Posts Tagged ‘James Bond


A Spectre of My Former Self (James Bond 24)

Daniel Craig returns as Ian Fleming’s James Bond in Spectre, the latest in the long-running film series. After the incredible highs of the previous film, Skyfall, people were eager for the follow-up. And since the same writers, director, producers, and star were returning, it had to be great, right? Right?

Unfortunately, Spectre rehashes the same ground that was tread in the previous film, and does so with less finesse. While it certainly has fantastic action, the rest of the film comes away as forced, leaving us with a middling Bond film.

I’m going to make a lot of references to Skyfall in this review of Spectre. Since pretty much the entire crew came back for the sequel, I think it’s fair to do so. There was a lot to dissect in the latest Bond outing, so I’m going to break down my thoughts into three categories.

The Good

I was immediately pleased to see the opening gun barrel scene at, you know, the opening, after two films shunted it to the end.

As has been the case for all of Craig’s Bond films, the action scenes in Spectre are top-notch. The most incredible takes place during the pre-title sequence. Bond is thrust into the crush of people in Mexico City’s wild Day of the Dead parade. He takes out some bad guys, and gets caught on a helicopter which is careening out of control. The loop-de-loops were thrilling, and the visuals of the holiday festivities alone were worth the price of admission. Bond looked cool as hell in the skeleton outfit he dons in the opening minutes.

Continue reading ‘A Spectre of My Former Self (James Bond 24)’


James Bond Pre-Title Sequences, Ranked

As a long-time James Bond fan, I’ve seen all the movies over and over again. The series is famed for it’s thrilling pre-title sequences which precede the story. I’ve listed all the sequences in order from worst to best. Check it out and let me know what you think!

22) The World is Not Enough It isn’t a surprise that the worst Bond movie also has the worst pre-title sequence. It’s absolutely bloated with excess. It starts off promising, with him fighting some people at a bank in Spain, but quickly spirals out of control as he goes on an overly long speedboat chase on the Thames River, and ends hanging off a hot-air balloon. It’s like a parody of a James Bond intro. It personifies the over-indulgence of the Pierce Brosnan era.

21) Die Another Day This intro is also pretty bad, but fares slightly better than the previous entry. It starts out completely cringe-worthy as Bond surfs into North Korea, moves along to a ridiculous hovercraft chase scene, and ends with Bond getting captured. The only reason I ranked it higher than The World is Not Enough is because they blended the opening song with the pre-title sequence. They had never done that before, and it kind of worked.

20) Quantum of Solace The crappy Bond movies keep on coming. I almost ranked this one at number 22, but I decided it wasn’t that horrible. It’s a car chase, which is cool in theory. Unfortunately, it’s schizophrenically edited. No shot lasts longer than two seconds. The camera is constantly switching from Bond’s face to the car to the tires to the road and back again. Making matters worse is the shakey-cam in which it was filmed. So, you have shakey-cam with jarring editing. If that doesn’t make you puke, I don’t know what will.

Continue reading ‘James Bond Pre-Title Sequences, Ranked’


American Hustle, Everything or Nothing

American Hustle

American Cleavage.

American Hustle was one of those films everyone raved about. When this happens, the movie is usually extremely overrated with little more than coherent storytelling and passable acting, with Argo being a prime example. I figured American Hustle would be exactly the same. The 2013 movie tells the story of con-artists in the 1970s helping the FBI run a sting operation against corrupt politicians. The movie begins with a very out of shape and balding Batman who has seen better days. He has been a con-man for years, and one day meets the love of his life, Amy Adams, who is a masterful con-woman. Batman and Adams are caught by Bradley Cooper who extorts them into working for the FBI. Their goal is to run a larger operation and take down corrupt politicians and the mob. What follows is a dizzying tale of each character trying to get something for themselves. American Hustle is truly a character-driven film. Each character is almost larger than life, played expertly by fantastic cast members. Every player has a developed backstory and clear motivations for what they want in life. There are, of course, double-crosses and cons along they way to keep the film moving. What else would you expect in movie with con-artists? Fortunately, the movie does not rely on the cons, but rather the characters. The 1970s are alive and well in this movie. I didn’t live in this decade, but I can only imagine this is what it looked like, bright, flashy, and very eclectic. The movie required a lot of juggling on the part of the director to keep each character in the spotlight, to keep the story moving full steam ahead, and to not let the pacing get bogged down. Director David O. Russel delivered on every level. The movie really is as great as the hype claims it to be. It is a rare example of a big-budget, star-studded movie done right.
Verdict: Awesome
Everything or Nothing

Such Bond. So secret agent. Wow.

