The Latest Bond Epic Ever!

After seeing the movie that went nowhere, my wife  bent her finger making a little worm. “eht,” her way of mimicking the limp and shriveled things of the world.

Skyfall, the latest Bond epic directed by Sam Mendes, fell short in so many ways. What is a Bond film? The Evil, The Exotic Location, The Women, or in this case, A Plot and A Script. Poor desiccated Daniel Craig (who must have a strong stomach for Broccoli), and poorer Ian Fleming. Had Sam simply consulted the mentor of them all – Sidney Reilly – the spy who started all the evil, well, that might be a search for origins. (Sam Neil did that assignment superbly.)

Where was the satanic villain threat that terrifies the audience into hoping James will kung fu, shoot, and seduce his way into saving the free world? This Bond film struggles with cat and mouse chases after assorted assassins and a goofy supposedly bad guy. Javier Bardem, the alleged evilman who terrified in “No Country for Old Men,” is allowed to be creepy, but he is no world threat. What has given Javier his diabolical skills (and what are they)? Get this. A very hands-on former field agent is let go by the service. Somehow the unemployment victim develops the computer skills of Bill Gates and amasses a football field-sized server farm and can personally out-hack anyone on the planet. Do we see him use this skill for a last minute “James-Save-Us-From-This-Unfathamobly-EVIL MAN that will kill us all?”, you know that master stroke some demented writer has schemed for a truly horrible EVIL ACT? No way, Jose. I’m scratching my head. The only bad thing we see Bardem do is shoot a really inept employee. That it’s a she is almost pointless.

Remember the vacation you spent in the Bahamas with Bond in Thunderball? Well, you whisk through Istanbul for ten minutes, get stuck in Shanghai high rises for fifteen, a hotel in Macao for five, London for half the film, Scotland for the rest, but you never sample the definitive exotic local cuisine, and sink your teeth in the location, or the siren-like women who inhabit the place, like biting into Ursula Andrew’s foot to spit out the poisonous urchin spines in the Jamaica Keys in Dr. No. And please, are we too PC to have a Pussy Galore in 2012, when we have Pussy Riot?

Where went the seducing spy and those women who get a bit under his skin? Bond, James Bond in a swanky Macao hotel room shirt off, lets his cohort female shave his neck with a straight razor. He peels off the first button of her blouse, but they have the chemistry of Barbosol and after some hapless dialog she leaves. “eht.” Could it be James can’t get it up anymore? A shower scene, where James slips in as creepily as Javier Bardem and gives our female bather a lip lock with enough suction to lift the silver-birch paint of an Aston-Martin.”eht.”  Assumably James and the washing woman had their clothes off, but Mendes wants it clean. Apparently no females in profile, (no tities for kiddies or suggestions thereof), is the new standard, as this unsexual production proudly proclaims, “50 Years of Bond.”  The hottest scene was when Bardem touches Bond’s leg, clothes on of course.

And what was that big bad explosion of Bardem’s underground tube train that crashes over our aging hero? (No passengers on board of course – kind of a ‘clean evil’ Bond experience that San Mendes has been told to direct). Back to the exploding tube train problem. After an exceedingly improbably long, down the rabbit-hole chase of Bond after Bardem, and while England’s Prime Minister (who looks and sounds like a housewife soccer mom), the deed happens. So we think the evil plot being executed – as the train careens and undermines the place where the PM is berating Judi Dench for her bad acting – is Javier’s nefarious scheme to take out the PM and everyone with her. But that scene goes nowhere. On to the next chase and worry. What to do with a plot in search of evil?

As the film shutters down, why would Sam Mendes have James and Judi ride off in a resurrected Aston-Martin without even a good chase, only to arrive at a bucolic estate in the middle of nowhere. (“She sure runs great doesn’t she M, notice the original foot high airhood cowling, not the streamlined silver model that did the damage. The screenwriters didn’t give me any gadgets but a gun and a tracker, but I kept this old baby in the U-Store for 50 years, how old did you say you were, and  how do you like the smell of my Old Spice?”) And why, knowing  their purpose to wait for perhaps 100 bad guys to come kill them, would Ms. M the head of field operations of the British Secret Service not even call for a security detail? And why does not Bond insist on it to protect her? Think about it. Of course the two have the aide of the hobo-looking Albert Finney, Kincaide the groundskeeper. Then over the hill they come in two waves and a chopper, apocalypse now style. The defenders. A hobo with a shotgun, and James with a shotgun, and Judi making nail light bulbs. A lot of loud things happen until the movie ends with the most inexplicable causes that a stately forty room two story stone mansion has to explode itself, entirely, and all at once. Sam Peckinpah did more with a couple fending off a handful in Straw Dogs.

