The 007 Project: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Previously On The 007 Project: I realized how closely Austin Powers really only parodies two specific Bond movies, Sean Connery passed away right when I was wrapping up his tenure on this project.

Who Is Our Bond?

This is George Lazenby’s only outing as 007. He was an Australian model, this was his first acting job, and I can only think he was hired because he vaguely resembles a young Sean Connery. While charming in a “can’t quite put your finger on it” way, he seems to just be going with James Bond rather than digging into the character at all. I will, however, later, get into why this works in this particular movie.

What’s The Plot?

SPECTRE continues to wreak havoc in the NATO countries and Bond is no closer to finding Blofeld than he was at the end of You Only Live Twice and as such, M takes him off the case officially, but tells him he’s welcome to do whatever on his own time. The other thing that’s going on here is that Bond has met the enigmatic and lovely Teresa “Tracy” De Vicenzo, a young widowed countess and they fall almost instantly in love. (Her dad also really loves James, so that’s nice)

Eventually, Bond heads to Switzerland where he encounters a disguised Blofeld, who has gathered a group of lost upperclass young women, who he is going to brainwash and send home with a virus to kill large portions of their population. Bond stops the plot, there’s some cool chase scenes on skis, and he goes home a marries Tracy, but, on their way to their honeymoon, Blofeld shoots her in the head. Roll credits.

I’m Adressing The Problematic

With the exception of the ethnic stereotypes of the Blofeld kidnapped girls, and that Bond gets in there by pretending to be gay, this is a refreshingly un-problematic Bond flick. Hooray!

Tell Me About The Girl

Let’s talk about Tracy! First and foremost she’s played by the legendary and incredible Diana Rigg, (RIP) so there’s just a level of skill and charm to her that’s lacking in some of the previous Bond girls, many of whom didn’t speak English or were early in their acting careers. Tracy and Bond meet while she’s trying to kill herself by walking into the ocean after her Italian Count husband has died and left her alone and bereft. They fall in love and her super posh father suggests they get married.

I mentioned above why having Lazenby was key to this working. I don’t think Connery, even younger, Dr. No aged Connery could have pulled off the Romantic comedy subplot with Tracy. It’s just not really in his wheelhouse, and it would have been way worse, if the older Connery of You Only Live Twice has been romancing the lovely young Rigg. Wouldn’t have worked at all.

Tracy is beautiful, and glamorous and eventually tragic.

Joe’s Bond Car Corner

The Song Is The Thing

Overall Thoughts

I genuinely enjoyed this outing almost entirely because it’s pretty silly but also on a smaller scale than Thunderball and You Only Live Twice which was a great deal of fun.

Next week! Connery is back one last time for Diamonds Are Forever.

The 007 Project: You Only Live Twice

Previously On The 007 Projet: I was going through an existential crisis while reviewing Thunderball, but I’m feeling much better now. (As of this writing still waiting on those fine fine Nevadans, but the good people of Georgia and Pennsylvania have decided to chip in too!) Also Thunderball has SCUBA fighting.

Who’s Our Bond?

Still Connery despite my foggy thoughts about it last time. He does take On His Majesty’s Secret Service off. He’s really phoning it in this time around, although since this movie is 90% puns, (it was written by Roald Dhal! INSANITY!) that’s mostly fine. I’ve been less impressed with Connery the last two outings than I was in those first three movies. I do think this started a fantastic tradition though.

What’s The Plot

007 gets involved in the space race! (KINDA)

A NASA probe is shot down and naturally, the US thinks it’s the Russians. (A reasonable supposition in 1968) The Russians deny it and the Brits do think all this space business is a bit silly, but note the evidence does point to Russia’s innocence. They insist that they are sending their top man to look into it.

After faking his death and then heading to Japan, James Bond, with the help of the beautiful Aki and the head of Japanese Secret Service Tiger Tanaka, learns that it is in fact SPECTRE behind the downed space crafts. At his Volcano lair, Blofeld is furious with his underlings who didn’t actually kill Bond and feeds them to pirhanas. Bond foils the plan just in time, thought Aki winds up poisoned and Bond winds up fake married to the lovely Kissy Suzuki, a circumstance WE WILL GET TO BELOW.

The Blofeld reveal totally rules and I generally really like Aki.

I’m Addressing The Problematic

I was floating along happily surprised by how NOT totally orientalist the movie was, secret ninja schools are a little bit silly, but hardly offensive, and then Tenaka declared that Bond must “Become a Japanes!” I thought, “Oh lord I hope he means figuratively.”

