007 Chatter: Musings on Bond Villains and Top 7 Picks

It’s the last day of the Bond month, the 50 year anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No, which opened in the UK on on October 5, 1962. These 007 posts are also part of the Skyfall countdown which will open on November 9 here in the US! As I don’t cover the horror genre on this blog, I figure it’d be fitting to do a post on those wicked Bond villains on Halloween.

Special thanks to Raul Marin of The Movi3 Lounge for this guest post!
Three of his picks actually match my own top five I posted two years ago :D


Just as the day turns to night, the month celebrating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise comes to a sudden end. However, this is only the beginning of more to come! There is another film to look forward to in a few days, as Daniel Craig will once again play the iconic role in Skyfall.

As we all anticipate this next film with great excitement, I invite you to think about the villains that we have seen in the franchise over last 50 years. There are six men who have had the pleasure of playing this amazing role. They have dazzled us with their strength, charm, and bravery to save the world against impossible odds. Before we can appreciate the amazing acts of this extraordinary British agent, we have to recognize the worthy adversaries he has encountered before saving the world. Before you can have a hero, you need a villain that can challenge him or her to overcome adversity. After winning many battles, you become a hero with your good deeds and amazing courage. When life is on the line, there has been no one better than James Bond to save humanity from chaos and destruction. The beauty of this franchise has been that someone with the talent and abilities of Bond has been needed to bring down the most dangerous and criminal-minded villains on the planet.

The role of villains in this franchise is something special. To put this in a better perspective, Bond has what it takes to be a devastating villain in any film. He is a strong, determined, and fearless agent that will do what it takes to save the world. The villains on the other hand, use their abilities and resources to establish world order and domination under their control. They also share the same characteristics as Bond. Which brings up a great point: it is not about the strengths and abilities that you have; it is about what you choose to do with them. Since we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of this incredible franchise, it is only fitting to recognize the seven best Bond villains. Of course, there have been many villains throughout these 23 films, but there are seven in particular, who went beyond the expectations of a great villain.

There’s even a book dedicated to the evil masterminds of the Bond franchise

It is not enough to simply have the role of a villain in a film; it is something that should be earned in the eyes of the director and the audience. What makes these seven villains stand out more than the rest are a couple of characteristics; mainly the possession of power. In their respective films, there is no question of the power, influence, and authority that they have over the people that work for them, and the fear they have caused in the world because of that. Another characteristic that they all share is style. This can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but the reality is, they each demonstrate their personalities with great charisma, elegance, and even a sense of humor. Above all, they each demonstrate a relentless, diabolical, and cold-hearted hunger for killing Bond, and destroying whatever gets in the way of their dreams.

Many, if not all, villains in this franchise have had evil henchmen whose jobs are to make killing Bond easier them. They may not be complete villains, but if you still cringe at their presence on screen, they have done their job well. Jaws and Oddjob did the best jobs of that in my humble opinion. Soon, Javier Bardem will add himself to the list of actors that have graced fans everywhere with their on screen presence as a villain in Skyfall. It may be too early to say that he belongs among the best, but there is certainly great excitement and expectation for him to be among the ranks of the most evil men that Bond has had to face.

It is with great pleasure that I list my top seven Bond villains:


Dr. Julius No (Dr. No) – played by Joseph Wiseman

Hugo Drax (Moonraker) – played by Michael Lonsdale



Frank Sanchez (Licence to Kill) – played by Robert Davi



Aris Kristatos (For Your Eyes Only) – played by Julian Glover



Le Chiffre (Casino Royale) – played by Mads Mikkelsen



Emilio Largo (Thunderball) – played by Adolfo Celi



Red Grant (From Russia With Love) – played by Robert Shaw




Special Recognition:

  • Jaws – Moonraker, The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Oddjob – Goldfinger


Now your turn! Who are YOUR picks of top Bond villains?

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Weekend Roundup – Indiana Jones, BBC’s Sherlock + Chasing Mavericks Review

Today I truly appreciate the simple things in life. Well not that I wouldn’t any other day but especially so the past couple of days after reading all the news and weather updates on the Frankenstorm that is Hurricane Sandy. The fact that I can drive peacefully on the road without being pounded by crazy winds and heavy rain, and the fact that I have electricity in the house and place of work. The Empire State Building was trending last night on Twitter and it turned out it was because of this instagram of the Empire State Building’s light that shone when NYC went completely dark. What an eerie but yet striking image.

My thoughts and prayers goes out to everyone in the path of the storm… please do stay safe!

This weekend I actually opt for home cinema as I’ve seen both Cloud Atlas and Chasing Mavericks early last week. We had bought the Indiana Jones Blu-ray set a couple of weeks ago but couldn’t watch ‘em right away as I had to cover for TCFF.

We rewatched Raiders of the Lost Ark and it was still as entertaining as ever. The picture quality is just brilliant, and Harrison Ford is perfectly cast as the rugged explorer, I really can’t picture anyone else in this role so whoever’s gonna replace him in the reboot would have HUGE shoes to fill. I also love Karen Allen as Marion, her spunk and demeanor reminds me so much of Margot Kidder as Lois Lane!

We finally caught up with BBC’s Sherlock Season 2, starting with Scandal in Belgravia. It’s by far the most confusing episode for me, the plot is just so darn complicated for my little brain. But still it’s entertaining to watch Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the odd couple and there are some really hilarious moments, especially when they first encounter Lara Pulver as Irene Adler. I thought she was brilliant in the role — Sherlock’s definitely met his match in her and watching the two psychopaths flirt with each other is quite amusing.


Now, on to the review:

I’m NOT a surfer, I’ve never even been ON a surfboard, not on land, let alone on water. But something about the surfers’ lifestyle fascinates me so I don’t think you need to know anything about surfing to enjoy this film.

