Monthly Archives: July 2007

Review: The Man with the Golden Gun

man_with_the_golden_gun_cov.jpgYear: 1974
Director: Guy Hamilton
Starring: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaize
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 49

Plot
James Bond hunts down the deadly assassin Scaramanga.

Quick Review
There is nothing particularly awful with this film, but there is nothing inspirational here either. Too much of the film’s power evaporates in an overabundance of silliness and in the deliberate pace. The Man with the Golden Gun ends up a bland, slow, unbalanced, and dull film.

Full Review
On the surface, The Man with the Golden Gun has all the right ingredients of a top-notch James Bond film: a intriguing villain, exotic sets, beautiful women, a tight plot, and some great stunts. However, when you add up all the parts, the movie somehow comes up much less than it should. The Man with the Golden Gun is a flat, tedious Bond film that never rises above mediocrity.

Although there is a coherent plot and some fair attention to premise, the pacing in the film drags things down quite a bit. There is almost too much attention to the details of the plot, and as a result man_with_the_golden_gun_1.jpgthe film plods along with little zip or force to the drama or action. Scene construction is also part of the problem, as every scene seems to be a couple of minutes longer than it should be. A good example of this is a segment of the film where Bond is hurried away from the scene of a murder. This could have easily been a quick, one-minute transition, but instead you end up watching Bond meander around in various vehicles for four minutes. These types of scenes suck the life out of the film. The end result is that watching this film is like taxing on a runway for two hours.

Also, the overemphasis on plot and the plodding pace reduces the amount of action in The Man with the Golden Gun. Even the action that does exist seems sluggish compared to other Bond films. Fights lack force, chases lack speed, and gunfights lack tension. Also, the action—and the film on the whole—fails to achieve a good balance between believable action and humor. The action is simply too playful. At times, everything degenerates into slapstick goofiness. In particular, the charismatic man_with_the_golden_gun_2.jpgbut tiring Sheriff J. W. Pepper (played by Clifton James again) makes an appearance and adds too much comedy to a car chase. A different scene, with a solar reflector late in the movie, is bumbling and ridiculous. Even the signature stunt in the film—a dramatic 360-degree spiral jump over a river in Thailand—gets mucked up by adding a goofy, looping whistling sound effect.

In other places, things just don’t make any sense. One scene is so bad that it qualifies for Worst Action Scene of All-Time. I’m giving a way a bit of the plot here, but it’s minor and worth it. In this scene Bond escapes from a martial arts school where he is being subjected to repeated attacks. Once outside, a friendly agent and his two nieces drive by and find him (coincidence!). Immediately, the bulk of the students attacks Bond and his three rescuers. The agent’s nieces, however, are Tae Kwon Do experts (surprise!) who proceed to destroy the twenty or so assailants. There are less than a dozen students left in the school, and they attack next. Instead of fighting, Bond and his rescuers run. Not so unreasonable, you might be saying. But get this. When Bond and his rescuers get to their man_with_the_golden_gun_4.jpgcar, the agent and his nieces get in first and take off without Bond. Huh? Didn’t you just risk your lives to save him? And now you leave without him? Did you just forget?

The characters and acting in The Man with the Golden Gun range from solid to uninspiring, but the flat script doesn’t help. Roger Moore is sharp as Bond. As in Live and Let Die, he breathes sophisticated life into the Bond role. Christopher Lee, as the assassin Scaramanga, is a unique and charismatic villain. In many ways he represents an evil James Bond, and he plays the role with class. Hervé Villechaize, as Nick Nack, Scaramanga’s assistant, adds a likeable and charming touch to the film. Elsewhere, the characters are flat. Maud Adams, as Scaramanga’s lover Andrea Anders, is lifeless in her role. Britt Ekland, as agent Mary Goodnight, is energetic, but plays a stereotypical role as an incompetent female agent. I prefer women assistants more along the lines of the sassy and self-sufficient Karen Allen, in Raiders of the Lost Ark; Goodnight’s role is tiring.
man_with_the_golden_gun_3.jpg
In the film’s defense, the dramatic islands of Thailand make a great location for the climax. Unfortunately, the ending serves more as a relief than it does thrill. Like the rest of the movie, it simply lacks punch.

