Unlike Goldfinger which makes a valid attempt at solid, strong filmmaking, You Only Live Twice is just plain fun. It is not to best in the series, nor is it the best of the Connery Bond’s. It’s just a truly guilty pleasure…gadgets, action, romance and super spies…what could be better! The pretty inconsequential plot revolves around Blofeld (again) and his continued drive for world domination. This time, Blofeld is capturing spaceships…in space! First, a Russian one, then a British one…so who is doing this. The Russians, of course, think it is the British. And the British, of course, this it is the Russians. Enter James Bond to save the day and clear everything up for everyone (not!). Along the way he fakes being Japanese (don’t ask!), fakes getting married, and fakes being dead. Too bad he spends all of that time faking and doesn’t get around to taking care of Blofeld for good. Instead, the one-eyed villain comes back for two of the next films…plus a great intro in For Your Eyes Only. Basically, this is not the finest piece of filmmaking ever but, after all, do you watch a Bond movie for purely aesthetic reasons? Probably not. So, this one will satisfy your spy thriller craving.

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An above-average James Bond film with enough explosions and chases to spill into the next film. This time, 007 goes up again an “un-killable” foe who is slowly dying from a bullet another MI-6 agent shot into his head. The plot involves stealing a nuclear bomb that’s needed to destroy an oil pipeline. The un-believability level is high here, but regardless of that, the script is strong. Bond is very human in this film…he shows all sides of his persona and even a little weakness. The third of Pierce Brosnan’s four Bond films, he really seems to shine here as the British spy. Maybe it’s because he’s used to the role after two other pictures. Or maybe because he’s just getting better. Regardless, this is a film that will satisfy your thirst for action and adventure…while tossing in a good deal of romance in between.

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This is by far my favorite Roger Moore “Bond” outing. And, even one of the best in the entire Bond series. The Spy Who Loved Me begins very similar to another one of my favorite Bond films…You Only Live Twice with Sean Connery. Both films start with the capturing of crafts…in You Only Live Twice it is a space rocket and in The Spy Who Loved Me it is a submarine. Obviously, we know that these “stolen” crafts are not to work of a sane person or entity. But, who is it? Is it Russia? Is it China? Basically once the craft is captured, it is up to 007 to save the day, as usual. Where both films differ is in the villain. You Only Live Twice has the ever-popular Blofeld, who by the time You Only Live Twice came out, was getting a little passé. But, in The Spy Who Loved Me, Curd Jürgens plays Stromberg…one of the best Bond villains. His evilness is intense and not prolonged…if he wants to kill someone, he just does it (unlike the other Bond baddies who talk and talk and talk about killing before they actually get around to it). Moore also has excellent chemistry with his Russian counterpart…played by Barbara Bach. They play well off of each other, even though Bach is a little stiff at times. Moore’s quips usually get to be too much after a while but Bach does a good job of countering his jibes with some of her own.

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Did you ever see a car accident on your way home from work and think…could that have been me if I had caught that elevator I missed? Well, this film asks a question like that…how does a split second in the life of a London woman alter her existence forever? The movie then plays out two scenarios…one with her making a train and one with her just missing it. From that moment in time and the story splits in two, this film becomes an excellent example of how life, love, happiness, etc. can all change on a dime. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the woman here…and she’s never been better…she captures the perfect combination of innocence and naïve that is required to play the role of a woman whose life hinges a moment in time. Not as metaphysical as it sounds…this one is a good film for all romantics, as well as people who’ve ever thought…”if only I’d made that train…”

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This is a film that honestly brings Shakespeare to life…literally and figuratively. A brilliant movie that utilizes many of the Bard’s plays for dialogue and antidotes, but most notably Romeo and Juliet, the ever-tragic saga of Italian star-crossed lovers. The tragic lover story is key to this film…the movie follow Romeo’s plot, in a lot of ways, and even takes quite a few scenes directly from the play. But, then again, that is the gimmick here. Will Shakespeare, in the film, is supposed to be suffering writer’s block…longing for a muse to get him back in the creative spirit. Just when all hope is lost, he meets Viola, the well-to-do daughter of a wealthy family. As she becomes his muse, their story, verse for verse, scene for scene, mimics what Shakespeare is writing. So, Viola’s and Will’s love is really Romeo’s and Juliet’s as well. So, when I say that this film TAKES scenes from Romeo, that is how it’s supposed to work…since the story of the film inspired the play. And, boy, does it all come together with passion. It might sound confusing, but worry not, it’s just a bit hard to explain. All will make sense. Even if you are not a fan of the Bard, or you are not familiar with Romeo (how could you not be?), the story still plays well and is ever-entertaining. Though, it does help some if you are able to catch the nuances between the film story and the play. How art not seen the play? For shame, for shame. A plague on your house.

