Film Review: Mars Attacks! (1996)

Release Date: December 12th, 1996 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Jonathan Gems
Based on: Mars Attacks by Topps
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Lisa Marie, Sylvia Sidney, Jack Black, Christina Applegate, Pam Grier, Paul Winfield, Joe Don Baker, O-Lan Jones, Ray J, Joseph Maher, Frank Welker (voice)

Tim Burton Productions, Warner Bros., 107 Minutes

Review:

“They blew up Congress! Ha ha ha ha!” – Grandma Florence Norris

While this isn’t one of Tim Burton’s most popular films, it is one of my favorites and I feel like it missed its mark because it’s not the type of film that would resonate with most people.

Mars Attacks! came out in late 1996, not too long after Independence Day ruled American culture that same summer. Maybe people were confused that this was a ripoff of it or that one big alien invasion movie was enough to digest but either way, I don’t think people realized that this was vastly different and sort of a parody of the genre while also being an incredible live action adaptation of the Mars Attacks trading cards that Topps put out in the 1960s. It’s like those who were kids in the ’60s no longer cared and the teens of the ’90s didn’t know the reference.

Still, this is a hilarious romp starring dozens of top notch celebrities where not a single one of them is actually safe. I mean, these Martians murder Congress, the President and even try to crush a troop of Cub Scouts with the Washington Monument. They are sick, sadistic and really, just friggin’ awesome. They are also voiced by Frank Welker, the guy who gave life to Megatron from the original and still greatest Transformers cartoon.

By the star power that this movie has, it’s clear that Hollywood got the joke and appreciated it even if audiences didn’t flock to see this. Still, it wasn’t a massive failure, by any means. It did fairly well but not as well as what Warner Bros. was probably hoping for with Tim Burton being a mega earner for the studio. While it took some time, the film did earn back the $100 million that was put into it. It was considered a box office bomb in the United States but it fared much better internationally.

This is one of the most hysterical films of the ’90s put out by a major studio. The humor is perfect, the tone is great and it pokes fun at so many different facets of Americana that it almost feels like it was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

The special effects look dated but they looked sort of cheesy in the mid ’90s. The film was supposed to have a hokey, old school vibe to it though. Really, the effects are great and they work for what this picture is. It’s not Independence Day and didn’t need to take itself as seriously in the visual effects department.

From a stylistic standpoint, the film really has a timeless feel to it. It merges modern style with ’50s and ’60s style in a seamless way that gives this film a magical quality.

Additionally, this picture boasts one of my favorite Danny Elfman scores of all-time. The theme is powerful and perfect and really fits that old school Elfman sound. Frankly, watching this film makes me appreciate and miss the quality of Burton and Elfman’s old school collaborations.

What really resonates with me is how this film balances comedy with how dark it actually is. It’s an absurd picture in the best way possible and shows that Tim Burton really has a dark sense of humor. Well, Beetlejuice was really effective in showing that aspect of Burton as well.

Mars Attacks! was underappreciated when it came out in 1996. It is still underappreciated today, as people that like to list out their favorite Tim Burton films always have this near the bottom of the list. Like I said, it isn’t for everyone but Burton fans, who understand Burton’s influences, should really love this picture.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, Joe Dante’s Matinee and alien invasion B-movies of the ’50s.

Film Review: GoldenEye (1995)

Release Date: November 13th, 1995 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by: Jeffrey Caine, Bruce Feirstein, Michael France (uncredited), Kevin Wade (uncredited)
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: Eric Serra, John Altman (uncredited)
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Joe Don Baker, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Cumming, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Minnie Driver

Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 130 Minutes

Review:

“You don’t like me, Bond. You don’t like my methods. You think I’m an accountant, a bean counter more interested in my numbers than your instincts.” – M, “The thought had occurred to me.” – James Bond, “Good, because I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms, though wasted on me, obviously appealed to that young woman I sent out to evaluate you.” – M, “Point taken.” – James Bond

I had always considered GoldenEye to be the best James Bond movie that starred Pierce Brosnan. It still is but revisiting it now, I realize that it isn’t the best by a wide margin. It’s a film that feels incredibly dated, boasts an atrocious score and is so goofy and over the top that the old Nintendo 64 game felt more realistic.

