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.

WYSIWYG The November Man

WYSIWYG is a design principle where “What You See is What You Get”. The November Man is currently playing in theaters.

The November Man

 

The November Man (2014) – Rated R

An ex-CIA operative is brought back in on a very personal mission and finds himself pitted against his former pupil in a deadly game involving high level CIA officials and the Russian president-elect.”

Know what we used to call you Peter? The November Man. Cause after you passed through, nothing lived. You were one bleak mother$%^& my friend.

Obviously it’s a good idea to cast Pierce Brosnan as an aging, retired superspy. There are plenty of people who have missed him as Bond, though Daniel Craig is a fine successor. I am old enough to be a Connery fan but I like Brosnan and he has aged well.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much all you get with The November Man. It is a by-the-numbers spy thriller with Devereaux coaxed out of retirement because a loved one is in danger. A hotshot protege is after him, the agency head wants him dead, and there is an agency contact in the middle. The main problem is that these roles play out exactly as we’ve seen them in many other genre books and films.

Another problem is that the Russian President-elect is basically a cipher here, practically a MacGuffin. I suspect that the screenplay rearranged things around Brosnan and downplayed other parts of the novel, “There are No Spies”, by Bill Granger. Michael Finch (Predators) and Karl Gajdusek (Oblivion) wrote the screenplay.

The cast is a mix of Hollywood types and apparently whoever was available in Serbia. I understand that it is very cheap to film in Eastern Europe but it almost always looks cheap as well (see the fifth Die Hard – or better yet avoid it) and The November Man is not an exception. Will Patton is always a welcome presence but does not have much to do.

Director Roger Donaldson is a competent, if unspectacular, director. He has worked with Brosnan before on Dante’s Peak and showcases him here to good effect. Devereaux’s return after his initial escape is a standout sequence but the rest of the film is fairly routine. The subject matter is unpleasant enough to earn an ‘R’ rating but sanitized enough for viewing audiences. The November Man is rated R for strong violence, including a sexual assault, language, sexuality, nudity, and brief drug use.

This is an easy recommendation if you are a Brosnan fan, otherwise meh.

Hatfields Ring Bag of McCoys Fire Bones

When I was a kid, I loved miniseries. Of course when I was a kid there was no HBO, no VCRs, and you could play any TV series out of order as, other than soap operas, there was no sequential storytelling. How fares the TV miniseries now? Apart from the BBC and Ken Burns (both of whom do miniseries exceedingly well), we have:

Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire (2012) – Not Rated

Stemming from a small town, a volcanic eruption triggered by an oil rig ignites a domino effect of eruptions that extends across the world, dooming all of humanity if the devastating string of explosions can’t be stopped.

Ring of Fire isn’t awful. That’s about all I can say for it. They wisely hide their budgetary limitations but shying away from CGI as much as possible. Characters often talk of events that would be shown in a big budget blockbuster. Acting is better than an Asylum movie but not by much.

If they jettisoned a few unnecessary subplots, Ring of Fire would have easily fit in a single movie slot. Also, a note to filmmakers, you don’t have to make your catastrophe global if ALL of the action is local, it comes off very silly. Shaky cam is DEAD, please let it stay that way.

Hatfields & McCoys

Hatfields & McCoys (2012) – TV-14

Close friends Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy return to their neighboring homes after the Civil War — Hatfield in West Virginia, McCoy across the river in Kentucky — to building tensions and resentments that soon explode into warfare.”

Hatfields & McCoys is a very good miniseries covering the highlights of the infamous feud. The Hatfields come off as the clear aggressors in the early stages but later the McCoys are unable to put the feud behind them, mostly because they don’t feel as though they’ve gotten even.

The general storyline is fairly factual though the miniseries does up the actual body count during several of the more celebrated incidents. Hatfields & McCoys does succeed at evoking rural life in the late nineteenth century, interfamily relations, and ultimately the pointlessness of the feud.

Bag of Bones

Bag of Bones (2011) – TV-14

Reeling from the sudden death of his wife, author Mike Noonan moves into his backwoods writing retreat, only to be swept up in a supernatural conspiracy that involves a custody battle over a young girl and a vengeful ghost that haunts his house.”

