007 December Blogathon – 10 Reasons Why Licence to Kill (1989) is one of my all time favorite Bond films

007-december-blogathonMost of you who read this blog regularly knows I’m a huge Bond fan as I grew up watching them with my two brothers. Over the years I’ve become more partial to Timothy Dalton’s portrayal as Bond and I always appreciate both of his Bond films. I only wish he had the chance to do a third (which was he was under contract for until MGM legal battles delay production for six years!)

I’ve recently rewatched Licence To Kill again for MovieRob’s Bond December Blogathon, and still thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve done a special appreciation for Dalton in the film, but this post will highlight TEN reasons why the film itself is one of my favorite Bond films of all time.

ltk_movieposter10. The hard-edged but also hugely personal storyline, interwoven with the Japanese Ronin tales with Bond as a rogue agent avenging the death of his friends. People complain that Bond might’ve been too dark but perhaps Licence to Kill was way ahead of its time as with Skyfall, people didn’t seem to mind the personal angle of the story. It’s a grounded, more realistic tale that doesn’t pit Bond as ‘savior of the world’ that’s become cliched and derivative.

9. Memorable opening scene that thrillingly and effectively sets up to the origin of Bond’s personal vendetta and the kind of ruthless gangster he has to contend with. It later featured a high-flying action as Bond and his CIA ally Felix Leiter captures drug lord Frank Sanchez by hooking his plane like a fish, literally!

8. Michael Kamen’s score – I’m a huge fan of John Barry’s work with the Bond franchise but as he was unavailable at the time. Given that the film’s released in the late 80s and Kamen’s scored other successful action franchises like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, he seems to be the perfect composer for the job. There’s even a bit of John Barry’s elegant sound to it, but mixed with a darker tone and heart-pounding up-tempo style for the action scenes.



7. Memorable Bond girls who are more than mere eye candy
– with interesting but believable names, not preposterous ones like Dr. Christmas Jones or Pussy Galore. I especially love Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier, a beautiful and strong former CIA pilot who’s saved Bond’s ass many times over. Talisa Soto is perfect as Sanchez’s sultry mistress and though she may seem Bimbo-like at times, her character actually has a purpose in Bond’s quest to get close to Sanchez.

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6. Great character reinvention – as this is longtime Bond director John Glen’s final Bond outing and the fact that Dalton’s keen on returning to Ian Flemming’s work, Licence to Kill feels like Bond of a new era, a complete break of the Moore’s mischievous style in every way. There is nothing whimsical about Licence to Kill, though I wouldn’t say it’s devoid of humor. Q’s intro to the film is actually quite hilarious, but it’s not just humor for the sake of it.

5. Gritty set pieces and spectacular action. Dalton did most of his own stunts, even when he was high up in the air in the ‘plane hooking’ scene, and the climactic truck chase is still as bad ass and riveting by today’s standards. If you look at the featurette, the scene isn’t crafted by CGI, but they used real tanker trucks and feature incredible stunts in the dangerous and supposedly haunted twisty highway of Rumorosa, Mexico. Sure there aren’t many of Q’s gadgets in this movie, but who with thrilling stunts like these, who needs ‘em?

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4. A formidable villain in Robert Davi. Frank Sanchez breaks the mold of the typical sociopath hellbent on ruling the world. There’s no over-the-top plan to recreate the human race and all that, Sanchez is simply a power-hungry and greedy mafia-type who strives to be a cocaine billionaire. Davi is one of my fave Bond villains because he’s menacing, brutal and cold-blooded killer but he’s also suave and sophisticated, one of those rare villains that’s as charismatic as Bond himself. Oh and who could forget one of his loco henchmen Dario in the form of young Benicio Del Toro.

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3. Suspenseful interaction between Bond & Sanchez – In many Bond films, when Bond meets his villain, usually they know he’s the enemy [which then calls for one of his henchmen to go after him]. But in this case, Bond enters Sanchez’ world as an ally, a trusted friend. I love their first meeting when Bond offers himself to Sanchez as someone who’d be good for someone of his stature… he’s not just a problem solver, but ‘more of a problem eliminator.’ As Bond sneaks out to infiltrate his organization and slowly tear it apart, there’s always tension that Sanchez will suspect something and he’d get caught at any moment.