I like Pierce Brosnan as James Bond… A. LOT. It’s just that the vehicles they gave him weren’t up to the standard that his performances were. And to be honest, I think that the high opinion that people have about this chapter in the massive Bond franchise is really just caused by nostalgia for its video game adaptation.

Granted, that game, as fun as it was in 1997, is also extremely dated and sort of a relic from a bygone era of primitive polygonal first-person shooters. Some people still love that game but I picked it up recently and thought it was unplayable. And like that game, this movie is a product of its era and really only speaks to that era. It could have been the coolest thing at the time but we moved past that era pretty damn quickly and never looked back except through rose colored nostalgia glasses.

The score is the biggest problem for me. It pulls me right out of the film and is in conflict with the classical James Bond scores the franchise has become synonymous with. That early scene where Bond is racing his car through the mountains against Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp is a prime example of how the score ruins everything on the screen. It takes what should have been a cool and classic Bond moment and turns it into a corny cat and mouse game accented by a generic synth heavy tune that sounds like it should be in an early Tekken game or a Bulgarian porno movie.

We get one good moment with the score when the tank chase happens. However, John Altman stepped in to score that scene, where Eric Serra was the one who composed all that other bizarre stuff that wrecked the film’s vibe.

This film does have some strong positives and its those positives that keep this chapter above the other Brosnan Bond outings.

The biggest positive is that most of the cast was really good.

I loved Sean Bean and Famke Janssen as the villains and they made a great pair. I also liked Joe Don Baker returning to the franchise as an ally and not a villain. Also, Robbie Coltrane’s character is one of my favorites from the Brosnan era. The real highlight though, was the addition of Judi Dench as M. Her scenes with Brosnan were spectacular and she immediately walked in, stepped into the role and had a bigger impact than all the previous Ms.

On the flip side, Alan Cumming’s Boris was one of the most annoying characters I have ever seen on film. I guess he was supposed to be but over twenty year later, I still want to punch him in the face: ten times for each scene he’s in, multiplied by the amount of times I’ve seen this film. At least he was a good Nightcrawler in X-Men 2.

GoldenEye is decent but it is not great and certainly not as amazing as some people seem to remember it being. Sure, maybe it worked for 1995 but isn’t that the same year that the “Macarena” blew up?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Any other Pierce Brosnan Bond movie. But ignore Die Another Day at all costs.

Film Review: The Lawnmower Man (1992)

Also known as: Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man, Virtual Wars (Japanese English title)
Release Date: March 6th, 1992
Directed by: Brett Leonard
Written by: Brett Leonard, Gimel Everett
Based on: The Lawnmower Man by Stephen King
Music by: Dan Wyman
Cast: Jeff Fahey, Pierce Brosnan, Jenny Wright, Geoffrey Lewis, Jeremy Slate, Dean Norris, Austin O’Brien

Allied Vision, Fuji Eight Company Ltd., Lane Pringle Productions, New Line Cinema, 103 Minutes, 141 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“…my birth cry will be the sound of every phone on this planet ringing in unison.” – Jobe Smith

What a painfully dumb f’n movie this was! I have always liked Jeff Fahey and Pierce Brosnan but even they couldn’t keep this turd buoyant!

Some films age well, some films age poorly. The Lawnmower Man feels like it was a poorly aged film by 1992’s technology standards. I mean, were there any techie guys on set to help steer the ship towards any semblance of realism? Did the writers actually understand the emerging virtual reality technology that was at the forefront of this movie? Hell, have they even seen an actual video game ever being played?

The filmmakers’ idea of what virtual reality and video games were in 1992 is on par with my psycho religious aunt that once told me that Sonic the Hedgehog was cute because demons designed him to lure stupid, unsuspecting children into the clutches of Satan.

I never watched this movie until now. Why? Because when it was new and I was 13 years-old, the trailer looked like dog shit. The CGI effects were horrible and even if they were better than current video game graphics, they still looked hokey, cheesy and terribly uninviting. The virtual world in The Lawnmower Man wasn’t something I would want to visit as a 13 year-old that was addicted to Sega Genesis. It was ugly, bizarre and to be blunt, completely uninteresting.