The Babes and Hunks ratings in The Man with the Golden Gun are rather high. Roger Moore looks great as Bond. Both Maud Adams and Britt Ekland push the Babe rating up rather high, although the stunningly beautiful Britt Ekland’s clumsy role detracts from her appeal and Maud Adams’ lifelessness takes an edge off her sensuality as well.

All in all, there is nothing particularly awful with this film, but there is nothing inspirational here either. Too much of the film’s power evaporates in the overabundance of silliness and in the deliberate pace. The Man with the Golden Gun ends up a bland, slow, unbalanced, and lifeless film.

Fun Fact
The 360-degree spiral jump over the river was done in one take.

Score
Pace: 48
Plot: 61
Action: 47
Consistent Premise: 58
Script/Quotes: 53
Characters: 77
Acting: 57
Villain: 71
Body Count: 18
Time to First Dead Body: 7 minutes, 17 seconds
Babes: 77
Hunks: 88
Explosions: 60
Special Effects: 20
Stunts: 75
Ending: 65

Overall: 49

[tags]The Man with the Golden Gun, James Bond, action movie, movie review, Guy Hamilton, Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaize[/tags]

Up Next: The Man With The Golden Gun

Continuing on with the Bond series, I watched the second Roger Moore Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun. I am aiming to have this review up in the next day or so.

Review: Mr. & Mrs. Smith

mr_and_mrs_smith_cov.jpgYear: 2005
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 57

Plot
A husband and wife discover that they are both secret assassins working for competing firms.

Quick Review

Mr. & Mrs. Smith has some excellent strengths: Brad Pitt’s acting, a crisp and intelligent script, some exciting action, and perfect editing. It’s a shame that these good points—which rise to the level of brilliance at times—are neutralized by the silliness with regards to plot and premise in the middle of the movie, the over-the-top action in some critical scenes, and the weak acting by Angelina Jolie.

Full Review
Mr. & Mrs. Smith has some sparkling moments of comedy and action, but they are not enough to help the silly jumble of scenes that muck up the middle and end of the movie. To its credit, Mr. & Mrs. Smith takes on a tricky mr_and_mrs_smith_3.jpgpremise. The idea that two assassins could be married and not know that their spouse was also a trained killer is tough to work with. For the first third of the film, the movie does a believable job with this. The comedy is well delivered and intriguing. The editing and flow of the movie brilliantly establish the relationship between Jane and John Smith.

Once the couple learns that they are assassins on competing firms, things unravel quickly. Jane and John mutually feel betrayed, and are torn between love and hatred for each other. The problem with this is that the characters all too casually flip back and forth between coldly trying to kill each to realizing that they love each other. Simply put, these scenes lack credibility, even in an action comedy. It’s just too hard to believe that the two characters would act to such extremes, and would vacillate between these extremes so easily. From here on out, things are just too hokey to be convincing. While the relationship and banter between Jane and John is certainly entertaining over the last third of the movie, the action and the plot generally get weaker.

The action in Mr. & Mrs. Smith is in many ways similar to the drama. Scenes range from solid to downright unbelievable. To start with the negatives, I can’t recall a movie since Lara Croft Tomb Raider where the villains have mr_and_mrs_smith_1.jpgsuch bad aim, and the heroes have such good aim—unless the heroes are shooting at each other, that is, in which case they suddenly can’t hit a thing. It’s all too convenient and goes way over the top. Yes, I understand this is an action comedy that calls for light, escapist action, but the total lack of realism to many of the action scenes rips any suspense out of the drama. The ending, in particular, is an absurd showcase of Hollywood action taken to such an extreme that the impact of the scene is neutered.

Much of the action is well shot, however. There is a fantastic, creative, fast-paced car chase that brings both laughs and thrills. This scene is so good and interspersed with some genuinely funny dialog to the point that I have to mr_and_mrs_smith_2.jpginclude it as a candidate for Best Action Scene of All-Time. Other shooting scenes and fights are energetic, violent, and perfectly edited. There are some wonderful, shattering explosions. Some of the car stunts are impressive. Special effects are minimal, but there are some subtle and fitting effects with film speed and camera angles. Kudos!

