Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress #17: Preemption

As previously promised, this is NIED column #17 on Preemption.  It is primarily intended to address preemption in the Law Review context--but truth be told I did not make it onto a Journal at our law school and so my analysis of the preemption concept may not square with the wisdom of such fortunate students.  However, preemption arises in other contexts, and the episode that this column describes is in fact true.  Nevertheless, at this point I have serious doubts that the friend of my friend was telling the truth when he said he was "really tired because he was out partying with Lindsay Lohan the night before."  I have heard stories of people that simply make things up on Facebook and claim they are friends with celebrities.  I have no patience for these types of persons and do not want anyone to consider me as being "on that level."  I like to think I give people the benefit of the doubt, but I do indeed have serious doubts that Ms. Lohan will be interested in a contract (paying perhaps $100) for the lead female role in Batman in Brooklyn.  Regardless, if she happens to come upon this post by some serendipitous act, I would be very interested indeed in discussing the project with her.  While my time and funding are at all-time lows, my creativity, I think, is at an all-time high.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress No. 17: Pre-Emption

                I recently heard that a friend of a friend had been hanging out with Lindsay Lohan all night. A few days later, Lindsay Lohan was on the news, apparently the victim of an assault in a Manhattan hotel room. 
                Before the assault though, I told my friend, “Look.  Hynes is no longer able to be in Batman in Brooklyn.  It would have been exciting to have him, but we can’t.  But.  If we can get Lindsay Lohan. This film will be incredibly important.  It will be her comeback.  And it is made all the more perfect by my Parent Trap Redux (due about November 18, 2016) – which specifically abrogates the Parent Trap remake.  Give me five minutes with her and I guarantee I can get her to sign on.”
                Previously I had been formulating the idea for the opening shots of the film. It opens with a shot of the new World Trade Center and the Brooklyn Bridge, 50/50 in composition. There would be many more shots. Still shots. Landmarks around Brooklyn. There would need to be music in the background. I thought Dum Dum Girls would be appropriate. I thought “Jail La La” would be appropriate.
                A couple days after that, the assault occurred, and a news item on Pitchfork discussed a new film that Lohan will appear in. It is directed by Paul Schrader (screenwriter of Taxi Driver, director of a dozen other vaguely-acclaimed films) and written by Bret Easton Ellis (uber-hipster). The preview consists of still shots taken around Los Angeles while a Dum Dum Girls song plays in the background.
                I weep.
                I get into trouble when I write about journals, but I must comment upon Preemption.  Many students complain about not being able to write about the topic they want to write about. But there are many topics that occur to me.  They occur whenever I observe a phenomenon in real life (say, for example, psychiatrist liability post-Tarasoff with the “Batman in Aurora” incident as the intro).  They occur whenever I do research for an internship (say, for example, establishing a BAC threshold for marijuana DWIs).  They occur whenever I do my reading assignment for the next day (say, for example, that holographic wills should be admitted in more states).  They do not occur when I actively try to think of a good topic to write about (say, for example, the effect of the Affordable Care Act on Medicare spending).
News flash: I did not make a journal. I wrote a 40 page paper with 188 footnotes though. 
I saw one journal article that had 350 footnotes though. 
It wasn’t good enough for the open note competition. So I am revising it.
But I found, when I did my preemption check, that I was, essentially, pre-empted by two articles.  (Briefly, my article was on the Temporary Help Industry. It was extraordinarily ambitious, but the reason stated for its rejection was that its personal elements detracted from its legal analysis. Understandable.) One addressed unemployment benefits for temps, and the other was basically the same as my article except it was longer and didn’t contain the personal element (and I quoted from it liberally).
                And so we cannot write about that topic—or rather, we just have to “tweak” our topic so that it’s “original” but we may have to focus on a tangential issue that we don’t find as intriguing—because somebody else got there first.
                It is almost like in Manhattan when Woody Allen asks Michael Murphy why he deserves to go out with Diane Keaton.  Murphy says, “I liked her first,” to which Allen replies, “What are you, six years old?” It’s almost like the Great Journal Editors in the Sky are saying, “You couldn’t possibly do a better job, so you can’t write about the same thing.”
                The obvious analogue here is copyright law—but I will not purport to know anything about that since (due to my own great fault and misfortune) I have not been able to take that course.  But I know that it is not okay to steal someone else’s idea.
                I suppose that the rationale underlying preemption is that we do not want to encourage law students to write articles that have little hope of being published, because a journal would not want to publish a duplicative article.  But as far as I am concerned, so long as the article updates an old article, it should not be pre-empted (as indeed mine was not, written as it was in 2009, before the real effects of the financial crisis had been more clearly reflected in reality).
                Which leads to my final point: since the past 5 years have involved a significant social upheaval, preemption should not be a problem, because this “Great Depression Part Two” affected almost every sector of the economy and American life in general—to the point that articles taking stock of its aftermath should not be struck down by the Preemption Hammer.
                Unfortunately for me and Ms. Lohan, the film industry doesn’t even pretend to be fair.  If the legal industry at least wants to give the appearance of fairness, it needs to be changed from the bottom up, and that means journal reform—as vague as it may sound.  I may not make the same film I want to make due to pre-emption, but law students should not be pre-empted from writing the articles they want to write. 
                Christopher J. Knorps is a 3L at Brooklyn Law School.  He enjoys studying bankruptcy law.  He has been told not to be defensive about his failure to obtain journal membership, but he cannot stay quiet in the face of injustice—particularly when it rains down upon him.    

Monday, November 26, 2012

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress #16 - No. 1 Against the Rush

While I have not been as prolific this year, it is not due to any fault of my own.  Whereas last year almost every single one of my columns was posted to BLS Advocate with nary a complaint, there has been a tad bit more scrutiny this year.  NIED #15: Exams/Grades was never posted--though it appeared on this blog (the link is included below if you cannot navigate the archival dates on the right hand side of this blog).  Surprisingly, #16 was considered worthy of publication.  This is a strange piece but it is written to discuss the concept of "rushing around everywhere" as law students tend to do.  Fortunately, columns #17 and #18 were published on BLS Advocate, and they will be posted here shortly (over the next two days).  I have stated that there will be 24 NIED columns in all, and that they will become progressively more esoteric and artistic.  
I may or may not hold myself to that latter adjective, but I will complete 24, and I will state that #19 will appear in January and will be on the topic of post-graduate job applications.  For now enjoy "No. 1 Against the Rush" - free of the edits made for BLS Advocate.

