Tag Archives: Timothy Dalton

The Rocketeer (1991, Joe Johnston)

Joe Johnston never getting recognition for The Rocketeer astounds me. Johnston creates a perfect adventure film, a now neglected and abused genre. Additionally, Johnston never fetishizes the historical setting. The late 1930s, Nazis as villains setting is practically its own genre at this point (strange how after a half decade, there are so few choices of undeniable evil for storytellers to use–well, at least ones white Americans would care about), but The Rocketeer never lets it get goofy. Johnston lets other, familiar trappings of the era (at least as it’s celebrated in film)–the radio, the friends at the cafe–take precedent. The Rocketeer puts more stock in California oranges than the more sensational possibilities.

And this emphasis is in a film featuring the FBI teaming up with the mob to shoot it out with Nazis in the middle of Los Angeles.

Past Johnston, the beauty of The Rocketeer is in the script, which is odd, given the screenwriters’ other work. The film starts gradually, with a beautiful flight sequence (James Horner’s score, again highly derivative of his other scores, is essential and wonderful). Having Alan Arkin helps, the script’s still responsible for immediately establishing the characters. Only during the first forty-five minutes of the film is it unsure… it’s good, but it isn’t fantastic. The big problem is the attention given to Jennifer Connelly. She’s the girlfriend and she’s kind of there. The Rocketeer makes an odd choice of introducing she and Bill Campbell’s relationship to the viewer when it’s on shaky ground. And the viewer doesn’t know it’s on shaky ground.

And here again is where The Rocketeer is strange. That instability agitates the plot until all the elements meet–not a revolutionary process, but in The Rocketeer it isn’t about set pieces, it isn’t about melodrama, it’s about actual human concern. The film’s enthralled by the idea people care about each other and it’s infectious.

Eventually, Connelly becomes a leading lady. I was entirely unimpressed with her as the film started and the exact opposite when it ended. It’s kind of a cheat, since the viewer gets to see her become that lead. Connelly’s transition kicks off the film’s third act, which is the finest adventure film act I can think of. It’s absolutely perfect, doesn’t make a single wrong move.

Campbell’s good in the lead–making the goofball dreamer real while still endearing him. He and Connelly are great together (better as the narrative progresses and a sequel with them as leads would have been lovely). Arkin’s fantastic, he and Campbell have some great scenes. Terry O’Quinn’s also good as Howard Hughes. Where Campbell really succeeds, coming in a practical nobody with some (supporting) TV experience, is maintaining himself as the lead when he’s got to contend with Timothy Dalton. As the villain, Dalton’s incredible. In anything else, he would walk away with the picture.

Dalton gets a lot of help from the script–there’s stuff in here I couldn’t believe I was hearing under a Disney Pictures banner. The script’s got some great dialogue and a lot of Disney-unfriendly one-liners. Dalton gets almost all of them. But the script’s also got a lot of discrete sensitivity and some wonderful little details.

I was concerned with The Rocketeer, not having seen it in ten years and the film’s online supporters waning in recent years. Even with the strong filmmaking, the narrative seemed troubled. It never occurred to me it might just be a real script.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Joe Johnston; screenplay by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, story by Bilson, De Meo and William Dear, based on the graphic novel by Dave Stevens; director of photography, Hiro Narita; edited by Arthur Schmidt; music by James Horner; production designer, Jim Bissell; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Charles Gordon and Lloyd Levin; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Bill Campbell (Cliff), Jennifer Connelly (Jenny), Alan Arkin (Peevy), Timothy Dalton (Neville Sinclair), Paul Sorvino (Eddie Valentine), Terry O’Quinn (Howard Hughes), Ed Lauter (Fitch), James Handy (Wolinski), Tiny Ron (Lothar), Jon Polito (Otis Bigelow), Eddie Jones (Malcolm the Mechanic), William Sanderson (Skeets), Don Pugsley (Goose), Nada Despotovich (Irma) and Margo Martindale (Millie).


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License to Kill (1989, John Glen)

Occasionally, I feel like the English language doesn’t allow for–without a lot of adjectives–a reasonable description of something. In this case, I can’t possibly describe the heights of stupidity License to Kill’s screenplay reaches. I mean, for a film to feature a South American drug kingpin with a base more appropriate for Dr. No, it has to be pretty stupid. But for it to feature a chemistry-free, love-at-first-sight romance (between Dalton and Carey Lowell, whose character is terribly written and whose performance is nowhere near as bad as Talisa Soto’s) after a bar fight… it’s simply incredible. The “modernizing” of the Bond villain to the drug kingpin is ludicrous, even if Robert Davi has some good moments, really good ones, but to throw people to leftover sharks from Jaws: The Revenge….

