11/14/2006

All Movie Talk, Episode 7

Posted in Episodes at 5:00 am by Sam

Show contents, with start times:

  • Series Spotlight: James Bond, Part 5 (1:39)
  • Trivia Question: Commissioning the Authors of “Les Diaboliques” (16:50)
  • Film Spotlight: Jackie Brown (18:00)
  • Top 6: Surprisingly Good Movies (31:59)
  • DVD Preview: November/December 2006 (44:17)
  • Closing: Trivia Answer, Preview of Next Week (56:12)

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Show Notes:

Series Spotlight: James Bond, Part 5

This segment is the conclusion of our continuing discussion about the James Bond film series. See Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, and Episode 6 to hear about the earlier episodes of the series.

An abridged version of Sam’s listing of the gadgets, cars, and guns in the James Bond films:

  • Dr. No: Bond is issued his Walther PPK, replacing his Beretta until Tomorrow Never Dies, when he gets a Walther P99.
  • From Russia With Love: A briefcase with secret compartments and weapons. Badguys have a watch and a shoe that can kill people.
  • Goldfinger: The Aston Martin DB5, with fun accessories.
  • Thunderball: A rebreather, an air jetpack, and a water jetpack.
  • You Only Live Twice: Little Nellie, an armed gyrocopter that breaks down into convenient travel-sized containers.
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Radioactive lint.
  • Diamonds Are Forever: Ford Mustang and a moon buggy. A mousetrap you can put in your pocket.
  • Live and Let Die: Magnetic watch that can deflect bullets, and a coffee maker that makes coffee.
  • The Man With the Golden Gun: An AMC Hornet, a car plane, a prosthetic nipple, and a gentleman’s accessories kit that assembles into a really stupid gun.
  • The Spy Who Loved Me: A ski pole gun, a Lotus Esprit submarine, and a jet ski.
  • Octopussy: A yo-yo saw and a crocodile submarine.
  • A View To a Kill: SNOOPER and a submarine iceberg.
  • The Living Daylights: A Harrier, a keychain that responds to whistles, and a sofa that eats people.
  • Licence To Kill: Explosive toothpaste.
  • Goldeneye: The return of the Aston Martin DB5, along with a BMW Z3.
  • Tomorrow Never Dies: BMW motorcycle and a mobile phone stun gun.
  • The World Is Not Enough: X-ray glasses and a machine gun bagpipe.
  • Die Another Day: Bond’s 20th gadget watch and reappearances of several gadgets from previous films.

Wikipedia has more complete lists of James Bond’s gadgets, cars, and guns.

We also talk about all three filmed versions of Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, written in 1953. The novel was substantially darker than its sequels, but this is not reflected in either of the first two adaptations.

