be found in this one. It has the depth of a ten cent spy novel and is about as original. Bond spends the movie tracking down a bunch of diamonds, as far as I could follow he's trying to find out who's trying to buy them. As it turns out, it's his old archenemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Of course, had this been a sequel with any sort of directness, it would've been a revenge thriller. It's really not. Bond's discourse with Blofeld isn't charged with the kind of hatred you'd expect after what happened to Bond's new bride at the end of OHMSS. It's a shame, but the movie on it's own terms doesn't really suffer for it. Diamonds are Forever, and so is 007 apparently- even in a silly outing like this one.

  Diamonds are Forever probably had the fastest pacing of any Bond movie ever in it's time. Even when exposition and character development are necessary, they happen on the fly. Bond is always moving from one encounter to the next, whether it be a deadly one... or a 'personal' one, he's no time to stop and smell the roses. As a result, this breezy little actioner feels frivolous and over rather fast. It carries none of the weight as Connery's previous films, but again, I can't imagine it was ever meant to. Bond isn't really a character in the movie as he is simply an action figure. Even in the other Connery movies, most notably in You Only Live Twice and Thunderball, he was indeed rather 2 dimensional- but never to this extent. The movie itself is solid, but it won't appeal to everyone. Some probably cite this one as a perfect example of what's wrong with a big portion of 007 movies. I can't imagine the impending Roger Moore era did anything to sway those people as his turn as the famous double-o agent is probably the silliest and most tongue-in-cheek.

  So those aren't necessarily flaws of this movie, if you're judging it on it's own merits. It manages to be rather light and carefree, especially in comparison to it's predecessor OHMSS. Yet, all the fundamental trappings of a 007 movie are here. The elaborate plot, the meticulously designed villain's lair, the car chases, gadgets, and more. It's sort of a back to basics notion that seems to be driving this movie- aside from Connery's wit and charm that is. His performance here seems to nicely pave the way for Moore's ultra-suave take on the character. Nevertheless the movie raises a question honestly, what do we really want out of a 007 movie? Is it the silliness of ones like this? Or is it the dark tone of the Dalton movies? Honestly, I think I prefer the darker Bonds, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy ones like this too. It's carefree and often funny. It's an all you can eat buffet of one liners and Bond-isms.

  Even the lightheartedness aside, the movie definitely has some really intense moments. Bond gets trapped in a coffin inside at one point, set to be cremated. At another point, he has what seems like the entire Las Vegas police force after him in a show stopping car chase that pulls out all the stops. Even beyond stuff like that, Diamonds are Forever never has a dull moment. Or a quiet one for that matter. It's breakneck pace moves everything along with snappy momentum, and even giving us several quite memorable moments- but ultimately nothing that would go down in Bond history. I feel myself coming up short with critical analysis of this movie. It feels like a highlight reel of a longer Bond movie, but that's also not a bad thing either. Sean Connery is getting older but proves he can still keep up. Even if he is sort of just going through the paces. Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

  Connery had played Bond so much by this point that slipping into the character again looked effortless to him. That calm effortless attitude permeates the character itself. I think some misinterpret this as Connery phoning in his performance. I respectfully disagree. If you're fine with the aging star returning to the role which made him famous, then odds are, you'll like the movie. I've seen it twice and have yet to even marginally dislike it. It's basic fare, but well made at that. Stylish and sleek even. Jill St. John plays the main Bond girl this time, she's witty and sly, and easy on the eyes. However, she's not super memorable either. Diamonds are Forever really isn't either. It seems to me that it's doomed to end up as one of those movies that are just 'parts'. You can only ever remember parts of it, and wonder which Bond movie it was from. The "you have something to get off your chest" moment, the car chase, and Bond's confrontation with Blofeld.

  You'd almost never think of those moments and think: Diamonds are Forever! Ergo, the movie doesn't make for bad viewing, it's a fun time for sure, but it's unchallenging and emotionally inert. Not that it even attempts to be otherwise. It knows it doesn't stand a fighting chance of trying to continue on with the serious emotional tone from OHMSS so it just turns in as a lighthearted action adventure instead. Even Blofeld feels a bit like a stock villain at this point, but it still doesn't prevent him from chewing scenery and have fun doing it. He's still a fun villain, and nothing if not a staple of the franchise by this point. The movie... on the whole, is fun, but nothing spectacular. You could do worse as far as 70's lighthearted actioners go, and you could even do a lot worse with 007 movies as well. The flip side is that you could also do better too. I recommend it so long as you know what kind of 007 movie it is,  just plain basic fun- little else.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A little shaken, and certainly stirring


  It's the end of the 60's and James Bond has a new face. The face of George Lazenby in point of fact. I was never a fan of his looks or his singular turn as the titular double-o agent. However, I paid much closer attention to the movie around him this time, and without a doubt it's one of the best. Like any Bond flick, it certainly has it's downsides, but the director knew what he was doing. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is slick, stylish, and grand- not unlike an epic from the 50's. Complete with excessively edited fights, and softly lit romantic moments, OHMSS feels a little dated. Moreso than it's immediate predecessors (You Only Live Twice, and Thunderball), but it also has that classical feel to it. Bond feels like a legitimate person here, fallible even. Capable of genuine love. Which is a dynamic hardly explored again until 2006's Casino Royale. It suits the character in a dark way. Behind the skirts, martinis, and car chases is a tragic character waiting to be explored.

  Unfortunately we wouldn't really get to see that side of him explored until the aforementioned Casino Royale, but it worked out perfectly and we had plenty of memorable 007 films in the meantime. Anyways, OHMSS is pretty great. A little slow around the middle, unfortunately too because this time isn't spent towards the budding romance between Tracy (Diana Rigg) and Bond. Instead this odd interim kickstarts the main plot, pitting 007 against Blofeld (Telly Savalas) once again. Yet by the time we get here, it feels like the movie has started several times already. You'd be forgiven for thinking the main plot revolved around Bond girl Tracy. She's crucial to the story, in a roundabout way, but not directly. Not enough to open the movie with. Having said that... it was a cool opening.