Anyone who frequents Awesome Shitty knows that I’m a James Bond fan. A documentary titled Everything or Nothing was released to mark Bond’s 50th anniversary. I finally got around to watching it, and I must say it was an interesting look back at the genesis of everyone’s favorite spy. The movie begins with Ian Fleming’s early life, and the events that led up to his creation of the Bond character. Bond is essentially an extension of Fleming himself with the smoking, drinking, and jetsetting. The film follows the failed first attempt to bring Bond to the screen on American TV as “Jimmy Bond,” an American CIA agent, and continues on to failed licensing attempts, and eventual success with the first film, Dr. No. We learn the behind the scenes drama of Connery leaving, returning, and leaving again, Lazenby’s hilarious story as to how he was cast as the second Bond, and more. Like a Bond villain himself, Kevin McClory pops up three different times over the years to attempt to thwart the Bond film producers because he claimed rights to the Thunderball story. While I knew the Bond franchise had its ups and downs over the years, I didn’t know how much backstage battling there really was. I suppose there had to be considering it is a 50-year-long movie franchise. The film features great intreviews with producers, writers, directors, and the James Bonds themselves. Only Connery doesn’t appear, which is disappointing, but otherwise, we get some great insights from everyone else. Brosnan in particular had a rough road to becoming Bond and had an interesting story to tell. For fans of the James Bond series, this documentary is a must watch. Even non-Bond fans will like the movie. Mrs. Brik who has seen some of the movies found the documentary quite interesting. I highly recommended checking this out.
Verdict: Good

Letters to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Glamorous Hollywood stars.

Dear The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,

I recently watched you, and thought I should let you know about something called brevity. With an excruciatingly long running time, clearly you have never heard of this important concept. Next time, keep things concise. Like this letter.




Dear The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,

I wanted to commend you for your amazing characters. The female lead, Elizabeth Salamander, is tough and hardcore. This is depicted to the audience by her shaved eyebrows, crazy hair, tattoos and piercings, and the fact that she is a loner. Thank you for not boring us with drab personal details like how she grew up, the inner workings of her psyche, or why she chooses to give herself such a unique appearance. We really should just take her at face-value, that’s the best thing to do. The male lead, James Bond, is also tough and hardcore. We see this by his wearing glasses hanging off of one ear. James Bond never ages, why should he need glasses? He doesn’t. I figured this was just a subterfuge by your exceptionally good writing. Keep up the good work. I hope to see more face-value characters in your sequel.


The Public at Large

Continue reading ‘Letters to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’


The Sky is Falling (James Bond 23)

Since every film critic and blogger has already pledged their undying love and firstborn child to Skyfall, I feel like I need to take a different approach to reviewing it. I could do my usual complaining, but after wracking my brain, I found that I had very little to complain about. It was a solid Bond movie from start to finish, and a welcome addition to the franchise. So, I think I’ll just throw out random thoughts I had and leave it at that.

Where the fuck was the Opening Gunbarrel Sequence? Oh, at the end again. For 20 films, they always opened through the point of view of a gun, with Bond firing a shot, and blood spilling down the screen. The last movie, Quantum of Solace, which was kind of a piece of shit, inexplicably moved the sequence to the end. Skyfall does the same thing. Director Sam Mendes stated he wanted to have it in the beginning, but thought it looked ridiculous paired to the opening of the movie with Bond walking out with his gun raised. I guess that makes sense, but throwing it onto the end makes it feel like an afterthought. I have always liked the traditional opening, something that no other film series has, and to just tack it on at the end feels shameless.

