November 6, 2015, - 8:25 am
Among the new movies in theaters today, at least the kids’ movie is good. Great, actually. Can’t say as much for James Bond:
* “Spectre” – Rated PG-13: I was neither shaken nor stirred by the latest silver screen incarnation of James Bond. This is possibly the WORST Bond movie ever (though “Quantum of Solace” was pretty bad–read my review). It is slow, boring, nonsensical, and silly. The first 10 to 15 minutes were classic Bond and very exciting and cool. And I thought it was going to be a great movie. But after that, it devolves into a ridiculous mess. The villain was stupid and unintentionally a parody of himself more suitable for “Austin Powers.” And it has instances of torture porn that are disgusting to watch.
Also, per usual in the Daniel Craig Bond era, it is missing all of the usual elements that make people (usually guys) want to go see a Bond movie, especially the gadgets and hot women. The only “gadget” was a watch that is a bomb. I felt like we’d seen that a zillion times before. The women are old. They average 40 years old, which is senior citizenship in Bond horse years. And, by “they,” I only mean three women–only two of which Bond sleeps with (the other is Moneypenny–now Naomie Harris, age 39, who was in the last Bond flick, “Skyfall” – read my review). First, Bond sleeps with 51-year-old Monica Bellucci, who looks at least 55 in this (they managed to make her look much older than she does in real life). You can literally see the bags under her eyes. Ugh. Nobody wants to see James Bond with that. And Bond’s main squeeze in the film, Lea Seydoux–age 30–is pretty, but she’s not drop-dead gorgeous. She’s just okay . . . with a pug nose.
Then, there’s Bond, Daniel Craig himself. He looks old, tired, and haggard, well beyond his 47 years. And on his very thin, blond visage, it looks even worse. (As I always say, Bond is NOT blond! No, he’s not Black, either. But he’s definitely not blond.) Even Bond’s souped-up and malfunctioning Aston Martin (made special for the movie–the model doesn’t exist in real life) looks more Prius than cool sports car. And it’s meant for Agent 009, not Bond’s 007, who is on the outs.
That brings us to the story, which is a giant, “Oy!” I know that Bond movies aren’t known for their believable plots or stunts. I get that. But this was just absurd, and it played like a soap opera. Plus it’s confusing and a lot of it doesn’t get explained. It just magically happens. The chief villain in this movie, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), announces that, “through the blood on my mother’s side, Elsa Blofeld,” he is Bond Villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. HUH?! Who the heck is Elsa Blofeld? And why would I care? I felt like I was watching “Delirious” about a ridiculous soap opera created by a comatose John Candy or the scene in “Tootsie” where Dustin Hoffman comes out to the world as a man, blathering on about his convoluted lineage as a soap opera character who is a man posing as a woman. (BTW, Blofeld was originally meant by Jew-hating Bond creator Ian Fleming to be an evil Jew with “large lobes” and a nose job. Read more about Ian Fleming’s anti-Semitism and his cornucopia of Jewish Bond villains–though the article linked understates it.)
Bond gets a video from the now-deceased M (Judi Dench) telling him to kill a particular assassin in Mexico City, which he does. Then, she tells him to go to the dude’s funeral in Rome, which he does (and then beds the guy’s widow, Ms. Bellucci). While in Rome, Bond discovers that the hitman he killed is in a sinister group of criminals called “SPECTRE,” and he tries to find the head of it, Oberhauser (Waltz), so he can dismantle it. One dying member of SPECTRE tells him to find “L’Americain” (“Rick’s American Cafe” was taken?) and that the member’s daughter (Seydoux) knows where it is. Bond goes to see the daughter, and eventually, they end up at a hotel in Tangier, where they magically find a secret room detailing all kinds of plans. Next thing you know, they’re on a train and get off at an abandoned station in the middle of the North African desert, where they are magically picked up by a chauffeur-driven antique Rolls Royce and taken to Oberhauser’s compound in the middle of a meteor-created crater. Bond soon learns that his adopted father and brother were, respectively, Oberhauser’s father and Oberhauser, himself, who says he is Blofeld. And he is the worst Blofeld ever, a caricature of Blofeld but not funny. Just stupid. (My fave Blofelds are Telly Savalas and Donald Pleasence.)
Among the torture porn we are forced to endure in this thing: a man gets his eyes smushed out by one of Blofeld’s henchmen, and we are shown the blood and the man squirming. Eeeuuww. Later, Blofeld uses a computer to drill rods straight into a tied up Bond’s head/face and neck to torture and kill him. Um, this is supposed to be escapist fun? No thanks.
Throughout all of this, there is a second plot going on, which attempts to be relevant to current events and is decidedly pronounced against surveillance tactics to stop terrorism. Yes, Rand and his Paulistinians will love it! The new M (an unusually old-looking and pudgy Ralph Fiennes) is upset with Bond for embarrassing the government when Bond’s destructive exploits are all over the media. On top of that, a new government bureaucrat, “C,” wants to eliminate the “00” spy program, including the job of 007 a/k/a Bond, and merge what remains into MI6. He says drones can do the job and replace humans (that will never happen – drones cannot replace human intelligence). Also, C wants to implement a government surveillance program in which every telephone call and video feed is watched by the British government. Um, here’s a tip: the national security surveillance programs utilized by the Brits and the U.S. do not listen in to every phone call or monitor every closed circuit camera feed. But this movie wants you to think so and think that the people and governments using that surveillance and those feeds are evil and working with villains. Hint, hint.
