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Posts Tagged ‘James Bond’

Like almost all Marvel movie fans, I sadly read about the recent death of Chadwick Boseman, the actor who played T’Challa (the Black Panther) in the Avenger movies and in the recent (2018) stand-alone movie.  I have read that as a measure of respect for Boseman, the role should be abandoned and / or perhaps taken up by the character of his in-film sibling: Shuri.  While I am confident Letitia Wright, the actress playing Shuri, could step into this type of role and do a great job, there is the “little” matter of ascension to the role is performed via challenge and ritual combat.  Does anyone seriously think Shuri could defeat M’Baku in hand-to-hand combat – particularly without the Panther “power” from the orchid?
I would like to suggest a different path.  I would like to see Aldis Hodge take up the mantle of T’Challa / Panther and just “pretend” he’s the same actor.  Just as we’ve been substituting actors for “James Bond” and “Peter Parker / Spiderman”, we just use a different actor.  To be clear, I mean no disrespect to Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challa – I thought he was brilliant – I just don’t want something from real life to take away from us a character we’re already invested in and who has so much more room for cinematic growth.
My reasons for suggesting Hodge are simple and practical:  1) we already know he can act;  2) he has the strong, athletic build for the role (he’s 6ft 1in and has already played roles of multiple athletes); and, 3)  he’s a good age (currently 33 years old), so he could be in the role for at least 10 years (three movies: two Panthers and one Avengers).  Many of the other actors are already beginning to age out of their roles and will also need to be “replaced”.   Of course, this is just my two cents worth…
If the decision is made not to replace the Black Panther or to modify the role for a female (Shuri), then I would like to see at least one prequel / backstory of one or more of the Panthers who preceded T’Challa or his father (T’Chaka).
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On This Day In:
2019 The Opening Step
Day 17/18: That Didn’t Take Long
2018 I’ll Trade You…
2017 Luv Me Some Meat Loaf
2016 Unless Your Name Is #AmnestyDon
2015 A Tentative First Step
2014 Making People
2013 On Reading Books
2012 On America
2011 Shiver, Me Timbers!
2010 Fiduciary Breakdown

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Atomic Blonde (2017)  —  movie review
Today’s movie examines what happens when marry the weak storyline of a James Bond spy movie with the visuals / fights of a Jason Bourne movie and throw in the violence / violence of a John Wick movie – all of which is based on a “graphic novel” (aka: comic book).  And, of course, the “twist” is the main character is a female.  Charlize Theron is Lorraine Broughton (the lead British spy); James McAvoy (the young Professor X in the X-men movies) is David Percival (the Berlin station head / British agent), Eddie Marsan is Spyglass (the East German agent with information), John Goodman is Emmett Kurzfeld (the CIA agent), Toby Jones (the Hydra guy in the Avengers movies) is Eric Gray (Broughton’s boss), and Sofia Boutella (the bodyguard with killer legs from the Kingsman movie) is Delphine Lasalle a French agent.
So, it’s 1979 and the Berlin Wall is about to fall.  A list of all agents (French, British, German, etc.) is about to be sold to the highest bidder.  MI6 sends their best agent (Broughton / Theron) to get the job done – whatever the job needs to be.  Blah, blah, blah, lots of violence, blah, blah, blah, more fights / violence, blah, blah, a hint of lesbian sex, blah, blah, blah, more violence and a spy twist at the end.
Is it any good?  If you like the Daniel Craig / Bond’s or the Damon / Bourne or the Reeves / Wick movies, you will almost certainly enjoy this movie.  I do / have and I did.  Is it serious cinema?  It’s a comic book adaptation and suffers from all of the excessive survival issues of this action / spy / drama genre.  No one, male or female could survive all of this over the top fighting and still function.  Given that, the movie works. It is entertaining for its “kick-some-butt” target demographic / audience.  And Theron surprised me as being able to carry off the role.  She is great and she definitely makes the movie in the same way Craig-Damon-Reeves carry their respective franchises.
Final recommendation: strong.  This will not be a movie to everyone’s taste.  There is little to no humor, it is dark and violent, but it is consistent within the universe of its genre (graphic novel).  Although Theron’s character does her fair share of butt-kicking, if male on female violence bothers you, you will not enjoy this movie.  The movie is rated “R” for violence, language and brief nudity.
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On This Day In:
2017 This Explains A Lot
2016 Me Too
2015 A Proper Price
2014 Well Hard
2013 Because I Can
Eloquence, n.
