00Walrus #14: A View To A Kill

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Those who know my feelings about this movie are in for a surprise.

A VIEW TO A KILL
Bond: Roger Moore - 1 tusk
Honestly, I'm surprised I'm doing this, but I'm giving Moore a tusk on this, his final installment in the franchise. I'll admit that he grew on me. Despite his age, he turns in a performance that is more exciting than the one he turned in in Octopussy. Still it's far from what I like to see in Bond and far from his best.

Girl: Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton - 0 tusks
She is a completely unnecessary character. And she's a screamer. I can't stand screamers (see Kate Capshaw in Temple of Doom). I don't blame Tanya Roberts though, even though all she wants to do now is sell me some timeshare in Vegas. She could have played a stronger character. She was in Beastmaster and was one of the Charlie's Angels.

Gadgets: A few - 2 tusks
A couple of minor gadgets--ring camera and glare-eliminating glasses. Nothing extravagant or over the top, so I give it two. There was a deleted scene where Bond had been arrested by French police and he was getting out of jail and retrieving his belongings which featured a ton more. Kind of a funny scene, but I'm glad it was cut.

Opening Theme: "A View to a Kill" performed by Duran Duran - 1 tusk
A song better than the movie deserves. The opening themes finally get away from the lite rock sound of the last few. Also, I really dug the score in this one. I loved the way it evoked a bit of the "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" sound especially during the pre-title sequence (until it was ruined...more later). The skiing and that music really go together thanks to OHMSS.

Villain: Christopher Walken as Max Zorin - 2 tusks
The poster reads "Has James Bond Finally Met His Match?" I'd argue that Auric Goldfinger, the Telly Savalas Blofeld and Christopher Lee's Scaramanga all were worthy opponents for Bond where he'd met his match before. However, while he doesn't head straight to the top, Christopher Walken adds his name to the list of all-time great Bond villains. It's a shame that he was probably wasted in this movie. I would much rather have seen him go up against Piece Brosnan at some point. And since we never see a body, I suppose he could have returned. Too late now I suppose unless McClory tries to do something with him.

Henchman: Grace Jones as May Day - 1 tusk
You know, she wasn't so bad. I didn't really like her turn at the end. It's not that I doubt she's willing to die to prevent Zorin's plan from happening, but it just seemed a little sudden. I could have done without the scene where Bond was waiting for her in her room though.

Pre-title opening sequence - 0 tusks
I would have given this 1 tusk if not for the inclusion of "California Girls" in the opening.

Story:
Wow. I owe this movie a big apology. Headed into this year-long rewatching of the Bond movies, I have long-dreaded the day I'd have to watch this movie again. It's probably been about 12 years since I've seen it and my recollection of it was abysmal. But as I headed into rewatching it, I found the movie not living up to the memory of how bad this was. That doesn't mean I like it, but I must admit my surprise to find that it isn't as bad as I had given it credit for being.

Ultimately, this is a weak retread of the Goldfinger plot. Instead of gold, it's microchips. Some of the large pieces don't seem to fit together. There's a horse plot, a Russian plot, and a "destroy Silicon Valley" plot and somehow they're all supposed to fit together. Not really sure how. And somehow Tanya Roberts is a part of it, but her role isn't very clear either. The whole plot seems more like an extra-long episode of the G.I. Joe cartoon.

Story/plot issues aside, it wouldn't have taken much to make this an even more palatable movie. Here are some suggestions:

1. Drop the "California Girls" gag from the opening sequence. Twenty-three years later, the joke is completely lost and all it does is disrupt a scene that was almost working. And, if there had to be a Beach Boys song, something life "Surfin' Safari" would have made much more sense in the context of the scene.

2. More Patrick Macnee. When Bond and John Steed were working together, we were getting a bit of a buddy spy flick. When Macnee's character was killed off, he was replaced in the story by Tanya Roberts. Yeah, she might be easier to look at, but the screen presence was gone.

