Thursday, July 03, 2014

Superman on a rooftop

First image from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  At first glance, the highlights on his hair and age lines on his face made it look as though Superman was going gray. I guess it's just the new hair style and the washed out colors.  Anyway, don't know what else to say.  Not enough to get me excited.

Friday, May 16, 2014

New Batsuit & Batmobile

After Man Of Steel, there's no reason to believe Zack Snyder's upcoming fanboy rapture, Batman vs. Superman, will be anything more 2 1/2 hour big screen version of the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game. But I have to admit, it sure does look cool. The suit is clearly a nod to The Dark Knight Returns comic. Meanwhile, the Batmobile is reminiscent of the hot rod Michael Keaton pimped out. At any rate, it's a welcome change from the hyper-utilitarian design of the Nolan films.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Godzilla trailer

I'm not sure if I like showing the monster stuff before the film's release.   I thought the apocalyptic force of nature approach used in previous trailers was much better, and scarier.  Still number one on my summer movie list.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Best of Bond: Top 10 Fight Scenes

We all know Mr. Bond's proficiency in getting women shed their wardrobe in the name of Her Majesty's government.  But we also expect our favorite super spy to be ready when the situation calls for fisticuffs.  Hand to hand combat has been a staple of Bond movies since the beginning.  Connery excelled at this, and his early films are some of the earliest examples of martial arts in cinema.  George Lazenby, for all his faults as Bond, was also very good.  Roger Moore... not so much.  Dalton was serviceable. Brosnan was surprisingly good given his slight frame.  And Daniel Craig is just fantastic.  He has the benefit of working with a stable of expert fight choreographers in the era of Bourne movies, but the 007 that Craig has created is perhaps the most brutal, physically imposing Bond yet.

10.  Room Service

Watching this scene from On Her Majesty's Secret Secret Service, you wouldn't think George Lazenby was the least convincing Bond.  He performed action scenes as well as any other 007.  The scenes would have been even better had the director and fight choreographers not included multiple haymaker uppercuts in every fight.

9.  Be sure to tip the driver

Bond bites off more than he can chew in You Only Live Twice.  Fortunately, he is an expert couch-fighter.

8.  "Heavy, Mr. Bond?"

For a guy who was 53 when he made this movie, Sean Connery is still pretty impressive.  In Never Say Never Again, Bond must fight the big bald German goliath that beat the crap out of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  This scene does a great job mixing humor with the action, especially with sight gag at the end.

7.  No more foreplay

This mix of fight and foreplay from Goldeneye may be the series most original physical confrontation.  Pierce Brosnan tries to avoid getting crushed between the legs of the sadist Xenia Onnatop.

6.  Jaws attack

Roger Moore's Bond was more inclined to use brains than brawn to defeat his enemies.  Here, he's completely outmatched against the franchise's most famous henchman, Jaws, in the The Spy Who Loved Me.  With nowhere to run, Bond has to get creative.  Agent XXX isn't much help.

5.  "You just killed James Bond!"

The tight confines of an elevator is a great setting for this well choreographed fight scene.  One of the few bright spots in Diamonds Are Forever.

4.  Don't bring a knife to a Bond fight

This fight from Quantum of Solace is so sudden, so fast and so brutal, I find myself holding my breath.  Here, Daniel Craig shows why he's the Bond you least want to mess with.

3.  007 vs. 006

When two super agents fight, this must be what it looks like.  Fantastically paced and choreographed, this fight pits Bond against his former friend, 006, in Goldeneye.  The two are so evenly matched, neither can get the upper hand. With its mix of fighting techniques, physical fatigue, and their mutual animus toward the other, this pitched fight just feels authentic.

2.  Machetes and stairwells don't mix

Maybe the most intense scene of any Bond film, this savage fight down the stairs against a machete wielding killer in Casino Royale just leaves you exhausted.  This fight is so well conceived and frenetic, it really does feel like life and death.  Unlike so many of the Bond films over the years where killing has become routine, this scene really conveys the awful brutality of killing someone with your bare hands, as well as the mental and emotional toll it exacts.

1.  Fight on the Orient Express

Bond's showdown with SPECTRE assassin Red Grant in 1963's From Russia with Love is still the benchmark for all 007 fight scenes.  Their desperate back and forth melee in the cramped space of a train cabin just crackles with energy and dramatic tension. Grant kills a host of people before posing as a MI-6 liason in order to get close to Bond, and thanks to Robert Shaw's physique and acting chops, the audience has no doubt he is more than a match for 007.