  Aside from the weird story structure, there's Lazenby himself. I don't really like him as Bond. I don't think he did a bad job per se, and I don't think Connery would've been any better in this particular story, however his absence is sorely felt. I think this would've been the ideal time to bring in Roger Moore. Maybe hand off a few of his later movies to Dalton. All would've been right with the world.
Moreover, Lazenby didn't sound ready for the part either. He quit the role before the movie even premiered, rebelling against the producers in a variety of passive aggressive fashions. He was certain that Bond had no place in the 70's, and he felt mistreated on set. Yet this was also his first movie, and on top of that, he was stepping into the well worn shoes that already rocketed one newbie to stardom. I can only assume he felt more people would listen to his opinion on things given that he was cast as Bond, yet the direct opposite was true. They cast a face, an accent, and a trademark swagger. Unfortunately for him, that was all.

  I have even more nitpicks, but they don't necessarily detract from the quality of the movie, which otherwise is pretty damn good. Lazenby does an admirable job nonetheless, though his wardrobe is frequently loud, occasionally ostentatious, and unfortunately his fights lack the grit of the Connery brawls. At the very least, he's got the swagger down and can throw a mean punch. His back and forth with Tracy is fantastic, and I heard extra effort was put into their dialog. It really shows honestly. You could pluck OHMSS out of the franchise entirely, and set it on it's own and it'd be a perfectly fine spy thriller. A great one even. It's a genuine romance story couched in tragedy and secret agent trappings.  Diana Rigg plays Tracy as the kind of woman that Bond is only ever going to find once. There's a scene where Bond is being hunted by the villains, he's genuinely scared for his life, and Tracy swoops in like a guardian angel- saving his life.

  Usually Bond is an infallible superman, even when he's inches from death he always has a quip or a trick up his sleeve to get away just in time. We really believe he would've died there if not for her. It was and still is largely unconventional, and then to have her drive the car in the subsequent chase sequence? Completely unheard of. She's as much of a hero in this movie as Bond is. She never feels overblown like a super-hero though, and neither does Bond. What's even better is that neither of them need to in order for the movie to work- and boy does it work. They're solid and well rounded characters. Especially Tracy. Not to mention, Rigg and Lazenby have fantastic onscreen chemistry, which is probably the main highlight of the movie for me. As Bond, his performance is debatable, but as a British secret service agent who falls in love under dire circumstances... he's great. OHMSS is a great Bond movie, but it's even better that it sorta feels like something else as well.

  It feels like a standalone entity in the franchise. It's probably more watchable out of any sort of continuity whatsoever. Whereas Dr.No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger feel like their own trilogy (to a somewhat lesser extent, it's perfectly fine to extend that into a quintrilogy to include Thunderball and You Only Live Twice) OHMSS doesn't quite move to the same beat. It's tone is different, it's momentum is different, it just feels like it's own thing. Despite having all the trappings of a classic Bond flick, OHMSS sets itself apart, discreetly... but it does- and that is not a bad thing. It's easier to enjoy it when you're not expecting a sequel to the Connery films. It is it's own beast, and should be appreciated as such.  I hope I'm not putting anyone off from watching it, because it's still a great 007 outing. From a thrilling escape from Blofeld's lair, culminating in a breakneck ski chase, to the explosive climatic raid, sending Bond, guns blazing, into the depths of Blofeld's sinister laboratory... the movie is a blast. Once it gets going, it keeps going.

  In the end, OHMSS manages to throw out a twist that will subtly define Bond's character for good. Whenever you question his behavior or his motives, you have to recall the end of OHMSS. There's no happy ending in store for Bond here, and even saying that is saying too much. Suffice it to say it adds a layer to his character that only the best of the movies even flirt with. Most Bond movies are content to be simple actioners, rarely do they get as personal and as dark as OHMSS. The vibrancy of the movie, and the tongue in cheek nature may be offputting to some, standing in stark contrast to the darker tone they belted out at times, but that's what makes OHMSS so worth seeing and talking about. I found a new appreciation for this movie, and I recommend it to anyone who never thought much of it before, or to anyone who's never seen it. It's an odd movie, and an odd entry in it's own franchise, but if you give it it's due diligence... it can end up being one of the most memorable and moving 007 movies to date. It left me shaken... and more than a little stirred.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Back on track!


  James Bond in Japan! In this fifth 007 outing, James Bond takes on SPECTRE and gives a face to the evil cat-stroking criminal genius. The movie is certainly an improvement over Thunderball; reining in it's runtime and tightening up the editing, it's a much smoother ride and one that holds your attention a lot better. You Only Live Twice is a great James Bond movie that delights in being self-indulgent the way Thunderball wanted to be. It's the sequel you would've wanted after Goldfinger. An exotic locale, great action scenes, beautiful women, and a fantastic finale. Of course, I should stop listing things like that as far too many sub par 007 movies have all that, and more. It's more in how you mix the ingredients rather than simply having them present. Thunderball had too much on it's plate and didn't know how to juggle it all successfully, but this movie seems to have gotten the knack.

  The movie opens with Bond's death, and despite the fact we know he's not dead, it's still an effective and shocking opening. Well handled and fun, Bond's "resurrection" is just as cool. Of course, Sean Connery brings his sharp wit and suaveness back to the role, setting the bar extremely high for his successors. The plot this time involves a mysterious spacecraft stealing space shuttles in space (that's kind of a mouthful), leaving the United States blaming Russia for the mysterious disappearances, and promising war if it happens again. Obviously this is a problem. Those damn yanks, always jumping to conclusions. Anyways, British intelligence shows the mysterious spacecraft landing in Japan. Thus, Bond's headed to Japan too. It's a neat plot, nice and uncomplicated. I enjoyed this one a lot, both times I've seen it it's been a big ball of fun.

