Roger Moore as James Bond Retrospective: A View to A Kill (1985)


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Logline: 007 investigates a mad industrialist who plans on destroying California’s Silicon Valley in order to monopolize the world’s microchip supply.

Nearly two years ago, I began revisiting and reviewing Roger Moore’s Bond films beginning with Live and Let Die (1973).  I have seen both the highs and the lows of Moore’s thirteen year tenure as 007.  During this time, the English actor died at the age of 89.  I have finally arrived at Moore’s seventh and final appearance as Bond – A View to A Kill.  Though it is generally regarded as one of the worst 007 films, A View to A Kill has its strengths particularly in villainous turns from Christopher Walken and Grace Jones.

Spanning over fifty years, the Bond franchise has its loyal fans whose views on the films vary greatly.  However, most Bond fans will agree that A View to A Kill is one of the worst Bond films.  The main criticism most often cited against the film is Moore’s age.  He was 57 at the time and Moore himself joked about this aspect stating he was “only about four hundred years too old for that part.”  I think most Bond fans and Moore himself knew it was time for a new James Bond.  Enter Timothy Dalton.

A View to A Kill is deeply flawed but entertaining.  The film feels tired and lacks any of the vivacity of Moore’s best Bond films.  Moore seems to sleepwalk through the majority of the film and Tanya Roberts makes for a terrible Bond girl.  Her performance is as stiff as they come.

Despite these shortcomings, there is a lot to appreciate in A View to A Kill.  The film opens with a great pre-title sequence in arctic Russia.  Bond travels across this icy landscape on skis, a snowmobile, and finally, an improvised snowboard.  As stated before, Walken and Jones are a delight to watch and steal every scene in which they appear.  The chart-topping title song by Duran Duran is great and my favorite Bond theme of all.  There are some impressive action sequences, particularly the fight atop the Golden Gate Bridge at the film’s climax.

While I recognize the distaste surrounding Moore’s final appearance as Bond, I can also appreciate certain aspects of it.  It is far from Moore’s best Bond film (that honor I’d bestow upon The Spy Who Loved Me), but it is certainly not his worst.

Rating (out of ****): ***


Roger Moore as James Bond Retrospective: Octopussy (1983)


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Logline: A fellow agent’s death and a fake Fabergé egg lead Bond on a mission to uncover a jewel smuggling operation.

After the release of For Your Eyes Only in 1981, Roger Moore expressed an interest in retiring from the role of British secret agent 007.  Thus, the search began for the next James Bond.  Many actors were considered including James Brolin and future Bond Timothy Dalton.  However, it was decided that an established actor in the role would fare better against Sean Connery in the unofficial Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again due the same year.  Consequently, Roger Moore was lured back for his sixth appearance as Bond.

Octopussy was a personal favorite Bond film of mine when I was a kid but this most recent viewing has me reconsidering its place in the Bond canon.  Even though it has some fun scenes like the pre-title sequence in which Bond flies a jet through an open hangar, Octopussy gets bogged down by its ludicrous, convoluted plot and various silly elements at work.  One of the film’s sillier sequences has Bond disguised in a clown costume.  Most infuriating is the Tarzan yell when Bond swings through the trees of a jungle.  It’s this type of juvenile humor that feels out of place in a Bond film.  The title character Octopussy isn’t as interesting as the film wants you to believe and Maud Adams is pretty wooden in the role.

On the positive side though, Octopussy makes great use of its locations which include India and Germany.  The film also includes some impressive stunts in which Bond finds himself atop both a train and an airplane.  As Kamal Khan, Louis Jordan proves a worthy adversary for Bond.  The film has the feel of an old fashioned adventure in the tradition of Raiders of the Lost Ark, released just a couple years prior to the release of Octopussy.

Octopussy fared better at the box office than its rival Never Say Never Again and there is no doubt that it is the superior of the two.  Moore is definitely beginning to show his age though and would only appear as Bond once more in A View to A Kill (1985)While not nearly as good as I remembered, Octopussy is still a decent Bond film.  James Bond’s all time high though? I don’t think so.

