Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Jeff Marshall James Bond lithographs

With the new James Bond film Skyfall still a ways off, I thought it might be good to class up the joint a little with some art.  Of course, given the title of this post it goes without saying it will be 007-centric art.  Some of the nicest stuff I've ever seen has come from Jeff Marshall, a very talented man with a real good feel for the franchise.

Marshall is quite good at getting to the heart of what the movie is and his compositions are simply beautiful.  I honestly have little to say so let's just look at the art itself.

That just about covers the bulk of his film poster interpretations.  Haven't been able to track down any for the Brosnan entries but he did do one for the latest, Quantum of Solace.

Stunning, simply stunning.  As a little bit of dessert, here's an interview with Mr. Marshall from 2005.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

VHS Memories XXIV: Cornucpoia Grab Bag 5

Here's a random selection of randomly selected random titles...

Selected randomly.

On the downward slide after On Deadly Ground, this was the last Seagal flick to get a theatrical release until 2001's Exit Wounds.  Seagal plays an EPA investigator who is looking into toxic waste disposal in the mountains.  There isn't nearly enough action, Kris Kristofferson is on auto-pilot as the bad guy and overall it's a very bland viewing experience.

Finally got around to seeing this after...Well, there isn't really a good reason to seek out this one and I have no excuse apart from being a big Nicolas Cage and Tommy Lee Jones fan.  this is a fairly bland Top Gun knockoff that subs helicopters for airplanes, Cage for Tom Cruise and about twenty minutes less screen time for less plot and character development.  It doesn't really pick up until the last twenty minutes but Jones is entertaining as always as the gruff trainer.

Don't really recall much about this thriller as I saw it as part of one of my high school rental binges that usually saw me skipping to the end of half the crap I rented but it probably concerns Busey as a psycho...who hides in a house...I got nothing else on this one.  I just wanted to fill out the article, really.

 I have a strange, grudging affection for this crummy Joe Don Baker vehicle.  Yes, it's quite bad with an unlikable lead and a bad script but for some ungodly reason I find the MST3K version to be oddly enjoyable on its own.  Guess I'm just really, really easy.

This is a very good, sadly underrated entry in the Exorcist series that features a typically great George C. Scott performance as well as a show stealing turn from Brad Dourif.  The only real problem the film has is the last twenty minutes which see it go from a thoughtful, chilling horror movie to just your standard f/x spectacle.  Still, it's well worth tracking down.

Oh dear God, is this a stinker!  Made in the early 80's, it is ostensibly a Star Wars spoof with added sex appeal from the tragically murdered Dorothy Stratten but it just falls flat thanks to a horrid script with zero laughs, a plot that doesn't actually get moving until about fifty minutes into the 94 minute running time and pacing that makes the average Bergman movie look overproduced.  The only nice thing I can say here is that the Chris Walas creatures look good.

And since we just talked about the most recent bad movie I've seen, we'll end things with the first truly bad movie I ever saw.  It's a rather infamous flop, as it came on the heels of producer Dino DeLaurentiis's expensive King Kong remake.  There are other places on the web that have done better reviews of this so I'll just focus on my own experience of the movie.  First off, get a load of that great poster!  That's what hooked me when I was a kid, reading my brother's comic books...that damn poster.  Sure, it's the best thing in the whole damn movie but what can I say?  I was eight!

I finally got to see the movie one lazy weekend afternoon at my grandparents house.  Even at ten, it still stunk.  Maybe I have better taste than I think...


Monday, March 19, 2012

Samurai Cop (1989)

Every now and then, I come across a movie so amazingly bad that it defies explanation.  Such a movie is the 1989 low budget epic Samurai Cop.  Not given an official release that I know of until its DVD debut in 2004, it details the saga of Los Angeles cop Joe, also known as Samurai to...Well, pretty much everyone from his fellow cops to the bad guys.

There's very little in the way of plot, it really boils down to Joe vs. a Japanese gang led by their number one killer, the great Robert Z'Dar.  Joe gets involved with a young woman who runs a restaurant the leader of the gang has helped out financially which of course leads to the usual complications and then some as it would seem the one thing Samurai Cop likes doing more than nabbing bad guys is getting some nookie afterwards.

Seriously, this film has almost as many sex scenes in it as action scenes.  The sad thing is the sex stuff is shot far better than the action as we get some hilariously bad overdubbing at points.  In one scene, I counted at least two or three guys given the same dubbed line of dialogue.  Priceless.

