Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
THE TROUBLE WITH (5.24) "RELATIVITY”
I am sure that many of you remember the late Season 5 episode - (5.24) "Relativity". In it, Seven-of-Nine was "recruited" by 29th century Federation time cops to prevent the destruction of Voyager by an illegal time traveler.
In this episode, Seven is recruited by Captain Braxton and Lieutenant Ducane of the 29th century timeship, Relativity, to stop a time traveling sabateur from placing a temporal weapon on Voyager to destroy it. Seven eventually discovers that a future Braxton is the sabateur. Suffering from temporal psychosis, the older Braxton wants to destroy Voyager in order to prevent Janeway and her crew from committing three temporal inversions that he had to fix . . . events that led to his illness.
As much as I found this episode mildly entertaining, there are two about "Relativity" that I found questionable. The first thing I found questionable had to do with Braxton’s memories. He should not have had memories of Voyager's trip to late 20th century Earth in "Future's End". By stopping Henry Starling (guest star Ed Begley Jr.) from accidentally destroying Earth, Janeway and Voyager’s crew managed to change the timeline. When Braxton appeared to take them back to the 24th century Delta Quadrant, he had NO memories of his 29 years on Earth. And the Braxton of ”Relativity” should NOT have had those memories. And yet, he mentioned his time on Earth in this episode.
What really irritated me about this episode was the fate of the Captain Braxton who commanded the ship. To understand what I am talking about, read the following scenes:
BRAXTON [OC]: Seven of Nine, report.
SEVEN: I have located the saboteur.
BRAXTON [OC]: Who is it?
SEVEN: It's you,
SEVEN [OC]: Captain Braxton.
[2372 Jefferies tube]
BRAXTON: More accurately, a future you.
Once everyone realized that a future Braxton was responsible for trying to sabotage Voyager, the following occurred:
BRAXTON: Can you get a lock on him?
DUCANE: Negative. He's activated a dispersal node. I should say, you've activated a dispersal node.
BRAXTON: Don't be absurd. I have no wish to sabotage Voyager.
DUCANE: Not yet.
BRAXTON: Remodulate the transporters. Find a way to cut through the interference. I gave you an order, Lieutenant.
DUCANE: I'm sorry, sir. I'm taking command of this vessel, and I'm relieving you of duty for crimes you're going to commit.
BRAXTON: I haven't done anything.
For some reason, Captain Braxton’s first officer, Lieutenant Ducane (Jay Karnes) thought it was necessary to arrest him and assume command of the timeship. Why? What was his purpose? Braxton was right. He had done nothing wrong. Ducane should have been more concerned with the future Braxton, not the younger one. The first officer had no excuse to arrest someone who had done nothing wrong. What on earth were screenwriters Bryan Fuller, Nick Sagan and Michael Taylor thinking? As much as I liked this episode, this is sloppy writing of the first kind.
”Relativity” started out well. But once the older Braxton was revealed to be the saboteur attempting to destroy Voyager, the story went downhill. As I had pointed out earlier, Braxton should have never had memories of his 29 years on Earth. Even worse, the first officer of the timeship Relativity really had no excuse to arrest the younger Captain Braxton, who was not guilty of anything. What a waste of a potentially good story.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Below is a gallery of photos from the 1962 epic Western that won three (3) Academy Awards, "HOW THE WEST WAS WON":
"HOW THE WEST WAS WON" (1962) Photo Gallery
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
"TWILIGHT" (2008) Review
When I first saw the previews for this adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s 2005 novel about teenage love and vampires, I had no idea that I had a glimpse of an adolescent literary phenomenon. About a week before the movie’s U.S. release, I finally realized what ”TWILIGHT” was all about when I read about the book series in several articles on the Internet.
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, ”TWILIGHT” is about seventeen-year-old Isabella "Bella" Swan, who moves to the small town of Forks, Washington in order to live with her divorced father, Charlie. There, she finds herself drawn to a mysterious classmate, Edward Cullen, who is revealed to be a 108-year-old vampire, but is physically seventeen. Although Edward discourages the romance at first, they eventually fall deeply in love. The arrival of three nomadic vampires, James, Laurent, and Victoria, puts Bella's life in danger. Edward and his family - Alice, Carlisle, Esme, Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie - put their lives at stake to save her.
I am trying to fight off the inevitable – namely give my opinion of the movie – but I might as well get it over with. I wish I could say that I loved ”TWILIGHT”. After all, the premise reminded me of the first three seasons of a favorite television series of mine, ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” (1997-2003). But I barely liked ”TWILIGHT”. The movie not only moved at a ridiculously low pace, but I barely found it original. Who am I kidding? Aside from the portrayal of vampires as one-dimensionally good guys whose skin glistens in the sunlight, the story lacked any semblance of originality.