   The action is well shot and exceptionally well choreographed. It has some of the best pacing you could find in the early films, and a massive climax that takes place inside a secret SPECTRE base built inside a dormant volcano. Easily one of the coolest, biggest, and most iconic sets of the entire franchise. I'm getting a little ahead of myself though. You Only Live Twice is unfortunately without a memorable Bond girl. I can't even remember her name. Which is sad, because she was nice at least. However, since when has "nice at least" ever been enough in this franchise? I rest my case. With no standout Bond girl to speak of, it's funny that there's still plenty of women in general to go around. Bond is inundated with females. As his Japanese ally explains to him as a group of scantily clad women begin to disrobe and bathe them: "In Japan, men come first and women come second." I'll let you imagine how Bond responded to that.

  Nevertheless, if you're here for gadgets and action, this one won't disappoint. At one point, 007 sneaks into an enemy's headquarters disguised as one of them, when he's discovered, he ends up in a balls-to-bone brawl that's way more intense than it has any right to be. Like his fights with Red Grant and his opening brawl in Thunderball, this one is just as thrilling. Connery is a fighter unlike any of his successors. He quite literally throws himself into the fight, and has no reservations about wrecking everything in sight. The way he fights looks dirty, but in a way that makes it feel real. He's fantastic in the role as always and I have no complaint about him in this one. There is a point in the movie where they try to make him look Japanese with a surgery of sorts? It's really not successful. He ends up looking more like a relative of Spock from Star Trek than anything else. What's even weirder is that his disguise is only used very briefly, and then he's back to looking like his normal self. Not that I'm complaining... the wig they used was atrocious.

  The action isn't just limited to fist fights though, there's a few fun car chases, shootouts, and even an explosive aerial helicopter skirmish.  It doesn't get much better than that. Except for the climax, which is simply massive. They really opened up the scope of what's possible with these movies with that climax. It was great. It's also the first time we're formally introduced to Bond's archnemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. His presence is dynamic and he's a formidable opponent for James. He's immediately played as the smartest and most ruthless man in the room. He's even scarier when you stop and realize, he's the same cat-stroking off-screen supervillain from the previous movies. His cunning couldn't possibly be overstated. As far as memorable Bond villains go, he's number one. Moreover, You Only Live Twice was the perfect Bond vehicle in which to put a face to his name. An unforgettable face at that. Even with Blofeld having been endlessly parodied (Austin Powers' Dr.Evil of course) it doesn't take away from his villainous presence in this movie. It's great to be honest.

  As is the movie. It's a blast. It's the height of Connery with gadgets and supervillains. It's brimming with the best elements of a basic spy thriller, and all the wonderful flair of a fantastic 007 outing. You can't go wrong with this one. I will say it's not perfect, and in some ways is emblematic of some of things most wrong with 007 movies, like... being emotionally hollow, 2 dimensional, and being somewhat devoid of anything meaningful. The women are basic eye-candy, the action is ratcheted up to 11, and James Bond is a superman. Yet, with the impending Roger Moore era (which got even worse) I can't throw a damn fine spy romp like this under the bus. James Bond may be an action figure in a shallow outing like this, but he's an action figure with all the best toys. It even comes complete with the enemy's "Volcano Base HQ!" playset! How could you not have fun with this movie? It may not be as classic as Goldfinger or From Russia With Love, but it deserves it's place right alongside them. If you go in expecting something with depth (which I don't see why you would after the previous four movies) you'll likely be disappointed, but if you're just looking for a good ol' fashioned good vs. evil movie, you could do a LOT worse than this one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Getting the point


  It's not hard to see why the makers of Thunderball thought it would be the best Bond yet. Afterall it has all the basic fundamental elements of a fantastic old school 007 outing. The tropical setting, the nefarious villain, his dastardly plot (bonus points for it involving stolen atomic bombs), gadgets, and beautiful women. Yet there is something about Thunderball that keeps it from being great. Certainly far from being the best, it is at the very least still fun escapist fantasy. I had seen it prior to this viewing, (as I have all the 007 movies) but I didn't remember it well. What I did end up remembering was how this movie never really held my attention. A problem I faced this time as well. I feel bad for that too, because once you get past a lot of it's flaws, Thunderball is still pretty good. As far as these sort of things go.

  It's the fourth movie in the ever-growing franchise and they pulled out all the stops. It opens with a bang as we join Bond hunting down an adversary who tries to evade capture by sneaking around in drag. Of course Bond sees right through his disguise, and gets into a rather gritty brawl with the skirt-clad man. Bond finishes the job and escapes via Rocketbelt no less, and then straight into his Aston Martin DB5 to make his final getaway. It's a great opening, if not a little weird and overdone. It just plain old fun. It's the kind of stuff you'd never catch Daniel Craig doing, yet Sean Connery pulls it off and can still walk away with his trademark swagger and be taken seriously. Mostly. Far be it from me to throw him under the bus now, despite how utterly off Thunderball is, Connery is a constant. He was great in the previous three, and he's certainly a highlight of this one.

  It would be ignorantly dismissive of me to call Thunderball a stinker, but it doesn't have the same flow as it's predecessors. It's more than a bit overlong as well, clocking in at just over a very full two hours. When honestly, the movie needed nothing more than 90 minutes. I think I liked it more this time than the first time I saw it though, and I think it made a bigger impact on me this time around. I feel it qualifies as a guilty pleasure. I know a lot of retrospective praise gets heaped on it, but it's really sort of dull at times. A very drawn out dullness that not even the wittiest wisecracks from our stalwart protagonist was able to alleviate. It's not a persistent dullness though. It's broken up by some rather fun scenes here and there. However you quickly realize that the movie is just taking way too long to simply get going.