Ranking the James Bond films: #9

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
After British and Soviet nuclear submarines disappear, the two countries decide to work together to recover the technology used to track and capture their vessels.  Bond is therefore forced to work alongside his Soviet counterpart, Agent XXX, Major Anya Amasova.  This film perfectly encapsulates the James Bond of the 1970s -  a comic book villain with an outrageous scheme (he wants to destroy the world and create a new underwater civilization), huge action sequences, campy humor, and ridiculous gadgets.  What sets this film apart from the rest of Roger Moore's 70s efforts is that it's actually done reasonably well.  Moore really hits his stride as Bond in this film, finally making the role his own.  The villain, Carl Stromberg, is comes across as both competent and psychotic.  And of course, Jaws is one of cinema's greatest henchman. Barbara Bach is a little flat as Agent XXX, but she has just enough chemistry with Bond to make it work.  The plot is full of holes, but I'm not sure we're supposed to care with this type of Bond film.  The action and stunts are what matter here and two really stand out.  The film's opening, which culminates with Bond skiing off the end of a cliff and falling for what seems like forever before his Union Jack parachute blooms, is just fantastic.  The film also features a first rate chase scene involving a helicopter and one of the great Bond cars, the Lotus Esprit, which escapes by transforming into a submarine after plunging into the ocean.  The Spy Who Loved Me is campy fun, but never original or compelling.

10.  On Her Majesty's Secret Service
11.  You Only Live Twice
12.  The Living Daylights
13.  Quantum Of Solace
14.  Never Say Never Again
15.  Tomorrow Never Dies
24.  Die Another Day 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ranking the James Bond films: #10

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Famous for its star, George Lazenby, the guy who had the unenviable task of replacing Sean Connery as Bond.  He did one movie, then decided the franchise was on its way it out, and quit.  Lazenby looks more like a boy scout than a secret agent.  He's likable enough, and manages to acquit himself fairly well, but his screen presence is just so far below that of Connery. No doubt he's big part of why On Her Majesty's Secret Service feels so different than any other Bond film, but it's grown on me over the years. The plot involves Bond's attempt to track down the head of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Bloefeld.  He traces him to an allergy research institute high in the Swiss Alps, whose only subjects are beautiful young women.  Disguised as a genealogist, Bond is hired by Bloefeld to investigate his ancestry in order to claim nobility.  While bedding nearly all the girls in the clinic, Bond discovers the they are being brainwashed for some yet unknown purpose.  Bloefeld is played by Telly Savalas of all people, the second actor to take up the role.  Savalas is actually pretty good, but he would have been better as his own original villain, not Bloefeld, whose previous incarnations he neither looks nor sounds like (plus I can't help but think of Kojak every time I see him).  OHMSS is first film in the series to feature romance as Bond falls in love with Contessa Teresa di Vincenzo played by Diana Rigg, perhaps the first Bond girl to qualify as a real character.  Rigg and Lazenby have great chemistry and their relationship is one of the movie's highlights.  Another is the soundtrack.  John Barry composed the score which includes awesome new theme music.  If you can get over Lazenby and the garish 1969 fashions which replace the classic Mad Men-like early 60s styles, OHMSS will surprise you.

11.  You Only Live Twice
12.  The Living Daylights
13.  Quantum Of Solace
14.  Never Say Never Again
15.  Tomorrow Never Dies

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ranking the James Bond films #11

You Only Live Twice (1967)
This movie has a great opening in which a U.S. spacecraft is mysteriously attacked and disappears.  Meanwhile,  Bond is killed in Hong Kong.  Not really, of course.  Turns out, MI-6 has staged his death so he can investigate the attack without suspicion.  The rest of the movie takes place in Japan, which is gives it a distinctly Eastern feel.  You Only Live Twice plods along at times like it's predecessor, Thunderball, but lacks its memorable characters and performances.  Perhaps the strangest thing about YOLT is that the screenplay was written by Roald Dahl.  Yes, that Roald Dahl.  It's a solid script, but with elements such as the spacecraft-swallowing rocket and the volcano fortress, YOLT marks a shift to a more ambitious style of Bond movies, featuring the really over the top schemes, and large scale action sequences that would become a mainstay of the Roger Moore era.  The film's climax, filled with samurais and ninja with machine guns (and about every other Japanese stereotype), feels excessive and bordering on cheese. In YOLT, we finally get to see the face of the most well known Bond villian, Blofeld, leader of SPECTRE, who in previous films was known simply as "Number one," and was seen only from the neck down, stroking a cat.  I have to say, it was kind a disappointment.  Donald Pleasance doesn't come off as particularly threatening; nothing like what we would expect from the deep, sinister voice heard in From Russia With Love and Thunderball.  And after watching the Austin Powers films, it's hard not think of Dr. Evil whenever Pleasance is on screen.

12.  The Living Daylights
13.  Quantum Of Solace
14.  Never Say Never Again
15.  Tomorrow Never Dies