Posts Tagged ‘spy

21
Aug
09

Bourne Again

On a whim me and a friend decided to watch “The Bourne Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum” films. Here’s the rundown:

bourne_identity“The Bourne Identity” – Matt Damon stars as the main character, Jason Bourne, a spy found lying facedown in the ocean with two bullets in his back. When he awakes he has amnesia and must piece together who he is and/or was. His one clue to the past is a deposit box which has multiple passports, money, and a gun. This tips off the CIA who are looking for Bourne namely Conklin (Chris Cooper) who sent Bourne on a secret assassination mission that has blown-up in the CIA’s face and brought questioning by another person in-the-know, Ward Abbott (Brian Cox). Bourne enlists the help of Maria (Franka Potente) whom he pays $20,000 to take him to Paris where he hopes to find out more about Project Treadstone.

In Retrospect: I remember watching this movie and loving it, hyping myself up for the sequel. Looking back, it’s still a good movie but I don’t love it as much. At the time it came out (2002) it preceded the final Austin Powers movies as well as the last Pierce Brosnan “James Bond” movie, and this was a welcome change. Both franchises had run their course and Jason Bourne was a spy who didn’t really on gadgets or one-liners; the man could disarm and disable you in three seconds using only his thumb. It was new, fresh, innovative, and action-oriented WITH a story. Doug Liman directed the first film entry in the series and I’ll give him credit for what he did, but it does seem to pale against its sequels (and imitators).

 

 

bourne_supremacy“The Bourne Supremacy” – Classified Russian documents are stolen when a CIA operation is botched and Jason Bourne is framed. On the other side of the globe Bourne is living in India with Maria when he’s spotted and during the ensuing chase, Maria is killed. Bourne returns stateside to find out why he’s being hunted down. Memories of a secret mission that wasn’t part of Treadstone return in bits and pieces and he soon goes to Moscow, returning to the scene of the crime and confronting the hitman initially sent to kill him as well as apologizing to the daughter of the couple whom he assassinated. This time around he’s being tracked down by Pamela Landy (Joan Allen).

In Retrospect: I liked this movie as much as “Bourne Identity” when it came out, citing the fact that the extra car chase was “the cherry on top of an already good movie.” Re-watching it, I liked it even more than the first. Sure, the camerawork during the fight scenes can get a little crazy or choppy, but overall it kept a cohesive story amid all the chaos.

 

 

bourne_ultimatum“The Bourne Ultimatum” – A journalist for the UK paper The Guardian (Paddy Considine) has found out about Jason Bourne and is trying to expose him, along with information on a Top Secret project called Black Briar. Bourne has to get to the bottom of things and runs into Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who happens to be working for the guy trying to sell the CIA secrets. Meanwhile, back at the ranch (CIA), Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) is honing in on the journalist when Bourne comes into the picture. Landy is sent in to help him with Bourne and, just in case, to be a scapegoat. Bourne must clear his name while trying to find out more information on Black Briar.

 

In Retrospect: I had such high hopes for this movie before I saw it in theatres. After watching it I wasn’t so much nauseous (major shaky-cam) as much as let down. It felt like an amalgamation of the other two Bourne films.

And I was partially right.

I’m reminded of a quote John Carpenter said about sequels which went something to the effect of people want the same movie over again. Sitting back and watching the other two Greengrass, as well as scriptwriters Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi, seemed to look at “The Bourne Identity” and say, “We can just use THIS script again!” Replace Chris Cooper with David Stathairn, Brian Cox with Albert Finney, Clive Owen with Joey Ansah, and even Franka Potente with Julia Stiles, and you have “The Bourne Identity Deux.”

And to make matters worse is the 1:20 (hrs:mins) point, where we find out that everything we’ve been watching takes place before the end of “Supremacy.” So, while Bourne was busy discovering why he was framed and avenging the death of his wife, he ALSO had time to find out about the other Black Ops Program, Black Briar. Did any of these guys think about this while it was happening, or just hope to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes? Fool me once, shame on me; I didn’t get fooled the second time.

 

THE WINNER: “The Bourne Supremacy.” A good blend of action-adventure with a plot and storyline.

