Just the Spectre of a Bond Movie

Well, I finally got to see the new Bond movie, Spectre.

Spectre

Spectre (2015) – Rated PG-13

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.”

I really like Daniel Craig’s Bond. He comes across as a muscle-bound thug, a blunt instrument of policy. Connery is my favorite but Craig’s ruthlessness makes him a close second. The Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan eras verged on parody with their outlandish gadgets and grandiose villains.

Casino Royale was a wonderful reboot of the franchise, bringing Bond back to the basics and packing a real emotional punch. They even included a scene from the book that I doubted would be filmed (ow!). Sadly, they followed this up with a rather lazy cash grab in Quantum of Solace.

Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) was hired to bring Skyfall to the screen. In spite of, or perhaps because of, not being an action director, he knocked it out of the park. Skyfall was not only a wonderful action picture but also a love letter to Connery’s Bond.

The success of Skyfall meant that I had seriously high hopes for the reteaming of Mendes and Craig in Spectre. Toss in one of my favorite character actors (Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds) in the villain role and I was all set.

Daniel Craig as a ruthless James Bond – check!

Attractive ladies for Bond to bed but never wed – check!

Callbacks to the Connery era (not just Spectre itself) – check!

Ridiculously dangerous-looking stunts – check!

Really evil villain – check!

Character who dies immediately after giving crucial information – check!

Requisite fancy car chase through exotic locale – check!

So why was I left underwhelmed? Well, in part it was because much of the movie seemed to be developed from the checklist.

Christoph Waltz is a fantastic actor and was absolutely chilling as Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds. Unfortunately, he isn’t given as much to do here. He is physically unimposing so they felt they had to have an imposing opponent as well. Enter Mr. Hinx (though I don’t remember him being called that) played by WWE giant, Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy).

There is one laughably bad action scene that I would swear was lifted from an Austin Powers movie. A dozen armed villains stand around and shoot everywhere but at Bond while he picks them off one by one.

It is explained that Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) hates guns but she shows she is quite capable with them. One would think, in the interests of self preservation, that she would pick one up off the ground when people are shooting at her but she prefers to hold hands with Bond instead.

There is a fantastic train face-off that is worth the price of admission. Yet, after destroying four train cars, Bond and Madeleine simply go back to their train car and have sex. Huh? For every wonderful scene, there is a head-scratching one.

Bottom line is that Spectre is no Skyfall or Casino Royale but neither is it Quantum of Solace. It is fun but not particularly good. It will also make plenty of money so there will be another one in a few years.

No Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Buy!

I love going to the movies (duh!) but it’s expensive. I try to finesse every FREE ticket offer and discount to keep my costs down and allow me to attend more often.

Spectre

Best Buy currently has an endcap of single James Bond titles for $7.50 each. Each one contains not only a Blu-Ray but also a digital HD copy AND $7 movie money towards Spectre.

The $7 Spectre coupons are also on many of the Bond films at Target. Many Targets also have cheap Bond Collections with digital HD copies (but no Spectre coupons).

I got the Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, and Roger Moore collections from Target, along with Quantum of Solace which had a Spectre ticket. I bought The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill, each with Spectre tickets from Best Buy.

So now I have three tickets for Spectre and all of the canon Bond films on digital HD/UV/Vudu except for George Lazenby’s single turn as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Wal-Mart and Best Buy (and likely Target as well) have Peanuts movie cash on various children’s features (the Ice Age series, the Garfields, Penguins of Madagascar, Epic, etc) as well as on some DVDs of Peanuts specials.

Friday This ‘n’ That – Timing is Everything

#firstworldproblems

I love going to the movies. Currently, Friday is my day off and I like to spend the day at the movies. During the summer, things are great as movies start between 10 and 11 in the morning. I can get in three features before meeting my wife for dinner.

Unfortunately it’s not summer so two of the three theaters I frequent, Regal Biltmore Grande and Epic Theatre of Hendersonville, don’t even start their shows until 1 in the afternoon. Ditto the three I don’t go to, Carmike, Beaucatcher, and Asheville Brewing. Only Carolina Cinemas has morning showings, some as early as 11.

This is the absolute nitpickiest of nitpicky complaints.

Regal Cinemas

Biltmore Grande has a rather annoying schedule. The vast majority of their films run on a 1, 4, 7, and 10 rotation (as many theaters do). While this does mean that you can simply show up at the theater prior to one of these times and be pretty sure you’re okay, it really leaves out those of us who like to string together a marathon or even a double feature.

Carolina Cinemas

Again, Carolina Cinemas comes to the rescue. Their movies are scheduled at all different times so, if you know how long a movie is, you can plan a string of movies. This past Friday, for example, I could have gone to Biltmore Grand to go see The Visit at 130 and Crimson Peak at 4. Alternately I could have gone to The Carolina to see Crimson Peak at 1150, Sicario at 205, and Bridge of Spies at 420.

