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Perhaps reading the book would help
I will never understand why someone says "here's a great book, let's make a movie... but, we need to change everything." I understand scene deletion, time compression, etc., but to totally change characters and characterizations is ego on the part of the director's to "improve" or "puth their mark" on the story.
First of all... the story... Paul Atreides is a 15 year old who finds out he has been bred to be a potential super-human. His story of coping with becoming a pseudo-messiah is caught up in a story of feudalistic power battles in a galactic empire, as well as ecological, eugenics, religious, and social themes. Paul's father, Duke Leto is ordered by the galactic emperor to take over the control of the desert planet "Arrakis" aka "Dune." Dune is the most important planet in the universe, as it is the only source of the spice "melange" which is used to extend life and gives powers to some to become navigators in space, allowing space travel. However, the appointment is a trap, as the emperor, intends to get rid of the Atreides family because Duke Leto is becoming very powerful and popular among the other planet-owning nobility. Through the arch-enemies of the Atreides, the Harkonnens, the emperor will use his elite shock troops to wipe out the Atreides family for failure to keep the profits of spice production flowing (it's complicated). Paul escapes and lives among a hidden race of desert dwellers, the Fremen, who are actually large in numbers and the best fighters in the universe. Paul must decide whether to take the mantel of Messiah for these people and avenge his father. One of the plot twists is the that the emperor only has daughters, the eldest being Irulan... a basically naive, foolish princess who is to be married to a future emperor and become empress. The power families, including the Atreides and Harkonnens, each have heirs that could be potential mates for Irulan, but the power politics of the main plot line override this point.
Anyhow, this Sci-Fi movie version hardly follows the original story and makes drastic changes to many of the key characters. SImilar to Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings"... they may get the names and looks right, but not the characterizations.
The most appalling switch is the portrayal of Irulan, a minor character and mere plot device (and when entered into the novel is rather stiff and not all that inspiring) suddenly becomes the mover and shaker ... traveling across the galaxy trying to solve the Atreides-Harkonnen feud, acting as a go-between... flirting with Paul and Feyd-Rautha Harkonne, etc. William Hurt's portrayal of Duke Leto was also rather weak... and once again, a raven-haired character (Paul) becomes a blonde model. From Thufir Hawat to Baron Harkonnen, this version seems to have tried to appease the critics of the book (some feminists and gay groups felt that women and gays were portrayed negatively in the novel- both mistaken criticisms) and , cheap budget is no excuse for poor scripting and misportrayals.
There is a reason a book is popular, feeling the need to change key plot points and characters is stupid.
One, Two, Three (1961)
A great all-time comedy
This is one of the best comedies of all time, with Billy Wilder and James Cagney at their absolute best. While there was much contention and arguing behind the scenes, none of it came forward. In fact, the bitter dislike of Horst Buchholz by Cagney aided Cagney in his attitude toward Buchholz's character.
The Plot: A Coca-Cola exec (James Cagney) in pre-wall Berlin is asked by his boss to watch his "virtuous" daughter, who turns out to be quite the flirtatious vixen. After 6 weeks, it is discovered that, not only has the daughter been sneaking out, she has secretly married a young German communist (Buchholz) from East Berlin, and she is pregnant. To make matters worse, the girl's parents phone and announce they are coming to Berlin the next day. James Cagney's character has just 24 hours to set everything to right and transform the revolutionary into the ordinary.
Amid this is a terrific send up of mid Cold-War politics and some hilarious characters as everyone scrambles to fix not only the girl's problem, but Cagney's marriage and life as well.
There is no true weak spot in this story, other than the age of the girl (17 in the story... marriage and pregnancy for this age might be a bit less acceptable today. Buchholz is wonderful, and steals many scenes (much to Cagney's chagrin), but the cast hold its own all the way through.
Even if one doesn't understand all the cold war references, it is still a fast-paced hilarious movie with more laughs than any modern comedies, with typical understated Billy Wilder human observations.
Definitely a great movie!
Hey hey, it's the Monkees... and yet, not.
As their entire career was a pale impersonation of The Beatles, it is no surprise that, shortly after the great fiasco of the Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour," the Monkees would follow up with their own insipid and creative morass of a movie, called "Head." Both movies are not so much a true story with a plot (though MMT attempted to define a plot) as they are a hodge-podge of skits and snippets, interspersed with music and songs and out-takes.
"Head" has no plot, other than the pre-fab-four trying to break free of "the box" they are in (i.e. the type-casting of being "Monkees" and the surrounding commercialism) and yet, always finding themselves back in the box. Most skits involve breaks in the "fourth wall" and crossing over into other, seemingly unrelated scenes. Filled with anti-Vietnam war messages and attempts by the group to show their other talents, the film bounces around haphazardly- also to be blamed on the multiple directors.
