A Difference in Dinner Jackets

Casino Royale

Daniel Craig’s premiere as the latest James Bond (he’s appeared in The Golden Compass and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and he had the support of all the previous Bonds when he took over the role.  Eva Green (the recent Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which looks peculiar; Morgan in the brief Camelot TV series, and she was Sibylla in Kingdom of Heaven opposite Orlando Bloom) appears alongside him as Vesper Lynd.  Mads Mikkelsen (a magnificent actor who has been Galen Erso in Rogue One, Kaecilius in Doctor Strange, Rochefort in the most recent Three Musketeers film with Orlando Bloom, Tristan in the King Arthur film with Ioan Gruffudd and Keira Knightley)  is the villainous Le Chiffre.  Dame Judi Dench returns as M; and if her assistant appears familiar, it’s Tobias Menzies (most famous now as Frank and Black Jack Randall in Outlander; he’s also been Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh in The Crown and Edmure Tully in Game of Thrones).

This was a reboot of the Bond franchise, which I was not aware of when I first watched the movie, causing me some confusion (particularly when they retain Judi Dench as M, though she is awesome), and a bit of a prequel.  The film starts in black and white, in Prague.  Bond has not yet gained his double-0 status, as the mysterious man points out; it requires two kills.  Well, Bond has already taken care of one of the man’s henchmen, then puts a bullet in his head, cutting off his response.  The opening credits confirm his upgrade in status and is one of the few openings that does not feature naked women.  Next, we’re in Uganda where a warlord gives a European man his money to finance his terroristic operations.  Bond’s on his next mission in Madagascar and a rookie agent causes the mission to go sideways so Bond has to chase his prey though the city, a la parkour at times.  He follows him onto an embassy then causes an explosion at the end, but he gets the guy’s cell phone.  And is caught on camera, causing M to sit through meetings with bureaucrats.  She misses the Cold War right about now.

She discovers Bond in her home, where he’s been using her computer and access to research where the dead guy’s message originated.  M and Bond have a discussion about his recent actions; he violated the one absolute rule of international relations by going into the embassy.  Perhaps she promoted him too early.  Well, 00’s are known to have a short life expectancy.  What M needs is a man who can put aside his ego and get the job done; any thug with a gun can kill.  Arrogance and self awareness rarely go hand in hand.  (She refers to Bond as a blunt instrument, which Miranda Frost brought up n Die Another Day).  For now, Bond is to stick his head in the sand and ponder his future.

Which he does, by going to Nassau in the Bahamas, to the Ocean Club, where the phone call originated.  Bond discovers his target and seduces his wife in order to follow him.  He takes him out, but the clue has left already and Bond has a new target.  Who tries to blow up a prototype large airplane, but Bond prevents it (causing destruction along the way).  M flies down to the Bahamas to officially give Bond the case to go after Le Chiffre.  The villain gambles with his client’s money, investing in stocks that he’ll make sure go under; he lost a lot of money betting on the prototype plane blowing up – something similar had apparently happened in conjunction with 9/11.  To make up his money, he is hosting a large poker tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro with a $10 million buy in.  Bond’s mission is to capture Le Chiffre, alive.  They need his information.  Bond is apparently the best poker player in MI6, and the outfit him with a tracking chip.

On the way to Montenegro [which is gorgeous], Bond meets Vesper Lynd, who remarks to Bond “I’m the money.”  “Every penny of it,” he quips back (a play on the character-not-appearing-in-this-film, Moneypenny).  They read each other’s backgrounds and snark at each other, which is rather humorous.  Vesper will keep a close eye on the money, but she has also observed Bond’s remarkable backside.  Bond receives his new car, stocked with gadgets (sadly, no Q in sight), his back story with Vesper, and a contact: Mathis.  There is a rather humorous scene where Bond gives Vesper a show-stopping dress and she in turns gives him a tailored tux instead of a dinner jacket.

The poker game begins (which I will not explain the intricacies of, because I do not understand them).  Bond creates his signature cocktail.  When a break comes four hours in, the angry Ugandans from the beginning come after Le Chiffre; they stumble on to Bond and Vesper and Bond dispatches them.  Vesper is shaken, but they must continue.  Bond cleans up and later comforts Vesper in the shower (a sensual scene, not a sexual one).  In the game, Bond follows Le Chiffre with putting all in, then loses the hand.  Vesper believes his ego got in the way, so won’t authorize the buy in.  Bond is upset and goes after Le Chiffre with a table knife, until another player stops him; a CIA agent.  The U.S. wants Le Chiffre too and the agent is not nearly as good at poker as Bond; he will give Bond the money if Bond will win so the U.S. can go after Le Chiffre.

Le Chiffre’s girlfriend sends Bond a poisoned drink [why she’s loyal to the guy who almost got her killed, I don’t know, she’s an idiot].  Bond stumbles out of the game to his car to call MI6 for help; they talk him through an injection and a defibrillator to keep his heart going, but the lead comes unattached.  He passes out, but Vesper comes in the nick of time to help.  And he goes back in to finish the game.  He goes all in again, but it pays off this time, literally.  Bond wins over $100 million.  He treats himself and Vesper to a nice dinner.  He gets concerned when Vesper leaves and races after her to discover she’s being kidnapped.  There is a brief car chase before Bond’s beautiful Aston Martin flips like it’s in Nascar.  He and Vesper are captured by Le Chiffre, who wants the account number and password between the couple so he can claim the money.  He tortures Bond, who is tied naked to a chair (this guy cannot catch a break!  He’s been beaten up like half a dozen times so far).  By now, Bond suspects Mathis and Le Chiffre even hints that Mathis is working for him.  Bond hears gunshots and a man comes in to shoot Le Chiffre.  Vesper and Bond are left alive, but Bond must recover from his injuries. 

Two men drag Mathis away and Vesper and Bond fall in love (it’s rather sweet and the scenery is utterly breathtaking).  Bond is so in love with Vesper, he is willing to quit MI6 and sail around the world with her.  He sends M a resignation e-mail and their first stop is Italy.  Come morning, Vesper must leave their bed to withdraw money from the bank.  M calls Bond and he realizes that Vesper is stealing the money; it’s never been deposited into the British Treasury.  He races after her and discovers her handing over a briefcase to a man.  There is a final shootout in an old Italian building that Bond causes to sink.  The bad guys are all killed, but Vesper is locked in the old elevator.  Even after she’s betrayed him, Bond still tries to rescue her.  She lets herself drown, hoping that Bond will let himself rise to the surface.  He manages to bring her body up, but she’s already dead.  The same man in the suit who shot Le Chiffre takes the suitcase with the money.

M calls Bond again; Vesper was being blackmailed for the money, her boyfriend was being held hostage.  She remarks “sometimes we’re so focused on our enemies, that we forget to watch our friends” [I would say they should have learned that from Die Another Day, but in this continuity, that hasn’t happened yet.  Which could mean they should have learned by Die Another Day.  However, it is touching to see how compassionate M is being, without being overt about it].  And Bond has learned his lesson, don’t trust anyone.  Even though Vesper has been proven guilty, it doesn’t prove Mathis innocent.  Vesper has left one final thing for Bond: her cell phone with the final message: Mr. White, and a phone number.  Bond tracks down Mr. White and shoots his leg.  The final line: “the name is Bond.  James Bond.”  And cue the Bond theme.  Bond is back!

This Bond is a bit rougher, maybe demonstrating as a prequel that Bond hasn’t refined his polish yet to the spy we all love.  It’s full of action, but I think we see great depths in Daniel Craig.  He plays cards coolly, flirts with Vesper, and is not at all afraid to get his hands dirty.  A good first outing.

Up Next: Quantum of Solace

Dreams Can Kill You

Die Another Day

Brosnan’s last Bond film, sadly.  Also features Halle Berry (Storm in the early 2000’s X-Men) as Jinx, Toby Stephens (Prince John in BBC’s Robin Hood…oh, and I found out…he’s Dame Maggie Smith’s son!) as Gustav Graves, Rosamund Pike (very odd to watch her in this role after getting accustomed to the serene Jane in Pride and Prejudice, but she is a marvelous actress and this was her feature film debut) as Miranda Frost.  And if the one henchman, Kill looks familiar, he’s a Kiwi and did several bit parts in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit.  Young Colonel Moon is played by Wil Yun Lee who occasionally showed up in the rebooted Hawaii Five-0 as Sang Min.  Madonna performed the opening song (in good company with Sir Paul McCartney who did Only the Good Die Young), and made a cameo in the film as Verity, the fencing instructor.