I found myself watching scenes that strongly resembled certain episodes from ”BUFFY”, including one that featured Edward feeding from Bella’s blood. Not only do Edward and Bella reminded me of Buffy and Angel, with less bite or complexity, but they also reminded me of the two leads from ”BEAUTY AND THE BEAST” (1987-1990) - Catherine and Vincent. By the way, I was never a fan of the Buffy and Angel relationship. I found it barely tolerable, which is why I preferred Buffy’s more complex and messier relationship with Spike, the series’ other vampire. As for ”BEAUTY AND THE BEAST”, I never became a fan. I found it a big yawn fest. But I was willing to give ”TWILIGHT” a chance. Unfortunately, Melissa Rosenberg’s script barely kept me awake. The dark and wet Pacific Northwest setting did not help.
The cast for ”TWILIGHT” seemed solid. Somewhat. Both Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, managed to generate chemistry. Somewhat. Mind you, I found nothing electrifying about their screen chemistry or performances. Granted, I feel that Pattinson managed to create a more memorable performance than the rest of the cast. Unfortunately, there were moments when he seemed in danger of overdoing it with the Byronic hero persona. Poor Stewart seemed to be stuck with a role that bordered on being dangerously passive for a female lead. As for the rest of the cast, I found nothing memorable about them – including Billy Burke, who portrayed Bella’s father or Cam Gigande (James), who came off as an early Spike wannabe. However, I must admit that I found Taylor Lautner's Jacob Black - friend of Bella - rather witty and entertaining. The teen roles in this movie annoyed me to no end. I realize that many years have passed since I was in high school, but I could have sworn that my fellow schoolmates had sounded more intelligent . . . and interesting than Bella and her school friends.
I wish I could say more about ”TWILIGHT”, but I cannot. I simply was not that impressed with the film. It was not a bad film. It had some good moments, which included a showdown between Edward and James at Bella’s old dance school in Phoenix. Between Hardwicke’s lethargic direction, Rosenberg’s script and the mildly interesting performances by the cast, I cannot see myself becoming a major fan of this movie. Perhaps I will learn to appreciate it more after watching it several times on DVD. Who knows?
Monday, November 24, 2008
Below is a list of my ten favorite political thrillers from the past 70 years. By the way, there are no James Bond, Derek Flint, Jason Bourne or Tom Clancy films on this list:
Ten Favorite POLITICAL THRILLERS
"Foreign Correspondent" (1940) - This superb Alfred Hitchcock told the story of an American reporter (Joel McCrea) who tries to expose enemy spies in England during a series of events involving a continent-wide conspiracy that eventually leads to the events of a fictionalized Second World War. It starred McCrea and featured Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Albert Bassermann and Robert Benchley, along with Edmund Gwenn.
"Notorious" (1946) - This Alfred Hitchcock movie, which is a personal favorite of mine, is about two people - an American intelligence agent and the daughter of a convicted Nazi spy - whose lives become intimately entangled during an espionage operation in South America to infiltrate a group of Germans who have relocated to Brazil after World War II. The movie starred Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains.
"The Tall Target" (1951) - A discredited New York City detective tries, in the face of disbelievers, to foil a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln as he travels on the Ohio & Baltimore Railway to his inauguration in 1861. The movie starred Dick Powell, Paula Raymond, Adolphe Menjou, Marshall Thompson and future Oscar nominee, Ruby Dee.
"The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) - The original, and in my opinion, the best version of Richard Condon's 1959 novel about the son of a prominent, right-wing political family that has been brainwashed as an unwitting assassin for an international Communist conspiracy. Starred Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, James Gregory and a superb Angela Landsbury, who was nominated for her performance as Harvey's manipulative mother.
"The Day of the Jackal" (1973) - Edward Fox starred in this excellent thriller based upon Fredrick Forsyth's 1971 novel about an assassin known only as "the Jackal", who is hired by French right-wingers to assassinate Charles de Gaulle in 1963. Michael Lonsdale co-starred as the French Police Commissioner assigned to stop him.
"The Peacemaker" (1997) - George Clooney and Nicole Kidman portray a U.S. Army intelligence colonel and his civilian supervisor who track down stolen Russian nuclear weapons before they are used by terrorists. This stylish film was directed by Mimi Leder.