  Once it does though, it's very enjoyable in a strange sort of way. As if in direct response though, to Bond's 'roll in the hay' with Pussy Galore in the previous movie, turning her 'good', Bond's efforts to do the same thing this time... completely fail. The femme fatale in this movie doesn't fall victim to Bond's... "charm". Her character is all the more engaging for it and she has several great moments with Bond. I don't know exactly why the Bond girl in this one, Domino, is a much more fun character than Tatiana Romanova in From Russia With Love, but she is. Despite her being little more than a damsel in distress primed to fall in love with Bond, she manages to hold her own. In point of fact, Bond invites her to dinner and she outright refuses him with a simple and to-the-point "No." She's gorgeous and a little naive, but she's not a wimpy rag doll, and she's not about to swoon for Bond. Something which I felt Tatiana did just about every eleven seconds. "Oh James!"

  Thunderball explores the secret criminal organization of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. a little closer in this movie. Opening up their scale considerably showing us an intimidatingly big board room in which it looks only fit to discuss plans for taking over the world. Not to mention the entrance to this room is a secret sliding door. Of course. Which brings me to the villain of the movie. Emilio Largo. Sporting an eye patch, Largo looks the sinister part. A part he wholeheartedly lives up to, feeding his enemies to sharks that he keeps in a pool on his property, stealing a whole bomber plane and the two atomic bombs on board, and leveraging them for ransom. (If I remember correctly that is) Thunderball is the type of movie that introduces elements that become so iconic, they can and have become cliche. Any plot where a villain steals bombs, has pet sharks, and/or wears an eye patch isn't ripping off Thunderball, (maybe it is a little, but-) it's just being maddeningly cliche.

  Largo isn't a bad villain, he just isn't a memorable one. Same goes for the movie itself. It isn't necessarily a bad movie, and I can't say it isn't memorable, but it's devoid of that cracking energy that made the previous three so great. There's a lot to love about Thunderball and I believe that it is underrated, but with it's lethargic pacing in the first half, simplistic story, and semi-forgettable villain, it'll never be one of the greats. However... however, as it is, it's still a really fun action movie. The underwater climax is as thrilling as it breathtaking. It escalates to almost unbelievable levels, turning into a full fledged underwater war. The sequence goes on and on, some criticize it for being too long- but I disagree. I think it more than makes up for the lethargy that had occasionally plagued the first couple acts. Bond literally drops in and manages to 'turn the tide' of the battle. With cracking style and flair nonetheless. He's finally the fantastic man of action we all know and love, and he gets quite the moment to shine in the climax.

  Nevertheless, it's definitely a mixed bag as these movies go, and it's also highly subjective. Your enjoyment of it will depend on what about the 007 movies you like. If it's gadgets, palm trees, and explosions, you're in luck. Yet mileage may vary still. I think Thunderball has less of a pacing issue and more of a momentum issue, as it's start-and-stop methods get old rather fast. For some, this movie might be a total drag, and I understand that. I can see how they might feel that way. I halfway agree, myself. However! Bond's heroics have never been more in-style and his one liners are as witty as ever. If you want some good ol' back-to-basics spy thrills, you could do a lot worse than Thunderball. God knows there are worse Bond movies, and I myself don't rank this one amongst them. I think most fans owe it a second, if not third look.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Shocking... positively shocking


  There's a scene in Goldfinger where 007 is making his getaway in his tricked out Aston Martin DB5 from some enemies. He flips open a panel between the seats, and flicks a switch, sending thick rows of vision-obscuring smoke billowing out the back of his car. The woman in the passenger seat smiles at the neat gadget, and Bond smirks. This scene perfectly embodies the spirit of the 007 movies, and of Goldfinger specifically. Bond is back, in style, and showing off all his new tricks. He's proud of it too. The movie is aware of this, and rightfully so. This is the stuff we like to see when we watch 007 movies. Tongue planted in cheek, but not too firmly. There are levels on which you can't take any 007 movie seriously, but for the most part, they play it straight and deliver good old fashioned spy thrills. Goldfinger is no exception, and even raises the bar even higher for all it's successors.

  Bond wouldn't be as fun if his gadgets did all the work for him, so of course Sean Connery proves yet again that his rough-and-tumble take on the British secret agent is a perfect fit. Sure, 007 uses a gadget here and there, but he's always ready to throw down, or more importantly- think his way out of a situation. They really do show his deductive skills at work here, and not only here but in the previous two movies as well. I feel that's something always overlooked about Bond. He tends to use his head more than his gadgets. He thinks ahead, anticipates, and prepares. Even as the situation evolves, he's constantly assessing a new way to approach it. Granted, eventually, given the nature of these movies, it's obviously going to boil down to fights, shootouts, or a chase scene. However, that doesn't negate the fact that 007 is one smart cookie, and Connery knows how to play that up quite well.

  In this threequel, Bond is sent out to investigate Auric Goldfinger, the eponymous villain of the movie who's supposedly smuggling his gold illegally. Of course, a much larger plot is afoot, and soon a very dangerous game of cat and mouse evolves between Bond and Goldfinger. The thrills come fast and hard in this one. From the explosive opening gambit, to Bond's repeated encounters with Goldfinger's iconic henchman, Oddjob. The movie opens up the throttle even more than it's predecessor did. Also introduced in this one, is Bond's trademark Aston Martin. The gadget filled Bond-mobile has rather limited screentime in this one, but makes a hell of an impact nonetheless. It's sleek, sexy, and full of surprises. Coincidentally, that statement fits the movie on the whole.

  I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the Bond girl of this outing... Pussy Galore. A vast improvement over the previous Bond girl. Ms.Galore is much more of an equal to 007 than either of the prior two Bond girls. She's tough, no-nonsense, and not afraid to judo-flip Bond on his ass. Granted, James wins her over eventually and she actually helps save the day, but this brings me to my first (and really my only) point of contention with Goldfinger. This is a little spoileristic I guess? So if you haven't seen it... whatever. At one point, Bond and Galore have some time alone, with the impending climax mere minutes away (no pun intended) and they have a playful little sparring match in a barn on Mr.Goldfinger's ranch in Kentucky. It ends with Bond physically forcing himself on her. She's trying to push him away, and he's leaning in for a kiss, overpowering her. She of course ends up melting into his arms, but that doesn't negate several glaring problems with this.