We begin in North Korea, still a hotspot, though Bond oddly surfs in (because you don’t really think of Bond surfing) and takes over a meeting with two young Koreans; a general’s son, Colonel Moon and his bodyguard, Zao, over diamonds.  But he’s found out and tries to escape.  The C-4 he planted into the briefcase explodes, shooting diamonds into Zao.  Bond then chases Colonel Moon over a minefield in a hovercraft (Mythbusters did prove that this was plausible). Moon goes over a waterfall and Bond escapes, only to be captured by General Moon then tortured for fourteen months during the opening credits (the scorpions are creepy).

The general returns, hoping one last time to turn Bond on his former employers, who left him to rot and denied his existence.  General Moon also knows that there is a Western agent who flipped his son; he had hoped that  Western education would have been a bridge for his country, but he betrayed his country.  The general wants to know who; they most likely betrayed Bond as well.  But Bond doesn’t know and won’t tell.  He figures he will face a firing squad, but is instead part of a prisoner exchange with Zao.  He’s taken to medical before he can ask any questions.  M finally shows up and discusses the situation with him.  If she had had her way, Bond would still be a captive; his freedom came at too high a price – Zao.  The Americans fear that Bond was a leak in the prison, giving up secrets and they had to get him out.  But Bond had not broken.  He understood the danger every agent faces; they get caught, they’re on their own, there is no rescue.  But M can’t be entirely sure; with the drugs in his system, Bond may not have known if he was giving up information.  Bond insists someone else betrayed him.  “You’re no use to anyone now,” M remarks as she leaves.  Which simply encourages Bond to escape by lowering his heart rate, then springing into action.  He jumps ship and walks into the Hong Kong Yacht Club.

The manager knows him, even with the beard, and sets him up with a suite, food, and clothes.  Then sends a masseuse.  Bond knows it’s a trap and reveals that the manager works for Chinese Intelligence, but won’t rat him out, if he continues to help him.  Zao is a threat to them as well.  He’s pointed to Cuba, specifically a gene therapy clinic.  In Cuba, Bond meets a young woman as she emerges from the water (a throwback to the first Bond girl in Dr. No), Jinx.  The two flirt then hop in bed with one another (because it’s Bond).  Jinx is gone come morning, already heading into the clinic.  Bond sneaks in and discovers Zao.  They get in a fight and Jinx kills the head doctor and uses his computer to look up Zao.  A fire breaks out and then the building blows up, courtesy of Jinx.  Both Bond and Jinx chase Zao, but he gets away in a helicopter.  Bond did get a necklace he was wearing and discovers diamonds in it.  His contact informs him they are laser-etched in the signature of Gustav Graves, yet they have the chemical makeup of African conflict diamonds; just like the ones that Bond blew up at the beginning of the film [note, it is not that easy to simply tell where a diamond is from, and they do not travel in briefcases like in the beginning].

Bond knows he must return to Britain and meet this Gustav Graves (he parachutes into media meetings).  Graves is due to unveil his latest project, the Icarus Space Program.  Bond meets the man face-to-face at a fencing club and the two men try to one-up each other in sword fighting, under the guise of playing for a diamond, starting with foils and moving up to broadswords (it’s not great sword work, but still a bit flashy and makes you wonder who will bleed first).  Bond wins, but Graves’ assistant, Miranda Frost has to break them apart.  Graves invites Bond to his gala in Iceland.  Bond receives a key as he leaves and uses it in a backdoor.  He trades information with M, though he’s not officially reinstated.  Q goes over his new gadgets, including virtual reality simulation glasses, a car that uses mirrors to appear invisible, a ring to break glass, and his twentieth watch (a nod to this being the twentieth Bond film).  We see M briefly speak to Miranda Frost; apparently an MI6 agent whose three month assignment has been to get close to Graves.  Frost determines he is clean and reports she is wise enough to not get involved with Bond.

An Ice Palace has been created for Graves’ event in Iceland.  He continues to get his thrills by driving a high-speed ice car.  We also note that Jinx has arrived for the gala and Bond tries to flirt with Frost (not knowing she is MI6) and gets nowhere.  Zao also happily greets Graves.  Graves introduces his Icarus Project as a seeming “second sun,” with use to grow crops year-round and bring light to darkness.  Later, it seems that Icarus has been modified for Graves’ use, and Jinx has wandered off.  Frost gives herself away as MI6 to Bond by kissing him as a distraction and telling him she told M she didn’t want him there.  They bed each other to continue the charade as lovers, but Bond leaves to take care of the situation.  Jinx in the meantime has snuck into Graves’ lab and is captured by his henchman.  His henchman wants to use the lasers to kill Jinx, but Bond stumbles upon her and rescues her. 

Bond then confronts Graves, who has lived to die another day – Graves used gene therapy to change his face from Colonel Moon.  Miranda arrives, and betrays Bond…again.  She was the agent who sided with Moon and got Bond captured.  Bond uses his ring to break glass to escape, then drives away in Graves’ ice car.  Graves uses Icarus as a laser to chase Bond, but Bond skis out of trouble (with noticeable CGI).  Then Zao drives his own car after Bond in his gadget car.  Bond crashes into the Ice Palace to rescue Jinx, who will soon drown in a melting Palace that Graves hit with his laser.  Zao is also killed in a crash in the Palace.

Jinx and Bond head to South Korea; Jinx is an American NSA agent and they are formally teaming up to take down Graves.  The two agents manage to get on Graves’ plane as the Americans attempt to blow up Icarus, which does not work out.  Graves/Moon reveals himself to his father, expecting him to be proud, but General Moon is not (seems he has more honor than his son).  He’s killed and a hole is blown into the airplane, causing massive suction.  Frost (in a ridiculous skimpy outfit for no good reason) takes on Jinx with a sword.  Jinx has set the plane to fly into Icarus.  Bond takes on Graves; Graves electrocutes Bond, then takes the last parachute, but Bond opens it early, dragging the man into the engine.  The plane is falling apart, Jinx manages to stab Frost, and the good guys have to use Graves’ fancy helicopter to escape (which luckily has the diamonds inside).  They put those diamonds to “good” use when they snuggle up with each other in a remote cottage.

I’m not thrilled with Jinx as a Bond girl; I will admit, they at least give her some action and motivation, but barely and she gets captured and stuck twice, to be rescued by Bond.  Frost, meanwhile, is far more intriguing.  Jinx was too easy.  It’s a bit of a trend with some of the Bond films I’ve just watched.  Christmas Jones was practically useless in the last movie and Elektra had far more development.  Natalya in GoldenEye was more compelling and Bond did not instantly fall into bed with Onatop.  Wai Lin struck a happy medium and got a better fight scene, though she too fell easily into Bond’ arms.

Up Next: Casino Royale

Don’t Taunt the World-Class Spy

The World is Not Enough

Pierce Brosnan’s third Bond film.  They cast the superb Robert Carlyle (Rumple/Mr. Gold in Once Upon a Time, Durza in Eragon, and he was in Stargate Universe/SGU as well) as the villain Renard.  Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, and Robbie Coltrane all return.  John Cleese (one of the comedic geniuses of Monty Python) joins as R, who will replace Q one day (this was Llewelyn’s last appearance as Q) and Sophie Marceau (Princess Isabelle in Braveheart) stars as Elektra King.

Bond is initially in Spain, retrieving money from a Swiss banker, but he really wants the name of the man who killed an MI6 agent.  The Swiss banker middle man is killed before Bond can get the information and then strangely, Bond himself is saved from an assassin.  He jumps out the window with the money and returns to MI6 headquarters in London (they did film near the actual headquarters despite worries of security, it is quoted that “After all Bond has done for Britain, it is the least we can do for Bond.”)  Bond briefly meets M’s friend, Mr. King.  As they sit and drink, discussing the stolen files that the money purchased, Bond realizes that Mr. King’s money is a trap and rushes to save Mr. King, but he is too late.  He catches sight of a woman on a boat and takes one of Q’s boats to high speed chase after her [I doubt that boat could actually run on pavement, but it’s Bond, so there’s techno-magic].  The woman tries to escape in a hot air balloon, but shoots it down before she can be captured, insisting that Bond cannot protect her from “him.”  Bond injures his shoulder in the subsequent fall.