This film bears no resemblance to Stephen King’s story of the same name, which is why King successfully sued the filmmakers for putting his name on the film. The only thing that is remotely similar is the scene where the lawnmower busts into a dude’s house and basically eats him.

This movie sucks, it is really hard to get through, yet it is beloved by some people. But some people eat Tide Pods and buy Taylor Swift records on vinyl.

There is a sequel to this because Hollywood has no shame.

So, yes… this is a film that absolutely must be pushed into the unforgiving maw of the Cinespiria Shitmoter! The results read, “Type 3 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: The Ghost In the MachineLawnmower Man 2Brainscan.

Documentary Review: Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (2012)

Release Date: October 5th, 2012
Directed by: Stevan Riley
Music by: various

Passion Pictures, Red Box Films, 98 Minutes

Review:

Who doesn’t want to see a documentary that covers the creation of the literary James Bond, the film James Bond and the long history of the Bond franchise, told by the people who were there all along the way?

Everything or Nothing is just that film.

I guess the thing I like most about this documentary is the stuff about Ian Fleming and his creation of the character, as well as the story behind the partnership of Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who formed Eon Productions a.k.a. “Everything or nothing”.

The family members of Broccoli and Saltzman do a good job of fleshing out the tale and all the interviews feel very candid and real. I think that the partnership at Eon is something that most modern fans aren’t familiar with but it is a very important part of the overall Bond legacy.

We also get to see a lot of the details surrounding all the Bond ownership rights lawsuits over the years, as it is something that has often times put the film franchise on hold.

The documentary also covers some details about every film in the franchise from the original American Casino Royale, through Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Sean Connery again, Roger Moore, Sean Connery yet again, back to Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and up to Daniel Craig. Most of the actors get to spend some time talking about their experiences in these iconic films.

Overall, this is a pretty solid picture and fans of James Bond should definitely check it out.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Release Date: December 9th, 1997 (London premiere)
Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode
Written by: Bruce Feirstein
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Joe Don Baker, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Götz Otto, Ricky Jay, Vincent Schiavelli, Pip Torrens

Eon Productions, United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 119 Minutes

Review:

“The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.” – Elliot Carver

I’ve been working my way through the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films, as they are my least favorite stretch in the franchise and I haven’t revisited them in quite some time. Brosnan was a great Bond but other than GoldenEye, his films were weak and not worthy of his talents. Rewatching these now, I have found them to be a bit better than I remembered but they still aren’t great Bond outings.

While this chapter in the saga isn’t anywhere near as bad as Die Another Day, the worst Bond film of all-time, this one certainly isn’t as good as GoldenEye and I’d also have to rank it lower than The World Is Not Enough. Still, I enjoyed it more now than I did in 1997.

I remember that when this came out, I was really excited to see that Michelle Yeoh was in it. She is one of the greatest actresses to ever come out of Hong Kong and she spent the majority of her career kicking ass with style. This film also adds in Teri Hatcher to the long list of Bond Girls but unfortunately, she’s snuffed out before this film even gets to the halfway point. It felt like a waste for Hatcher and honestly, I was kind of hoping she’d be a femme fatale and throw a wrench into Bond’s plans. Hatcher was the perfect choice for that type of Bond Girl but the filmmakers really missed the mark for her.

Michelle Yeoh did at least kick some ass in this but I still felt that her skills were underutilized. Maybe they couldn’t have her upstaging Bond but frankly, that would have added a good element to the film and I’d rather see her as the top female badass of the franchise with the potential for a spin off, rather than how they tried to do that with Halle Berry, two films later in the disastrous Die Another Day.

Typically, I like Jonathan Pryce. I mean, he killed it in Brazil and I loved him popping up in those earlier Pirates of the Caribbean movies but I’m not a fan of his character here. He plays Elliot Carver, a media mogul that looks like an evil Steve Jobs, assuming Jobs wasn’t evil – I think he was evil. Carver has a world domination plot that seemed like something from an old throwaway episode of G.I. Joe. He might as well have just been Cobra Commander and bumbled his way through a dumb scheme only to have Roadblock shoot his way into the evil command center and dump gumbo on his head. Funny, since Pryce was also in those live action G.I. Joe movies.