NOPE.

Sean Connery spends a good 20 minutes of the film in yellowface for no particular reason. Is no good, very bad, don’t do it.

Tell Me About The Girl

Aki rules. I was so bummed when she died. She’s played by Akiko Wakabayashi. I like her a lot. She ahs great hair and a cool car and she’s all into bantering with Bond.

Kissy rules a little less but she’s still pretty great and wears a fun bikini. She’ splayed by Mei Hama.

Joe’s Bond Car Corner

Bond doesn’t drive in this one! But Aki does!

The Song Is the Thing

“You Only Live Twice” is one of my favorite Bond themes and is performed by Nancy Sinatra (COOL). Taken on it’s own the song is a warning to live while you can. Nancy sells it well.

Shaggadelic Baby!

No outside opinions this time, so I will just point out that this movie and Goldfinger are really the two most straightly parodied by the Austin Powers series. The piranha made me giggle because all I could think of were the “friggin sharks, with friggin laser beams, on their friggin heads.”

Also because they are just very silly!

Overall Thoughts

While fun and campy I don’t know that I will ever go back to this, despite Blofeld being the best and Aki being great. Connery’s apathy is too hard to overcome.

Next week, we really actually do the Lazenby things. Woo!

The Weird Bits That Made Me: The Rocketeer

Welcome To: The Weird Bits That Made Me, an expoloration of the idiosyncratic or obscure pop culture that I was into as a kid. I lived a strange suburban existence, with relatively young and somewhat hip parents and there were some real gems in the offbeat cultural stuff they exposed us to as kids. It hought it would be fun to once a week explore some of that

I’m not the only nerd of a certain age to talk about how the notorious Disney produced flop The Rocketeer, made in 1991 by director Joe Johnston, was a big influence on their taste. There are tons of blog posts and think pieces out there about this one. Mostly, because Johnston went back to the well in some major ways when he made Captain America: The First Avenger which I also love.

The Rocketeer tells the story of Cliff Secor (Billy Campbell, adorable) a struggling stunt pilot in 1930’s Los Angeles, who comes across an experimental jet pack, along with his trusty mentor and mechanic Peevy (Alan Arkin! The cast only gets more exciting from here folks). The pack was stolen from Howard Hughes (Terry O’Quinn!) by gangster Joey Valentine (PAUL SORVINO!) who has been employed by matinee idol Neville Sinclair (TIMOTHY DALTON! Who we will be talking about more eventually!) who is actually a Nazi spy. Sinclair becomes interested in Cliff’s girlfriend Jenny, an up and coming actress (Jennifer Connolly at her absolute hottest) and shenanigans ensue.

It’s a great movie. Fun, and funny and grown up without feeling tawdry, with clean exciting practical action and a “Gee Whiz!” energy that never feels corny. Johnston really excels at this, and I’m 1000% convinced that fond memories of this movie got him the Cap job. There are quite a few beats reused. (It ends with a couple of kids running around the airfield pretending to be The Rocketeer, which made me laugh out loud.)

We also watched this movie maybe every weekend growing up. It was my brothers favorite movie ever, and I can honestly say, my absolute love of this movie, is I think a testament to how oddly isolated to my family my childhood was. I spent most of my time with my siblings and cousins, and so we liked all the same things. When I was a teenager and referenced something like The Rocketeer, and no one knew what I was talking about, was the first time I learned that my references were just a little out of step. And when someone did know what I was talking about, I knew they were a friend.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended one of my nerd friends Central Park hang outs, (these have been sanity saving) and I mentioned watching it for this feature and got an explosion of, “I love The Rocketeer” from a few, and then describing the flick, a “that sounds awesome.”

The Rocketeer is a great movie and I hope more people discover and fall in love with it because of Disney +. It was also nice to do a movie after having done music based ones for the past few times. (Most of these are going to be music though, probably)

The 007 Project: Dr. No

Hello everyone! I’ve learned over the past few years that what really helps me keep things going around here is having a watch project. Whether it’s recapping a show as it comes out, or doing a series of movies.

I really enjoyed watching all of those Disney movies, but rather than continue in that vein, I decided to go for something completely different. And that something completely different is watching all of the James Bond movies. In a row. In order. Open minded about who is best. (Though, you know, Connery.)

So, we’re watching The Bonds. We’re starting right here, at the beginning with Dr. No.