2. Great climactic scene – not only is the CGI-free action stunts are incredible, but it’s such a pivotal moment between two men that’s been built up from the start. Thanks to strong character development between Bond and Sanchez, this climactic battle feels deeply personal to both of them. In a strange way, you also feel for Sanchez in that up until Bond showed the silver cigarette lighter from Leiter, he had no clue why Bond betrayed him. It’s a fiery finale, in every sense of the word, but it’s also a satisfying one and definitely one of the most memorable villain deaths.

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1. Timothy Dalton – Bond with substance, bad-ass but refined, gritty without being thuggish and he can be menacing and vulnerable in a matter of seconds. Case in point, when Bond confronts Pam Bouvier in the hotel room, he was angry enough to pull the trigger on her, but when she reveals the truth that ‘there’s more to it than his personal vendetta,’ Dalton’s expression immediately immediately softens and the remorse is palpable on his face as he hands her gun back to her.

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Nice to see the glamorous playboy actually fights out of love and loyalty and the story utilizes Dalton’s Shakespearean training perfectly. He’s not a super spy that people can’t relate to, but he’s plays Bond as a human being with real angst and real feelings, but as it’s said in the poster, he’s got a real dangerous side to him that is both intimidating and sexy. He’s believably ruthless, too, as when he threatened a beautiful woman “Make a sound, and you’re dead!” we believe that he actually could pull the trigger. The tall and lean Dalton is both a physical and cerebral Bond and he has that understated swagger that effective but isn’t showy.

So there, I’ve made my case for both Licence to Kill and Dalton as Bond. It’s a pity this film is known as the lowest-grossing Bond film but I think it’s so criminally underrated and I urge people who haven’t seen this to give it a shot. I’d say people who like Daniel Craig’s Bonds will appreciate the tough-edged story and exhilarating action. Not to mention a fantastic performance from both actors playing Bond and his nemesis. What else could you ask for?


So have you seen Licence to Kill? Let me know what YOU think!

Action/Comedy Weekend – The Living Daylights, The IT Crowd & Dredd

MLKdayHappy Martin Luther King Jr Day!

It’s cool that it also happens to be Obama’s second presidential inauguration day. I posted two MLK-related movie posts [here and here] two years in a row to celebrate our hero of the civil rights movement. I don’t know if any of those films are going to be made anytime soon. I certainly hope so, I’d love to see a proper biopic made on Mr. King.

Well, this weekend I didn’t go to the movies, apart from The Last Stand screening I went to last week. Too bad that it bombed, I thought it was a fun action flick. I wasn’t expecting it to win the box office, but at the very least it’d make it to the top 5. In any case, it’s a big weekend for Jessica Chastain with TWO of her movies at number 1 and 2 at the box office. I don’t think I’ll be seeing Mama but nice to see Zero Dark Thirty is still gaining momentum.

Well, it’s been quite an action/comedy-filled week for me. Here’s a breakdown of what I saw:

The Living Daylights (1987)

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[Poster courtesy of DeviantArt – LOVE it!]

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this movie but I love it more every single time… and Timothy Dalton is the main reason for it. Every time I watch his Bond movie it’s a bittersweet moment as I miss that third outing I wish he had done… I often imagine what it’d be like to have a Skyfall-quality production with him in the role. Oh be still my heart! I’ve already posted a review of this movie a couple of years ago but I plan on doing a proper appreciation post for The Living Daylights to celebrate its Blu-ray Amazon release next month! I’ve already pre-ordered my copy 😀
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The IT Crowd (BBC sitcom, 2006-2010)

TheITCrowd

Thanks to all who recommended this sit-com to me when I mentioned Chris O’Dowd on this ‘discovery’ post! O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade and Katherine Parkinson are so hilarious! The show is about a ragtag group of tech support workers who works at the basement at a large corporation. It’s classic, off-the-wall British humor which I love and everyone is just hysterically funny, even the supporting cast: the CEO Denholm (Christopher Morris) and Richmond (Noel Fielding whom I’ve just found out from Novia from the Mighty Boosh show). I’ve watched about six episodes so far on Season 1, so a lot of catching up to do as there are four years worth of stuff to watch. I’ll never get tired of Roy [or his recording] answer the phone with:

Hello, IT. Have you tried turning it off and on again?


Dredd (2012)

DreddPoster

In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.

I LOVE Karl Urban but I knew I can’t handle this movie on the big screen, let alone watch in 3D! Seriously, this movie is so gory I’d probably pass out. It’s one of the most violent movies I have ever seen, I think I had my eyes closed a couple dozen times, at least. My hubby actually cued me when the really gruesome stuff was on as he knew it’ll give me nightmares. The movie is only 95 minutes long, though with all that slo-mo [no, I don’t mean the drug but the film-making style], it’s probably only an hour long ahah. Boy, but was it intense. Right from the opening sequence when Dredd was tailing a gang of criminals using the banned substance, the action rarely let up.

