007 Double Feature At the Egyptian

For the second week in a row, I made it down to Hollywood to catch a classic on the big screen at the Egyptian Theater. Actually there were two classics, both James Bond films from the heyday of the 1960s. These are the two films that most turned 007 into a a massive popular cultural phenomenon and the most consistently successful film series of  all time. The pairing was irresistible to me and although I could occassionally hear the snickering of hipsters in the audience over the costumes in the movies or a piece of plot line that seems a little fantastic, the general response was one of love from the hundreds of us who managed to make it there and see the first and greatest James Bond, Sean Connery.

Goldfinger

It was just last June that I saw Goldfinger on the big screen along with another Sean Connery feature “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. I can and do regularly watch this film. It is as entertaining as any movie you are likely to see and it is in my opinion the greatest of all the James Bond films. I won’t relive the entire countdown to Skyfall that I did in 2012, but there are a few posts that you might enjoy here.

This first is a memory piece and review that I did early in the year leading up to Skyfall.

http://kirkhamclass.blogspot.com/2012/03/goldfinger-double-0-blast-from-past.html

This is the KAMAD Video Blog that I posted after the Father’s Day visit to see 007 and Dr. Jones together.

http://kirkhamamovieaday.blogspot.com/2013/06/fathers-day-with-sean-connery.html

I did notice something a bit odd in last night’s screening. The end credit did not list the correct movie coming up next in the sequence.  Here is the way it looks in the DVD remaster from a half dozen years ago:

It properly lists “Thunderball” as the next film. On last night’s print the film listed was “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. Amanda and I talked about this and she is of the opinion that this was the original listing because they did not know that “Thunderball” would be next due to all the legal issues surrounding the property. I tended to agree with her except that “You Only Live Twice” came before “OHMSS” and “Thunderball” was released the year after “Goldfinger” so they should have been in production at the time they did release the third film. The answer according the IMDB is:

 In the original end title credits, which featured the famous “James Bond will return in…” teaser, the next film advertised was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). However, when the producers began pre-production, they were unable to secure the Swiss locations needed for the film and decided to make Thunderball (1965) instead. The end title teaser was later changed to advertise “Thunderball”.

 So that mystery is solved for the moment.

Thunderball

I don’t think I have a previous post exclusively on “Thunderball”.  I do however have this section of a post that I have copied over for you:

The original “Thunderball” was one of the biggest blockbusters of the 1960s. When adjusted for inflation it stands as the most financially successful of all the Bond movies. The audacity of Goldfinger was multiplied by a bigger canvas for the story telling. More exotic locations and bigger set pieces are put into place. As a kid I wanted the 007 lunchbox with all the frogmen fighting underwater. It was an image that sold all of us on the adventure we had coming. As far as I know, this is the first story to exploit the idea of nuclear terrorism. It was not of course the last. Here was SPECTRE as a real organization, with a board of directors and a chairman presiding over crime and doling out death as a punishment for failing the company. In a way, with all of the numbers, and secret locations and passwords or codes, it is the mirror image of MI6, and the bureaucracy that Bond actually represents.
There are great sequences in the picture and some real imaginative gizmos in the story. The jet-pack is just so outlandish that it gives the ejector seat a run for it’s money as the most over the top toys of 007 in the early films. The miniature breathing apparatus looks like it could be practical for emergencies. Bond gets taken for a ride in an early Mustang, he has an underwater version of the jet-pack, and he gets yanked into the sky forty years before Batman uses the same technology in “The Dark Knight”. The problems with the film have to do with pacing. A slog through the stuff at Shrublands, hide and seek in the Mardi Gras like parade in Jamaica, and the underwater battle looks cool but needed some editing. “Thunderball” is like one of those great Thanksgiving meals with so many choices, that are so rich and you want to try them all. When you do, you feel a little sick afterwards. “Thunderball” doesn’t exactly make me sick, but my blood sugar is usually a little high after I watch it. I should get up and go for a walk, but I usually just fall asleep contentedly. Another blogger El Santo, did a fantastic piece on the music from “Thunderball’, that goes way beyond the theme song. I hope he is OK with my linking it here, you should read and listen.

I will also mention that this film was one from my youth that I know gave me a nightmare or two. When Angelo Palazzi playing the doppelganger of Major François Derval gets stuck in the seat belt in the plane he just hijacked and landed in the ocean, Largo cuts his air hose and he drowns flailing away for help and oxygen. It gave me the creeps watching it and I dreamed about that death on more than one occasion. 

Sometimes there are little things that might slip by on the television screen that will not escape your attention on a screen thirty feet high and seventy feet wide. Last night I remembered one of those weird little details when the image came up for just a brief couple of seconds. There is a dog, taking a leak in the middle of a scene, and it either was too complicated to shoot it over or the editor just thought it was a lark and left it in. I went in search and fopund it on my DVD of the film and thought I’d share it with you here.

 As Bond is trying to escape in the confusion of the parade, two of his pursuers are bisected in this shot by a random animal lifting it’s leg and letting it out. Amanda missed it but I have now made sure that none of you reading this will ever miss it again. 