The film, like Magical Mystery Tour, is now excused by some fans as "wonderful symbolism and misunderstood artistic statements." Phooey. Like MMT, it is too many guys with access to too many drugs all trying to make something artsy and making crap.
Like MMT, "Head" has some clever moments and offers some relatively unknown Monkees songs that are quite decent. It does develop a bit more charm than MMT and is a bit easier to sit through, but it is not ironic at all that, like everything else the Monkees did, this was just a mimicry of something the Beatles did first... even when it comes to laying an egg.
Comic Book Blood & Porno fest?
Well, a convoluted comic became a convoluted movie, with gratuitous sex and violence added.
Here's the plot: It is 1985 and society is very different than the 1985 many of us lived through. Richard Nixon has just been elected for his 4th term in office.... how, you may ask? Well, the USA has the one super-powered hero in the world on its side... Dr. Manhattan. After a freak accident in an atomic experiment, he is given god-like power (and gradually develops god-like notions). Although there have been costumed heroes before (The Minutemen) and a second generation (the Watchmen), none were super-powered... they were merely highly-motivated normal humans with costumes and gadgets. Anyhow... in 1971, Nixon requests that Dr. Manhattan intervene in the costly Vietnam War... after 1 week on the job, the Viet Cong surrender and the war is over. The fear of Dr. Manhattan and his power accomplish two things: (1) The USA becomes the dominant super-power... backing off China and the USSR and allowing Nixon to basically seize power for as long as he wishes, and (2) it creates a backlash of anti-hero sentiment among the population, which eventually leads to the outlawing of costume heroes (except a couple who do work for the US government secretly). Now, in 1985 again... the USSR (and the rest of the world) are sick of the iron-handed policies of Nixon and the constant threat of Dr. Manhattan's powers. The USSR begins a policy of provocation against the USA and stockpile nuclear missiles with the thought of forcing the US into an Armageddon showdown once and for all. The world is on the brink of nuclear annihilation as the Doomsday Clock ticks down to midnight (meaning nuclear war is imminent).
Now the background: in 1940 the first team of costumed avengers is formed, called The Minutemen... it consists of several heroes... Mothman, The Comedian, the Silk Spectre, the Night Owl, and many others. As time goes by, the Minutemen grow old and a new team, The Watchmen (which includes The Comedian and The Night Owl) is formed. Another generation goes by until a last version of The Watchmen is formed including The Comedian, Rorschach, Silk Specte II (daughter of the first), Night Owl II, Dr. Manhattan, and Ozymandias (the smartest man on earth). The Watchmen's heavy-handed style of law and vengeance, along with the fear of Dr. Manhattan's god-like powers lead to protests and outcries, until they are banned, forcing the team to go into retirement. Now, old heroes are being murdered. Rorschach has refused to retire, continuing a vigilante form of justice, and begins to investigate how and why The Comedian was murdered. He eventually contacts the other surviving members of The Watchmen who more or less aid the investigation, although they prefer to stay hidden. Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt) has become a billionaire using his brains and skills to form a multi-national corporation and seeks positive solutions to make humankind's existence better. As the threat of nuclear annihilation deepens, Dr. Manhattan (who has the ability to see the future) claims he is "blocked" and assumes the world will be destroyed but no longer cares. His emotional detachment- including his relationship with Silk Spectre II, and her subsequent fleeing to the arms of Night Owl II- is one of the many soap-opera subplots in the story. Eventually, as things deepen even more, the surviving Watchmen come out of retirement and help Rorschach trace the clues and unravel a plot to save the world which would kill millions. The surprise villain and the eventual decisions made by the team to avert nuclear destruction lead to Alan Moore's favorite theme- the convoluted sense of right and wrong and the gray areas of morality. Each hero is supposed to represent a different philosophical/moral school of thought from the nihilistic misanthrope Rorschach to the amoral Comedian and so on.