"Ronin" (1998) - Directed by John Frankenheimer, this exciting and first-rate thriller starred Robert De Niro and Jean Reno as two of several former special forces and intelligence agents who team up to steal a mysterious, heavily guarded suitcase while navigating a maze of shifting loyalties and alliances.
"Thirteen Days" (2000) - Roger Donaldson directed this historical thriller about the Cuban Missle Crisis through the eyes of President John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Kenneth O'Donnell and other members of the Kennedy Administration. An excellent historical piece that starred Kevin Costner as O'Donnell, Bruce Greenwood as JFK and Steven Culp as Bobby Kennedy.
"Munich" (2005) - Steven Spielberg directed this superb, yet controversial Oscar nominated film about a semi-fictionalized account of the Israeli government's secret retaliation against the 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes by Black September gunmen. The film starred Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciarán Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Geoffrey Rush, Ayelet Zurer, Mathieu Amalric and Michael Lonsdale.
"Vantage Point" (2008) - Despite its mixed reception by critics, I truly enjoyed this unique movie about an assassination attempt on a U.S. president in Salmanca, Spain; during a 23-minute period. Told in a time loop from the perspective of different characters, this movie starred Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forrest Whittaker, William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
"THE DARKER SIDE OF SAYID JARRAH"
When it comes to Sayid's less pleasant side of his personality, many fans tend to focus upon his former position as a interrogator for the Iraqi Army. Yet, hardly anyone has ever pointed out some of Sayid's other unpleasant traits.
One, he is self-righteous and prone to make assumptions about others with knowing all of the facts or even bothering to investigate.
Two, his anger has led him to not only make these assumptions, but react in a negative way. Sayid's anger led him to attack Ana-Lucia and Eko for Shannon's death . . . without bothering to find out what really happened in (2.08) "Collision". His anger had also led him to attack Ben on two occasions in Season Two and turn Michael into the freighter's captain in Season Four's (4.08) "Meet Kevin Johnson" without considering how Michael could help the Losties deal with Widmore's hired thugs.
He has committed some awful acts on Nadia's behalf. He murdered a fellow soldier in cold blood to allow Nadia to escape. He betrayed his own people for her . . . and he didn't exactly share her political beliefs. Later, he betrayed an old college friend to the CIA and the Australian Intelligence on Nadia's behalf. I don't think he really cared one way or the other about the terrorist cell in Sydney. He simply wanted information on Nadia. And in his grief and anger over Nadia's death, he allowed himself to become Ben's minion after his departure from the island . . . without any real knowledge of what was going on.
It is interesting in how some of his traits remind me of Jack and other traits remind me of Michael - two characters that are not very popular with "LOST" fans.
Friday, November 21, 2008
"A WEDDING IN FOUR ACTS"
Act III – Part 3
"Well, look who's here!" Olivia declared, as she greeted the newcomers. "I didn't think you guys would make it."
Sheila Morris replied, "Neither did we. Especially with these two scamps," she glanced at her two sons with deep affection, "giving us trouble. But we got here."
"So when does the ceremony begin?" Darryl asked.
Olivia replied, "Oh, in about another thirty minutes or . . ." She paused, as her eyes caught sight of two people standing near the refreshment table. Cole and Veronica Altman. Olivia saw the half-daemon whisper something in the woman's ear and walked away. "Excuse me," she said. As she began to walk away, Darryl stopped her.
"Wait a minute, Olivia," her partner said. "I've got some news." He turned to Sheila. "Honey, do you mind?" The other woman nodded and steered the Morrises' two sons away.
An impatient Olivia asked, "What is it?"
Darryl took a deep breath. "Look, the other reason why we were late is that I got a call from Scott Yi, this morning. He wanted to talk about our new task force for next month and he ended up giving me a piece of news. Apparently, a male stripper was found dead in front of his apartment building, last night. The corpse was burnt . . . like those two guards from Wednesday night. But a neighbor managed to identify him."
"A male stripper?" Olivia glanced at her partner. "Why would Scott Yi think you would be interested in one?"
With a shrug, Darryl continued, "He didn't . . . until I mentioned the wedding, along with the bachelor party and bridal shower. Get this. The victim's name was Lee Carver. According to Sheila . . ."
"That was the name of the stripper at P3, last night," Olivia murmured. A frown creased her forehead. "When was the body discovered?"
Darryl replied, "Between 8:40 and 8:55 p.m. The neighbor heard a commotion outside the building, before she went downstairs to investigate."
Between eight-forty and eight-fifty-five? Olivia recalled that the stripper first performance had occurred around 9:15. "But that's impossible!" she cried. "Carver had first performed after nine o'clock!
