Digging Double Oh Seven: Die Another Day (2002)

die another day

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been thinking about James Bond a lot and going back through the movies again. I’ve watched from Dr. No through Diamonds Are Forever, skipping Goldfinger in the process because I’ve seen in so many times. I was still jonesing for more Bond, though and asked my wife which one she wanted to see. I tried pushing for some Daniel Craig action, but instead she wanted to go with Pierce Brosnan’s final entry in the franchise, Die Another Day.

This was an interesting choice not just because it’s the last pre-Craig film I haven’t reviewed on the blog yet, but also because I had recently listened to the episode of James Bonding where they savaged this film. So, I was already kind of primed to dislike this movie, or at least look at it with a more comedic take, but I’ve got to say, once I just let all of that go, I was actually able to enjoy myself. Well, most of the time. Halle Berry is terrible here. It boggles the mind that she has an Oscar.

The basic story this time around is that, after getting marked while undercover and imprisoned, Bond wants revenge on his captors so he goes rogue to track them down. Along the way he meets a US NSA agent named Jinx (Berry) and discovers that some kind of gene replacement therapy is being used to change peoples’ identities on a fundamental level. There’s also an invisible car and an ice hotel which are both silly and kind of awesome when you just let yourself sit back and enjoy the film (which can be really difficult when you’re dealing with invisible cars and diamond faced bad guys, just saying).

While watching the movie, I made the claim that Berry is probably the worst Bond Girl around. My wife laughed and pointed out Denise Richards’ Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough. To that I say, you basically know what you’re getting when you see Richards on screen (or were getting back when that was a thing that happened). But with Berry, you’re talking about an Oscar winner! She can barely deliver her lines in a way that tells me she’s a human being and not a robot trying to decode what feelings are. At the end of the day, I can buy into the invisible car and even the ridiculous gene therapy, but I can’t abide such a bad Bond actress. Honestly, Madonna’s better actress in this than Berry.

Anyway, this wound up being Brosnan’s last outing as 007. I liked what he did with the character and while he wasn’t my favorite he was the version that gave me my first Bond experiences in the movie theater which is a nice memory. I don’t know if he’ll be considered a classic Bond, but it was certainly a memorable time for me heading to the movies with my high school and college friends to check out 007’s latest exploits.

Computer Movies: WarGames (1983) & WarGames: The Dead Code (2008)

After watching Sneakers and The Net last week I decided to add a few more movies to the top of my Netflix account including WarGames, which I had never seen before. I got it and watched it today and it’s a great little movie. Matthew Broderick stars as a kid who accidentally hacks into NORAD’s system and plays their war games simulator which somehow makes the system think it’s happening for real. The government goes after Broderick to find out what he’s up to, but he escapes and finds the system’s creator who eventually shows up to help convince the government guys to listen to the kid. Ally Sheedy plays his love interest pre-Breakfast Club, Dabney Coleman plays a guy working for the government who runs the system, Michael Madsen has a brief role in the beginning as a guy with his hand on the proverbial button and the guy who played Eugene in Grease (Eddie Deezen) plays a super-annoying hacker friend of Broderick’s.

Overall, the movie paces itself well and seems authentic enough. Unlike the 90s movies I watched, this stuff was all WAY before my time (it came out the year I was born) so I have no idea how accurate it was on the technology side of things, but the IMDb trivia said the screenwriters Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes (who also wrote Sneakers!) hung out with some hackers to get some of the tech specs right. Gotta love that level of commitment to the source material, but I’m guessing the hackers didn’t appreciate being portrayed by the super annoying kid from Grease. Man, I’m glad I never had to actually take my phone off the hook and put it on my modem to get it to work. Or if I almost accidentally created a global nuclear war just because I was really excited about playing a new video game.

As you might expect, watching the original lead me directly to checking out the WarGames sequel Death Code which I liked much more than I expected to. When it comes to straight to DVD sequels to 80s movies, I think I’ve only ever seen Road House 2 and Lost Boys: The Tribe, one of which was okay and the other I couldn’t even get through. I guess Death Code stands as the best of the bunch as it’s not just a rehash of the original (which would have been excruciating after JUST watching the original). In fact, Joshua, the computer program from the first film shows up as kind of a hero in this one, taking center stage for the last 10 or so minutes of the movie.

