May 30, 2016

Octopussy

Some pretty lazy and dumb Indian jokes mar an otherwise coherent and exciting Roger Moore Bond film:
The action and stunts are terrific, especially the minijet stunt flying through the exploding hangar during the opening sequence, and then near the end, the spectacular train stunts.
There's two Swedish-born leading ladies: Maud Adams as Octopussy, and Magda - who I thought was Barbara Bach with thinner eyebrows until I did some research and discovered she's Kristina Wayborn. The two ladies are rather redundant, I wonder if they felt Maud Adams wasn't young enough to bring the adequate sex appeal?
I quite enjoy Louis Jordan as the villain Kamal Khan - I love the backgammon scene where Bond beats Khan with his Khan's own 'loaded' dice and pulls the super-cool "no look" roll.
"Spend the money quickly, Mister Bond" Khan advises while handing over the winnings.
Another great villain - perhaps too good for the movie - is Steven Berkoff as rogue Soviet General Orlov. Berkoff also made a great impression the following year as Victor Maitland, the art dealer / cocaine importer from Beverly Hills Cop.
Viewed on Amazon Prime Instant Video

May 22, 2016

Diamonds Are Forever

Sean Connery looks puffy and out of shape throughout. There's very little physical action for him, and he doesn't look great doing it...except for one neat trick where he leaps off the back of an ATV. I assumed it was a stuntman but no, he literally leaps off, runs over to Case's Mustang, and peels out.
I love the "ironic" exposition- the diamond expert explains in a smug, patronizing manner how the Empire has brought civilization to South Africa in exchange for the diamond mining business, but his exposition is played over images of the smuggling operation in action.

Tiffany Case (Jill St John) and Plenty O'Toole (Lana Wood) are two of the sexiest Bond girls ever - too bad Plenty is just a gold digger looking for high rollers in the casino, and Tiffany has some terrible overacting and bad line readings. At least Tiffany has agency - she doesn't sleep with Bond until the end of the second act (that's restraint!) and she has a purpose other than looking amazing- she's a diamond smuggler who nearly gets away with her larceny.

Explaining A James Bond Plot in Eighteen Easy Steps
Often the plots of Bond movies fall apart if you take two steps back and try to justify how the schemes could have been planned in advance. For example:
  1. SPECTRE needs a stockpile of diamonds to build its satellite laser.
  2. A dentist working for a mining company, servicing South African miners, pays cash to the miners for diamonds, and delivers the stones to one of several middlemen.
  3. Apparently SPECTRE has learned of this underground conduit and decides to divert the diamonds.
  4. Mr Wint & Mr Kidd intercept the dentist's dropoff, kill the dentist, AND kill his next contact in the pipeline (the helicopter pilot).
  5. Mr Wint & Mr Kidd then deliver the diamonds to the elderly missionary teacher in South Africa, so she can smuggle them to Tiffany Case in Amsterdam. This little old lady is the ideal smuggler because she will draw no suspicion while travelling internationally. There's a little joke where she hides the diamonds in a hollowed-out bible.
  6. Mr Wint & Mr Kidd follow her to Amsterdam and murder her after she makes the dropoff with Ms Case.
  7. Ms Case is due to deliver the diamonds to Peter Franks. Franks is being paid $50,000 to come up with a plan and smuggle the diamonds into America. Ms Case makes a clear point that Franks must hatch a scheme for smuggling the diamonds.
  8. Franks is arrested and Bond takes his place and meets Case posing as Franks.
  9. Franks escapes custody and arrives in Amsterdam. Bond successfully kills Franks and switches wallets with him. Case is fooled into thinking "Franks" has murdered "Bond".
  10. Bond decides to use Franks' body to smuggle the diamonds into America. Bond implies the stones are in Franks' colon, but it's possible he just hid them under the butt of the corpse. This is important later, trust me.
  11. When Bond, Case, and the dead Franks land at LAX, a hearse and three men from "Slumber, Inc" meet Bond at the airport with a hearse. Here's where things start to go sideways for me. Case somehow contacted her employer to say "Franks is smuggling the 'items' in a dead body. We're arriving at LAX on Friday" or whatever.
  12. Bond and the three gangsters ride in the hearse for four hours to Las Vegas. The hearse arrives at Slumber Funeral Home.
  13. Mr Slumber, the funeral home director, goes through the motions with Bond as they send the casket into the crematory oven.
  14. A minute later, an assistant appears in Slumber's office with an urn filled with the diamonds from Franks' body.
  15. Still going through the motions, Slumber directs Bond to a chamber in their mausoleum, where he leaves the urn filled with diamonds and picks up an envelope full of cash.
  16. Mr Wint & Mr Kidd whack Bond over the head and load him into another casket. They never intended to pay Mr Franks, so they don't need to recover the fifty grand from his pocket- the envelope they left for Franks is full of counterfeit bills.
  17. Bond's about to be cremated when Slumber and a stranger (comedian Shady Tree, apparently tied to the Mob too) save him because they've just discovered the diamonds Bond smuggled are fakes. Bond counters that they've paid him with counterfeit cash - "you wouldn't burn up fifty thousand real dollars, would you?" and he saunters off.
  18. Bond spends the counterfeit bills on the craps tables at the Whyte House and wins big.
What's wrong with this?
  • Where did Bond get a huge stockpile of fake diamonds and when did he make the switch? Did he bring them with him to Amsterdam in Step 8?
  • Before Step 10, there was no system in place for smuggling diamonds to Las Vegas in a dead body. Bond just made that up. Who found a Mob-connected funeral home that would make all the arrangements to accept a dead body and extract the diamonds from the corpse? This was all set up between Steps 10 and 11.
  • Step 14: How the heck does the undertaker get the diamonds out of the corpse and into the urn so quickly? Burning a body and casket takes HOURS. Even if they didn't burn the body, how did they retrieve them from the body so fast?
Viewed on Amazon Prime Instant Video

