Let’s keep this Best Of 2019 thing going! So far, I’ve covered my favorite classic horror movie viewings of last year and now I’m on to books. I keep this rad super hero wall-mounted shelf in my office and stack up the physical books I’ve read throughout the year. As you can see in this photo, I also have a list next to it that I can put digital and library conquests on as well. It sure makes it simple to do a list like this!
Over the weekend I found myself with the opportunity and wakefulness to actually watch a full movie. After looking around on Amazon Prime, I landed on The Presidio, a whodunit starring Mark Harmon, Sean Connery and Meg Ryan directed by Peter Hyams who also did Timecop and Sudden Death! Continue reading Quick Movie Review: The Presidio (1988)
While I don’t actually believe in cosmic significance to basic events, I do find it interesting that the year I was born there were two James Bond movies released in theaters. You have the in-cannon Octopussy which will be tomorrow’s movie and Never Say Never Again which brought Sean Connery back to the role he made famous quite a few years before. As I mentioned in my review of For Your Eyes Only, I was worried about this movie for a few reasons. One, I was worried Connery would be too old for the role (much as I thought Moore looked to be getting older in his series) and two, that it wouldn’t really matter because it’s not in cannon. Luckily neither of those wound up being a problem.
I should explain how there could be a James Bond movie that isn’t a part of the James Bond series. Back when Thunderball was being written and created, there was a screenwriter who worked on the project that wound up feeling as though his ideas were used somehow unfairly. There was a lawsuit and Bond creator Ian Fleming made a deal with him that involved cash and the use of some of the characters and ideas. So, with his fair share of legal rights to Bond, SPECTRE and Blofeld, that dude–Kevin McClory–got his stuff together, hired Irvin Kerschner to direct and got Connery to return as Bond. And you know what? The results are surprisingly entertaining. So much so that I wish this movie was actually included in the box set (even though it was original made by Warner Bros. it was eventually sold to MGM who hold the rest of the catalog).
Unlike the other Bond movies, this one actually addressed one of the facts of the movies that we haven’t seen addressed before: Bond not necessarily being the kind of character that fits in with modern sensibilities. In this version of the story, Bond has been around for as long as the movies have been (presumably) and now he’s dealing with a government that doesn’t seem to care about the Double Oh program and doctors who want him to cut out martinis and red meat. But soon enough, he’s needed again as the villain Largo–part of SPECTRE–has a plot to blow up various parts of the world. It’s interesting that, while part of the story revolves around Bond’s age, another part revolves around technology, specifically video games. There’s a scene in a big casino that has a whole section devoted to games like Centipede. Meanwhile, Largo has a 3D game he created himself that involves shooting parts of a 3D map of a country to gain control away from your adversary. It seems silly, but it’s actually a pretty tense moment as Bond plays–and eventually beats–the game’s creator. Is this the first video game bad guy in a movie?
From an action standpoint, the movie doesn’t disappoint. There’s an opening scene of Bond taking out some bad guys that looks like a lot of other 80s action movies which makes it kind of interesting for a Bond movie. There’s also a pretty slick car/motorcycle chase that involves rockets and even some cool gadgets as Bond and Felix Leiter fly around on what look like jet stands for lack of a better term. There’s even a big underground bad guy headquarters with accompanying assault by the good guys, some dangerous ladies (include Bond girl Kim Basinger) and a drop down drag out fight between Bond and a gigantic henchman. All in all, it’s the film’s differences from the rest of the late 70s/early 80s Bond flicks that actually makes it the most fun to watch. There’s a different take on the character and the mythos along with a lack of familiar elements that have made the last two or three canon Bond flicks kind of boring to watch. Oh, Rowan Atkinson’s even in it pre-Bean. He plays a kind of hapless bureaucrat there for comedic purposes, but his character is handled well and doesn’t get annoying, which is something that can’t be said for similar parts in other Bond movies. All in all, good stuff.
For Christmas I bought my dad and I the complete James Bond Box Set (up to that time at least, it doesn’t have Quantum of Solace in it, which I still haven’t seen yet). Dad and I used to rent various Bond movies and we’d always enjoy watching when (I think) TNT would do their Bond marathons. So, like with Saturday Night Live, I’m a fan because of that, but also because these are some of the craziest, coolest, most over the top and gadget filled movies of all time and, of course, I love all that stuff.
So, without further ado, let’s jump into From Russia With Love, the 2nd Bond movie, and, of course, stars Sean Connery.
*I don’t think I’ve ever seen this one all the way through.
*You can’t take Bond out that easily…oh, okay.
*Can’t go wrong with projecting the credits onto hot lady parts.
*Looks fantastic on this TV.
*Hehe, I like the gigantic chess board so people in the crowd can watch. I can’t think of a more boring “sport” to watch.
*Message in the water glass, nice way to get your point across. Oh man, I thought he’d have to throw the game, but he put that nerd DOWN! WHAT WHAT!