NIED #16: No. 1 Against the Rush
By Christopher J. Knorps
Pitchfork: I suppose I can quiz you on "No. 1 Against the Rush"-- which NFL team held that title last year?
AA: We were talking about the 49ers. They played well last year. Man, fuck. They were contenders.
AH: It's good though because when we titled that song, people thought it was this arty thing against, like, euphoria.*
Liars (who put this song out as the first single on their most recent album WIXIW – pronounced “wish you”) are not lawyers, but they are an important band (at least in my opinion) because they constantly challenge the listener’s expectations. With this in mind I dedicate this column to that band and suggest two interpretations gleaned from that song and that football statistic that apply to law school:
1)      Block the rush
2)      Do not mind the rush
In football, if you are number one against the rush, the other team will be forced to pass more often because they will expect you to destroy their running game. So if you are number one against the rush, you may be concerned about pass protection—or even what counts as a catch.
In law school, if you are number one against the rush, it means that you succeed where others fail. “Rush,” in this case, does not mean “euphoria” but rushing around, juggling tasks, and prioritizing (see NIED #7, “Super Administrative Priority Expense,” 3/21/12). With these principles in mind, we may now properly inquire which interpretation of the song is most useful for the average reasonable law student.
If you “block the rush,” you may be number one against the rush in football, but you will not be a better law student. Simply put: there is no way to block the rush.
An apt metaphor for “blocking the rush” in the context of law school is difficult to devise. But you will (generally) be forced to rush around, and “blocking” it might simply be saying “no.” 
If you say “no,” it’s still possible to succeed, but with so many other students saying “yes” (and thereby accepting the rush) it will prove more difficult.
If you “do not mind the rush,” you will not be number one against the rush in football, but you will be a better law student. Simply put: do not pay attention to what other people are doing.
Some (non-exhaustive) illustrations may be instructive:
·         If you make Moot Court, of course, you may want to participate in the Writing Competition (but it is perfectly acceptable not to do so). 
·         If you do not make Moot Court, it is probably a good idea to at least try your hand at the Writing Competition (but if you are guaranteed a job after graduation by virtue of nepotism, previous professional experience, or the like, then you do not need to do anything except earn C’s—which is quite easy in law school).
·         If you do not make Moot Court or a Journal, you need to be working at an internship every semester, and ideally not “repeating” internships (but I know a few “repeaters”—and I would question this wisdom in the limited circumstances where you are able to meet important people within the organization and they have told you that they like you and offer you the opportunity to stay on through the next semester). 
·         Though it is hardly mandatory that everyone earn some sort of “certificate,” it is generally a good idea to develop an area of focus (but a lot of people say you have to take New York Civil Practice and Criminal Procedure and Corporations and Federal Income Taxation—the result being that you must choose your courses for your last 4 semesters wisely).
If you are on Moot Court, if you are on Journal, if you are working at an internship, if you are taking Securities Regulation, if you are on the e-Board of one or two student organizations, and you work as a research assistant for a professor, then you are probably rushing around.
If you intend to make a film, put a band together for Brookfest, and write seemingly inconsequential columns for the BLS Advocate (among other activities), you are probably rushing around. And the problem with rushing around is that you stand a greater chance of forgetting some important event or appointment you have made. And once you miss an appointment for the first time, you will know how serious an error that is (depending of course on the people involved).
While this syllogism could be criticized as a contradiction (i.e. “you are saying do not ‘say no’ to the rush, but you are also saying do not pay attention to what other students are doing, and your article is a fumbling attempt to make a point where one does not exist”), I feel that it is a subtle piece of advice that students (particularly 1Ls or even “pre-laws”) should take to heart.
The principles of law school success do not equate to principles of football success. Law school is not a full contact sport, though there may be poor officiating (see NIED #15, “Exams/Grades,” 9/16/12, available at (last visited 9/26/12)). Metaphors in this regard are only devised by means of verbal wizardry, and are hardly worth contemplating.
Music, however, may apply to whatever one desires. And as Liars reflect upon their “breakthrough success” in the neo-no-wave/electroclash “scene” in the Brooklyn music community circa 2002, perhaps BLS alums will offer similar reflections:

Pitchfork: It's been 10 years since you made your first record in New York. Since then, a lot of the bands from that Brooklyn scene have gone away. Do you feel like you had to get away from New York for your own artistic vitality?
AA: In hindsight, it was really a great time, though we definitely didn't want to be part of it then. It's funny, whenever any of those bands from that period puts out a record, I will definitely listen to the whole thing, even though I might not be that interested in the music. I still have that connection. But the thing that bugged us the most was being locked into something. Obviously, it was a journalistic tool to help people. That's fine. Since then, the approach has really been to avoid being part of anything like that as much as possible.

Christopher J. Knorps is a 3L at Brooklyn Law School. He enjoys studying bankruptcy law, is the managing editor of BLS Advocate, is the founder of Monthly Expense Project, serves as a UCD in the SBA, carries 16 credits, is trying to make a film entitled “Batman in Brooklyn,” is trying to put a band together for Brookfest, is trying to get a job that starts in August 2013, is trying to ignore the rush, and has not been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. 

*Interview excerpts courtesy of The full interview may be found here

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quantum of Solace - Dir. Marc Forster (The Bond Project #22 - JM)