The film tells the true story of Jay Moriarity, a young Santa Cruz surfer who’s immortalized in the Live Like Jay movement that just celebrated the 10th anniversary of his death last June. It was a short life as he drowned when he went diving in the Maldives just a day shy of his 23rd birthday, but the movie showed just how he lived.

Jay (Jonny Weston) first met Frosty Hesson (Gerry Butler) when Frosty rescued him from the ocean when he was only 8 years old. That experience didn’t put him off surfing, in fact, the opposite is true. He found it to be his true calling, not unlike someone like Felix Baumgartner who has a penchant for heights. Jay just loved the water and that 40-foot waves seems to be calling his name each time it hit the shores.

The fact that he lives with a single mom and an absentee father, he also yearns for a father figure and he finds that in Frosty, even though he himself is a loner who doesn’t seem to have it all together despite having a saintly wife (Abigail Spencer) and two kids. Predictably, the two bonded as Frosty trains Jay to be able to achieve his dream to chase ‘Mavericks,’ which refers to the surfing location north of Half Moon Bay in California where after a strong winter storm could top out at over 80 feet! I appreciate that this is truly a movie about surfing, not about some girl in a bikini or a procedural action flick. It focuses on the sport and shows the dedication it takes to be a darn good surfer in a sport where even the smallest miscalculation could cost one his/her life. Butler himself surely knew that by heart as he experienced a near-death accident when he was knocked off his board by a freak wave during filming. Talk about suffering for your art!

Jay certainly has a story worth telling, though I wish the story could’ve been as groundbreaking as the subject matter. Seems like when the movie is not so much focused on surfing, the script sort of loses its footing, so there’s barely any depth to any of the relationships portrayed in the film aside from Jay and Frosty’s. Even the romance between Jay and his eventual wife Kim (Leven Rambin) is so darn cheesy it comes off like an after school special.

The formulaic script really doesn’t give the actors any favors. It’s really too bad as I think Butler shows what he’s capable of all along. It’s an understated role that shows his vulnerable side, so it’s not the typical alpha-male action hero he’s known for. He not only look the part with his svelte physique and surfer hair, but he’s also got that convincing surfer swagger. As for Weston, I had been skeptical about his casting initially but I thought he captured the jovial spirit of what I picture Jay would be. The female characters are under-developed however, with Elisabeth Shue as Jay’s mother suffers the worst fate of being completely wasted here. There’s also an attempt to add a ‘villainy’ character in the film that goes absolutely nowhere.

What I do love about it is the spectacular cinematography that captures the glory of surfing. Those giant waves are amazing, and I’m glad I saw this on the big screen! I love that it was filmed on location which adds a high level of authenticity to the film. One of the main draw of this movie for me is the fact that L.A. Confidential’s director Curtis Hanson’s at the helm (reportedly Hanson had to bow out of filming because of health reasons and Michael Apted took over, so they share directing credit). I do think given the filmmakers’ credentials, this could’ve been a lot more compelling, but it’s not a bad movie by any means. In fact, I’m glad to hear according to Santa Cruz Patch, this film was well-received by the community where Jay used to surf.

I think a lot of the lessons that Jay learns in this movie, about the ‘Four Pillars of the Human Foundation’ and other disciplines can be applied to other parts of lives. The rousing ending is quite a spectacle, with those giant, mystical waves taking center stage and I could see how surfing is as much a mental sport as it is a demanding physical one.

3 out of 5 reels


P.S. I’m quite bummed that his movie was a total bomb. I didn’t expect it to be in the top five, but I certainly didn’t think it’d do so badly with a paltry $2.2 mil. Vulture asked Why Does Hollywood Think America Likes Surfing? and seems like the sub-genre of surfing movies are inherently not very marketable. Ah well, I’m glad I saw it and I’m glad they brought Jay’s story to life in this one.


Well, that’s it for the roundup this week. How ’bout you, seen anything good?

FlixChatter Review: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is one of those films that transcends film genres — it’s a drama, sci-fi, comedy, thriller, all wrapped into one. Based on David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, the film follows six nested stories of six characters across time and space, and explores how the characters’ lives are connected and somehow influence each other in past, present and future.

Just how are they connected exactly? Well, that’s for the viewers to find out and watching this film is like trying to put together a giant puzzle, whilst treated to a spectacular, often dizzying array of scenarios spanning hundreds of years, from the 1800s all the way to 2144.

The first character we meet, Adam Ewing, is a lawyer who’s shipwrecked in an island in the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand. In the story he ends up discovering the the enslavement of the Moriori tribe and also meeting a doctor named Henry Goose. The next character in the following story, a 1930 composer Robert Frobisher, discovers Ewing’s account as a diary on a bookshelf at the house of an aging composer he’s working for. On and on the story goes, alternating from one to the next every 10-15 minutes or so.

What’s most amusing about this film is that the main actors play multiple characters across various stories and time periods, so in one scene we see Tom Hanks in a period Victorian-era clothing to a scientist in the 1970s, to a tribesman in post-apocalyptic Hawaii. For the most part, they did a good job with the makeup work, transforming the actors across multiple races, even gender! Sometimes I got so caught up in the different look of the actors that take me out of the story, for example, young British actor Jim Sturgess made up to look like a Korean man Hae-Joo Im in the segment involving a genetically-engineered fabricant Somni-451 set in a totalitarian futuristic society, and also Hugo Weaving as a devil leprechaun haunting Hanks’ character and also the scary female Nurse Noakes who hounds Jim Broadbent‘s character a in a nursing home. It’s also odd seeing Korean actress Doona Bae as a freckled, red-headed Caucasian woman, complete with blue contact lenses! The make up of Halle Berry as a blue-eyed Jewish woman is much more seamless though.