  • The 1954 Version
    • The screen rights to the novel were sold to CBS. CBS adapted the story as an episode of their Climax Mystery Theater show.
    • The nationalities of Bond and Leiter are reversed. Barry Nelson plays an Americanized “Jimmy Bond.” Felix Leiter, the American CIA agent in the novel, becomes the British agent Clarence Leiter.
    • Peter Lorre plays the villain, Le Chiffre.
    • Linda Christian plays the first Bond girl, Valerie Mathis (Vesper Lynd in the novel).
    • The show was performed live, resulting in a few oddities like missed cues. But the rumor that Peter Lorre can be seen getting up and walking off-stage after his character is supposed to be dead is not true. This really happened, but with a different actor in an earlier episode of the show.
  • The 1967 Version
    • Producer Charles K. Feldman wanted to collaborate with EON on a series version of the story. But he was turned down, so he made a comic parody instead.
    • The film had five different directors, working independently of each other, each shooting separate stories with little overlap. Not surprisingly, the film feels disjointed.
    • An advertising blitz claimed that the film had seven James Bonds. Really there is only the “real” James Bond (David Niven), his evil nephew Jimmy Bond (Woody Allen), and assorted other characters that impersonate Bond for one dubious reason or another.
    • Most noteworthy among the impersonators is a character played by Peter Sellers. Originally, the movie was going to center entirely around the Sellers character, but Sellers wanted to play Bond straight and grew frustrated at all the goofy lines he was given. Tension on the set escalated, and ultimately he was fired, leaving the producers with a segment of story without any beginning or end. Bizarre editing wedges the completed Sellers footage into the final film.
    • Orson Welles plays Le Chiffre. Welles insisted he perform magic tricks during his scenes.
    • Ursula Andress, the definitive Bond girl (from Dr. No), plays Vesper Lynd.
    • The film is mostly terrible, but it does have its share of silly, insane fun, and it remains a sentimental favorite of Sam’s.
    • The two legitimately “good” portions of the movie are (1) Woody Allen’s comic performance, and (2) the music, both the score by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and The Look of Love, the hit song by Dusty Springfield.
  • The 2006 Version
    • EON Productions (the production company of the official Bond films) finally acquires the rights to Casino Royale in a deal with Sony that also frees Sony up to be able to make the Spider-Man movies.
    • The 21st official Bond film, which opens on November 17, is a reportedly faithful adaptation of the novel. It stars Daniel Craig as James Bond. Reportedly, it is a “reboot” of the Bond franchise, toning down the gadgetry and over-the-top action in favor of a more subdued, edgy spy story — much like how the series was revamped between Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only.
    • We would have liked to have seen Clive Owen cast in the role of Bond, but we think Daniel Craig will be good, possibly great in the role and silence a lot of the protests that immediately followed the news of his casting.
    • We do, however, question the choice of Martin Campbell to direct. Campbell directed Goldeneye and the two recent Zorro movies with Antonio Banderas, which are high action movies, not so much gritty thrillers.

Also: Sam likes the Jason Bourne movies. Stephen does not, despite only having seen the weaker of the two.

Trivia Question: Commissioning the Authors of “Les Diaboliques”

Stephen is still convinced that Sam implies the mystery director is French. It’s worth remembering, though, that Stephen often has trouble paying attention when people who are not him are speaking.

Film Spotlight: Jackie Brown

Quentin Tarantino is an interesting director. Many love him more than they should, and a smaller but more vocal group despise him unreasonably. Very few people were overly taken with his third feature, Jackie Brown (1997), but both Stephen and Sam feel it’s his strongest film after Pulp Fiction (1994).

Pam Grier plays the title character, a flight attendant reduced to running money for a small-time arms dealer played by Samuel L. Jackson. Robert Forster plays the bail bondsman Jackson’s character uses to bail out Grier after she’s busted by the feds, and Forster becomes part of Grier’s plan to play the feds and Jackson against one another. The movie is based on an Elmore Leonard novel — Leonard is the celebrated novelist who wrote the books that became Get Shorty (1995) and Out of Sight (1998) — and deftly tells a complex story of crime in a creative way.

Stephen feels that Jackie Brown is QT’s most mature film, an intelligent crime drama for adults that is subtly about aging as much as it is about scamming money (though there’s plenty of that too).

Top 6: Surprisingly Good Movies

See our separate Top 6 entry for more information about our picks.

DVD Preview: November/December 2006

Sam’s Picks:

Stephen’s Picks:

 
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16 Comments »

  1. wintermute (157) said,

    November 14, 2006 at 8:54 am

    How can you miss out the holodeck sunglasses and BMW with a cloaking device from Die Another Day? They only needed to have added a transporter, and it would have been an episode of Star Trek!

  2. wintermute (157) said,

    November 14, 2006 at 9:50 am

    What are your thoughts on the ordering of James Bond Ultimate Collection? I think I’d be more keen to buy it if it didn’t seem to have been thrown together in random order…

  3. Sam (405) said,

    November 14, 2006 at 10:55 am

    The invisible car was, admittedly, an oversight. But if you follow the Wikipedia links in the Show Notes, you’ll discover that my list of gadgets and cars and stuff was only barely scratching the surface as it was.

    As for the James Bond Ultimate Collection, the ordering is really goofy. If you aren’t interested in all 20 movies, good luck trying to pick out the ones you want. However, the way the sets are packaged, if you buy all four you can rearrange them in order. (The sets are each composed of five individual, separate cases, not a single fold-out case for all five movies.) So you can put them on the shelf so that the spines of each individual case face outward, and it reportedly looks nice that way.