Quantum of Solace (2008)
Dir: Marc Forster
“Like a Bullet”
Jay Maronde

                Director Marc Forster scored a major Bond triumph with the 22nd official Eon James Bond film. Quantum of Solace, while not as long or initially as highly-rated as its predecessor Casino Royale, is an amazingly beautiful film which simultaneously features some of the best acting, directing, writing, and action of the entire Bond Canon. Much of this is due to the times surrounding the production of the film, but I believe Forster’s guidance was not only essential, but the true reason why this Bond is so fantastic.
                Marc Forster is the first non-British-Empire-born Bond director EVER. He is of Swiss-German descent, which he maintained gave him some insight into Bond’s character, as Bond’s mother was supposedly Swiss. But if it weren’t for Daniel Craig very strongly recommending him to the producers, he probably would never have gotten the job. For what it’s worth, Forster has repeatedly stated in interviews that he would never have taken the reins had he not previously viewed Casino Royale and really liked the new character development of Bond and the much colder realism. Regardless of the reason Forster was chosen, it was an excellent decision as the Bond he produced is so very little like any other Bond and yet an utterly stunning marvel of a film.
Forster’s influence is very strong throughout the film as the rough draft of the script for Quantum was finished only hours before the Writers’ Strike. Forster and Craig essentially re-wrote large sections of the film themselves, reworking dialogue and even huge plot sections daily while filming. The result of this “automatic director’s cut” is a film which is not only remarkably visually stunning but also has very little dialogue, which is again evidence of Forster’s skill as a director.
Numerous scenes require zero dialogue and the film shows with its images what happens—much in the way that silent films of yore had to tell their stories with expressive acting and well-placed camera angles. The entire pre-credits sequence only features five words of English. The remainder of the film’s opening is probably the most fantastic car chase ever put on film. Moreover, when Forster requires dialogue it is almost always short, pithy, and perfectly Bond. One of my favorite James Bond lines ever occurs in Bolivia when Bond and Strawberry Fields (which by the way is an amazing Bond name, but we will get to her later) arrive at the hotel, and as Bond peruses his luxurious hotel suite, he turns from the bedroom, looks at Fields, and says in a way that only James Bond could: “I can’t find the, um,… the stationery… could you come and help me look?”   Clearly Bond isn’t looking for paper. But Forster manages to maintain the cold reality of James Bond the assassin while at the same time having Daniel Craig completely out-suave all the Roger Moore movies combined. Forster also manages to reference all four major elements and pay homage to numerous Bond and non-Bond classics including Goldfinger, DR. No, North by Northwest, and Citizen Kane. This movie is shorter—quite possibly the shortest of all the Bonds—clocking in at far less than two hours. Forster commented that he wanted to the film to be that way: “Quick and hard hitting, like a bullet.” This fast-paced style of film works incredibly well for a Bond film. There are no gaps in the action, the movie doesn’t drag, the story is central, and much of the ancillary nonsense common amongst Bond movies has been completely removed to keep this rapid pace. In the end this provides for a delightful film that provides more and more enjoyment with each and every viewing.
                Part of what Forster wanted in his “bullet-like” film was to have intense, realistic action. To this end the film features some of the best action sequences in the Canon. First off, the movie starts with a riveting car chase that I feel is easily the best I’ve ever seen, and I have seen plenty of car chases. I will gladly grant the haters that the sequence is short, but the action is so remarkable, the driving is so incredible, and the scenery and cinematography is so thrilling that the sequence easily stands next to the great car chases in film history. They certainly paid for it, as the production team destroyed six $300,000+ Aston Martins during the filming—one of which had already been purchased by a well-funded Bond aficionado—even though it was completely destroyed and Daniel Craig never even sat in it. Shortly after the car chase, Bond is propelled into a remarkable foot chase which pays a great reference to Citizen Kane when Bond and the henchman fall from the roof thru a glass ceiling and into an atrium with the camera steadily following in perfect Welles-ian fashion. Later Bond engages in a dramatic boat chase scene, ostensibly so Forster can achieve the water element of the story. But while the scene is great and Bond obviously kicks serious ass, the beauty is that Bond is driving a boat with the same name as Quarrel’s boat from Dr. No. After some more of the movie plays out, Bond flies an old DC-3 in an epic plane chase sequence that not only references the air element but also pays tremendous homage to North by Northwest. The scene ends with the Bond Classic “jump from an airplane with no parachute and solve that problem on the way down!” Here again Forster shines—as rather than hiring numerous stuntmen to perform and ending up with a lot unbelievable (not in the good way) distance shots of stunt doubles falling, he had the stars Craig and Kurylenko actually perform the scene themselves with the assistance of an indoor sky dive facility. Quantum of Solace is the only Bond film to feature a car chase, a foot chase, a boat chase and a plane chase. All of these action scenes serve not only to advance the plot, but also to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
                All of Forster’s great direction would have been completely moot had he not had amazing actors to work with. There are few unnecessary characters and all the actors have obviously been pushed to the peak of their performances by Forster who is known for filming constantly even during rehearsals and sometimes even using the rehearsal shots in the film cut. Daniel Craig is back as the coldest, most real Bond ever. He not only is doing a lot of his own stunts but you almost feel like Craig stayed in character between films to be able to really understand the coldness of the soul brought to a man who professionally kills people. Craig literally suffered for the making of this movie, requiring eight stiches and plastic surgery to his face after a mis-choreographed fight sequence gone wrong. He also lost the tip of a finger (which had to be surgically re-attached) in another “too real” scene. Craig has commented that he felt Casino Royale physically was a walk in the park comparatively even though his training was far more extensive for Quantum.
Craig isn’t the only star however, as he is backed up by a fantastic cast who all purposefully aid Forster’s vision.  To not mention Dame Judi Dench would be completely remiss, as she plays one of her larger roles in the Franchise to date, and she is excellent as the MI:6 chief torn between trusting  her best agent and a whole world who is against her and Bond. Her scene with Bond in Bolivia is another excellent example of Forster’s well-thought filmmaking style, as when Bond is “removed from duty”( in classic Bond franchise fashion) Dench is dressed all in white as Craig is dressed in black so as to symbolize their opposing sides of good and evil.
Another very famous and very important woman in the film is Olga Kurylenko as the resplendent undercover Bolivian Agent Camille Montes. Numerous times in the history of the Bond franchise there have been co-stars next to Bond who are supposed to be the “female equivalent of Bond,” some sort of tough female agent who is supposed to be Bond’s equal (be they allies or enemies)—but compared to Kurylenko, they all fall drastically short. This film, for the first time in the Canon, really features a lady agent who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Bond. The two never make love—there is only a fleeting kiss as they part ways—but more importantly she is just as personally troubled as Bond and is more than willing to use her sex to achieve her mission objectives (exactly as Bond always does). This is further evidence of Forster’s well-planned directorial style.
                Another delightful cast member (so delightful she deserves her own paragraph) is the Lovely Strawberry Fields, played masterfully by the utterly gorgeous Gemma Arterton. Miss Arterton was chosen from over 1400 applicants for the role and while her performance is fleeting, she is radiant, first as the paper pusher sent to intercept Bond, and later in the greatest self-referencing homage in any film franchise ever, when she is covered in oil and left dead in Bond’s hotel a la Goldfinger. Arterton (who, yes was born a polydactyl (6 fingers and toes on each hand and foot)) and her strawberry hair were already a physical homage to all the remarkable red-headed Bond ladies throughout the Franchise, but the oil scene in which she really suffered through being painted completely black was such a fantastic homage that die hard Bond fans still gasp every time they see her lifeless black body.  It’s also worth noting that the viewer never learns her name is Strawberry Fields until the end credits roll, as no matter how many times Bond asks her name, she always responds, “Just Fields.”
                Any Bond movie would be lacking without a strong villain and Quantum of Solace surely took note of this fact with numerous villains and henchmen throughout the film. First off there is the special type of old illuminati evil that is Mr. White (once again played by the resilient Jesper Christensen, reprising his role from Casino Royale). While Mr. White is once again devilishly good, the real star on Team Bad Guys is one Dominic Greene (played by the French actor Mathieu Amalric). Mr. Greene is one of the few Bond villains in the Franchise and who has no outward physical deformities, but he is still a really, really, creepy looking villain. Amalric, who has publicly stated numerous times that this was the role of a lifetime and that he felt unable to refuse the honor as there was no way his future self could have ever explained to his children that he turned down the role of a Bond villain, apparently asked Forster several times to include some form of prop or effect or something to make his character more villain-ish, but Forster staunchly refused, citing his realistic vision of the film. While it may not seem like a compliment, I personally think that Amalric is more than freaky enough as a Bond villain. The scene where he arrives in Austria and hops into his waiting limo as CIA agents look on always reminds me of a snake who has dislocated its jaw to enable to consumption of overly large prey, and his fight with Bond at the end of the film is just as dramatic and far more gripping than any other final battle that Bond has with any of the other villains in the entire franchise. His scene with Bond and Camille at the party is another point where the film’s writing and directing are beyond reproach, as when Bond and Greene meet, Greene says to Bond, “My friends call me Dom-min-nic,” and Bond retorts, “I’m sure that they do.”
Amalric’s slick non-American sounding way of saying Dom-MIN-nic is first off evil in just the particular way that you would expect a super villain to be evil. Bond’s retort is priceless, perfectly pithy, perfectly-Bond, and the look that Amalric shoots back in response is a special kind of evil. In interviews Amalric has stated that he tried to base the character of Greene on a cross between Tony Blair and Nicholas Sarkozy (who he claims is the worst villain the French people have ever known) but whatever his methods, he isn’t just creepy or weird, he is downright evil in a way that is rarely expressed so well on film.
While on the topic of villains, this review would be completely remiss without mentioning the stunning performance of Joaquin Casio as General Medrano. Casio was absolutely the perfect casting for the coup leading serial rapist General Medrano. He looks the part, he sounds the part, and his impressive physical size next to Kurylenko and his other attempted rape victim make him a great casting decision—but he almost didn’t get the role, as during pre-production none other than AL PACINO expressed interest in the role.  Negotiations betwixt Pacino’s people and the Eon productions team were rather extensive, and it never came to fruition, but as a big Pacino fan myself I can only imagine what might have been.
                While this film relies heavily upon fantastic action, writing, and acting to get its points across, I feel that the music department at Eon certainly deserves a mention for its outstanding work in this film. First and foremost the title song “Another Way to Die,” performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys, is exquisite. The song is not only very Bond-ish, but also a very good pop rock song easily worthy of a place on the Billboard charts. This song was actually the second choice of the producers, as Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson did record a demo for the song but the producers felt that they needed to pass, as due to Winehouse’s “personal issues,” they couldn’t be assured of a timely delivery of the song. Someday that demo tape is going to go up for auction and it’s going to be worth a lot of money. But the music doesn’t just play a role in this singular part of the film as it does in many Bond movies. The score throughout this whole film is absolutely critical as it enhances every scene from the very first moment as the film opens with low strings and a long pan to the car chase, all the way through the very last moment when the iconic James Bond theme plays.
Also of note is the delightful opera scene which was really shot during an actual performance of Tosca at the real floating opera which is really in Bregenz, Austria. The opera scene is a gorgeous piece of cinematography, and it was a matter of outstanding luck that the real Bregenz Opera was actually performing during the time of filming. Tosca, with its own convoluted plot line of revenge, is perfect as a backdrop, and the uber-postmodern opera house with its giant eyeball sets fit perfectly into the James Bond Mythos. The music team also scored Bond’s escape from said opera house perfectly using the music from Tosca to provide an amazing backdrop for another essentially silent segment of the film. At all points in the film the music seems to carry the viewer seamlessly from one segment to another much the way an organ player would have in a classic silent film of yore.
                I’m going come right out and say it: Quantum of Solace is the best of the Bonds. The film is easily the best-planned and executed Bond film in a very long time—but more importantly to me the film’s brevity is really at the heart of what makes it so special. Forster wastes not a frame with uselessness. The film is really as he desired and described: like a bullet. Many have complained about the fact that this is the only direct sequel in the franchise, but honestly the film only really deals with leftover issues from Casino Royale at the very beginning and very end, leaving the rest of the movie as a monument to epic filmmaking, and evidence of what a wonderful director can do with a very large budget.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Casino Royale - Dir. Martin Campbell (The Bond Project #21 - JM)