The acting, script, and characters of the movie are solid, with one huge exception: Angelina Jolie. Brad Pitt nails the role of Mr. Smith, and makes up for a lot of Angelina Jolie’s ineffectiveness as Mrs. Smith. It’s a joy to watch him strike a perfect balance between cold and compassionate, and he is by far the acting highlight in this film. Jolie, on the other hand, doesn’t rip the soul out of her character like she does in the Tomb Raider movies, but at the same time she doesn’t reach anything above a mediocre performance. Fortunately, the screenplay really shines in spots, and helps support the drama. There are some hilarious lines, witty dialog, corny jokes, and some surprisingly thought-provoking quotes. Here’s one of my favorites, from Jane Smith during a counseling session at the beginning of the movie: “There’s this huge space between us, and it just keeps filling up with everything that we don’t say to each other.” The script is so good that it’s a shame that someone else other than Angelina Jolie couldn’t have gotten the role as mr_and_mrs_smith_4.jpgMrs. Smith; for every ounce of life that Pitt adds to the chemistry between him and Jolie, Jolie drains it out with her clunky acting. Having said that, Pitt carries Jolie enough that their relationship does achieve a convincing chemistry that brings their characters to life.

Lastly, our Babe and Hunk ratings. Jolie looks good in the film, and the movie at times takes care to display her sensuality. I still don’t find her as attractive as most, however. Pitt is strikingly handsome in the film, and drives up the Hunk rating.

In the end, Mr. & Mrs. Smith has some excellent strengths: Brad Pitt’s acting, a crisp and intelligent script, some exciting action, and perfect editing. It’s a shame that these good points—which rise to the level of brilliance at times—are neutralized by the silliness with regards to plot and premise in the middle of the movie, the over-the-top action in some critical scenes, and the weak acting by Angelina Jolie.

Interesting Fact
According to IMDB, the script went through fifty drafts.

Related Reviews

Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Score
Pace: 74
Plot: 46
Action: 60
Consistent Premise: 22
Script/Quotes: 88
Characters: 67
Acting: 68
Villain: 20
Body Count: 63
Time to First Dead Body: 20 minutes, 30 seconds
Babes: 70
Hunks: 87
Explosions: 73
Special Effects: 57
Stunts: 71
Ending: 48

Overall: 57

[tags]Mr. & Mrs. Smith, movie review, action movie, film, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Doug Liman, Vince Vaughn[/tags]

Up Next: Mr. & Mrs. Smith

This evening I watched Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the action comedy from 2005. I hope to have my review up within a day or two.

Review: Live Free or Die Hard

live_free_or_die_hard_cov.jpgYear: 2007
Director: Len Wiseman
Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Maggie Q, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 77

Plot
Officer John McClane battles high-tech terrorists set on destroying the US infrastructure and stealing financial data.

Quick Review

Live Free or Die Hard succeeds as a nicely paced action film. Bruce Willis and Justin Long give the film a humorous and charismatic energy. For the most part we’ve got semi-intelligent enemies. The action is visually engaging and entertaining. However, this film falls well short of the standard set by Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance. The action is simply too unrealistic, the plot too sloppy, and the premise reminiscent of the idiocy of Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

Full Review
The first three Die Hard films defined the elements of this series: intelligent, hi-tech villains; a blue-collar, sarcastic hero; and rough and tumble action with a lot of give and take. I’m happy to say that the newly released Live free or die hard contains all these elements. However, in certain aspects the creators have taken things too far with Live Free or Die Hard. More, faster, and bigger does not always equal better.

I have two major problems with Live Free or Die Hard. First, accepting the premise of this film requires you to distort your sense of reality to an incredible degree. The thrust of the plot is that a group of terrorists live_free_or_die_hard_4.jpgoperating out of a van could take control of the computer systems of the United States. These villains can do it all: switch traffic lights across a city; magically drop prices on Wall Street; and impersonate US military command. It’s amazing. Anything they want, they can plug into it and control it within seconds. The plot suffers greatly from this silly premise, but it gets even sillier as the movie goes on.

Alert: Minor Spoiler Paragraph!

For example, in a tiny nod to reality, a few select computer systems can only be accessed from within their respective geological locations, which forces the terrorists to actually go there to put them out of action. But conveniently for the terrorists, all of the electricity in the eastern United States runs through one huge power plant (huh?), which is guarded even more conveniently by a huge defense force of um, six men. Not six military men, mind you, but six men of such tactical brilliance that they run up to the terrorists and get killed instantly. If your sense of reality hasn’t snapped yet, it gets even a bigger test with what happens next. After the terrorists have their plans thwarted in shutting down the electricity from within the plant, they then blow it up by diverting an overload of natural gas to the location. Huh? Why didn’t they just do that in the first place? This is just one of several places where reality distorts to make the plot work.