Rating (out of ****): ***


In Theaters: Love, Simon (2018)


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It’s hard to believe but Love, Simon is the first gay coming-of-age film to be released by a major Hollywood studio.  There has been no shortage of gay coming-of-age films in the last twenty years or so but the fact that Love, Simon is the first one to emerge from Hollywood is cause for celebration.

The film centers around Simon (Nick Robinson), a perfectly normal teenager with one secret – he’s gay.  When Simon learns that one of his peers is gay, the two begin chatting online, neither of them knowing each other’s identity.  The two closeted teens offer each other sympathy and support as they come to terms with their sexuality.

Love, Simon is a whimsical, charming high school film that strikes a nice balance between comedic and emotionally resonant moments.  It may not be the most realistic gay coming-of-age film but it’s entertaining nonetheless.  The film is built around the mystery of identifying Simon’s gay classmate and the film has some fun toying with the viewer’s perception of who this person might be.  When the inevitable reveal comes complete with a first kiss atop a Ferris Wheel, it feels earned even if it is a bit unrealistic.

I heard Love, Simon described as an unrealistic fantasy teen drama set in an idyllic suburbia.  I think this is an apt description but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The 1980s were something of a golden age for the teen film.  Great John Hughes films like The Breakfast Club (1985) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) most certainly have a tinge of fantasy too while something like Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times at Ridegemont High (1982) feels like a realistic depiction of high schoolers.  Love, Simon belongs in the former camp even if it isn’t quite as good as those ’80s classics.

I had no expectations going into the screening of Love, Simon.  I came out pleasantly surprised.  The performances are strong especially that of the lead, Nick Robinson.  Natasha Rothwell steals the show though as the hilarious high school drama teacher.  Love, Simon may not be a perfect gay coming-of-age film but it is certainly a start.

Rating (out of ****): *** 1/2

Roger Moore as James Bond Retrospective: For Your Eyes Only (1981)


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Logline: Bond is sent on a mission to recover a nuclear submarine control system before it falls into enemy hands.

Roger Moore’s recent passing has inspired me to finish this retrospective of his Bond cannon, which I started at the end of 2016.  Roger Moore starred as British secret agent 007 in seven films, beginning with Live and Let Die in 1973 and concluding with A View to a Kill in 1985.

For Your Eyes Only marked Moore’s fifth appearance as James Bond and in many ways, it represents a return to the character’s gritty, more realistic roots.  Producer Albert R. Broccoli wanted to bring Bond back down to Earth after the sci-fi spectacle that was Moonraker (1979).  The result is a solid Bond film that ranks above Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) but isn’t quite as fun and entertaining as The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) or Moonraker.  Frankly, For Your Eyes Only isn’t as good as I remembered. There isn’t anything truly spectacular in the film except perhaps for the rock climbing sequence, which is quite impressive and full of tension.  Its one of the few instances in the film where I felt Bond was in real danger as opposed to the majority of the time where the perceived threat feels small.  I think this is largely due to the film’s villain, Kristatos (Julian Glover) who isn’t very menacing or memorable.  The Bond girl, Melina (Carole Bouquet) is a bit underwhelming as well.  While I appreciated her depth and backstory, Bouquet’s performance is a bit muted and I do not think the dubbing did her any favors either.  One of the film’s few interesting supporting characters, Columbo (Chaim Topol) is a good ally for Bond and serves to lighten the mood.

Besides the riveting rock climbing sequence, another scene of note occurs when Bond and Melina are dragged behind Kristatos’ yacht.  The scene is taken from Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die but the filmmakers did not have room for it in that book’s adaptation and so opted to put it in For Your Eyes Only instead.  The scene stands out because it is so fresh and unique unlike some of the film’s more formulaic car and ski chases.