Casino Royale (2006)
Dir: Martin Campbell
Re-Rebirth of Bond
Jay Maronde
                For the 21st Bond the Producers at Eon Productions wanted to start the slate clean. Through various deals with Sony the rights to the original Ian Fleming James Bond novel had finally been acquired, and they would make the “first Bond” for the first time as a restart to the Franchise. Martin Campbell, who had directed GoldenEye several years earlier, was re-hired, and an extensive search was conducted to find a new Bond. Soon thereafter, a very controversial choice was made with Daniel Craig to star in the role.
                Let me start right here with Daniel Craig: he is easily the best of the Bonds, hands DOWN. Daniel Craig put a tremendous amount of effort into the Bond role, reading every single Fleming novel and gaining 20 pounds of muscle in anticipation. And it shows—as this new Bond is tougher, colder and more real—much like you would imagine a British assassin to be like. The pre-credits sequence, which is the first James Bond scene ever filmed in black and white, explains the circumstances by which Bond acquires his 00 status and his license to kill, in a manner that introduces this new Bond very clearly as a cold, dark, murderous character. Shortly after this opening scene, the newly “made” agent is sent on a mission to question a bomb-maker. When the spot is blown, Bond chases him down in a fantastic parkour (extreme running) scene in which Bond destroys an entire construction site and runs directly through a wall like the unstoppable force that he is. When the bomb-maker escapes into an embassy, Bond follows him directly in and assaults the entire place to drag his prisoner back out. It’s worth noting that this scene is indicative of how this new Bond not only does not give a fuck but will single handedly disable an entire enemy force (without actually murdering any of them). Clearly this causes some hell back at MI6 where a very upset M. (with Dame Judi Dench anachronistically reprising her classic role better than ever before) tells Bond to get lost. So Bond goes to the Bahamas, and finds his way back into trouble, but only after first seducing a henchman’s wife, and acquiring  a classic Aston Martin db5. Bond goes to Miami, and in another way too cold scene, murders the henchman right as a camera crew is passing while the two are at the Bodies Exposition (it is worth noting that this is the first time there has ever been an actual corpse seen in any James Bond film, ever, even though they are part of the exhibit). 
                Bond stops the henchman’s plans, which the upsets the film’s main villain, Le Chiffre’s, master plan. Le Chiffre is a fantastic villain, one of the ultimates in the entire James Bond Canon. He is an evil banker (which, considering recent feelings against Wall Street types, is probably evil enough to make him super evil already) but he also weeps blood, which by the way is a real, yet super freaky condition. Anyways, this super evil villain has been gambling his clients’ money in the stock market while attempting to radically affect the market through acts of terrorism. Now that Bond has foiled his plans his only chance of getting the money back is through a high stakes poker game at Casino Royale.  This is Bond’s next assignment: defeat Le Chiffre in the poker game and thereby force him to defect from his life of crime and tell MI6 about all the bad dudes who are his clients (Bond is obviously the best poker player in the service and is the only choice for this job). While riding the train to the poker match, Bond meets his contact from HM treasury, the gorgeous Vesper Lynd (who is portrayed wonderfully by the stunningly beautiful Eva Green in what is literally a performance of a lifetime) who first denies Bond’s advances, but later falls hard and fast for him in a romance that has been described as the only woman Bond ever loved.  Also worth noting is that the martini that Bond concocts at Casino Royale and names “The Vesper” is really the “official James Bond martini” as espoused in the Ian Fleming novels, and if you’ve never had one I would urge you strongly to try one as while they are very strong they are fantastic. Bond beats Le Chiffre in the poker match—but that’s only about 2/3 of the way through the film. The rest of the film is about the love between Bond and Lynd. The fact that this film is really three Bonds in one (Bond gets his 00; Bond wins at Casino Royale; Bond & Vesper) is a big part of the reason that this is, by far, the longest Bond film, and also a great deal of the reason why this film is so wonderful to watch. The viewer is drawn into the James Bond universe as never before.
                While in the James Bond Universe there are certain things that the viewer expects. One of these major things is Q branch. But while Bond has some very impressive equipment, there is no Q branch briefing, and much like Dr. No, Bond relies much more on brute force and tricks of the trade rather than gizmos. One thing that Q branch does deliver is a brand-new, super-nice, racing-edition Aston Martin DBS. This car, while not featured that prominently, is the newest, slickest Bond car yet. The car and the franchise also set a Guinness World Record (again) later on in the film when Bond flips it and rolls the car 7 times. This scene was really filmed, and a stunt man was really in the vehicle (driving at over 70 mph) when the car was flipped, completely destroying the $200,000+ asset. Another Bond fixture that returns in Casino Royale is our old friend Felix Leiter, played wonderfully this time by Jeffrey Wright. Wright’s Leiter is spot-on and his acting and on-screen rapport with Bond is beyond reproach.
                With Casino Royale the Eon Productions team didn’t just manage to restart the James Bond movie series—they managed to make a masterpiece. The actors, the action, the stunts, the plots, the cars—every single aspect of this film has been taken to the next level and beyond. Daniel Craig, while initially causing a media row over being the first Blonde Bond, is utterly heartstoppingly fantastic: he’s so hard, so cold, so real it’s beyond description. The only advice I can give is to pay close attention to Daniel Craig if you really want to see a great feat of acting. Further, this movie wonderfully sets up the rest of the franchise and really begins to illustrate the reasons why Bond is so Bond. Casino Royale is simply a “must-see.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quantum of Solace - Dir. Marc Forster (The Bond Project #22 - JK)