I don’t think I’ve watched these early Sean Connery movies since I was much younger and a very different sort of movie watcher. Here was my first thought, in writing this up:

It is amazing how Dr. No manages to set up everything we now expect a Bond movie to do, and still be incredibly grounded as a spy thriller. The large campy set pieces aren’t really there, with the exception of Dr. No’s lair, everything seems pretty real world. And yet, there’s still, well, everything we need to know about James Bond. He has sex with two different ladies, before meeting Honey Ryder, he drinks his martinis, he has his car shipped to Jamaica from England, he meets with M, flirts with Moneypenny, wears the tux, it’s all there.

Who’s Our Bond?

There’s also just, Sean Connery. My God, when he first appeared, I melted into the sofa. That is a sexy man, my friends, and I don’t mind saying it. When the camera focuses in on him at the card table at Le Club de Cercle, I actually took a deep breath and then exhaled. He is attractive. He’s also funny, and charismatic, and delightfully self aware in the role. He made the mold, and no one has really matched him.

What’s The Plot This Time?

A British spy in Jamaica has gone missing, and 007, James Bond, has been sent to find out what happened to the poor fellow. As it turns out, he was onto a mysterious Chinese scientist by the name of Dr. No, who is experimenting with atomic power, while under the banner of the mysterious SPECTRE. Bond thwarts him, HOORAY!

I’m Adressing The Problematic

Look, we’re doing Bond. There is sexism, there is racism, there is glorification of the waning British Empire throughout this series. Dr. No has got all of that. The women, all four of them, are completely disposable. The characters of color are stereotypical and silly. Dr. No is supposed to be half Chinese, but is played by the white, Julian Wiseman (who’s great, but you know, YIKES).

Tell Me About The Girl

Honey Ryder is played by Ursula Andress and she is very beautiful. She doesn’t appear until the last half hour of the movie but she has an iconic entrance in her gorgeous white bikini with a belt and it is completely and utterly fabulous. This bikini rules so much that last week it sold at auction for $500,000. I’m talking about the bikini and not the character because Honey is not really a character, she just kind of shows up and is around for about five scenes and then Bond kisses her on a boat and the movie ends.

It sucks.

Joe’s Bond Car Corner

Part of the fun of this series is that my brother-in-law loves the Bond movies, and love cars, so he agreed to do a quick write up of James Bond’s car in each movie. Hooray! Here’s what Joe has to say about The Sunbeam II, which I noted to him, I observed was blue!

  • You’re right – it was a 1962 Sunbeam Alpine Series II in Lake Blue 
  • Being the first Bond film, they did not have the money nor the endorsements from large car manufacturers (Aston Martin), this car was actually borrowed from a local Jamaican resident since it was one of the only viable sports cars they could find on the island.
  • The Sunbeam name dates back to 1888 when it was registered by John Marsten, a bicycle manufacturer.  They began manufacturing cars in 1901. 
  • Sunbeam was a prestigious name due to their engine manufacturing.  They produced aero engines for planes in WWI, then focused on Grand Prix Racing and land speed records post war
  • Engine for the 1962 Alpine Series II: 80 horsepower, 97 MPH top speed.  Not so sporty for Bond compared to a 1962 Corvette, 150 horsepower, 108MPH top speed. 
  • Bond’s Alpine included optional upgrades such as wire spoke wheels and white wall tires (SO necessary for the early 60’s look)
  • The Alpine is named after the Alpine Rally (Coupe des Alpes) which was one of the most prestigious races in the world during the 50s.
  • Base price was about $2,500.  Mint condition these days they go for $10,000 tops.
  • About 19,000 Sunbeam Alpine Series II were made.  Not many around these days, if they are they are in bad shape and you can get them for around $3,000 as a project car.  
  • The Apline I was not very successful, so Sunbeam put a bigger engine in it, and made the car a bit bigger to attract the American Market.  It was considered moderately successful.
  • If Bond had waited 2 more years for the Alpine to be upgraded to the Sunbeam Tiger, he could’ve been riding around with a Ford V8 (twice as powerful) that was designed by the legend Carol Shelby. (A Note From Reenie: I know who Carol Shelby is because Matt Damon plays him in the very good movie Ford VS Ferrari)

Overall Thoughts

Not going to lie you guys, I got worried watching this movie. “Is this going to be harder than I thought? Watching all these movies?” It’s not a super fun watch. While Dr. No shines in moments, as a film it’s slow and meandering and a little more self serious than I expected, I didn’t actually like it much.