Unfortunately, four main issues prevented me from enjoying the film... 1. the hectic time pieces. Unless one knows the book, the bouncing back and forth could be really confusing to ordinary viewers. 2. The empowering of the heroes. They were not super-powered, and the movie gives them advanced strength and speed beyond human abilities. 3. The added scenes, not in the book, that change some of the themes and try to put a happier spin on some things. 4. The blatant graphic sex and violence. I am so not a prude, but this movie had too many unnecessarily graphic sex scenes and blood. A Freddy Kruger movie had less blood and gore, and the sex scenes were just too explicit. This movie easily should have been an NC-17 rating. From Dr. Manhattan constantly presenting his large blue schlong to the several sex scenes of Silk Spectres I and II with various characters (including the rape of Silk Spectre I by the Comedian). The movie was rated "R' but the graphic sex was not in the book- just hinted- and it is, to the general public, a "comic book movie" and many people brought their 9-11 year-olds and left the theaters. I understand the director wanted this to be graphic and really get behind the masks of the heroes to show they all have human issues and needs (the book was a super-hero soap opera on many levels)- but it just did not need to be done so thoroughly here. We just don't need to show things. It was excessive and took away from the movie. In the end, while it tried desperately to capture the themes, edginess, and depths of Moore's story... it tried too hard and failed on several points and presented an overly-complex superhero movie that bordered on being a porn movie in many places. I am sure some fan-boys are just giggling in joy at the greatest graphic novel finally reaching the big screen and probably enjoying all the spandex sex and nudity- but, having read the novel 25 years ago the movie really did not accomplish anything positive for the book.
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
Eclectic Chickens Running Around With Heads Cut Off
There is no way to put it, this is bad film-making. SIgned to a contract, the Beatles decided to get over the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, by making a movie themselves. In the end, Paul took over creative control and had no idea what he was doing.
The simple plot is that Ringo takes his grieving aunt to a Bus Tour Company (famous in England in the post-war days)that offers a "magical" trip on their tour. Unfortunately, nothing magical happens... just a hodge-podge of bizarre skits and freak shows that really go nowhere. The bus is overlooked by 4 or 5 wizards who are supposed to make sure the magic happens. There are some interesting scenes, but the movie is lost amid a psychedelic buzz of incoherency and lack of any kind of true storyline. Good music gets lost amid individual sketches occurring in a old RAF base, a field, a strip-club, and nowhere in particular. The camera work looks like a junior high 8mm project. Intended symbols and deeper meanings are just pretentious BS. Nowadays, McCartney claims that they were trying to make something different and make it look so unprofessional- bullocks! They had pot, LSD, cash, and camera and out came this tripe. The only saving grace of the whole movie is that, it is the one and only time and place where one can see John Lennon belt out his classic "I Am the Walrus." Also, the instrumental "Flying" is a great song. ALong with some of their first promotional films for earlier songs, this is more a collection of MTV-videos than a movie. As a Beatle fan, it is in my collection and occasionally viewed for some of the songs, but not often because it is so hard to wallow through.
Disjointed, but fun film
"Help" is a disjointed film starring the greatest rock band to ever record- The Beatles. This was their follow-up to their amazing "A Hard Day's Night," a classic that rates as the greatest rock-band movie ever made.
"Help" pales in comparison to its predecessor and often is criticized deeply for this failure.
In the story, Ringo comes into possession of a holy ring that is the honorarium worn by the intended sacrificee of a sect of Khaili worshipers (Khaili is the Hindu god of death and destruction). The sect goes through stages of trying to get the ring back, to then decreeing that Ringo himself must be sacrificed. The 4 band members are assisted by a member of the sect who isn't into the whole sacrifice ideology. The sect's attempts to get at Ringo grow more and more creative and insane, and the Beatles are forced to constantly flee from England to Austria to the Bahamas under the protection of Scotland Yard and The British Army. Mixed in is a mad scientist (Victor Spinetti) who wants the ring for his own mad devices.
The movie is a typical early-mid 60's farce, much in the genre of Peter Sellers (no surprise as director Richard Lester directed many of Sellers' movies). The problem, story-wise, is that at times it tries to be a James Bond spoof, at other times it tries to be a spoof of "If It's Tuesday, This Must be Belgium" and other zany comedies. The movie could not decide which kind of a farce it was to be, and loses the battle when compared to the cohesive, Liverpudlian comedy of "A Hard Day's Night." Lastly, the movie is filmed during the height of Beatlemania, when the lads were already tiring of all the pressures and lack of freedom and time. In some cases, you can see they just shot the scenes as a lark and didn't care whether it was perfect or not. Off screen, the Beatles themselves say they were not into the movie (they wanted to do a serious movie, perhaps a Western), and were getting into pot-smoking and were kind of stoned through filming. In spite of all this, the film is actually quite clever and enjoyable and fits in with many of the sillier comic chase films of that era. If one remembers this movie was meant to be "silly" and not "funny" and remembers it is a farce, not a creative work of inspired genius, it is very enjoyable and fun to watch, even after 40+ years.