Quantum of Solace (2008) 
Dir. Marc Forster
Inscrutable Bond
Jack Knorps

                Quantum of Solace epitomizes the reason why I have not been keeping up on the Bond films that have come out during my lifetime (eschewing the Dalton Bonds as I was six at the time of the last one, there have been six, and I would say I have seen 3 (GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies each counting for ½ as I watched them as “background noise”)): it is too difficult to follow.
                Of course, this is a sequel to Casino Royale, and picks up where that film left off, and begins with a fantastic chase sequence, again, which may or may not be similar to the one in Licence to Kill and/or The Dark Knight Rises.  Regardless, the stunt work is not a problem for the film (nor do I think it has ever been an area where the Franchise has suffered).  
                I do want to pause for a moment to question why the Bond films must not be Rated R.  Clearly, the subject-matter is R-rated.  There is an extraordinary amount of violence in the films, as well as sexual tomfoolery.  But, Bond does not curse.  The lack of the F-word keeps them PG-13.  So kids can see it, and here’s a prediction: Skyfall will kill during its opening weekend.
                But do kids really understand what is going on in this movie, or do they just like big explosions and cool stunts?  That’s my problem.  Even if you take out the “adult” subject matter, the Bond films are meant to be seen and understood by adults that can appreciate the political commentary they offer, as their plots always revolve around foreign affairs.  Given that Bond is an English agent, it is even more difficult for Americans to understand the purposes of his missions.
                While watching this film, I reflected upon watching films with my older sister.  My older sister often asks a multitude of questions during films with only slightly complicated plots.  If she were to agree to watch Quantum of Solace, I do not think she would make it through 30 minutes.  And she would miss 77 minutes and probably be no worse in her Bond knowledge.
                It is significant that Casino Royale runs an epic 144 minutes and this film clocks in at a “suitable” 107.  Maybe I just like long movies, but for some reason Quantum of Solace feels like it is missing something.  My guess is that this is attributable to the unique quality of the Craig Bonds: Skyfall is apparently the last film of a trilogy.  Perhaps the closure that always seems to be lurking in Quantum of Solace, holding over from Casino Royale, will finally be delivered in Bond #23.
                The villain in this film, Dominic Greene, seeks to acquire a desert in Bolivia from a Bolivian Dictator.  The Dictator tells him that he is wasting his time—many people have tried to find oil there in the past to no avail.  Greene does not seem to care.  He offers his services—which, if I recall correctly, involve paying off government officials so that the Dictator may continue his reign—in exchange for ownership of this desert land.  The agreement is made, and Greene is happy-go-lucky.  He is also, apparently, a philanthropist, who is a strong advocate of environmental protection and sustainable energy.  This may or may not have to do with “Quantum.”  Later he claims that the world’s most valuable resource is held in this desert.  Perhaps that resource is Quantum.  I cannot tell.  Later, in a scene that law students may appreciate, he coerces the dictator into signing a contract with his company, which owns 60% of the clean water supply of Bolivia.
                Now, Greene is played by an extremely capable actor.  At first, I recognized him as a French actor, but I could not place him.  Looking him up on IMDB, I found that he is probably most familiar to American audiences due to his stellar performance in, incredibly, another film reviewed on Flying Houses.  The actor is Mathieu Amalric, and if The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is any indication of his talents, then I can only conclude that he was not given a very good role by the screenwriters.  True, he is an interesting villain, because generally we do not think of environmental advocates as villains.  (Perhaps this is some kind of political statement too, but that would go too far).  The problem is that he is not believable as a violent person.  He makes threats, but he does not carry them out.  I don’t even remember if he dies in the movie or not. 
                On that note, Paul Haggis wrote the screenplay along with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.  Now I will not comment on the latter two, but I am sure they are capable.  And I will not blame Haggis totally, because Casino Royale is really quite an excellent film, but Haggis is most famous for writing and directing a certain Oscar winning film that jacked its vague title from a David Cronenberg vehicle.  Many people decried Crash for capitalizing on “hidden racist sentiment” that may or may not still be a factor in present-day Los Angeles, but Haggis won again next year with his screenplay for Million Dollar Baby, a film that was much more appreciated—particularly for its “twist.”
                Furthermore, Marc Forster directed this film.  Now, Marc Forster has a pretty good track record.  I never saw Finding Neverland but it was apparently quite good, I found Monster’s Ball to be quite compelling, and while Stay was basically a “non-starter,” now that Ryan Gosling is an A-lister, more people might have seen this film by now, and they should because it’s quite interesting.  This is to say nothing of The Kite Runner or Stranger Than Fiction (only the latter of which I’ve seen, and which is light entertainment, but not offensive).  I just have to admit that Forster does not seem to be the best director for this film.  Nor was it the best script. 
                Craig himself is good, and still icy—if not icier.  The Bond Girl, played by Olga Kurylenko, is quite beautiful, and vows revenge against the Bolivian Dictator for crimes he committed against her family in her childhood.  She is more than adequate in her role, and one of the better parts of the movie—but unfortunately if you compare her performance to Eva Green’s in Casino Royale, you will see how much better that film was than this one.  Judi Dench is also good as M, though I was quite confused when she apparently got shot and then showed up in the next scene looking very healthy without any kind of explanation—perhaps there was a pithy line thrown out that I missed. 
                I believe I have said all I can about Quantum of Solace.  It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s not a terribly exciting movie either.  It is rather confounding, but I suppose if we are to view these Craig Bonds as a Trilogy that it is necessary to view so you will not be lost when you see Skyfall.  Perhaps the best thing about Quantum of Solace is its theme song sung by Jack White, which is consistent with Bond playing to the trends of the times.  If I have to attach a “rating” to my two reviews here, I would give Casino Royale 3 ½ stars, and Quantum of Solace  2 ½ stars (I would only give it 2, but the ½ comes from the theme song as well as the potential for intrigue for Skyfall—that is, the hope that they have saved their best for the last).