Pryce’s main henchman was also one of the worst in Bond history. He wasn’t gimmicky or cool, he was just some buff, blonde European. Is this a Bond movie or Die Hard 9? Plus, no buff, blonde European is going to top Red Grant of From Russia With Love. Sorry, but the Soviet uniform and his menacing presence makes it hard for most evil henchmen to top him and he was featured in this series over thirty years before Pryce’s right hand stooge.

Tomorrow Never Dies is mostly unworthy of boasting the James Bond name. While it had a few good and amusing moments, it’s definitely a film that is way down towards the bottom of the list, if one were ranking these movies.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Release Date: November 8th, 1999 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Michael Apted
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Bruce Feirstein
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Denise Richards, Robbie Coltrane, John Cleese, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Goldie

Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 128 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, grow up 007!” – Q

For some reason, this left a pretty bad taste in my mouth back in 1999 when I originally saw it. Maybe it felt incredibly redundant with all the James Bond films that had come out by 1999 or maybe the Austin Powers movies did such a good job poking fun at the super spy genre that I couldn’t take it seriously and all the tropes of the style had really been ruined. Whatever the case, I’m glad that I revisited it because I have more appreciation for it than I did back in the day.

Look, Pierce Brosnan was a damn good Bond. Unfortunately, other than GoldenEye, he didn’t have the best material to work with. And honestly, the Bond movies had all been made in a specific style for so long that it was probably pretty hard coming up with new ideas and not just retreading the same territory again and again.

Now this doesn’t have a memorable villain, although I have always liked Robert Carlyle, and this also doesn’t really have a memorable plot. At least, I really didn’t remember much about this other than Denise Richards was supposed to convince us that she was a legit rocket scientist. So since I hadn’t watched this one in so long, seeing it now was like going into it mostly blind. Again, this is better than I remembered.

In this, James Bond must race against time to stop some big international disaster. I mean, that’s really the plot of every Bond movie but the details always differ. Here, we have a beautiful daughter of an oil tycoon that Bond must protect, a villain who doesn’t feel any pain due to a bullet being lodged into his brain and another woman because Bond always needs two. There are nuclear warheads, a nuclear submarine and several locations: Spain, France, Azerbaijan, Turkey and of course the United Kingdom. Robbie Coltrane also returns in this one as his character from GoldenEye.

It is also worth mentioning that this was the last film to feature Desmond Llewelyn as Q. Llewelyn had the role as far back as 1963’s From Russia With Love. With 17 Bond movies under his belt and having served five different James Bond incarnations, Llewelyn was in more of these pictures than anyone else. Sadly, he died just after this film’s release but not without passing the torch to John Cleese, who unfortunately, only got to be in one more Bond film after this.

The World Is Not Enough holds up pretty well when compared to the other films within the long history of the classic pre-Daniel Craig era of James Bond. I thought that Sophie Marceau was really good and not to be that guy but man, Denise Richards was absolutely friggin’ gorgeous. When we first see her, she is dressed like Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider video game series. Frankly, I would’ve rather had her over Angelina Jolie in the Tomb Raider movies. Denise Richards looked more the part.

Where I once had a hole in my heart after disliking this movie, that hole has now been filled, 18 years later. It’s nowhere near as bad as its sequel Die Another Day and although it’s not as good as GoldenEye, it still satisfies and Brosnan just works as the ’90s version of James Bond.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Die Another Day (2002)

Release Date: November 20th, 2002 (UK)
Directed by: Lee Tamahori
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, John Cleese, Judi Dench, Samantha Bond

Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 133 Minutes

Review:

“I have been known to keep my tip up.” – James Bond

Die Another Day is the film I consider to be the worst James Bond picture of all-time. While I felt like it played better than I remembered, having revisited it for the first time since its release a decade and a half ago, it still takes the cake, as far as bad Bond movies go.

While Pierce Brosnan was a damn good Bond, his movies are borderline abysmal, minus Goldeneye, his debut.