  One, it's basically rape. Half the world would be up in arms if the current James Bond did this in the next movie. I don't even feel I should have to elaborate on that point. It's extremely cut and dry. Secondly, it undermines her character. Obviously the two characters were going to have sex sooner or later, but it doesn't happen on her terms, and the fact Bond forced her into it ends up being semi-essential to the plot. Her uniqueness, her identity, everything about her becomes instantly irrelevant because she's useless until Bond has sex with her. Only then does she realize she should do what's right. It would've been much more compelling if the balance of power had been in her hands still when this happened. Of course, that was probably unthinkable for the 1960's, but it's still lazy writing in my opinion. The whole scene, and the subsequent effects of it make me very uncomfortable.

  I do understand that society and it's view on women and their roles was all very different in the 1960's. Let's just say I'm glad we've graduated past that. Nobody is denying that Bond girls are largely there to be eye candy, but saying that's all they should be is ridiculous. A dumb, wimpy Bond girl is annoying and frustrating to watch. The most interesting ones? The ones people remember? Those are the smart ones. The ones that can hold their own with Bond. Isn't it interesting that the best ones are the ones that rival 007 as an equal? If not an equal physically, then emotionally, or intellectually. Food for thought if nothing else. Pussy Galore was a victim of bad writing, but for the most part was a very fun character who didn't let Bond push her around... until she landed on her back. Then all bets were off.

  Anyway, what's a 007 movie without it's villain? Auric Goldfinger isn't the visual image of menacing. He has neither the well worn scowl of Rosa Klebb, nor the icy cold demeanor of Dr.No. He's rather rotund, greedy, and perhaps a bit over confident. He makes a unique villain for Bond, and one that comes quite close to killing him on several occasions, not the least of which is the iconic scene involving an industrial laser. "Do you expect me to talk?", "No, Mr.Bond! I expect you to die!" Goldfinger retorts, as the laser beam inches closer to Bond on a fixed trajectory to cut him in half, right down the middle. At this point, I was legitimately on the edge of my seat. I've seen the scene several times, and it never loses it's biting tension. It's a classic moment, and it's only one of many. The movie is full of great scenes. For certain reasons, it'll never be my absolute favorite, but it's in my top five. You can expect this one to deliver. As if you needed me to tell you that...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Smashing!


  James Bond's return to the big screen was a fantastic success. All the rough edges that were present in Dr.No were sanded down, delivering a much smoother film. From Russia With Love is a movie I like more each time I see it. It's faster, bigger, and more intense than it's predecessor. And while Dr.No introduced a few iconic mainstay elements, this one completed the package. From top to bottom, From Russia With Love gives us the rest of what makes the classic 007 films so much fun. The dry wit, the gadgets, Q, and the faceless cat-stroking villain, pulling the strings behind the scene. It's hard not to enjoy this movie. Pound for pound it's one of the best of the franchise.

  In this sequel, we have Bond being sent to Istanbul on assignment to steal a top secret decoding device from the Russians. The device is called a 'Lektor', and is actually of little importance to the story, besides the fact that everyone wants it. The whole scenario in reality is a trap set up by SPECTRE to obtain the Lektor, and kill James Bond, exacting revenge for the demise of their operative Dr.No. Of course 007 is wise to the face not everything is as it seems. He partners up with his ally in Istanbul, and with the help of a young and beautiful Russian intelligence clerk begins to work out the details of acquiring the Lektor. A simple task made excruciatingly difficult by assassins, explosions, and endless shootouts.

  The movie doesn't skimp in the action department. From a guns-blazing enemy raid on a gypsy camp where Bond is hiding, to a high-speed climactic (and explosive) boat chase, the movie delivers thrill after thrill. It also takes us to fantastic locations as well, including secret underground canals, a great set piece on the Orient Express, the vibrant and colorful Gypsy camp, and the wonderfully eye-catching streets of Istanbul itself. Which were shot on location I believe. And of course, Sean Connery's Bond glides through the movie with confidence and swagger, dispensing punches and bullets as he sees fit. The guy is a balls-to-bone brawler. He doesn't fight with the calculated precision and learned skill of some of the later Bonds. He fights like he learned on the streets. I think it adds something to the character. Whether or not it was a conscious thing they did, or just something Connery brought to the role, it's a fantastic little touch.

  I don't want to say these movies invented the spy genre, but it sure sensationalized it. James Bond became not only the archetype for secret agents, but the standard... and it was movies like this that helped him get there. The worst thing From Russia With Love could've done is tried to replicate the precise formula of Dr.No. Another tropical setting, another ominous villain in an underground lair, et cetera et cetera... Instead, they stuck reasonably close to the source material, and produced another great adventure that takes us to a very different corner of the world, forsaking palm trees and bikinis for cobblestone streets and cold war espionage. As much as the blue skies and sandy beaches suit the aesthetic of an ideal James Bond movie, so does a setting like this. Though that's not to say it's without it's own host of wonderful characters.

  Not the least of which is Bond's charismatic ally, Karim Bey. As resourceful as he is hospitable, the movie wouldn't be as much fun to watch without him. He certainly makes an impression and ends up being a real memorable character. To be a memorable secondary character in a franchise that has 24 installments is no small feat. Karim Bey, and his many sons are great. Loyal allies to Bond, and interesting to watch, From Russia With Love is all the richer for it. It also wouldn't be as classic if it wasn't for the trademark henchman, Red Grant. Lackey to the sinister Rosa Klebb, Grant follows Bond around the entire movie, watching and stalking him from the shadows. His presence is felt throughout, even when we don't see him. By the time Bond and him meet face to face, the tension is beyond palpable. Grant sets the bar high for any possible successors in the villainous henchman department. He's smart, strong, and ruthless, but he too feels like a well rounded character. Which is fantastic because his is the sort of character that could've easily wound up with a personality not unlike a brick wall.

