Goldeneye

  • Title:  Goldeneye
  • Director:  Martin Campbell
  • Date:  1995
  • Studio:  United Artists (MGM)
  • Genre:  Action
  • Cast:  Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Judi Dench
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“If you think for one moment I don’t have the balls to send a man out to die, your instincts are dead wrong.  I have no compution about sending you to your death.  But I won’t do it on a whim.”  — M

“Need I remind you 007, that you have a license to kill — not to break the traffic laws.” — Q

Goldeneye is Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond film and he does a marvelous job — Brosnan plays to his strengths, giving Bond a core of steel and toughness, that isn’t all that nice.  With Brosnan’s portrayal –the charm, clothes, and air of sophistication are a thin veneer that, at best, covers an icy man.  The villainess in this film is Onatopp, a Russian pilot and assassin, who can kill men by squeezing them until they stop breathing.  Yet, she isn’t all that different than Bond — both are functioning psychopaths — Bond more functioning than Onatopp — who clearly gets off on violence and killing.

The Bond franchise re-invented itself  with Brosnan, bringing in Judi Dench as the new female “M” — and she has more balls than any previous M.  Dench is wonderful as the hard-hitting head of MI 6.  Samantha Bond is excellent as Moneypenny — able to give as good as she gets to Bond, and turning down his habitual offers. Desmond Llewelyn is back as Q, but fun and light-hearted.

The plot of the film involves a stolen Russian satellite weapon, an EMP-generator code-named, Goldeneye.  But unlike the cold-war plots of Bond vs. Russia or China — the first half of Goldeneye involves Bond trying to figure out who has the weapon.  Suspects include a Russian arms dealer named Janus, a runaway general, or the two programmers who escaped the disaster when the weapon was stolen and its base destroyed.  Bond eventually discovers Janus is none other than Alec — an old friend and MI6 agent who’s not dead as Bond thought but has gone rogue.  Alec’s working with one of the programmers from the Siberan installation.  Bond ends up working with the other one, a female computer programmer named Natalia.  She’s tough, smart, and although she sort of falls for Bond’s charms, she seems to know his involvement with her won’t be permanent.  They eventually end up in Cuba where Bond and Natalia destroy the satellite antenna and also cause the actual Goldeneye satellite to burn up in the atmosphere.

But it’s a typical Bond film in that there is plenty of action, vehicle chases, flying bullets, and gorgeous women.  The nice thing about this film is the women are all strong:  M, Moneypenny, Onatopp, Natalia  — none are just mindless pretty faces.  But at the same time, this isn’t some “feminst counter-strike” at Bond — the film hits all the line items one has come to expect from a Bond film.  It’s highly enjoyable, if a bit long.  And Pierce Brosnan is gorgeous.  Drop dead gorgeous.  Plus he’s talented and lights-up the screen, with presence and magnetism.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Green Lantern:  Emerald Knights

Ghostbusters

  • Title:  Ghostbusters
  • Director:  Ivan Reitman
  • Date:  1984
  • Studio:  Columbia Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Fantasy, Comedy
  • Cast:  Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Annie Potts, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Back off man, I’m a scientist!” — Dr. Peter Venkman

“Yes, of course, they’re serious.” –Janine

“If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.”  — Winston Zeddemore

Ghostbusters was a favorite film of mine when I first saw it when it came out, and it remains a favorite.  It’s one of those movies where I can quote most of the dialogue.  I also enjoy and own the complete The Real Ghostbusters animated series.

But what seems hard to imagine now was just how revolutionary the film was at the time it was made.  Prior to Ghostbusters, most science fiction movies were deadly serious or even depressing (think 2001, Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, etc).  Ghostbusters is funny — and works as a comedy as equally well as a SF/Fantasy film.  Second, the film used real newscasters and television personalities in it’s montage sequence in the middle (including Larry King and Casey Kasem), as well as real newspapers and magazines with obviously created headlines about the Ghostbusters — this placed a fantasy/SF film in a real context.  Also, the special effects were state of the art for the time, and included model work, matte paintings, and hand animation — this would have been a bit early for CGI.  In many ways, Ghostbusters, as a film is the grandfather of a lot of today’s popular films.

The film also has an almost vignette style to it — though the vignettes build on and support each other, building to the big confrontation on the top of Dana Barrett’s apartment building with Gozer.  Drs. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stanz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spangler (Harold Ramis), are paranormal researchers at Columbia University but are fired for wasting department resources and poor skills at research and publishing.  However, having just actually encountered their first real ghost at the New York Public Library, Peter comes up with the idea of opening their own paranormal elimination and storage business.  At first, they aren’t getting anywhere.  Then one client, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) arrives, and Peter immediately takes a shine to her.  Peter’s initial investigation doesn’t really turn up much, but Dana and her neighbor Lewis Tully (Rick Moranis) will prove to be at the center of  the paranormal happenings.  Meanwhile, EPA Agent Walter Peck, whom Peter’s irritated once, shows up at Ghostbuster Central and shuts down the protection grid for the ghost containment system.  It blows sky high, as does the building.  The Ghostbusters are arrested, but as ghosts take over the city, and Dana’s apartment is obviously the center of it all, the mayor gets them out of jail and Peter convinces him to allow them to try to stop Gozer.  They do, of course, in a thrilling and exciting sequence.