 “The Bourne Identity” still holds, but not as well as “Supremacy.” “The Bourne Ultimatum?” More horrible than when I first watched it.

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16
Apr
09

Movies on DVD Review: The Tailor of Panama

tailor_of_panama

 

 

A different set of spies…

 

Starring Geoffrey Rush, Pierce Brosnan, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Brendan Gleeson. Directed by John Boorman.

 

Story: The U.S. has returned control of the Panama Canal to Panama. MI6 agent Andy Osnard (Brosnan) is a black mark for the English spy network: he has too many ex-wives and too many gambling debts; the anti-James Bond. He’s sent to Panama to stay out of trouble. With 200 registered Brits in Panama, he’s told that maybe he can set up his network there.

 

And that he does. He closes in on Harry Pendel (Rush), a tailor to the elite (or those who can afford him). Pendel claims that he studied on Saville Row with the best of them, but Osnard throws his real life back at him: Pendel did time in prison before his uncle helped get him a job in his tailor shop. Following that he left the UK for Panama, adopted this “personality” and married an American woman (Curtis). And things aren’t boding so well for Pendel; his farm, bought with money from his wife’s inheritance, is about to be foreclosed on. Osnard promises to make these problems go away just as long as he gets a little information.

 

Which Pendel supplies. The Brits and the Yanks want to know any and all rumors surrounding the canal. Pendel begins taking tidbits here and there and ballooning them up to whopper-size tales. He concocts a story about the “Silent Opposition,” a group against what the Panamanian government wants that includes his friend Mickey and his assistant Marta (Leonor Varela). As the lies get bigger and the secrecy gets deeper, Harry has to find a way to make it all stop when it’s certain to spin out of control.

 

First off the best thing about this movie is its two stars Geoffrey Rush and Pierce Brosnan. I’ll admit to not having seen a lot of Rush’s movies but he makes the character of Harry Pendel believable in what is a contrived situation. Pierce Brosnan, at the point in time of this film having completed 3 Bond movies, is great at being the anti-James Bond. He may have been born to play James Bond but he’s even better at playing the antithesis of him. These two make the movie worth watching.

 

Note: watch for Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter”) playing Harry’s son. This was his feature film debut.

 

My grade: B+

 

 

11
Nov
08

TV Update: The Prisoner

“I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own.” – Number Six, Patrick McGoohan, from “The Prisoner”

 

patrickWith these words Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) sets out to escape his confinement: The Village. Number Six was formerly a secret agent; now he was being housed in a village where people only had numbers, not names, and he was constantly being questioned as to why he retired. Each week Number Six matched wits against Number Two (a character that changed from actor to actress), who looked out for the interests of Number One. Whether it was brainwashing, an art competition, or being voted in as Mayor of the Village, Number Six could never truly escape. Adding to his problems was Rover, a giant white ball that would be released from the ocean to capture a captive, usually by suffocation.

 

Currently AMC is remaking the series. Jim Cavieziel plays Number Six, while Ian McKellen plays the head of the Village, Number Two. The filming is said to finish shortly, putting the series on the air sometime in 2009.

 

3dvd_Dangerman.epsThe original series came about because of its main benefactor, Patrick McGoohan. McGoohan was in a series called “Danger Man”/ “Secret Agent Man” from 1960-1962, then 1964-1966. In it he played John Drake, at first an agent for NATO assigned to cases in (and outside) NATO jurisdiction. During the second season he was retconned and became a British agent, working for MI9 (as opposed to MI6). Rumor has it that during a dinner party McGoohan said that he was quitting the series which prompted one guest to ask, “What does a ‘Secret Agent’ do after they retire?” In the case of “The Prisoner,” one puts in their resignation, packs up at their home, then is gassed. When they wake up their in a carbon-copy domicile, except they’re in a place called The Village, and everyone wants to know why they left.