Epic Theatres’ New Classic Movies on the Big Screen Program

Epic Theatres

Epic Theatres is running a nice lineup of classic movies. Unlike the once a month TCM showings through Fandango, Epic is showing their shows every week and at regular ticket price. As is typical with these classic movies, the advertising is not what it could be so catch them when and where you can or they will stop running.

Epic classic showtimes are 2 and 7 on Sunday and Wednesday (much like their TCM counterparts).

Psycho

10/25 & 10/28 – Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

11/01 & 11/04 – Back to the Future (for those who missed the triple feature)

Princess Bride

11/08 & 11/11 – The Princess Bride (my wife’s absolute favorite movie of all time)

11/15 & 11/18 – The Wizard of Oz

11/22 & 11/25 – Spaceballs

11/29 & 12/2 – A Christmas Story

 

Friday This ‘n’ That – Violence in the Cinema Edition

I went to see Sicario the other day and enjoyed myself but there was an incident at the theater.

I actually missed about ten minutes in the middle of the movie as a fist fight broke out. One patron decided the theater was his personal living room and starting using his cellphone, another patron objected verbally, and shortly after, sound effects behind me are echoing what was onscreen.  I got up but several closer people had already separated them so I got management.

The incident was resolved quickly. After the movie finished and people started leaving, management was on hand to give out return passes. My wife was concerned when I told her but for all the talk of cinema violence, I have gone to the movies constantly for over four decades and have seen just this one fight and one drunk and disorderly a few years back.

I am refraining from naming the theater(s) involved as I would not want them to get a reputation over an incident. Violence is obviously unacceptable (on either part of the equation) but also

TURN OFF YOUR PHONE at the movies – everyone else paid for a ticket too. Act like an adult – don’t kick the chair in front of you because you want to put your feet up. Don’t talk during the feature. This is not your living room. If you are incapable of simple human decency, for goodness sakes, stay home.

 

Sicario – Prisoners Part Deux

I spent a wonderful day at the movies last week. Sicario is currently playing in theaters.

Sicario

Sicario (2015) – Rated R

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.”

I had heard a lot about director Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners before seeing it. I had heard that it was complex, nuanced, and uncompromising among other good things. It was a pretty decent film and he did get several very good performances from his cast but I didn’t really find it hype-worthy. Basically, Villeneuve stepped a little outside of the Hollywood mold but definitely not far enough.

Later, I saw the Israeli film, Big Bad Wolves. It was everything that Prisoners should have been – uncompromising, thrilling, and thought-provoking. It is currently available on instant Netflix so go watch it now, but for goodness sakes turn off your devices and pay attention.

Emily Blunt plays FBI Agent Kate Macer. I loved her as the subversive lead in the generically titled Edge of Tomorrow (a full year before Charlize Theron pulled the same trick in Mad Max Fury Road). To digress for a moment, Edge of Tomorrow is such a generic title that not only did it do poorly at the box office but when it received a home release, they rebranded it as “Live. Die. Repeat.”. To this day, many people think that is the name of the film. After all, it is actually in larger print than the title.

Emily Blunt is just as good here. She has a wonderful ability to project toughness without having it hinder her acting. Josh Brolin plays, well, a Josh Brolin-esque government agent named Matt Graver. He is a good solid actor but lately his parts can pretty much be defined as “Texan…”. He is a Texan mountain climber in Everest. Here he is a mysterious Texan agent. Unfortunately, there is no stretching of his acting abilities.

Benicio del Toro is suitably enigmatic, charming, and menacing as Alejandro. He is another actor who can act quite well but is often cast in roles he can walk through. In Sicario, his character is given a complex backstory BUT since the story isn’t really about him, it is glossed over and mostly delivered, disappointingly, as exposition.

Herein lies the crux of Denis Villeneuve’s issues. He is a director with a lot of good ideas and able to get good performances out of actors BUT he lacks subtlety and nuance. He wants to make sure audiences get it so many things are delivered by expository dump. That said the opening sequence is a stunner. The rest of the film is quite good but definitely by-the-numbers as Agent Macer gradually realizes how in-over-her-head she is and what lengths both sides are willing to take.

 

Regal You So Crazy Part 2 – Mockingjay

Regal Cinemas

Apparently Regal got a good reaction to their limited edition $100 Spectre card. Now they have a $100 limited edition The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2 card.

Mockingjay 2

Guests with the Regal Ultimate Ticket can receive one admission to “Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2″ each day for the entire run of the movie in Regal theaters. This limited edition stainless steel collectible is laser etched and features the iconic Mockingjay symbol. Each will be personalized FREE with the recipient’s name. Hurry! Production is limited to only 1,000 available units.  Be Part of the Revolution. Again and again.”