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Random Harvest could be called a sappy soap opera that is virtually unwatchable. It could be, but in my opinion, it’s most definitely not that. This is a highly powerful and engaging film with…yes, some very improbable circumstances. But, so what? If the acting weren’t as good as it is, maybe this one would have fell into that pile of melodramatic mush. But because Greer Garson and Ronald Colman are so believable and passionate here, I find it impossible not to enjoy the ride. Colman plays a man who has lost his memory during combat duty in WWI. At the beginning of the movie, he is in a mental institution. Garson is the woman who befriends him after he escapes. Of course, Colman and Garson fall in love and then, through a series of circumstances, he regains his memory…forgetting all about his life with Garson. Yes, I know it sounds illogical but trust me, it works…mostly because of the performances. Garson and Colman take the slightly over-the-top dialogue and bring it back into reality. They are both fabulous here…as is the entire movie in general. A great old-fashioned love story for a cold Winter night…or even a hot Summer evening…!

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For a moment, I forgot I was watching a movie. It’s more like a captivating documentary. The film takes place (with the exception of a small series of scenes at the beginning when Prime Minister Tony Blair first takes power) all within the span of one week in 1997…from the day Princess Diana died to the day she was buried. This film transported me back to this time and I felt as if I was watching the inner goings-on of the Royal Family and the Prime Minister…on CNN. Maybe one of the reasons for this docudrama feel is that Helen Mirren looks SO MUCH like Queen Elizabeth II in this movie. And, I imagine, the Queen acts pretty much like Mirren does…reserved, official, composed. But, the film itself is an intense piece of work…never dull or slow. I thought it would be tough to fill a whole film based on just one week’s events but director Stephen Frears does a great job of keeping up the level of drama through fast-paced editing and through creating tenuous chemistry between the Queen and Blair. Their political relationship defines the film and keeps things moving. The Queen is a must-see! Hail, Elizabeth!

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Scoop is no Match Point. Woody Allen’s VERY serious and VERY Allen-less film Match Point was a favorite of mine in 2006 (it was released the end of 2005). So, when Scoop came along, I was excited…I mean it has a couple of the Match Point similarities. 1. It is set in London…of which Match Point was Allen’s first film set outside of the New York area. 2. It stars Match Point’s Scarlet Johansson. And, it also has Hugh Jackman, who I love as a actor. So, three pluses. Now, the minuses. 1. Allen goes back to his COMEDY roots…I think all of his gags have been treaded over one too many times. 2. Allen puts himself in the film. His neurotic New Yorker bit was funny in the beginning but now it’s just annoying. That’s it. So, three pros and two cons. Not exactly a ringing endorsement but enough for a good night in front of the DVD player. The story is the one that really sold this one for me…I was able to over look the neurotic Allen and the bad jokes since the story was pretty fresh and original. It revolves around a dead reporter who gets the “scoop” of a lifetime after he’s dead. He escapes the Grim Reaper just so he can try and get the story in the press through another reporter. He picks naïve Johansson as the person to give to “scoop” to and she tries her best to run with it, even though she falls in love with the person the “scoop” implicates. Complicated? No, it’s just hard to explain…but it is fun to watch. If only Allen would stay behind the camera…and try his hand at a little less humor…his genius for storytelling would continue to shine for years to come.

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A classic love story, based on the award-winning novel by A.S. Byatt. Told in both the present time and Victorian times, Byatt’s story and characters leap off of the pages and director Neil LaBute captures that same vividness in the film. Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow play academics in modern-day England and while they research the relationship between two historical lovers, they fall in love themselves. LaBute does a great job of combining the past and present elements throughout the movie—scenes go seamlessly from historical times to the present day. LaBute lends equal time to both eras, allowing each love story to evolve in its own way…at its own pace. Beautiful scenery and lush dialogue enhance the emotions of this timeless love story.

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I re-watched this one recently and was reminded what a good thriller it really is. Harrison Ford is in his peak here and Tom Clancy’s work has never been sharper and better. Based on the Clancy novel, Ford plays Jack Ryan, former CIA and current instructor at Annapolis…aside from devoted father and husband. While on a business trip to London with his family, he stumbles into an IRA fringe group’s plot to do some damage to the British royals. Ryan kills one of the terrorists, saving the lives of the Royals but making an enemy for life of the dead man’s brother. Filled with tension and just enough lightness to soften the ride some, this film is just as sharp as it was when I saw it in the theater in 1992. If movies are good, they stand the test of time and only get better. This one proves that even political thrillers can stand the tests of time…if done right.

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