DreddPics

This is quite a different movie I expected from English director Pete Travis, whose credit include Endgame and BBC miniseries The Jury [which featured one of my favorite Gerry Butler roles]. Dredd is super violent, bloody and gruesome, but yet the style & sfx is quite distinctive. I question whether it’s necessary for it to be so gory though, some of it could’ve been toned down a bit and perhaps still achieve the desired effect. I mean, I get that they’re trying to portray this tarnished, grim dystopian world, but at times the violence seems to have be done as pure shock value.

That said, I thought the script by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine) is pretty good, it’s not unnecessarily convoluted, plus the self-satirical humor actually works. Yeah, I wish I could see more of Karl Urban’s gorgeous face, but y’know what, he’s VERY good in this role. He’s able to somehow act with his voice and mouth alone, and partnering him with a rookie psychic Anderson (a blond Olivia Thirlby) is brilliant as it brings a level of humanity to his robot-like persona. Stunning Lena Heady as the drug lord Ma-Ma is even more bad ass than 300‘s Queen Gorgo, sporting a huge scar on her cheek, she looks like a sadistic mutant.

The movie’s definitely not for the squeamish [and I’m one of them], but I’m glad I gave it a shot. It’s a decidedly simple story but the execution [pun intended] hits the bulls eye. I never read the comics but I read some reviews that this pleased die-hard comic fans. Well, it might’ve won over new ones, too!


Well, that’s my weekend viewings. Did you see anything good?

Monthly Roundup: August Movie Watching Recap

It’s the last day of the year before we enter the ‘brrr’ months. Well, September is still relatively balmy here in the upper Midwest, and after the Sahara-like Summer we’ve been having, I must say I’m looking forward to Autumn.

I know I always say time flies but really, I feel like August just passed by like lightning. Well, out of 31 days, I made 25 posts, well 26 including this one. Thanks to my loyal contributors Ted, Kevin (a.k.a. Jack Deth) and Cecilia for providing awesome content for this blog. It’s getting increasingly tough to do five posts a week, and lately I’ve been taking a blog break midweek and substituting it with a blog on a weekend day.

This month I participated in a few blog-a-thons:

And here are some of the posts you might’ve missed, including a few of Olympics-themed posts I did in honor of its host, London, one of my favorite cities in the world!

Well, what did I manage to watch this month?

Movies I haven’t seen before:

Re-watch:

Well, I only re-watched one movie this month and that was The Bourne Ultimatum. Yeah, even five years after its release it’s still eons better than The Bourne Legacy. It feels like it’s on a whole different league, from story, direction, style and of course acting, and I’m not just talking about Matt Damon who’s excellent as Bourne, but also the supporting cast including the two that was *promised* to be on the latest movie: David Strathairn and Joan Allen. The massively underrated Julia Stiles also have some memorable scenes, boy why doesn’t Hollywood cast her more often?? [scratch head]

I also re-watched the Licence to Kill which confirms once again that Timothy Dalton is my favorite Bond. Even after re-watching Connery’s Bonds I still prefer Dalton’s gritty, no-nonsense style. It doesn’t hurt that he looks so darn good in a wet suit 😉 But he’s not just bad ass, as he’s also very convincing in the emotional moments when he found out what happened to his friends Felix and Della. I also love Robert Davi as the villain and Carey Lowell as the tough Bond girl. I always get a kick out of watching a young Benicio del Toro as Davi’s henchman, back when he was still svelte you could actually see his high cheekbones, ahah. I also watched the bonus features which is fun to watch as Dalton did a lot of his own stunts. There are also some creepy stuff going on during filming as the filmmaker and crew were talking about the unexplained accidents and ghostly phenomenon on location at a haunted road in Mexico.

I also watched the bonus features of The Sound of Music. I LOVE Liesl and the actress who played her, Charmian Carr, gave a tour to Salzburg on one of the featurettes. I adore this movie and watching the special features just makes me want to rewatch it again!

Favorite August Movie:

I rarely give a movie a full 5/5 rating but this one was sooo enchanting and totally lives up to my already-high expectations, being that it’s the inspiration of one of my favorite rom-coms Sleepless in Seattle. I don’t even mind seeing this one on the big screen if TCM choose that one as one of the TCM Fathom Events. An Affair to Remember has become my favorite Cary Grant movie now, edging even North by Northwest!