3. The dialog needed some work, especially in the real clumsily written scene where Max Zorin presents his plan to the cartel. That entire scene works better with the mute button on. Or some of the clumsy writing when May Day can't remember where she had seen Bond before. Like one day earlier when she was running for her life from him. Yeah, that's a minor detail I can see forgetting.

4. Less screaming from Tanya Roberts. Actually, less Tanya Roberts. The helpless Bond girl isn't cool and never was. And going back to point two, she could have been dropped entirely in favor of more from Macnee and I would have been very happy.

5. They could have toned down the "Richard Lesterisms" throughout, but especially in the firetruck chase scene. Too many bystanders having wacky things done to them. And Bond flying around on that ladder doesn't seem right either.

At one point in the movie, Bond meets up with a Russian agent that he's met before. At first I thought it would have been awesome for it to have been Anya Amasova from The Spy Who Loved Me. But, by the end of the scene, I figured it was better the way it was. Still, it would have been cool to come up with a way to incorporate some faces from the past to say farewell to Roger Moore.

So, with that, I'll say farewell to Roger Moore and take a brief Bond break before heading into the Dalton and Brosnan eras of Bond.

Previous Bond Movie Reviews
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger
Thunderball
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
Moonraker
For Your Eyes Only
Octopussy
Never Say Never Again

00Walrus #13.5: Never Say Never Again

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NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN
Bond: Sean Connery - 1 tusk
After 12 years off, Connery turns in a performance that is a site for sore eyes. Perhaps it's one that really hadn't been seen since Thunderball. Of course, he's older now, but that's accounted for in the script. And he's still two years younger than Roger Moore who is still filming official Bond films.

Girl: Kim Basinger as Domino - 1 tusk
Basinger's Domino is no where near as cool as Auger's Domino. Basinger is much more whispy and frail making her turn at the end out of character. When Auger kills Largo, it's not nearly as surprising.

Gadgets: Several - 1 tusk
Super-motorcycle, laser watch, exploding pen, missiles that turn into rocket transports...all typical Bond gadgetry. The motorcycle was cool and a refreshing change of pace from the typical car chases.

Opening Theme: "Never Say Never Again" performed by Lani Hall - 0 tusks
The music as a whole has a Muzak feel. I feel like I should be listening to this while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office.

Villain: Klaus Maria Brandauer as Maximillian Largo - 1 tusk
Also no where near as cool as his Thunderball counterpart, he's at least a somewhat interesting departure from Largo-1. He's got some charisma and seemed an even match for 007.

Henchman: Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush - 1 tusk
Not really a henchman in the same way some of the official movies have a henchman, Fatima Blush does carry out some of the dirty work that Largo himself doesn't do. She's fine up until her little meltdown where she wants Bond to write a letter admitting she was "the best." Suddenly she was this crazy woman. That came out of nowhere.

Pre-title opening sequence - 1 tusk
Not really applicable, although, there is an action sequence concurrent with the opening sequence. It's not really anything special, but it's ruined by the song that doesn't fit the mood of the sequence.

Story:
It's impossible to review this story and not compare it to Thunderball which is infinitely better in every aspect. The remake aspect is forgivable since the many of the movies after the first four wind up being remakes anyway. Never Say Never Again is slow moving at times and contains a lot that really dates the movie (video game table scene).

While it's not the official Bond, having Connery in the role lends a certain amount of legitimacy to this movie. If nothing else, it's interesting to look and see what a 1980s Bond movie might have been like had Connery stayed with the role for another 12 years. Connery playing the role is certainly no more far-fetched than Roger Moore playing the role, especially considering Moore is two years older than Connery. And the age aspect is addressed in this movie so at least it plays a part in the story.

From a continuity perspective, knowing that it doesn't, it's interesting to me to try to figure out how this movie might fit in the timeline of the Connery films. If you took just his six original films and this one, could they work together? Do they work better together than the six original Connery movies and the Moore films together? Is it more believable that Never Say Never Again is a continuation of the Connery films than Moonraker is? Interesting thoughts. It's not perfect and one would have to wonder how Bond meets up with two different guys named Largo each dating their own Domino and working on an evil plan very similar. No, it doesn't work, but it's interesting to think about.