Actually, this may be a good thing as the action scenes are, for the most part, poorly choreographed and sped up (the final fight with Robert Z'Dar almost looks like that old footage of Babe Ruth running you see on baseball documentaries at  times).

 The entire film is like that, though,  It has the look and feel of a movie made by people who only read the definition of the term "movie" in the dictionary, brainstormed a script for about...I'll be generous and say ten minutes tops, and then hired the worst actors they could possibly find.  This movie is a goldmine of stilted line readings, awkward pauses and amateurs flailing like drowning men.

The king of the hill in this regard is Matt Hannon as the title character.  He's basically a huge guy with an even larger mullet (actually, it borders on Fabio hair) who speaks like a robot and moves like one as well.

I also get a kick out of Joe's partner, the obligatory wisecracking African American partner who actually ends up kicking more ass than the Samurai Cop himself.  Adding to this is the obligatory angry captain who swears like a sailor in the oddest way possible and towards the end of the movie tells the two partners to basically kill the bad guys and then the three of them will resign from the force together.

Robert Z'Dar is the only actor here who really knows what he;s doing, along with character actor Gerald Okumura who has a really hilarious fight scene with Joe in the middle of the movie.  Unfortunately, this is preceded by a scene of the guy in bed with a pretty woman so we dock points for that...And scrub our eyes out with bleach.

Overall, this is a classic of bad movie making and the best part of it is the only way you will find this is on DVD and on the DVD, you get input from a guy who does this kind of thing way better than I could ever hope to: Joe bob Briggs.  Joe Bob contributes his usual amusing intro, complete with drive-in totals and a commentary track that is great as usual.

Check it out.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Post #100: Bond, James Bond

Ah, we've hit post #100 and I think I should make it something a little special.  So, here is my ranking of the James Bond films.  This will be a longer post than usual...mainly because I'm covering 25 freaking movies!

25. Casino Royale (1954)

James Bond's first on-screen appearance was on an episode of Climax!, a network mystery show in the 50's that bizarrely cast Bond as an American but on the plus side, has Peter Lorre as the villain.  It's not enough though as this one just doesn't work.

24. Casino Royale (1967)

Speaking of things that just don't work, our next entry is the remarkably awful '67 spoof that for far too long was the main thing people thought of when they heard "Casino Royale".  Thankfully, that has been rectified.  I helped slay this particular cinematic dragon a few years ago on The Agony Booth.

 23. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

 This gets the lowest ranking as far as 'official' entries in the series go since it takes what could have been a pretty damn good movie (James Bond vs. Christopher Lee) and fritters it all away on lame comedy, a jumbled script and a really stupid climax that sees 007 chasing Tattoo from Fantasy Island around a boat.  Just terrible and the only Bond film I can honestly call a true bad movie.

 22. Never Say Never Again (1983)

 The only reason this gets this ranking is sheer nostalgia as this is one of the first movies I ever saw more than  once.  In fact, based on the times my buddy threw it into the VCR from 1986 to about 1989, it's entirely possible I've seen it more times than the folks who made it.  Having said that, the only real thing to watch here is Sean Connery who proves that he can deliver the goods even in a truncated production that, for legal reasons too complex for an article this long, could only be a copy of Thunderball.

 21. Diamonds are Forever (1971)

 This just barely misses the top 20 thanks to it really not being all that great after the first hour or so.  It starts off great, though but by the time you get to the last half hour, you just want it to be over.  Sad, really, as this was Connery's big return to the role after George Lazenby appeared in his one movie as 007.  When it's good, it's very good but when it's bad...Ugh!

20. Moonraker (1979)

I've softened my stance on this quite a bit as even though it does have it's dumb moments and far too many humorous moments that fall flat, it's still a perfectly acceptable dumb summer action movie.  Performances are fine, the action is plentiful and the John Barry score is typically great.  I won't be linking t the piece I did on it for The Agony Booth because, to be brutally frank, it stinks like a rotting corpse.

