Category Archives: Movies

Breaking Down Bond: All-Time List

Peter Travers just ranked all 24 of the Bond films in order from best to worst for Rolling Stone. His top five: 1) Goldfinger 2)From Russia with Love 3)On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 4) Casino Royale 5) Skyfall. No major issues with his list but I do disagree. Here’s the official Chef Diesel Top 24 All-Time Bond list. And remember, I have a freakin’ Bond tattoo, so I know my stuff.

1) Goldfinger (1964)
Simply classic. Pussy Galore.

2) From Russia with Love (1963)
Cold war. Great villains. Timeless scenes: train fight, opening hedge maze, Bond’s sex tape.

3) Dr. No (1962)
Honey Rider. The Caribbean. Sharks.

4) Casino Royale (2006)
Grit. Emotional investment. Venice and sack trauma. Welcome, Daniel Craig.

5) Live and Let Die (1973)
Voodoo. Paul McCartney. Barrel roll car jump.

6) The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Three nipples. Nick Nack. South Pacific.

7) Thunderball (1965)
Jetpack swag.

8) Goldeneye (1995)
N64. Back to Russia. Brosnan’s best work.

9) Skyfall (2012)
Just saw this so it has a great chance to move up considerably. Visually stunning, great script.

10) You Only Live Twice (1967)
Blofed. Volcano.

11) The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Submarine car.

12) Moonraker (1979)
Jaws. Outer space.

13) Quantum of Solace (2008)
Tons of hate but really not that bad.

14) Octopussy (1983)
The height of 007 camp. Almost a parody of itself.

15) Diamonds are Forever (1971)
Vegas and the best sample Kanye has ever used.

16) A View to a Kill (1985)
Christopher Walken before it was cool to love Christopher Walken.

17) For Your Eyes Only (1981)
The best skiing scene in cinematic history.

18) Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Terri Hatcher as a Bond Girl? Good thing she dies.

19) The World is Not Enough (1999)
Denise Richards as a scientist names Christmas Jones. Are you fucking kidding me?

20) Never Say Never Again (1983)
Doesn’t count. Not made by Eon Productions.

21) Die Another Day (2002)
Halle Berry in Cuba? Invisible Car? Diamond face villain? No, thanks.

22) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
One word: Lazeny. Also, Bond married? Impossible.

23) The Living Daylights (1987)
One word: Dalton.

24) License to Kill (1989)
Again: Dalton.

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Skyfall

James Bond cannot die. He does however, age. This admission of fragility, one that has really never been thought of in any other previous Bond film, is what grounds Skyfall and keeps it from being the typical, campy romp of tropes and espionage cliches. Skyfall is fresh, exciting and another classic entry into the Bond cannon.

Sam Mendes is at the helm for Skyfall. More than anything, the movie is visually stunning. The prerequisite exotic locations are all here, but Mendes finds a way to make them look different and even more exotic if that’s even possible. Bond arriving at the Macao casino, the opening chase in Turkey, the Scottish countryside–all masterfully shot.

Skyfall’s plot centers around a former MI6 agent (Javier Bardem) gone rogue after a perceived betrayal by M (Judy Dench). His motivation is revenge, but doesn’t mind causing some cyber terrorism in the process. Bardem is a formidable opponent for Craig, but goes more for the psychological and technical smarts over the traditional muscled megalomaniac with hoards of weapons. (But don’t worry, there’s plenty of guns).

The main theme of the film is the battle of old vs. new. The juxtaposition permeates the script but does not beat you over the head and never feels preachy. Is Bond’s classic training still relevant is today’s world? Is technology more dangerous than a man with a gun? How do you fight enemies who operate in the shadows? There are no easy answers.

Skyfall also achieves an emotional connection and back story that few films in the series have done before. (Really, Casino Royale was the first because I don’t count George Lazenby’s wife being killed, because I do not recognize George Lazenby as Bond). Bond is left for dead and returns. His childhood is explored and his character is given greater motivations that just saving Britain (again).

For the die-hard Bond fans, the greatest moments of the film are the not so subtle nods and winks to past films. The most obvious–an appearance of an Astin Martin DB9 provides a great moment of levity in a tense situation. Mendes does not fall into the martini trap and the sexual innuendo is left for Bardem to play with. The final epic scene is probably the most un-Bond action scene in the last 50 years. It’s raw, void of gadgets and quippy dialogue–just Bond verse the villian. Let the best man (or rat) win.

As a Connery purist, I loved the final scene (though I could have done without the “introduction”). Mendes and company obviously took the job seriously and did their homework.

James Bond will return. If MGM and producers were smart, they’d lock up Mendes and Craig right now.

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The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises is an epic and ambitious movie that is wildly rewarding and admirable for it’s scale and scope. The conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is satisfying, yet disappointing for the mere fact that it is now over. Nolan was able to humanize Bruce Wayne and Batman and ground him in a real place. His talents as a filmmaker are only matched by his writing partners and producers who have managed to deliver not just three of the best super hero movies of all time, but three films that will be talked for many years to come for their style, tone and resonance.

I won’t go much further than to say that the action is amazing (proof that CGI is not the answer to every stunt), the acting is great (can Bane’s eyes win an Oscar?) and the plot is fantastical, yet plausible. If you’re looking for better film criticism, there are plenty others who do it quite well. [For my money I’d still rank The Dark Knight ahead of Rises, with Batman Begins in third.]

But I really didn’t enjoy the experience of seeing the movie.