"What are you saying?" Darryl demanded. "That the stripper you saw wasn't Carver?"
Olivia gave her partner a knowing look. "What do you think? Nick Marcano escapes from jail. Claudia Della Scalla has been reported here in San Francisco . . ."
"Yeah, I know," Darryl added.
"Who told you?"
A third voice added, "I did." Olivia and Darryl glanced at the newcomer. It was Cole. "I told Darryl right after Riggerio had informed me. Last night. Warned me, as a matter of fact." His blue eyes bored into Olivia's. "Why? Is there a problem?"
Darryl told him about the circumstances surrounding Lee Carver's death. "And his body was discovered at least a half-hour before he performed at the bridal shower, at P3."
Cole's eyes narrowed. "Hmmm, sounds like the stripper at P3 was a shapeshifter." Then he glanced at Olivia. "So, you actually have male strippers at bridal showers?"
Olivia rolled her eyes in disgust. Darryl heaved a sigh. "Cole!"
"Okay, sorry." The half-daemon paused. "Uh, is there a reason why a shape shifter might be at a bridal party?"
"I have no idea," Olivia snapped. "And since nothing has happened since the party, I suggest that we look into the matter 'after' the wedding."
Cole and Darryl exchanged glances and shrugged. "Speaking of the wedding," the former continued, "when does the ceremony begin?"
Olivia's mouth curled into a sneer. "Getting impatient? Or is Bonnie?"
"Her name is Ronnie. Veronica," Cole shot back.
Olivia quirked a brow. "Whatever. Is she getting impatient?"
Cole smirked. "No. Do you care?"
Olivia glared at the half-daemon. Darryl spoke up. "I think I better get back to Sheila and the boys." He quickly walked away.
The witch and the half-daemon continued to exchange stares, until a voice called out, "Olivia?" It belonged to Paul, who had appeared before the pair. "Is everything okay?" He glared at Cole.
Touching Paul's arm, Olivia replied in a quiet voice, "Everything's fine. Let's get back to the garden." She led the other witch toward the wedding guests, fully aware of Cole's gaze upon her.
Cecile let out an exasperated sigh. No one would describe the McNeill house as huge. But it was certainly large enough for a person to get lost.
After a ten minute search for the greenhouse, Cecile began to realize that after years of visiting Olivia's family, she had never really seen every inch of the McNeill estate. She had visited the greenhouse on a few occasions, but for some reason, she could not remember where to find it. Maybe she should go . . .
"Cecile? Is that you?" A figure emerged from one of the rooms on the first floor. It was Olivia's former whitelighter. "It is you," he added. "I'm . . . do you know how I can get back to the garden? I think I'm lost."
"So am I," Cecile replied. "I'm looking for the greenhouse. Barbara's corsage is there."
Cecile continued, "But if you're trying to reach the garden, go that way." She pointed in the direction from which she came. "You should find the west wing drawing-room. That'll lead you to the garden."
Leo quietly thanked her and turned in the aforementioned direction. Then he paused. "By the way," he added, "Phoebe told me about your premonition. Have you told Olivia?"
The premonition. Oh God! Cecile began to regret that she had ever mentioned it. Andre and Paige had warned her about their revelation to Phoebe Halliwell. It seemed a miracle that neither Olivia, Cole or Paul knew. "No, I haven't," she said.
"Don't you think that you should?" the whitelighter insisted.
Cecile's eyes narrowed. "I'm not sure, yet. I've learned over the years, Leo that it's sometimes smarter to keep your mouth shut. Especially when it comes to premonitions."
Disbelief shone in Leo's eyes. "Good grief, Cecile! You can't be serious! You've had a vision of Olivia vanquishing Cole! There must be a reason why you got it!
"I don't know!" Leo continued. "Maybe . . . maybe it's a sign that Cole might be a danger to Olivia and Paul in the future."
"Or, it could be a sign that Olivia and Paul might be dangerous," Cecile snapped back. "May I remind you that I never saw Cole threatening anyone? And I got this vision after shaking Paul's hand! What if he proves to be the dangerous one? Maybe he'll find a way to convince Olivia to kill Cole. From what Paige has told me about him, it's possible."
Leo retorted, "Paul is a good man! A good witch! He would never . . ."
"Go overboard? Turn evil?" Cecile snorted with derision. "Why not? I almost did. So did Olivia. And also your wife, from what Olivia and Paige have told me."
Leo's face turned red. "Now wait a minute . . ."
Cecile continued in a cold voice, "No, you listen. I have no idea what my premonition means. But I'll be the one to tell Livy, not you or anyone else. And I'll decide when. If you open your mouth about this, you'll be having nightmares for the next two decades. I mean it, Leo!"