The opening credits were designed by Daniel Kleinman who did the opening credits for all the Bond movies from Goldeneye through Skyfall, with the exception of Quantum of Solace, which again makes that movie stand out as kind of shitty. The credits, again, were fantastic. He has really upped his game with Skyfall, making a visual feast with beautiful girls, flashy effects, and thematic elements that tie in with the plot of the film. The only part of the opening credits that falls flat is the title song “Skyfawwll” performed by Adele. The song is a boring dud, just like its singer.

Continue reading ‘The Sky is Falling (James Bond 23)’


Movies > Books: Casino Royale

“Bond… Silhouette Bond.”

Every time a movie comes out that’s based on a book, people always shout, “LOL BUT TEH BOOK WAS SOOO MUCH BETTER LOL!” Well, sometimes the movie can be better than the source material. In some cases, drastically so. Just because the source material is a book doesn’t mean the book is not a huge steaming pile of shit. Here’s an example:

In case it wasn’t already known, I am a huge fan of the James Bond film series. I have watched them all, own them all, and eagerly anticipate the release of each new movie. The successful franchise is based on a series of popular books. Since I’m illiterate I had never read any of the books, but I figured, what the hell, I should give one of them a try. Going in chronological order made sense, so I figured I’d start at the beginning.

The first book in the James Bond series is Casino Royale. It was written by Ian Fleming and published in 1953. He pretty much made the espionage genre of literature and films popular with this single work. There have been countless imitators since then, but there is only one James Bond. There was no way I was going to dislike this book. It was the first James Bond novel! It was going to be awesome! I sat down to read, and…

…holy shit this book is fucking terrible!

Continue reading ‘Movies > Books: Casino Royale’


Alias Season 5 (Bonus Alias Drinking Game)

Alias Season 5 cast.

Alias probably should have ended with Season 4. Rewatching it, you can see that just about everything was resolved. “The greatest power”, the evil Elena Derevko, was defeated. Nadia did not survive fighting Syndey, thus fulfilling Rambaldi’s prophecy. Irina more or less got away, but in a suitable manner. Syndney and Vaughn got engaged. And Sloane redeemed himself to become good. Or at least as “good” as he could ever be. The final two episodes looked as if they had been written to be a series finale. It should have just been over at that point. But they got picked up for Season 5, so they ended things on a ridiculous cliffhanger, and kept on going.

Season 5 is strange for a lot of reasons. First, Jennifer Garner is clearly bored with her role at this point. Scene after scene, line after line, she is phoning in her performance. Second, Michael Vartan, who played Vaughn, left the show. Naturally, the best thing to do is kill his character. Yeah, why not? There’s no point in letting a character, whom we’ve enjoyed for four seasons, live. Third, Nadia turns out to have survived but is off the show, anyway. Fourth, Greg Gunberg, who played Weiss, left the show, as well. This leaves us with a cast including Sydney, Jack, Dixon, Sloane, and Marshall. Fifth, Jennifer Garner got pregnant and, while the show already required a lot of suspension of disbelief from the viewers, people were not going to accept a pregnant spy jetsetting around the world and kicking peoples’ asses. So, the series had to bring in some new recruits.

The two new characters are Rachel Gibson and Tom Grace. We are introduced to them through a series of episodes which go on for way too long. They could have each been introduced in 1-2 episodes. But we get so much boring backstory that half the season is wasted getting them up to speed. This makes matters worse when the season is abbreviated at 17 episodes.

Because they took so much time setting them up, I got the sense that Alias was going to make them the main stars of the show. Since Jennifer Garner was so bored at this point she was either going to quit outright, or just become a background character. Or the other possibility was that Alias was meant to conclude at the end of Season 5 and then immediately spin-off into a new series with Rachel and Tom as the leads with Jack, Sloane, Dixon, and Marshall reprising their roles.