The Brosnan films came out in a time when motion pictures were getting more serious and less campy. Unfortunately, these play almost like parodies of the very playful and sometimes hokey films of the Roger Moore era. It also didn’t help that the Austin Powers franchise came along and sort of dumped these movies on their head. All of this is why the character of Bond went away for four years after this film and came back revamped and more serious with the start of the Daniel Craig era.

Like every other movie from the Brosnan era, this was a marketing machine, made to sell a bunch of shit that was featured in the picture. Unfortunately, regardless of how much money you have in your bank account, you can’t buy an invisible Aston Martin. And the fact that that is a thing in this movie, should tell you how ridiculous this flick is, even for James Bond standards. This is the movie that really jumped the shark with its use of gadgetry.

The film is also mired by the inclusion of Halle Berry as the character Jinx, which was done in an effort to create a spin-off franchise for her. That franchise never saw the light of day because she truly sucked in this film and despite trying to sell her as a female bad ass, for the most part, she was just another Bond damsel in distress. Ultimately, she was unconvincing regardless of how cool and tough they tried to make her seem. I don’t necessarily blame Berry for this though, as the character was poorly written and the director seemed to be dialing it in.

The stunts were a mixed bad of good and god awful. The CGI effects were friggin’ atrocious, even for the time. Just look at the scene where Bond is kite surfing a giant wave and try not to cringe.

Also, the film’s plot is just a bit of a rehash of Goldeneye. It’s story doesn’t justify its existence and the pens behind this tale really should have given us something better than another killer satellite story.

There are a few small positives, however.

The first is the opening sequence in North Korea. It was really well done and felt like a classic Bond sequence. Of course, everything goes completely downhill after the credits.

Also, I really liked Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost. I thought she was a better than decent Bond girl and much more interesting than Berry’s Jinx.

Lastly, the film features Pierce Brosnan, the man who is usually the biggest highlight of any film that he is in.

The last big gripe however is in regards to the villain. He’s a North Korean general’s bratty kid who gets plastic surgery to look like a smarmy elitist white dude. The whole thing is just stupid. Although, the henchman with the diamond face was cool and had a classic Bond villain vibe to him.

Die Another Day is a film that shelved the franchise and caused it to be rebooted and reinvented. It is awful in just about every way. There are literally two dozen Bond movies that are better than this pile of crap.

So does it deserved to be ran through the Cinespiria Shitometer? Of course it does! And the results speak for themselves! What we have here is a “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely Liquid.”

Rating: 3.5/10

Ranking the Official James Bond Films

james_bondGrowing up, I was fascinated with James Bond. The same uncle who made me obsessed with Godzilla and Star Trek, also gave me my Bond obsession. Luckily for me, they still make Bond films and the current crop are pretty high quality. Here, I rank all the James Bond films… at least the official ones, anyway.

1. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969 – George Lazenby)
2. From Russia With Love (1963 – Sean Connery)
3. Licence to Kill (1989 – Timothy Dalton)
4. Dr. No (1962 – Sean Connery)
5. Skyfall (2012 – Daniel Craig)
6. Live and Let Die (1973 – Roger Moore)
7. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977 – Roger Moore)
8. Goldeneye (1995 – Pierce Brosnan)
9. Thunderball (1965 – Sean Connery)
10. Goldfinger (1964 – Sean Connery)
11. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974 – Roger Moore)
12. You Only Live Twice (1967 – Sean Connery)
13. Casino Royale (2006 – Daniel Craig)
14. Spectre (2015 – Daniel Craig)
15. A View to a Kill (1985 – Roger Moore)
16. The Living Daylights (1987 – Timothy Dalton)
17. Quantum of Solace (2008 – Daniel Craig)
18. Diamonds Are Forever (1971 – Sean Connery)
19. Octopussy (1983 – Roger Moore)
20. Moonraker (1979 – Roger Moore)
21. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997 – Pierce Brosnan)
22. For Your Eyes Only (1981 – Roger Moore)
23. The World Is Not Enough (1999 – Pierce Brosnan)
24. Die Another Day (2002 – Pierce Brosnan)