A couple of other things about the movie: when I saw it, I was forced to endure Sam Smith’s theme song, “Writing’s on the Wall,” twice. First, I endured his wimpy video for the song. I’m not sure if they show that in theaters. And, then, the song played a second time with the opening credits. The credits were another thing moviegoers are forced to endure twice with this movie–at the beginning and the end. Smith’s theme song is silly and effeminate–a lot like Bond has become. It’s the worst Bond theme song I can remember and one of the few that doesn’t bear the same title as the Bond movie for which it was made. His high falsetto voice and the uber-wimpy nature of the song are very appropriate to this Bond. Sheena Easton (“For Your Eyes Only”) is more of a man than this guy, Smith. Please, make it stop.
Incredibly, the movie cost $650 million to make, and it will probably make all of that back and more. Bond movies do well, these days, just like most superhero movies, whether they are good or bad. The masses go and pay their ten-plus bucks and spend their two hours without a critical second thought. And that will happen with this one. It doesn’t matter what I say about this snore-fest. It’ll be a box office success.
That’s okay. I’ve seen worse. But I’ve seen plenty that are much better. Even on the absurd level of unbelievable Bond stunts and action, this doesn’t cut it.
HALF A MARX
Watch the trailer . . .
* “The Peanuts Movie” – Rated G: This is the wholesome, positive movie with (carefully laid out) moral lessons for kids that Hollywood has been missing for years. I thoroughly enjoyed this, too. It’s hilarious, cute, entertaining, fast-paced, and a lot of fun. I laughed a lot, especially for the first 20 or 30 minutes, as it seems the funny parts are front-loaded. Your kids will love it. I saw this in 3D, but you’re fine without it, so save your money.
Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally, Linus, Schroeder, Marcie, and Peppermint Patty are back. Franklin and Pig-Pen, too. And, of course, Snoopy and Woodstock. A bonus: Snoopy’s alter ego, World War I’s Flying Ace, is back, too, fighting his nemesis the Red Baron. And there is a parallel story running throughout the movie featuring those throwbacks, as the Flying Ace tries to save and win the love and affection of Fifi, a female pilot, from the destructive force of the Red Baron.
The story: Charlie Brown has the usual bad luck all the time. No matter how hard he tries, how much he works at it, things always go against him. Some disaster happens or something unexpected comes up, and he comes out the loser. Good grief, Charlie Brown! He has the same bad luck as a pretty new red-headed girl moves in across the street and joins Charlie Brown’s school as a student and classmate. He’s instantly smitten and in love, but can’t bring himself to get noticed by her. (Or so he thinks.) So, Charlie Brown find himself seeking Lucy’s “psychiatric advice” at her stand for five cents. Lucy tells Charlie to be confident and read and follow a self-help book about how to appear confident and be successful, which he tries to do.
In the meantime, Charlie Brown finds himself desperately trying to fly a kite (which always gets stuck in a local tree in the park). And he gets assigned to do a book report with the aforementioned new redhead. The book is Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” which he thinks is “Leo’s Toy Store.” After looking in vain for that toy store, Charlie Brown finds the real book, but the red-headed girl is out of town. So, he works very hard and stays up all night to write a masterpiece book report for both of them. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, disaster happens.
Another “disaster”: Charlie Brown is going to perform magic tricks with Snoopy in the school talent show to impress the redhead. But his sister, Sally, is also in the talent show, and she is embarrassed when classmates mock and laugh at her act. So, instead of performing his magic tricks, Charlie swoops in to make a fool of himself onstage and spare his sister from the crowd. He saves the day, but doesn’t realize it.
The lessons in this movie are legion. And the movie let’s you know exactly what they are. Despite all of his perceived failure and self-doubt, in the end it all works out for Charlie Brown. He gets the girl. And he and the viewers are told why: because he sacrificed his own day in the sun at the talent show, to save his sister from embarrassment–he was compassionate; because he cared for others; because he was honest and didn’t take credit for getting the highest score on a test when he realized it was actually Peppermint Patty’s test and she signed her name to the wrong Scantron sheet; and for a host of other reasons that are laid out–all of them involving morality.
This is the kind of thing we need more of from Hollywood. Sure, the Pixar animated movies are fun. But they rarely teach morality to kids–never tell them to be good civic citizens or be caring, compassionate, honest, and empathetic. This movie is much funnier than all of those other kids’ movies. And it was entertaining. And through all of the jokes and entertainment, good lessons are imparted to kids . . . lessons that are missing from most Hollywood kids’ fare at the movies these days (which is far too focused on telling girls they can be superhero she-male warriors instead of telling them and boys to do the right thing and be good civic citizens).
Watch the trailer . . .
Tags: 007, Bad James Bond Movies, Blofeld, C, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown Movie, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Craig, Elsa Blofeld, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Flying Ace, Franklin, Franz Oberhauser, James Bond, James Bond movie, James Bond movie review, james Bond theme songs, Judi Dench, L'Americain, Lea Seydoux, Linus, Lionel, Lucy, M, Marcie, Moneypenny, Monica Bellucci, Morocco, movie, movie review, Movie Reviews, Naomie Harris, Peanuts Movie, Peanuts Movie review, Peppermint Patty, Pig Pen, Ralph Fiennes, Red Baron, Rick's American Cafe, Sally, Sally Brown, Sam Smith, Schroder, Schroeder, Sheena Easton, Snoopy, Spectre, Spectre James Bond, Spectre Movie, Spectre Movie Review, Spectre Review, Tangier, The Flying Ace, The Peanuts Movie, The Peanuts Movie Review, The Red Baron Fifi, Woodstock, Writing's on the Wall