After the opening credits, Bond and MI6 officials attend Mr. King’s funeral in Scotland and are introduced to King’s daughter, Elektra.  Their headquarters are in an old castle (the picturesque Eileen Donan…I love that castle) and M orders King’s case to be solved.  But Bond is off active duty until he is cleared by a doctor.  So, Bond charms the doctor, after she warns him that any more tendons snap, and he’ll be out of commission for weeks.  Bond visits Q on his way to M and is introduced to R.  Q is upset that Bond destroyed his “fishing” boat for his retirement, away from Bond.  Bond is sad to think about Q leaving and in true enigmatic fashion, the Quartermaster informs the secret agent: I taught you two things, never let them see you bleed, and always have an escape plan.  (It’s a touching scene in hindsight since Desmond Llewelyn was killed in a car crash a month after the film opened).  Bond also reviews Elektra King’s file, including her kidnapping years ago, and comes to the discovery that her ransom amount of $5,000,000.00 equals the £3,030,303.03 he retrieved and killed King.  He takes his suspicions to M.  And we see a rather tender relationship between Bond and M; she even admits that against all maternal instincts, she told Mr. King not to pay Elektra’s ransom in order to draw out the kidnapper.  When M receives a message that the terrorist might be back, she orders Bond to protect Elektra.

The terrorist is known as Renard and another MI6 agent was able to put a bullet in his head, but it didn’t kill him.  Instead, it is slowly killing him by first killing his senses; he can feel no pain.  He will die, but he will get stronger every day prior.  Elektra tries to send Bond home, but he persists, even saving her life from parachuting snowmobilers.  After that, Elektra asks Bond to stay, though he refuses to sleep with her (probably because M would kill him).  He goes to a casino to see his old friend Valentine for information, though Elektra drops in there.  We see that Elektra’s head of security is in the league with Renard.  Bond deals with him later that evening, after bedding Elektra.  Bond takes the man’s place and is quickly involved in breaking into an old Soviet nuclear facility.  A young, attractive female physicist is there, Dr. Christmas Jones (dressed like Lara Croft for some unpractical purpose).  Bond gets a chance to kill Renard, who admits that he spared Bond in Spain so they could meet later.  Renard also quotes Elektra, which makes Bond pause.  There’s a scuffle, a chip is taken out of the nuclear bomb, Renard gets away with the bomb and starts an explosion at the facility, Jones and Bond narrowly escape.

Elektra calls M and asks her to come; M agrees.  Bond confronts Elektra, who denies all his allegations, that she developed Stockholm Syndrome when she was kidnapped by Renard.  Bond begins to tell M his suspicions, but the bomb is detected in the pipeline.  Bond takes Jones to diffuse the bomb and they discover that only half of the plutonium is being used.  Meaning the other half is missing.  Bond lets the bomb harmlessly explode, so it will appear that he is dead.  Elektra uses it as an opportunity to reveal to M that she was responsible for her father’s death and take M into custody.

Bond goes back to Valentine to get more information and they’re discovered by Elektra.  She sends her tree cutting saw to cut her enemies in half, but they escape.  In the meantime, Elektra happily greets Renard and they discuss their plan to blow up the port in Istanbul with the plutonium so her pipeline will be the only one left.  They both blame M for her lack of rescue during the kidnapping situation.  But M is not out of the game yet; she has the locator chip.  She uses the battery in the clock that is left to power the locator, bringing Bond to her.  Part of Renard’s plan is to use a submarine to get the plutonium into position (which is captained by Valentine’s nephew, who is then poisoned by Renard).  Bond goes after the bad guys, Renard gets a hold of Jones and Elektra takes Bond to torture.  “I could give you the world,” she tells him.  “The world is not enough,” he responds with his family’s motto (and title drop).  Elektra is convinced that Bond cannot kill a woman he loved.  He pursues her once he is freed, with some help from Valentine, stopping only to shoot open M’s cell.  He shouts for her to call Renard off; innocent people need not die just so she can claim her bit of the world.  She won’t.  Bond shoots.  Then jumps after the sub.

Bond quickly rescues Jones and intends to bring the sub to the surface so it will be on satellite and call in the navy.  Except it gets stuck in a dive and crashes into the bottom of the bay and begins to flood.  Renard opens the reactor and tries to insert the plutonium, but Bond fights him (and keeps aggravating his shoulder), eventually firing the rod back into Renard.  He and Jones quickly swim out of the sub before it explodes.  He then predictably goes off the grid to seduce the newest lady.

I like the storyline of this movie better than other Bond films.  There’s not as much technobabble.  Plutonium is understandably bad, as are nuclear reactors.  Oil pipelines are a concept I understand.  This isn’t Robert Carlyle’s greatest villain role (he gets to be just plain evil in Eragon and far more nuanced in Once Upon a Time), but he is fairly creepy.  Honestly, they could have done without Christmas Jones (and they only named her Christmas for the puns); Elektra was a far more elusive character.  We saw softer sides to some of our repeat characters.  Q was touching, I always smile when Moneypenny flirts with Bond knowing that it will go nowhere.  Bond can resist sleeping with a woman when he wants to (again, there was no reason for that bit at the end between him and Jones aside from its “Bond.”)  And M is more than a stern figurehead of an intelligence agency.

Next Time: Die Another Day

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You…Maybe

A Random Fandom Update!

Since this topic of conversation came up, thought I might go over my musings on some upcoming films.

Enola Holmes: Saw the ad for this, coming to Netflix September 23rd.  It looks exciting!  The premise is Enola is the younger sister to the famous Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes.  Her mother (not sure if it’s their mother as well) has gone missing and she’s called them in for help.  Sherlock, played by Henry Cavill, seems nice.  Mycroft looks like a prick who wants to turn their younger sister into a “proper young lady.”  And I love that Enola is decidedly not.  Looking forward to this!

Black Widow: I will admit, I was excited when this was first announced.  Black Widow totally deserves her own film and Marvel did great with Captain Marvel.  Then the trailer released and I finally read that it takes place between Civil War and Infinity War, which helps make sense.  Yes, I totally want to see Black Widow’s origins and her kicking butt, however, the armor looks out of place.  Black Widow wears sleek suits so she can slide between her opponents and she’s trained to avoid hits.  And the “family” aspect…seems a bit out of place.  Honestly, we want the movie that is Hawkeye and Black Widow in Budapest, teased in Avengers. Will I see it?  Of course.

Mulan: I am not going to pay the higher premium to watch in on Disney+, I’ll wait till it’s properly released and you can rent it like normal.  I get that Disney is taking the story back to its more original roots, but I feel like it’s going to lose that Disney touch.  It’s not a musical, though they seem to be using the Reflections theme.  And with the more serious tone, they’ve probably lost Mushu and he was half the fun!  At some point I’ll watch it.

Wonder Woman 1984: Still excited about this one because I love the first one.  Steve Trevor is back and I’d love to know how.  The most recent trailer shows Diana’s adversary who transforms into a cat somehow?  I will admit, I am not up on Wonder Woman lore, but it just makes me cock my head and go “huh.”  The gold suit looks ridiculous, especially after how awesome they made her armor in the first film.  Will still see, possibly in theatres.

No Time To Die: The twenty-fifth James Bond film and appears to pick up after Spectre.  Bond has retired with Madeleine Swann, though they don’t appear to still be a couple in the trailer.  Bond is called back to action.  I mean, now that I’m caught up on the new Bond films, I definitely want to see this and see how things play out.  I am currently enjoying a slew of James Bond/Sherlock crossover stories; some of the dialogue is absolutely hilarious.

Of course there is also the final seven episodes of Supernatural due out in October and November.  I guarantee I will cry.  I go back and forth on how I think they will end it.  I believe Jensen Ackles has stated he would be willing to come back and do a movie; so they can’t fully kill the boys off, but then how else are you going to end the show?  In case there isn’t a film?  Pretty sure their destiny is to die, saving the world (as long as you make sure idiot Chuck goes first)

We shall eagerly wait and see how all these stories play out.

Bond film blogs will continue.

Well, he did return the car…in relatively one piece

Tomorrow Never Dies

The second Pierce Brosnan Bond film.  Features Jonathan Pryce as Elliott Carver (yeah, a bit disconcerting to watch this after seeing him as Governor Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean).  Julian Fellowes (yep, the creator of Downton Abbey) makes an appearance as well, and if the admiral later in the film looks familiar, that is Michael Byrne (he appears as Merlin in The Mists of Avalon and Treville in The Musketeer, as well as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).