Regardless of what the original plan was, about halfway through the season, ABC announced that Alias would be cancelled. This actually worked in the series’ favor because they decided to scrap whatever plans they had, and tried to end the show on a high note. The writing of the second half was a definite improvement. The stories became better. The episodic “getting to the know you” crap of the new people was jettisoned in order to refocus back on resolving the stories of the show’s original characters. The conspiracy stuff and Rambaldi prophecies came front and center once again. The writers had several loose ends they wanted to tie up, and tried their damnedest to make it happen.

Everybody from Alias

Fortunately, they did a pretty good job. The second half moves along at a good clip. Characters who hadn’t made an appearance in a long time (e.g. Anna Espinosa, Sark) returned for a couple of episodes in order to have their stories completed. Bradley Cooper even came back to guest star in one fairly strong episode. After Sydney had her baby, she was able to go out on missions once again, and the old style of show came back. The only thing that didn’t work was the return of Vaughn.

Clearly, Vaughn was supposed to be dead. That much is obvious based on how he got his body turned into Swiss cheese by machine gun fire, and then he died and had a funeral. But then guess what? LOL SURPRISE EVERYONE IT TURNS OUT VAUGHN WAS ALIVE AFTER ALL AND WAS JUST IN HIDING LOL! I suppose this would have been acceptable had Sydney not known about it. But no, it turns out that Jack and Sydney somehow planned for Vaughn to go into hiding until it was safe. They both knew he was alive the whole time. Well, for Jack this could have flown, but for Sydney it makes no fucking sense. She spent many scenes bawling her eyes out, sometimes in the privacy of her own home, and this ruse doesn’t jibe with what happened. If she knew he was alive, she wouldn’t be weeping at home alone. That part was handled so badly, it certainly made it clear that the writers have been shooting from the hip on Alias for a long time. There was definitely never an overarching plan for the story.

In the end, however, they managed to resolve things nicely. Sloane got a fitting end; he got to achieve Rambaldi’s endgame (which he spent 30 years trying to do) but did not get to enjoy it. Jack’s death seemed sort of unnecessary but his ultimate sacrifice worked within the context of the final episodes. Sydney and Vaughn had a nice resolution to their relationship and were finally granted peace. Irina got what was coming to her. Lastly, Sark, who I always enjoyed as a fun villain, got away and continued to be a nuisance. All in all, a decent ending to the series. In fact, the final three episodes were phenomenally good. They were a definite highlight amongst the series as a whole. Too bad they weren’t so good they made up for the extremely weak first half of the season.

When I set out on this rewatch, I figured Alias would not have aged gracefully. On the contrary, it has stood up surprisingly well. It isn’t perfect. The acting is good but not great. The special effects are cheesy. Sometimes the plot makes no sense. But overall, there is a lot to like. The main story is strong and has an actual ending. The characters are likable. The action scenes are fun despite being ridiculous. The spy aesthetic may not be realistic, but at the very least it is entertaining. Overall, this is a TV series worth revisiting.


Season 5 – Average

The Series Overall – Good

Here’s something to get you in the mood for the Alias drinking game.

Bonus: Alias Drinking Game

Drink every time

  • Sydney gets emotional (two drinks if it happens during a mission).
  • Sydney beats up a guy twice her size.
  • An agent gets caught/seen by a security guard.
  • An agent trips the security system.
  • The target/bad guy/contact is in a night club.
  • The target/bad guy/contact is a Russian.
  • Someone gets double-crossed.
  • Someone gets kidnapped (two drinks if they are also tortured).
  • Somone uses a fake accent.
  • The special effects look really cheesy/cheap.
  • Jack does something badass.
  • Weiss says something sarcastic.
  • Marshall gets nervous/stammers (skip this one if you don’t want to black out).
  • Someone says, “Your plane leaves in one hour.” (or some variation of that)
  • Someone says something mean to Sloane.
  • Someone mentions Rambaldi.
  • Someone uses the word “endgame.”
  • The background music is something slow and soulful.
  • A main character is about to get shot by a bad guy, but the bad guy gets shot by someone else who is off-screen.
  • The episode ends on a cliffhanger.

November 2015
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