Cinema Dispatch: No Time to Die

No Time to Die and all the images you see in this review are owned by United Artists Releasing

Directed by Cary Fukunaga

Even without the year-long delay caused by a global Pandemic, there was a pretty long wait between this film and the last one which didn’t exactly fill me with confidence as Spectre turned out to be rather disappointing, and this coupled with Craig’s public comments about continuing to play the part made it hard to assume anything other than a troubled production as a studio scrambled to find out where they went wrong after Skyfall was such an overwhelming success.  That, and the Bond franchise is not exactly known for quality swansongs for their stars.  I mean I liked Diamonds Are Forever quite a bit, but that’s still a ludicrous movie to end the Connery era, and A View to A Kill is only saved from being the worst of the Moore era by Octopussy being such a disaster right before it.  Heck, even Pierce Bronson’s final film is so off the wall that some speculate it’s all just a dream sequence!  So yeah, with a disappointment preceding it, a wonky track record for the franchise, and a five-year production cycle when the Craig films usually only needed three, there were a lot of auspicious signs even without COVID coming to upend the entire film industry!  Still, you can never count James Bond out as every failure inevitably leads to another success down the road, and the Craig era has been a definite standout in the franchise’s fifty-year history.  Does Craig’s final film buck the conventions and become a standout in an already impressive run, or will we need to wait for another Bond to bring this series back to life?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of Spectre, James Bond and Madeline Swann (Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux) are enjoying their hard-fought victory over Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Chrstoph Waltz), but as with any Spy story, paranoia starts to creep in and an attack from Spectre leads James to believe that once again he has been betrayed by the woman he loves.  With little ceremony and huge amounts of salt, James cuts Madeline out of his life and spends the next five years bumming around on a beach until an MI6 scientist (David Dencik) is kidnapped with a secret weapon that MI6 VERY much doesn’t want to get out into the world, but even more so wants to keep it under wraps.  M, Moneypenny, Q, and the new 00 Agent Nomi (Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, and Lashana Lynch) are doing what they can but Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) of the CIA is well aware of what’s going on and convinces Bond to come back for one more mission and perhaps show the new recruits Logan and Paloma (Billy Magnussen and Ana de Armas) a thing or two about this line of work.  All is not as straightforward as it seems however as the kidnapped scientist is just the smallest tip of the ice burg for a mysterious plot devised by an even more mysterious man (Rami Malek) that is in some way connected to Madeline.  Can James Bond return to the life he left behind for one last mission, or has the years of hard drinking and heartbreak taken their toll?  Was Madeline a deep agent the whole time for whomever this mysterious man is and Bond was right to mistrust her?  Never mind the NEW bad guy; what’s Blofeld up to these days?  Has he gotten that eye looked at?

“Well, James… have the lambs stopped screaming?” “Have you gotten tired of telling that joke?”
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Jumping The Soapbox: Death Stranding or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like the Gameplay

DSJTS0Death Stranding is owned by Kojima Productions and Sony Interactive Entertainment

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been pretty down on Kojima’s latest game for a while now.  Sure, we all got caught up in the hype when we first saw naked Norman Reedus and were left wondering what could all that nudity mean, but by the time that Del Toro got his own trailer and the babies became more and more… prominent (let’s go with that word) in the narrative, it all felt like a splash of cold water on the face; a revelation that he may be throwing things against the wall to see what sticks rather than doing something with any real thematic heft to it.  But I could be wrong!  I fully admit that watching trailers like this aren’t always a clear indication of what the final product will be like, such as the case with Dead Island or even The Order 1886, and frankly it all feels very intentional; as if he’s trolling for hundreds of videos breathlessly narrating their ideas of what this could all be about, and playing into that game is harmless but feels rather futile.  Still, I’ve also been trying to get better at judging films in a non-literal fashion, and Kojima is if nothing else a VERY frustrated filmmaker!  Until someone in Hollywood gives him a chance to direct something he’s gonna take it out on all of us by making the most bizarre and ludicrous trailers imaginable for supposed video games, and while I can’t really get mad at it, I just don’t feel the hype anymore.  But hey, I’m already here and there’s a new trailer out with ACTUAL gameplay footage, so let’s at least take a look at what we know so far and see if there’s anything worthwhile to gleam from all this!

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…What? – The First Two Trailers

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As I said, I gave Kojima a lot of credit for that first trailer which was strange, provocative, and surprisingly vulnerable with some clear themes about loss, grief, and the way that male identity (in how we are socialized) play into those experiences.  It sets a very apocalyptic tone with the dead animals, the copious amounts of oil (or an oil like substance), and the washed out aesthetic which goes along with the idea that this world is dying in some way.  Not a bad way to kick things off, and Kojima couldn’t have been more popular at the time due to his recent fallout with Konami which made it a perfect storm of intrigue and feel good sentimentality.  By the second trailer though, I was starting to get worried.  Yeah seeing Pappy McPoyle (also known as Guillermo del Toro) carrying around a baby in a war torn city did advance the narrative at least somewhat since we know how some other people are reacting to the end of the world, but I don’t think the trick works twice and this felt more like a holding pattern than anything else.  When we should have been getting hyped for the GAME, it was still being incredibly coy about everything.  Now we had to start asking questions about the weird fetus thing, the black goop that keeps showing up, and new things like the soldiers with skulls for heads being lead around by Mads Mikkelsen!  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Mads Mikkelsen, but I was starting to get a bad feeling that Kojima left entirely to his own devices is gonna end up missing the forest for the trees when developing this.

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Look, if ANYONE was gonna lead a bunch of Skeleton dudes into a warzone, IT WAS GONNA BE FREAKING HANNIBAL!

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Cinema Dispatch: Spectre

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Spectre and all the images you see in this review are owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures

Directed by Sam Mendes

Has it really been three years since Skyfall!?  That movie was absolutely fantastic, wasn’t it?  Well now the same crew (minus Roger Deakins) is back to give us the next entry in the James Bond franchise!  Will they be able to make another fantastic entry in the long running franchise, or will this fail to live up to the massive expectations that Skyfall left us with?  Let’s find out!!

As expected, the movie is about the lovable spy James Bond (Daniel Craig) and his latest efforts to find the mysterious organization that’s been hunting him and causing chaos from behind the shadows!  I though they already figured out it was Quantum, but whatever.  After a VERY explosive mission in Mexico, he’s one step closer to finding this evil organization but problems arise when it turns out he went out on his own without MI6 approval.  This is particularly troubling for the organization (and M played by Ralph Fiennes) due to the government still wanting to shut them down which you may recall being a subplot in the previous film.  In its place, the government wants to establish a worldwide surveillance program that’s being headed up by Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott) who seems just a bit too eager to get Bond out the way.  Bond once again goes out on his own (has he listened to anyone since maybe Casino Royale?) to follow up on his leads to find whoever it is that’s pulling the strings behind recent events and is probably controlling Quantum, though that’s still a bit unclear.  Will Bond discover what this organization is that they spoil in the title?  Will he find the mastermind behind this (Christoph Waltz) who we’ve been told is NOT Blowfeld but who the hell else would be the head of Spectre?  Will James Bond finally get to the bottom of something without having to kill every lead he has!?  It’s probably gonna be a no on that last one.

“RUNNING!  RUNNING!  RUNNING!  RUNNING!!!!!!!!”
“RUNNING!  RUNNING!  RUNNING!  RUNNING!!!!!!!!”

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