2012 Why Bother?
2011 Peculiar Notions

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Notting Hill (1999) — movie review
Today’s review is for the “fantasy” / romantic comedy: “Notting Hill” starring Hugh Grant (as small time travel books – book store owner, William Thacker) and Julia Roberts (as world famous Hollywood actress, Anna Scott).  The basic premise is the question of whether a beautiful, wealthy and famous female can fall in love with a good looking, charming and witty bookstore owner who is just a “normal” person.  Given that the bookstore owner looks like Hugh Grant, the answer is (wait for it) yes.
The movie is entirely predictable in it’s happy ending, but the roller coaster of how they get there is what makes this movie a little gem.
I must admit, I have seen this movie once before, only a couple of years ago, but I just never got around to reviewing it for this blog.  This corrects the oversight.
This is a terrific rom/com!  I admit to being a fan of both leads – but pretty much, who isn’t?  There is a great chemistry between the two leads and as unrealistic as the premise and the winding plot may be, it works.
The movie works as a comedy.  I laughed.  It works as a romantic movie.  I teared up.  It has a great song in it (“When You Say Nothing At All“) and it has multiple great “movie” scenes: the end of dinner “huzzah”, the climbing the garden fence scene, the walking the street / seasons change scene and the stopped car in the “race” scene, with the memorable quote: “James Bond didn’t have to deal with this sorta shit.”  And because this is a “British” movie, there are at least a dozen more “little” jokes and scenes which could be included in the above list.
The movie is rated PG-13 due to implied sex and brief coarse language, but, all in all, this is a very watchable (re-watchable) movie.  Final recommendation: Very highly recommended.
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On This Day In:
2017 I Think They Are Starting To…
2016 Living There
2015 Bookin’ West
Beyond My Reach
You Never Call Anymore…
2014 Winning?
2013 Still Inventing
2012 Motivated
2011 Waiting In Line At Starbuck’s

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Skyfall (2012) –  movie review
What happens when James Bond gets old and starts to wear down?   Daniel Craig stars as Bond in the 23rd installment of James Bond, Agent 007, a spy in MI6 – the British Intelligence Secret Service.  The movie is typically formulaic with all the usual: dramatic opening chase, various love (sex) interests, a warped villain who seeks to take control of the world and get revenge on MI6, large set piece shoot-outs, but strangely enough, no cavalry support rushing to the rescue at the end.
If you like your Bond’s grittier, darker, more serious and physical and less jovial, then Craig is for you and you’ll enjoy this episode.  I did.  Don’t get me wrong, there are the typical 007 one-liners, but they are not delivered with the same tongue-in-cheek of Sean Connery or fourth wall comedic disdain of Roger Moore.
As the movie is several years old and routinely broadcast on “free” TV, I can discuss the plot a little more than I normally would…  Bond is seriously injured and believed dead in the opening scene.  He is settling into retirement when MI6 Headquarters is attacked.  Although still angry with “M” for sacrificing him (and nearly getting him killed), Bond agrees to report for duty.  Blah, blah, blah, bad guy proves he’s evil and it’s obvious he is trying to destroy “M” because she also “sacrificed” him.  Blah, blah, blah (homage to Aston-Martin from Goldfinger), let’s all go hide in my Scottish Highlands ancestral home (“Skyfall”), so we’ll have a reason for naming this movie.  Big battle, “M” is fatally injured, Bond kills bad guy  and “M” dies in his arms.  Happy ending with new “M” and the intro of Moneypenny.
Although typically over-the-top Bond-ishly unrealistic, this movie works like most Bond movies because the audience know what we’re paying for and the director and actors deliver.  This is never going to be “Best Picture” cinema.  This is action, adventure, explosions and the hint of sexuality.  The movie goes out of its way to give you some personal background about Bond and to point out he is reaching the end of his shelf-life.  None of this matters except to prepare us for a re-boot.  The film works and I give it a strong recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2014 Preferences
2013 Prudence
2012 Reason Against Reasons
2011 The 1% Rule Of Large Groups
2010 Going, Going, On…
Expect Mike
Wasted Again?
You Did?
Reflecting Plenty
Old Math
Mental Images
Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid
Learn
Nothing Feared Today
I Had Other Plans
Ratings…
Really?
Encourage Greatness

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Manners maketh man.
    —    William of Wykeham
Motto of Winchester College and New College, Oxford
Kingsman: The Secret Service – movie review
Last week I had the great pleasure to watch a wonderfully entertaining coming of age / spy movie that harkened back to “The Karate Kid”  and the early days of 007 – James Bond (humor and sophistication) with a healthy dash of Jason Bourne (cars and fights) thrown in for good measure.  Without giving away too much of the movie, an older, experienced espionage agent recruits an off-the-street knock-about with (wait for it) a good heart.  Of course, the kid is also a bored genius and former junior national-class gymnast.  Blah, blah, blah.  Lots of life lessons, fights, car chases, and more fights later, you’re left thinking: “Wow!  That was a great movie!
