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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Cinema Dispatch: The Hustle

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The Hustle and all the images you see in this review are owned by United Artists Releasing and MGM

Directed by Chris Addison

Whether or not it’s a particularly successful tactic (particularly when the audience for blockbusters is only growing larger and larger), counter programming is still a thing in the industry and I’d wager that it’s the main reason this movie is being sandwiched between so many big named blockbusters.  I certainly thought the trailers for this looked quite good and I like the casting quite a bit, but being put in theaters now when Avengers and Detective Pikachu are still tearing it up at the box office is either a sign of great insight for the studios to fill a gap in the viewing audience or total hubris that will spell doom for what seems to be a fun little crime film.  Is this film a big time hustler elbowing its way to the forefront against such big titans of the cinema, or is this a small time crook that’s way in over its head?  Let’s find out!!

Penny Rust (Rebel Wilson) is a con artist working in the city running scams on dating sites which are actually quite effective, but end up garnering a significant amount of heat on her and so she’s forced to take her game elsewhere.  Said elsewhere turns out to be the stomping grounds of another con artist Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway) who’s set up her base of operations in a ritzy French tourist trap which is never short of gullible dudes just itching to be separated from their valuables, but a wild card like Penny could throw a wrench her in perfectly laid out plans if left to her own devices.  Initially she tries to fool her into leaving of her own accord, but by her own wits and a bit of luck, Penny becomes wise to Josephine’s game and wants in on the action; a proposition Josephine is initially resistant towards but figures that keeping Penny happy and useful is better than risking her going to the authorities with what she now knows.  At first it seems to be going just fine as Penny trains in the arts of manipulation with the help of Josephine’s assistants Brigitte and Alfred (Ingrid Oliver and Nicholas Woodeson), and they even pull of this brilliant little scheme that’s never really come together until Penny entered the picture, but all is not sunshine and roses in the world of professional scamming, and so the student must eventually face the master in a game of wits, ingenuity, and even a bit of outright cruelty, to prove once and for all if Penny’s brash resourcefulness is truly a match for Josephine’s refined expertise.  Will Penny and Josephine’s ultimate challenge bring out the best in both of them, or will they lose everything to their overblown egos?  Can they ever come to a mutual understanding given how different their backgrounds are and how cutthroat their line of work is?  Is it just me, or is one of them at a distinct advantage considering they’ve already played a diamond thief in a previous movie, and that’s ASIDE from them already having played Catwoman!

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“This little game of ours will prove who is truly… puuurrrr-fect!”     “Oh yeah?  Well by the time we’re through, you’re gonna WHISKER lessons from me on being a better thief!”     “Wait… what?”

Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: The Hustle”