Ultimate Mockingjay

There are a few things that Regal has clarified since the introduction of the Spectre card. Customers receive 100 points on their Regal Crown Club card. They tout this as a bonus but it is just the same number of points you would have received had you spent that $100 on individual tickets. The card is good for IMAX and RPX showings as well.

I like the tchotchke but with RPX showings being $13 in our area, I’d have to go see the movie on eight different days to get my money’s worth.

Obviously the big question is will they do this program for Star Wars?

Also on the Regal front, I received an email about Regal’s new My Way Matinee program. This is a serious misnomer as it is pretty much the opposite of my way.

“In partnership with Puzzles International and the autism community, Regal Cinemas brings you My Way Matinee. This program is a way for individuals, families and friends to enjoy a morning at the movies in a comfortable environment. The auditoriums dedicated to the program have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!”

While this program does not at all appeal to me, I do applaud Regal’s efforts to reach out to the autism community. It is interesting that they note “enjoy a morning at the movies” because both Regals in my area stopped showing morning movies as soon as summer ended.

Finding the Grail – Woohoo! New Theater in Asheville!

The closing of Cinebarre left a bit of a movie void in Asheville. Asheville Pizza is now the only second-run theater and that’s way on the north side of town and has but a single screen. The Carmike and the fading Beaucatcher are out by the mall (ugh). Regal Biltmore Grande is out in the tony Biltmore Park area and is our fancy theater for the latest releases. Carolina Cinemas (south of Asheville) and the Fine Arts theater (downtown) are Asheville’s venues for art, foreign, and independent film.

Grail Moviehouse

 

Enter The Grail Moviehouse, a new two-screen, 250 seat theater in downtown Asheville.

THE GRAIL MOVIEHOUSE IS AN INDEPENDENT, LOCALLY OWNED THEATER,
SCREENING ART AND INDEPENDENT FILMS, LOCALLY PRODUCED CONTENT,
CLASSICS, AND A REGULAR ROTATION OF CINEMATIC SURPRISES.”

The Fine Arts theater downtown already shows art and foreign films but, with only two screens, there should be more than enough movies to go around. Of course I am most intrigued by The Grail Moviehouse’s intention to show classic movies. They have an ad for an old favorite on their website:

The Tingler

 

They have a nice two and a half minute sizzle reel showing the theater being built on their blog (accessible from the website). Concession-wise The Grail Moviehouse will have the necessary traditional favorites but they also plan to reach out to local venues to round out their menu.

I am very much looking forward to opening day sometime in 2016.

“Movies people love for people who love movies.”

That’s me!

 

Oh Regal, You So Crazy! Spectre Ultimate Ticket

Regal Cinemas

I love Regal’s special offers and try to take as much advantage of them as I can. Their newest offer is hilarious. They are offering what they call the Regal Ultimate Ticket to Spectre. For $100 plus shipping (seriously, they aren’t even covering the shipping of a card!), you get an anodized steel collectible card that they will personalize with your name.

Spectre

 

So what does this card do? It allows you to see the new Bond movie at Regal Cinemas every single day. Of course they do specify only once a day and there is no mention of it being valid for RPX or IMAX. Of course as this is the only intrinsic value of the card and tickets run $8-10 in my area, I’d have to see Spectre at least ten times to get the value of the card (slightly less if they allow it to be used for RPX or IMAX).

I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie ten times in the theater. My guess would be that if I have, it would have been Star Wars or Grease when I was a kid. I’m not above seeing a movie two or three times but ten? Speaking of Star Wars, I could really see this being a hot item for that movie.

On the other hand, this might make a great collectible.

Hobbitses Everywhere! – Dracula (1931), The Iron Giant, Hobbit Extended in Theaters

I am all in favor of bringing back classics to theaters so they can be seen again as they were meant to, on the big screen.

Hobbit Extended

However, Peter Jackson’s deeply flawed Hobbit trilogy does not qualify as classic. Still we hardly get any fantasy movies. To celebrate the release of The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies extended edition, Fathom Events is bringing the extended versions of all three Hobbit movies to the screen for one night each.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 10/5 at 7:30

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – 10/7 at 7:30

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies – 10/13 at 7:30

Because these are Fathom events, be aware that you’ll pay a premium price.

The Iron Giant

Fathom Events is bringing The Iron Giant back to theaters in a newly remastered version with additional scenes.

The Iron Giant – 9/30 at 7 and 10/4 at 12 noon

Dracula

Finally, to end the month, TCM and Fathom are bringing us a double dose of Dracula. They will be showing the Bela Lugosi original and the Spanish version that was filmed at the same time on the same sets but with different actors.

Dracula – 10/25 & 10/28 at 2 and 7 p.m.