JAMES BOND 007 DECLASSIFIED
FILE #11: "Moonraker"
This series will trace the cinema history of James Bond, while also examining Ian Fleming's original novels as source material and examining how faithful (or not) the films have been to his work.
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Screenplay by Christopher Wood
Produced by Albert R. Broccoli and William P. Cartlidge and Michael G. Wilson
CHARACTERS / CAST
James Bond / Roger Moore
Dr. Holly Goodhead / Lois Chiles
Hugo Drax / Michael Lonsdale
Jaws / Richard Kiel
Corrine Dufour / Corinne Clery
Sir Frederick Gray / Geoffrey Keen
Chang / Toshiro Suga
Manuela / Emily Bolton
Dolly / Blanche Ravalec
Col. Scott / Mike Marshall
M / Bernard Lee
Q / Desmond Llewelyn
Miss Moneypenny / Lois Maxwell
I get such a particular emotional surge seeing the Space Shuttle piggybacked on a plane. The recent flybys here in LA were major events in my household, the slow drive across LA was reason enough to leave the house at a preposterously early hour on a Sunday morning, and if you get me started talking about the space program, it's hard to get me to shut up. It is one of my favorite things, so imagine how space-crazy "Star Wars" fan me reacted when the sequel to "The Spy Who Loved Me" opened with the theft of the Space Shuttle, which hadn't actually launched yet. Pretty much the perfect set-up for a Bond film for me, right?
Nine year old me would say yes. Forty-two year old me, who just rewatched the movie, would not concur.
JAMES BOND 007 DECLASSIFIED
If you spend much time on horror-oriented websites, chances are you saw some footage from the upcoming "Evil Dead" remake that leaked from the New York Comic Con. I'll say this much for the film based on that quick look… it felt like an "Evil Dead" film. I do not envy Fede Alvarez because he's going to have a lot of people gunning for him sight unseen on that movie. The original is more than just a well-liked low-budget horror film. It was a major announcement of voice by Sam Raimi, and the "Evil Dead" series features one of the most iconic central performances in the history of the genre from Bruce Campbell.
Monday night, DreamWorks Animation screened their upcoming animated film "Rise Of The Guardians" in New York, and it seems like people liked it. I'm seeing it soon, and I'm very curious about it. The combination of talent on the film is intriguing, including creative consultant Guillermo Del Toro, author and visual designer William Joyce, storyboard artist Peter Ramsey who is making his jump to directing on the film, and of course the screenwriter, David Lindsay-Abaire.
Robert Zemeckis has never made anything like "Flight," and Denzel Washington has rarely played a character this damaged. I frequently feel like studio movies arrive somewhat predigested because of how many times we've seen variations on the same basic formulas, and when you do run into something that takes its own path, that tells its own story in a way you're not expecting, it can be positively shocking. Working from a strong piece of material by John Gatins, Zemeckis seems to be trying something that is, for him, both new and a clear representation of the things that make him most interesting as a filmmaker.
I remember seeing Spike Lee talk about the making of "Mo' Better Blues," and one of the things that he said made the film difficult to shoot was a firm rule from Denzel Washington that he did not want to do any elaborate love scenes or any sort of onscreen nudity with a female co-star because of his own offscreen marriage. As good as he is, there's often a sense that he's holding back something, that he is careful about his image. It's the sort of thing that I think often affects Will Smith's choices as a movie star as well, and it can be hard to let go of after you've lived with it for a long time. I couldn't help but think about that when we first see Denzel in this film, in bed with Nadine Velazquez, finishing a beer for breakfast and doing a rail to wake himself up as she walks around the room totally nude. At one point, he gives a sideways glance right up her backside as he talks on the phone, and there is a world weary quality to the beat that is both funny and immediately crushing. This is the sort of performance where there's no personal vanity involved, and there's no thought of Denzel as Denzel.
I have certainly spent my fair share of time and column inches writing about the remake culture that we're suffering through right now, and by and large, I'm not a fan. I think there is an anemic degree of imagination on display from the studios these days, and even the excuse that these things fund the chances that they take starts to look a little thin when the remakes outnumber the originals ten to one.
But I'm willing to admit that there are remakes that make sense, and when there's a piece of material that speaks to the times we live in or that offers an opportunity that a filmmaker feels strongly about, then I'm more than happy to watch what they come up with. And in the case of "Carrie," I would argue that the time is absolutely right to revisit what remains one of the most potent of Stephen King's novels.
After all, it's not like bullying has stopped. If anything, today's technological culture has created a whole new way for kids to be tormented and teased. It's been hard reading the stories about Amanda Todd and looking at the video she left behind when she committed suicide recently and seeing how there are still people who were part of her world who continue to pile on the abuse even now that she's dead. It's just one more disturbing story in a long line of them, and while some people seem to think this is new, I think it's just a new version of something that's been around as long as there have been weak and strong kids, as long as people have felt different, as long as there has been the need for some people to victimize others to make themselves feel better.
I'm going to have to stop watching clips and trailers at this point, I think.
Then again, this latest clip is so much fun that I'm not sure I'm going to be able to stop myself.
