Friday, November 20, 2015

Spectre" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new James Bond movie "Spectre" and DVDs "Saint Laurent" and "The Wolfpack."  The Book of the Week is "Staging Your Comeback: A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Russian Ark."]



Spectre


Bond (Daniel Craig) must go rogue to discover an international plot to take over the world's intelligence operations and "M" is under siege to shut down the 00 Program.

The film opens with a stunning fight aboard a helicopter hovering perilously over a mob of people celebrating the Day of the Dead in Mexico City.  In the fight, Bond throws a hit man named Sciarra from the helicopter because he had been planning to blow up a stadium.  However, when Bond returns to London, he is grounded by the new "M" (now wonderfully played by Ralph Fiennes), because his actions in Mexico City have caused a diplomatic crisis because Bond was acting on his own.  Turns out he was acting as per a video he received from the old "M" (Judi Dench), whose voice from the grave told him that if she died he needed to find a man called Sciarra and kill him. 

"And don't miss the funeral."

He wouldn't miss it for the world or he would have missed Sciarra's wife (Monica Bellucci), a new kind of Bond Girl, or should I say Bond Woman? She is a hot 51! 

After a bit of a sexy tete a tete with her, Bond is able to find out about and infiltrate a secret meeting, led by Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), where a successor to Sciarra is named (a typical hulking bad guy we have come to expect in Bond films minus Jaws' metal teeth) and assigned to assassinate a former Bond adversary and member of their secret society, Mr. White, (Jesper Christensen), codenamed 'the Pale King," who has become a liability to them.  As Bond follows lead after lead, he discovers SPECTRE and just how many tentacles it has.

Meanwhile, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), the new head of British Intelligence - codename "C" - is working to modernize and digitize global espionage with a new global surveillance corporation called Nine Eyes that will make agents like Bond obsolete.  At the start of the film, MI6 has been merged with MI5 and the 00 Program is to be suspended, thus making James redundant. James is now forced to go rogue in order to find out who killed "M" and put all of the pieces of this convoluted plot together (This reminded me of the most recent "Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation" where the IMF was going to be abolished and Ethan Hunt had to go rogue). 

The formula we have come to expect for James Bond movies is all here:  cold opening with a hint of the iconic theme, spectacular fight scene/chase scene as the film begins, sexy Bond women, requisite car chases, Bond being captured by the bad guy, who instead of just shooting his ass, always ties him up in some way in order to torture him, gloat, and tell him all of the details of his diabolical plan so that when Bond escapes, and of course he always does, he can thwart him.

Speaking of the iconic theme, I am going to treat you with it right here so you can listen to it while you read the rest of my review.  I thought it would be very atmospheric.  And you are very welcome.




(One of my favorite things about the Bond films is the theme music used to punctuate the plot from the little teaser undercurrents of the theme as the film plays out to the full blown theme as Bond rolls away in his Aston Martin after beating the crap out of somebody.  The later films didn't use the theme enough.  So glad it's back).
 
Speaking of what's back...SPECTRE is back, first mentioned in "Dr. No," and here James discovers just how much messing with his life SPECTRE has been doing and who was behind it all along.

This is the fourth Bond film starring Daniel Craig, and one drawback is that you not only need to remember what Craig did in his other films, it helps to know what went on all those 20+ Bond films before, which is a problem, because I have a hard enough time keeping track of what is happening in THIS film.

Craig is the 6th Bond (I'm not counting David Niven in the comedy version of "Casino Royale").  First we had Sean Connery, the iconic Bond, though he didn't really fit author Ian Fleming's literary version. Connery was followed by George Lazenby - who? Then came the wise-cracking Roger Moore Bond followed by a darker, no-nonsense-get-the-job-done Timothy Dalton Bond.  He was replaced by the cool, debonair Pierce Brosnan Bond and now we have the dark, sensitive, brooding but rough-edged Bond in Daniel Craig, but in this fourth Craig film, we see more of the Bond formula that we have come to know and love.  Welcome back, James.

Sam Mendes, who is directing again after success with "Skyfall," which was the highest grossing film in the UK, highest grossing film in the James Bond series, highest grossing film for Sony and MGM worldwide, the second highest-grossing film of 2012 and it won a bunch of awards, has done another great job here, especially of unifying the "old" Bond with the new. And you know what? This might be very controversial because everyone LOVED "Skyfall," but I liked this one better, because Craig was a bit more like the Bond of old and it incorporated more of the iconic Bond touches.