Now, of course I don’t mean it’s going to get nominated for any Oscar’s or anything like that…  It’s just a very entertaining action movie.  Colin Firth is surprisingly good as Mr. Miyagi – I mean as Galahad / Harry Hart.  I don’t recall ever seeing him in this kind of action role before.  Kudos for stretching the envelope.  Taron Egerton plays Gary “Eggsy” Unwin – the kid.  Samuel L. Jackson plays the evil genius bent on taking over the world – Valentine.   And, Sofia Boutella delivers a cutting-edge performance as the evil henchman (okay, henchperson) Gazelle.   Seriously, Jackson plays the role of a lifetime as one of the James Bond way-over-the-top villains from the early (Sean Connery) and middle period (Roger Moore days).  The film even nods to the classic Bond send up – Casino Royale (with David Niven playing 007) – with poofing heads instead of hickups.
Lastly, the film has a great song.  EVERY great Bond film has a great song.  (You can hear it below performed by Take That.)  So, final recommendation: Very High Recommendation!  Action, humor, special effects.  This one has it all.  One note: this movie has a sexual “joke” at the end of the movie.  It will be offensive to some (many?) and is not appropriate for youth – hence the “R” rating.  In the words of Merlin: “Oh. Oh my word!
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On This Day In:
2014 Brains First
2013 Not Listening Anymore
2012 At Your Marks!
2011 We Are Not Alone
Underlying Rationality
2010 Is the Obama Administration Failing?
In Other Words…
Quite Please!
In A Hostage Situation…
Are We Done Yet?
In Order…
Flip-flopping…
Proof of Choice…
On “Leading” A Democracy To War…
Actually, It’s All About Me…

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Back at work now for a week after my thirty days off for vacation.  Hil, Sarah and I flew to Liverpool, U.K. to visit her family for three weeks (Sarah has stayed an extra two weeks and will be back soon).  We flew out of Oakland, to Portland, on to Amsterdam, and then into John Lennon / Liverpool International Airport (aka Speke Airport).  The return trip was via Seattle instead of Portland.  All the flights were surprising comfortable and there were no problems at all.  The most interesting thing was we took a turboprop on the initial leg of the trip (from Oakland to Portland).  This was only the third time I’ve ever flown in a propeller aircraft and it was the first time it was quiet.  I would say it was quieter than a jet – particularly on the takeoff and landing.  I was expecting to have to shout to Hil, but we could speak at normal volumes.
We had a wonderful time visiting with family and old friends and I felt particularly relaxed by the whole experience.  We stayed close to Liverpool and just enjoyed getting re-acquainted with the jewel at the mouth of the Mersey.  The weather was surprising agreeable – in fact, I would say the first four days we were there it was “hot” (in the low 80s).  Very pleasant for us coming from Concord, CA (in the 90s).  I was hoping for more rain.  We did get some, but it was mostly intermittent and not a bother at all.  “Just enough to keep the dust down,” is how it’s described in Scouser.
Books
I took a number of books along with me, hoping to be motivated enough to get through them.  I wasn’t.  I made the “mistake” of purchasing a Sudoku book at the airport and ended up wasting many hours in simple entertainment.  I find the pattern matching in Sudoku to be extremely relaxing even though it seems to also involve a great deal of mental concentration.  Anyway, the three books I did complete were: The Art Of Pitching, written by Tom Seaver (1984©) with Lee Lowenfish, “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons“, written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., (1976©), and “A Christian’s Pocket Guide To Islam“, written by Patrick Sookhdeo (2001©).
If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you probably are aware of my re-kindled interest in baseball (in general) and the San Francisco Giants (in particular).  Hil and I have watch most of the games this season and I would estimate we’d seen some of all but three games – up until we left for our vacation.  Anticipating I was going to be suffering from baseball withdrawal, I took along Tom Seaver’s book to ease my suffering.  The book is an excellent guide to learning about the mechanics of pitching and I would highly recommend it for a junior level baseball coach or 10 to 12 year old who dreams of becoming a high school, college, or Big League pitcher.  For me, there were many insights into the mechanics, but not a lot on the strategy of pitching to a specific hitter or work a game.  Seaver does spend the last chapter going pitch by pitch through a game (he wins it), but it was somehow lacking in what I was hoping for.  I’m not sure what I was looking for, but this didn’t quite “get it” for me.  Anyway, it did help me get through the three weeks without watching a game and I do highly recommend this short volume to anyone interested in the mechanical side of pitching and picture preparation.