Casino Royale - Dir. Martin Campbell (The Bond Project #21 - JK)

Casino Royale (2006)
Dir: Martin Campbell

Icy Bond
Jack Knorps

                I should begin this review by noting that my knowledge of the James Bond Canon is very slight.  It is only due to THE BOND PROJECT, suggested and carried out by Jay Maronde, that I have been able to learn about the history of the Franchise.  I had seen portions of GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies in my early high school years, but had never seen one of the films in its entirety until Casino Royale.  Thus I am able to judge this film completely on its own terms.  And  I would say it is a very good one. 
The film opens in Prague, jumps to Uganda, then Madagascar, then London, then Paradise Island in the Bahamas, then Miami, then Montenegro, and finally to Venice.  There may be other Bond films with more “globe-trotting,” but this one also makes wonderful use of an extraordinary array of beautiful shooting locations—particularly the scenes in Venice, and the final scene of the film (perhaps a “hidden” location).
                The film opens up with a relatively quiet pre-credits sequence involving an assassination carried out by Bond which only hints at the plot of the film.  The scene in Uganda fleshes that plot out, where we see a strange man, dapper, with a glass eye, approach a terrorist group to assist them with their funding.  They give him a large amount of cash in briefcases and request that he invest it in a portfolio with no risk.  He leaves, and he calls someone on his cell phone and says, “Buy one hundred million dollars worth of stock in Skyfleet.”  The man on the other end says, “Why?  Everyone knows that stock is only going to go up.”  As a student taking a course in Corporate Finance, this part was quite interesting to me.
                The next scene shows Bond in Madagascar, and this is one of the best chase scenes I have seen in recent memory.  He is hunting down a bomb-maker for a terrorist organization in an attempt to get information about who is helping to fund his and other organizations.  This bomb-maker is quite an acrobat, and it is quite humorous to watch Bond—admittedly in very good shape, but no acrobat—try to catch up to him.  Perhaps the key moment is when he jumps to an elevator, and slams the lever down so that he drops to the bottom at near free-fall speed.  This “motif” will arise in the penultimate scene in the film to nearly-heartbreaking effect.
                A word on Daniel Craig as Bond: he is icy.  He plays a cold, ruthless killer, who has no sympathy for his victims (or at least so he later says when questioned on the matter—“I wouldn’t be good at my job otherwise,” he explains).  He has the ability to turn on the charm when necessary to do so, but he rarely allows his emotions to get in the way.  This does happen in the film near the end, but in such a manner that one could not call it “false.”  He is a good Bond, perhaps lacking the suave of Pierce Brosnan, but adding a hard-nosed “darkness” to the character that is quite appropriate for this era of film where morally ambiguous characters tend to fill the screen and most filmmakers want to achieve the kind of success that Christopher Nolan has turned into a trend.
                In London, M (played to perfection, again, by Dame Judi Dench) chastises Bond for allowing the bomb-maker to die in a melee and tells him never to “go rogue” again.  Bond has actually broken into her home while this conversation takes place.  He then goes to the Bahamas—not for a vacation, but to track a cell phone call that he found in connection with the bomb-maker. 
                The first time we see Bond driving a car, he is driving a Ford rental car to the hotel on Paradise Island (The Ocean Club, which may or may not be a stand-in for the famous luxury resort Atlantis—which is shown in at least one shot).  The subtle humor of this scene is escalated when Bond waits for his valet to return to park the car.  Bond kneels down to tie one of his shoes, and another hotel patron arrives in a Range Rover.  He throws his keys at Bond and tells him to hurry up and park the car.  Bond drives the Range Rover rather aggressively, parks it carefully, then slams it into reverse as if he is going to park perfectly in another spot behind him—but does not slam on the brakes and instead smashes into a car in the next spot behind him.  Many alarms go off, and Bond throws the keys to the Range Rover aimlessly across the parking lot.  The lesson is that you do not mistake James Bond for a parking valet or he will ruin your car.
                The cell phone information leads him to check out a surveillance camera tape from the date and time of the call, wherein he is able to view the caller: another bomb-maker.  This one has a beautiful wife/girlfriend/mistress that Bond sees as he comes out of the ocean from a swim at the beach.  She is attending to a horse.  He eyes her, and she notices.  Later, Bond seduces her in his hotel room in order to get information about the bomb-maker.  This scene is quite suggestive and may show that audiences in 2006 are not as “prudish” for PG-13 purposes as in the past.  This film could get an R-rating, but excessive cursing is not necessary in a Bond film, and the sex scenes are edited just to the point that nudity does not occur while still remaining quite intense.  It appears as if he may spend the night with her, but instead he leaves and goes directly for the bomb-maker—who has gone to the Miami airport. 
                There is apparently a new prototype of a plane being unveiled: Skyfleet’s biggest airplane ever.  The bomb-maker is on the scene to destroy the plane, in the hopes of sending the company into bankruptcy and the stock down to almost nothing.  I do not understand the economics of this plan, and I may be incorrect either about the motives of the bomb-makers and the financier of the terrorist organization or principles of Corporate Finance—but it would appear that they would want the stock to go up!  I am probably missing some subtle plot point here but I confess I watched this film on my laptop and that sometimes it can be difficult to catch everything that a character says in this film.  You really need to pay close attention. 
                The financier is Le Chiffre, who may or may not be French, but is quite a good poker player, known for his famous bluffing which sometimes involves crying tears of blood from his glass eye.  I will not reveal what happens during the scene in the airport, but the Skyfleet plane model itself is fantastic, and the scene itself is probably the second “great” one in the film.
                From there Bond returns to London and is informed that Le Chiffre (who has by now been connected to the bomb-maker in question at the Miami airport) will be playing at a $150 million poker game in Montenegro—will Bond play?  Of course he will.
                On the train he meets the beautiful Vesper Lynd, whom he calls “Miss Money.”  Initially it made me think that this was his token scene of flirting with Miss Moneypenny, and that Miss Moneypenny had stopped working for MI6 and had started working for the British Treasury department, which is funding Bond’s $10 million buy-in for the game.  But like I said, I have not seen any of the Bond films in their entirety.  For this farce in Montenegro, she will play his wife, and they will share a two-bedroom suite.  He buys her a dress to wear, and she buys him a dinner jacket to wear.  They go to the game, and it is adjourned twice.  Violence ensues during the first adjournment, and Le Chiffre is targeted by the terrorist organization demanding their money.  They threaten to cut off his girlfriend’s hand, but he does not seem to care. 
                Shortly after the second adjournment, something happens to Bond that I will not reveal, but which sets up the third “great” scene—which is the final long stretch of the poker game.  After that Bond is captured, subjected to an act of torture that is both frightening and hilarious (in terms of Bond’s reactions, at least), and saved by a mysterious figure in an almost random act of violence.
                From there he escapes with Vesper Lynd to a tropical location and they live happily ever after.
                Obviously that last sentence is not true but this is a film that seems rather easy to spoil.  I will just say that the final hour of the film is probably its strongest part—and that means no disrespect to the opening and middle sections of the film, which are quite well done.  I just enjoyed the ending because everything seems to fall apart rather quickly and become extremely dramatic in a way that catches the viewer off guard.  And the final scene (and more precisely, the final shot) of the film is instantly classic.  Perhaps there is a Bond film with a better closing line, or cliffhanger, but it would be hard to imagine.
                The writer for THE BOND PROJECT, Jay Maronde, informed me that Quantum of Solace picks up where Casino Royale left off, and in this way, the two films are the only Bond films that might be considered “two parts of one very long film.”  Jay has also intimated that he finds these two films to be amongst the very best of the Franchise.  While this initially shocked me, with so many classics in the past, after watching Casino Royale I can certainly understand why, and am very excited to see what happens next.   