The opening takes place at an arms bazaar on the Russian border, the British intelligence office looking in.  Of course, the military wants to just bomb it and be done, but M urges caution; there is more intelligence to be gleaned.  Well, the admiralty fires a missile anyway and orders MI6’s agent, Bond, to get out of there.  Oh wait, there’s a very dangerous nuclear torpedo on site that you don’t want blown up.  Bond does his job, disrupts the bazaar, blows things up, and flies the plane out of there in the nick of time.

The main plot starts with a British ship in the South China Sea.  Two Chinese MiGs fly by and warn that the ship is in Chinese water.  According to the ship’s navigation, they’re in international water.  What neither side knows is that at Carver Media headquarters, the whole mess is being directed by Carver.  In the water he has a stealth ship that drills into the British ship and then fires missiles at the Chinese, all to start an international incident.  He also has an encoder that has managed to scramble the British signal and they were actually in the wrong area.  Elliot Carver’s plan is simply to become the head of the largest media conglomeration and he’ll do that by writing tomorrow’s headlines today.  And by instigating the disasters and then he’ll have exclusive coverage.

Bond is sent to investigate; M suggests pumping his old fling, Paris for information, because Paris is now married to Elliott Carver.  He has forty-eight hours to discover the truth before the fleet moves in.  Carver suspects Bond of something and his little stooge is listening in and discovers that Paris knows Bond.  So he sends his wife after Bond.  She of course succumbs to Bond’s charm again even though they both fight it.  Bond doesn’t want to put her in danger, but Paris knows what kind of man her husband is and gives Bond the information he needs.  Bond offers to protect her, but she declines.  Carver sends a “doctor” to his wife anyway.

After Bond infiltrates Carver’s office, he steals back the encoder and meets Chinese intelligence agent, Wai Lin.  When Bond returns to his room, he discovers Paris dead and the assassin waiting for him.  The “doctor” [is it just me, or is he a little clichéd?] is a professional and sits his victim down to talk to him first.  Bond still overpowers him and escapes, leading to an expert car chase in the parking garage.  Bond gets to use the remote control that Q created (very cool).  He then meets up with the Americans near the South China Sea to return their encoder and they discover that it sent the British ship off course.  Bond elects to HALO jump into Vietnamese territory and dive down to the wreck for further investigation.  There, he encounters Wai Lin again and they discover that one of the ship’s missiles is missing. Once the pair surfaces, they’re taken by Carver’s men and he goes into his villainous monologue.  He intends for his associate to torture and kill them.  Of course, Wai Lin and Bond work together and escape, leading to a rather hilarious motorbike chase while the pair is handcuffed and have to negotiate how they sit on and steer the bike.

After destroying a marketplace, Wai Lin is determined to finish the mission on her own, but Bond follows her.  Good thing, because Carver has sent more local men.  Now, Wai Lin takes them out on her on (super cool) and Bond just gets to knock out the last guy holding a gun.  Wai Lin agrees to work with a “decadent, corrupt Western agent,” and they both agree to get their governments talking to each other to stop the debacle.  They just have to figure out where Carver’s stealth boat is hidden.  The two agents sneak on and start setting bombs, but they’re quickly discovered.  Wai Lin is captured and Bond makes it look like he’s dead, so he can continue to sneak about.  Carver’s plan to further the explosive situation is to fire the British missile into China and then China will retaliate and thus the British fleet with retaliate further.

And how do you expect it to end?  Wai Lin gets free and stops the stealth ship; they’ve managed to get word to both militaries to be on the lookout for a stealth ship.  Bond causes an explosion that makes the ship a target and the Brits start firing.  Bond uses the drill on Carver, then rescues Wai Lin, after he takes on Carver’s last man and sets the missile to explode (complete with witty one liner: “I owe you an unpleasant death, Mr. Bond”).  HUGE fireball!  And Bond gets a little more time “undercover” with Wai Lin.

Carver is just an ego maniac.  He admits he likes an audience to his plans.  He quotes Hearst: “you provide the pictures, I will provide the war,” and takes that as his goal in life.  I spend most of the film wanting Bond to punch him in the face.  The film also shows its age a bit; the Internet is burgeoning, GPS is new, techno babble that most people don’t understand.  Now, I find the storyline a little dull; but it is also still completely plausible.  That kind of situation is still possible today.  Pierce as Bond is charming and suave and I enjoy seeing the tender side of him; he cares about the women he encounters.  I appreciate that Wai Lin holds her own, but her character seems sort of thrown in.

Next Time: The World is Not Enough

“Shut the door, Alec! There’s a draft!”

GoldenEye

My parents have watched most all of the James Bond films, but Pierce Brosnan is my mom’s favorite Bond actor, so those were the movies that went on when I was growing up.  So I’m starting with those; I’ve seen bits of the older movies, but I have not watched a Sean Connery Bond film all the way through (I’ll get to it, someday). 

James Bond started as a novel series by Ian Fleming.  His main character, James Bond, goes by the codename “007” (the double-O status means he has “license to kill”) and is a member of the British secret service (MI6; which is a real thing).  Bond is also known for beating up bad guys and seducing women along the way; I believe I’ve heard “women want him and men want to be him.”  He’s suave, charming, and deadly.  Usually seen in a well-cut suit sipping a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred, and a different Bond girl on his arm in every movie.

GoldenEye is Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond movie; he was supposed to star in The Living Daylights, but the show Remington Steele (which has some Bond elements to it; I recommend you check it out) held on to Pierce.  Sean Bean (Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings are two of his later hits, but he’s also appeared in Patriot Games and National Treasure [which I’ll get to], as well as Troy, the show Medici [which also starred Thrones‘ Richard Madden and Merlin’s Bradley James], Sharpe, and Percy Jackson) is Alec Trevelyan.  Famke Janssen (Jean Grey in the earlier 2000’s X-Men) is Xenia Onatopp, Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid in Harry Potter) is Valentin Zukovksy, Alan Cumming (“Rooster” Hannigan in Disney’s production of Annie, he was also in the 2000’s X-Men movies as Kurt Wagner/ Nightcrawler) is Boris Grishenko.  Samantha Bond (Lady Rosamund, Robert’s sister in Downton Abbey, and is part of the Who-verse from her appearance in The Sarah Jane Adventures) appears as Moneypenny, Desmond Llewelyn continues as Q (Coggins in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), and the iconic Judi Dench is the new M.  [This is the only Bond movie where James Bond, M, and Miss Moneypenny were all re-cast with a different actor or actress.  Desmond Llewelyn as Q is the only holdover]

The film starts with Bond bungee-jumping off a dam.  We also meet 006, a friend and co-worker of Bond’s.  They’re doing their job, to save the world, for England, on a joint mission to blow up a chemical plant in the USSR.  006, Alec Trevelyan, is caught by the bad guys and Bond re-sets the timers on the bomb.  He witnesses Alec shot in the head and manages to make it out of the building while bullets fly.  Then he runs after a plane taking off and when that doesn’t work, drives a motorcycle off the cliff and free dives into the falling plane, bringing the plane up in time to not run into the mountains and witness the explosion of the chemical plant.  A rather thrilling opening [and one of my parents’ favorites].  The theme plays with the customary silhouetted women.

We next see Bond, presumably several years later, driving his car over the speed limit to impress the woman seated beside him.  Then he gets more reckless when a pretty woman in a Ferrari drives by and they start racing each other, until the woman orders Bond to stop.  Then, he charms the woman, who is his psychiatrist; classic Bond.  And another Bond classic, a casino.  Where he meets the mysterious woman, Onatopp (oh, isn’t that just laden with innuendo).  They flirt, but she leaves with another man.  Bond follows and spies on them.  We see Onatopp kill the Admiral “in the act.”  Come morning, Bond sneaks on, finds the dead Admiral, realizes something is up, and starts to make for the military demonstration of a new stealth helicopter.  Onatopp is apparently also a pilot and takes the place of the actual pilots, then makes off with the helicopter.  She flies it to a remote Space Weapons Control Center in Russia.  There, we meet Natalya and Boris.  Boris likes to hack in his spare time, and make lude jokes to his female coworkers.  He goes out for a smoke and the helicopter lands.  Natalya is making a coffee when Onatopp and the general from the start of the movie enter.  The general goes through the procedure to retrieve the GoldenEye device, then lets Onatopp open fire on everyone.  She oddly enjoys it.  Natalya hides, until a space laser, activated by the GoldenEye, fires into the center, starting a fire.  She eventually escapes in the aftermath of the damage.