  The weak link for me is the 'Bond girl', Tatiana Romanova, played by Daniela Bianchi. I understand how some might like her, but she's a drag.  A doe eyed damsel in distress who falls madly in love with James Bond. She doesn't seem like the type that would take it very well when she finds out that he doesn't really care about her, and he'll move on to another three women before the week is up. I understand the need for a female counterpoint to Bond in these movies. Whether it be a damsel in distress or a more capable woman, more his equal. But Tatiana is a stock character. There's nothing exactly groundbreaking or even interesting about her. She fawns over Bond the entire movie, and does little else. The only moment in which she's really required to do anything comes at the very end. Which is a shame because the role her character filled could've been brilliantly tweaked to straddle the line between femme fatale and damsel in distress. As it is, all we have is a damsel in distress, and not a very interesting one at that. She's about as engaging as a fangirl or a groupie, following their idol around for a week.

  On the flip side, she's not bad enough to bring the movie down either. She's just a fixture, little else. Which is fine because there's so much else going on regardless, there's no time to really stop and think about her. The movie clicks along at an even faster pace than Dr.No which is actually very welcome, but somehow it never feels quite as alive. There was an energy to Dr.No which to this day allows it to edge out as my favorite Bond movie ever. Maybe it was the newness of it, maybe it was the setting, or the villain. I don't know. It could be any one of a hundred things that From Russia With Love doesn't have, but that's not to say From Russia With Love doesn't have it's own incorrigible likability. It's a great action movie, and a great James Bond movie. A solid entry in the franchise which is as memorable as it is exciting. It's set pieces are immediately recognizable, and it's characters unforgettable. I have a feeling I'm going to run out of adjectives before I reach the end of the Connery era. Yet as the credits roll, they tell us that James Bond will return in "Goldfinger", and I too will return, with my review of "Goldfinger".

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Fantastic Start


  For my 400th post, I'm pleased to kick off my 007 marathon with a review on the first ever James Bond film, the  undeniably classic... Dr.No. I've seen this movie several times, but my first encounter with it was on ABC when I was 7 or 8 years old. It was the movie of the week I believe, and I didn't catch the whole thing, but what I saw was simply entrancing. It wasn't the quickest paced movie for a kid who's attention span was catered to by the likes of Power Rangers and Star Wars. However, even back then, there was something captivating about Dr.No. Sean Connery's James Bond glided through the movie with uncanny grace under pressure and a suave yet steely resolve. It certainly left an impression on eight year old me. Yet it wasn't just one thing. It was also the vibrant colors, the massive sets, the architecture of the villain's lair, the tropical setting... It was all top shelf escapist fantasy. It didn't need a breakneck pace or non-stop action. It still doesn't.

  I'm glad to report that it holds up better than one might think, especially in the face of the modern 007 with it's tightly edited, faster paced, and far more brutal sensibilities.  Dr.No wasn't a slouch either. For those who would say it has languid pacing, I would ask them "Where?". Right as the film starts, a trio of seemingly blind beggars turn out to be ruthless hitmen, killing a man and whisking his body away immediately. It kicks off the movie with a bang, and it rarely lets up from there. Providing of course you're not expecting an action thriller that moves like one today would. It was a movie made in a very different era and by a different set of standards. Even so, it's fairly action packed, and at times toes the line between action and violence.
There's a classic scene in which Bond corners a man who was sent to kill him, the man tries to shoot him but his gun is out of bullets. Bond makes a quip, and shoots him dead in cold blood. It's a chilling scene regardless of what era you're in.

  The movie clicks along at it's own pace, recognizing that Bond is a secret agent, not a soldier or an assassin. If this were a movie about soldiers or assassins, I'd expect something entirely else. As it is, James Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a fellow agent, and from the get-go runs into all kinds of trouble. Assassins, traitors, femme fatales, poisonous spiders, and all this is before we even get to Dr.No's island fortress in time for the climax. The film is a bit rough around the edges, overly eager in it's execution sometimes. Certain music cues run too long and spill over into the next scene quite needlessly, or certain shots feel way too short, but this was the first James Bond movie. Everyone saw the bigger picture, and without this fantastic starting point we wouldn't have the more refined movies that followed. I do think that this roughness is also part of the appeal to Dr.No. It still feels a bit fresh. Hot off the presses, if you will.
 
  None of Bond's cliches really even exist yet. It's just as raw as say... Casino Royale. There's no Q yet, no real gadgets, and Bond is seen really thinking his way through situations, not just magically knowing what to do, as it would end up in some of the later movies. Bond is much more of a brawler here, though of course that could be said about Sean Connery's take on the character in general. Speaking of Connery as Bond, he's the top dog in a cast full of entertaining and vibrant characters that feel pulled right off the page of a thrilling spy novel.  You have the American CIA agent, Felix Leiter, the local boatman, Quarrel, the beauty hidden away from the world, Honey Rider, and of course the eponymous Dr.No. The actors bringing these characters to life couldn't have been better cast. Even though makeup prosthetic was used on actor Joseph Wiseman to make him look slightly more Chinese, it manages to be less noticeable and less offensive than the same methods used on another peripheral character earlier in the film.

  Wiseman ends up being absolutely fantastic as the villain of the movie, seeming like he'd been playing this role for a long time in a well established franchise. He is instantly recognizable, not just as a villain, but as a Bond villain. When you finally see him, you can see how he clearly set the bar for all future Bond villains. His performance instituted the formula for what makes a good nemesis in this universe. He doesn't even need to be seen for the first 3/4ths of the movie. His assassins do his bidding throughout the movie, upping the body count every chance they can, building Dr.No up to a very ominous and all-seeing status. By the time he has any direct onscreen role to play, it's just his voice. It's a chilling scene, and incredibly effective.   Dr.No is one of my all time favorite villains, not only of the franchise, but in general. As simple as the concepts were bringing him to life and to the big screen, I don't think I'd have it any other way.