Next week we press on to From Russia With Love. And SPOILER! I like it a whole lot more.

Movie Reviews: Enola Holmes

Good lord, it really is hard to express how much “charming,” is one of the most important elements of any movie for me these days. A really and truly, I can think of no better term to describe Enola Holmes, the new Netflix movie starring Millie Bobbie Brown as Sherlock Holmes’s much younger sister, than charming.

Brown is adorable as the precocious sixteen year old Enola, who wakes up on her sixteenth birthday to find her eccentric mother, Eudoria (a delightful Helena Bonham Carter), vanished. In the wake of this disappearance, Enola’s brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill) show up and cluck disapprovingly at their wild independent sister.

After Sherlock blows off searching for Mom (NIIICCCEEE) and Mycroft declares they’re shipping Enola off to finishing school, Enola runs away, and gets caught up in a mystery involving the young Lord Tewkesbury, who’s family is trying to kill him to keep him from voting for reform in The House Of Lords. He’s also adorable (And played by Louis Partridge, who I have never heard of but is good here) and Enola spends most of the movie denying her very obvious crush on him.

After solving that problem, Enola does find her mother, gets some money and sets up in a boarding house, despite Sherlock now offering to take her in and train her as a detective.

Millie Bobbie Brown is great in this movie. I’ve never not liked her, though, so there’s that. But she suits Enola very well, seeming both stunningly young and vulnerable and yet wise beyond her years. I’m excited to see more this character, as the movie is adapted from a series of books, of which there are five. More Enola Holmes please, Netflix. (Also, Millie Bobbie Brown and her mother produced the movie, which I said, was very Olsen of her.) (Mary Kate and Ashley, not Elisabeth.)

Magical Movies Tour: Big Hero Six

It’s funny what watching these movies all in a row have done for thinking about the context of what the studio was trying to do with the movies as the came out. If Frozen is the old formula coming back stronger than every, I feel like Big Hero Six is something they’d tried to get traction on ten years before finally working.

That is, if Frozen is the musical beginning of the Disney Renaissance coming back, Big Hero Six is the stuff thank tanked it finally coming back. It’s of a piece with Atlantis and Treasure Planet and even Meet The Robinsons in a way. It’s really interesting.

I also happen to just really love it. It’s a fun superhero origin, completely reinterpreting an obscure, and not particularly popular comic story line, and provide a diverse and fun team.

I’m also a big fan of stories where love besides romantic love is given weight, and we’re in the middle of three movies that highlight that very much. (Frozen, Big Hero Six and Zootopia) It’s a pretty cool trend they went for there. I wouldn’t mind another love story though, because I’m a sucker.

I feel like I’m being vague in talking about Big Hero Six itself, and it might be because it just didn’t make much of an impression on this particular watch. Perhaps it’s because I spent so much of the past six months in Superhero stuff. (Rewatching the Arrowverse, and lately diving back into Young Justice.) Big Hero Six does a great job with telling a straightforward super hero story, and also has a big cuddly robot.

I’m a fan, but there’s not a whole lot to dissect here. (also we’ve now hit the point where I was watching and reviewing these movies in the theater, crazy!) It’s a well made, fun bit of action movie, with a sweet heart and some killer voice acting. I really enjoyed it.

Next week we want to try everything, with Zootopia.

Magical Movies Tour: Frozen

There have been so many inches of digital ink already handed over to why Frozen managed to become a phenomenon, but why not spend a few more?

For my money it’s an odd combination of things, but most especially, it is a case of the formula clicking back into place. Adaptation of a fairy tale? CHECK. Songs Written By A Top Tier Broadway Talent that Broadway isn’t exactly sure what to do with? CHECK. Innovating and exciting animation sequences? CHECK. Memorable characters voiced by top tier talent? CHECKARONI!

Frozen managed to scratch an itch that a lot of people, especially the parents of young girls, and those young girls themselves, didn’t realize they had. I also happen to love it because it’s message of finding your place in the mess and sisterly love came around at a time that I really needed both of those things. Also it was the year I fell back in love with Disney World, so that didn’t hurt.

My own experience is so marginal though, because this movie belongs so thoroughly to the kids that fell in love with it on sight, the way people my age did with The Little Mermaid. There’s just something endearingly special about it, the kind of alchemy of right place and time that really creates something magical and special and of it’s moment.

