Film Review: Flash Gordon (1980)

Release Date: September, 1980 (Turkey)
Directed by: Mike Hodges
Written by: Lorenzo Semple Jr., Michael Allin
Based on: characters by Alex Raymond
Music by: Queen, Howard Blake
Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Ornella Muti, Max von Sydow, Topol, Timothy Dalton, Mariangela Melato, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde, Robbie Coltrane, Deep Roy, Kenny Baker

Starling Films, Dino De Laurentiis Company, Famous Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Flash, Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!” – Dale Arden

Far from great, this is still one of the coolest movies ever made. It’s certainly a product of its time, as it wants to exist on the same level as Star Wars but the rest of Hollywood hadn’t yet caught up to the magic that George Lucas possessed.

Regardless of that, this is still an enthralling motion picture that made the best out of all its parts, creating a one-of-a-kind, pulpy world that really felt like an update of the old school Flash Gordon serials it tried to emulate in many regards.

Also, this has more of a ’70s feel to it than ’80s. But it was technically made and shot in ’79, so there’s that.

Flash Gordon is overly fantastical and I mean that in a good way, as it’s so stylized and unique that it really stands out among a lot of the other epic science fiction space operas of its era.

The sets are incredible, as are the costumes. Sure, some things look ridiculously hokey, even for 1980, but they still work in this strange universe.

I thought that the cast was also solid, despite the lack of experience Sam J. Jones, who plays the film’s title character, had in front of the camera. He still shines and I’m surprised that this didn’t lead to bigger and better things. Although, he is overshadowed by some of the other actors, especially Max von Sydow, a legitimate veteran who seemed to be completely committed to the role of an evil, outer space madman hellbent on ruling the galaxy.

I also really dug Timothy Dalton and Brian Blessed in this. They’ve been two of my favorite British actors over the course of my life and this is actually the first thing that I saw both of them in, way back when I was a young kid that rented this movie quite a lot.

Sadly but also understandably, I think that this film is mostly remembered for its music, as superstar rock band Queen did the film’s theme, as well as some other awesome tracks. Their music in this is spectacular and it makes the film so much cooler than it would have been without their iconic tunes. But really, between these songs and the film’s stupendous style, it’s like a perfect marriage.

All in all, this is a film with some flaws and it’s probably way too hokey for modern audiences but for the time, it worked. I just wish it had as much of a cultural impact as other big budget movies from that incredible era of live-action space operas.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi and fantasy films of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

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 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