Previous Bond Movie Reviews
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger
Thunderball
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
Moonraker
For Your Eyes Only
Octopussy

00Walrus #13: Octopussy

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OCTOPUSSY
Bond: Roger Moore - 0 tusks
While I think that Moore should have bowed out with the last one, a new Bond, particularly what I saw of James Brolin in the bonus features, could not have gone up against Sean Connery in the then-upcoming Never Say Never Again. That said, a Tarzan yell and an awful clown scene takes away any tusks Moore might have earned.

Girl: Maud Adams as Octopussy - 1 tusk
Maud Adams is fine, but the character is no where near as interesting as the character she played in The Man with the Golden Gun.

Gadgets: Several - 1 tusk
Nothing horribly outlandish.

Opening Theme: "All Time High" performed by Rita Coolidge - 1 tusk
Another typical "lite rock" song. This one is catchy and a little more uptempo than the previous two.

Villain: Louis Jourdan as Kamal Khan - 0 tusks
A fairly bland villain who is so weak that he makes Bond look bad by being the villain.

Henchman: Kabir Bedi as Gobinda - 0 tusks
I got real tired of this guy. Nothing especially fun about him like there has been with so many henchman before.

Pre-title opening sequence - 1 tusk
Eh...it was fine.

Story:
As a whole, this movie was largely forgettable and really doesn't add anything to the franchise. It's so formulaic by this point that nothing but Roger Moore dressing up like a clown stands out in this movie. There seems to be an attempt to make the plot intriguing by putting in some forced twists and turns, but all it does is make the plot waters murky.

Sorry this isn't much of a review. But Octopussy wasn't much of a movie.

Previous Bond Movie Reviews
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger
Thunderball
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
Moonraker
For Your Eyes Only

(Nerd) Lunch Special: The Billy Goat Tavern Double Cheezeborger

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Some relatives were passing through the area last week, so I had the opportunity to do some of the standard Chicago tourist activities including a visit to The Billy Goat Tavern and Grill for some dinner hossin'. The Billy Goat is famous as the inspiration for the 1970s Saturday Night Live skit, The Olympia Restaurant, better known as "Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, No Coke, Pepsi". Even all these years later, the dining experience at The Billy Goat is essentially the same shtick depicted in the SNL skit.

The borgers (yes, the menu is spelled that way) are relatively simple patties fried on the grill and served on a warmed bun. Condiments are limited to ketchup, mustard, onions, pickles, salt, and black pepper offered at a do-it-yourself station. And just like at the Olympia Restaurant, there are no french fries to be had, only chips. All in all it makes for completely unadorned, yet pretty darn tasty fast food. It may not be the absolute best burger you'll ever have, but the addition of the surreal ambience make The Billy Goat worth a visit.

Gen Con: No, it's not a brand of rat poison

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Gen Con logo This weekend marks the annual gathering of gaming nerds, Gen Con. Nerd Lunch buddies The Dave, Peeg, and Court made the trek to Indianapolis to attend. Plee, CT, and I all had a chance to jump in as well, but none of us are actively gaming at this point and as the sidebar says: time and money are tight. Maybe next year we can get on aboard for the marathon game sessions, over consumption of Mountain Dew, scantily clad booth babes, and other nerds clad in black T-shirts or Star Wars costumes.

Until then, perhaps some of our loyal readers (all 12 of them) can fill us in on the goings on at Gen Con. What was the buzz at this year's show?

The Death Trilogy

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They say that death comes in threes. It certainly seems to be the case when celebrities shuffle off this mortal coil. While skeptics will say that the phenomenon is just an example of human beings' ability to find patterns in anything, I offer up last weekend as Exhibit A in support of the old chestnut.

Samuel L Jackson should be scared

Both Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes passed away over the weekend in what could be two-thirds of a black entertainment icon death trilogy. It's far from conclusive evidence, but I urge the remaining Original Kings of Comedy, music legends like B.B. King, and (based on the photo) Samuel L. Jackson to be careful out there.