The first thing that comes to mind as soon as I leave the theater is that it was quite a ‘discombobulating’ experience. I have to admit that it was quite tough to follow the story as it keeps changing from one to the next before I could even figure out what’s going on. It didn’t help matters that Halle Berry and Tom Hanks in the post-apocalyptic Hawaii segment are utterly incomprehensible. I kept turning to my friend next to me in frustration, just what the heck are those people saying??!

I read that the novel was quite well-received by critics who deemed that Mitchell managed to successfully interweave its six stories. I think it may take me multiple viewings for me to say whether the movie achieves that, though I wouldn’t call it a mess like some critics do. I wish it was more emotionally engaging though. I mean, the message against prejudice, slavery, corporate greed, etc. aren’t exactly subtle, but because the movie jumps from one to the next relatively fast, I wasn’t as invested in the characters as I otherwise would.

Overall, there are a lot to appreciate in this film, most notably the visual spectacle and the performances of most of the actors. The stand-outs for me are Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, and the Wachowskis’ ‘muse’ Hugo Weaving. My favorite segment is the love story set in the futuristic society Neo Seoul. It has a Blade Runner-esque feel to it, and the chase sequences are spectacular! I’m certainly glad I saw it on the big screen and from the visual effects standpoint, it actually seems like it had a bigger budget than $102 million (Just a little trivia: according to Wikipedia, this movie was actually funded by independent sources, making it the most expensive independent film ever).

Final Thoughts: I think this is a valiant effort by the Wachowski Siblings (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run). There’s definitely an epic feel to it and given how challenging the material is, I think they did a pretty darn good job. In fact, now that the movie’s sat with me for about a week and I’ve read a bit more about the story, I actually like it a bit better. Oh and do stay for the end credits as they show which actors plays which roles, see if you could recognize every single one of them. I don’t know how this film would fare come award season but it should at least nab Best Makeup nomination!

4 out of 5 reels


Well, that’s my take on Cloud Atlas. What do YOU think of it?

Weekend Viewings + Everybody’s Chattin’

Happy Friday everyone!

Well, Winter has definitely arrived here in Minnesota. We’ve got a sprinkle of the dreaded ‘s’ word yesterday… yep, snow! But fortunately it was just a snow mix so it didn’t stick much at all, in fact, on my way home there’s barely a trace of it. Different story if you live in Northern MN though, I think they’ve got some measurable amount up there. Folks going to Halloween parties this weekend should definitely bundle up though, brrrrr!

Anyway, I’ve actually seen two of the movies opening today, Cloud Atlas, and Chasing Mavericks on advanced screening last week, but I’m taking a bit of a break from writing reviews as I’ve been working on them non-stop for TCFF.

I definitely will review both of them next week though. Seems like neither one is getting favorable critical reviews on rottentomatoes, but with a much higher audience reviews (surprise, surprise). Cloud Atlas actually got pretty decent reviews a couple of weeks ago, but it kept dwindling down closer to the movie opening. As for Chasing Mavericks, I enjoyed it for two main reasons: Gerry Butler surfing (‘nuf said) and the beautifully-shot 40-foot waves. Man, I wish I knew how to surf!! The movie isn’t as as bad as the critics made it out to be (heck if I had a nickle for every time I said this!) Needless to say, I’m definitely on the audience side on this one, so if you’re on the fence about either movies, I’d say give ‘em a shot.

Well, it’s time for links! 

Novia‘s shifting her gaze from her beloved Cillian Murphy to shine a spotlight on her second crush, Benedict Cumberbatch. Most of you know him from the excellent BBC’s Sherlock, but check out ‘Benny’ Special, consisting of reviews of three movies he’s appeared in.

Speaking of crushes, my Glaswegian friend Mark is in the midst of doing a review trilogy of Scottish films and his first two happen to star my all time favorite Scot! Check out his review of the Scottish drama One More Kiss, featuring a very young and six-pack-free Gerry Butler and one of my all time GB roles as The Stranger in Dear Frankie.

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As part of her 7 Days of Halloween special, the creative genius Lady Sati highlighted French actress Isabella Adjani in Possession as one of her favorite performances. There are sooo many movies of similar title, but this one was released in 1981 which also stars Sam Neill.

There are many reasons why I love my friend Michael’s blog, even the name It Rains… You Get Wet is just so clever! One of my fave series of his is TMT, which stands for a Theater… a Movie… and a Time. Check out those posts if you haven’t already, even if you don’t like or know the movie, his stories are fun to read… and you’ll wish you have as good a memory as he does!

Nice to see I’m not the only one having Bond fever this month! :)

People are doing all kinds of posts and lists to commemorate Bond month. Dan from Top 10 UK definitely lives up to his blog name as he has a plethora of top 10 007-themed lists, such as this Top 10 Bond Gadgets courtesy of Rodney of Fernby Films.

Fellow Bond fan Dan Fogarty, aka Fogs is doing all kinds of Bond lists, and a couple of days ago he listed his top 10 Bond theme songs. I agree with all but one from his list.

A couple more Bond lists I like, PG Cooper ranks 22 Bond girls, most of which I agree, especially his pick of number 1 who happens to be one of my all time favorites because she’s sexy and intelligent, definitely not a bimbo. Last but not least, growing up with two brothers, I’ve always been into cars and what’s a Bond movie without the Bond car right? John Kenneth Muir listed his top 5 Bond Cars, and I love his unconventional choice of a yellow French automobile that is far from the glamorous Aston Martin DBS!


So what are you going to see this weekend? Whatever you do, hope you have a good one!

10 Favorite Directors’ Quotes Relay Race

Another relay race has been circulating around, similar to the Best Actors and Actress Relay Race I did a few months ago. This time it’s David from Taste of Cinema who started the relay race to share some of our favorite quotes from filmmakers. Thank you John @ John Likes Movies for tagging me!

Here’s David’s explanation of the relay race:
People love wisdom from great minds. As a cinephile, I prefer director quotes more than words from any other group of people in the world. Their thoughts on cinema not only provide insights into a deep understanding of cinema, but also open the window to their own films, their genres, and their filmmaking methods, thus the need to receive more exposure as their films did.