Overall, Ghostbusters is a really good film.  It’s funny, clever, intelligent, and has a fair amount of action, as well as good special effects.  I do highly recommend it.

Recommendation:  See It
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Goldeneye

Get Smart

  • Title:  Get Smart
  • Director:  Peter Segal
  • Date:  2008
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers (Time Warner)
  • Genre:  Comedy, Action
  • Cast:  Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, James Caan, Masi Oka
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“All I’m saying is that until we understand that our enemies are human beings, we will never be able to defeat them.  Yes, they are Bad Guys but that is what they do, not who they are.” — Max Smart

“So, to be clear – you’re not promoting me because I do such a great job.” — Max Smart

I loved this film when I originally saw it at the theater, and it’s still a very enjoyable movie to re-watch.  The movie begins with Max in his apartment, which is covered with post-it notes, some motivational (“You can do it,” and “8th time’s the charm,” etc.) some merely practical reminders.  We then follow Max as he listens to Russian chatter on his way to work.  Max walks into the Control museum exhibit at the Smithsonian but when no one is looking slips in — through the complicated multi-door entrance seen in the opening credits of the original TV show (updated slightly with CGI effects), finally he reaches the phone booth and uses that as an elevator to reach CONTROL.  Far from the dis-banded organization described by the museum guards, Control is an alive and vibrant secret intelligence organization.  Max is their top analyst, a job he is actually very competent at — picking up on subtleties that agents ignore and even other analysts don’t catch.  He’s even friends with two CONTROL scientists – Bruce and Lloyd, who design the various gadgets used by the agents.  Max had been very over weight and out of shape, but he’s slimmed down in order to pass the physical portion of his agent’s exam.

Max is playing paintball war games with Agent 23, being teased unmercifully by the other agents when he’s called into the chief’s office.  The chief  tells him the good news – he’s finally passed his agent’s exam (we learn later with an A+ or perfect score).  However, the Chief isn’t going to promote him to agent status because he’s too good an analyst.  Bummed — Max leaves the office for the day, talks to Fang (the dog) and literally bumps into Agent 99.  When he returns to Control headquarters, the place has been attacked.  In the aftermath, it’s learned that the identities of all CONTROL agents have been compromised and the agents are being systematically killed.  The chief decides to sent Max out as a full agent, pairing him with the more experienced Agent 99, who’s just had a complete facial re-sculpt, and thus is unrecognizable.

They travel to Russia to track down a KAOS threat to use yellow cake plutonium to make a bomb.  They find the KAOS assassin at his mansion and the yellow cake at a bakery, but despite Max’s best efforts, he’s set-up so it appears he is the double agent who attacked CONTROL.  However, while in lock-up, despite his own nightmares, Max figures it out and travels to LA — where Max, 99, and the Chief stop the bombing of the Disney concert hall and some very special guests.  They also figure out who the double-agent is.

Get Smart is a lesson in how a TV Show to Movie remake should be done.  I loved that not only is Max earnest, which he was in the series, but he’s smart and competent.  The chief isn’t kidding when he calls Max his best analyst.  What keeps Max from being the next James Bond, is he’s inexperienced.  And Carell’s also great at physical comedy — so there are some very funny parts to the movie — both physical and witty.  I also really, really appreciated that Carell did NOT even attempt to do the “Maxwell Smart” voice that Don Adams made so famous.  I think if he had, the movie would have been painful to watch instead of very enjoyable.

The second part to the excellent remake status of this film is that the action sequences are very well done.  In the series, Max actually was a good hand-to-hand and sword fighter (see “The King Lives?” and “To Sire, with Love” for Max’s sword-fighting abilities); the film takes that competence in action and extends it to Max’s abilities to figure things out and solve a mystery, basically.  Max’s issues come from a lack of real world experience — something 99 ends up teaching him, not a complete lack of ability.  And he does have the book smarts, as a successful analyst with over eight years of experience, and, having gotten an A+ on his agent’s exam (99 received an A-).  Also, Max is a really nice guy too — something that came from the series as well.  Max’s ability to sympathize with and help others (the overweight girl he dances with at the assassin’s party; his befriending of a very physically large KAOS agent, which leads to the agent passing a coded message to Max which then helps Max solve the case) also becomes important to the film – something I really liked.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film..  Honestly, before making a film of Starsky and Hutch, or I Spy, or The Man from U.N.C.L.E. — the film producers should be required to watch this, and Bewitched.  Maybe then we’d get better remake films.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4.5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Ghostbusters