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Die Another Day - Dir. Lee Tamahori (The Bond Project #20)

Die Another Day (2002)
Dir: Lee Tamahori

Bond Turns 20
Jay Maronde

                For the 20th Eon Productions James Bond film, the producers wanted to go all out and make the Best Ever Bond for this grand anniversary. Die Another Day is a fantastic movie, filled with great action, an epic plot and superb casting, but it is so overfilled with James Bond illusions that it almost falls flat on its face. Let me be clear—I think this movie is great and could easily be the best of the Brosnan’s—but the viewer is constantly left with this impending sense of how great James Bond is supposed to seem that it detracts just slightly from what could have been a very awesome action movie. I could easily write all day about these allusions which in truth are quite fantastic, and the references to every single film in the Bond canon are very fun. However, it makes for an overly long slightly convoluted movie, and would make for a crazy long article here, so I will stick to the big highlights.
                First and foremost, to many this is known as the “Halle Barry” Bond movie. And yes Miss Barry, fresh off her Oscar win from Monster's Ball is definitely featured prominently in the film, and she is wonderful. So wonderful in fact that there was some talk of a Halle Berry Bond spin-off, with her reprising her role as NSA agent Jinx and Bond appearing only briefly for a cameo. Luckily for Bond viewers everywhere the producers thought better of that after the Catwoman debacle. No matter what you have to say about Berry, her role is well-written, and she turns in a superb performance. She’s a gorgeous Bond girl, she’s beautiful, and she’s a much better actress than most of the other Bond girls ever cast before her. Be sure not to miss her fantastic entrance in Cuba which features an epic allusion to Dr. No and Ursula Andress’ extremely memorable entrance.
Another fantastic Bond girl in this film is Madonna, who not only acts as Bond’s fencing coach, but also supplies the title song. First off, this title sequence is the first set of Bond titles in the franchise to actually feature into the movie, as during the titles Bond is being beaten and tortured as a result of his capture in North Korea during the pre-titles scene. Madonna’s song fits the movie perfectly and provides great background for a scene which the producers wanted to somehow play down (as who really wants to watch Bond tortured for 14 months). Also her acting in the movie makes her the first ever to do so. Many people did not like the song as they felt it was too modern, but I think it’s a wonderful piece of electronic dance music and was very popular in night clubs around the time of the film’s release.
                Another highlight of this movie, as it always is, is James Bond’s car, and Aston Martin is once again back with a James Bond car for the history books. The Aston Martin V12 Vanquish as the limited production model is known, was the first car ever made just for James Bond, like before the producers asked for a James Bond car, there was no such thing as the Vanquish. In the movie, Q (or R depending on how you feel about John Cleese) explains to Bond that “Aston Martin calls it the Vanquish, but we call it the Vanish” as he highlights the cars invisibility features. That’s right the car, besides all of its other cool James Bond stuff, is fucking invisible. Many people have complained that this was a completely ridiculous feature of the movie, and the haters can hate all they want, but it definitely makes for a fantastic James Bond car. The car features prominently in the scenes at the Ice Hotel, including a stupendous action sequence where Bond eliminates the diamond-faced henchman Zao (himself a throwback to GoldFinger’s OddJob, but played very well by the actor Rick Yune) after one of the best car chase scenes ever. A little known fact is that both the Aston and the Jaguar used in filming had been completely gutted and replaced underneath with the engines/suspensions/and four-wheel drive transmissions of Ford Expeditions to be able to perform well on the frozen lake.
                This movie features numerous really great action sequences including most at the end of the film, which is really just one crazy action sequence that has a fist fight, a sword fight, and a space laser that destroys a flying jumbo plane, all before James Bond escapes from the plane with no parachute.  All and all, Die Another Day is a great, very entertaining and fun entry into the Canon, but the movie makes the mistake of falling into the trap of the James Bond franchise being so in love with itself that it derails a little bit right as it rolls into the station. The constant allusions to the rest of the series bring back too many memories of silly Roger Moore Bond times, and while it’s a great movie to watch I’ve always felt like it ran long just to fit in all the allusions.

The World is Not Enough - Dir. Michael Apted (The Bond Project #19)

The World is Not Enough (1999)
Dir: Michael Apted

The Best Brosnan Bond
Jay Maronde

                While many people have complained that The World is Not Enough is simply, not enough, it’s easily the best of the Brosnan Bonds. It does have a mightily convoluted plot, but ultimately the film is beautifully made and a perfect example of the “Bond Formula.” The movie also has a few Bond firsts, and plenty of allusions to other Bond films—including the title itself, which is supposedly the James Bond Family Motto as first espoused in the much earlier On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
                This movie starts with by far the longest pre-credits sequence in the entire Franchise, which is almost a mini-movie in itself. Right from the very first scene where Bond is in Bilbao, Spain in front of a Guggenheim Museum, the viewer realizes that this Bond is going to be a classic with epic locations that really highlight the globe-trotting character of Bond. Here Bond is recovering some a large sum of money and in true James Bond fashion the spot gets blown and Bond has to fight his way out. As he does, the Bond theme plays and Bond escapes with the money achieving his mission. I should point out that the credits were originally supposed to roll right here, but test audiences found the scene lacking, so the sequence continues back to MI6 headquarters where the money is being handed over to Sir Robert King, who happens to be a very old friend of M and apparently a person who needs to die, as the money explodes, killing King, destroying MI6 HQ, and exposing an assassin floating on a yacht in the Thames. Bond steals a fantastic speed boat from Q’s workshop, and jets out after the assassin. This is easily the best boat chase in the entire series and it’s worth noting that Pierce Brosnan did all of the boat driving and stunt work himself as in real life he is a power boat aficionado. The chase is great and eventually ends with Bond catching up to the assassin and offering her protection in exchange for information before she commits suicide on a hot air balloon leaving Bond to fall precariously onto the roof of the just finished Millennium Dome (at that time). Bond suffers a dislocated collar bone from the fall and this leads to two of my other favorite parts of this movie. Part one: Bond is injured and fights and spies with a broken collar bone the entire film. While this comes into play several times, it really seems to highlight how tough James Bond is as a character. He keeps fighting his way through the mission even with an obviously painful injury. Part two: being injured, Bond needs to obtain clearance from medical branch, and as such seduces the doctor in fantastic James Bond fashion, and indeed after he copulates with her, she notes in her documentation clearing him for active duty that he has incredible stamina.
                Once Bond is returned to active duty he immediately gets back on the case and is sent to protect Elektra King, the daughter of the assassinated Sir Robert King. Elektra is a wonderful Bond girl and played very convincingly by the beautiful Sophie Marceau. This is a Bond first here as it actually turns out Elektra is actually the very first Bond villain to be a woman. Bond spends almost the whole movie discovering this, and in the end eventually puts a bullet into her even as she swears he could never murder a woman he has loved. I personally think this Bond first is great as it clearly highlights Bond’s personal coldness and willingness to do whatever for the mission with no compunction towards whatever personal feelings he may have had.
While Bond blunders about thinking with his penis, he and Elektra go on numerous worldwide adventures. These include a skiing adventure which clearly brings to mind all the fantastic Bond skiing scenes from throughout the Canon, and also features some of the finest cinematography in the entire Franchise. The sprawling mountain skiing scenes are absolutely gorgeous.
                Another highlight of this movie is the return of former Bond villain but ally since GoldenEye, Valentin Zukovsky, again played wonderfully by Robbie Coltrain. Now if you remember correctly, Zukovsky walks with a limp and a cane because Bond shot him in the hip. As this movie races to its dramatic conclusion, Zukovsky is shot and uses his dying breath to shoot Bond’s restraints (freeing Bond from another precarious situation) with a secret one shot gun hidden inside the cane that he only carries because of Bond.  This is that fantastic Bond magic that can only occur within such a long and well established Franchise.
                The one major complaint that others have had about this movie, is really a tremendous gift to the viewer, because honestly, who doesn’t like Christmas—Dr. Christmas Jones that is. Bond’s ally Bond girl in this film is played by none other than Charlie Sheen’s abused ex-wife, Denise Richards. I would like to comment first off, that Miss Richards is definitely in the peak of her beauty in this film, you can easily see why she was in Playboy and many have often noted that her white shirt during the flooded submarine scene could have crossed a few tableaus, BUT SHE IS AWESOME. Bond girls should always have fantastic names, But DOCTOR Christmas Jones is definitely on level with Plenty O’Toole, Holly Goodhead, and Pussy Galore. While maybe she is not quite as outwardly scandalous, Richards provides sooo much sizzle that it doesn’t matter. Also many people have complained that she’s far too ditzy for the role of a nuclear physicist, but she’s a Bond girl nuclear physicist, so the fact that she’s clearly reciting lines that she has no idea about only makes the movie better.
                The World is Not Enough also features the title song The World is Not Enough, as performed by Garbage. I really like this song as I feel it elicits many of the aspects of the great Shirley Bassey Bond songs of yore while still having it be performed by a modern rock band with more modern instrumentation. Also worth a note is that it’s the last film with Desmond Llewelyn in his classic role as Q. He died shortly after filming and the film is dedicated to him.
                This movie has had a lot of mixed reviews, but in the end I feel as though it’s the best of the Brosnan Bonds. The movie is exciting and features a very epic pair of villains bent on complete world catastrophe. The movie features exquisite Bond girls, a very active Bond, and fantastic scenery and filming locations.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tomorrow Never Dies - Dir. Roger Spottiswoode (The Bond Project #18)