Meanwhile, Bond is being briefed on the situation on the helicopter in England.  Through satellites they witness the destruction of the control center, well, not all of it because the laser also emits an electromagnetic pulse, knocking out all electronics [that part, I get.  The laser and such, not so much].  Bond is also introduced to the new M; there is a mutual dislike at the beginning; M believes Bond to be a relic of the past and she has no compunction about sending a men to his death.  However, she will not do it on a whim and does urge Bond to not let this mission be all about revenge (since the general was the man who shot Alec)  and asks that he comes back alive.  Q has the obligatory gadgets including a pen grenade for Bond and reminds him “you have a license to kill, not to break traffic laws,” please return the equipment.

Bond gains a CIA contact in Russia and meets an old friend; well, former enemy who has at least decided to not kill Bond for the time being.  Then he has another run in with Onatopp (in a pool because Pierce looks very good shirtless) and Onatopp of course tries to squeeze the life out of the British agent, but he breaks her hold.  Natalya also meets up with Boris, which ends up being a trap (smart movie goers could guess that).  Bond gets another blast from the past; turns out Alec isn’t dead!  No, he wants revenge against the British government and Bond by extension due to his loyalty, for the betrayal his parents endured years ago.  Onatopp works for him and they trap both Bond and Natalya in the helicopter, rigged to fire a missile at itself.  Bond brilliantly ejects them.  They’re picked up by the government and Bond attempts the typical spy banter, but Natalya gets down to business, which saves them.  Until the traitorous general comes in and literally blows their burgeoning plan to pieces.  Bond pulls Natalya behind him, though they get separated.  Bond then decides that a tank is a suitable vehicle to drive in the streets of St. Petersburg to chase after the general and Natalya (causing mass destruction, and cue the Bond theme).

Everyone meets up on a train, after Bond positions the tank to derail the train and fires.  He jumps out and boards the train.  Alec quips, “why can’t you just be a good boy and die!”  “You first,” Bond responds.  Alec points out that the situation is hopeless for Bond, he has no back-up, no escape route, and Alec holds the bargaining chip in the form of Natalya.  He knows Bond’s secrets and weaknesses and attempts to get in his old friend’s head.  Alec and Onatopp escape, Bond shoots the general, and Natalya hacks into the train to find out where the villainous couple are headed.  Bond cuts through the floor of the train before it blows.  “Do you destroy every vehicle you get into?” Natalya asks later.  Bond claims it to be standard operating procedure.

The CIA unofficially helps Bond and Natalya get to Cuba [there’s an unneeded scene on a random beach before between Natalya and Bond simply to give another excuse for them to kiss and demonstrate that Bond gets the girl] , but they can’t spot the giant satellite dish required to run the GoldenEye.  Well, that’s because they hid it under a lake.  Onatopp is sent out to take care of the heroic couple after they’re shot down.  Bond gets the upper hand again and rigs the cords so Onatopp is strangled by her own helicopter.  Bond and Natalya sneak in and Bond begins to place bombs, but he’s captured.  Alec knows to disarm Bond and even take his watch [fun fact, this is the first Bond film that features an Omega watch, previous films showcased Rolex watches and occasional Seikos for technology features].  But Boris gets a hold of the pen when Natalya punches him.

Alec’s big plan?  Is to hack into the British bank then set off the GoldenEye EMP directly after so his tracks are covered, and creating a worldwide financial meltdown.  Bond points out he is simply a petty thief.  Natalya was busy when she was near the computer and messed up the guidance system on the satellite that controls GoldenEye, then encrypts it.  Boris is confident he can break it, but he struggles.  Bond notes that Boris has the unconscious habit of clicking his pen; with the Q pen he’s constantly arming and disarming the grenade inside.  Bond times it right to duck when Boris drops his pen, setting off an explosion (though random liquid nitrogen freezes Boris hilariously).  Alec goes after Bond, resulting in hand-to-hand fighting.  The explosion sets off more fires and Natalya demonstrates she’s an action girl too and rescues Bond.  Alec falls into the satellite dish, but doesn’t die until the antenna spears into him.  Bond and Natalya escape and Bond takes the time to start kissing Natalya.  They’re alone, he promises.  Until Marines pop up.

Since this is my mother’s favorite Bond film and the primary Bond film I’ve watched, I do have some fondness for it.  Oh, the technology in it is laughable now, but Boris is kind of funny, though he needs a good kick somewhere for his attitude.  Sean Bean makes an excellent villain.  GoldenEye has all the trademarks of a good action-adventure movie.  Some fights.  Save the world storyline.  Quips and banter.  Hero gets the girl.  Overall, it’s a fun movie to watch.  And I agree with my mother, Pierce is my favorite Bond; he’s more suave than Daniel Craig (but more on that later)

Next Time: Tomorrow Never Dies

Jumpin’ off the deck, shovin’ into overdrive

Top Gun

The classic 1980’s film starring Tom Cruise as Maverick, Val Kilmer as Iceman, and an appearance by Meg Ryan as Carole.  I have an interesting history with this film; my father loves planes and loves this movie, but I refused to watch it as a kid.  Then, my friend played in while I was on vacation with them in middle school, so I finally watched it and enjoyed it.  But, I like it for the planes.  I don’t care about Tom Cruise.  Though, who can forget the line: I feel the need, the need for speed!  The film does have the very cool song Danger Zone performed by Kenny Loggins (so I use this film as a connection in “Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” since Kenny Loggins did the iconic Footloose song in that film as well).

The premise is the top one percent of Naval aviators attend the Fighter Weapons School, known as Top Gun, to learn dog fighting.  One of the instructors, Viper, later states in the movie that the ratio pilots shooting down enemy planes in the Korean War was 12 to 1, then dropped to 3 to 1 in Vietnam because they relied too much on missiles; they had forgotten how to dogfight.  The film opens with activity on the flight deck on an aircraft carrier.  Maverick and his rear-seat partner, Goose are flying with Cougar and Merlin and encounter enemy Soviet MiG (they used the A-4 Skyhawk and F-5E Tiger as stand-ins for the MiGs, though they did use actual F-14 Tomcats, which are now retired).  Cougar gets shaken up after a MiG gets a missile lock on him, but Maverick scares them off.  Maverick doesn’t land and instead goes back up to help talk Cougar down.  While it was very brave, it was against orders.  But Cougar has given up flying, so their commanding officer sends Maverick and Goose to Top Gun.

Maverick is known for his wild flying, but he’s good enough at what he does that he doesn’t get thrown out of the Navy.  He and Goose attempt to hit on a woman at a bar by singing You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, in which all the guys join in; then discovers that she is one of his civilian instructors at Top Gun.  Though a civilian, her call-sign is Charlie; she has a PhD in Astrophysics and the Pentagon listens to her.  And she, of course, starts to fall for Maverick when he demonstrates that he flies as well as he says he does.  Their theme throughout the film is Take My Breath Away.

Maverick butts heads with Iceman because Maverick’s flying is reckless and he has the habit of leaving his wingman.  They’re both vying for the top spot at Top Gun.  That volleyball scene is just an excuse to have the young men shirtless.  Maverick is also trying to prove himself after his father mysteriously dies during an encounter while flying.  Viper later explains to Maverick that his father was indeed a good pilot and saved several lives during his last mission, but it occurred on the wrong side of a map line for the politicians.  Maverick does get reprimanded several times for ignoring rules that are set.

We see a wonderful, happy family shot between Goose, his wife and son, Maverick, and Charlie, singing Great Balls of Fire before Maverick and Goose fly a “mission” with Iceman and Slider.  Iceman is slow to take a shot and when Maverick moves in, his plan gets caught in the jetwash, causing it to flat spin (an actual fault in the F-14, and very dangerous).  Goose has to eject them and he hits the canopy, dying (that has actually happened).  Maverick is lost without Goose, even though it wasn’t technically his fault, he feels like it is.  Goose was his responsibility.  His friends try to help him out, but when Viper sends him back up for another “mission,” he freezes and can’t take the shot.  He tries to quit Top Gun, but his conversation with Viper encourages him to stay and at least graduate.  Then he, Iceman, Slider, Hollywood, and Wolfman are sent on an assignment.