 

I became a fan of “The Prisoner” while in college in the early 2000’s. The series had just been released on DVD, and from the time I watched the first episode (“Arrival”) to the last (“Fall Out”), I was impressed by the writing and acting in the series. McGoohan’s character was “Everyman”; a thinking person putting individuality over conformity. Without using guns he had to outwit his captors, who unfortunately saved their best card for last. Another interesting twist in the series was the revolving of “Number Two.” Number Two would report to the unseen Number One and if he was one-up’d by Number Six, he or she would be replaced. I count Leo McKern as my favorite of the Number Twos.

 

tv_prisoner1“The Prisoner” would go on to influence the spectrum of film, tv, and music. The TV show “MacGuyver,” with Richard Dean Anderson playing the titular role, was based on Number Six. Afraid of using guns, MacGuyver had to find his way out of situations, employing his pocketknife, bubble gum, duct tape, the moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth, what-have-you. Heavy metal group Iron Maiden made two songs in homage to “The Prisoner”: “The Prisoner” and “Back in the Village.” There have also been numerous books, comics, and video games that directly, or indirectly, reference “The Prisoner.” An upcoming film is also slated to be directed by Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight,” “Memento”).

 

For more information on the “Prisoner” remake, check out AMC’s site at:

http://www.amctv.com/originals/the-prisoner/

 

For more information on the original series, check out Six of One, the Official Prisoner Appreciation Society. They’re site is:

http://www.netreach.net/~sixofone/

 

 

 

Be seeing you.

24
Jun
08

Movie Review: Get Smart

 

 

Sorry about this one, Chief.

 

Starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, and James Caan. Directed by Peter Segal

 

For the most part, it was enjoyable.

 

The story: Maxwell Smart (Carell) works for CONTROL, an organization that rivals the CIA and is thought to be defunct. Smart is one of the best linguists for CONTROL, producing reports on singular conversations that look like tomes of literature. What he really wants to do, however, is be a field agent. On his eighth try he passes the test, but Chief (Arkin) won’t promote him because Smart is too good at his job.

 

When Siegfried (Stamp), a terrorist wanting to get KAOS back into action, blows up a factory and infiltrates CONTROL, agents are killed and their identities compromised, the Chief has no choice but to send out Smart (because no one knows who he is) and Agent 99 (Hathaway), who had facial reconstruction surgery (know one knows who she is, either).

 

Meanwhile, Siegfried and KAOS have a plan: the President (Caan, doing a “W” impersonation) will be attending a concert at L.A.’s Disney Hall. During the final notes of “Ode to Joy,” –KABOOM. Ensuring this plan is Shtarker (Ken Davitian) and a gigantic bodyguard named Dalip (Dalip Singh), as well as the possibility of a double-agent inside CONTROL.

 

What works for this movie is the “amusing” humor. Not always laugh-out-loud, not always knee-slapping, but whimsical, amusing humor. It’s this light-hearted humor that sustains for the first third of the movie. From there it goes to action sequences (the best I’ve seen done for a comedy movie) that are broken-up by an occasional remark or laugh-out-loud moment.

 

Carell’s plays Maxwell Smart as a doggish-character who gets kicked around a lot, but keeps loyal to the task at hand. He may not be 100% the Maxwell Smart envisioned a la Don Adams, but he’s the closest we got. Hathaway does a good job at being Agent 99, but I think she was a little young for Carell. Arkin was great as The Chief, and Dwayne Johnson did a good job, too. Hell, even Bill Murray did a good job as Agent 13 (an agent forever disguised as a tree).

 

Is there anything I didn’t like about the movie? Not really. I wasn’t expecting a lot. Does it stack up to the television show? Seeing as how the show was on the air decades ago, it’s kinda difficult. I mean, condense a TV show down to a two-hour film and don’t use the actors who were originally in it. Is it a good idea or a bad idea? Should we continue making movies based off of TV shows? That’s a discussion for another time.

 

Kudos to Trevor Rabin for making music that really stood out.

 

Overall, this movie was enjoyable in a “kill an afternoon” sorta way. If this doesn’t make the money it needs at the box office, it’ll be a hit when it comes out on DVD and makes its way to cable.