"Spectre" is the longest and most expensive Bond film and there is an opening epitaph which has never happened before ("The dead are alive") which is rather disconcerting.  We Bond fans don't like new things.  But other than that, this fourth outing for Craig harks back to the older films with Bond delivering his cheeky, smart ass lines, much more of the iconic theme music in evidence and with the return of the old gun-barrel opening. Like I said, we Bond fans like tradition.



The ending is ambiguous, as rumor has it that this is Craig's last outing as Bond.
Also the franchise is in question.  They have long ago run out of Ian Fleming's original stories and the Broccoli's will end their association with Sony so one wonders where the series will go from here.

Despite some implausible plot elements, some continuity issues, some red herrings ("The Pale King" title got lost somewhere) and a plot with so many characters and twists that I didn't know what was going on half the time (but that's nothing new for me), I still love the Bond films.

You don't go to a James Bond film for reality.  You go to be transported to exotic locations, see a bunch of stuff get blown up and hear our James say really cheeky things to the bad guys when he is about to be killed.  And of course, we want to hear him say, when asked who he is, "Bond, James Bond."

Bond movies are growing up.  We have a 51 year old Bond girl, er, woman.  Likewise, we have a new kind of love interest for James in Lea Seydoux (I mean, he actually seems to want a RELATIONSHIP) and a new "M" with stuff of his own to do. Ralph Fiennes as the new "M" really works.  I love Ralph anyway, but he brings a new dimension to the character of "M." He is joined once again by Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw as "Q." 

Chillingly, this film is very timely in light of the horrible terrorist attacks in Paris last weekend and around the world. In the film "C," along with SPECTRE, is able to pitch the need for global surveillance because of several terrorist attacks taking place around the world.  Yes, we want protection but do we want a worldwide Big Brother?

Rosy the Reviewer says...Bond fans go to Bond films for a reason and this one has all of the reasons.


 

Some Movies You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)



***Now Out on DVD***







Saint Laurent (2014)

 
 
Biopic of the life of designer Yves Saint Laurent  (Gaspard Ulliel) at the height of his career.
 
The film begins in 1974 at the height of Saint Laurent's fame but he is already experiencing the byproducts of a rather dissolute life of drugs and alcohol and wondering what's next.
 
If you didn't know the key players or the particulars of Saint Laurent's life, you might not know what is going on some of the time as the film starts with Saint Laurent at 33, already a fashion celebrity running his own fashion house and rubbing elbows with the likes of Andy Warhol and "The Beautiful People," but strictly as a theatrical piece, a movie about a young successful designer looking for a muse and looking for love, this works.  One of Saint Laurent's muses was Loulou de la Falaise, played by Lea Seydoux , who appears this year as James Bond's love interest in "Spectre (see my review above)."
 
Just as Saint Laurent lived a stylish life and set the style for a whole generation, director Bertrand Bonello has delivered a stylish film that captures the excesses of the late 60's and 70's.  It's beautifully photographed and beautifully styled, with fantastic clothes designed by Anais Romand.  He also explores what it was like for a gay man during those times. It reminded me of Oliver Stone's "The Doors," and that is fitting, as Saint Laurent was a rock star of fashion. 

Bonello also uses the split screen very effectively to show the fashionistas whooping it up on one side with pictures of the Vietnam War next to it.  The lifestyle of "The Beautiful People" of the 70's belied what was going on in the world.  The jet setters jet setted seemingly oblivious to what was going on in the world.  They were popping pills and having lots of sex. 

In the last four years there have been three films about Saint Laurent, two of them theatrical biopics released within five months of each other, this one and "Yves Saint Laurent," directed by Jalil Lespert.   The other was a documentary - L'amour Fou," - released in 2011 by Saint Laurent's longtime companion, Pierre Berge.

Does the life of Yves Saint Laurent warrant that many films?  

Yes, because they are all different. Saint Laurent was a rock star of fashion with a complicated life and a complicated psyche. This film is less linear than the Lespert version and focuses more on that complicated psyche and less on Saint Laurent's relationship with Pierre Berge.  The documentary was the only one authorized by Berge, fittingly, and captures more of Saint Laurent's later years.

But does this film need to be two and a half hours long especially since it only covers Saint Laurent's life from 1967 to 1975?  No. There were all kinds of strange little scenes that could have been left out but the film does capture the glamour of the fashion world in the 60's and 70's, the gay lifestyle and the torment of genius.

 I cried at the end as Laurent, now old and alone, relives his greatest fashion triumphs with Callas singing the aria from "Tosca" in the background.
 
Think a very long tres chic French Lifetime Movie

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like biopics, fashion and the pop culture of the 60's and 70's, you will like this film.
(In French with English subtitles)
 




 


 
    The Wolfpack (2015)


A documentary about six brothers who were locked away from the world and relieved their deprivation by reenacting the movies they saw.

