Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (2012)

Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 is a documentary that explores how the James Bond movies have become the longest-running film franchise in history. It was made for television, though it got a brief theatrical run in Great Britain.  The purpose of the film was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movies, which began in 1962 with Dr. No and ended most recently with 2012's Skyfall.

The film starts with a look at how author Ian Fleming, himself a former intelligence agent, created suave super-spy James Bond. Then the movie examines how Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman became partners and acquired the rights to make the films.  All of the actors who have played Bond onscreen -- Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig offer commentary throughout the movie, although Connery's comments seems to have come from pre-existing recordings.

It was interesting to see the passion behind the films, and to hear about the troubles behind the scenes as well.  Connery left the franchise because he was dissatisfied with the money he was making. Lazenby tells why he was fired after only one appearance as Bond. There's the fascinating tale of how a man named Kevin McClory held the rights to Fleming's book "Thunderball" which led to decades of litigation. It was interesting to hear about the dissolving of the Broccoli-Saltzman partnership, how Pierce Brosnan got a second chance to be Bond after NBC surprisingly un-cancelled his TV series "Remington Steele", and how most of the powers that be did not want Daniel Craig to be hired as Bond.

The children of Broccoli and Saltzman also contribute to the narrative, as do a few of the Bond directors and other friends and relatives of the principals. Even Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton endorse Bond.

If the film has a flaw, I would say that it is too abbreviated.  I would have liked to have seen more film clips, some info on the onscreen Bond villains, and a little more of the supporting cast of Bond characters. That's quibbling though. What Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 accomplished most is that it whetted my appetite to watch all 23 of the Bond films in chronological order.  I thoroughly enjoyed this overview of Bond's success. Grade: A-.

I watched Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 via Netflix Streaming on April 1, 2013.

Fun fact: Broccoli and Saltzman's partnership was EON Productions, which was allegedly an acronym for the phrase "Everything or Nothing."

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bronson (2008)

The only reason that I watched Bronson was because I've become a fan of Tom Hardy in recent years. He had a compelling screen presence in films like Inception, Warrior, and The Dark Knight Rises. I stumbled across Bronson on Netflix Streaming and saw where Hardy won a British Independent Spirit Award for his work in this film, and decided to give the movie a watch.

I really disliked the film. It is a character study of Michael Patterson, a petty thief who always worsens his situation by acting out violently -- injuring policemen, prison guards, and fellow inmates alike. He adopts the name "Charles Bronson" after the Death Wish action movie star. He spends a lot of time in solitary confinement, and his extensive jail time far exceeds the penalty for the crimes that caused him to be incarcerated. The prison system tried to palm him off to the mental health system by pronouncing him crazy, but that didn't last long. Bronson became Britain's most famous -- and violent -- criminal. The only reason offered up for Bronson's behavior was his desire to be famous.

Hardy delivers an admittedly powerful performance. I hated the character, which always makes viewing a film difficult. The script was weak as well. The movie uses a device where Bronson addresses a fictional audience, and the movie audience as well, to punctuate the events of his life. Hardy is also the only actor in the movie with whose work I am familiar. His street-wise British accent was so thick that at times I wished that I had been using subtitles. It took real effort to understand Hardy, and in that regard the movie reminded me of Sexy Beast, though Sexy Beast is a far more interesting film.

Bronson is the second film that I've seen by up-and-coming acclaimed director Nicolas Winding Refn. In the fall of 2011, I saw Refn's Drive. I admired a lot of Drive, even though I stop short of recommending that film. Drive has a lot more style to it; Bronson doesn't have anything of merit in it except a fearless performance by Hardy.

Bronson was surprisingly well-reviewed, but I found it to be an excessive exercise without  substance.  Character studies rarely make good movies. Good drama needs to have a point, and  Bronson as a film doesn't have much to say at all.  It doesn't entertain, and the re-watchability factor for me is non-existent.  I don't mind violence in films where it serves the story like in a Quentin Tarantino movie, for example.  There's really no story in Bronson. I suppose it's an important film in the oeuvre of Tom Hardy, and someday it may show how far Refn has matured as a director.  Skip this one, though.  There are too many far better films to see. Grade: D-.

I watched Bronson on March 9, 2013 via Netflix Streaming.