The rules have been altered, but basically the one rule is simple: Replace one director and their respective quote with one of your own.

Here’s who’s participated in the Relay Race so far:

Chris at Movies And Songs 365
Alex at And So It Begins…
Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle
Stephanie at On Page and Screen


And here are the quotes as it stands now…

“I steal from every single movie ever made. I love it – if my work has anything it’s that I’m taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together. If people don’t like that, then tough titty, don’t go and see it, all right? I steal from everything. Great artists steal; they don’t do homages.”Quentin Tarantino

“Unlike all the other art forms, film is able to seize and render the passage of time, to stop it, almost to possess it in infinity. I’d say that film is the sculpting of time.” – Andrei Tarkovsky

“Why make a movie about something one understands completely? I make movies about things I do not understand, but wish to.” – Seijun Suzuki

“I don’t like the idea of ‘understanding’ a film. I don’t believe that rational understanding is an essential element in the reception of any work of art. Either a film has something to say to you or it hasn’t. If you are moved by it, you don’t need it explained to you. If not, no explanation can make you moved by it.”Federico Fellini

“When I make a film, I never stop uncovering mysteries, making discoveries. When I’m writing, filming, editing, even doing promotional work, I discover new things about the film, about myself, and about others. That is what I’m subconsciously looking for when shooting a film: to glimpse the enigmas of life, even if I don’t resolve them, but at least to uncover them. Cinema is curiosity in the most intense meaning of the word.”Pedro Almodovar

“All my movies are about strange worlds that you can’t go into unless you build them and film them. That’s what’s so important about film to me. I just like going into strange worlds.”David Lynch

“You make films to give people something, to transport them somewhere else, and it doesn’t matter if you transport them to a world of intuition or a world of intellect…The realm of superstitions, fortune-telling, presentiments, intuition, dreams, all this is the inner life of a human being, and all this is the hardest thing to film… I’ve been trying to get there from the beginning. I’m somebody who doesn’t know, somebody who’s searching.”Krzysztof Kieslowski

“I wonder whether my bleak-o-meter is set differently from other people’s. I have such passion for what I do that I can’t see it as bleak. When people use that word, or “grim” or “gritty,” I just think, “Oh, come on, look a bit deeper.” My films don’t give you an easy ride. I can see that. The sense I get is that people have quite a physical experience with them. They feel afterwards that they’ve really been through something.”Andrea Arnold

“Truth is hard to tell! And you have to be willing to be criticized for it.”Lee Daniels

“A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end… but not necessarily in that order.” 
Jean-Luc Godard

I’m removing…

There are some directors here I’m not familiar with, but I really like what they had to say so I wouldn’t remove their quotes simply because I haven’t seen any of their films. So I chose the quote that I don’t find as interesting as others, so it’s not a reflection of how I feel about said director. So that said, I bid adieu to…

Francis Ford Coppola 

“An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before?”

My addition:

Christopher Nolan

“Every film should have its own world, a logic and feel to it that expands beyond the exact image that the audience is seeing.” 

I choose to go with a contemporary director whose complete feature films I have seen, including his first feature film shot on a shoe-string budget Following. He’s one of my personal favorites and I think the British auteurs is one of the greatest filmmakers working today. I like that quote because he lives up to that concept with his films, they’re cerebral, imaginative and has that sense of wonderment. There’s another quote of his I like where he said that film is first and foremost entertainment, but that it can be both serious and intellectually stimulating. His films definitely has those qualities.

Ok, now the easy part:

I’d like to tag my friend Keith @ Keith and the Movies whose phenomenal blog is one of my favorites. Take it away, Keith!


Well, what are your thoughts on these quotes and my pick in particular?

007 Chatter: (Ian) Fleming’s Bond – The James Bond of the original novels compared to the 007 movies Part 1

October is Bond month as the producers are celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No, which opened in the UK on on October 5, 1962. In addition to the Skyfall countdown, here at FlixChatter we are taking an in-depth look into the world’s most popular movie franchise and its origins.

Special thanks to Marcus Clearspring for this two-part posts in comparing how the original novels of Ian Fleming compared to the Bond movies.

Check out Marcus’ movie blog Cinesprit and his writing blog.

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Fleming’s Bond

When you think James Bond, you probably think Martinis-and-bikinis, “shaken not stirred” and of course “Bond, James Bond”. The James Bond of the movies is a kind of superhero. However, Ian Fleming’s original novels show far more depth of character and certainly no superman. He may actually have a few things in common with some of the darker superheroes, only he has no superpowers. Although he has gadgets, they rarely spring him from danger in the novels.

The complete collection of Ian Fleming books – photo courtesy of ebookee.org

Fleming’s Bond is a character with doubts, who is vulnerable and expresses his fears. The most extreme example is when Bond falls into a long depression for several months after the death of his wife Tracy. The story begins with Bond visiting her grave, and his boss M back at the office, telling Bond to shape up or ship out. This is the beginning to Thunderball in the novel. Bond is not sent to the health clinic to work undercover. It’s an ultimatum. He goes there because he is too depressed and out of shape to work. He discovers the bad guys by chance. It is surprising how dark the beginning is, but it’s also very memorable.
The movies have so far never portrayed Bond like this. We saw him place flowers on his wife’s grave in For Your Eyes Only, but that was followed by an action-comedy sequence with Blofeld at times so camp it was close to Austin Powers. The Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again had Bond sent to the clinic because he was supposedly out of shape, but that was all. It too was upbeat, almost comedic, with no mention of any other trouble.