I mean, it also doesn’t hurt to have a knock down, drag out show stopping musical number performed by a world class, unique talent. I am of course speaking of Jonathan Groff’s timeless rendition of “Reindeers Are Better Than People.”

I’m kidding, obviously, “Let It Go,” is an exceptional musical theater song performed by one of the all time greats, Idina Menzel. I’ve always been impressed by the way Robert and Kristen Lopez utilized her voice in the song, somehow managing to take the incredible range she showed in “Defying Gravity,” and the attitude in “Take Me Or Leave Me,” to create a signature song worthy of the title.

Frozen is just really special, it’s hard to quantify. It isn’t exactly perfect, the story is clumsy and jumps around. Anna and Elsa as duel protagonists are underserved and undeveloped a little bit. The Hans twist seems to come out of nowhere. What’s the deal with the trolls? And Olaf is juuuussst over the line into annoying. But it as shaggy as it all is, it manages to hold together and be just wonderful.

Up next, let me know if you’re satisfied with your care, when we talk about Big Hero 6.

Magical Movies Tour: Wreck-It Ralph

My God, this movie is chock full of creativity. The fact that they created three fully realized video game worlds that felt like they belonged, used well recognized IP without over-relying on it, and used one of the best deployed voice casts of the century is no small feat, and that’s just the trimmings on the greatness of Wreck-It Ralph.

Because what really makes it great is that this movie has a big beating soft heart. It’s a movie about misfits who want to fit in. Ralph and Vanellope are kind, determined and loveable, but they just can’t seem to get those around them to see it. This was smack dab in the middle of the “Pixar the cry factory” era, but Ralph sacrificing himself while reciting the “Villain Oath” is as tear jerking as Bing-Bongs disappearance from memory.

It also manages to bring about some truly fun new characters. King Candy is a wonderful villain and the twist is well set up and still surprising. I’m also just a huge fan of Vanellope. I think Sarah Silverman does a great job with her. She’s so endearing in that weird little kid way without slipping over into annoying and that’s as much a triumph of performance as it is of writing.

It also helps that I’m not much of a gamer, but the stuff I do love is arcade games. I love arcades and arcade games to this day. I do not live near a good barcade and it’s such a bummer to me. (I mean, not right now, because of the ‘Rona, but in precedented times.) So this movie, with it’s deep affection for that era and kind of gaming is just such a treat for me to go back to occasionally and spot things that I missed. It’s so much fun to watch.

Well, up next, y’all know what’s up next right? It’s time to Let It Go, and head off to Arrendelle and watch Frozen.

 

“Be Excellent To Each Other”

I had my doubts about Bill And Ted Face The Music. Late in the game sequels are rarely great, and comedy trilogies are very difficult to pull off. I’m not even much of a fan of Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey despite holding Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure as a low key fave.

That said, Bill And Ted Face The Music is lovely. Lowkey and bonkers, much more like the first movie than the second, (although there’s a brief interlude in Hell, and Death returns.) the movie details the now in their 40’s dudes, still searching for that perfect song that will unite humanity, and the way that quest has delayed and stunted their lives.

Helping along on the quest is their two daughters, Billie and Thea, who are wonderful, wonderful characters, breaths of fresh air. Bridget Lundie-Paul and Samara Weaving bring similar but not identical energy that Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter had in the original movie. goofy and kind and a little out of their depth.

There’s a basic lesson about life and love and connection, and being who you are instead of who you think you’re supposed to be. There’s also some pretty good old age makeup and Winter and Reeves both appear to be having a ball. It’s most certainly worth the rental, just a bit of summer fun and fluff to close out this season.

Party On Dude!

Anessa

WORLD BUILDING.

Also a first kiss.

The Marina Chronicle

It’s after dinner, which, I’ve learned is the best time to talk to Annalise. It’s about the only time she’s not trying to move. 

We’re working on embroidery, which neither of us excel at, but it’s bonding.

“So, tomorrow is market day,” Lisette says and looks at me. I nodded. “I have to go to market, I mean, I don’t have to, but I usually do, it’s the sort of thing that,”

“That the orphan ward of a Count would do,” I said. She nodded. “I don’t have a problem with it.” She glanced at Tristan. “He won’t either, just go while he’s running.” She laughed.

“Is there anything you want?” She asked. I raised my eyebrows. “To eat in the next week or so.”

“Oh, um, I like rabbit?” I tried. She cocked her head. “It’s silly, but when we were little we were at Resistance camp a lot…

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