    The reviews of the sets that have started to trickle into Amazon just have me drooling. They seem to be ecstatic across the board, people saying that the restoration work makes the older movies look like they were made yesterday. The negative comments are predominantly complaints about the random order, but it seems this only hurts people who want to pick and choose which movies they get (for example, just the Connery movies).

  4. wintermute (157) said,

    November 14, 2006 at 11:22 am

    Yeah, being able to reorder them would make me happier. But then you’re not going to have the right titles on the boxes. Meh.

    And it does sound like a very exciting set. I mean, this is pretty much exactly what I’ve been looking for in a James Bond collection. Here’s hoping that they release a matching set for movies 21-25 in 10 or 12 years…

  5. Stephen (221) said,

    November 15, 2006 at 12:02 am

    One note I’d like to make is that when I say in the show that I’m down on the Casino Royale trailer, what I meant was the teaser trailer. We recorded that segment over the summer. The current trailer that’s in theaters is great.

  6. Dave (130) said,

    November 15, 2006 at 12:36 pm

    One thing I’ve heard (mostly from the dweebs at Wikipedia) about Casino Royale that I didn’t know until recently is that the movie isn’t simply a “back in time” movie where we get a sort of “flashback” to Bond’s first mission, it’s intended to be a “reboot” (to use the Wikiparlance) of the series. That means that movies that follow on from this one will only have to worry about continuity with Casino Royale, and won’t have to worry about anything that happens in the 20 previous movies. So, for instance, they could redo the story of Bond’s wife dying (although they probably wont, because that’d probably mean remaking On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) or recurring characters that are supposed to be dead could return in later movies. This at least explains the jarring inclusing of Judi Dench as M in a movie that takes place long before her version of M is supposed to have come on the scene.

    Since the Bond movies never really had a ton of continuity to them anyway (the recurring villains and recurring allies are really about it) I’m not sure what difference this makes. Generally a “reboot” is done in things like comic books, after timelines and continuity get so fouled up nobody is sure what’s going on anymore–so they go back to basics, throw everything out and start over (then, generally, they foul everything up again and have to reboot again in another ten years… stupid comic books). The Batman movies got a reboot this summer with Batman Begins, and that definitely bailed out a failing franchise, but I’m not sure anybody ever felt that the Batman movies were ever destined to be a classic film series anyway, so nothing but good could come from scrapping what had come before and starting again. But the Bond series? Even though realistically there’s not much “baggage” to be done away with anyway from the first 20 movies, it does seem very strange to me that they’re willing to just toss all that aside and start fresh, if indeed that’s what they’re really doing.

    Of course, it could all just be the Wikinerds making stuff up again.

  7. ThePhan (128) said,

    November 15, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    Haven’t listened to the whole thing yet, but a quick comment.

    Stephen’s encore performance of the intro almost made me furious with my car. See, my car speakers have this annoying habit of suddenly getting really, really quiet, and even when I turn the volume up all the way I can’t hear what’s going on if I’m going any faster than 40. So when Stephen began fading out in the middle of his thing, I got really mad because I thought I wouldn’t be able to hear the rest of the episode. I even hit my dashboard, which occasionally jumpstarts it back to normal volume, but it just kept getting quieter. Then the music started up and I felt bad for attacking my car when it was just you guys playing with the sound.

  8. Ferrick (140) said,

    November 15, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    Some Bond babe links from the great makers of entertainment lists.

    Worst Bond Babes
    Best Bond Babes

    P.S. Since I haven’t posted on this message board before, I hope the links work.

  9. KTSlager (55) said,

    November 15, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    Yay for having a segment on “Jackie Brown”. I also think that movie is desperately overlooked.

  10. Dave (130) said,

    November 16, 2006 at 2:36 am

    Stephen: Please explain why Superman II is terrible. I have this nagging suspicion you might just be right, but I actually *have* seen the movie recently (a few months ago on HBO52 I believe) and thought it was silly but still good.