May 18, 2016

Ferris Bueller's Day Off


Fenway Screen 10:
This was supposed to be Eve and Emily,
but fate brought Amy, Mandy, and I together instead.
I have seen Ferris Bueller far too many times- I need a ten-year moratorium in order to make the movie fresh again - but it was fun to see it on the big screen with friends. Also, Mandy and I had a chance to catch up and eat dinner at the fancy new Wahlburgers across the street!
Emily and her friend Eve were supposed to go to this screening, but due to circumstances, they both had to drop out.
Eve bought these reserved seating tickets way in advance. Reserved advanced ticketing is a real mixed blessing. It's very convenient to take all chance out of a movie screening buy reserving a seat in advance. You don't have to show up early to know you're getting a good seat.
The downside is, advanced ticketing removes all flexibility:
  • If someone gets sick, you are stuck with a $12 movie ticket.
  • Especially for new releases, you cannot spontaneously meet up with friends, because the seats are all sold out in advance.
  • Even if the seats are not sold out, you may not be able to sit together.
For the theaters, it's a win-win - they get to charge more money for a service that allows/forces you to spending your money on a ticket:
  • The theater gets to keep your money even if you have to change your plans
  • The theater gets to deposit (and earn interest on) your cash for the time between when you bought the ticket and when you attend - in theory you could earn that interest for yourself for those two weeks. It's not much for you, but the theater corporation must have an enormous pool of cash for advance sales that helps pad their bottom line!

May 17, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

I skipped Age of Ultron, so I have NO IDEA who
this is, but I CAN tell you he's completely derivative.
Most of the Avengers team does a good job of tackling the essential truth of super-powers- should superhuman power be governed? This is territory that has been covered already by the X-Men franchise, and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, but this version may be the best at it.
I skipped Age of Ultron in the theater after some bad word-of-mouth, and I still can't rent it on my Roku, so maybe I'm missing some pieces:
  • Why is Tony Stark so pro-oversight? In all his previous movies he was mostly suspicious of the government. I found his pro-oversight stance unbelievable.
  • Paul Bettany's Vision is so derivative of every previous superintelligent AI. So boring.
The twists at the end of the movie were completely surprising, HUGE, and totally worth it. I only wonder where the franchise is going to go next when they've painted themselves into a corner- if massive destruction (like we enjoyed so much in the first Avengers movie) is so morally wrong, what are the next movies going to be filled with?
How do you reunite Iron Man and Captain America after this? It looks like the Avengers are going to continue to be the most serious of the Marvel franchises - if you want levity you gotta hope Guardians 2 is as fun as the first.
I love the new Peter Parker, played by a very young-looking Tom Holland (who is nothing like Tom Hollander). I had totally forgotten about Paul Rudd / Ant Man's appearance, so I was delighted to see him. Ant Man and Spider-Man provide the only levity in this movie.
Embassy Cinema Waltham, with Adam, Screen 5

May 1, 2016

Spotlight


After finding an unrepentant pedophile, Pfeiffer
surveys the neighborhood with new eyes.
A powerful, amazing true story. As good an investigative journalism movie as All The President's Men, if not better. Also a tough watch for me, a native of the Boston area, as the culture that created, sustained, and ignored the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal is revealed in its ugly, inert reality.
Thanks to Em for insisting I watch it- it's essential viewing for any New Englander, and any supporter of our free press.
It's not only a grim history lesson: it's a visceral story with terrific performances. I was especially amazed by Rachel McAdams as Sascha Pfeiffer - her doorstep performance as she interviews a unrepentant pedophile priest was gripping- you could see her character absorb and adapt to the shocking information she's receiving while also not breaking her role as a journalist, and trying to squeeze as much information out of this monster while she has the opportunity. McAdams is juggling three different emotions and motivations all at the same time and it was captivating. With Emily on Amazon Prime Instant Video

156 Four Day Weekend

  1. "I Was Made For Sunny Days" • The Weepies
  2. "Doo Wop (That Thing)" • Lauryn Hill
  3. "If Not For You" • Bob Dylan
  4. "Back On The Chain Gang" • Pretenders
  5. "Like A Star" • Corinne Bailey Rae
  6. "5-15" • The Who
  7. "Get Up Off Your Knees" • The Housemartins
  8. "The Crack Up" • Johnny Marr
  9. "Water Under The Bridge" • Adele
  10. "Armageddon It" • Def Leppard
  11. "Love Will Find A Way" • Yes
  12. "Move It On Over" • George Thorogood & The Destroyers
  13. "Shoot the Curl" • The Honeys
  14. "Graceland" [unplugged] • Paul Simon
  15. "Return To Sender" • Elvis Presley
  16. "Landed" • Ben Folds
  17. "Take Me With U" • Prince & The Revolution
  18. "Ask" • The Smiths
  19. "Dead Flowers" • Townes Van Zandt
  20. "The Movie" • Aerosmith
Playlist finalized around May 2016.