By now you have probably figured out what a big fan I am of documentaries, especially cinema verite.  This film is cinema verite at its best.

20/20 did a piece on these young men a couple of months ago, but if you are unfamiliar with their story, here it is.  

Susanne met Oscar Angulo in Peru.  He is Peruvian and was also a Hare Krishna devotee.  It was not clear if he was a Hare Krishna when he and his wife met or not, but by the time they both married and found themselves in New York City, that was the deal.  A faithful Hare Krishna man is supposed to have 10 children (that poor women), but Susanne only managed seven: six boys and one girl: Bhagavan, Govinda, Narayana, Mukunda, Krisna and Jagadesh — and their sister, Visnu. Susanne and Oscar raised their children in a four bedroom apartment in a housing project in the heart of Manhattan with virtually no exposure to the outside world, except for what they could see from the windows of their apartment.  

However Oscar was obsessed with movies, so the boys made their lives bearable by watching movies.  They borrowed movies from the library or bought discounted DVDs and VHS tapes, and were allowed to watch movies nonstop.  They would watch the movies over and over and then re-enact them. They would write out the film's dialogue by hand, make costumes and props from what could be found around the apartment, and they filmed their reenactments. Favorites were "Pulp Fiction," "Reservoir Dogs, the "Godfather" films and "JFK." But one day one of the sons decided to go outside by himself and then everything changed.

Director Crystal Moselle was given unprecedented access to this family that rarely went out into the world.  She met the boys by accident when they were out "in a pack" all dressed in black wearing Ray-Ban glasses as per "Reservoir Dogs."  She chased after them and befriended them. She filmed them over the course of four years and lets the boys and their mother tell their own stories (the father is rarely seen). We also get to watch the boys act in and film their movies. 

One son says a movie "makes me feel like I'm living...because it's magical...a bit...If I didn't have movies life would be pretty lonely and there would be no reason to go on..."

They were all home-schooled but in the summer they might go out once in awhile with their Dad; in winter they rarely went out; and one year they never went out at all.

For some reason Oscar believed something bad would happen to his family if they left the apartment.  However, Oscar also refused to work because he didn't want to be "a slave to society."

All of the boys had hair down to their waists as per their father's beliefs and Sanskrit names.  The whole family slept together in a large bed. The boys likened their father to a landowner or a warden - they were the workers or the prisoners. (The little girl didn't seem to be a part of the boys' films and is rarely seen in the film).

Though the boys seem to really love their mother and she seems kindly to them, one can't help but wonder how a woman could be so cowed as to allow this to go on.  She doesn't come off as very bright or very worldly but there were also some implications in the film that she was abused and Oscar was a bit nuts and a drunk.

What is stunning about this film is how "normal" these boys seem despite their very abnormal upbringing.  They seem happy and relatively adjusted.

Moral of the story:  Movies matter.  They can keep you sane.

One boy sums up his experience: "It was all fear - fear was put in..I still have fear but who doesn't?"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a remarkable film that shows the resilience of the human spirit.

 


***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***


271 to go!
 
Have YOU seen this classic film?




Russian Ark (2002)

 
A 19th century French aristocrat (Sergey Dreyden) leads the viewer on a history of three centuries of Russian history amidst the rooms and galleries of St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum.
 
A film by Alexander Sokurov that uses one unbroken shot for the entire film that had to be completed in one day.
 
The film begins through the eyes of an unseen narrator (who is Sokurov himself) who finds himself in 19th century Russia.  He doesn't know why he is there. He wanders around following another person who appears confused. That person is a French aristocrat. They pass through Russian history from Catherine the Great through Czar Nicholas, and, through a series of shifts back and forth through time, we see the art of the Hermitage and the history of Russia. As the camera moves from room to room, history slowly unfolds interrupted by odd interactions between the diplomat and those he finds there, almost as if in tableau.
 
 Why it's a Must See: "[This film] is a work of vaunting ambition...[and] what really makes this dreamy mix of allegory and politics so memorable is the director's visual approach.  Pushing the envelope of digital technology, the entire drama unravels in a single unbroken take...requiring 2,000 extras...and unfolding across thirty galleries, hallways, and rooms...The results are breathtaking...The result is one of the great technical achievements of modern cinema."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"
 
Roger Ebert said in his review in 2003,
"The cinematographer Tillman Buttner, using a Steadicam and high-def digital technology, joined with some 2,000 actors in a tight-wire act in which every mark and cue had to be hit without fail; there were two broken takes before the third time was the charm."