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
A SIngular Point in History Captured
Although our MTV-brainwashed world is too busy foisting off all the latest mindless drivel in pop music, and classic rock somehow only seems to involve the Stones, the Who, or Led Zeppelin, the fact is- The Beatles were the greatest rock band ever. No other rock band in the history of music changed the world in such dramatic fashion. Sure, Elvis brought rock to the forefront as an entertainment, but people often forget that rock almost died in the 1960-1962 era of payola scandals and Dick Clark teen idols. True American rock had to be re-invented and The Beatles were the geniuses behind it. Their influence in the recording industry in all fields as well as ability to write amazing rock and pop songs is unparalleled in a career that, on the world's stage, lasted just 7 years (1963-1970).
The movie "A Hard Day's Night" is a fictional "day in the life" pseudo-documentary of a band called "The Beatles." The four lads play streotypes of themselves, but among all of them, they felt it was a fairly accurate portrayal of their lives at that stage. Filmed just as Beatlemania exploded on the world stage, the freshness and innocence of the early days, before the screaming and insane attention drove the Band to quit touring and to eventually split up. However, to the astute, a hint of the real darker days to come is also well portrayed in the almost constant claustrophobic settings within the movie.
The plot centers on the band having to get to a TV studio for a required performance (this is before videos and lip-syncing... bands actually would do live performances for radio, TV, and then have shows in the evening every night somewhere). Surrounded by a storm of media attention, crazed fans, crazier directors and managers, the 4 lads try to find a bit of freedom from it all. Within all that, Paul's mischievous grandfather, tagging along to get out of the house, does his best to rile everyone up and create havoc. Eventually, Ringo gets caught for "malicious wandering" and has to be freed from the jail in time for the show. Unlike any "rock band" movie before or since, the members of the band act, follow a very thorough and humorous plot, and there aren't, for the most part, bizarre excuses to break into a song out of the blue. The songs are introduced as part of the storyline (rehearsing, run-throughs, passing time on a train), rather than suddenly bursting into song like in the Elvis movies. The camera work and editing are first-rate, considering this was considered a low-budget movie in its time. Alun Owens (screenplay) and Richard Lester (director) also so a wonderful job catching the manic storm The Beatles were already trapped in. Almost every scene is shot in a tight room... on a train, in rooms in a studio, a small cafe, etc... This hinted claustrophobia, especially in black and white, really points at the world the Beatles were going to spend the next 3 years in. Paul's grandfather (played by Wilfred Brambell wonderfully) makes a speech, comic in its delivery, but deeply revealing in its context... he is complaining that he was supposed to be out getting fresh air, but by being with the Beatles, he's been nowhere but "in a train and a room, a hotel and a room, and a room and a room." This movie is a classic and captures a point in time just as socially significant as Kennedy, the moon landing, etc. While time has made it seem that The Beatles and their contemporaries such as the Stones and The Who were on equal footing, those of the time know that the Beatles were in a league of their own, above and beyond all the others. The Beatles led and the others, even in feigned defiance of the popularity of The Beatles, merely took what the Beatles did and copied it, mocked it, or exaggerated it for their own success.
A Hard Day's Night stands alone as a movie of a rock band starring a rock band and has no equal to this day.
Licence to Kill (1989)
A Very Good Bond Film!
"License to Kill" is the second of the two Timothy Dalton versions of Bond. However, it is the only one truly written for him as Bond, and hits the mark very well.
Dalton becomes the first truly serious Bond, with so few quips and one-liners, making even Connery's version seem humorous. The plot is truly realistic and appropriate then, 40 years ago, or today.
Bond helps CIA Agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison in his second appearance as Leiter) bring in a hard-to-catch Colombian drug lord named Sanchez (Robert Davi). Unfortunately, Sanchez escapes and starts getting revenge on those who tried to get him. Leiter is targeted and severely crippled and Bond goes after Sanchez. However, Bond is supposed to be on a mission in Turkey. WHen the CIA and MI6 tell Bond to forget the Leiter issue, Bond tries to quit and is told "you don't quit this business." His license to kill is revoked and Bond goes rogue agent. Bond first strikes at Sanchez's business, but then goes undercover as an unemployed agent looking for work-for-hire. Bond crosses territorial lines of many agencies and the various law and crime groups all start targeting him. Bond gets assistance from the sole-surviving Sanchez informant, ex military, now mercenary lady Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell). Bond gets some inside help from Sanchez's mistress, Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto). Bond eventually gets inside Sanchez's organization to discover a major international drug plot and an evangelical ministry fronting it.
The action is quick and furious, and Dalton is as intense a Bond as there has ever been. The various leads all play their parts exceptionally well, and may be the best supporting cast outside of "Casino Royale." While no one steals any scenes, no one brings any down, either. Some plot devices seem a bit hackneyed nowadays, but the story works. There are no fancy super-gadgets, or unbelievable story-lines... just a myriad of international agencies trying to get out of each other's way. The usual crazy, not always believable chases and confrontations are there, but the intensity and drive of the story line, matched by Dalton's brutal Bond, carry through.
