Wednesday, June 1, 2011

James Bond speaks better English than Jean Claude Van Damme (who's Belgian) and kicks more ass than Saoirse Ronan (who's a girl)

Lumping together a few of the movies I saw in the past few days: 

Went to see Hanna at a discount house, and I'm sure I would've liked the movie, being an ultra-stylish action film with touches of weirdness throughout, all done to a thumping Chemical Brothers score, and all -- except I was too distracted by the couple behind me who felt the need to add running audio commentary to the proceedings. It was beautiful, the comments they shared with each other; during one shot of a lonely snowy cabin in the middle of the woods at night, the lady told her man "That's scary!" Then during one scene involving Cate Blanchett's fetchingly cold-blooded (and stylishly-dressed) CIA agent character, the same lady then told the audience, "She's evil!" 

I decided to try something different from the usual "Can you please be quiet?";  I turned around after one of their comments and said "Yeah, I know, right?" in a really friendly way. It was a passive-aggressive masterpiece, that move, because it confused them as well as gave them the message that they were being loud cunts. 

Unfortunately, there were a few other people that Saturday night who figured, hey, it's only $4, no one will care if I take out my cell phone, hold it up so everyone can see it, and start texting my obviously important thoughts to some other asshole miles away. Then a boy with a cup of soda decided that there was no other greater pleasure than to suck on that straw after all the soda was gone, making that sweet, sweet music of a straw slurping the remaining cola moisture hidden in the minute crevices of the ice cubes. After that, he decided to turn the straw into a makeshift talkbox and do his impression of Roger Troutman, that is, when he wasn't just humming through it non-stop. 

At this point, I decided to no longer fight. There is no reward in fighting, only a delay in the inevitable heartbreak that Fighting For A Cause leads to. This fight against Acts of Douchebaggery in the Cinema, it is over. I tapped out. I sat there and Zen'd my soul out of my body and went somewhere else, somewhere quiet. The images of Briony Tallis and Eric Bana beating the shit out of people and bringing down severe pain upon their enemies, they did nothing for me, because my eyes were glazed over and I was no longer in the theater at that point -- only a desiccated shell of my former self was seated 

One day, I will rent the DVD or Blu-ray and watch it proper, the way I should've watched it in the first place -- at home. In fact, I will attend movie theaters far, far less frequently than I used to. Off the top of my head, the only movie I want to see in the theater in the coming weeks (after The Tree of Life, of course) is Super 8, and that's about it, really. Maybe a couple more movies, but other than that, I'm just going to wait to see them at home. If I do go to the movie theater, it will most likely be at a revival house like the New Beverly Cinema, or a Friday midnight show at the Nuart, but even then, I REALLY have to want to watch it. Because it's over, man. The douchebags have won. The cinema is now theirs. It's like Dawn of the Dead and we're running out of safe havens, only it's an even scarier threat than zombies -- it's human beings who should know better.

I don't want to end my current Hanna ramblings on a down note, so I'll tell you my positive Cate Blanchett story. She once held open a door for me at the Arclight Cinema as I did that lame fast walk towards it. She saw me going to the same theater (to a screening for Notes on a Scandal that I was attempting to sneak into) and she held the fuckin' door open for me, because that's what decent people do for their fellow man. Either that or she thought I was handicapped and needed help, because Leonard Maltin did the same thing at the American Cinematheque before a screening of Los Angeles Plays Itself, so maybe there's something about me that screams Please Hold The Door. 

Anyway, she held the door open for me and even gave me a warm smile when I caught up and took over door-holding duties, which was either a display of friendliness or her wanting to laugh at my dumb duck-wobbling ass. I said "thank you" by the way, because that's what you do to show your appreciation -- either that or a simple nod of acknowledgement -- you don't just walk past and ignore the door-holder like most assholes at the post office do to me. 

The next day, I watched Sudden Death, which I really dug back in the final week of December '95 in the theater and I really dug it this time as well. The premise is absurd (Die Hard in a hockey arena) and Van Damme really amazes with his lack of acting ability, but goddammit, he's trying his heart out and so is the movie. With the exception of completely depressing garbage like A Sound of Thunder, Peter Hyams is not only a solid director in the non-artist category of Artisan or Skilled Craftsman (or Hack, if you wanna be a dick about it), he's also one of my favorite cinematographers and it's too bad he only D.P.'s his own flicks (with the exception of the surprisingly tight Universal Soldier: Regeneration, and that's probably because his son directed it). 