License to Kill is so dumb, I forgot to open this post with the line I’ve been waiting to use–my friend refers to License to Kill as James Bond’s Lethal Weapon. Between Michael Kamen doing the music and Grand L. Bush having a thankless, minuscule role, it really is an attempt to Americanize James Bond and it’s a failure. John Glen doesn’t get how to do action scenes or fight scenes. He gets how to do great special effects scenes–or the second unit director does–but otherwise, Glen is a liability to a ultra-violent Bond film. I mean, Bond’s not just killing people in this one, he’s torturing them.

The setup with Bond in Florida for Felix Leiter’s wedding, not to mention giving him friends, really does work. It works so well, I forgot it was Priscilla Barnes (she’s okay–her character is apparently a complete drunk–but a “Three’s Company” connection is a little distracting). But everything falls apart when, instead of killing all the bad guys, Bond makes off in a hydroplane in a well-executed special effects and stunts sequence. The writers don’t get it, the director doesn’t get it… Dalton barely gets it.

Dalton’s performance as Bond is quite good, creating a character who can believably have friends as well as everything else (though he does not come off as irresistible, something the script requires of him). Desmond Llewelyn has a lot to do as Q becomes a field agent and he’s a lot of fun–even if he is a little odd in the otherwise dark story. Wayne Newton’s fantastic as a televangelist in an overblown cameo.

As a tonal shift, License to Kill is a mistake (the script belongs in a direct-to-video movie from the early 1990s, starring a soap star who thought it’d be his breakout role), as is setting the film in the United States. It’s over two hours, but it’s boring… it’s nice Dalton can pull off a boring James Bond and it’s too bad he didn’t make more… but what’s the point? It doesn’t work as action adventure and it doesn’t work as revenge action.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by John Glen; written by Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum, based on characters created by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Alec Mills; edited by John Grover; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Wilson; released by United Artists.

Starring Timothy Dalton (James Bond), Carey Lowell (Pam Bouvier), Robert Davi (Franz Sanchez), Talisa Soto (Lupe Lamora), Anthony Zerbe (Milton Krest), Frank McRae (Sharkey), David Hedison (Felix Leiter), Wayne Newton (Professor Joe Butcher), Benicio Del Toro (Dario), Anthony Starke (Truman-Lodge), Everett McGill (Ed Killifer), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Pedro Armendáriz Jr. (President Hector Lopez), Robert Brown (M), Priscilla Barnes (Della Churchill), Don Stroud (Heller), Caroline Bliss (Miss Moneypenny), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Kwang) and Grand L. Bush (Hawkins).


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The Living Daylights (1987, John Glen)

John Glen does a litany of disservices to The Living Daylights, mostly due to his inability to direct actors–Timothy Dalton specifically–but also on a number of technical levels. Glen relies far too much on rear screen projection for banal driving shots. Some of the other technical aspects–the bland sets and terrible lighting of them–aren’t necessarily Glen’s fault, though they are his responsibility. His inability to direct Dalton hurts the film most of all. Dalton can’t deliver the Bond one liners and he has real problems with the Lothario aspects of the part, but when he’s doing different things, he’s fine. Towards the end, once the film centers on he and Maryam d’Abo, he gets really good.

D’Abo’s another particular part of Living Daylights. She’s not so much good–though she’s very appealing after a while–as she is perfect in the part of a naïve cellist. Part of her appeal might be the short end she gets from the Living Daylights plot. While I realize it’s a James Bond movie and deceiving the audience every three minutes, whether it’s a character’s allegiances or an action set piece (cliffhangers only work when you’ve got some time in between crisis and resolution, a week, four months, not five or six seconds). But. So d’Abo is more appealing because she’s getting run through the duplicity ringer, but she’s getting run through it by Dalton, who’s James Bond and isn’t James Bond supposed to be smart? The audience knows more than he does and it doesn’t help Dalton at all, since he’s already saddled with bad lines and bad direction. It’s like the filmmakers already gave him a vote of no confidence or something, though he’s far more personable and likable than first choice Pierce Brosnan ever was, which might have more to do with the Brosnan Bond movies but whatever. They shouldn’t have jinxed him.

