Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Diamonds are Forever

I decided that I would catch some James Bond films I had not seen before, although it turns out I had previously seen a small portion of Diamonds are Forever on cable TV.  Rolling Stone ranked the movie as #18 out of 24 Bond films, and I can see why.  This is an immensely absurd story, even for James Bond, about an overly convoluted diamond smuggling ring, where the diamonds are destined for a killer satellite in space.  About half the movie takes place in Las Vegas, which seems to serve no other purpose than to drag the movie out while promoting Las Vegas.

The characters of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are a pair of assassins, apparently inept at their job, who are clearly a gay couple.  This seems kind of daring for 1971.  They are always making humorous quips, and their presence makes the movie more interesting.

Diamonds are Forever was received somewhat favorably in 1971.  It has a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and Roger Ebert gave it a favorable review.  The movie has several interesting things that happen, and compared to other films in 1971, it might have been above average.  However, today it feels so dated and so absurd that it would make a decent Austin Powers parody.  With the right attitude one can enjoy the movie because there is some value to seeing old James Bond films to get a historical perspective, and despite the silliness of the film, Sean Connery has a screen presence that makes you want to keep watching.

Rating:  * * 1/2

Friday, August 25, 2017

Logan Lucky

Two redneck brothers from West Virginia, both with disabilities, one with a limp from a football injury, and the other missing an arm after serving in Iraq, decide to stick it to the system by pulling off the heist of the century at a Nascar race.

Logan Lucky is one of the most clever comedies to come along in recent years.  It also makes a good drama.  Although the characters are a little over the top with their country redneck accents, they feel as real as your neighbors.  Even the ending manages to touch your heart in a very sweet way.  This is a very smart comedy about dumb characters, who might not be so dumb after all.

Daniel Craig, former James Bond, is very convincing as a redneck bomb expert, and so are Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as the two brothers.

Rating:  * * * *

Logan Lucky is destined to become a classic.  It is rated PG-13 for crude language.

Friday, August 11, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes

When the nothing special 2001 remake of The Planet of the Apes came out, Salt Lake City radio talk show host Tom Barberry had this to say:  "This last weekend I went to see a movie.  There were apes in it.  That's good enough for me."  That must have been the attitude of the people who made War for the Planet of the Apes.  It is good enough to watch, but it lacks the greatness of the two previous films, so it falls way below my expectations.  What the two previous films have are great characters combined with great story.  The third film in the trilogy feels more like a standard war film or a standard post apocalyptic thriller.  If you substituted humans for apes in this film, the story wouldn't be that different.  None of characters really drew me in, and the movie touches on several themes without really excelling at any of them.

However, there is enough in the movie to make it worth watching.  We are introduced to a couple of new characters, one human and one chimp, both who have special characteristics.  The virus that made apes smart, mutates and starts making some humans mute.   And the villain is an army colonel, played by Woody Harrelson, who is intent on wiping out all the apes.  His character is the most interesting in the movie, because from his perspective he is being completely logical; he is fighting for the survival of his species.

The ending gives us a Deus ex machina followed by an anticlimactic finish. 

Given the this is the third movie in a trilogy, one might think that this is the finale film, but it really feels like they are setting us up for a sequel.  All the events that have happened so far could lead up to the events that took place in the original Planet of the Apes film, and it seems like they are trying to stay loyal to the original story.

One detail in all three movies that is not very believable is that the forests of northern California are not the same as tropical jungles that apes would need to live in to survive.  Apes depend upon a diet heavy in fruit and the films never address how the apes sustain themselves.

Rating:  * * *