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Dir: Roger Spottiswoode

You Only Live Twice : Part Deux
Jay Maronde

                So let me be completely honest: I was going to pan this movie. I’ve been planning on panning this movie the entire time. I’ve been super excited about panning this movie and I even thought up this great article title which I’m sticking with even though I’m not planning on completely panning this movie anymore.  This film is easily the weakest of the Brosnan Bonds and was also the lowest performing at the box office. It also bears a striking resemblance in plot to You Only Live Twice, which of course is one more thing to slam on this movie about—but having watched it more than a few times now, I think there are definitely some redeeming factors and I still think that this film is worth at least a cursory viewing and in the very least I can assure you that it will be a highly amusing divergence on a rainy day.
                This film is completely saved from its “re-used” plot and deplorable casting by one thing: great fucking action sequences. This film’s pre-credit sequence could be one of my favorites in the Canon, as Bond is doing extremely James Bond things. He’s surveying a terrorist swap meet. The Admiral in the war room won’t listen to M or Bond, and orders the whole swap meet to be destroyed with a ballistic missile shot from a boat a long ways away. It’s only after this point of no return that Bond is finally able to convince them that the MIG in the distance is laden with nukes and this is going to be a catastrophe. With no other options but to save the world Bond leaps into action, assaults hundreds of terrorists by himself, steals the plane, and flies off with the nukes just seconds before the whole area is destroyed by the Admiral’s missile. Even after saving the world from a mess worse than Chernobyl, Bond still has to deal with a hostile who has returned to consciousness in the rear seat of the cockpit of the plane he is flying and another hostile pilot in another MIG. Bond dispenses with both of them in classic Bond fashion by ejector seat blasting his backseat driver into the other plane, thereby eliminating both problems, before getting on the radio and asking, “Where would the Admiral like his nukes delivered?” This scene is simply classic Bond. He defies direct orders and saves the world and does it in a remarkably cavalier fashion which leaves no doubt to the viewer that he or she is in for another classic Bond adventure.
                After the title sequence featuring a Bond song by Sheryl Crow, which is kind of a typical Bond song in that it’s not quite bad but definitely nothing to write home about, we rejoin the film as it begins to get more and more convoluted. As I’ve mentioned before this is You Only Live Twice: Part Deux, so the basic plot is that a super-rich evil villain is trying to start World War III for his own personal gain by this time playing the UK against China (in YOLT it was the US v. Russia) This super villain is actually a great casting choice with the classic Jonathan Pryce (who also plays the governor in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series) and he is wonderful as sort of a Bill Gates/ Rupert Murdoch hybrid media mogul who is so obsessed with himself that he’s turned to making news (by starting WWIII) rather than reporting it.  As it turns out his wife, who is played by the gorgeous voluptuous (and at the time secretly preggo in real life) Teri Hatcher, used to be James Bond’s girlfriend, so Bond is sent to “pump” her for information. There is a long scene where M directly uses the word pump to imply the Bond should copulate with her exclusively for the Queen’s purposes, which I also happen to think is great, and also it’s worth noting that this is the first time in franchise history that Bond definitely knows for sure that the woman he is copulating with is the villain’s wife and he still does it anyways.  Anyways, super villain doesn’t like this and kills his own wife and plans on having Bond killed. Bond of course escapes and goes on to save the day but first he has a fantastic car chase.
                As I’ve mentioned before this film is filled with really great, gritty, action sequences which definitely help the viewer to forget that this film is sort of a re-hash of older Connery Bond. One of the most memorable is Bond’s escape in Hamburg using his remote controlled BMW 750iL sedan. First off I should note that the use of this vehicle in the movie is still a direct result of Eon production’s deal with BMW and also this is the first and only time to date that James Bond is given a 4 door sedan by Q branch (though there have been rumors that Bond is driving the all new Aston Martin Rapide touring Saloon in Skyfall, but I have yet to see that film yet, and even if he is, the 4 door Aston is and will always be on a completely separate level from pretty much any BMW). Anyways, way before any of us had color screens (or even smart phones), James Bond drives the life out of this big dawg BMW with nothing more than his cell phone. In real life the filming of all the crazy stunt work in this sequence required no less than 17 BMWs, plenty of which were completely destroyed. Another great action sequence in this film is the BMW motorcycle chase through the streets of Vietnam while Bond is not only handcuffed to his Chinese spy counterpart and co-star Michelle Yeoh, but also being pursued by very dedicated helicopter borne villains. Now, everyone whom I’ve read (incuding Brosnan) really likes Yeoh because she did almost all of her own stunt work and was very dedicated to the film, but personally I think they should have forgone the obvious racial overtones and cast an actress who was prettier to play against Bond. The fact that they cast an Asian person seems to really seal the deal for me on YOLT: part 2, and I would have really liked it if culturally the world was ready to not need stereotyping in our films. Also worth note is that Natasha Henstridge (fresh off her superb performance in Species) auditioned numerous times for the role that Yeoh eventually got and would have been way better without the production team conceding to obvious racial stereotyping.

                I would advise watching this film. It’s a lot of fun to watch even though it’s definitely the weakest of the Brosnan Bonds. I feel comfortable telling you that Bond saves the day and the film ends happily without fear of spoiling too much for you. I can’t tell you that you won’t feel a little empty inside afterwards like you need to watch another Bond to make your experience whole, but on the bright side this is one of the very few Bond films shorter than two hours so you should have plenty of rainy day left to view another Bond film from the Canon.