Instrument Shopping: Eastwood Airline H44 DLX

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It's always a sign that Plee needs a vacation when I start daydreaming about a new musical instrument. Being a lefty has kept me from buying too many guitars, but increasingly there are some cool options in my price range.

I'm really not much of a guitarist, really, but I dig these weird models by the smaller manufacturers. This guy on the left, for instance, is a reissue of a 1950's Stratotone H44, available as a lefty, any color you want (as long as it's metallic copper). Small body, but a very solid hunk of ash (seven pounds of it), with a neck like a baseball bat.

These are exceptionally good guitars for slide playing, so my notion here would be to keep this tuned to open G, a tuning favored by many slide guitarists and a trademark of Keith Richards on songs like "Honky Tonk Woman." The downside is that I only really enjoy electric slide when it is played well (whereas I'll listen to even a mediocre Hammond organist or baritone sax), so I would probably find my own playing annoying. Even Bonnie Raitt says that slide guitar is like hot sauce --- you might love it as a seasoning, but no one wants to sit down and eat a whole bowl of it.

00Walrus #12: For Your Eyes Only

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FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
Bond: Roger Moore - 1 tusk
While he's found his groove by this point, Moore has reached the point of being too old to play Bond. His scenes with Bibi creep me out and his scenes with Melina kind of do, too.

Girl: Carole Bouquet as Melina Havelock - 1 tusk
I'm kind of torn on her. I almost think she was a cooler Bond girl before she became a formal ally of Bond's. Once she and Bond are together, she loses her edge.

Gadgets: Several - 1 tusk
Heavy on the gadgets, but a step towards the more realistic after Moonraker. The mini-sub is probably the biggest "gadget" of the movie.

Opening Theme: "For Your Eyes Only" performed by Sheena Easton - 1 tusk
Another light rock song which now seems to be what defines a Roger Moore Bond movie, however, Sheena Easton turns in something better than Moonraker, but not quite as good as "Nobody Does It Better."

Villain: Julian Glover as Aristotle Kristatos - 1 tusk
Sort of a forgettable villain. Not bad, but nothing special. He was out-shined by Topol as Milos Columbo who could have been the villain but instead played a fun ally.

Henchman: John Wyman as Erich Kriegler - 1 tusk
A pleasant change of pace from the "super henchmen," but much like the main villain, he doesn't wind up standing out as anyone special either.

Pre-title opening sequence - 2 tusks
I guess because it happens so rarely, I love it when a Bond movie references a past adventure. And up until Moonraker, there had been no greater mistake in the Bond franchise except that of ignoring Tracy Bond and her impact on 007 in subsequent movies. Finally, five films later, we see that Bond is still grieving Tracy. That was a nice backdrop for the return of Blofeld (albeit unnamed). Finally, Blofeld meets his end. Well, we assume he does anyway. This sequence may be my favorite scene in a Roger Moore film ever and almost makes the movie.

Story:
How do you follow Moonraker? Well, I guess you admit you've reached the top and you cycle back down to your roots. This plot seems like an amalgam of the Connery movies and purposely so. Although, not as strong as one of the first four Bond films, this has elements of all four and winds up being on of the best entries in the Roger Moore era. Although, I would have dropped the subplot with the ice skater.

Previous Bond Movie Reviews
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger
Thunderball
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
Moonraker

Oddly Shaped Dice: The Forty-Niners

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I've been reading another of George MacDonald Frazier's excellent Flashman novels, about the travels and misadventures of a cowardly scoundrel of a British cavalry officer. In this novel, Flashman is on the run in the U.S. after getting accidentally involved in the slave trade, and he ends up setting out from New Orleans in a wagon train full of prostitutes headed for the gold-filled hills of California.


Now the prostitute part might be pushing things a bit, but putting the heroes on a wagon train headed West circa 1849 sounds like a great campaign for Sidewinder: Reloaded, doesn't it? Lots of opportunity for side treks and complications and shennanigans.
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