 

My grade: B

09
Jun
08

Five, Top Five: My Fave Bond Films

“Goldfinger” (1965) – Following “Dr. No,” “Goldfinger” was Sean Connery’s second outing as Bond in a film that, in my opinion, was far better. Bond deals with megalomaniac Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), who plans to contaminate the gold at Fort Knox, with the help of his assistant (with the razor Bowler hat) Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and private pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Besides becoming the measure of Bond films and inciting homages/clichés, this film has one of the most memorable cinematic scenes: Bond is strapped to a lead table with a laser cutting towards his genitals. He exclaims, “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger (walking away) stops and replies, “No Mister Bond, I expect you to die.” Classic.

Useless trivia: the replica of Fort Knox is currently house in the Patton Museum, located in Fort Knox. Also, Gert Frobe could not speak English. He mouthed/said the words to the best of his ability and someone else supplied the voice for Goldfinger.

 

“The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974) – Roger Moore was Bond this time around and like my previous selection, this was Moore’s second Bond film (“Live and Let Die” the first). Bond is sent to track down Scaramanga (my FAVORITE Bond Villain, played by Christopher Lee), an assassin who kills for a million bucks-a-pop with a single bullet made from gold with the target’s name on it. Although he has a third nipple, Scaramanga has done well for himself in keeping posh surroundings on a private island with midget security force of Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize). Bond travels to meet Scaramanga and their ensuing fight is in a surrealistic room.

Useless trivia: the room where Scaramanga killed his victims was designed by Surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

 

“The Living Daylights” (1987) – My favorite Bond movie of all time, “TLD” marked the beginning Bond movie for Timothy Dalton (whose Bond career would finish with “License to Kill”). When Russian agent Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) wants to defect to the West, he enlists the help of British Intelligence to get him out, asking for Bond especially. Bond is sent to kill an “assassin” who turns out to be Koskov’s girlfriend (Maryam d’Abo). Taking her along for the ride they cross continents pursuing Koskov and finding out that he’s working with washed-up American arms dealer General Whittaker (Joe Don Baker). This was hands down one of the best Bond stories. Favorite quote: “We have nothing to declare.” “Except this cello!”

Useless trivia: Timothy Dalton was originally cast for the role. He was working on “Brenda Starr,” and pulled out. Producers then went to Pierce Brosnan who wanted to do it, but contractual obligations with “Remington Steele” forbade him from participating. The Producers went back to Dalton who was delayed in working on “Brenda Starr,” which allowed for him to be able to film.

 

“Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) – Another example of an actor’s second Bond outing being better than the first. This time Pierce Brosnan was able to helm the superspy as he went against megalomaniac media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) whose plan for world domination was by controlling the news, and by inciting a war between China and Britain. Helping Bond to save the world is Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese secret agent who can hold her own and whose gadgets can go against Q’s any day. Throw in better action sequences than “GoldenEye,” Terri Hatcher as a “Bond girl,” and one of the best Bond themes (done by Sheryl Crow) this is another of the Best Bond movies (with the exception of the villain).

Useless trivia: This was the first movie produced by Barbara Broccoli, wife of Albert Broccoli. Albert passed away after the release of “GoldenEye.”

 

“Casino Royale” (2006) – Not to be confused with the 1967 “Casino Royale” (taking the title and James Bond name) but more in line with the 1954 TV version, Bond went blonde with actor Daniel Craig. Needing to “re-boot” the franchise after the failures of “The World is not Enough,” and “Die Another Day,” “Casino Royale” was the blood-transfusion the cinema doctor ordered. Craig played the pre-Bond: no gadgets, no fancy one-lines, non-suave, and definitely rough around the edges. He teams up with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to prevent Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker to world terrorist groups, from winning at the Casino Royale. With non-stop action sequences (I almost needed an oxygen tank to watch it in the theater) and a great theme by Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame) I can’t recommend this movie enough.

Useless trivia: Daniel Craig is the only actor to play James Bond who was not alive when “Dr. No” was released. In fact, being born in 1968, he missed the releases of “From Russia With Love,” Goldfinger,” “Thunderball,” and “You Only Live Twice.” It is possible that his parents took him to see “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (w/ George Lazenby.