We have a long wait until the next James Bond film, but with a rich 50 year history and opportunities like this screening at the American Cinematique  at the Egyptian, we will always have plenty to talk about. 

 

The Lego Movie

I have a vague notion of playing with Tinker Toys when I was a kid and I know my older brother had an Erector set that I envied because it had gears and motors and a lot of shiny metal pieces.  I never knew the joy of Legos as a kid . When I became a parent, I must have deliberately chosen to keep legos out of the house for fear of the mess and pain they might represent (stepping on a sharp plastic item, barefoot and in the dark was something I wanted to avoid). We did play with the Legos at the daycare or at the doctors office but there were never any sets or instructions, just building blocks. Sometime in the last twenty years, Legos marketing figured out that connecting with brand-name icons would move even more product for kids who wanted their toys to resemble their movies and TV shows. So characters and action figures became part of the Lego Universe and it has all lead to this, a movie about building blocks.

Way back in the early eighties I was listening to speeches that criticized half hour kids cartoons that were basically shilling for toys. You know, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, and My Little Pony. All of those toys eventually had movies made out of them and if you judged by those films, you would know what my students were worried about, but if you started with this film, you would have no worries at all. This is a movie, featuring toys, that is less about selling a product and more about playing creatively. While you will never be able to see this film and not think of the product, you will certainly not think of it in the same way. This movie is anarchistic, colorful and somewhat demented. It is also funnier than most of the comedies that you see being advertised. I have not yet seen , nor am I likely to, “Ride Along”, but the jokes in the trailers and ads for that have not made me smile once much less laugh out loud. “The Lego Movie” had me chuckling at the first trailer and seeing the film today, basically repeated the experience for ninety minutes. This movie is a kick and a contender for best animated feature in next years award lineups. 

The story is a hero’s quest featuring the “Legos” figures from most of the popular play sets and some that I’m sure were invented for the movie. There is a funky wizard modeled  after “Gandalf” but don’t think it is Gandalf because he appears as himself briefly in one sequence. The ancient giver of wisdom is voiced by the marvelous Morgan Freeman, whose voice was delivered to us by the Gods. Backing up Freeman are the voices of dozens of well known movie and TV personalities, all cast for the unique qualities of their voices. I was listening to the voice of our hero, Emmet, and I confused it with the voice of Chris Parnell. Emmet’s range is a little higher than Cyril Figus but they both have that plain, somewhat emasculated tone that makes them the vanilla of the cast of crazy vocal performances. The movie features voice acting from; Jonah Hill, Will Ferrell, Will Arnet, Will Forte, Shaquille O’Neil, Billy Dee Williams, Channing Tatum, Elizabeth Banks and a whole bunch more.  Drawing special mention along with Morgan Freeman, is the king of Winter badassery, Liam Neeson himself. I missed his work in “The Nut Job” a couple of weeks ago, but it seems that Mr. Neeson has been regularly employed because this is the second of three films he has coming out in January and February. His dual role here as “Good Cop”/”Bad Cop” is a jewel of comic vocal variety. Freeman and Neeson alone might have been worth the price of admission but there is also the visual spectacular to bring you in.

The city scapes, oceans, clouds and just about everything else is rendered in “lego” form. The effect is hypnotically amazing and very surreal at times. The space craft and cars and building, you sort of expect from the toys, but the backgrounds and scenery are also visualized as lego constructions and it give the movie an odd sense of “pop” art and engineering genius.  This movie is really well imagined and the look might be worth a 3D investment although I was happy with the traditional view that we experienced it through. 

All the crazy visuals would be only interesting to look at for a short while. You need a story and some dialogue to go along with it. The plot is not especially surprising, although the idea of the alternate universes of “Legos” colliding is a fun and creative addition to the story process. The characters are realized in the most creative part of the film. The action figures talk like they would be the characters, as if they were being voiced by a creative child. Ferrell’s President Business drops in an aside here and there to reveal his true colors in some most amusing comments. Will Arnet parodies both Bruce Wayne and Batman with a voice that is deep and dark and silly at the same time. It took a delicate mind to write some of these lines and not have them come off as loud and obvious at times. Pratt’s timing in delivering the gee whiz cliches and oh oh jokes is just perfect. Although we do get sucker punched into more Will Ferrell than I would have preferred, in the end he does a good job as well, keeping his usual screaming persona to a minimum. 

There are some serious attempts to make the movie a message about the faults of conformity, but to do so without kicking the kids that can actually follow directions in the teeth for doing so. The number one song in the “Lego” universe is a parody of upbeat dance infected pop that passes for entertainment these days, but it is also catchy as heck and like the pop music it is making fun of, it is very entertaining. 
Listen to this clip to get a sense of what I mean:


I would strongly recommend this film to adults and children. You will find plenty to enjoy, and a confusing set of messages that don’t detract from the spirit of the film. It is hard to imagine that the one film made from a specific toy, that I liked was one about a toy that I know next to nothing about and would seem to be incredibly boring. It is the opposite of boring and it is a terrific way to build your weekend into a winner.