I can appreciate what it took to film this in one take and the recreation of life before, during and after the Czar, but for me, this was a painful film experience, and I have a high tolerance for painful film experiences. It doesn't matter the feat of execution if the film is not engaging. Despite the nice tour of the Hermitage and the beautiful costumes, I pretty much didn't have a clue what was going on most of the time, because it had no plot and was basically a series of beautiful scenes that seemed to have no continuity.

I would rather see the Hermitage for myself without all of the dramatics.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you have interest in the Hermitage and Russian history, you might enjoy this but I found it a snooze fest.
(In Russian with English subtitles)
 
 
 

***Book of the Week***
 
 
 
A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45 by Christopher Hopkins (2008) 
 
 
Hopkins is known as "The Makeover Guy" and, god knows, we women over 45 need him!

This guy likes older women and wants them to look their best.

"I believe that as women mature, the more beautiful they become but the less attractive they often feel." 

So Hopkins offers us older ladies some fashion and beauty advice as well as a pep talk consisting of affirmations we should say every day.

"I must, I must, I must increase my bust!"  Just kidding.  That was an affirmation I used to say when I was a kid.

He wants us to Aspire (to be the best we can be), Approve (of ourselves and believe that we deserve it), Assume (we will get what we want) and Affirm (know that we are IT)!

He also gives tips on fashion, make-up, hair, standing up straight (sounds like my mother) and even how best to clean out your closet.
 
 
Did you know that...
 
"As women age, they might notice a shortening waist...Consider petites.  Sometimes you might be of average height, but petite dresses, jackets, and tops will fit better in the waist."
(I can just see the salesperson at Macy's saying to me, "Did you mean to buy this PETITE dress)?
 
"The tighter your sleeves, the bigger your breasts." 
(I don't know if this is good news or bad news). 
 
If you have a big tummy, wear your jacket open "for maximum profile flattery."
(What, so in profile you can see it sticking out more)?
 
"A butt without shape wear is like Jell-O without a mold."
(Did I need to know that)?
 
"The most slenderizing handbag will never be taller than ten inches, thicker than three inches, or wider than a foot."
(So I guess this one is out)

 
 
 

Big earrings are usually wrong for a woman of a certain age as are skinny jeans.
(He didn't say that as much but I know he would think it)!
 
"If your cleavage is your ticket to attention, take this test.  Next time you're wearing a low-cut top, look straight in the mirror and cross your arms.  If you don't see 'crepe paper crinkling,' give yourself the cleavage permit."
(So I guess, otherwise, forget it)?

Speaking of a test, there is one section of the book where you get to take a little quiz (we love quizzes, right?) to determine your "image profile."  There are six profiles: Classic, Casual, Romantic, Dramatic, Innovative and Alluring.
 
I got "Dramatic."  Geez, quelle surprise.
 
"Blend in? Absolutely not. You like the attention of the spotlight and it shows in your style.  You have a knack for being distinctive and striking. To appear like everyone else is not an option.  Instead, you prefer to have your own look, dressing with flair and drama."
 
"Your image buzz words: stunning, dazzling, glamorous, gorgeous, exquisite..."
 
OK, great, good, I like that. 
 
But then...
 
"To you, being unique is worth the effort.  All this drama, however, can be intimidating to others.  They can see you as aloof, insincere, self-absorbed, or pretentious...It is important to remember as you age to not become a caricature of yourself.  Too much drama after a certain age can, well, think "Sunset Boulevard."
 
 
 
Whaaat????
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...now I'm depressed.

Oh, the hell with it!


"Alright, Mr. DeMille, I am ready for my close-up!"
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thanks for Reading!
 
That's it for this week.

 
See you Tuesday for

"When the Lights Went Out:
The Dark Side of Retirement"
 
 



 

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4 comments :

  1. FINALLY got to see Spectre (from the library) last night. I am a huge Bond fan and love what Craig has done with the role. I read all the books when I was in high school. I think he is true to the books.

    The opening of this was the best yet. I love Day of the Dead anything and was delighted with how they filmed this. My tv color may be off but I also liked the faded yellowish look of the screen....reminds me of old photos that have yellowed. So glad the song won for the Oscars.

    I have a continuing argument with friends over who the best Bond is/was. I think Craig is but I can't tell you how this conversation alone energizes a party. On that scale I think I might be an "interesting person" because I love to fight for my guy ;)

    sazzy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no doubt that you are an interesting person, sazzy. You post some of the most thoughtful and interesting comments. And then I will leave you with this: Sean Connery!!!!!

      Delete
  2. Also meant to say how much I love Q. He is in a great BBC series The Hour which I recommend.

    sazzy

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good post and I support it very much. By the way, anybody try this Sony SD Card Recovery Software? I try it and I think it is good.

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