Many years ago, I read a few of Kurt Vonnegut’s books.  The one which struck me the most was “Slaughter House Five“, but I enjoyed the couple I read and I bought several more intending to complete more of his works.  Well, life got in the way and I’ve never gotten around to them.  I found a few of his quotes on another blog I subscribe to (and copied them to my own), but they tickled my fancy about getting back to the ones I’ve not read.  “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons” is one of those unread works.  This is actually a terrific little book about science fiction, life, war, peace and honesty.   I highly recommend it!!  One story on Biafra was particularly touching; another (a SciFi story) on prolonged life was particularly frightening.  As I said – highly recommended.  And now I really do want to read several of his other works which have been sitting on my shelf for thirty odd years…
The third book I completed, “Pocket Guide To Islam“, was a very thin book I found at Hil’s mum’s place.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect reading it.  It seems to be written by a Christian minister who has spent some time studying Islam.  I would say the book captures the basic story, philosophy, historical facts of the religion, but I don’t feel the book conveys the depth of feeling or nuanced interpretation of a Muslim.  Of course, not being Muslim myself, I may be completely incorrect, but my direct experience with Indian, Egyptian, Iranian and Arabic Muslims is not in complete agreement with some of the minor facts in the book and therefore I find it difficult to accept the whole of the work.  Still, I do feel the author seems to be coming from a willingness to accept conversion to Christianity by Muslims.  I’m just not sure the author says anything which would help a Christian convert a Muslim, even if the Muslim were personally willing to listen to an attempt at conversion.
Movies
Including one movie I saw after I got home from Liverpool, I’ve seen fourteen new movies during my thirty days off.  They include: The Adjustment Bureau, The Eagle, The Green Hornet, A Law Abiding Citizen, Grand Torino, Transformers 3, Defiance, Invictus, True Grit (the new version), Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows part 2, Battle: Los Angeles, The Lincoln Lawyer, Country Strong, and Captain America (in 3D and normal the following day).  Wow!!  (That’s some sittin’ around on your duff – even for me!)
The Adjustment Bureau: another good, solid performance by Matt Damon.  Is life pre-ordained or is there free will?  See the movie and then you decide…  Highly recommended as an adult, thinking movie.
The Eagle: a surprising entertaining movie about Romans in England (Scotland, actually, but why nit-pick).  Reminiscent of the first battle scene in Gladiator (which I also enjoyed), but this is the longer, drawn out version.  Not great, but a solid “man’s” movie.
The Green Hornet: mostly a dud.  Very disappointing.  I’ve never seen Seth Rogen in anything before and this movie will go a long way in making sure I make NO effort to see him again soon.  Reminiscent of the Adam West Batman TV series, but I don’t think they were going for the high camp that made the TV series tolerable (sometimes very funny).  Save two hours of your life and do something else besides watching this.  You’ve been warned…
A Law Abiding Citizen: if you liked The Usual Suspects, you’ll probably like this movie.  I enjoyed them both for what they are – good, solid, adult, storytelling.  Perhaps too much implied violence for the young or squeamish, but otherwise, solid entertainment!
Grand Torino: Wow!!  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so much watching a serious movie.  Clint Eastwood at his best!!  Shades of Archie Bunker from “All In The Family“.  A serious movie about racism, hope, coming of age – AND it is laugh out loud funny because it’s so well written and acted.
Transformers 3:  Not as good as T1 or T2, but still pretty good summer entertainment.  If you want to see robots kicking each other around, this is it!  The down side is you have to sit through about 45 minutes of blah, blah, blah about the hero (Shia Labeouf) and why Megan Fox isn’t in the movie.  Next time, just say, “the part of Megan Fox will be played by…” and get on with the robots fighting.  Another thing: you don’t HAVE to include every character from every earlier movie.  Still, I’ll pick it up when it comes out in DVD for X-mas (cause I’m that kind of guy).  I saw this opening weekend, in 3D.  I’m not sure it added much to the movie.  Again, I’m left unimpressed with 3D technology…
Defiance:  an interesting movie about some Russian Jews who resisted the Nazis during WWII.  Based on a true story, it’s not a documentary and it’s not “entertaining”.  Worth seeing and interesting.  Stars Daniel Craig of James Bond fame.  Okay acting – moderate recommendation.