Silence hung like a heavy curtain, between the pair. Leo's shoulders sagged in defeat. "Fine," he murmured. "You tell her. But if Cole proves to . . ."
"I'll take the chance, Leo," Cecile interrupted. "I'll see you in the garden." She turned her back on the whitelighter and walked away. After another ten minutes had passed, she finally reached a door that led outside and toward the greenhouse. Cecile heaved a relieved sigh and strode toward the structure.
A blast of humid air hit her face, as she opened the door. Cecile hesitated momentarily before she entered the greenhouse. Rows of plants, flowers and various fruits and vegetables, greeted her eyes. Fearing a massive search on her hands, Cecile felt more than relieved when she spotted Barbara's corsage on a table, in front of orchids, hanging from rows of bushes. The corsage consisted of a beautiful combination of white orchids and red azaleas.
Cecile picked up the object of her search and started toward the door. She had not taken three steps, when she heard voices from the other side of the orchids. "The wedding ceremony should take place in another fifteen minutes or so," a woman's voice stated. "After that, the Padronessa should be married to the McNeill witch."
"What happens to the witch at the house?" a man's voice countered. "What's her name? Barbara? What happens to her?"
The woman replied, "The Padronessa has decided to give her to Signor Marcano."
A gasp left Cecile's mouth, before she could stop herself. The conversation stopped. She quickly started toward the door, but found her path blocked by two people. Strangers. "So," she began, "who are you, two? Guests?"
A fireball formed in the woman's right hand. The moment she threw it at Cecile, the latter quickly declared, "Deflect" in Yoruba, creating a magical shield. The fireball bounced against the shield and zinged back toward the woman. Flames engulfed her body, leaving a pile of dust.
"Talia!" the man cried out. His dark eyes narrowed, as they began to turn red. Sensing immediate danger, Cecile used her telepathy to deflect the incubus' attack. The latter's eyes reddened even further. But instead of engulfing Cecile in flames, his face began to smoke, until his entire body incinerated into a ball of fire.
Cecile let out a satisfied sigh. But the satisfaction did not last. Judging from the conversation she had just overheard, the blond-haired woman who was preparing to exchange vows with Bruce, was not Barbara Bowen. She had to warn Olivia, Andre, and Mr. Bowen. With the corsage still clutched in her hand, she continued toward the door, when something hard struck the back of her head. At that moment, everything faded to black.
The middle-aged woman entered Barbara's bedroom, holding a tray. "Good afternoon, signorina. I have lunch for you. I hope you will enjoy it. Fettucini Alfredo. It is the Padronessa's favorite."
"Thanks," Barbara replied morosely. For the umpteenth time in the past several hours, she wished she had her wand.
The servant continued, "And with it, there is garlic bread, and a Caesar salad."
While the woman continued to chatter, Barbara noticed the open door. She also spotted a small marble bust on the tallboy. The servant's attention seemed focused on the tray. ". . . to drink, a nice bottle of white Chianti. It is from the Padronessa's own vineyard. Very nice. And it would go very well with your lunch. I will just open it . . ."
Shooting one last surreptious glance at the other woman, Barbara snatched the bust and struck the back of the servant's head. The woman sunk to the floor. Then the blond-haired witch quickly stole out of the room. She closed the door and quietly locked it. As she made her way toward the staircase, a figure appeared in the hallway. It was a man. "You!" he cried. "What are you doing . . ." Barbara threw the statuette at the man, striking him squarely in the forehead. He crumbled to the ground.
Satisfied with her work, Barbara made her way downstairs to the first floor. A daemon materialized before her. Before he could even open his mouth, her fist struck him in the gut. He doubled over, giving Barbara the opportunity to finish the job with a blow to his jaw. He immediately toppled over.
Barbara realized that it was not safe to linger any longer and quickly rushed toward the front door. Before she could reach it, she heard a click. Glancing to her right, she saw Nick standing in the doorway of another room. Aiming a revolver at her.
"Don't take another step, Barbara," he warned. "Or I'll kill you."
A sneer curled her lips. "Oh really? Gee Nick, I thought you wanted to keep me alive. As your prize."
"I do." Nick strode toward her, his revolver still aimed at Barbara's head. "But letting you escape might possibly mean my death. Or a trip back to jail. I can't have that. So turn around and go back upstairs." Barbara hesitated. He fired the revolver and a bullet struck a vase against the wall, not far from her. "I mean it, Barbara."