The possibly closest portrayal of Fleming’s Bond in the movies for me is Timothy Dalton in Licence To Kill, and to some extent Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. As of the Daniel Craig era you can imagine the producers using a downbeat opening like in Fleming’s Thunderball because attitudes have changed. It’s okay now for Bond to be vulnerable and the story to have some gravitas. When they tried that with Timothy Dalton in Licence To Kill, audiences were not yet ready. It was 10-15 years too early.
Fleming’s Bond is always focused and very rarely distracted. There’s a scene in Goldfinger where Bond sees a pretty girl in an open sports car and is tempted to follow her. Then he smiles and mutters to himself that he needs to keep shadowing Goldfinger. You may recall that scene from the movie. It’s an exception in the novels rather than something you would expect, as you do in the movies. Likewise, you won’t find scores of bikini-clad girls sunbathing around swimming pools. No five-star hotel concierge greets Bond after several years by name and announces that a Martini is waiting. Not in the books.

What makes Fleming’s Bond so interesting?

[ruth’s note: I found this illustration by Gabriel Hardman above from this site, inspired by this description from Fleming’s Casino Royale novel: As he tied his thin, double-ended black satin tie, he paused for a moment and examined himself levelly in the mirror. His grey-blue eyes looked calmly back with a hint of ironical inquiry and the short lock of black hair which would never stay in place slowly subsided to form a thick comma above his right eyebrow. With the thin vertical scar down his right cheek the general effect was faintly piratical.]
There have been many new authors who have written Bond novels since Ian Fleming. Make sure to start at the source, with the real deal. There may be some good 007 novels by other authors but I have not heard of any to surpass Fleming’s originals. When I refer to “the novels” from here on, I mean solely Ian Fleming’s books.
What I find particularly interesting in Fleming’s novels is the way we get to see and feel everything that Bond does from inside Bond’s head. That’s a totally different perspective to the movies. We get a multitude of thoughts and emotions racing through Bond’s head. Doubts, strategies, fears, next moves. All this is mostly told as a running commentary.
Many action scenes in the novels are better than in the movies. I know that sounds odd because movies are normally better at action than books, but this is one of Fleming’s strong points. A good example is the car chase in Casino Royale. It has far more detail and suspense than the movie, which only shows Bond catching up, then the final rollover of his car. The novel manages to put you inside Bond’s head, with him in the driver’s seat, following his every move and thought. He sits there thinking about how Vesper got herself caught. Complaining about her and worrying at the same time as he shifts gears and his thoughts race. These are some of the best moments in the books because you get both the internal and external action.
I would never have thought it could be exciting the way someone shifts gears and moves along serpentine roads, but it is the way Fleming writes. I know someone who used to drive rallies and they thought Fleming’s descriptions were great. Especially if you are bored by the fast cuts of current movie chases which abbreviate so much, you will appreciate the detailed and engaging way Fleming writes his action scenes.

Focus and Purpose

The fight scenes are full of precision and purpose. Often brutal, but never for show. Bond often considers each move in advance. However, not as in many movies where the hero recites a bunch of moves to show off how easy it’s going to be and how cool he or she is. If there’s any comparison in movies, Fleming’s Bond takes the approach of a Clint Eastwood type character. Someone who gets straight down to business when he has to and takes the shortest, most effective route without any showing off.
The skiing scenes in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are another great example. The movie’s ski scenes are great due to Willy Bogner’s amazing photography, but the novel has the advantage of putting you inside Bond’s skin as he tries to escape from Blofeld’s mountain lair.

The movies are glamorous, mainstream action entertainment. The books get inside Bond’s head and under his skin. It’s a very different perspective. It’s the main reason to read the books. In the next post I’ll take a closer look at what is going on inside Bond. His relationships to the two important women in his life provide a great contrast to his movie image. His introspective side shows how critical, and at times cynical, Bond can be of his own job.


Well, that’s it for Part I. Is there anything you miss in the movies, or which you think might be better in a novel?

TCFF Roundup – Part 2: Reviews and Top Five Favorite Films Screened at the Film Fest

Well, I’ve said last week that October would be the best movie-watching month of the year and it certainly is! The most awesome thing about covering a film festival is that you get to watch films that you otherwise might not even know about. I wish I had more time to see more films but I think more than a dozen films in a week whilst juggling my full-time job might be too overwhelming for me. Plus the movies would start to become a blur and blend in together, ahah.

Before I get to my top five, here are my mini reviews of the Saturday showings:

Lumpy

How well do you really know your friends? And can a friendship change your life? This feature film debut from writer/director Ted Koland will makes you think about those things after you see Lumpy. The title refers to a nickname of an obnoxious, party-animal best man who unexpectedly dies on the wedding night, forcing the bride and groom to cancel their honeymoon and fly to the snowy Minnesota to arrange his funeral.

The first part of the film starts out with the newlyweds (Justin Long & Jess Wexler) coping with this tragic and very unusual circumstances. Their relatively comfortable lives are contrasted with that of a 15-year-old girl living in a small, northern MN town who lives with her junkie mother. The film alternates between the present and the past, using flashbacks of the unexpected connection between Lumpy (Tyler Labine) and Ramsey (Addison Timlin). Ramsey lives a tough and forlorn life, not only does her mother neglects her, her mom’s boyfriend also makes her steal drugs to make meth. All this makes her unlikely friendship with Lumpy all the more moving.

I must say that I’m most impressed with Addison Timlin in this film, she is definitely a promising young actor and based on the LUMPY panel on Saturday, her career is just taking off with multiple TV and movie offers. I also love Frances O’Connor who plays Ramsey’s mother (I love her in Mansfield Park), it’s quite an unusual role that I don’t normally associate her with. Though Long is the most popular actor here, I don’t see him as the star of the film, though this film shows that he’s capable of tackling a dramatic role.

I’m glad that Koland chose to shoot the film in his native state here in MN, it’s fun to see the locations that I recognize throughout the film. I love the uplifting message about the power of kindness and the transformative power of friendship.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Dead Dad

If Lumpy illuminates the power of friendship, then Dead Dad would make you evaluate the strength of family. This is the quintessential indie that focuses on a very human story in which the performances are the ‘special effects’ of the movie.