This time, the story revolves around a kid named Will who plays an online game which is really a government trap to hunt down terrorists. I’m still not exactly sure how that works, but whatever, I bought it enough. This time he’s on the run with his lady friend and actually gets helped out by the scientist who created the program in the first movie. The only really interesting casting note is that Nicolas Wright plays his friend and Wright plays a guy named Davis on Accidentally On Purpose which was just on. Overall the acting is alright, the lines are all delivered well, but sometimes the reactions seem a little wooden. I would say that it’s not a necesarry movie to watch, but it’s fun enough if you want a thematic follow-up to the original flick.

It’s kind of interesting that even after 25 years we have the same fears regarding computers. Both movies feature computers taking control of systems that have the potential to lead to mass destruction. In the first movie the computer system made the military think the Soviets were going to bomb. Had they trusted the system, they would have retaliated which would have made the Soviets actually fire missiles at the US. In the sequel, the computer system basically gains autonomy and decides to do the same thing, but it goes further in that it sees the people trying to stop is as being a threat and orders a spy plane to bomb them. As much as we want machines to do our work for us (especially the dirty variety), our fiction keeps laying out the problems that could result, even though some of those problems rely on some pretty far off problems like advanced artificial intelligence. Well, I hope it’s far off…

Green Lantern: First Flight

As luck would have it, on the same day that my Blackest Night theory was confirmed, we got the animated Green Lantern: First Flight DVD and watched it. And I liked it, a lot. I haven’t seen Wonder Woman yet, but GL was far better than all the other animated movies I’ve seen from both DC and Marvel.

But, of course, I have a few fanboy complaints that I’d like to get out of my system right off the bat. I have no problem that they didn’t get into the emotional spectrum and only briefly mentioned how yellow and green are opposing colors, but I thought it was kind of strange that, given that, the floating cities on Oa were yellow. This is pretty picky, but it bothered me (to be SUPER picky, the planet Oa was red). There was a ton of yellow in the movie actually that seemingly had no effect which is why I was surprised when they got into the yellow vs. green stuff later on.

This might dip into SPOILER territory, but I didn’t understand why Sinestro, once he got the yellow ring, had the Sinestro Corps symbol on his chest, but the yellow battery and his ring had the Green Lantern symbol (what’s even weirder is that the actual Green Lantern power battery did not have that symbol).

Okay, fanboy bitching aside, this movie was rad. Within five minutes of the movie beginning Hal Jordan has received the ring from Abin Sur and, soon, he’s approached by a cache of GLs including Kilowog, Boodika and Tomar-Re. After that he’s off-planet on Oa getting hassled by the Guardians (who are more dottering old guys than omnipotent schemers) for being human and not worthy of the ring (we don’t ever get told how the rings are divvied up). Sinestro offers to back him and the two of them go off in search of Kanjar Ro. We get hints of Sinestro’s crazy strictness and desire for order and then the story flips to a GLs vs. Sinestro while Hal’s ring has been stripped away for reason I don’t want to spoil. So, there’s kind of an Iron Man like set-up at the end (depowered hero fighting fully functional villain and still winning), but I thought it was done a lot better.

I was also surprised at how adult the movie was even though it’s rated PG-13. I mean there’s not hardcore sex (or any sex actually) and head splattering violence, but there are a few swears and one particular death towards the end that reminded me of that dude getting “screwed to death” in Jason X. I was shocked by that one actually. There’s even some neck snaps and all that. SPOILER. The final battle itself doesn’t exactly get bloody, but there are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of implied GL deaths due to suffocation in space. Yeesh.

For GL fans, the movie doesn’t quite get into the specific details that Geoff Johns gets into in Rebirth (like how Kilowog’s constructs are the only ones that make a sound), but we do get great characterizations of all the characters (though Boodika fans will probably not like how she’s portrayed either visually or her character). And a huge part of the characterization is thanks to the voice actors. I especially love Victor Garber as Sinestro. He’s the dad in Alias and plays a somewhat similar character (I think they even based aspects of Sinestro’s face on Garber as I could literally see him). I also really dug Michael Madsen as Kilowog, though it’s not a casting choice I would have ever thought of. The biggest head scratcher for me, though was John Larroquette as Tomar-Re. It’s a pretty small part and Larroquette’s a fairly big deal, so I wonder how he got involved in the project. Maybe he’s a big fan?