Still heavy on my mind were the victims of the attack in Aurora, CO. The lobby of the theatre was empty this afternoon. The theatre itself only had a handful of people in the massive IMAX space. The atmosphere was very surreal and eerie. A film of great anticipation and excitement was now reduced to a footnote on a headline. I felt almost guilty for being there and trying to enjoy myself.

Irrational thoughts kept popping up in my head as I never got comfortable or engrossed in the story. As I watched: Is this the scene when it happened? What’s that person over there getting up for? Where’s the closest exit? My guess is that I am not the only one with these feelings as Batman and Bane battled each other.

James Holmes shattered our illusion of safety. Someday it might return. But as the film’s final scenes played out, the weight of the drama and past few days effected me more than I expected. I was and still am a little shook. There are no easy answers.

We go to the movies to be taken away and get lost in adventures. And that’s what I was hoping to do. But today, it was hardly an escape.

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Project X

Project X is nothing more than the celebration of teen anarchy and narcissism. There is no story, no character development and really no reason to see the movie. Continue reading

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Friends With Benefits

FWB DTF

Last year Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis starred in Black Swan, and famously went at it in a drug and stress induced sex binge. Earlier this year Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher starred in No Strings Attached, a PG rom-com cheese fest that instantly made viewers dumber for watching. Now comes Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake in Friends with Benefits, basically the same movie as Strings, but with the work “fuck” used more heavily in dialogue. So by my math, Mila and Natalie really wanted to make the same follow-up to Black Swan, but somewhere a casting director blew it. Wouldn’t No Strings Attached have been more interesting with Timberlake at Kutcher as leads making Friends With Benefits the comedic rebuttal and natural progression for Kunis and Portman?

There’s a better joke in there somewhere, but I’m just not the man to find it. Anyways…

Friends With Benefits is a solid romantic comedy. All the beats are there. You know the concept, you know the conflict and it’s pretty obvious how the film is going to end. The fun is seeing how our characters reach each plot point. My problem with FWB is that the writers seemed to use the self-referential humor device as an excuse to execute all the cliches we’ve come to expect from rom-coms. Just because Justin and Mila make fun of sappy/poppy love songs and fairytale fate endings within their dialogue doesn’t give the actual movie we’re watching a pass. One time, OK, maybe it’s cute. But two fucking flashmobs? I’m out. SO 2009! [Again, I maintain that since Scream invented and executed this perfectly, Hollywood writers have gotten lazy.] Continue reading

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Fast Five

Vin Diesel? DIESEL!

It pays to know your audience. Makers of Fast Five have a pretty good idea what their fans want: cars, women, exotic locations, muscles. By no means is Fast Five the best film of the year, but it may be the most satisfying.

What can you really ask of an action movie? They aren’t supposed to be believable, so why do blow hards find such pleasure in trashing movies like Fast Five? Sure, the acting is average and the plot is crazy but who cares? Were you entertained for two hours? Get over yourself.

Thankfully, Fast Five has every action move cliche. It’s predictable, loud and extremely fun. Of course Vin Diesel and Paul Walker need to do “one more job” and get the gang back together to rob a corrupt drug lord in Rio (where they’re in hiding). Of course The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) is the best cop in the world, hot on their tail. Of course there’s a final scene that will make you say “whoa!” and “cool, bro!”

I’m not a gearhead, so for me Fast Five was all about The Rock vs. Vin Diesel. Vin Diesel proves that yes, a man can be jacked and still have a double chin. The Rock looks too ripped for his role, if that’s even possible. Yes, he’s a bad ass, but it’s almost like his immense muscles and extra small Under Armour shirt get in the way of him doing his job. Maybe his glistening biceps were there to distract us from the horrible acting. (Favorite laugh-out-loud moment when I shouldn’t have: Vin yelling “This is BRA-ZILLL!” to taunt The Rock at the street race.)

The Rock has great charisma, but still lacks chops. Regardless, this is how Dwayne Johnson should have spent the last ten years. Being huge and kicking ass in actions flicks. He really should have been the next Schwarzenegger (and still could be). Instead, he did horrible Disney kids flicks and tarnished his brand. Hopefully we see round two of Diesel-Rock in the next Fast installment.

The point is, you know what your getting when you go to see this movie. Don’t take it too serious. Laugh at the absurdity (and tender moments) and hang on for the NOS-infused ride.

For a more in-depth and hilarious breakdown of Fast Five, I highly recommend listening to the recent B.S. Report where Adam Carolla and Bill Simmons spent over an hour dissecting the finer points of the film.

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Scream 4

Whats your favorite scary movie?

I am a big wuss. A cry baby. A little girl. I do not like scary movies. It’s not that I don’t like feeling scared, I just don’t like getting tricked into being spooked. The blood, the gore, the idea of a crazed serial killer on the loose–these horror staples don’t bother me. It’s the manufactured jump-out-of-your-seat moments that every horror film is built on that I can do without. You know they’re coming, the music signals it, and when it doesn’t come, you take a breath, then BAM, you’re the idiot two rows up bouncing three feet out of your seat, spilling popcorn all over your date when the killer pops out of the ceiling instead of the closet. Great thanks, you scared me. Not because what I was watching caused me to feel fear, but because you fooled my senses into anticipating something when I least expected it.

So, doing my best to avoid all said moments, I spent a good part of Scream 4 with my eyes closed, looking away from the screen when it was obvious Ghostface was about to pop out and disembowel someone. Once he was on screen, eyes were glued to slit throats and intestines spilling from abdomens! Continue reading

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