So, what movies did you get to see this month and which one is your favorite?

Groovers & Mobsters Present: JAMES BOND – The Living Daylights

Groovers & Mobsters event is upon as again and this time it’s all about the world’s most famous super spy.  Just a bit of background, this monthly event was started by Heather from Movie Mobsters and Andy from Fandango Groovers where various bloggers join them in exploring a select genre in the only way we know how, talking about our favourite movies. This is the first time I join on the fun, and my pick for the Bond genre (yes I think it’s the only franchise that can double as a genre) is:

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS

Stuff my orders! I only kill professionals. That girl didn’t know one end of a rifle from the other. Go ahead. Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.

Timothy Dalton made his 007 debut in the 15th Bond film, introduced in one of the most memorable Bond opening sequence of training exercise in the Rock of Gibraltar. Set in the post cold war era, Bond starts his mission by assisting the defection of Russian KGB General Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) who revealed there’s a Soviet plot to kill British spies. Upon the general’s recapture from his hideout, Bond is assigned to kill Koskov’s boss, Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) which leads to a conspiracy involving an American arms dealer (Joe Don Baker).

Though I grew up with Roger Moore as Bond, I love Dalton’s darker and tougher take of the superspy, which was a refreshing change from Moore’s campy and droll portrayal. This is the reluctant agent who ‘trust instincts, not orders’ and he doesn’t always enjoy the assignment he was given. As widely reported, Dalton is a big fan of Ian Fleming’s novels, thus his insistence on remaining true to the author’s vision of the literary character.

I realize TLD isn’t the best Bond movie, what with a weak villain and the least intriguing Bond girl ever. But Dalton more than makes up for it with his sophisticated approach combined with the right amount of danger. This is a guy with a license to kill and he’s got no qualms to use it. But yet he’s not heartless. The scene right after his MI-6 contact Saunders was killed showed Bond displaying a genuine emotion of real grief and seething rage, as he crushed that “Smiert Spionem” balloon with his bare hand. John Rhys-Davies also turns in a compelling and memorable performance as Pushkin, also a nice change from the stodgy General Gogol in the previous installments.

The action sequences are what you’d expect in a Bond movie, and it’s nice to see an actor who look believably bad-ass as Dalton did a lot of his own stunts, including the vigorous stunts in the opening scene as well as the awesome mid-air battle on a cargo airplane. It was fun and exhilarating, and yet not devoid of humor. When his girl Kara asked him what happened, Bond answered matter-of-factly, ‘he got the boot.’ That’s not the only comical one-liners in the movie, though I’m glad the writers didn’t pile them on as they did in Moore’s versions.

All in all, it’s a really underrated film that deserved a second look, especially if you appreciate Casino Royale. As I said here, both Daniel Craig and Dalton epitomized that merciless grit and ruthlessness like no other Bond before them. Clearly, Dalton was way ahead of its time.

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Head over to MovieMobsters blog to read the rest of the Bond event.

Timothy Dalton: most underrated actor of all time?

Dalton – dashing then as Bond & now at 65

Inspired by a recent similar post by Caz from Let’s go to the movies, and the fact that award season looms upon us, I thought I’d bring forward the one actor that I thought deserve far more recognition than he currently gets. Perhaps the title of this post could be construed as a bit of a hyperbole. But I make no apologies that I think Timothy Dalton is a fantastic actor, and for the life of me I cannot fathom why he isn’t as big a star as other equally talented thespians like Daniel Day-Lewis or Michael Caine.

Like most people, I first saw Dalton in his debut as Bond in The Living Daylights (1987). The film itself is entertaining, albeit far from perfect. But the best part of the movie is Dalton, no question about it.

Stuff my orders! I only kill professionals. That girl didn’t know one end of a rifle from the other. Go ahead. Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it. – 007, The Living Daylights

Though I grew up with Roger Moore as Bond, seeing Dalton bring out the darker and tougher side of the British spy is so refreshing and captivating to watch. Ok, I’m a woman so naturally I expect Bond to be somewhat of an eye candy too, and Dalton — who at 6’2″ is the tallest Bond ever — is both devastatingly handsome and sexy in that dark & dangerous kind of way. Not to mention that irresistible deep and raspy voice — I could read this guy read a phone book all night long! But looks alone doesn’t make an actor, and Dalton is definitely one whose talent and acting tenacity transcend even that impossibly chiseled looks.