The second problem I have with this film is the action. While the Die Hard series has always embraced a “Hollywood” nature of its action, in Live Free or Die Hard they go over the edge with this quite a few times. live_free_or_die_hard_1.jpgOfficer John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, has always been given a liberal dose of Energizer Bunny Hollywood durability. However, in Live Free or Die Hard he even outdoes himself in this regard. A select few of his enemies, too, at times approach indestructible levels that badly stretch the sense of believability in this film. Also, in many cases the action in the film is spectacular yet unrealistic. A perfect example: there is the dramatic scene where McClane launches a speeding car high enough to take out a helicopter. The scene is beautifully shot and visually thrilling. At the same time, you find yourself shaking your head in disbelief. This happens over and over in this film, and it’s a shame, because the exaggerated action combined with the unrealistic plot take Live Free or Die Hard in the direction of the weak second film in this series.

Up to this point, you might be thinking that I hated this movie, but amazingly, that’s not the case. I actually had a good time watching this film. Live Free or Die Hard manages to get enough things right to overcome its ample weaknesses.

First, although the action does go well beyond the bounds of believability, it is still excellent action, fun to watch, and driven by some fair pacing. The visual effects are light, but that in no way pulls the film down. The explosions are top-rate. There are fantastic stunts in the movie. One of the villains, in particular, does a brilliant job with some acrobatic climbing and jumping. His final scene is actually so good that it’s too live_free_or_die_hard_2.jpgbad it ends so quickly. The fights are quick moving and intense. I especially liked the back-and-forth battle that occurs early in the movie. The “intelligent enemy” has always been a driving force behind the action in the Die Hard movies, and for the most part they manage to recapture that essence with Live Free or Die Hard. There are exceptions, however, where the enemy does have a dummy moment more typical of standard action films. The fighter pilot, in particular, deserves a Darwin Award for his performance.

Second, the acting and characters in Live Free or Die Hard overpower a script that ranges from solid to tired. Bruce Willis does another fine job as John McClane. I was concerned that his age would play a factor, but even at age 52, Bruce Willis still delivers the goods in fine style. His banter is top notch. I had some good chuckles throughout the film. His wit and sarcasm make him one of the more likeable heroes in action movie history. Also, Justin Long does a convincing job as a computer hacker targeted by the terrorists. McClane spends a good part of the movie trying keep him alive, and the two actors have good chemistry. Their interaction spices up the movie considerably. I liked Timothy Olyphant as the main villain, although at times he appeared a bit wooden.

live_free_or_die_hard_maggi.jpgAnd as an added bonus, check out the Babe rating of this film! The first three Die Hard films scored some of the lowest ever in terms of Kaboom Review Babe ratings. It’s obvious, however, that the makers of Live Free or Die Hard have been reading this blog, as they added the sexy Maggie Q as Mai Lihn to the villain’s ranks. Amazingly, we even get more eye candy in the pleasant Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays John McClane’s daughter. Disappointingly, she looks much better in other photos than she does in this movie, but on the whole she adds points to the Babe rating. Our Hunk rating doesn’t stand up so well, though. Bruce Willis, to be blunt, has seen better days. The rest of the cast is average at best.

In the end, Live Free or Die Hard succeeds as an action film. Bruce Willis and Justin Long give the film a humorous and charismatic energy. Pace is good. For the most part we’ve got semi-intelligent enemies. The action is visually engaging and entertaining. However, this film falls well short of the standard set by Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance. The action is simply too unrealistic, the plot too sloppy, and the premise reminiscent of the idiocy of Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

Interesting Fact

Bruce Willis’ stunt double was hospitalized after breaking both wrists and bones in his face while making this movie.

Related Reviews
Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard with a Vengeance

Score
Pace: 77
Plot: 42
Action: 85
Consistent Premise: 27
Script/Quotes: 63
Characters: 88
Acting: 76
Villain: 65
Body Count: 43
Time to First Dead Body: About 1 minute, 30 seconds
Babes: 62
Hunks: 37
Explosions: 89
Special Effects: 70
Stunts: 92
Ending: 86

Overall: 77 (A Touch Too Much In Every Way)

[tags]Live Free or Die Hard, Len Wiseman, Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Maggie Q, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, movie review, action movie, film[/tags]