    I’ve always thought the ending was stupid, but the thing I’ve always heard about it was that a more “satisfactory” ending was shot, but wasn’t acceptable by either the studio or the ratings board or somebody because it was too violent, and so the “Superman throws the badguys into some mist” ending was added instead. I guess I don’t even know if this is true and I’m too lazy to look it up, so whatever.

    Anyway, I’m curious what your objections to Superman II are.

  11. Stephen (221) said,

    November 16, 2006 at 9:13 am

    Supes II has the cheesiest climax I could imagine. When the Kryptonians are terrorizing Metropolis by blowing really hard, we have a bunch of silly sight gags, like the dude’s ice cream being blown off or the guy in the phone booth who keeps on talking. It’s like something out of slapstick.

    And then the end, at the Fortress of Solitude, the interplay between Supes and Luthor also seems like something out of Clue. “Ah, I knew you were going to betray me, so I purposely told you the wrong thing!” But why would Luthor betray him there, since the Kryptonians have made it clear they don’t intend to honor their earlier deal with Lex? It’s just stupid.

  12. Dave (130) said,

    November 16, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    So a few sight gags in a comic book movie turned you off? I dunno, that seems like weak criticism to me. I mean, sure, there’s some stupid gags. But there’s some other great stuff in the movie. I really liked the whole storyline with Supes struggling with his love of Lois and his powers which give him a responsibility to help others. When he gets the crap beat out of him by some thugs at a diner after he’s given up his powers, he almost seems like he knew in theory that stuff like this could happen, but he seems pretty shocked that getting punched actually hurts so much. I also really liked the scene at Niagra where Lois tries to trick Clark into revealing that he’s Superman, and he manages to save her without doing so.

    I agree that a lot of the stuff with Zod and his gang are kind of silly, and Luthor is sort of shoe-horned into the movie because, hey, it’s a Superman movie, we need Lex. As for him betraying Superman at the end, I always figured it was just part of his toadying reaction towards the Kryptonians. He figures if he can show them how he’s on their side, maybe they won’t freaking kill him afterwards. Sure, maybe it makes more sense for him to help Superman, since he knows Supes won’t kill him either way, but he’s Luthor! He’s spent all this time trying to kill Superman, he’s gonna do what he can to mess with him no matter what.

    It just seems silly to dismiss the movie entirely because of a bad climax. And honestly, I never found that big fight to be that cheesy. Sure, there’s some sight gags, but so what? It’s mostly a great fight pitting Superman against three people who are his equal. Superman actually has to kind of bail and regroup because he’s losing at the end. I thought it was pretty good. What I *didn’t* like was the very end, where Supes wins because the bad guys fall into some mist. But despite being slightly cheesy and manipulative and silly, I still absolutely *love* the scene where Supes comes out of the pod, apparently powerless, and “kneels before Zod” finally–only to crush the hell out of his hand as the theme music swells. I dunno, it just gets me every time.

    So, I dunno. I still think I like the movie. If you’re basing your criticism of the movie on some sight gags in the final battle, then I guess I’m gonna have to disagree. I didn’t think those gags ruined anything. That fight is still pretty great I think.

  13. wintermute (157) said,

    November 16, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    Sure, maybe it makes more sense for him to help Superman, since he knows Supes won’t kill him either way, but he’s Luthor!

    If he helps Superman:
    If Superman wins, he lives, and probably ends up back in jail.
    If Zod wins, he dies.

    If he helps Zod:
    If superman wins, he lives, and probably ends up back in jail.
    If Zod wins, he’ll probably live, and might just become the 4th most powerful person on the planet.

    I think he made the best possible call, from that point of view.

    What really annoys me about Supes II is the very last scene: Supes flies the roof of the Whitehouse back to Washington, and (with the Stars and Stripes flying behind him) tells the President “Don’t worry, I’ll never let you down again.”

    This would be perfectly in character for Captain America (Or the Americommando, Liberty Belle, Miss America or Uncle Sam, just to stay within DC’s stable), but it’s far too jingoistic for Superman. You could make a fair case for Supes not even being a patriot, let alone a jingoist (certainly for the definition of “patriotism” that seems popular today) - He always considered himself responsible to all the peoples of Earth, and not any single arbitrary political division.