The stunts are cool, especially having seen all CG-composite Bond movies. The locations are nice, but cutting from a crappy set to a good location–it almost looks like all the sets were the same sound stage used over and over, since Glen uses the same composition for all of them. John Barry’s score is good. The supporting cast ranges. Art Malik and Joe Don Baker are good. Jeroen Krabbé, who I was expecting to be great, was not.

At the end, Glen (or the second unit director) does a fantastic, explosion-heavy shootout at a Russian airbase and he does a good job of it. Compounded by the recent dramatic developments and Dalton and d’Abo’s chemistry, The Living Daylights really turns around at the end, which very few films do. And it has a silly ending, which rewards the involved audience member–maybe it should have been more concerned with immediate rewards throughout, but still. It’s nice to see films used to make that consideration, since so few do so anymore.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Glen; screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, based on a story by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Alec Mills; edited by John Grover and Peter Davies; music by John Barry; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Wilson; released by United Artists.

Starring Timothy Dalton (James Bond), Maryam d’Abo (Kara Milovy), Jeroen Krabbé (Gen. Georgi Koskov), Joe Don Baker (Brad Whitaker), John Rhys-Davies (Gen. Leonid Pushkin), Art Malik (Kamran Shah), Andreas Wisniewski (Necros), Thomas Wheatley (Saunders), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Robert Brown (M) and Caroline Bliss (Miss Moneypenny).


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Hot Fuzz (2007, Edgar Wright)

I was going to start this post off with a mention I had no idea spoof movies were back–then I realized I just hadn’t been partaking in them (I’m thinking the Scary Movie series and whatever else the Brothers Weinstein squeeze out between Oscar-lusts). Hot Fuzz is a technical spoof for the most part–though I think there are a lot of Bad Boys II and Point Break references–with lots of fast cuts, fast pans, rapid montages. There’s a good deal of Lethal Weapon references, as well as Terminator 2 ones. Hot Fuzz‘s most admirable trait–its ability to keep with this crap and ride it through–is also the most irritating. There’s little actual content beyond these technical references–except, there should be, because Hot Fuzz has a great cast. With a handful of exceptions–the 1970s-looking detectives make no sense–the supporting characters are perfect. But Simon Pegg’s lead is an action hero among regular folk… Hot Fuzz reminds me a lot of Last Action Hero. Pegg plays the character as an action hero lost in the real world (with a few hinky exceptions, like the detectives) and it works against the film.

Pegg’s actually really good as the action hero. He’s a fine actor. But he’s–I need a metaphor for something moving against the grain and I’m not getting one. There’s also some serious writing problems–I’m sure one could defend it as some kind of a reference to plot holes in action movies, but there’s no real excuse for it. My biggest problem with Hot Fuzz, besides that plot hole, is it’s unnecessary. Action movies reference, homage, and mock each other and have been doing it for twenty years. Pointing out all the stereotypical film techniques–down to Lethal Weapon‘s music, in fact–well, if Hot Fuzz had been fifteen minutes–or even eighty-five–but it’s two hours. The jokes get old after about five seconds, long enough to notice the references, then Hot Fuzz carries them through… so it’s admirable, but pointless.

The supporting cast–especially Timothy Dalton–is all good. Dalton’s great throughout while other characters have reveals and don’t do as well… script problems too.

I find it odd movielens said I’d give it three, but IMDb correctly suggests five bad movies to see if I liked it. Including Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys II. Though I’m just guessing on Bad Boys II (I try not to see things like that).

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Edgar Wright; written by Wright and Simon Pegg; director of photography, Jess Hall; edited by Chris Dickens; music by David Arnold; production designer, Marcus Rowland; produced by Nira Park, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner; released by Rogue Pictures.

Starring Simon Pegg (Nicholas Angel), Nick Frost (Danny Butterman), Jim Broadbent (Frank Butterman), Paddy Considine (Andy Wainwright), Timothy Dalton (Simon Skinner), Anne Reid (Leslie Tiller), Rafe Spall (Andy Cartwright), Billie Whitelaw (Joyce Cooper), Edward Woodward (Tom Weaver), Bill Nighy (Chief Inspector), Martin Freeman (Sergeant) and Steve Coogan (Metropolitan Police Inspector).


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