  Of course, there are plenty of things about this movie that would clash with modern audiences. The 60's was a very different time and as much as Ursula Andress brought Honey Rider to life with a fiery and independent personality, most of the women in Dr.No were little more than decorative objects. They're all attractive, and moreover they're all attracted to James Bond. It's played up to an extent that at times, it comes off as hokey. Even in later movies in the franchise. I never got over that. One girl, two girls yeah. But random peripheral characters? Waitresses? Receptionists? Every single female? Perhaps Q branch developed some sort of double-o pheromone for Bond. This early in the series, that seems more likely, as Connery was still working on the finer points of the character's charisma and charm. He's suave, but he's also a bit of a thug. Which of course, isn't a bad thing here.

  I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the last quarter of the movie all by itself. When Bond finally gets to Dr.No's fortress island, things really kick off. Bond, Rider, and Quarrel try to escape No's soldiers and run into all kinds of harrowing situations. Of course, all is for naught when they're eventually captured and taken inside the underground complex. The complex is massive, seemingly. It has a decontamination area, laboratories, an ornate and flamboyant dining hall, which seems to double as a trophy room no less, and a whole wing that seems like a floor of a five star hotel. The sets are gigantic, lavish and colorful. They are perfectly suited to the larger than life performance by Wiseman as Dr. Julius No. It's a fantastic setting for Bond and No to match wits and brawl with for the explosive finale. Bond has to sabotage the facility before No and his scientists can execute their plan, and as per usual, in trademark 007 fashion, it's quite thrilling.

  I can't help but fall in love with this movie every time I see it. It's classic escapist fantasy.  It's because of this movie that we think of villains as hiding out in underground fortresses and having huge wall-sized aquariums, and the like. Many subsequent Bond movies, and even movies that had nothing to do with 007, took a page from Dr.No when it came to creating their villains. Despite the fact he barely has 10 minutes of screentime, Wiseman's Dr.No is the real star of this movie. Without him, without that island fortress, this movie would've been worse off. Maybe even a total waste of time. Connery is great as Bond, but a hero is only as good as his villain. I've said it before, the success of a 007 movie lies in whether or not you can market the movie around the villain, and people would still want to see it. With a character as ruthless, enigmatic, and larger than life as Dr.No... you can't go wrong. Dr.No manages to not only be one of the best James Bond movies in a 24 movie franchise, but it's one of my personal favorites as well.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Slimefest!


  I was thoroughly surprised I had not seen this before. Right off the bat it combines some of my favorite things of all time. The 80's, horror, science fiction, practical effects, and the R rating.  Oh boy. Not only is this movie better than I thought it would be, I think it's a prime example of how amazing remakes can be. This holds up right next to John Carpenter's The Thing. In fact, they'd make a fantastic double feature. It's worth noting that this movie would not have the same impact made nowadays. The blob itself would more likely than not be made using CGI. Part of what makes this movie amazing is the practical effects. Each one looking painfully realistic in a way that CGI has yet to capture entirely. The Blob is a good movie, with a smart script and even some timely humor- but it's special effects are the real attraction here.

  Of course all the special effects in the world are moot if you can't care about the characters. The characters in The Blob may be basic archetypes, but the actors playing them infuse a lot of personality and authenticity into the roles. They're residents of a Norman Rockwell-esque town where the football players date the cheerleaders, the kids sneak out to horror movies, and the town rebel is always in trouble with the sheriff. It's endearing, and I think that goes a long way towards making these characters effective. We can't help but care about them. On the same train of thought, something I think this movie does well is toy with your expectations of who's going to live or die. Surely he'll live. He's an important character. Oh. Well. Not anymore I guess. You really can't predict who's gonna buy it, when, or how. The gooey slime blob is the only common denominator. Each death scene is unique and extremely cool. I can't stress that enough.

  The effects are amazingly impressive. Normally I can not only spot 80's special effects, I can tell you exactly how they were made at little more than a glance. I've seen way too many 'making of's'. Yet the effects in The Blob are just mindblowingly good. They're extremely gross and gory and it's wonderful. The blob itself is a true antagonist here. It feels like the slasher in a slasher movie, but amazingly it has far more personality and the sense of danger is much higher. Due in no small part to the movie's explanation of it's origins. Yes, it is from outer space, but the twist is... mankind put it in outer space. It's a man-made biological weapon that they've decided to unleash on this small town for a test run. Even without this plot, it would've been a scary enough movie, but the notion that our own government is behind it, is just downright terrifying. Not to mention probably more relevant than even in the current social climate reacting to things like drone strikes and privacy acts.

  The story is effective and haunting in that regard. A malicious space entity is bad enough, but one that was intentionally set on innocent people by their own government? That's the true horror here. Scary as hell too. It's a warm and fuzzy concept that in times of trouble we can turn to and rely on our own government to help us, as a people, as an individual. Even though a movie like this is just a fluffy piece of sci-fi/horror matinee it's the idea that a concept like that is dangerous. Under the light of a movie like The Blob, it's shown that the government very easily views its citizens like lab rats. The idea is so scary because it's probably very true. Maybe not every facet of our government, but when they show up in unmarked vans and carrying automatic weapons... you know you're screwed. Who can you turn to for help? The answer, or the lack thereof is truly disturbing.

  So despite being a fairly basic horror movie, in concept at least, it's still pretty thought provoking. There is still a hero, a damsel in distress, a bad guy, and the general theme of having to save the town, so it's not exactly high-concept stuff here, but it works on just about every level. I gotta fault them for one thing though... when the military rolls in to try and contain the blob, they're hellbent on killing it with fire and explosives. This doesn't work. At all. The protagonist discovers however that it's the cold it can't stand. It's fatal to the blob. Why did the military scientists not know this? They created the damn thing. You mean to tell me they had no idea how to stop it? One scientists points out that at the rate it's growing, it could over take the entire country in a week. The chief scientist assures him that they know what they're doing. Yeah right! Bullshit! In my opinion, that was pretty lazy writing. Especially from a script that otherwise is pretty smart.