One of the complaints I hear most frequently cited by viewers while discussing For Your Eyes Only is the character of Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson), a young figure skater training for the Olympics.  Where most people find Bibi intolerable and annoying, I did not have a problem with her.  In fact, the scene in which Bond declines sex with Bibi always give me a good laugh. “Well put your clothes on. I’ll buy you an ice cream,” Bond quips. Bond seemingly denies her because she is too young which is ironic considering the age gap between Bond and Melina.

For Your Eyes Only marked John Glen’s first time directing a Bond picture.  The filmmaker would continue to direct the Bond films throughout the 1980s.  Glen and the production team strived to create something more gritty and realistic than Moore’s previous entries.  Despite this, the film is bookended by two ridiculous sequences that hamper the film considerably in my estimation.  In fact, I proceed to skip the opening pre-title sequence when I watch For Your Eyes Only now and go straight to the main titles with Sheena Easton’s great title tune.  The opening sequence in which Bond visits the grave of his dead wife and has a confrontation with Blofeld is misguided.  The ending sequence is almost equally incomprehensible with Bond receiving a phone call from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Even though I have lodged many complaints against For Your Eyes Only, I do not want to give the impression that I dislike the film.  For all of its missteps, it is a solid Bond adventure.  Longtime Bond composer John Barry is missing this time around.  Instead, Bill Conti (Rocky) provided the film’s score.  Even though it dates the film considerably, it is a solid score.  For most of its runtime, For Your Eyes Only is a welcomed return to Bond’s more realistic roots.  It features some stunning underwater photography and Moore is a joy to watch as usual.

Rating (out of ****): ***

In Theaters: It (2017)


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Logline: In the summer of 1989, a group of young misfits are terrorized by an ancient evil that takes the form of a clown.

Since his debut novel Carrie was first published in 1974, Stephen King has been one of the most successful and prolific horror writers of all time.  Many people will cite Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) as the greatest Stephen King film.  Despite The Shining being one of the greatest horror films of all time, there is no doubt that it is a Stanley Kubrick film through and through and the filmmaker made no qualms about taking extreme liberties with the source material.  Andy Muschietti’s new adaptation of King’s classic 1986 novel It, on the other hand, is faithful to the original source material and stands as one of the better film versions of a King novel.  That, in of itself, is no small achievement.

The film wisely focuses on the portions of the novel in which the characters are all children.  There is a planned follow-up film which will focus on the characters in their adult lives.  This is a guarantee considering the film’s major success.  Upon its release, It broke box office records and has already grossed over $209 million worldwide.

It is equal parts coming of age drama and horror film.  The cast of young actors, which includes Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things (2016), is excellent and is the very thing that makes this film so effective.  The screenplay takes the time to develop these characters and it pays off.  I genuinely cared about each of the kids and found them to be the most captivating aspect of the film.  For many of these young actors,  It is their first major studio film.  The Argentinan director’s affection for them permeates every scene. Their dialogue and banter is well-written and at times, downright hilarious.

The 1980s are trending and It is very much aware of this fact.  Set in the summer of 1989, It is reminiscent of such ’80s classics as A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Stand By Me (1986), the coming of age drama based on a King novella.  Unlike A Nightmare on Elm Street though, the horrors in It occur in broad daylight but still manage to frighten.  In It, the search is not for a missing body as in Stand By Me but for a demonic shape-shifting clown that feeds on the kids’ fears.

As Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Bill Skarsgard manages to be incredibly creepy.  Though I have not seen the 1990 miniseries starring Tim Curry, I think it is safe to say the 27-year-old Swedish actor had big shoes to fill.  Skarsgard is excellent and brings a fresh interpretation to King’s iconic creation.  As horrifying as Pennywise may be, he is only second to some of the horrors that the kids face at home.  In fact, some of the film’s most terrifying moments come when Beverly (Sophia Lillis) must confront her abusive father or when the kids must confront Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), their peer who doubles as a psychotic bully.