*Blofeld? Yup. How can such an evil man have such an adorable kitty? Unfortunately, the cat is almost always looking at the camera, very unprofessional.
*Nice, they referenced the previous movie.
*Why HELLO there sun bathing beauty. Yeah, you better take off your skirt and blouse to massage that guy on the blanket outside.
*Dude, SPECTRE has their own island? Jealous.
*Hot damn, I love a good “walking through a training/testing area” shot and no one does it better than Bond filmmakers.
*Woah, that is a tiny towel Mr. Badguy. He totally passes the “get punched in the gut with brass knuckles by a creepy old woman” test.
*Blondy likes Klebb’s riding crop me thinks.
*We still haven’t seen the real Bond yet. Ah, there he is, making out with a hottie in a boat.
*I think Moneypenny would do a threeway with James and any other broad.
*Q!!! With the super briefcase (gun, knife, sniper rifle, gold, tear gas and a secret way of opening). Score!
*Invoking the title! By writing it on a picture no less.
*Who’s this goober in a mustache and beret?
*They’re trying to bug him, but you can’t fool James Bond. Fools.
*Wowzers, who is THAT? Woman in orange. The 60s were awesome!
*Underground river? Super cool.
*Gypsy’s know how to party. Gypsy cat fight? Hahaha, awesome.
*Who’s the blonde guy with the mustache? Why are people attacking the gypsies? I should be paying better attention.
*Bond asks to stop the girl fight? WHAT? Oh, he gets to decide, so I assume he boned them both. Yup.
*”Oh James will you make love to me every day in England?” “All day and all night.”
*Aw, the funny guy died.
*No, James, that’s the bad guy!
*See, I think Bond should be a much more formidable foe.
*Heh, he’s gonna get gassed!
*Cool train fight.
*You can’t take the real Bond out like you did in the beginning you punk!
*Klebb’s back-up plan was to kill Bond with a shoe-knife? Seriously?
*James Bond is a literer AND he did that stupid wave.
I recently switched from Blockbuster to Netflix as it was taking way too freaking long for me to get my DVDs (five days at times, even when I turned them in at the store, ugh). As a result I sat here switching my queue over and moving things around. I gotta say, I like the Netflix site a lot more. It’s way more user friendly and I actually like a lot of their movie suggestions. All of which I’m telling you to let you in on how I inadvertently ended up with two crazy, Nic Cage action movies from the mid 90s. I had never seen Con Air before and it’s been about a decade since I saw The Rock, so it was practically like watching it again for the first time.
CON AIR (1997)
What a great and crazy movie. Like with The Rock, I don’t really buy into one of the initial plot points. In this case its the idea that a military man just home from a tour of duty (or something, I’m not always clear on the jargon) kills a dude in a fight, a dude with a knife near Cage’s pregnant girlfriend no less. According to the brief court scene, soldiers are held to a higher standard because they’re killing machines. Sorry folks, I don’t buy it. Isn’t that plain old self defense? Anyway, aside from that (and Cage’s ridiculous accent throughout the film), I bought in. You see, Cage is done with his five year sentence and just wants to get home to his girl and their kid, so they put him on a plane (why was he so far away from home anyway?) with a bunch of other cons to fly them someplace else. Once in the air, the prisoners take over the plane in a pretty ingenious multi-part plan and we go on from there.
The first thing that struck me about Con Air is the cast. Aside from Cage, you’ve got John Cusak as a cop of some kind, John Malkovich as the mastermind behind the hijack, Dave Chapelle, Danny Trejo (the best interview I’ve ever had) and Ving Rhames as cons and Steve Buscemi as a sociopath serial killer. The characters aren’t all that well rounded, but the actors really sell their parts, offering up some of the creepiest cons in recent memory. Even Cusak, who I love in High Fidelity, Grosse Point Blanke and even 1401, is believable in the roll as an action-faring blockbuster cop, who would have thought?
There are all kind of groan worthy aspects to this flick, but I’ll take all of them in exchange for a crazy balls-out action flick that pays off in big names, big explosions and big plots. The final scene takes place in the middle of Las Vegas, first as a plane crash, then as a chase between a fire truck and two motorcycles. One aspect of the movie that was too much, though, was Colm Meaney’s “disbelieving tough guy cop.” In a movie filled with otherwise compelling (if not likeable) characters, Colm’s character just comes off as a boring, one note pain in the butt whose role should have either been rewritten or toned WAY down. It is cool to see his car come to its end, though.
One last thing, I just looked director Simon West up on IMDb and was horrifying to discover he’s the man responsible for subjecting me to the When A Stranger Calls remake. Well, to be fair, I’m responsible for subjecting Ben, Rickey and myself to a pretty awful movie, but who’s counting? It was by birthday after all!