Defeat overwhelming her, Barbara slowly turned around and headed toward the staircase. She realized that it was all up to Bruce and the others to save her. Hopefully, they would figure out that the bride was an imposter before it was too late.
END OF ACT III - Part 3
Thursday, November 20, 2008
”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” Review
I am going to be perfectly frank. I had hesitated to write this review of the latest James Bond movie, ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE”. Why? Because it has left me in a daze. Four days have passed since I saw the movie and I am still experiencing slight feelings of confusion about it. I had considered delaying my review until a second viewing, but I decided to go ahead and write my first impressions of the film.
”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” is obviously a direct sequel of the 21st film in the Bond franchise, ”CASINO ROYALE”. The previous movie ended with James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) discovery that the woman he loved – an accountant for the British government named Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) – had betrayed him during his dealings with a banker for terrorist named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). Before she committed suicide during his fight against some thugs hired by the organization behind Le Chiffre in Venice, Vesper left Bond a name and telephone number that linked to a Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), a business middleman with connections to an organization that finances terrorism. By the end of ”CASINO ROYALE”, Bond managed to capture Mr. White with a well placed shot to the latter’s kneecap. ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” picked up with Bond being chased by Mr. White’s associates on a road to Sienna, Italy. After eluding the thugs in a deadly road chase, Bond delivered a wounded Mr. White to a MI-6 safe house in the Italian city.
Due to Mr. White’s capture and unsuccessful interrogation, Bond and ‘M’ (Judi Dench) learned that the organization behind the prisoner – Quantum – has many spies planted throughout top-level government agencies around the world. One of those spies turned out to be ‘M’’s bodyguard, who allowed Mr. White to escape via an attack on ‘M’. Bond managed to track down and kill the traitorous Mitchell before he could question the man. However, a few banknotes found in the latter’s pockets allowed MI-6 to track down one of Mitchell’s contacts – a man named Slate in Haiti. This encounter with Slate led Bond to a revenge-bent Bolivian Secret Service agent named Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko) and her connections to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) and Quantum. The rest of the movie focused upon Bond resorting to almost any means possible to learn more about Quantum, foil their plans to control the water supply in Bolivia, and help Camille deal with her desire for revenge against General Medrano (Joaquin Cosío), a Bolivian general responsible for her family’s death and who has a business/political arrangement with Greene and Quantum.
I have to admit that I found the story for ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” to be basically well written. I believe that screenwriters did a first-rate job in creating a sequel to ”CASINO ROYALE”. Not only did they bring back characters like Mr. White, Rene Mathis and Felix Leiter from the last film, the script even continued the issue of Bond’s relationship with Vesper Lynd and his reaction to her death. Several scenes touched upon this continuation:
*Mr. White’s mention of Vesper’s death in Venice
*’M’ and Bond’s discussion at MI-6 Headquarters of Vesper’s French-Algerian boyfriend
*Rene Mathis and Bond’s discussion of Vesper during their flight to Bolivia
*Mathis’ insistence that Bond forgive Vesper for her betrayal and himself for being fooled before the former’s death
*Bond’s reaction to Camille’s revelation about her own desire for vengeance against General Medrano
*Bond’s encounter with Yusef, Vesper’s French-Algerian boyfriend and member of Quantum, who was hired to compromise her, at the end of the film
*Shots of Vesper and Yusef in a photograph
*A shot of Le Chiffre on a computer screen.
When I had first learned of rumors that Quantum, the organization behind Le Chiffre, Mr. White and Dominic Greene, would be on the same level as S.P.E.C.T.R.E. from the 1960s films, I nearly had a negative reaction to the idea. The last thing I wanted was for EON Productions to attempt to turn back the clock and rehash old storylines. Fortunately, Quantum seemed more representative of the present-day practice of socio-economy by multinational corporations than a criminal organization that S.P.E.C.T.R.E. represented. Yet, like many of these corporations, Quantum does not seem above using violence to achieve some of their means. One of my favorite scenes about Quantum featured Bond’s discovery of certain members of the organization holding a clandestine meeting during an opera in Bregenz, Austria. Another favorite featured a meeting about Bond’s actions between ‘M’ and the Foreign Minister (Tim Pigott-Smith), in which the Minister reminded ‘M’ that they live in times in which governments for countries like the U.S. and Great Britain have a need to cooperate with organizations like Quantum for declining natural resources.