  Nevertheless, as the blob it oozes it's way under every door, and into every vent, the suspense builds and builds, and so does the body count in. It's infectious fun. There's no denying that. When all is said and done, you can't go wrong with this movie. From the pacing to the music and the casting... it's all great. I had a few nits to pick, but it's hardly worth the effort when the movie itself is so good. I'd love to own it, I can easily see it becoming a favorite. Which is saying something because I'm not easy when it comes to letting new movies onto my favorites' list. The Blob might be a serious contender for a spot though. With it's smashingly cool special effects to it's irresistibly likeable cast, it's hard not to fall in love with this gory 80's slimefest. One can only imagine what the Ghostbusters would've done, confronted with this pink slime. I don't think playing Jackie Wilson would've worked this time.

It's morphin' time!


  I can't hold back the five year old kid inside me whenever someone mentions Power Rangers. I want to do an epic slow motion back-flip complete with the trademark "HI-YAH!" but alas, nobody is going to cue theme music for my embarrassing misfire of a flip. These color coded teens on the other hand, they still got it. The history of the Power Rangers franchise is a very interesting one. It originated in japan under a different name entirely. The hit kids TV show of 1993, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was in fact spliced together from an altogether different show called Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger. The show had a very different story, different characters, and a different tone. In America, they mined usable footage and assembled a new cast to film new stories and plots. Thus Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was born. I'm skipping a few details here and there, but I'm getting to a point...

  Part of the appeal of the show, in retrospect, was the cheesiness of it. It's very hard to take brightly colored guys in spandex fighting big hokey looking rubber monsters seriously. Yet... it had that trademark Japanese craziness to it and somehow it just worked. It was great. It defined many an afternoon of my childhood. Imagine my wide eyed surprise as a little brat when I finally discovered they made a Power Rangers movie. This was big leagues stuff. The rangers no longer wore the shiny spandex suits. They had armor! Hollywood crafted Lycra armor, but still. This stuff was serious business! There was a big movie with the Power Rangers, they had legitimate outfits, a new villain, new zords, and tons of new special effects! What's not to love? As a kid this movie was without flaw.
I loved every line (and probably knew them by heart too) and every silly fight scene.

  Now that I'm older, obviously it holds a special place in my heart... but I realized something at some point. This was an American movie. No Japanese footage at all. This movie had nothing from the show's Japanese counterpart. Watching it now... I think part of the appeal inherent to Power Rangers is absent from this movie. It's a piece of nostalgia in it's own right, but it's not the same as watching the show. For one, the fight choreography (after they're morphed) isn't as good, and the crazy hokey aspect is gone. The movie tries to be taken as seriously as possible. Even going to far as to cutting franchise mainstays (and comic relief) Bulk and Skill down to just a minuscule handful of scenes. Not that I'm complaining about that. Those two were never above groan worthy. Yet if they had been entirely absent... I would've had to complain about it. It's not Mighty Morphin Power Rangers until Bulk and Skull make asses out of themselves.

  Alas, you have to meet this movie on it's level. It is a kid's movie. For better or worse, despite all the "serious business" it's still not meant to be taken all that serious. It functions as well as can be expected without the charm of the Japanese footage. Your enjoyment of the movie will hinge on how much you like the cast of Rangers and how much you dig those Lycra armor suits. The floppy rubber monster suits are gone, the ridiculous mini-Tokyo looking cityscapes are gone, the spontaneous explosions behind the Rangers are gone, and I mean... I could go on. This movie from the ground up is American. You're either cool with that, or you're just... not. I think I am. I accept it at the very least. I don't think there's any situation in which I couldn't accept it, seeing as how it was such a gigantic part of my childhood.

  It should go without saying that objectively, this movie is bad. Really bad. The story barely holds itself together, the dialog is frequently flat and ridiculous, and the fight choreography is... adequate. For a kid's movie. I'll be a nice guy and not talk about the extremely dated CGI effects. At the same time, I don't think anyone who's seen an episode of the show expected anything else from this movie. It was destined for a low score and a critical lashing. That's Power Rangers though. It's all about the exaggerated karate yells, the ridiculously high back-flips, the cheesiest one-liners, and the well worn catchphrases.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, when the Rangers are all suited up... kicking ass, and spouting silly one-liners, saving the day in all six colors... I'm in love with this movie and I'm five years old all over again. No matter how bad this movie is, the five year old kid inside me loves it, and I hope he always will.

  The movie also has an amazing villain. Ivan Ooze. A villain couched in self awareness and sarcasm. He's great. Ooze transcends the trappings of a kid's movie and delivers line after line of witty dialog that it would be impossible to appreciate at such a young age. Like every single villain from the TV show, he's been locked away in a 'hyperlock chamber' for thousands of years or something. When he finally gets to confront the one who put him there, he starts angrily recounting all the things he's missed, which include The Black Plague, The Spanish Inquisition, and... the Brady Bunch reunion.  I love Ivan Ooze. He's a smartly written villain fully of sly nods for the older audience. A demographic I finally fit into... wow.

  All in all it's exactly what you'd expect. It's a shiny, epic, 90 minute superhero romp complete with all six colors, high-flying stunts, spin-kicks, bells, whistles, and beepy-gadgets one could hope for. I love it. It might not deserve that love, but since when does nostalgia discriminate? The moment you can no longer enjoy your childhood favorites, at least on a guilty pleasure level of nostalgia, then you've truly lost something. What's worse is that you may not even realize you've lost it. Such a shame. But you know what's not a shame? Enjoying Mighty Morphin Power Rangers The Movie. It's morphin' time!