Hyams' flicks all have that soft, hazy look combined with his You Don't Have To See Everything aesthetic when it comes to lighting a scene and god forbid you should see one of his joints at the drive-in. But in a properly projected theater (or at home), the shit looks damn near beautiful in its darkness.  If Gordon Willis is the Prince of Darkness in the cinematographer world, then Peter Hyams is the....whatever is below the prince. 

There's an interview somewhere online where Hyams talks about how even though he's worked on some huge Hollywood joints like 2010: The Year We Make Contact and End of Days (that's the one where Arnold figures the best way to fight Satan is with a shitload of guns), he's not only never been interviewed by American Cinematographer magazine, he's also had his membership applications rejected by the American Society of Cinematographers because these assholes hate motherfuckers like him and Steven Soderbergh for being their own directors-of-photography; How DARE a director also light his own set and compose his own shot?! Directors are supposed to be at our mercy -- the cinematographers who are truly responsible for the success of a film, certainly not the director and certainly not those faggy actors and those douchebag screenplays! 

Van Damme plays a former firefighter/current fire inspector named McCord; they explain the accent by saying he's originally from Quebec. The former situation leading to his current one was that he failed to save the life of a little girl during a fire, so he's all bummed about it. Even then, he's trying to keep his head up and be a good dad to his kids (despite divorcing their mother and putting those children in Broken Home City, population: them) by scoring them tickets to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. 

But because the filmmakers intended the title to have more than one meaning, something goes down during the game; a group of asshole mercenaries and former government agents plant C-4 all over the arena and take control of the skybox, holding the Vice President of the United States (and a group of hostages mostly comprised of Eventual Dead Meat) hostage, demanding the usual exorbitant amount of money or else, you know the deal, the innocent get shot or blown up. 

The screenplay is credited to Gene Quintano, the motherfucker responsible for writing Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol and National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1. Now, most of you read those credentials and think What A Bunch Of Shit, but me, I look at those movies and go, Thank You Mr. Quintano For Teaching Me How To Laugh Again. Sure enough, this flick is actually pretty funny (for the most part) when it's not being dead serious, and in some cases, it manages to do both at the same time, like when Van Damme throws down with a 6'5 assassin chick dressed like a giant penguin. 

The bad guys in this movie are Eeeeeevil Boo Hiss types; they make shitty jokes in between shooting innocent unarmed people. The villains in Die Hard were willing to blow up a rooftop of hostages, but in their defense, there's a cold logic to it -- they needed to do that so they could get away while the authorities think they also died in the explosion. But the bad guys here seem to get off on shooting old ladies and pretty blonde girls and while they may not be the most multi-layered characters, let's be honest here -- who gives a fuck. They're evil motherfuckers and it just makes you cheer louder when The Van Dammage shoves a bone into their throats or barbecues their asses with Super Soakers filled with lighter fluid. 

Powers Boothe is the leader of the bad guys and he's genuinely threatening, even when he's making lame jokes. He also seems like the kind of guy who would enjoy a big fat bloody steak; I read somewhere that when he was in the film MacGruber, he had to operate the stick shift for Ryan Phillippe during a scene where Phillippe was driving him around in a jeep, and I bet you Phillippe felt like a fuckin' lame-ass bitch not being able to drive stick in front of a man's man type like Powers Fuckin' Boothe. I bet you at least once, Boothe probably asked Phillippe something like "Really? You don't know how to drive stick?" and even though he probably asked as nicely as possible, because he's Powers Boothe that shit still sounded like "Go put on a dress and heels, woman, and bring Daddy a bourbon". 

Anyway, if you haven't seen Sudden Death, you should. It's a solid action flick, with a pace damn near as fast as the hockey game occurring during the film, and while he doesn't Kumite these assholes as much as he did in other movies, there's still a nice amount of Van Dammage throughout -- plus, he pulls a very well-deserved act of Motherfuckery to the bad guys during the climax. I'd say this movie and Hard Target are my favorite Van Damme flicks. Oh, and Knock Off too -- that movie was made by escaped mental patients/former prop comics from Hong Kong, I'm sure. 