Hollywood, Wolfman, Iceman, and Slider are the first two planes up and encounter MiGs; more than they thought.  MiGs like to fly close together to hide their numbers on radar.  Hollywood and Wolfman are shot down and eject.  Maverick is teamed up with Merlin, Cougar’s old partner, and they have to go up and help Iceman and Slider.  Maverick and Merlin end up in a jetwash again, but manage to recover.  But it still shakes Maverick, like Cougar earlier in the film.  Merlin and Iceman are begging for help, but Maverick takes a moment to think of Goose.  Then engages the enemy planes and gets them off of Iceman.  He’s learned not to leave his wingman.  He then does his famous flyby, accompanied by Iceman.  The crew all cheer the two planes and the once-adversaries are now at least friendly and joke they’ll be each other’s wingman.

Maverick is given his choice of duties and decides to go back to Top Gun as an instructor.  Charlie meets him there, playing You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling on the jukebox before she shows herself.

Yes, this is a simplistic write-up of the film; with the flying action and jargon (which is apparently mostly made-up), it is a film that is better experienced simply by watching.  It increased Navy recruiting and was backed by the Navy.  There were obviously artistic licenses taken and several of the flight maneuvers were done “because they’re cool.”  Sadly, an experienced stunt pilot was killed while filming this movie and the movie was dedicated to him.  There is a sequel subtitled Maverick that is due out…sometime.  It was due out this summer, but many movies have been postponed.  Tom Cruise is back, as is Val Kilmer.  I fully intend to see it with my father, for the planes.

pair f-14 picHowever, this film also inspired the hit series JAG that I loved.  It starred David James Elliott as Harmon Rabb Jr (he was also a Tomcat pilot), Patrick Labyorteaux as Bud Roberts Jr, Catherine Bell (check her out in Hallmark’s Good Witch series) as Sarah MacKenzie, John M. Jackson as A.J. Chegwidden, and Karrie Turner as Harriet Sims.  That shot from early in Top Gun where the two planes come to formation is used in the opening credits of JAGJAG also introduced NCIS midway thru its run, and NCIS has gone on to run for seventeen seasons so far and it in turn spun-off NCIS: Los Angeles (love Sam and Callen in that one), and NCIS: New Orleans.  I primarily know the middle seasons of JAG, the first ten or so seasons of NCIS (Gibbs’ dynamic as the team’s father is amazing and I was sad to see various characters leave), and the first couple seasons of NCIS: Los Angeles (Callen is definitely my favorite character).  And that is how I play “Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon;” Footloose leads to Top Gun which leads to JAG which leads to NCIS and thus various actors from there.

 

 

Up Next: I start the Bond movies, but I will be dealing with the last eight or so.  It may be sacrilege, but I haven’t watched any of the original Sean Connery films all the way thru; I’ve seen bits.  But I am familiar with Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

Are They Fighting or Are They Dancing?

The Mask of Zorro

Another of the swashbuckling movies produced in the nineties, like Three Musketeers and Prince of Thieves and like those two, it’s very well done.  Stars Anthony Hopkins (a classic Welsh actor who is Odin in MCU Thor, famous as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs [and I refuse to watch that movie, I do not need the nightmares], was Van Helsing in 1992’s Bram’s Dracula, was in A Bridge Too Far with the other great actors of that time) as Don Diego de la Vega, Stuart Wilson (an older Robin Hood in Disney’s Princess of Thieves) as Don Rafael Montero, Tony Amendola (Marco/Geppetto in ABC’s Once Upon a Time series amongst other TV series) as Don Luiz, Antonio Banderas (this is probably his most famous role) as Alejandro Murrieta and Catherine Zeta-Jones (who is actually Welsh, and married to Michael Douglas since 2000; this was her breakthrough role, and she went on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2002’s Chicago) as Elena.  This is not the first appearance of the character Zorro; he dates to 1919 and was originally supposed to be a one-time character, then the popularity of the 1920 movie had the author create dozens of further stories.  However, this is probably one of the more well-known iterations.

The story begins in 1821 as Spain is leaving Mexico due to a rebellion led by General Santa Anna.  The last governor, Don Rafael Montero is ordered to leave, but has one last piece of business to take care of.  He gives his friend Don Luiz orders to distribute the Spanish land amongst themselves and pay taxes to Santa Anna, thereby maintaining their wealth.  Montero is planning to execute three innocent men amidst a protest.  Two boys are waiting for the legendary Zorro to appear and he does not disappoint.  The boys even save Zorro from a trap and in return, he gifts them with a medallion.  The crowd cheers for their hero and protects him from the guards.  He confronts Montero and marks his neck with a “Z”, three slashes for three men.  Montero would murder a hundred innocent men in order to kill Zorro.  But Zorro rides away.

There is a lair beneath his estate (the original Bat cave; in fact, Zorro is considered an influence to Batman); Zorro remarks to his faithful black steed that they are both getting too old for their activities.  Zorro without the mask is Diego de la Vega and he visits his infant daughter in her nursery and tells her stories about his escapades.  His wife, Esperenza joins the pair.  They are interrupted by Montero and his guards.  Montero has an inkling at this point that de la Vega is Zorro and pressing on his arm reveals a bloody scratch de la Vega received during the fight that day.  He attempts to arrest de la Vega as a traitor to both his country and his class, and oddly apologizes to Esperenza.  Turns out, Montero loves Esperenza and is upset that she married de la Vega; but now, he probably is thinking with de la Vega out of the way, he can claim Esperenza.  But Esperenza tries to protect her husband during his duel with Montero and a guard accidentally shoots her.  Montero dispatches the guard, and de la Vega goes for his crying daughter; a fire has started during the scuffle.  Montero knocks de la Vega out, puts him in chains, and claims his daughter.  Montero leaves with young Elena for Spain and de la Vega is taken away to prison to rot; Montero’s parting words to de la Vega: you must “live with the knowledge you have lost everything you hold dear,” and “your child should have been mine.”  (This of course, takes away the notion of Esperenza’s own choice; she seems very happy with de la Vega and aware of his secret, most likely meaning it was a love match, so no, Elena should have never been Montero’s child.)  de la Vega swears to Montero, “you will never be rid of me!”

Twenty years later: the Murrieta brothers have been caught…well, actually, they were in on their capture so they could steal the guard’s money and redistribute it to the poor (a la Robin Hood).  But there is a new Captain in town, Captain Love from Texas; he ends up shooting Joaquin and capturing Jack.  Alejandro escapes, but watches his brother shoot himself instead of being captured.  Alejandro collects his brother’s medallion, then tries to barter it away for a drink.  In the meantime, Montero has returned to California.  His first stop is the prison, in order to be sure that Zorro is dead.  Several prisoners claim they are Zorro (like the famous “I’m Spartacus” scene), but Montero doesn’t believe any of them.  He walks right by an old man with an eye patch, pauses for a moment, but dismisses him.  He deduces Zorro is dead.

Wrong.  That old man is de la Vega and he manages to free himself and get smuggled out of the prison by impersonating a dead body; meaning he then digs himself out of the grave.  He will exact his revenge on Montero.  He attends Montero’s official arrival the following day, where Montero plays to the crowd, insulting the other Dons so he can claim he works for the people.  Obviously, de la Vega knows better and starts to make his way to the former governor, until Montero’s “daughter” arrives, Elena.  This halts de la Vega.  He must rethink his plan.  On his way to his hideout, he comes across Alejandro and his old medallion as Alejandro prepares to barter it away.  He easily bests Alejandro in a fight, but offers to train the young man.

mask of zorroAlejandro is eager to start fighting, though his answer of “the pointy end goes in the other man, [sounding like Jon Snow or Arya Stark]” shows de la Vega that he must start with the basics.  The master has a new apprentice.  de la Vega has Alejandro bathe and trim his hair.  After disarming the old fox once, Alejandro figures he is skilled enough to capture a black Andalusian, like Zorro’s Tornado.  Alejandro, in a mask, encounters Elena and she is quite taken by the dangerous man.  When his plan goes a bit awry, Alejandro hides in the church and ends up hearing Elena’s confession, that she is starting to have thoughts about the masked man and her heart is too wild for her father’s liking.  Alejandro manages to escape before Captain Love appears, but he leaves the “Z” mark to let them know Zorro has returned.

de la Vega, expertly using a whip to extinguish candles (Hopkins could do that trick and was added into the movie), is not pleased with Alejandro; Zorro serves the people, not himself.  Alejandro is tired of the lectures and demands de la Vega duel him.  The older man holds up a spoon.  Alejandro must have the polish of a proper gentleman, and needs to spy on Montero.  The two men attend a gala held at the estate, de la Vega masquerading as Alejandro’ s servant, who goes by the title Don de Castilio.  Alejandro is properly presented to Elena, but his gentleman charm does not impress her, though he is impressing Montero.  However, when Alejandro has to stall Montero, he dances quite passionately with Elena (it is a wonderful and lively dance).  Alejandro gains an invitation with the rest of the Dons and Montero reveals his plan; he means for the Dons to claim California.  They will buy it from Santa Anna with gold from a mine on his own land that he is unaware of.  Santa Anna will take the gold because a war with the United States is expensive.  Montero shows off the mine the next day and Alejandro discovers that poor Mexicans who have gone missing have been taken to the mine.