Dalton_LTKI’m not the only one who share that sentiment in regard to his Bond role. In the September ’09 issue of Total Film, journalist ‘ Richard Matthews wrote Is it just me?… or is Timothy Dalton the best Bond as he reassessed both The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989) in light of their recent DVD re-release.

In that article, Matthews said that Dalton conformed to Ian Fleming’s blueprint for James Bond perfectly: “black hair falling down over the right eyebrow… something cruel in the mouth and the eyes cold”. And in both TLD in 1987 and LTK in 1989, according to Matthews, Dalton “brought Fleming’s fractured, damaged psychology back to Bond”. Even this National Lampoon writer defied the “commonly agreed-upon” Bond ranking in his Apology to Dalton article.

This UK’s Guardian blogger back in 2006 definitely took the words straight out of my mouth:

Ironically, the very characteristics that got Dalton slammed are the very same things that the Bond producers are praising Daniel Craig for. On and on, they have said they want Bond to be closer to the original Ian Fleming character. They want him to be grittier, darker and less jokey. What they really want, it seems, is to have Dalton back.

Some people in various Bond forums argue that Craig lack the sophistication of a British spy, instead behaved more like a thug-ish action star. That’s another topic for another post but I’m definitely in the camp that both Craig and Dalton epitomized that merciless grit and ruthlessness like no other Bond before them. Yet Dalton was clearly way ahead of his time as Craig took all the credit for doing what he had started.

Dalton as Rochester

But Dalton is more than just a James Bond actor. Just a few years ago I came across the 1983 BBC version of Jane Eyre where Dalton played Charlotte Brontë’s ultimate Byronic hero Mr. Rochester. I totally fell in love with his brooding and enigmatic performance, and he makes the poorly-made production of the miniseries entirely worthwhile. He continued to impress me in a variety of things I’ve watched him in: The Lion in Winter (his debut alongside Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn), Framed (a fascinating crime thriller with David Morrissey), as Julius Caesar in Cleopatra, and another Brontë’s adaptation Wuthering Heights. Any one of which warrants some kind of award nomination.

The thing is with Dalton, he’s great at playing both hero and villain, as displayed in his scene-stealing turn in Flash Gordon, The Rocketeer and the Simon Pegg comedy Hot Fuzz. Heck, he even played a comic-strip character believably as Basil St. John in Brenda Starr. He even dared to venture into one of Hollywood’s all-time classic roles of Rhett Butler, in the Gone with the Wind‘s ill-conceived follow-up Scarlett and [gasp!] even silly rom-com in The Beautician & The Beast. Sure, those two are definitely poor role choices, but I don’t think it undermines his talent as an actor.

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Dalton as Neville Sinclair in ‘Rocketeer’

The classically-trained thespian is perhaps most comfortable on stage, having toured with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Prospect Theater Company in England. He’s also keeping busy doing voice work for various audio books, so perhaps the lack of movie roles is his own choosing. Based on this UK’s Metro interview, he strikes me as someone who’s entirely at peace with his career and is unapologetic about his choices, even his decision not to do his third Bond role. Still, I can’t help but wonder why he’s not offered the roles that actors of his stature keep getting? Think Anthony Hopkins (who had his debut in the same film The Lion in Winter), Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and the other two I’ve mentioned above. As I told Marc on his The Rocketeer post, it’d be nice to see Dalton in The Wolfman in Tony Hopkins role, or in Clash of the Titans as Zeus instead of Liam Neeson, or something like Michael Caine’s Is Anybody There?. We all know he has the chops and at sixty-five is still far more dashing — and Botox-free — than even actors ten or fifteen years younger.

Instead, all I can look forward to is his voice-over part in Toy Story 3 as Mr. Pricklepants, a hedgehog toy with thespian tendencies. Ha! For all of you Dr. Who fans, he’s also been reported to guest star in David Tennant’s finale as the titular character. Tennant was quoted praising Dalton to Radio Times, “He was lovely. He had the panache and the skill of a movie star, without any of the alarming eccentricities or peculiar demands.”

I don’t expect anything less from this classy actor. Here’s hoping a starring role, or even a pivotal part in an ensemble flick, pops up in the horizon soon.

P.S. If you haven’t already, check out my fantasy movie pitch Hearts Want, a romantic thriller starring Dalton as a retired MI-5 agent.


So folks, do you have your own analysis of an underrated thespian? If so, let’s hear it.