An interesting note about the aliens is that they actually changed a lot of their looks. Abin Sur has chin horns, the Weaopners of Qward are spider-like (maybe a Spider Guild reference?) and Kanjar Ro has a squidish look. I was scratching my head about this changes when I realized that, in the comics, those are all just regular looking dudes who happen to be pink. The redesigns end up looking pretty cool and the artists seem to have had a ton of fun creating all kinds of new ones to throw in the background.

There’s been a lot of talk about getting a Sinestro Corps War animated movie (in fact, I’ve written at least two wish list-style bits on the subject myself for ToyFare and Wizard) and I think this might be a pretty good set up. By the end of First Flight you’ve got a status quo that could easily lead into a stripped-down version of SCW that would work pretty well. My finger’s are crossed.

Also of note, there’s a special feature on the DVD where Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi all talk about Blackest Night. Johns actually explains an aspect of the Black Lanterns in it that has been hinted at, but not full stated in the series so far. SPOILER? So, you know the scenes where the BLs see which emotion their targets are giving off? Well, apparently, they actually feed off of that energy and the more there is the more powerful they become. Cool, right? I was wondering when they were going to get around to explaining why they kept analyzing peoples’ placement on the emotional spectrum (this may have been explained in another interview somewhere, but I’ve been keeping away because I don’t want anything spoiled).

Riding Hella Dirty: A Hell Ride (2008) Review

2008-11-07
4:53:29 am

Here’s what you need to ask yourself to figure out if you’d like Hell Ride. Do you like Quentin Tarantino and the movies that he likes? Does the idea of a movie with Larry Bishop, Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, David Carradine and Dennis Hopper sound awesome? Does the idea of amoral bikers doing whatever they want wherever they want bother you? If the answers were yes, YES and hell no, then Hell Ride is the movie for you.

It’s by no means a great movie, but writer, director, lead and classic motorcycle movie dude Larry Bishop definitely loves what he’s doing and it permeates the film. Everyone involved really feels like they’re having fun, even when spouting off some fairly ridiculous dialogue (the fire for sex metaphor goes on WAY too long).

There’s a cool back story to this movie that’s related in the behind the scenes featurette on the DVD. Not surprisingly, Quentin is a big fan of Larry Bishop’s biker flicks and told him it’s his destiny to make the best biker flick of all time. Having not seen any of the others, I can’t compare, but it’s a cool backstory. Bishop picked up the proposition and ran with it. And I’ve got to give it to the guy for getting a very impressive cast together. Aside from the guys mentioned above, there are about 100 sexy ladies and Eric Balfour who some of you might remember as Jesse from the first few episodes of Buffy.

The plots probably a little more complex than it needs to be with plenty of flashbacks and all that, but it ends up working int he end and would probably have made a lot more sense if I wasn’t so tired when I started watching it last night.

So here’s the deal, Bishop leads a gang with Madsen and Balfour as his numbers one and two. Hopper’s a part of their crew too. Bishop and his boys run up against another gang with Carradine as the head and Vinnie Jones as the street leader (or something like that). Bishop’s character is also trying to make good on a promise he made to a woman who got killed 30 years ago.

I’ll be honest, I missed a lot of the plot and got the basics from the extra features on the DVD which was helpful, but I still really enjoyed the movie. There’s a lot of just dudes being badass which I appreciate. You definitely won’t see another movie like this. I was also impressed with the age of the leads. Not counting the women, you’ve got Bishop whose birthday isn’t posted on IMDb, but he was making biker movies in the 70s (he’s also Rat Packer Larry Bishop’s kid!), Madsen is 51, Jones is 43, Balfour’s the baby at 31 while Carradine and Hopper are both 72. You probably won’t get a cast like that in any other movie this year. And man, they’re all bad dudes in this flick. And not just cool, but morally all over the place.

Madsen does his usual thing. Hopper’s actually less crazy than you’d expect if you’ve seen some of his other weirder work like that nutty Crow sequel he was in where he played a gangsta pimp. What happened to that guy? Carradine gets kind of a different role than he has in Quentin’s movies. And Balfour does a great job as the new kid who’s having fun but also working hard to prove himself. And they all look great together on screen, almost like a superhero team.

It’s fun stuff. Not brilliant film making, but definitely a freaking fun movie.