Elena has a conversation with de la Vega the next day in the stables, only knowing him as Alejandro’s servant.  But de la Vega remarks that she looks like her mother.  Elena has been told that her mother was very proper.  And de la Vega’s voice is familiar.  Then, in the market, her former nursemaid makes a gift to her, recognizing her as the daughter of Esperenza de la Vega.  Elena tries to tell the woman she is mistaken and that she was born in Spain.  But she’s already encountered native Californian flowers she remembers the scent.  Montero’s tale is starting to unravel.

de la Vega gifts Alejandro with a proper Zorro mask and instructs him to sneak into Montero’s office; they need the location of the mine.  de la Vega sets a flaming “Z” on the hillside as a distraction, but Alejandro still encounters Captain Love and Montero and even duels them both.  he escapes through the stables and faces off with Elena, who is skilled in sword fighting as well (I love that she’s an action woman).  He does delicately cut her clothes off her as a way to stop her (her hair covers her top).  Alejandro still has hilarious issues with his new horse, but does demonstrate that he is a good rider.  de la Vega returns that evening to confront Montero and demands that Elena be brought out.  Montero’s tale fully unravels; the name “de la Vega” is a clue from the woman in the marketplace and the truth comes out.  She persuades de la Vega to put down his sword to save himself from being shot.  At this point, Elena must be wondering what did Montero do that he was able to take her from de la Vega and what truly happened to her mother.  Then she later frees him from the cellar he’s been thrown into and they race off to help Zorro.

zorro dance

Zorro sneaks into the mine and discovers the people are locked in.  Captain Love’s suggestion is to blow up the mine once all the gold is out and kill the people as well so there are no witnesses.  But when Zorro shows up, Love cuts the fuse so he has time to deal with the nuisance.  de la Vega confronts Montero again as Elena watches.  Montero seems willing to kill her to stop de la Vega, but he wouldn’t actually hurt the woman he views as a daughter, though it gives him the chance to shoot de la Vega.  Zorro dispatches Love, even after being stabbed and unmasked, then Montero is caught behind the wagon as it falls.  Elena goes to rescue the trapped people and the fuse has restarted.  Zorro helps her with the last cells and they save the day!  Alejandro holds de la Vega as he bids his daughter farewell; she has the same spirit as her mother.  He even blesses Alejandro and Elena, then passes away.  Elena mourns de la Vega; not Montero.

There must always be a Zorro; it is a destiny and a curse, for there is always another battle.  But both Zorros have loved Elena.  And now Alejandro tells the story to his son.

In 2005, there was a direct sequel to this film, The Legend of Zorro, bringing back both Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones to reprise their roles.  Rufus Sewell (Knight’s Tale, Tristan and Isolde, Victoria) joins as Armand, a former friend of Elena de la Vega’s when she grew up in Spain.  This film is not nearly as good as Mask of Zorro.  The premise is that California is voting to become part of the United States in 1850, but there is a secret organization attempting to block it.  Zorro is doing his best, but since he is gone often, his marriage is strained and he’s missing out on seeing his son grow up.  His secret is found out by mysterious men, who blackmail Elena into working undercover for them.  She divorces Alejandro and he must make a choice between being Zorro and saving his family.

Of course, several of the fight scenes are still good and Elena retains some of her action-girl status.  But there are several glaring errors.  California at that time was Catholic; divorce was not allowed and Elena’s status would have surely suffered.  Mentions of the Confederacy are inaccurate since it didn’t form until 1861.  The inclusion of nitroglycerin is just barely factual; it was invented in 1847 as an explosive, but to me, still seems a bit farfetched.  The overall feeling I get from the film is that they were trying too hard.  The villains are flat.   Of course, the son learns who his father is, and the marriage is put to rights.  I argue how could Elena say to Alejandro “we were never meant to be together?”  You married him knowing full well who he was and what he did.  That was what attracted you to him.  There was a more logical way to deal with the matter.

So, definitely watch Mask of Zorro, it is a classic.  Hopkins is excellent and I actually would love to see more of him in that role.  Antonio is charming and this is why Puss in Boots in Shrek is a takeoff on Zorro, since Antonio voiced the cat (despite the tale being French).  As I’ve stated before, I love a good sword fight.

Next Time: Top Gun

Tiding Over

A Random Fandom Update:

I happen to be listening to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks recently, which makes me want to re-watch the first trilogy.  They also have inspired a few scenes and notes for my eventual fantasy epic (which is good, because it needs some major work).  And yep, still love the first three movies!  The original is still the best and looking back, I feel some pity for the special effects team because it could not have been easy timing all the moonlight skeleton effects.  Orlando Bloom is young a dashing (he was a celebrity crush when I was a teen) and still swoon at the kiss at the end 🙂

I like elements of Dead Man’s Chest soundtrack and the battle against the Kraken is thrilling.  And the ending of At World’s End is full of emotions.  That flourish in the orchestra during Will and Elizabeth’s wedding times perfectly with the spin, squee!  And Most.  Epic.  Kiss.  Ever!  Of course, I have to find the few clips of Will in the fifth movie and I think it’s sweet that they use Will and Elizabeth’s theme in the background while he talks to his young son, Henry.

I also really want a good crossover fic between Pirates of the Caribbean and Once Upon a Time because there is such a realm of possibilities between Killian Jones knowing either Jack and/ or Will.  If anyone finds a good story,  let me know so I can check it out!

In the meantime; I’ve read several novels off my shelf, re-reading a couple different fanfiction stories, but haven’t gotten much writing done.  The action-adventure blogs will be starting soon, just gotta get my brain to focus, lol!

Let me know what fandoms have been keeping you entertained!

“My heart want to sings every song it hears”

The Sound of Music

Probably my favorite musical of all time and I don’t even mind that it’s nearly three hours long.  It’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic and the range is well suited to my voice; I’d love to perform it sometime.  It too stars Julie Andrews and was released one year after Mary Poppins.  It won Best Picture in 1965, and Julie was nominated for Best Actress.  Julie is Maria, and the cast includes Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp.  It is based on the life of the Von Trapp family singers, who did escape Austria trapp family lodgebefore war broke out.  They traveled in the United States, singing, before they settled in Vermont, where they founded the Trapp Family Lodge (it reminded them of the mountains of Austria).  But some aspects of their lives were changed for the film; their father was not as cold as he appeared and there were more children with different names.

The film opens on the mountains and Maria twirls around, “the hills are alive/ with the Sound of Music/ with songs they have sung/ for a thousand years.”  Bells ring after the song and she has to run back to the abbey.  The audience is treated to a little tour of Salzburg [ironically, the movie is not all that well known in Austria].  The other nuns in the abbey ask Mother Superior, “how do you solve a problem like Maria.”  “How do you catch a cloud/ and pin it down…but how do you make her stay/ and listen to all you say/ how do you keep a wave/ upon the sand?”  In the end, she’s a girl, not a demon nor a lamb.  But Mother Superior does speak to Maria.  The young woman can’t stop singing and she may not have been prepared for the kind of life that nuns lead.  So Mother Superior will have her act as a governess to seven children, to see if she can really live the nun’s life.  Maria is nervous at first, but finds I Have Confidence.

von trapp familyHer introduction to the Captain is not the best.  He expects his home and his children to be run with discipline and calls for his children with a whistle; like one would on a ship [that never happened].  Maria refuses and admits she was trouble at the abbey [the truth].  Liesl is 16, Friedrich is 14, Louisa 13, Kurt 11, Brigitta 10, Marta 7, and Gretl 5.  As many children are wont to do when someone new arrives and they’re trying to get attention, they play tricks on Maria.  But she surprises them and takes them in stride, and I believe that is why some of the younger girls begin crying at dinner.  Liesl sneaks out to meet the telegram boy, Rolf.  She is Sixteen Going on Seventeen, while he is seventeen, so Liesl hopes Rolf will tell her how to act in a grown up world.  They dance in the gazebo while it rains and at the end, Rolf pulls Liesl in for a kiss.  She grins in joy later, then has to sneak in to Maria’s room.