As the title should tell you, the film opens with a young man discovering his alcoholic dad lifeless body in his home. His death brings three estranged siblings to the funeral. Russell is the oldest who’s been taking care of their dad, Alex is the adopted Chinese son and Jane is the youngest. Right away you realize that the three siblings haven’t seen each other for a while and they haven’t been in good terms either.

The main plot of the film involves finding an appropriate place for the siblings to spread their dad’s ashes, inevitably bringing the three together in the process, even if the journey isn’t always smooth or pleasant. It’s important to note that the three main actors playing the Sawtelle siblings are relatively inexperienced, yet they have a believable chemistry. The relationship between the three of them sometimes remind me of my own family, as I’m also the youngest of three and my two brothers and I don’t always get along. It’s interesting to see how their dad weren’t always there for his children, but he ends up bringing them together in his death.

Kudos to director Ken J. Adachi for creating a real portrayal of family, it doesn’t feel forced or emotionally manipulative but the story definitely pull your heartstrings. The production values are pretty good as well for a tiny-budgeted film, filled with innovative shots and close-ups. I’d be curious to see what Adachi would do with a bigger budget, he’s certainly a talent to watch.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


 

Take Care

This one is another compelling look at the friendship in our lives, this time it involves two estranged friends from college. Erin (Ryan Driscoll) is unemployed and is living with her long-time boyfriend. All of a sudden, Kaylie (Elise Ivy), her former college BFF shows up at her door, wanting to rekindle their friendship. Soon we finds out that Kaylie’s marriage is over and she travels from Grand Rapids Iowa all the way to L.A. Reluctantly Erin lets her stay in the house she shares with Ian (Armand DesHarnais).

At first I was a bit apprehensive that this is going to be one of those home-wrecker story, I was dreading the inevitable seduction that happens between Kaylie and Ian. Fortunately there’s none of that here, in fact, the complications that arise between Erin and Kaylie reveals that nothing is what it seems, and my preconceptions of the two women gradually shifts as the film progresses.

Glad to see not one but two strong female roles here, thanks to Scott Tanner Jones, another talented writer/director who was present at the TCFF screening. Both Driscoll and Ivy did a wonderful job conveying the emotional complexities of their characters. The scene towards the end where they open up their deepest secret to one another is quite heart-wrenching and I did not see that revelation coming. The message of forgiveness and acceptance amongst friends is already very inspiring, but the filmmaker also has an encouraging message of a woman standing up to herself and striving for her independence. At the same time, I appreciate the fact that the men in the story aren’t depicted as monsters either, it’s great to see when a filmmaker doesn’t resort to portraying one-dimensional caricatures.

The pacing is a bit slow for me however, I think the editing could’ve been a lot tighter. It’s a small quibble however, as overall I think it’s a well worthy effort from Jones in his first feature film.

3 out of 5 reels


The Story of Luke 

The premise is that Luke (Lou Taylor Pucci) has a is believed to be a form of autism, for the majority of his life he has lived with his grandparents, but his grandmother recently past. This leaves Luke and his grandfather (Kenneth Welsh) in the care of his aunt and uncle – who are reluctant to take care of them. The family is wealthy, but unhappy; it is rapidly unveiled that they are on the cusp of divorce. This new family dynamic is a rude awakening for Luke, but his grandfather provides him with a form of life direction for this new period in his life.

He goes on a mission to “become a man,” and the first step towards this is to get a job. His rationale is that once he gets a job, he will get a girl, become independent, and he will cease to be “special”. Luke wishes to accomplish this as fast as possible; Seth Green, who plays Luke’s first boss, embarks on this journey with him. Although they are afflicted with the same problem (yelling when overwhelmed, panicky, trouble with reading peoples emotions, etc.) they have completely different personalities.

The Story of Luke rapidly becomes a lesson on the trials and tribulations of life. Just like I Am Sam, many harsh realities are darkly comedic, dulling, in its own way, the how painful these types of disorders are (this movie is much more uplifting and uses a more stable camera). Lou Taylor Pucci appears to have been inspired by the Jack Sparrow/Raoul Duke/Johnny Depp character. Using intense eyes and matter-of-fact way of speaking, but it felt appropriate here.

This was a great choice for the second-to-last film of TCFF, I would definitely put it up there with The Sessions, in terms of quality, although the attendance wasn’t as spectacular. There is no rush to see this in theaters, but it couldn’t hurt.

– review by Emery Thoresen

3 out of 5 reels



Well, out of the 13 films I saw at TCFF, here are my top five favorites:

5. The Sessions
4. A Late Quartet
3. Quartet
2. Silver Linings Playbook
1. The Sapphires

Honorable Mentions: Things I Don’t Understand and Lumpy.

It’s funny that most of the films I love have musical themes in it, it’s not really a ‘requirement’ for a great film mind you, but hey, great music in an excellent film is definitely icing on the cake!

I don’t think you’d go wrong with any of these, so I recommend that you check these out when it’s released in your city. As for the two smaller films in the honorable mentions, I will add the info here when I learn about their release dates, whether on VOD or in theaters.


Well, that concludes my reviews of TCFF films this year. It’s been a blast covering for the film fest, thanks everyone for reading and commenting!

Let me know your thoughts on any of these films above.

TCFF Roundup – Part 1 – A Late Quartet, Things I Don’t Understand & Problem Solving the Republic Reviews

Whew, this week has been quite a whirlwind! I saw a total of 13 films and attended four educational panels in the last nine days. Most of the films have been good to excellent, so even with a couple I didn’t really enjoy, it’s still a nearly a perfect record.