Although the miniseries is often the ideal format for Stephen King adaptations (It, The Stand), Bag of Bones does not work very well. It is not a bad miniseries and Pierce Brosnan is always welcome but there is not much here to recommend. Bag of Bones merely hits the highlights of the novel and we never get invested in the characters. It either needed to be three parts or have portions of the story trimmed and altered to make it more cohesive and coherent.

Storage 24 & Bag of Bones

Storage 24 and Bag of Bones are currently available on instant Netflix.

Storage 24Storage 24 (2012) – Rated R

“In this creepy thriller, an emergency power shutdown in London leaves four friends trapped by random circumstances in a cavernous storage facility. Before long, the group realizes that something lethal is inside the darkened warehouse with them.”

I love monster movies and I rarely get any these days. Over the last couple decades, horror movies have moved to make the villains either human or ghostly. The few monsters we get are almost invariably vampires or zombies (not that I mind those but they are overdone).

I’m not having much luck lately. Storage 24 is another not good film. It is a British horror movie and, as such, has a very small budget. The monster isn’t the worst that I’ve seen but they are wise to keep it under wraps for a bit.

Being trapped in a storage facility gives them a chance to use ducts a la Alien albeit at a far cheaper rate. Storage 24 follows fairly standard plot tropes but there are some nice humorous touches, mainly involving a particular toy. The ending, while telegraphed earlier in the film, is also a nice touch.

I think Storage 24 suffers most from coming right after the enormously fun British alien invasion film, Attack the Block. Still there is some fun to be had here if you don’t mind the cheap special effects and silly plot devices.

Bag of Bones

Stephen King’s Bag of Bones (2011) – TV-14

“Reeling from the sudden death of his wife, author Mike Noonan moves into his backwoods writing retreat, only to be swept up in a supernatural conspiracy that involves a custody battle over a young girl and a vengeful ghost that haunts his house.”

I looked forward to catching this as soon as it showed up on Netflix. My wife cannot handle intensely scary material but we have watched most of the Stephen King adaptations together. They satisfy my craving for the supernatural without unduly disturbing her. We began watching this and just a few minutes in, there was something under the bed. My wife screamed and that was the end of Bag of Bones.

Bag of Bones, like the novel, is very heavy on exposition. I think perhaps it needed to be filmed in three parts instead of two as things are very swiftly told in conversation, rather than unfolding over time. You also don’t get a feel for any of the characters except Mike Noonan.

The best I can say about Bag of Bones is that Pierce Brosnan is quite likeable. Annabeth Gish and Melissa George are wasted in throw away roles. Matt Frewer, despite fifth billing on imdb, has what amounts to a cameo appearance.

Watching Bag of Bones is essentially reading the Cliff’s Notes – you’ll get the gist of the story without any idea of what made the novel good. This was a really missed opportunity.

Dante’s Peak – Not Kidding – The End is Nigh! week

Dante’s Peak is currently available on instant Netflix.

One-Line Review: Everything you know about volcanoes thrown into one small town – fun havoc ensues.

Dante’s Peak (1997) – Rated PG-13

“Pierce Brosnan stars in this nail-biting thriller as volcanologist Harry Dalton, who comes to the sleepy town of Dante’s Peak to investigate the recent rumblings of the dormant volcano the burg is named for. Before long, his worst fears are realized when a massive eruption hits, and immediately, Harry, the mayor (played by Linda Hamilton) and the townspeople find themselves fighting for their lives amid a catastrophic nightmare.”

“It’s coffee time! Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee!”

I cannot say that Dante’s Peak has less mistakes than the other natural disaster movies but at least it tries. Most of the faults come from the implementation of what a volcano can do. The plot goes through a laundry list of volcano effects without regard to what would or could happen.

Yes, volcanoes can turn a lake acidic – no, not to the point where it instantly melts a boat. Yes volcanoes can erupt basaltic flows and pyroclastic – no, not simultaneously. Yes, there are pyroclastic clouds – no, a vehicle without tires cannot outrun one. Yes, you can drive onto a lava flow – no, you are not driving off of it.

As the Hollywood studios often do, two volcano projects were rushed into production. Dante’s Peak got released just two months before Volcano (much like this year’s dueling Snow Whites – Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and The Huntsman). Much as I like watching a volcano appear in Los Angeles, Dante’s Peak is the better film.