It is energetic, scary, funny, and surprisingly touching.  The film’s tone satisfied my ’80s nostalgia and love of horror films.  We are living in a new golden age of horror with such modern classics as The Babadook (2014), It Follows (2014), Goodnight Mommy (2014), The Witch (2015), and now, It, which stands out as one of the must-see films of 2017.

Rating (out of ****): ***1/2



In Theaters: Baby Driver (2017)


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Logline: A young, music-loving getaway driver finds himself embroiled in a doomed heist.

Edgar Wright’s newest film Baby Driver is the most fun I’ve had at the cinema in a long time.  The director’s fifth feature, Baby Driver is a visceral romantic heist comedy with an  incredible soundtrack.

Wright conceived of Baby Driver in 1994 and the story saw its first incarnation in a Mint Royale music video he directed in 2003.  A clip from the video can be seen in the film when Baby (Ansel Elgort) is flipping through TV channels.  In a season full of remakes, reboots, and generally unoriginal works, Baby Driver stands out as something truly special.

The story centers on Baby, a young talented getaway driver.  A childhood accident left Baby with severe tinnitus and he constantly listens to music to drown out the ringing in his ears.  The film features a plethora of tracks that propel the story and are synched with the action.  A chase movie through and through, the film rarely lets up and includes some of the best car chases ever committed to film.

Baby Driver has a star-studded cast that includes the likes of Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Hamm.  As Baby, Ansel Elgort is excellent and he really comes into his own as a leading man.  Elgort’s chemistry with Lily James is undeniable.  The performances are great across the board and one gets the sense that these actors are having a blast.  The visual design of the film is stellar and it has a real retro vibe to it.

Some might classify Baby Driver as a sort of modern-day musical.  The opening credits sequence features Baby dancing in the streets of Atlanta and listening to Bob and Earle’s “Harlem Shuffle.”  Look closely and you’ll notice that some of the lyrics appear as graffiti.  Even if some of the elements at work here seem familiar, their execution is pitch perfect and inspired.

I rarely go see films in the cinema more than once during their initial theater run.  However, I had to see Baby Driver twice and I loved it even more on the second viewing.   It is a fast paced ride with infectious energy and vibrancy.  Baby Driver is one of the must see films of the summer.

Rating (out of ****): ****

In Theaters: Alien: Covenant (2017)


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Logline: The crew of a colony ship discover an uncharted planet where they meet the synthetic David, from the doomed Prometheus expedition, who is harboring a secret.

Modern day moviegoers are constantly bombarded with remakes, sequels, and rehashes.  Take Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) as an example.  As fun as it may be, The Force Awakens is nothing more than a rehash of Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope (1977).  I had a blast watching The Force Awakens but one gets the sense that originality and creativity fall to the back burner in favor of satiating nostalgia.  Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant is not much different.  It lacks originality but is a lot of fun to watch.

When I saw the trailer for the film, I was not particularly excited precisely because it looked like a rehash of Alien (1979).  However, being a fan of the series, I flocked to the cinema to see the film.  Having no expectations, I was pleasantly surprised.  Scott is once again behind the camera having directed Alien and the first prequel Prometheus (2012).  I was one of the people that actually liked Prometheus.  It dared to do something different, was visually stunning, and raised some interesting existential questions.  Most fans were left disappointed.  Covenant, set ten years after Prometheus, gives fans exactly what they want though.  Fusing elements from both Alien and Aliens (1986), Covenant feels much more like an Alien movie.  The cast includes some great actors such as Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, and Billy Crudup.  However, it is Fassbender who steals the show as synthetics David and Walter.

At 79 years old, Ridley Scott is a master behind the camera.  The film is quite beautiful and provides a fairly satisfying origin story to the iconic xenomorph alien which first terrified audiences in 1979.  Covenant is trimmed of all fat and is a fast paced ride that can be enjoyed with an open mind.  It may be formulaic and uneven but it is a fun ride nonetheless.