TCFF certainly has a super packed schedule all the way down to the homestretch. The nine-day film fest has come to a close last night with LUMPY, the Minnesota-shot dramedy by MN-born writer/director Ted Koland, starring Justin Long and Addison Timlin who were present at the panel earlier in the day. I didn’t get a chance for a one-on-one interview with Long, though I did meet briefly with Ted Koland and congratulated him on his film.

Justin Long & Ted Koland at the LUMPY panel – photo by James Ramsay

Below is a recap and review from Friday,

FRIDAY

Saw two very good films today, they couldn’t be any more different from each other yet both have intriguing stories about people dealing and coping with a dark chapter in their lives.

Things I Don’t Understand

Written/directed by David Spaltro and starring Minnesota-born Molly Ryman. I was very impressed with the character-driven story and also Molly’s excellent performance. June and I had the pleasure of interviewing David to talk about his film and also listened to Molly talk about her character Violet during the ‘Strong Women in Independent Films’ panel.

Thanks to David for sitting down with June and I at the ShowPlace ICON lounge to give us some insights about his film. Check out the full interview.

Meeting both David and Molly are easily one of the highlights of covering the film fest for me. David told me TCFF is the 16th point of their film tour all over the country, going to one film festival to the next. In fact, right after the panel, David was off to the airport to the the Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita Kansas. They’re both so talented with so much going for them in their careers, yet they’re so down to earth and so fun to talk to.

Congrats to both David and Molly on the success of Things I Don’t Understand. Here’s my review of the film:

This film centers on grad student Violet who’s studying near-death experiences which led her to actually attempt suicide. After her failed suicide attempt, Violet becomes withdrawn and somewhat morose, plus she also has to deal with being evicted from the Brooklyn loft she shares with her two roommates. At the advise of her therapist, Violet reluctantly visits a terminally ill girl in a hospice and their unlikely friendship becomes her catharsis to start appreciating life again.

I sympathize with Violet right away though she’s not exactly likable at first. She’s sardonic and lacks self control, but you know deep down she’s a good girl. Spaltro frames her story well and surrounds her with interesting characters. Her two room mates, artist Gabby (Melissa Hampton) and a gay French rocker Remy (Hugo Dillon) also have personal issues of their own, but you could say they’re the comic relief of the movie. And then there’s the cute but mysterious bartender Parker (Aaron Mathias) who befriends Violet but refuses her advances.

It’s intriguing to watch Violet’s journey throughout the film, how her relationships with Parker and Sara (Grace Folsom) who’s dying from bone cancer changes her as the film progresses. Despite the dark theme though, director David Spaltro peppers the film with fun and lighthearted moments, so it’s definitely not a complete downer.

Like many of us who seek to figure out the basic questions of the meaning of life and what happens when we die, it’s certainly a thought provoking film that David has explored with care. One thing though, I feel like the themes of faith and spirituality aren’t explored as deep as I’d like, it merely scratches the surface and lacking conviction. That said, I appreciate that it’s at least being talked about and I’m also thrilled that David has crafted a compelling and multi-layered female character in Violet, something we need to see more in Hollywood.

I’m not surprised that this film has been winning all kinds of awards in various film festivals. It’s a bummer that somehow the movie appears very dark in the theater screens, as the cinematography in NYC looks beautiful. The day after the film screening, David told me that it wasn’t supposed to be so dark, and he gave me access to re-watch the film again.

Kudos to David once again and to Molly and Grace for their affecting performances. The scenes between Violet and Sara are very moving without resorting to overt sentimentality. I look forward to David’s upcoming film Wake Up in New York, hopefully it’ll be shown at TCFF again!

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


A Late Quartet

When people think of Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s films this year, they’re likely going to think of Seven Psychopath and The Master, but I’m glad I’m able to see both of them together in this smaller independent drama. The story centers on members of the world-renowned string quartet Fugue, comprised of Peter (Walken), Robert (Hoffman), Juliette (Catherine Keener) and Daniel (Mark Ivanir). Soon we learn that the oldest member of the group, Peter, is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which inevitably shakes the group in ways none of them could imagine.

In the wake of Peter’s medical revelation, the rest of the members deals with their own turmoil. Robert and Juliette faces a marital stride due to infidelity, on top of Robert’s pent-up rivalry with Daniel, as he’s no longer content with being the second violinist. To make matters worse, Daniel suddenly discovers his once-repressed passion involving a romance that certainly brings even more complication to the already-fragile group. One thing for sure though, the group wants to stay together as Fugue has been an integral part of their lives for more than 20 years.

This is director Yaron Zilberman‘s first feature film and what a great venue to display the fantastic acting prowess of the talents involved. Nice to see Walken in an understated role, he’s the most ‘normal’ guy in the group (imagine that), but he plays his part brilliantly. Hoffman’s role is much more explosive as Robert deals with unbridled ego and lust that threatens to break his marriage. Keener is always wonderful to watch, she definitely has the elegance and grace to play Juliette though her character is the most enigmatic of the four to me. Last but not least, the Ukranian actor Ivanir also plays his part of the über perfectionist violinist who’s been so obsessed with his music that he hasn’t had time for love. Imogen Poots has quite a memorable part as Hoffman & Keener’s daughter, she definitely holds her own against her much older, more experienced co-stars. Her scene with Keener in particular is quite gut-wrenching.

Though both contains beautiful classical music and also has a similar name, A Late Quartet is quite different in tone from Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet. This one feels like it’s got more depth in terms of character development and deals with such raw emotional situations that stays with you long after the credits. It shows that beneath such flawlessly-played music, there are real and flawed people behind them, struggling through change and relationships like the rest of us. It’s a compelling picture of humanity, and it’s such a treat for the senses not only for the musical arrangements, but also the lovely cinematography. I adore the gorgeous scenery of New York City in the Winter time, everything just looks so romantic! I highly recommend this for any fan of the actors involved, I sure hope this won’t get lost in the shuffle when it opens in limited release sometime in November.