THE ROCK (1996)
Like I said, I’d seen The Rock before, but had very little memory of it, which is great because this movie turned out to be a great surprise. I had a ton of fun watching The Rock, even though I was a little worried about it’s long running time (I have gotten pretty lazy, going so far as to sending Armageddon back without watching it because of its 2 and a half hour running time). Regardless, I am officially a huge Michael Bay fan, so of me what you will, even given what I think was a fairly weak plot point. My biggest problem with the story is that I don’t really buy that Ed Harris’ character would at any point believe his plan would work. If he’s not willing to actually kill a bunch of civilians, why would the government do anything by completely annihilate the island? Oh well.
The island in question is of course Alcatraz, the famous island prison which has fascinated me since I first saw it on some long forgotten show when I was a kid. There’s always been a great sense of history and mystery surrounding that place so I’m pretty much down with any movie or comic being set there (I’m also a big fan the Mythbusters where they test to see if prisoners could have really escaped from The Rock). I am also a big Sean Connery fan, though who isn’t? Seeing how great he is in this movie makes me wish he’d come back and do a role or two. In the flick he plays the only man to have ever escaped from Alcatraz. he gets teamed with chemical weapons expert Nic Cage to stop Harris and his hired soldiers (one of whom is Candyman) from firing off a series of missles with highly toxic bioweapons inside, which means they’ve got to break back into Alcatraz.
If there’s one thing Bay knows, it’s how to make an awesome movie. This one’s got everything from chase scenes to bad ass lines to bigger than life characters and cushion clenching suspense. It really makes me wonder what happened to Cage, though. If nothing else, these two movies reminded me of how much fun he used to be to watch on screen. Maybe it’s that I used to feel like we were both on the same page (these are goofy fun movies and he’s having a goofy fun time doing it), but somewhere along the line he turned into the guy who would star in Ghost Rider. Yeesh. I’ve also heard some pretty terrible things about Wicker Man and really want to watch it after seeing this Best Scenes from The Wicker Man YouTube video:
Crazy right? Well, I can always go back and watch Con Air and The Rock, both of which looked super awesome on the new TV (I really love this thing). But, hey, maybe John Carpetner’s upcoming Cage starrer Riot will bring him back to action movie prominence (I sure hope so).
So, I’ve been on a bit of an Indiana Jones kick for the past few weeks. On Mother’s Day Spike (I think) was showing the movies in reverse order for some reason. I caught the beginning of Temple of Doom (my favorite as a kid), remembered how much I love these movies, so I tossed my DVD in the tray and watched it without commercials. Still gotta say that the dinner scene is still one of my all-time favorite scenes in movie history. What can I say, I guess I’m still just a kid at heart.
Watching the movie got me thinking about the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV show from the early ’90s. I never watched it when it was on, though I’m not sure why because I probably would have watched just to see the return of chilled monkey brains. Anyway, I added all the DVDs to my Blockbuster queue and have since watched the fist two. Well, the first one and a half.
To catch you up to speed, the show was conceived by George Lucas as a way to tell Indy’s history while also teaching kids about history, the world and all that jazz. It supposedly switches back and forth between a pre-teen Indy and a teenaged one, but the two episodes I saw focused on the younger version. At first I thought watching a kid get in trouble would get a little boring, but the first episode really grabbed my attention as young Indy’s dad takes him, his mother and Indy’s tutor across the world for various reasons. The second episode, however, lost my interest pretty quickly, even with the appearance of Teddy Roosevelt in Africa. It turned from an actual story into an animal film so quickly that the shock almost put me to sleep. Actually, it did put me to sleep. So, while I can’t judge the entire series yet, I’m thinking that I’ll probably like the adventures of the slightly older young Indiana Jones as opposed to the younger young Indiana Jones.
After all this, in preparation for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Em and I watched Last Crusade. I have said for years that Temple is my favorite, but I now have to give that designation to Crusade. It’s just got such a great mix of action and comedy that I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen the entire time. Unlike a lot of trilogies, though, I actually like all of the installments in the Indy series. Even with Star Wars, I don’t like watching New Hope all that much). So immediately after finishing Crusade yesterday, we checked show times and went out to see Crystal Skull. And you know what?
I liked it. I don’t want to get into the plot details too much, but i think a lot people out there need to remember that the previous three Indiana Jones installments have had two acts of God (one of which can be avoided by simply looking away) and one dude who can put his hand through your chest without killing you, take your heart out, again without killing you, show you your own heart and then lower you into a giant pit of fire and lava which finally kills you. So, lighten up people, these are fun, kinda goofy moves that don’t take place in our world, but still continue to wow audiences.
Over the past few days I realized what it is that really grabs me about the Indy movies. Sure, the action is great and the entertainment is top notch, but what really keeps bringing me back is the sense of exploration and discovery with the world around us that seems all but dead in the real world. It seems like every square inch of the Earth has been documented and the sands have given up all their secrets (even if they really haven’t). The Indy movies and TV show reignite that sense of wonder and exploration that I think lies within all of (or at least many of) us.
That being said, I’m off to watch Cannonball Run, so what do I know?