I can not imagine Dalton doing the Brosnan films according to script, and will always be curious as to what stories and growth we would have seen with Dalton (much like Lazenby). As is, Dalton added his touch to Bond and did so without the eventual degradation that afflicts the other longer Bonds (Connery, Moore, Brosnan).
The Living Daylights (1987)
Dalton Starts off Limited Bond Era With Solid Effort
"The Living Daylights" marks another new chapter in the ever-going Bond-Saga. Timothy Dalton, a long-time Bond prospect accepts the role, but only after Pierce Brosnan is unable to take it.
"The Living Daylights" is a bridge between the Bonds. Written with Moore still expected to perhaps resume the mantle, a lot of Moore's humor is written into the script. However, Dalton brings a tighter, edgier, more serious personae to the role.
The plot focuses on the defection of a soviet general (the last "Cold War" Bond). After the assassination of two 00's in a training exercise, Bond is asked to assist in the defection, by the general himself. While setting it up, Bond notices an assassin targeting the general- a young cellist whom he saw in the opera earlier. Bond disables her weapon, scaring the "living daylights" out of her, but is intrigued by the whole situation.
The plot thickens, when the general is apparently re-kidnapped, and Bond is sent after the general. More agents are killed as the "smert spionen" ("death to spies") decree is found on each dead agent. Torn between finding the missing general and figuring out who is killing MI6's best, Bond finds that the cellist (played by Maryam D'Abo) is integral to it all. Bond comes across a wily and bombastic American arms dealer Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker), who is in league with the missing general. Bond must align with a Russian minister, General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) to untangle the web of intrigue to learn what is really going on.
The story travels from the former Czechoslavia to Austria to Afghanistan and many places in between as Bond must trace the vast amount of information he needs.
All in all, a very good story with an involved plot and some nice twists. Dalton is a very solid Bond, in the George Lazenby mold, and works very well. The script is also well-written, but not spectacular. Some dialog is a bit brusque and cheesy. D'Abo is not the sexiest Bond-girl, but is very good in her role. Unfortunately, the General Whitaker character, as played by Baker, is too corny and comical to be accepted as a successful international arms dealer and weakens the movie with each scene he appears in. the defecting Russian general, Georgi Koskov, is ably played by Jeroen Krabbe (a dead ringer for the late Austrian singer "Falco"), but lacks some real cruelty as a heavy. The best scenes and acting occur in the Afghani scenes.
The movie does suffer a bit from the problem of Dalton having to go according to a script for Moore, but in the end, a good movie is produced. Not the best of the Bonds, but an entertaining movie, nonetheless.
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
A Very Slick Bond Film
The third installment of Brosnan as Bond is a very fine movie, with a good story with plenty of plot twists to keep one on one's toes. Brosnan is probably at his most comfortable as Bond in this picture.
The story starts with the assassination of an oil executive who is close friends with M and others in MI6. Bond is assigned to protect the murder exec's daughter, Elektra (played by Sophie King). Elektra has already previously been the victim of a kidnap and ransom plot, held by the notorious international terrorist, Renard (played by Robert Carlysle). Renard is known for his inability to feel pain because of nervous damage from wounds he has received in his crimes.
Bond must unravel the plot against Elektra, and in his work uncovers a nuclear plot to destroy a major oil line, which just happens to be owned by Elektra King. Bond gets assistance from several characters, including Valery Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane- reprising his role as the ex-KGB agent from "GoldenEye"), and Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards- in a stretch) as a CIA nuclear physicist. Richards is weak in her role and once again, the Bond movies go for boobs over brains in the least believable role in the movie. John Cleese is introduced as the new Q, taking over for Desmond Llewelyn (who is also in the movie).
As stated, the story line is solid and the script is consistent, with some surprises that really make the story stand out. The espionage work is there along with the action and drama, really making this movie stand out for Brosnan. After "GoldenEye," this is his best Bond movie. The only drawbacks are that the film is a little dry at times, the humor forced, and many performances range from poor to stilted (Richards, Carlyle, and even Marceau do not challenge as top supporting cast for a Bond Movie here). Also, there are a few too many scientific bits of misinformation-regarding nerve-damage and radiation that weaken the story a bit.
The story and the work of Brosnan carry this from a potentially average to a very good film. Sadly, Brosnan seemed to alternate good Bond flicks (GoldenEye, The World is Not Enough), with bad ones (Tomorrow Never Dies, Die Another Day).