4 out of 5 reels


Problem Solving the Republic

Unfortunately I couldn’t see this one as it’s showing at the same time as A Late Quartet, but I’ll definitely try to see it when it’s available on VOD. It’s a Minnesota production and shot on location in Minneapolis, even just looking at the bizarre genre-bending tagline made me curious enough to see it. You can check out the TCFF interview with writer/director Elliot Diviney on TCFF Youtube Channel.

Below is the review by Emery Thoresen:

Problem Solving the Republic is a Minnesota-made political satire, that uses musical numbers and slap stick humor to tell its story. The humor turned out to be more entertaining commentary than knee slapping jokes. The movie had a charm akin to the campy-horror-movie genre, in that it isn’t for everyone, or, it doesn’t try to appeal to everyone, but viewers who do subscribe to the genre will have a good time watching this. It reminded me of Super, both movies incorporated  superheroes and animated inserts – like a comic book. They both share a similar sense of humor, but Problem Solving the Republic isn’t nearly as violent, super natural, or sad as the Rainn Wilson feature.

I started to get restless in the last couple minutes, it could have been because I had been seeing so many films all day, but it was more likely due to how long it took to wrap the story up. Overall it was a charming movie, the bloopers before the credits were memorable, along with the snap shots of the cast that rolled with the credits. I really enjoyed the characters and actors they chose.

During the discussion afterwards, the director and producer talked about the difficulties they encountered in creating a local film with a small budget, in less than a year. Through their brief explanation they kept pointing to people and mentioning names of contributors, it turned out that a surprising number of people in the audience have had a hand in making this film – which made the laughter and reactions much more genuine.

The TCFF was the premiere, it will be showing at The Riverview Theater in November, but in the mean time pre-ordering a copy online is always an option. Remember, it is always good to support local talent, and this could be a warm-up to election day.

3 out of 5 reels

Check out the trailer below:


Stay tuned for Part II with reviews of Saturday films
and also my Top Five Favorites from the film fest!


Thoughts on any of the films above? Well, I’d love to hear it!

TCFF Day 7: Review of ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

There has been quite a lot of buzz around this movie, so I’m thrilled that it’s showing at TCFF about a month before its wide release! As I’ve mentioned on this post, this movie has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at TIFF and there’s been some Oscar buzz on Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, deservedly so.

This dramedy is written and directed by David O. Russell, his first film since his Oscar-nominated The Fighter, adapted from a novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. Instead of his usual muse Mark Wahlberg, we’ve got Bradley Cooper as former teacher Pat Solitano, who’s coming home from an 8-month stint at a mental institution and moving back with his parents. He refuses to take his medication, which no doubts creates some issues for his parents, such as waking them up in the wee hours complaining about the bleak plot of an Ernest Hemingway book, amongst others. Pat’s bipolar meltdowns are done in a delicate mix of pathos and hilarity that makes you laugh as well as sympathize for him. He still pines for his wife Nikki who has left him after he nearly beat her lover to death when he found them making love in the shower.

At home, things aren’t so simple for Pat either, especially in regards to his dad’s obsessions with the Philadelphia Eagles and how the extremely superstitious Pat Sr. thinks his son brings good luck if he watches the game with him. I tell you, I think he’s perhaps more of a nutjob that his son! But all Pat wants to do is reconcile with Nikki. One of the ways to get to her is through Nikki’s friend Veronica (nice to see Julia Stiles again albeit in a small role), and during dinner, he ends up meeting Veronica’s sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl who’s recently lost her husband in a car accident. Life takes an unexpected turn for both Pat and Tiffany, who initially has their own agenda for befriending each other. It’s apparent that they’re drawn to each other and the loss of their spouses makes them able to relate to one another more than they otherwise would, even if on the surface they bicker like cats and dogs.

The eccentric family dynamics remind me of those in The Fighter, Russell has a keen eye to frame these kinds of scenes and he’s also got the skill to get the best from his actors. The Solitanos are played by thespians Robert De Niro and Aussie Jacki Weaver, who nabbed an Oscar nomination for Animal Kingdom a few years back. The scenes between all three of them are mostly comical, though there are times where it got very intense during Pat’s mental breakdown. There’s also a hugely heart-wrenching scene between DeNiro and Cooper that showcase one of De Niro’s best performances in years.

The stars of the film are definitely Cooper and Lawrence here, especially the latter. I have to admit I’m not usually fond of pretty boy Cooper, but he’s made up to look very plain here and shows that he’s got some dramatic chops. He’s certainly come a long way from his TV days in Alias. I’ve always loved Lawrence, and her scene-stealing turn here makes me like her tenfold in this movie. Her screen charisma is undeniable, at only 22 she has the maturity and panache of an actress twice her age. The supporting cast is excellent all around, Julia Stiles, John Ortiz, and Anupam Kher as Pat’s therapist are all wonderful in their roles. There’s also Chris Tucker, who made a come back of sort as his last movie Rush Hour 3 was 5 years ago. He’s still the comic relief but though he still talks pretty fast, his role is a bit different from the typical irritating wisecracks we often see him play.

This is definitely a comedy with a heart, the laugh-out-loud parts are well-balanced with the some profoundly moving scenes. The dancing parts are a lot of fun to watch as well, that was a pleasant surprise for me as I had no idea it was integral to the plot. What I like most is the theme of finding a ‘silver lining’ no matter how dire you life is, it’s an uplifting message that any of us could relate to in one way or another.

I agree with my TCFF blogger friend June that this one is a ‘dark comedy with true heart strings.’ It’s nice that an all-star cast actually delivers, I think fans of any of the actors here won’t be disappointed. Silver Linings Playbook definitely lives up to the hype, easily one of the highlights of TCFF for me so far.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Also check out June’s review of MN Shorts: The Darker Side


Thoughts on this film and/or any of the actors?