Like ”CASINO ROYALE”, this latest Bond film is blessed with a first-rate cast. Cast members like Judi Dench, Jesper Christiansen, Jeffrey Wright and Giancarlo Giannini repeated their excellent performances. Not only did Dench get a chance to repeat her electrifying chemistry with leading man Daniel Craig, she and Pigott-Smith gave excellent performances in the scene featuring the tense meeting between ‘M’ and the Foreign Secretary. Jesper Christiansen returned in his role as the mysterious Mr. White. Only in this film, he is not as reserved as he had been in "CASINO ROYALE". Still, I could tell that Christiansen seemed to be enjoying himself. The character of Mr. White managed to escape MI-6's clutches after Mitchell's attack upon 'M' and a few other agents. How he managed to achieve this with a busted kneecap is beyond my comprehension.
Not only was I pleased to see Jeffrey Wright reprise his role as Felix Leiter, I was especially pleased that Wright was given a chance to expand on his work from the previous movie. In ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE”, Leiter and a fellow CIA agent named Gregg Beam (David Harbour) are offering U.S. support to Quantum’s plans to help General Medrano stage a coup in Bolivia for oil leases. This situation allowed Wright to masterfully display Felix’s torn loyalties to what he seemed to consider as a distasteful duty and his newly established friendship with Bond. And it was great to see Giannini return as the wise and always witty Rene Mathis. After his arrest in ”CASINO ROYALE”, MI-6 realized they had been wrong and compensated him with a villa on a small island near Italy. Bond and Mathis make their peace before the former convinces the latter to help him deal with Greene and General Medrano. In one of the movie’s best scenes, Giannini and Craig gave beautiful performances in a scene featuring a heart-to-heart discussion between Mathis and Bond about Vesper aboard a Virgin Airline flight to Bolivia. Giannini had never been better.
Most of the supporting characters in ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” turned out to be a mixed bag for me. I was impressed by Joaquin Cosio’s portrayal of the greedy and ruthless General Medrano, the Bolivian strongman who had murdered Camille’s family and wants Quantum and the CIA’s help to regain power in the country. Instead of indulging in the usual clichés of the archtypical Latin American dictator, Cosio portrayed Medrano with more restraint and some intelligence. David Harbour was effective as the smug CIA agent, Gregg Beam, who viewed Bond’s activities as nothing more than a threat to his agency’s plans to acquire Bolivian oil leases. On the other hand, I was not impressed by Anatole Taubman’s role as Elvis, Dominic Greene’s cousin and henchman. I had no problem with Taubman’s performance. The problem seemed to be that . . . his presence in the movie was useless. It added nothing to the story. I could almost say the same about Gemma Arterton’s role as MI-6 agent, Strawberry Fields. In fact, I could honestly say that I wish she had never been included in the story in the first place. Her presence in the film was a waste of time. One, she was an unpleasant reminder – at least to me – of those past Bond girls with the ridiculous names and who did nothing more than serve as Bond’s bed warmers. This is exactly how Arterton’s character served the movie. Even worse, the discovery of her body covered in oil brought about an unpleasant reminder of the 1964 movie, ”GOLDFINGER”. It was bad enough that the movie’s screenwriters felt they had to pay homage to a past Bond film. But that the movie in question turned out to be one that I more or less despise was a bit too much for me.
Fortunately, ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” also featured an impressive Olga Kurychenko as the Bond leading lady, Camille Montes. The Ukrainian-born actress had to adopt a South American accent for the role as the feisty Russian-Bolivian woman who joined her country’s secret service to avenge the deaths of her family by killing General Medrano. I had first saw Kurychenko in ”HITMAN” with Timothy Olyphant. Although I found the movie rather mediocre, I was more than impressed by her acting skills and her energy, which she effectively infused in her portrayal of Camille. Camille must be the only Bond leading female who has not shared a love scene with the MI-6 agent. Mind you, Camille is not exactly the most impressive Bond girl I have come across. Her personality struck me as a little too impatient and not very skilled as a killer. But Kurychenko did an effective job of conveying this part of Camille’s nature. Ironically, this served the movie rather well considering that both characters were too obsessed in their goals to even consider romance with each other.
The prevailing view of Mathieu Amalric’s role as Dominic Greene, the film’s main villain, seemed to be divided amongst Bond fans. Some view the character as weak and others seemed very impressed. Count me amongst the latter. I had first been impressed by Amalric’s performance in the Steven Spielberg film, ”MUNICH” (in which Daniel Craig also co-starred). My positive view on the actor’s talent continued in ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE”. I realize that many Bond fans seemed to be more impressed by over-the-top villains. My tastes in villainy seemed to swerve in the opposite direction and I felt more than pleased that Amalric’s Greene strongly reminded me of more subtle villains like Georgi Koskov, Le Chiffre and Ari Kristatos. Amalric gave a skillful performance of a complex man whose witty persona hid a ruthless and cold-blooded nature.