Rating (out of ****): ***1/2


In Theaters: Moonlight (2016)



Logline: A chronicle of a young black man’s life from childhood to adulthood as he grows up in a rough Miami neighborhood and struggles with his own sexual identity.

Barry Jenkins’ sophomore film Moonlight is a masterpiece and one of the best films of the year.  It is a rare film about a gay black man.  However, the film is not exclusively about being gay and black in a poor neighborhood.  On a deeper level, the film is about the universal struggle to find human connection and realize our true selves.

Moonlight is based on Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s semi-autobiographical play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.”  The film is heartbreaking yet life-affirming; epic yet intimate.  At its core, Moonlight is a character study with three actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) playing Chiron as a child, teenager, and adult.  All three actors are phenomenal as is the rest…

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Overlooked and Underrated Gems: Closet Monster (2015)


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Logline: A teenage boy named Oscar, who is haunted by a tragedy from his childhood, comes to terms with his sexuality.

Independent cinema is dying.  It is becoming more difficult for independent filmmakers to have a platform on which to produce their films.  This is a travesty because it is these same filmmakers that push the creative boundaries of the medium.  Stephen Dunn’s debut Closet Monster, a Canadian indie film, is stunning and deserved a much wider release than it received.

It would be easy to categorize Closet Monster as a gay coming-of-age film but it is so much more than that.  This is a very personal film for Dunn, who grew up in St. John’s, New Foundland, where the film takes place.  In an interview, Dunn stated, “I was compelled to develop Closet Monster out of a desire to articulate the complex feelings of self-hate and internalized homophobia I felt growing up in St. John’s, Newfoundland.”  The film focuses on a gay eighteen-year-old named Oscar Madly.  As a child, Oscar witnesses a violent and terrible crime committed against an older gay classmate.  As a result, Oscar equates being gay with violence and his emerging sexuality becomes something to be feared rather than embraced.  Closet Monster is very much a visual film, in which Oscar’s internal demons are externilized.  As a teenager, Oscar is forced to confront these demons when he falls for a mysterious and attractive coworker.  The visual imagery used to illustrate Oscar’s complex and conflicted feelings is graphic and shocking, to say the least.  As a young gay man, I could relate to Oscar’s journey in more ways than one.  However, the film has universal appeal and exemplifies the type of creative expression that the film industry needs more of these days.

Oscar is the lens through which we see the film and Connor Jessup gives a strong performance.  Isabella Rossellini provides the voice of Oscar’s talking hamster Buffy.  Closet Monster is a wonderfully bizarre film with a stellar soundtrack.  A visceral and engrossing experience, Closet Monster is an excellent debut and I look forward to Dunns’s future films.

Ten Years Later: Reflections on There Will Be Blood (2007) Spoilers


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Paul Thomas Anderson has had a uniquely varied and distinguished body of work but There Will Be Blood may very well be his greatest achievement.  It is hard to believe that I first saw There Will Be Blood nearly ten years ago.  After seeing the trailer, I was immediately drawn to the film and knew I had to see it.  When I finally did, I left the theater blown away by what I had seen.  I am grateful I had the opportunity to see the film in the theater because it is the kind of movie that demands to be seen on the big screen.

There Will Be Blood has stayed with me ever since and remains one of my absolute favorite films of all time.  It is a dense film and one that is uniquely American, charting the growth of the oil industry and the rise of capitalism in the Industrial Age.  The film looms large with themes of power and greed, business and religion, family and fatherhood.  It is epic in every sense and yet, presents an intimate character study of one man’s ruthless pursuit of the American Dream.  Being the complex film that it is, There Will Be Blood is not about just one thing but many.  However, I will be focusing on the film’s theme of fatherhood, which is in my opinion, one of the most interesting aspects of the film.

Loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s 1926 novel Oil!, There Will Be Blood follows the rise of a miner turned oil man Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis).  The opening sequence shows Daniel at his most vulnerable.  He is mining for gold and slips and breaks his leg.  It is a brilliant wordless sequence, amplified considerably by Johnny Greenwood’s remarkable score.  Daniel may be a monster but his true nature is not apparent at first.  In these early sequences, his determination, hard work ethic, and care for his infant son H.W. make him by all accounts, a sympathetic character.

It really isn’t until the oil rig explosion that Daniel’s true nature becomes apparent.  As a result of the explosion, H.W. (Dillon Freasier) becomes deaf.  Daniel comes to H.W.’s aid but after tossing him aside, returns to the derrick.  Daniel realizes that there is an ocean of oil underneath his feet and he is the only one who can get to it.  Daniel is so entranced by the raging fire and the promise of wealth and success that it represents, that H.W. has become an afterthought.


The power play between Daniel and an evangelical preacher named Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) drives the film and reaches its apex at the end.  When Daniel has his first physical confrontation with Eli, he is frustrated over H.W.’s loss of hearing.  “Aren’t you a healer and a vessel for the holy spirit?,” Daniel screams.  Daniel slaps Eli around and drags him in the mud.

The arrival of Henry (Kevin J. O’Connor) re-iterates Daniel’s need for family. Henry claims to be Daniel’s brother and the two form a partnership.  In one brilliant sequence, Daniel converses with Henry, opening up to another human being for the first time in the film.  “I have a competition in me,” he says.  “I want no one else to succeed.  I hate most people.”  Henry becomes H.W.’s replacement because the boy’s deafness has made him ill-suited for the “family business.”  When Daniel and Henry meet with Standard Oil, H.M. Tilford offers to buy Daniel out and make him a millionaire.  Daniel has an opportunity to become wealthy and spend more time with H.W. but his ego and thirst for power will not allow it.  When Daniel finally learns that Henry is not his actual brother, he kills him without hesitation.

When Daniel is coerced into becoming baptized at Eli’s church the following day, it is time for revenge.  Eli now has the upper hand and humiliates Daniel, forcing  him to acknowledge that he has abandoned H.W.  Daniel shows genuine guilt but the promise of the pipeline overshadows his love for H.W.


The film jumps forward in time to 1927 and reaches its conclusion.  H.W. goes to visit Daniel, who is now an alcoholic and a recluse.  When H.W. reveals plans to move to Mexico to start his own business, Daniel disowns him.  Daniel mocks H.W.’s deafness and reveals his true origins as an orphan.  A brief flashback shows Daniel playing with H.W. and displaying genuine affection.  There is no doubt in my mind.  Daniel did, at one time, love H.W. and he was the very thing that kept him human.  As soon as Daniel and H.W.’s relationship became degraded, so began Daniel’s descent into madness.  Soon after, Daniel is visited by Eli, who is now a radio preacher.  It is the final battle of wits between these two flawed men.  It is also the iconic scene in which Daniel proclaims, “I drink your milkshake.”  At this point in the story, Daniel has been stripped of all humanity and he kills Eli.  After, he proclaims, “I’m finished,” as if giving the film permission to end.

One cannot discuss There Will Be Blood without mentioning Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance.  He is incredible and it may very well be the greatest performance of the decade.  Paul Dano may not be a match for Day-Lewis but he still delivers a great performance nonetheless.  To be fair, Day-Lewis had a year to prepare for his role whereas Dano only had four days.  Two weeks into the 60-day shoot, Anderson replaced the actor who was playing Eli Sunday with Dano.  Dillon Freasier, a non-actor, is a natural and gives a wonderfully stoic and subdued performance as H.W.

There Will Be Blood is set during the California oil boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Despite its historical backdrop, the film is timely.  The Iraq War, a war for oil, raged on at the time of the film’s release.  Even today, the film’s themes and implications seem to be the zeitgeist of our times.  There Will Be Blood remains one of my absolute favorite films of all time. It is a visually stunning film and one of the great American movies of the 21st century.