Roger Donaldson wisely limits the scope to a small town and keeps the focus on a single family (the Mayor, her two children, her mother-in-law and their dog) and the small USGS crew. There is no over-the-top attempt to stop a volcano from blowing, merely an attempt to predict and dealing with the inevitable aftermath.

Donaldson has some nice stylistic touches such as having Linda Hamilton look out a car window during the event and have her worried face reflected in the glass while we see the explosion. He likes it so much that he repeats that basic shot twice more. Real footage of Mt. St. Helens is melded convincingly into Dante’s Peak, lending some authenticity to the proceedings.

There are a lot of jarring continuity issues that pulled me out of the film: disappearing clothes hanging by the hot springs, a busted in window made whole again, a truck emerging from the river dry, writing on a cast disappearing. There are shoes, goggles, and glasses that appear and disappear. The worst one though is clearly the one-lane bridge that is sometimes the width of one lane and sometimes wide enough for two lanes and a shoulder.

Dante’s Peak answers the question of what did Linda Hamilton do after the Terminator movies. She is just fine here as the mayor and mother of two. Pierce Brosnan  is his usual charming self as the vulcanologist who knows more than his colleagues. The child actors (Jamie Renee Smith and Jeremy Foley) acquit themselves well as does Elizabeth Hoffman as the cranky old grandmother. In short acting is solid but not award-winning.

Dante’s Peak is engaging and, if you can forgive the prominent errors, really starts to rock once the Peak blows. I’m beginning to think that what I like about disaster films are all the errors but if that were the case I would enjoy hacker movies more.

The Lawnmower Man – King of Horror week

This week we are covering movies based on works by Stephen King. Lawnmower Man is currently available on instant Netflix.

AVOID: The Lawnmower Man (1992) – Rated R for language, sensuality and a scene of violence.

“A developmentally disabled landscaper named Jobe (Jeff Fahey) crosses paths with an obsessed government scientist (Pierce Brosnan) who has something to prove. Thanks to brilliant lab work, the mad doctor unlocks his test subjects potential for genius — and for evil. As Jobes intelligence grows, his pent-up rage begins to boil over. Based on Stephen Kings short story of the same name, the film is a knockout vision of high-tech horror.”

“This technology was meant to expand human communication, but you are not even human any more! What you have become terrifies me. You are a freak!” – “Your naive idiocy makes me VERY ANGRY!”

Bwahaha! I hardly know where to begin with this review.

Okay first let us cover the Stephen King connection. Stephen King wrote a short story titled The Lawnmower Man. The film claimed to be based on the short story. Hysterically it only has a slight tangential connection to that story in that the events that take place in it are mentioned briefly in the film.

Naturally, Stephen King sued (successfully) and had his name removed from the film. This however has not stopped Netflix and others from describing this as a Stephen King flick.

The opening scene where our scientist has used “aggression drugs” on his lab monkey is absolutely hysterical. The monkey apparently had too much because, while wearing a goofy virtual reality outfit, finishes the program, escapes, and grabs a handgun from the holster of a guard and blows his head off.

Brett Leonard is responsible for this unintentional laugh fest. He not only directed but co-wrote it with producer Gimel Everett. Keep in mind when watching this (if you must) that the King story was not even about virtual reality.

Strangely this is a virtual reality update of the classic science fiction story, “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes. Only in addition to becoming more intelligent, Jobe also becomes EVIL!

This is because apparently giving someone the ability to learn Latin (or anything else) in two hours is not enough of a military operation. This causes the military to switch the drugs they are giving Jobe into the “aggression” ones they gave the monkey that worked out so well in the opening scene.

Not content with botching this movie about virtual reality, Brett Leonard would go on to make Virtuosity, another bad virtual reality movie.

Pierce Brosnan is actually pretty terrible here as the scientist. I think it might be because he was embarrassed by the script. Perhaps real cutting edge techno-scientists do not have a game room/laboratory that looks dated even for 1992. Thankfully Brosnan caught his TV-to-movie career break when he was picked as the new Bond for Goldeneye.