Finally, we come to the man of the hour – namely Daniel Craig in his second outing as MI-6 agent James Bond. His performance in ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” was just as superb and breathtaking as his debut performance. I have spent several days trying to find something wrong with Craig’s acting skills in this film. Honestly. So far, I have yet to find fault with his work. Craig effectively managed to continue Bond’s story by conveying the agent’s reactions to the events of ”CASINO ROYALE”. Burned by Vesper’s betrayal, Bond has become an angry man who is also grieving over the death of a woman he had loved very much. Although he tries to keep his anger in check and simply do his job in investigating and exposing Quantum, there are times when his emotions threatened to spiral out of control. And Craig did a superb job in projecting this stage in Bond’s emotional state. Once again, the actor gave a performance that certainly deserved recognition by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And I am quite certain that for the second time, he will be ignored by them.
As I had stated earlier, ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” had a good, solid story that could have effectively served as a follow-up to ”CASINO ROYALE” thanks to screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis and uncredited writer Joshua Zetumer (uncredited). Remember when I had stated that the movie had left me in a daze? The following is the reason why. Despite the solid screenplay scripted by the four writers, director Marc Forster nearly ruined the story’s effectiveness with what I can only describe as a rush job with the help of editors Matt Chesse and Rick Pearson. There seemed to be a lot going in the movie’s plot. But Forster failed to unfold that story with a slower pace that would have served the movie in a more effective manner. Instead, the director filled the movie’s first half with a countless array of action sequences that almost left me as dizzy as the last two movies from the ”BOURNE” franchise. It almost seemed as if Forster had channeled Paul Greengrass' worst directorial traits. This was especially true in the movie’s first two sequences – a mind altering car chase from Mr. White’s villa to Sienna and Bond’s pursuit of the traitorous MI-6 agent Mitchell through the streets of Sienna, Italy. By the time the movie shifted to Bond’s appearance at Mathis’ Italian villa, I was finally able to catch a breath and enjoy the movie without any accompanying dizzy spells. Another victim of Forster’s fast pacing was the story itself. The plot had nearly fallen victim to Forster’s attempt to be stylish and unique with his fast pace and editing.
Thankfully, not all seemed lost for the film’s action sequences. There were three of them that I found impressive. I enjoyed Bond’s deadly fight with Slate inside the latter’s hotel room in Haiti. I also enjoyed the finale sequence in which Bond dueled against Dominic Greene, while Camille struggled in her attempt to kill General Medrano. But the most effective action sequence – at least for me – turned out to be the aerial dogfight between Bond in a Douglas DC-3 propeller plane and Quantum pilots in both an Aermacchi SF-260 fighter and a Bell UH-1 helicopter. As far as I am concerned, Chesse and Pearson did their best work in this scene. And they were ably assisted by Roberto Schaefer’s excellent photography.
James Bond traveled to many locations in this film – Sienna, Italy; Haiti; Bregenz, Austria; back to Italy and Bolivia. Despite this dizzying array of locations, I must admit that I found most of them rather uninspiring aside from Haiti (filmed in Panama) and the Italian location that served as the backdrop for Mathis’ villa. ”CASINO ROYALE” had surprised the world with a very memorable gun barrel sequence, following its pre-title sequence. ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” did the same with a gun barrel sequence near the end of the film. Unfortunately, the latter sequence was not only very ineffective, but rushed . . . just like the movie’s pacing. One major controversy had arisen from the film. Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson had decided to bypass Amy Winehouse as the performer for the film’s theme song and selected Jack White and Alicia Keys. White provided the song, ”Another Way to Die”, and Keys the vocals. Granted, the song is not that memorable to me. It was tolerable, but not memorable. And it is certainly not the worst Bond song I have ever heard. The song, ”Goldeneye”, still holds that honor in my eyes. And quite frankly, I preferred listening to ”Another Way to Die” over watching the horrendous main title designs created by a company called MK12. From what I understand, Marc Forster had been the one who wanted the company hired for the job, instead of Daniel Kleinman. That man has a lot to answer for.
In the end, ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” is a memorable follow up to Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond, ”CASINO ROYALE” Was it just as good or better than the 2006 film? No. If EON Productions had hired a director more suited for action, remove characters like Strawberry Fields and Elvis from the cast and slowed down the movie’s pace, it could have been just as good. Instead, ”QUANTUM OF SOLACE” turned out to be a movie that I would rank as ”Very Good”, instead of ”Excellent”.