Invictus:  I was expecting a rugby version of Rocky, but instead this was a major bio of support for Nelson Mandela with Rocky thrown in for good measure.  If you like leadership movies and or sports movies about underdogs who win, this is for you.  I highly recommend it (on both counts)!!  Oh, yeah, Matt Damon stars (again).  He is rapidly compiling a significant body of work.
True Grit (the new version) – pretty much follows the original John Wayne classic and then disappoints (me) at the end.  It’s a more realistic ending, but who cares – it’s not a four-poster.  I’d watch them both if I were you and then let me know which you think is better.  This version has Jeff Bridges playing John Wayne (I mean Rooster Cogburn) and it’s a good solid performance.  Oh, yeah, there’s Matt Damon again…  Recommended, but definitely see the first version too.
Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows part 2: a good, solid movie and ending to the series.  I am not a devotee to the books, but I felt it was fairly close.  Interestingly, they did not make the same mistake as Transformers 3, they assume you saw the other movies or read the books, cover the transition into the part two movie in about ten minutes tops and get on with the rest of the story.  I saw this on opening day with Sarah, in Liverpool, in 3D.  For some reason, the things not immediately focused on were blurry.  I’m not sure if this was meant to increase the feel of the 3D or not, but I did not find 3D added much to the movie.  I will definitely pick this up on DVD (in 2D).  Highly recommended if you’ve seen any of the other earlier movies…
Battle: Los Angeles: this was probably the surprise movie of the bunch for me.  I did NOT expect anything from the movie except the pleasure of (once again) seeing Los Angeles get destroyed.  Unfortunately, LA gets saved, but at least it gets thoroughly trashed before it gets saved and the movie is a good action movie.  It’s gung-ho, Marines, oo-rah, but who cares…  It stars Aaron Eckhart (who I first noticed and loved in The Core) and he makes a surprisingly good Marine sergeant.  It’s definitely over the top for the military and the Marines and I loved it.  Great summer entertainment.  Highly recommended.  Oo-rah!!
The Lincoln Lawyer:  a smart law / lawyer movie.  Who would have thunk it?  Stars Matthew McConaughey as a lawyer who does much of his work from a mini-office in a classic Lincoln towncar (oh, I get the title now).  Of course, he’s also out to do the right thing and help the down-trodden – just like ol’ Honest Abe (oh, I get the title now).  Not as interesting as A Law Abiding Citizen (above), but another entertaining adult movie.  Recommended, but not quite highly recommended.
Country Strong: first let’s get the facts out of the way – 1) I listen to country music (a lot), and 2) I think Gwyneth Paltrow is a beautiful and talented actress.  Still, the movie didn’t reach me.  The songs were not that good and the performances (of the songs) were not that good either.  I just didn’t believe Paltrow was a star or the up and coming male singer was up and coming.  I also just didn’t buy into the story of the producer / husband, either.  I know there’s a lot of that in all forms of the music industry – I just didn’t buy it.  This movie came highly recommended by my daughter (Rebecca), but I think she misjudged me on it.  It was okay, but I would not really recommend it and I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it (it was on the flight home).
Captain America:  This was a first for me…  I saw the movie twice – on consecutive days – first in 3D and then in normal 2D.  I was supposed to see it with my son, James, over the weekend, but I went up to visit my brother, Sean, and he wanted to go see it with his son.  So the three of us went to his local movie house.  I really enjoyed the movie!  Of course, it’s VERY over the top on patriotism and rah-rah America, but it’s about World War II and Captain America.  If you can’t get past that, why did you plan to go see the movie?  Chris Evans is much more believable in this role than he was as the Human Torch in the two Fantastic Four movies.  I think it’s because Evans really does play the role seriously (completely unlike Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet).  I also feel Hugo Weaving made a great Red Skull (the bad guy).  I noticed the same blurring of out of primary focus characters in the 3D version (the same effect I saw in HP-Hallows Part 2).  I did not notice the blurring in the 2D version, so again, I’m thinking it’s something the director is trying to do to add depth to the movie or it’s the result of something funky in 3D movie technique.  It doesn’t work for me.
While I’ve stated several times I am not a big 3D fan, I must admit when I watched both versions in close proximity, I missed the 3D effect.  Somehow, my mind remembered and I was expecting it, and I noticed not getting it in the 2D version.  I doubt this will ever happen again, because I doubt I’ll pay to see two version so close together – but it was an interesting sensory experience.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations!  You get a No-prize and a promise I’ll try not to do another marathon blog like this for a while.
I’ve got more to say about our trip to Liverpool and photos – but that’s for another day / blog.
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