The first movie I rambled about on this blog was Dr. No, and since then, every once in a while I'll pop in a 007 flick. Over the years, I've been watching them in order, catching up on Bond movies I never saw before while re-visiting the rest. Recently, I've gotten up to the Timothy Dalton joints, having an Inspired By The Approaching Expiration Date On Netflix Instant double-feature of The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill

I had never seen The Living Daylights, and for some reason, I was under the impression that it wasn't one of the better Bond joints. How wrong I was; this is a pretty damn good entry in the series, in fact, some people believe this to be the last true Bond movie. I can see their point while not entirely agreeing with them; this is the last Bond film to still have that old-fashioned feel to it. With a few adjustments, this story could've been told back in the 70's with Roger Moore (supposedly it was written with the intention of him starring in it) and it even looks old-fashioned, and I think part of that is due to the work of cinematographer Alec Mills, whose old-school veddy British classical manner of D.P.'ing involves lighting the shit out of everything and composing each shot with less importance on looking stylish and more importance on making sure the audience can understand what's going on. 

In this one, Bond is assigned to make sure Jeroen Krabbe (playing a KGB general, not as Jeroen Krabbe) defects from his country without getting his cap peeled back by those borscht-eating motherfuckers. Said cap-peeling almost happens; a hot Russian cello player is about to sniper the guy until Bond does some sniping on his own, except he doesn't kill her. At first, I was as pissed as Bond's partner in this mission -- this fuckin' guy had his scope aimed right in the center of Russian chick's pretty little forehead, before suddenly changing his aim to the rifle in her arms and blasting on that instead. 

It really looks bad for Bond, given his well-earned reputation as being a notorious slut with the ladies (the common thinking among his colleagues is that he let the little head do the thinking, rather than the big head), but it turns out that he was able to tell that this chick was holding that sniper rifle the way a Catholic priest would deal with a naked pair of titties -- like someone with no fuckin' idea on how to handle that shit. 

This was the last Bond movie John Barry scored, and that's a damn shame. I wonder why he stopped; was he done with doing 007 music or was he never invited back to the James Bond party? Either way, his stuff is missed; nothing against guys like Michael Kamen or David Arnold, because those guys are good, but goddamn, this was John Fuckin' Barry -- a true legend. He was right up there with Morricone, if you ask me. The action music is exciting and catchy, but it's his romantic themes that I really enjoyed, and in true Barry style, they manage to be these grand & majestic tunes that are also tinged with just the right amount of sadness. 

The end credits song, written by Barry and Chrissie Hynde (who also sings it) is a lot like k.d. lang's end credits song in Tomorrow Never Dies in that they're both better than the opening credits song. I guess a-ha was a bigger deal than The Pretenders back in '87, and as for Tomorrow Never Dies, the producers probably heard k.d. lang's song and thought to themselves, "Wow, she sings like Shirley Bassey but she goes down like Ron Jeremy and we need a pretty girl, not some ugly dyke to headline this sucker" and that's a damn shame. 

Joe Don Baker is in this, and because JDB is awesome and fat, he showed up in the Brosnan joints as well, playing a different character. But in this one, he's an arms dealer and his entry in the douchebag sweepstakes is that he's one of these guys who never served in the armed forces but thinks himself a fuckin' military master. He's introduced hanging out among a bunch of statues of famous military conquering motherfuckers like Genghis Khan and that guy Colin Farrell played in that Oliver Stone movie, only they're all made out to have his face. This fuckin' asshole has his own little private army, wears military attire and all of that shit, but he's as military as your average right-wing radio show host (with the exception of that rat-eating mofo G. Gordon Liddy). Fuck this guy. All he's got going for him is that he's played by Joe Don Baker. 

The next Bond film, Licence to Kill, is like the Timothy Dalton of Bond movies, if that makes any sense and I'm sure it doesn't; this one is pretty dark and intense compared to other Bonds, and that's kind of the complaint some people had about Timothy Dalton's portrayal of Bond. They forget that Bond's a dude who's been through some serious shit -- all that killing with a licence can get to a guy sometimes, and I like to think that compared to Connery & Moore, Dalton's Bond is less about drinking-for-fun and more of a drinking-to-forget type. 

The Netflix Instant version was the unrated cut (reinstating stuff that was trimmed to get a PG-13), so it was pretty cool and even a little jarring to see some of the extra violence -- a motherfucker's head goes Scanners in one scene and you see one poor guy's bloody stump after Deep Blue Sea starts chomping on the fuckin' guy. It was probably still jarring in the PG-13 version; up until now, the violence in a Bond movie had never been that particularly visual in it's brutality. But hey, this one's got a particularly brutal story. 

