The cold open of Goldfinger has in it seemingly every James Bond trope. Bond (Sean Connery) sneaks and fights his way into a guarded facility. He uses a gadget to blow something up (for God knows what reason). Then, he strips down to a white suit and diffuses into the social world, where he rendezvouses with another agent. There’s also an attractive woman dancing, just for good measure. A woman Bond then attempts to bed, only to be approached from behind by an armed assailant. And, as always, the altercation ends in a one-liner.
It is James Bond in a nutshell.
Following this cold open, we get one of the better Bond opening title sequences. A stark black background and projected film footage casts gold-painted women in shadows. All the while, Shirley Bassey’s voice erupts above the stagnant visuals. It isn’t hard to see Continue reading Goldfinger (1964) Movie Review
From Russia With Love, the second film adaptation of Ian Fleming’s work to depict MI6 agent James Bond, cold opens on a cat and mouse chase at night. Bond (Sean Connery) steps out of the shadows and moves silently across the grassy landscape, knowing that he is being tailed. The assailant (Robert Shaw), stalks Bond, then retreats to the cover of a nearby bush to wait for the perfect moment to strike. Surprisingly, he gets that perfect moment. Bond goes down, choked by wire at the hands of the assassin. The super spy is bested.
Or is he.
Lights go up, and an army of men are revealed. The event was a training exercise and Bond: a grunt in a Connery mask. Someone is out to get Bond. Someone very powerful.
Continue reading From Russia With Love (1963) Movie Review
1962’s Dr. No is the first adaptation of Ian Fleming’s work, bringing to the screen his iconic super spy character James Bond. The first time we see Bond (Sean Connery) in this film, the stage is already set for Connery to set the precedent for how the spy is meant to look and act on screen. He puffs casually at a cigarette as he gambles and flirts with his female competitor (Eunice Gayson). His look is suave, his mannerisms subtle and laid back. Connery immediately embodies Fleming’s sharp-witted and womanizing Bond.
The film is littered with retrospective moments in which we can see precedents being set for the franchise. The iconic score blares in right off the bat, as we stare down the barrel of a gun. This theme repeats itself many times throughout the film. Bond and M (Bernard Lee) discuss Continue reading Dr. No (1962) Movie Review
Young violent offender Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) is “starred up,” which is to say that he is transferred to adult prison from juvenile detention. After several violent altercations between Eric and both inmates and prison guards, he is put into rehabilitative treatment with volunteer psychologist Oliver Baumer (Rupert Friend). Serving a life sentence in the same prison is Love’s father Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), who does his best to protect the kid from Continue reading Starred Up (2013) Movie Review
A divorced mother of two (Kathryn Hahn) hasn’t seen or talked to her parents in 15 years. After all this time, they contact her online asking to see their grandchildren (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould), whom they have never met. She reluctantly agrees on her children’s insistence.
Her children are a cute sibling pair, natural and appropriately childish. Tyler is charismatic and naive, free style rapping with a train conductor and purporting to “sext” with classmates. He desperately wants to live up to a masculine stereotype that he does not truly embody.
Becca is verbose and dramatic with her words as she narrates her way through exposition like a quick knife-stroke through butter. She has recently armed herself with cameras, hoping to tape their week-long visit in a style as close to a professional documentary as she can muster.
Shymalan channels an inexperienced auteur in Becca. Early interactions are light and bubbly as she sets the scene for her “documentary.” It also serves a meta purpose in its intended humor. She explains that with a camera you need to build tension and make people want to imagine what is lingering just beyond the frame. It sounds very much like Shymalan is Continue reading The Visit (2015) Movie Review
Alex Gibney’s Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine opens on a young, uncharacteristically nervous Steve Jobs being prepped for a television interview. There is an inherent humanism to his uneasy laughter as he explains that he might be sick.
We are then transported to a different world. A more familiar world. Swarms of people are mourning, weeping for Jobs, holding up iPads with candles on their screens. This is the setup for Continue reading Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2015) Movie Review
“I want to be sex-in-the-bathroom people,” could be the working thesis of Slow Learners, the comedy from Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce. Platonic friends Anne (Sarah Burns) and Jeff (Adam Pally) aren’t successful in their personal lives. After many failed attempts at relationships, they decide to wholly change their image.
Sound conventional? Don’t worry, it is.
Continue reading [Quickie]: Slow Learners (2015) Movie Review
Director Jon Watt’s Cop Car opens on two boys (Hays Wellford and James Freedson-Jackson) walking through a field carrying walking sticks as big as their bodies. They alternate reciting swear words; one gleefully energetic and the other dourly reluctant. Both are confident in their juvenile assumptions.
The pair come across a police squad car parked in the woods with no one attending to it. They cautiously approach it as if it is some wild beast, throwing rocks at it and fearfully running up to touch it. Then, they realize that Continue reading Cop Car (2015) Movie Review
In the Hungarian film White God, young Lili’s (Zsofia Psotta) mixed-breed dog Hagen (Body and Luke) is abandoned by her overbearing father (Sandor Zsoter) and left for dead. Now a stray, Hagen wanders the streets fruitlessly searching for his owner, only to find himself among a group of other strays who run about the city avoiding the human world that has rejected them.
Large swathes of the first half of this film show Hagen walking through heavy-trafficked streets, moving in and out of the hands of various dog-hating lowlifes. At times, minutes go by without Continue reading White God (2014) Movie Review
Craig Daniels (Pat Healy) is a mechanic and a family man. At least, he was a mechanic. Then he got fired. On the same day that he received an eviction notice. As he scrubs his grimy hands at the end of his short last day, a closeup reveals the wedding ring on his finger. A finger that is tensely tapping against the sink with the knowledge that its owner has fallen into dire straits.
Enter Vince (Ethan Embry), the sleazy but well meaning high school friend of Craig. Vince is a debt collector. The off-the-books type of debt collector. Then enter Colin (David Koechner), a seemingly well-off stranger who just wants some drinking company on his wife Violet’s (Sara Paxton) birthday. As per the genre’s usual tropes, something seems off about Colin and Violet. Colin is uncharacteristically charismatic and friendly. Violet is uninterested in almost everything.
As the night moves on and the drinks start flowing, Colin starts engaging Craig and Vince in a series of bets. They are innocent bets, but they come with tempting Continue reading Cheap Thrills (2014) Movie Review