In the denouement closure with the villain, (it could not be called a climax), what does our sterling 007 do to finish his nemesis off? A knife in the back! Come on – where is the mano a mano, clever whip-sockey, haiku of death, I’m looking you in the eye until you die catharsis?  A knife in the back? That’s pretty low down, pardoner Sam. Not even a bon-mot, ‘I beg your pardon, but there’s a knife in your back.’ And then we in the audience wondering how James can be so consoling, when in fact the continuity assistant left a couple of wild machine-gun wielding thugs just outside the door. Like much of the movie, your imagination must finish James Bond’s job. He’ll deal with it somehow. But we are on to the next scene. Now, does the new ‘M’ fire James for the cowardly stab in the back, the inability to foil the tube plot, the failure to intercept the heist of the secret drive, his ass-fool silliness of setting up an indefensible situation so that the former M, Dame Judi dies? Sadly, more script about aging, getting old, and I am not ready to die. “eht”

One thing, definitely right, Thomas Newman’s sound score makes you believe you are seeing a classic Bond film. It may be the best Bond soundscore, ever.

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Promethisaurus Rex – Ridley Scott’s Prometheus

Warning: Explosive Bolts. If you hate spoilers, do not read this review. Just see the movie Prometheus.

Love cars, hate salesmen. A critic said Ridley Scott’s new movie ‘Prometheus’ created a mix between Bladerunner and Aliens. Being devoted to all things Ridley Scott, and having a day job, I was in the 10:30pm theater line. And all by my lonesome, as my wife knew something I didn’t. She hates salesmen worse than I, but I’m primitively attracted to shiny things.

Pre-reviewers painted a picture of discovering a lost civilizations in space, beings connected to us.  The first five minutes of the film suggest as much, so my imagination began taking the trip.That’s because after working on the latest NASA Hubble Space telescope images and making fine art prints of the grandeur of the Carina Nebulae, I was ready for a vision!

The thing about car wrecks is mostly they don’t have to happen. Sadly, even an expert driver, having ridden the long highway too many times, the roadsides all decked with franchises and blinking lights, a man can find himself dozing off.

The greatest thing to say about Prometheus is what it might have been. The awareness of planetary civilizations. (Civilization, in case you don’t know, is that thing  going out of control for much of human-kind). Imagine, some other world of minds is out there existing. We are not praying to the aliens, but  trying to understand and possibly love them like Starman or 2001 – the stuff many felt in 1966 when Star Trek was about to pilot and we were about to land on the moon. It is what archaeologists on site and historians feel when they realize there was something greater than we now – something came before, when humans had another magnificence. The discovering of civilizations brought hope.

My mornings in Escondido begin at my doormat. Ferrel cats nicely lay out  half- chewed gopher kidneys and tails – an honorable instinct learned in Egyptian times.

And so what hope does Ridley Scott lay at my feet? Kidneys and tails. Kind of like Prometheus, the clay god punished for stealing fire. Each day an eagle sent to feed on his liver, only to have it grow back to be eaten again. Like an Escondido morning, Promethean gutlore. In my Cineplex bay, really, must advanced civilizations desire to rip the heads off every living thing and scare the bejeebers out of the audience with every move they make? Where’s the wonder? There is more head ripping, tail swallowing than when Joe Bob Briggs ended every drive-in review with the body count and number of bouncing breasts.

This mashup of Aliens belies the little and lazy imagination. Space is the place! But, to not be transported? To be flushed and brought down again? I’m already living in that civilization.

Driving the highway. Nothing like a wreck. I’ve seen cars on fire, vehicles crumpled on the highway. Not like  John Chamberlain’s, the Pop artist who made an art from compressing automobiles. (Just passed in December 2011). All those Promethian wrecks. Were they good wrecks? Who’s to say? Take this movie.

Prometheus did not even fly the myth. I am certain, kindergarteners imagine better screenplays. Actors were stellar mostly; but the stars did not shine. The always watchable Sean Harris (the mangy assassin in HBOS’s The Borges), and the sensitively courteous android ‘David’ played by Michael Fassbender made the theater seat worth bearing. David was the only civil creature of the civilizations. How much I wanted the original ‘girl with the dragon tattoo’s’ to take the camera (Noomi Rapace), but damn, the dame comes off like your mom. She made the theater floor worth watching. And Charlize Theron, perhaps the most capable dimensional actress of our times does nothing but stand up straight. WHO WAS DIRECTING?

So for another creature-is-com’nta-gitchya movie, as Joe Bob says “Everything’s in this one. It’s a no-holds-bared but tasteful drive-in flick, an oldie but not necessarily a goodie. We’re talking plus-nine dead bodies, creature-fu, helmet-fu, alien aardvarking, but we got a problem: zero breasts. The T& A team sucks. There’s a drive-in Academy Award waiting for someone.”