Maria discovers from household gossip that Captain Von Trapp is considering marrying Baroness Schrader, but the Captain will not grant Maria’s request for play clothes for the children.  She makes inroads with Liesl, so the young woman admits she may in fact still need a governess.  Gretl runs into Maria’s room, scared of the thunder, quickly followed by the other girls.  The boys join a minute later, to “make sure the girls weren’t scared.”  Maria shares that she thinks of My Favorite Things when something scares or saddens her (I adore this song), “and then I don’t feel/ so bad.”  The children begin laughing and they’re having a merry time, until the Captain appears.  Maria covers for Liesl, but the Captain asks that Maria acquire discipline while he is gone.  She gets an idea from her curtains as she finishes her song.

do re miWhile the Captain is away, Maria makes new play clothes for the children from her old drapes, since new ones are to be made.  They traipse about Salzburg and Maria takes them to her hill and teaches them to sing.  “Let’s start at the very beginning/ a very good place to start/ when you read/ you begin with A B C/ when you sing / you being with Do Re Mi.”  (This is a classic choir song and the solfeg is actually very helpful.)  The Captain returns home with the Baroness, and Uncle Max.  The Captain feels that the Baroness has brought meaning back into his life and she does not want to speak out of turn with Max.  Though she admits that wedding bells may be ringing, but she’s very fond of the Captain.  Max wants to keep the money between the two in the family.  They are surprisingly joined by the children from the river, where they tip over the boat (the young actress playing Gretl couldn’t swim, so she was carried out of the water).  The Captain sends his children in to change, but doesn’t want to discuss them with Maria.  She stands up to the Captain, insisting they are children and all they want is love.  A sound breaks their argument; the children singing.  The Captain is surprised.  Maria watches as he joins his children on The Sound of Music and the family hug afterwards.  The Captain apologizes to Maria in the entryway and asks her to stay.  She managed to bring music back into the house.

Life is merrier.  The children show off a puppet show and The Lonely Goatherd to the other adults and Max wants to enter them into a local music festival.  The Captain refuses; his children will not sing in public.  They do ask their father to sing; he chooses Edelweiss (which is not actually an actual Austrian folk song or national anthem; in fact, it was the last song Hammerstein wrote).  The Baroness notices the looks the Captain gives Maria and so suggests a party, so all of his friends can meet her.

Underlying the family storyline are the historical events of the end of the thirties.  Hitler has begun his rise in Germany and wishes to annex Austria and join it to Germany, the Anschluss.  Rolf has already mentioned it and Herr Zeller attends the party, noting the Austrian flag hanging in the Captain’s home.  Captain Von Trapp was a hero of the Austrian navy in the first world war.  Zeller butts heads with the Captain a little, but they keep it light since it is a party.

Maria starts to show the children an Austrian folk dance, but Kurt is too short.  The Captain assists.  Maria flushes.  The Baroness witnesses.  Then it is time for the children to say good night.  The guests assemble for So Long, Farewell; Gretl is such a sweet child.  Max insists to the Captain that Maria stay with adults for dinner and the Baroness offers to help Maria change.  She mentions to Maria that the Captain has been noticing her; the Baroness can tell that Maria loves the Captain, and the Captain may even think he is in love with her.  Maria decides to leave and the Baroness agrees.

Intermission.  After the Entr’acte back through Salzburg, the children are despondent.  They are not happy with the Baroness and she even remarks to Max that her solution to the children is boarding school.  The children don’t even want to sing anymore.  They venture to the abbey and ask to see Maria, but she’s in seclusion and not seeing anyone.  Mother Superior calls her in to find out what happened with the Von Trapps.  Maria was not mistreated, but she can’t face him again.  Mother Superior asks her plainly, “are you in love with him?”  “I don’t know!” Maria exclaims.  Mother Superior counsels the young woman that she has a great capacity for love, but she must decide what she will do with it.  Maria should return to the Von Trapps, face her problems, and discover the life she was born to live.  Climb Ev’ry Mountain, Mother Superior counsels; “follow ev’ry rainbow/ ’till you find your dream/ a dream that will need/ all the love you can give/ ev’ry day of your life/ for as long as you live.”

Maria does return, as the children sing My Favorite Things to lift their spirits (after claiming to have eaten loads of berries and missing dinner).  They’re thrilled, as is Maria, until she discovers the Captain’s engagement.  She tells the Captain she will remain until a new governess is found.  But the Baroness and Captain break off the engagement.  The Captain admits he has not been fair to the Baroness, loving someone else.  And the Baroness needs to be needed, or at least, need her money.  The Captain goes to Maria that evening at the gazebo and kisses her.  Something Good has come to their lives.  Their wedding follows at the abbey, with the organ and choir reprising Maria.

Max has the children rehearse for the festival while Maria and the Captain are on their honeymoon.  The Anschluss has occurred and Nazi flags drape the buildings [there were concerns with filming whether the people would dislike the flags so soon after the war, but it was better than using news film].  Zeller wishes to speak to the Captain, but he has not returned yet.  He insists that “nothing in Austria has changed,” everything is still the same.  The Captain and Maria have in fact returned home to find a Nazi flag on their house.  There is a telegram delivered from Rolf via Liesl ordering the Captain to report for a position in the Third Reich.  He decides the family must get out of Austria, tonight.  The Germans are waiting for the family that evening when they try to sneak out (the butler was a Nazi-sympathizer).  The family uses the festival as their excuse and in fact final concertperform as a whole.  It’s a rearrangement of Do Re Mi and the Captain follows by singing Edelweiss with the crowd.  Max reveals the Third Reich’s plans for the Captain, causing the audience to mutter against the Nazi invasion; the family will perform a final encore, So Long, Farewell.  When the winners of the festival are announced, the Von Trapp family is gone.

They take refuge at the abbey and Mother Superior hides them in the cemetery.  There are always nerves as the Nazis shine their flashlight, searching for the family, even if it’s the dozen-th time I have watched the movie.  Rolf hides and discovers the family as they start to get away.  He pulls a gun on the Captain; it’s him the Nazis want, not the family.  The Captain manages to get the gun and begs Rolf to come with them, he’s only a boy.  But when he says that Rolf is not a Nazi, Rolf raises the alarm, just to prove that he is.  The nuns have taken pieces of the Nazis cars to stop them from following the Von Trapps.  The family hikes into the mountain and will cross into Switzerland on foot.  A choir reprises the chorus of Climb Ev’ry Mountain as the family passes by [what actually happened is that they took a train into Italy, then made their way to England and ultimately the United States.  If they had gone over the mountains, they would have ended up in Germany, near Hitler’s mountain retreat.]

The family storyline in the film is heartwarming; a father learning to reconnect with his children, especially through music.  The music is superb; there’s a reason it is one of the best known musicals.

Further Reading:

Agathe von Trapp: Memories Before and After The Sound of Music, written by the eldest von Trapp daughter and contains the actual history of the family.  It’s a nice read; even though the family initially disliked the film since it portrays their father colder than reality, they recognize the impact it has had on moviegoers.

The Sound of Music Companion by Laurence Maslon and Julie Andrews, behind the scenes of filming and bringing the original stage production to life.

Julie Andrews also has two autobiographies out at this time, Home and Home Work

 

This  film with the half dozen previous posts, made up a big portion of my childhood.  Definitely danced around the living room to the soundtrack of Joseph.  As already noted, my brother and I watched these on repeat as children.  I still love to sing along to these soundtracks.  1776 was the influence of a paper I wrote in college; aided by a dozen of my mother’s books on John Adams.

Ah yes, by now I have watched Hamilton thanks to Disney +.  I didn’t mind the middle part, but it started to drag on at the end.  It’s a very cool concept, to mix American history with modern music and dance.  But…I will always love 1776.

Up Next: I’ll start the action/adventure section.  Posts might be spread out a bit more to give me a chance to truly analyze story and character aspects.  It’ll definitely take us through Christmas.  I begin with the Zorro movies.