19. You Only Live Twice (1967)

Connery's fifth turn as 007 is marred by some serious pacing issues which take a reasonably entertaining spy film and drag it out to a rather patience-trying experience.
18. A View to a Kill (1985)

This one is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me as it's the first Bond film I ever saw.  Roger Moore's swan song benefits from a good Christopher Walken performance, good stunts (especially the Eiffel Tower jump), great music and a heart stopping finale on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Outside of that, it's another solid but not excellent entry in the series.
17. Live and Let Die (1973)

Moore's first outing as 007 takes its cue from Dr. No and gives us a more low key entry with a down to earth performance from Yaphet Kotto as the villain, Jane Seymour as the female lead and some fantastic action sequences in the last forty minutes.  Unfortunately, it also has some rather lame comedic moments and may actually be too laid back for its own good.  Solid action movie, though.
16. Dr. No (1962)

I have the first entry this low for the simple reason that while it is a very good movie, it is still the first real appearance of Bond and therefore can't be considered the best in my view.  Still, it's one hell of a ride.
15. The World is Not Enough (1999)

We have our first Pierce entry as his third outing as Bond took him on a more serious trip...while still trying to deliver the heavy duty action of the previous two.  TWINE is not exactly a bad movie but it's hampered by a lukewarm script and a rather bad bit of miscasting as a result.  I could buy Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist, really I could, if the script hadn't given her such awful dialogue.

That aside, it's a fairly middling entry in the series with some good action beats.
14. Quantum of Solace (2008)

The most recent entry in the series has dropped quite a bit on this list.  It's fine as a wall-to-wall action movie but it just doesn't have that Bondian feel.  Daniel Craig is good, as are the other actors but there's more action than plot which is never a good thing regardless of your tastes.
13. The Living Daylights (1987)

Here's where it really starts to get good.  Timothy Dalton's first as 007 and also the first Bond film I saw in the theater.  This is a fantastic, fairly low key spy thriller with some great action, a clever script and some really good performances.  Dalton does a fine job of playing Bond differently from Moore and the result is one of the best films in the series.
12. Die Another Day (2002)

Brosnan outing is one I really, really love in spite of some silly bits here and there.  It's a fun, non-stop thrill ride that only falters a bit in the finale.
11. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

George Lazenby's only outing as Bond is also one of the best in the series.  Great action, good acting, and a decent script make for one hell of a movie.
10. Licence to Kill (1989)

Bond delves into the world of the other action movies of the period as he goes after drug dealer Robert Davi on a personal revenge mission after Davi mauls his friend with a shark.  Dalton is superb, the action is great and it's a real nice change of pace from the usual formula these films rely on.  Personal fave Cary Tagawa also has a small role.

As the teaser poster said, his bad side is a dangerous place to be.
9. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Roger Moore followed up the somewhat underwhelming Moonraker with this very solid, more serious entry that still delivers the action goods.  The plot is nicely complex, Moore is really good, especially in one or two moments where he comes off as quite dangerous, and that poster to the left is just awesome.
8. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

While I have Pierce's debut in Goldeneye ranked higher, this may be my favorite of his films as it's just a fun, over the top roller coaster of a movie.  Michelle Yeoh is great, as is Jonathan Pryce and the only thing holding it back is the lack of a good henchman.
7. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The poster says it all as Moore gives us his breakthrough Bond outing in this epic action movie that is just awesome.  It's so damn good I actually can't think of anything to say about it.  The only reason it isn't #1 is that there are six films even more awesome than this.
6. From Russia With Love (1963)

Bond goes Hitchcock as Connery's second outing provides us with a traditional espionage film...on steriods.  Of the more "serious" 007 films, this is the best.

And now, the top 5.

5. Goldeneye (1995)

The first Brosnan film and one I will always kick myself for not seeing in the theater.  Just about everything in this one is perfect.
4. Goldfinger (1964)

The template for the series, the only real problem I have with this one is the rather slow middle portion (though it;s still excellent).
3. Casino Royale (2006)

Craig's debut gave the series a jolt of energy with this fantastic, smart thriller.
2. Octopussy (1983)

I love this one so frigging much.  Great acting, a great script (apart from one or two small gripes) and great action make this almost the best in the series.

And finally, the number 1 entry:

1. Thunderball (1965)

It's actually a bit of a toss between the top two as it really depends on what sort of mood I'm in.  Connery is at his best here, delivering an insanely cool performance.  The action is superb (this is what puts it over Goldfinger) and the women are amazingly beautiful.  If a Bond film can be considered perfect, this is about as close as it gets.

And that's the James Bond franchise.  My rankings are purely subjective and are subject to change, depending on my mood.  Honestly, only the bottom four entries can really be called bad as the series has generally been very consistent.  Hopefully the new entry, Skyfall, will be just as good as the others.  We'll find out this November.

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.