    I don’t know. I just didn’t feel like Superman. But stop the movie 5 minutes early, and I don’t have any serious complaints.

  14. Sam (405) said,

    November 16, 2006 at 3:46 pm

    “Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” wintermute. :-)

    Anyway, Dave, you not only voiced my own objections to Stephen’s criticism but reminded me of some cool scenes whose impact I had forgotten about over time. The diner fight is *fantastic*, easily the best scene in the movie, and one that really hits home just how incredibly momentous a decision Superman has made in giving up his powers for Lois. It’s the moment when it hits home not only with Lois Lane but with the audience as well. What I really love about that scene is that Superman is not just reduced to the power of an ordinary human but *less* than that. Because he doesn’t know what it’s like to be only as strong as a human and has absolutely no concept whatsoever of how to use what little strength he does have. So he’s helpless. He doesn’t know how to fight back, and he’s shocked to be in a position like that in the first place.

    I can see how, if all you see is the end, the sight gags look like they ruin it. But movies are intended to be seen in order, from beginning to end. The film builds up a sympathy and a tone that is just incredible for such a fantastical comic book world, and that sets up the climactic stuff at the end to fall into place a little better. The sight gags are what they are. You can argue that the movie would be better without them. (And, in fact, Richard Donner does, and the forthcoming Richard Donner Cut will not contain those gags.) But it’s a humongous stretch to say they kill the movie. Because ultimately they’re pretty harmless, and you’re still left with an assortment of key scenes that just work so, so well.

    The other thing you have to consider is the time. This was the late 70s and early 80s, when there wasn’t such an unbendingly silly demand that comic book movies, of all things, be played totally seriously. Richard Donner wanted to play it straight, and I think he was right, but the prevailing attitude at the time was that it’s ok to be a little goofy in what is, let’s face it, a goofy world.

    I’m not saying the prevailing attitude at the time was right. But I don’t think it’s fair to take contemporary whims and hold a prior generation’s popcorn entertainment to them. You can’t just jump from Batman Begins to Superman II and expect to see the same sensibilities reflected. Superman II was intended to be a fun adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it should therefore be judged on those terms. I’m not saying you can’t call the slapstick gags flaws. I agree that they *are* flaws. But I disagree that they are fatal flaws, and I disagree that the film should be held all *that* accountable just for doing right by the sensibilities of the day. Ultimately it all comes down to personal taste, and personal taste for superhero movies today is just not what it was. But so what? Changing tastes say more about cultural evolution than about the movies themselves, which remain what they always were.

    Stephen’s reply to my counterarguments has always been, “See the movie again as an adult and see what you think.” It’s entirely possible I’ll revisit it and change my opinion, but I don’t think so, especially now that Dave’s post has triggered my memory of a lot of what I loved about it in the first place. But I will be revisiting it soon anyhow, as I want to see the Richard Donner Cut, and my plan is to rewatch the theatrical cut first.

  15. wintermute (157) said,

    November 16, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    Truth, Justice, and the American Way

    A quick search of Google suggests that that catchphrase is from the TV series. I can’t find much of a reference to it from the comics (thus explaining why I was only vaguely familiar with it). Which isn’t to suggest that it was never used there, but it certainly wasn’t a defining feature of Superman in the Golden-, Silver- or Modern Age comics.

    He was, de facto an American, and he would no doubt accept that the American Way was, on balance, better than (say) the Russian Way, or the Japanese Way, which is why he encouraged everyone to buy war bonds during WWII, and fought off communist plots during the Cold War. But if a given action would benefit America but harm the world as a whole, he’d be honour-bound to act for the good of all humanity. He granted no special privilege to America qua America.

    He did have what you might call a rational patriotism, and certainly respected the American political / legal / social system - probably more than any other - but I maintain that that final shot is too jingoistic to truly represent Superman.

  16. Nyperold (116) said,

    November 16, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    And if I recall correctly from seeing Superman cartoons on those random cartoon compilation DVDs, sometimes it’s just “Truth and Justice”.

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