Jeff Fahey is fun as Jobe. He definitely does not give the heartfelt performance that Cliff Robertson gave in Charly (the real adaptation of Flowers for Algernon) but he has a keen grasp of B-movie acting. He is in really good shape here and has quite a stare with those striking ice blue eyes of his. Currently Fahey can be seen as Frank Lapidus on Lost.

Also having fun here is a very attractive Jenny Wright as the sexually adventurous Marnie Burke. Veteran character actor Geoffrey Lewis plays Terry McKeen, a sort of father figure to Jobe.

The plot makes almost no sense. They throw in every possible lawnmower reference they can even though that did not really have anything to do with the King story.

Apparently as soon as you become halfway intelligent, you realize that maybe you want to cut the hair BLOCKING YOUR VISION! After that when you become evil, you apparently acquire a new hairdo as well.

The final act is ridiculous beyond comprehension and I mean literally beyond comprehension. There are a dozen or so guards armed with shotguns just standing in the open doing nothing. When their heads begin bothering them, they cannot think clearly enough to shoot the approaching vehicle but apparently have the presence of mind to move out of the way. Immediately after that they have no problem shooting at something else.

Is there any cliche more hackneyed than the bomb on a timer? Seriously does no one use remote detonators? Heck even a length of fuse would work better.

Later Dr. Angelo (Brosnan) does something inexplicably moronic BECAUSE THE SCRIPT TELLS HIM TO. Unfortunately this too close to the end for me to discuss without spoilers.

People Watch: Doug Hutchison has a small role here as a Security Tech. He would later play the uber-creepy Eugene Victor Tooms on two episodes of X-Files and Horace Goodspeed in seven episodes of Lost.

The Fourth Protocol – Weapons of Mass Destruction week

This is Weapons of Mass Destruction week. The Fourth Protocol is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Fourth Protocol

PASS: The Fourth Protocol (1987) – Rated R.

“In an effort to shatter NATO alliances, Russian spy Valeri Petrofsky (Pierce Brosnan) plots to explode a nuclear bomb in Britain and blame the act on America. It is up to British agent John Preston (Michael Caine) to foil the plan, despite the skepticism of his superiors. Based on the book by best-selling author Frederick Forsyth, this well-crafted espionage thriller also stars Joanna Cassidy as a second Russian agent.”

“He is armed with a bomb.” – “How big a bomb?” – “Atomic bomb.”

Director John MacKenzie does a capable job here. Unfortunately that is the best that can be said. This is a typical by-the-numbers Cold War spy thriller. There is no particular flair or artistry involved.

Author Frederick Forsyth helped write the screenplay from his novel. The script is very literate but there is very little life or passion in it. It is strange that with so much attention to detail, the antagonists assemble the atomic bomb with their bare hands, including handling the radioactive material.

Gasp! John Preston (Michael Caine) is a rogue agent who does not play by the rules! In one scene he notably stares at a countdown timer as it reaches 007. He is a little past his prime here but always enjoyable.

Pierce Brosnan (post-Remington Steele, pre-James Bond) is our primary antagonist. He drives a  motorcycle with the tag C700 OBL (yet another 007 reference). Joanna Cassidy is his cover “wife”.

Ian Richardson is the only standout in a good cast. He is simply superb in his brief screen-time as Sir Nigel Irvine. While I have not reviewed them yet, his starring role in The House of Cards trilogy is extremely highly recommended.

The rest of the cast is quite good as well though they seem somewhat wasted. Julian Glover is the priggish boss, Brian Harcourt-Smith, who refuses to believe any evidence simply because he hates John Preston. Michael Gough plays outgoing boss, Sir Bernard Hemmings (so we have both of the recent Alfreds, faithful butler to Batman). Ned Beatty plays Borisov.

None of the action is exciting. A car does a 180 degree screech to a halt so Preston can grab a train. A van hits two other cars to pull out of a traffic jam. Ho hum.

There is nothing wrong with this thriller (well other than that it is not very thrilling) but there is nothing special about it either. In spite of the good cast, I cannot really recommend this.

People Watch: Matt (Max Headroom) Frewer has a small part here as Tom McWhirter. He puts quite the twang into his voice. Frederick Forsyth cameos as a radio newsreader.