I know very little about Silva, the mysterious bad guy that Javier Bardem is playing in the film, but one of the keys to making a Bond film work is pitting him against someone who is a worthy adversary. So far, the early reviews that I've glanced at seem to really like Bardem's work, and this new clip is one of the best glimpses we've had so far of Silva and Bond together.
What I like about this is the way it feels like Silva is engaged in the game here. It feels like he's enjoying the cat-and-mouse with Bond, and the move he pulls to get away is pretty great. It's also pretty clear that this is another film where Javier Bardem is visually disturbing, adding to the menace. Nobody makes wigs more upsetting than Bardem, and his "blonde policeman" thing he's got going on here is really freaky.
Two of the films that most frustrated me this year were "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Prometheus," and it's important to point out that I don't get frustrated when I see a film that is terrible from start to finish. Those are easy to dismiss.
I get frustrated when I see a film that has real potential but which falls short thanks to certain decision-making. "The Amazing Spider-Man," for example, is a film that has many of the pieces right. Casting is a big part of making these films work, and I think they cast the film incredibly well. It was the script that made me crazy with that one, and I knew that the film had been tinkered with repeatedly during production, with some major parts of the film dropped very late in the process.
"Skyfall" has begun screening for US press on the eve of its UK release, and so far, the word on the film is nothing short of ecstatic. I am very excited by everything I've heard about it so far, and I'm having to work hard not to read some of the more detailed reviews. I want a chance to see this one fairly clean, and so far, I think the trailers have been good about not giving away too much of the movie.
In the meantime, if you are itching for some Bond and you don't want to wait, Activision has a solution for you and it's hitting stores tomorrow. "James Bond: Legends" was created as an homage to the 50-year history of the film franchise, and in the game, you'll be able to play your way through six of the films from the series.
It was fascinating to watch the way the Internet behaved in the months leading up to the release of Ridley Scott's "Prometheus." I feel like I was one of the few people who wasn't convinced from day one that the film would reinvent science-fiction and cure the common cold all in one fell swoop, because the near-rabid reactions to every photo and every tiny tidbit of information was sort of terrifyingly intense.
Now Scott's gearing up for another run of fanboy mania, and I'm curious to see if anyone learned anything from the experience they had with "Prometheus," or if they're going to be just as rabid and just as pre-convinced of greatness when it comes to the "Blade Runner" sequel that he's developing right now.
Here's why I think no one learned a single thing. Scott gave a short interview to Metro in the UK, and it has been picked up everywhere today and people seem to think that it's as good as a release date for the "Blade Runner" sequel. Let's look at what he actually said about the film, which was already announced as being in development:
"It's not a rumor - it's happening. With Harrison Ford? I don't know yet. Is he too old? Well, he was a Nexus-6 so we don't know how long he can live. [laughs] And that's all I'm going to say at this stage."
Wow. First, there's nothing new there. We already knew he was attached. He said it was a sequel during the "Prometheus" theatrical press. And he's still convinced that Harrison Ford was a replicant in the original, which automatically makes me pray that something happens to derail this film before he makes it and ruins another legacy.
It cannot be an easy thing to follow up a win for Best Picture at the Oscars, particularly when that moment can be seen as a redefinition of someone's career. Kathryn Bigelow may have been well-regarded by film nerds for her early work, but "The Hurt Locker" brought her to a much broader audience than ever before and it also established her as a very different type of filmmaker from the person who made "Near Dark" and "Point Break."
It looks like "Zero Dark Thirty" is what we would expect from the new Kathryn Bigelow, and that's exciting. While we may know the eventual outcome of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, there's so much of the story that we don't know that I get the feeling this is going to be about the process, not the ending.
Working with Mark Boal, the writer/producer she paired with on "The Hurt Locker," Bigelow's film takes place over the full decade it took to hunt down Bin Laden, and it looks like this is one of those subgenres of film I love, movies about people under pressure, and with a cast like this, I look forward to seeing how they crack and fracture under that pressure.
By far, the weirdest movie my kids have ever seen is "Magical Mystery Tour," which arrives on Blu-ray this week, getting us one step closer to having the full Beatles filmography in high-definition.
It's been so long since I'd seen "Magical Mystery Tour" that I'd forgotten most of it, and for the most part, it's a shaggy, occasionally incoherent collections of largely-improvised scenarios tied together loosely with a storyline about Ringo and his Aunt Jessie (Jessie Robbins) on a bus tour together. McCartney was the key creative talent behind the camera, and there's a sense in much of the movie that Lennon, Harrison, and even Starr are just indulging McCartney. If nothing else, some of the acting in the film should serve as proof that it is not easy to just "make it up" while you're on set.
Having said that, I think the film is tremendously watchable, and the soundtrack on this Blu-ray is worth the purchase price all by itself. They're doing a great job with these high-def presentations, and it is entirely fitting that the work done to remaster the music is where the most effort appears to have been expended. "Yellow Submarine" is one of those discs that I use to show off how well Blu-ray can reproduce an analog presentation. There are scenes on that discs where it looks like you're looking at the actual cel layout, where you can see the textures of the animated images and the backgrounds, and the sonic landscapes on both discs sound like they were recorded and mastered today.