Shortly after his bro Felix Leiter is maimed and Leiter's new bride is murdered (and it's pretty obvious she was raped too), Bond resigns and has his licence to kill revoked as a result, but that really makes no difference to the guy, because it's fuckin' Revenge Time and he's out killing the guys responsible and the ones he's not killing, he's setting them up to be royally motherfucked in one way or another. It's pretty awesome to watch, all this motherfucking. 

Bond uses his particular set of skills to get in with drug kingpin Robert Davi (doing the Eye-tie playing-a-Latino thing). Davi's a pretty interesting villain; he does some pretty harsh shit to people which is actually pretty typical for a Latin Druglord (he has his men tear the heart out of a guy who was dicking Davi's dame), but I honestly didn't consider him nearly as evil as your typical Bond supervillain. I mean, he's a businessman -- he's not out to kill millions of people (not directly, anyway) or take over the world, he just wants to make money. Based on what I see him do in this flick, his big deal is loyalty, and if you're loyal to him, then he's cool with you. It's only if you try to fuck him (or his money or his lady) that he'll then teach you the most painful and permanent of lessons. 

If anyone is genuinely Eeeevil, it's his right-hand hatchet man, played by a very young, rail-thin Benicio Del Toro. That dude really enjoys the perks of his job, watching the victims suffer and beg, or raping helpless former actresses from Three's Company before murdering them. Yeah, that chick is in this movie too, as is that one chick who was in Law & Order for a while. You also have that dude from Quest for Fire and Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (Stephen Lang must've been busy) and you also have Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat jumping in for some Intimidating Asian fun. 

There's also a bit of a Die Hard reunion because both Agent Johnsons (Davi and Grand Bush) are in this film, not to mention Michael Kamen is the film's music composer -- adding even more shades of Die Hard to the action palette used in painting this picture. Also, Wayne Newton is in this movie too, even though I couldn't quite figure his character out; he's either dumb, or weird, or just plain blinded by backed-up semen, given his behavior near the end and what he'll accept from a beautiful girl. 

The downside of this movie is that, yeah, this doesn't quite feel like a Bond movie compared to others, but that's because the whole point of this movie is that Bond isn't operating by the same set of rules as in the other flicks. He's gone rogue (or renegade, if you want to get all Captain Kirk about it), he's not even supposed to be doing this, so he's going about things differently. You know those awesome moments of cold-blooded ownage in a Bond movie like Moore kicking that asshole in the Mercedes off a cliff in For Your Eyes Only, or Connery killing the assassin who ran out of bullets in Dr. No, or Brosnan disarming Vincent Schiavelli and then shooting him in the fuckin' face in Tomorrow Never Dies? Well, that's pretty much all Dalton does to the bad guys in Licence to Kill, and that, dear readers, is what I consider the upside of this movie. 

It's interesting to find out that this movie was a disappointment at the box office in the U.S., and I would guess it's because it came out in the same summer as Batman, Lethal Weapon 2, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Abyss, and Ghostbusters II as its competition. Goddamn, that was a pretty good summer for Hollywood flicks. Hell, Ghostbusters II wasn't even that great, if I remember correctly, but nowadays it would probably be showered with praise in comparison to most of today's big-budget summer extravaganzas. I wonder if people figured Bond was old news and too proper compared to Mad Mel's broken collarbone theatrics, which is why they didn't bother going to see this movie -- which is kind of fucked up because I think Licence to Kill and Lethal Weapon 2 are actually kindred spirits, both solid examples in the Die Motherfucker Die sub-genre of action movies. 

Supposedly, Entertainment Weekly called this one of the worst Bond movies, and I guess it is if you consider how un-Bond it is in comparison to the others, but that doesn't mean it's a shit movie. I mean, Diamonds are Forever and A View to a Kill are among the worst in my opinion, and those were still very much Bond movies. This, on the other hand, is Good Times and when you get down to it, that's all that matters. Also, there's one of the most awesome Iguanas I've ever seen in a movie, the fuckin' thing is wearing a diamond-studded collar because it's all about bling-bling.

Anyway, that's it. I leave you with some NSFW parting words from Mr. Ice-T, which actually kinda could've worked as an intro to Licence to Kill: