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Live and Let Die: A Recap

Kylie

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We chat quite a bit “problematic faves” here at The Fandomentals, and for good reason. You can enjoy problematic content, so long as you’re aware of those issues. That said, I’ve got one where I’m utterly at a loss to explain my enjoyment at all: Bond, James Bond. It’s a character built on misogyny, and even the “best” movies of the series nearly incomprehensible with the leaps in logic.

Well, I didn’t watch a top quality Bond the other day. No, instead, as a way of getting excited for my trip to New Orleans this weekend, I decided to watch Roger Moore’s debut film, Live and Let Die. In some ways you might consider this a “quintessential Bond film.” Though Sean Connery brought Ian Flemming’s character to life, it was Moore that brought the camp which defines most of the series. But if this truly is representative of the franchise as a whole…then holy shit. My fave is beyond problematic and I’m starting to wonder if it’s only a fave due to Poe’s Law.

The misogyny of this film is a sledgehammer; the racism of this film is a team of wrecking balls continually smashing you in the face. Which I guess isn’t shocking, because it was literally an action film by white people that tried to incorporate characteristics of the “blaxploitation” genre, which had gained popularity in the early 70s. Needless to say its attempts to do so left behind a movie that is offensive to the point of distraction. Seriously, it is impossible to go 2 seconds without thinking, “but this is just so racist!”

And if somehow you can look past every single black person in New York City working together to kill Bond, a fortune teller whose gift is literally fucked away, or the island of ‘San Monique,’ whose dictator utilizes 100% well-researched Haitian Vodou as a means of keeping his opium fields safe, you’re left with a horribly infeasible conflict and so much plot armor, it could make the stakes of Hardhome feel real.

So of course I’m going to take you on a journey through this movie, so that you can share in its wonder with me.

The pre-title sequence consists of three scenes where white people are murdered by black people. First, an MI6 agent sitting behind the UK table at what appears to be the UN is killed when a black hand plugs something funky into the audio port to which his translator headphones are connected. Literally, it’s death-by-headhpones. And we see this other black guy sitting calmly at his table for the great country of San Monique, so we get the impression he knows something.

Over in New Orleans, another MI6 agent is obviously watching a “Fillet of Soul” restaurant, when a funeral procession marches by, all consisting of black people. Like, 50-75 members, maybe? Then another [what race…you guessed it…black] dude walks up and stabs the MI6 agent. The funeral procession picks him up in the coffin, and then it turns into a really fun parade!

Finally, we go to San Monique, where there’s some sort of Voodoo party going on. Maybe some of that Voodoo includes the inexplicable mixing of Spanish and French in the island’s name? But it’s this sort of excited, sex-party atmosphere, a la the maenads in True Blood before I gave up on that show. A white dude is tied to the stakes, and one of the locals dances around while wearing a goat head. He picks up a snake out of a coffin, and kills the guy with it, even though it’s hilariously obvious that this is just a rubber snake he lightly touches to his neck.

Then comes the title sequence, which given Paul McCartney’s song, is easily the highlight of this film. Though is it worth pointing out that even here, the black women all become skulls, while the white women dance around with what is some of the strangest choreography I’ve seen to date?

I think she’s trapped in a box, stoned, and trying to wave goodbye? Free her.

Cut to Bond in bed with a random woman who is begging for more sex in a thick, Italian accent. Sadly for her, there’s a knock on the door, and M—you know, the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service—just barges in, tells James that there’s work to be done, name drops the three agents who were killed in the field/their locations, and tells him that he needs to start packing. Judi Dench would have never been so stoopid.

Fortunately for James, in addition to being a secret agent, he’s an aspiring barista, so he is able to distract M by making him a latte. Seriously, he froths the milk and everything. Even more fortunately, Moneypenny is a fantastic bro, who helps the random Italian chick (turns out she’s an agent too) hide in a closet until M leaves. She also gives Bond his watch, fixed up from Q, and we learn that there’s a powerful magnet in it. This wouldn’t be important at all, except once they leaves, Bond immediately turns it on so that he can unzip the Italian agent’s dress.

Oh, that reminds me. The puns.

Random Italian Agent: Such a delicate touch.

Bond: Sheer magnetism, darling.

I’ll let you know when we get to my favorite of these. But Bond, you have a fucking mission; go pack!

We then cut to a scene of an airplane landing, interspersed with a fortune teller flipping tarot cards to…describe commercial air travel. Thrilling.

In addition to thinking about the racism of this film every 2 seconds, you’re going to be asking yourself, “but why don’t they just kill Bond??” every 4.

This begins almost immediately. Bond lands in NYC and gets in a taxi to meet up with our favorite CIA agent, Felix Leiter. I guess either from Solitaire’s awesome tarot reading, or the fact that it’s very reasonable for MI6 to send someone to investigate the murders of 3 field agents, Kananga, the man who runs what I can only characterize as the Great Black Consortium (GBC from now on…or da Bad Guys™), immediately knows that Bond is a dangerous man who should be eliminated. So a car that has side mirrors armed with some kind of gun pulls up next to the cab and the shoots…not Bond! They just kill the driver, and that almost kills Bond, but he steers the car to safety.

It’s probably here that I should tell you who “Solitaire” is. She is played by Jane Seymour. She is white, but an honorary member of the GBC. She is a tarot-card reader with mystical powers connected to her “virginity.” Yes.

Oh, something else about this movie: there’s a couple of times that Bond lands himself in some serious scrapes and needs his CIA contacts to pick him up and help deal with the local authorities. But every time this happens, Felix just shakes his head and is like, “oh Bond that rascal,” rather than, I don’t know, show any concern for the implications?

At the CIA hotel, we learn that Kananga’s official job is being the dictator of San Monique. He also has a PhD in something, because people call him “Dr.” They have his embassy bugged, but he’s able to slip the authorities with the same exact method Mary Kate and Ashley use to get away from their parents in Holiday in the Sun.

Anyway, the CIA may not have been able to tell that there was a running tape recorder, but they at least give Bond a lead on the car with the gun in its mirror, which is leased to a Voodoo shop, because of course it is. Bond heads there. The women working behind the desk is black, so that should immediately tip you off that she’s part of the GBC, which is quickly confirmed when he slips out the back of the shop to check out the car, and she contacts *someone* with the message “he’s tailing.”

Anyway, Kananga’s crew (Solitaire and a few henchmen, most notably “Mr. Whisper” and “Tee Hee”) slip into the exact same parking garage, because it’s connected to both a Voodoo shop and an embassy, and drive to Harlem. Bond hails a cab and asks his [black] driver to follow them.

“Man, for 20 bucks, I’d take you to a Ku Klux Klan cookout.”

Then we’re treated to a scene where we learn that every single black person in the city is part of the GBC. Literally, random people will stop what they’re doing on the streets and radio in to *someone* “he’s heading east,” or something of the like. Then when Bond gets out of the cab at its destination, a Fillet of Soul restaurant, the cabbie himself tells *someone* “he’s headin’ on in.” So…if the cabbie was working for the GBC, then why did these randos need to file a report too? Or why didn’t the cabbie just kill him?

Instead, Bond gets seated in a booth at the Fillet of Soul, but whoops it’s a trap, and the booth spins around to reveal some kind of like…waiting room? Solitaire is there doing a tarot reading, and we see Tee Hee, the henchman with a hook hand that looks worse than Buster’s from Arrested Development.

Here’s an idea? How about they just kill Bond? Like right now. He’s right there. But nah, Bond simply mills around as if he’s waiting for his appointment at the optometrist’s office. He goes and nudges Solitaire a bit, and poor Jane Seymour. She’s trying to take this so seriously. For some reason all of her cards say “007” on the back of them too, but that’s neither here nor there. More to get him away than anything else, she tells him to pick a card. It’s The Fool. “You have found yourself.” Har har.

Anyway, the doctor is finally in, and it’s this guy named Mr. Big, who literally pops his head out for 3 seconds and tells the guards in the room to “take him out back and waste him.” Actually, sorry, he says “Y’all take this honky out and waste him – now!”

Bond tries to make a joke to Solitaire, but she’s all “this reading is over,” as if this was supposed to be a formal reading in the first place. But after he pesters her a little more, she allows him one card about his future. It’s The Lovers. Jane Seymour acts her face off looking stunned.

Free her.

Bond is then led into the alley by two GBC randos who decide it’d be really fun to make him walk a 5K before actually shooting him, so of course he figures out how to beat them (he slams a fire escape stairwell in their face). Then another black guy appears, but here’s the twist: he works for the CIA and isn’t in the GBC! Seriously, the movie presents this like it’s shocking information. He scolds Bond for wearing a “white face in Harlem.” Then he tells him that the only man who can pull together so many GBC members is the crime boss named “Mr. Big.”

Close, but no.

Which is anticlimactic, because we literally just met Mr. Big 4 seconds ago. He told his henchmen to go waste Bond… Ah, never mind.

So now with a lead in NYC, Bond decides to go…to San Monique. Because Kananga went there? The movie never really explains why a dictator returning to his home is suspicious, but he is traveling with the same guys who were in the Fillet of Soul, so, sure. Fine.

Bond checks into a hotel where Baron Samedi, or the “Voodoo god of cemeteries and chief of the legion of the dead” is a “performer in a little musical extravaganza” for the other guests. Except his entire routine seems to be pointing at people and laughing.

The guy behind the hotel tells Bond that “Mrs. Bond” is already there, and gives him a key. Bond is clearly suspicious so he goes to his room and…strips into a fluffy robe, bathes, and shaves. He also checks the room for bugs (there’s 2), calls and orders a bottle of Bollinger, oh and kills a snake with aftershave that doubles as a flamethrower. Who dropped the snake in? Why did they think a snake was the best way to kill him? Why didn’t Mr. Whisper just like, shoot him (Mr. Whisper is a tubby member of the GBC who was the one driving the car that shot Bond’s cabbie back in NYC, and is now pretending to work for the hotel staff. Did I not mention? Who cares.)?

Don’t worry, now it’s time to get serious, because the door is opening, and someone with a gun is walking in. Bond can’t get to his own in time, so he settles on burning the person’s wrist with his cigar, and then throwing her onto the bed.

That’s right, folks, it’s time to meet Rosie! She claims she was sent by Felix to keep an eye on Bond, but she’s also black, so I’m not sure we should trust that. She also opens with “I guess I have some explaining to do,” as if she’s a naughty school child who is being disciplined by the principal. No, lady, you are an agent who is assigned to be here. Not that it won’t stop Bond from infantilizing her.

Bond decides to try and fuck her, because why not, but she actually rejects him. However, that is immediately recanted when she goes into her bedroom and spots a bowler hat with bloody chicken feathers sticking out of it. She screams that it’s a trap, and then begs Bond not to leave her alone that night.

Okay, pause, I don’t want to shock you, but Rosie is a member of the GBC. She’s a double agent? Like, it’s unclear. She works for Kananga, but I literally can’t tell if she was working for Felix at any point. Bond doesn’t think to call him, and Felix doesn’t think to give him a heads up. Bond gets alerted to her treachery when Solitaire mails him a Queen of Cups card in an “upside-down position.” Well, it actually just falls out of an envelope, but I guess it’s upside-down.

I also cannot tell if Rosie is feigning fear at the hat or not. She is clearly playing Bond, as any GBC member would do, so acting kind of stupid and afraid as a way of seeming innocent would be reasonable for her. Except that the narrative confirms how she is stupid and afraid. So…I’m not sure where this leaves us at all. At the intersection of Racism St. and Misogyny Blvd., I imagine.

And not to belabor the point, but why didn’t Rosie just kill Bond at their hotel after sleeping with him? She was in the perfect position to do that. Isn’t it what the GBC wants? When Mr. Big said “waste him,” that had to be literal, right?

Anyway, Bond and Rosie (who hasn’t yet been revealed as a double agent) set off to check out the place where the MI6 agent died via rubber snake, so they get on a boat captained by a random black dude. The real fun of this movie, by the way, is that you become conditioned to be suspicious of every black person on your screen. Charming. Apparently Rosie is suspicious too, because when she goes below deck to “change” (aka just take off her clothes to reveal a bikini…why did she need privacy for this?) she discovers that the captain is hiding a gun, and when she comes up on deck, it looks like he’s about to strangle Bond with rope. So she tells him to freeze even though she shouldn’t care if Bond dies, right? Then we’re treated to one of the best and least misogynistic lines ever:

“As I was saying, Quarrel, a lousy agent, but the compensations speak for themselves.”

The sex compensations.

Also it turns out that Quarrel (Jr.) is one of the two good black dudes in this movie, and he’s also just some cute fanservice. Oh and Rosie had left the safety on her gun when she was threatening him. Where does her stoopid act end, and her actual stoopid begin?  ¯\_(シ)_/¯

So Quarrel’s awesome boating skills take them to Solitaire’s house, which is this sweet mansion on a cliff-face. Inside, Jane Seymour is still showing up everyone else’s acting skills by doing a reading for Kananga about Bond, and having to be shocked and scared when she pulls a Lovers card again. But she covers her own ass to Kananga and tells him it’s Death. It’s at this point we learn that Solitaire’s power is tied to her “purity,” and when the “time comes,” Kananga himself plans to “take it from her,” as he apparently did her mother. I LOVE all of these implications!!!

Meanwhile, Rosie’s double agent act is going horribly, because she’s an actual idiot. Women, amirite? She changes up her story about where the MI6 agent was killed (it’s “down there” now), and Bond being all sneaky and smart suggests that they go fuck in the grass because he’s not in any hurry, despite the fact that she seems to be now. Dude, you’re kind of on a mission.

So whatever, they make out a little, and then Bond decides to pull out his Queen of Cups card, which is a warning that Rosie is a “deceitful, perverse woman. A liar, a cheat.” However, Rosie spots an EVHUL SCARECROW so she knows that the GBC people are watching and gonna kill her if she talks. Bond pulls a gun on her and says he’ll kill her if she doesn’t. She just kind of runs off, clearly terrified. Aaand, runs into the line of another scarecrow which shoots her.

Two things: 1.) She didn’t betray the GBC; she literally ran from Bond knowing he might shoot her in the back, so why did they kill her exactly? and 2.) BOND WAS IN FRONT OF THAT SCARECROW THIS WHOLE TIME. CLEAR SHOT, MAN.

Who cares, because then this happens with Jane Seymour’s hair and nothing else matters for the rest of the movie:

Anyway, I guess because there’s nowhere else to go, Bond breaks into Solitaire’s house, sits in her cool chair, and fucks with her cards…romantically?

She tells him to GTFO, but he says, “oohh ohh, pick a card if you really think I’m meant to go.” So she draws a card and it’s The Lovers. Then they make out, and as they do, it’s revealed that the entire deck is nothing but The Lovers.

Which, 1.) This is rape. I mean, I guess “rape by deception” wasn’t really a thing understood in the 70s, but David O. Selznick figured out that marital rape was a thing in 1939, so suck on that. 2.) Are we meant to believe that Bond bought 78 packs of tarot cards, sorted through all of them, and put together a complete “The Lovers” set, which he then had in his pocket all day? Did he even know they were going to Solitaire’s house?

Anyway, in bed, Solitaire starts to have a little bit of a breakdown because she, you know, just lost her powers and if Kananga finds out he’s going to fucking kill her. Fortunately Bond is really sensitive to her needs:

However, she has these odd emotional fluctuations between being absolutely petrified about her fate, and being absolutely randy and desperate for more of the sex. When Bond tells her that he’s going to take her with him to inspect this MI6 agent’s death (why?), she begs him to get back in bed with her first. Which leads to the absolute best pun in this movie:

Bond: There’s no sense in going off half-cocked.

So the next morning, Bond and Solitaire follow the path of scarecrows that killed Rosie, and we see from a cutaway scene that the GBC is, in fact, watching them. Why are they not shot? Then they hear random flute music, so Bond the SECRET AGENT just marches his ass up and says “hai” to the player. It’s Baron Samedi, btw, without makeup, and apparently Solitaire doesn’t recognize him. And his flute has a radio hidden in it, which I’m pretty sure would have messed with its sound, but whatever.

Meanwhile, Kananga gives the order, “if he finds it, kill him.” That’s very…magnanimous of him considering they’ve been low-key trying to murder Bond for a while now. Is that what Rosie’s job was? To allow Bond to “find it”? What is this plan??

“It,” btw is a crapload of poppy plants hidden under nets. So a helicopter comes to gun Bond (and Solitaire) down, even though Kananga tells everyone that he wants her alive. Then Kananga says, “any cost. Any. Bond must die.” This is brand new information.

Bond and Solitaire run through the poppy fields to a small town, where the local police are all part of the GBC. Though I guess this makes sense because Kananga is literally their dictator. Anyway, Bond steals a double-decker bus, and there’s a wacky chase scene, including some hilariously dramatic music as we pass a sign for “low bridge.” It turns out okay though.

They get back to Quarrel’s boat, and Bond tells Solitaire that it’s all over, and they can go anywhere she wants. “Anywhere they have one of these,” she says, lying back onto a bed. Turns out he’s still a manipulative sack of shit though, because his idea is to go to New Orleans (where that third MI6 agent was killed) to investigate things, and use her as bait, I guess to draw out whatever Kananga connections there might be in that city. Except that the MI6 agent who was killed at the beginning had already been staking out the Fillet of Soul, so it’s not as if there hadn’t been a lead.

Once there, Bond and Solitaire get into a taxi cab without bothering to check, I guess because Bond either figures that he’s walking into a trap and is happy about that fact, or he has learned absolutely nothing since the start of this movie. I know I fall into the latter category. So yeah, turns out the driver is the same exact cabbie as the one in NYC who made the KKK joke. He makes the locks on the door disappear and says that Mr. Big wants to see them because Bond “took something that belonged to a friend of his.” Do you get it? Solitaire is property.

He drives them to this airplane on a landing strip, where a henchman of Mild Importance (who isn’t Mr. Whisper or Tee Hee) tells Bond that he’s going skydiving. Apparently this henchman’s name is “Adam.” I find that hilarious.

Then Solitaire I guess decides to act as though she was kidnapped so she won’t get instantly killed by Kananga, while also using these wiles to give Bond an escape opportunity.

What.

It’s deadly effective. Bond gets away, runs a little, and then finds a small shitty plane that belongs to some kind of pilot school, which he climbs into. There’s this 80-year-old woman inside who was waiting for her instructor, so Bond says he’s the substitute or something. Then there’s another wacky chase scene that ends with the old lady saying a knee-slapping “holy shit.” Like, you can tell the writers were giggling.

We then cut to a scene of Felix patching things up with the owner of the pilot school, because apparently the CIA has never heard of administrative assistants. Hey, remember the good black guy who wasn’t Quarrel from this movie? The one who saved Bond’s white face in Harlem? Well he’s now staking out the New Orleans Fillet of Soul. Except, that same funeral procession of GBC members pops up again, so he dies.

Felix and Bond go to meet him though, and when they don’t see him outside, they just fucking walk into the Fillet of Soul. That they’re supposed to be staking out. Which they apparently aren’t worried about despite Bond’s “nasty turn in the booth” back at Harlem’s Fillet of Soul. In fact, Felix orders them Sazeracs and tells Bond “this is New Orleans. Relax.” YOU ARE TRYING TO STAKEOUT A MOB BOSS CONNECTED WITH AN OPIUM-GROWING DICTATOR.

This movie makes me want a Sazerac.

Felix gets pulled away from the table with a phone call, leaving Bond to watch the singer on stage. Who is implied as being a member of the GBC, because she makes Eye-Contact of Extreme Significance as the table gets lowered through a trap door. None of the people eating seem to give any shits, but as we’re about to find out, they’re consuming opiates. Not too sure why Felix wasn’t worth kidnapping, btw.

Anyway, down below, Mr. Big starts screaming at Bond and demanding if he had sex with Solitaire (“asking for a friend”), because apparently this was the only way to get that information. Also she’s sitting right there, but fuck if anyone bother asking for her opinion.

Free her.

When Bond tells him that he won’t give the info to a lackey, Mr. Big pulls at his face, which we realize is prosthetic, and guess who’s beneath? It’s Kananga! Emboldened by the impressive reveal, he then divulges his entire plan!

I apparently drew this a couple of years ago, but sums it pretty well:

I think the only snag in the plan is the fact that these new opiate addicts wouldn’t know they were addicts? Maybe? It seems like it’s just going in the soul food directly, but I could be wrong and the nuance is just too much for me. Or maybe the plan was always to make really pricey food.

But forget the plan, it’s time to get back to the important stuff: did Bond and Solitaire bone? This time, Bond says he’s a gentleman and won’t say either way. So Kananga decides to test Solitaire, which couldn’t have been done before, apparently. He has Tee Hee take Bond’s hand in his claw, and says that he will lose a finger if Solitaire’s tarot cards can’t tell her what his watch’s registration numbers are. She clearly guesses, and Kananga seems satisfied, giving Tee Hee an Official Nod. Then he tells the dude to take Bond “to the farm.” I assume to kill him.

Want to know something funny? He could have just shot Bond right there. Like 20 times. Bond was even strapped to the chair and had no method of escape.

Once Teehee, Adam, and Bond go off “to the farm,” Baron Samedi just saunters in for no reason, and does his best to annoy Kananga:

But that dude is already upset, because the registration number guess was wrong! And now Solitaire must die, because it was his right to rape her, not Bond’s! But they can’t kill her there; she has to die “at one proper time.”

“The farm” turns out to be a literal crocodile farm (not alligators, because what is geography?), except inside its main building, there’s people packing heroin. Tee Hee is a great tour guide, until he leaves Bond on a tiny ass island surrounded by crocs. However, rather than watch and make sure Bond actually dies, he and Adam just kind of shrug and head inside. Bond hops to safety on the back of the crocodiles’ backs.

Then I guess he wants to say “no” to drugs, because he torches the place, hops in a boat, and drives off. Adam gives pursuit in a car and other rando GBC members find boats of their own.

It’s at this point that we meet Sheriff JW Pepper, the hilarious Louisiana redneck. He pulls over Adam, and is clearly a giant racist dick, but at the same time Adam is trying to kill Bond, so…

Meanwhile, the boat chase cuts over the land right where this ticketing is happening, and JW gets a boat through his cop car (allowing Adam to drive off).

I don’t really know how to explain this chase for the rest of it. Bond is in his boat the whole time, but half the focus becomes JW. He hops in the back of a cop car with two random officers who I think work for him, but clearly hate him.

And frankly, for good reason because he’s an odious person.

This isn’t made better by the fact that JW just starts randomly talking about his brother-in-law, Billy Bob, because Billy Bob has the fastest boat on the river, and Billy Bob will catch them, and literally every other word out of his mouth is “Billy Bob.” Sadly for the actual Billy Bob, Adam knocks him out and takes his boat, which leads to a mildly interesting chase? Ish?

Not Billy Bob!

Bond ends up getting away, and Adam blows up in the process.

I wonder if there’s a GPS app that incorporates JW’s catch phrases.

We’re then treated to another scene where Felix shakes his head at Bond, the lovable scamp, rather than like, act as though he narrowly escaped death. Oh, then he casually tosses out “we busted the Fillet of Soul over an hour ago.” WHY DID THIS NOT HAPPEN BEFORE? LIKE RIGHT AFTER BOND WAS TAKEN IN THE HARLEM ONE? IT’S CLEARLY OWNED BY THE SAME PERSON.

Apparently Felix is also omniscient, and knows that Bond needs to go to San Monique again, because Kananga just got on a plane there (maybe in the bust he figures out the Mr. Big connection?). So cut back to the island, where there’s another Voodoo party, but this time it’s Solitaire who is being sacrificed. I guess this was the right time to die. I also guess there’s an argument to be made that her death being a public spectacle to the locals of the island sends a message about the power of Baron Samedi, or something? It’s slightly more logical than how Bond is possibly still alive.

Speaking of, he, Felix, and Quarrel show up on the outskirts of this party. Quarrel is assigned the task of planting explosives in the poppy fields, which I’m really not sure should be in the purview of the CIA or MI6. The Fillet of Soul busts make sense, but this…is almost an act of war maybe? Bond, meanwhile, is to rescue Solitaire. Felix is going to wait on the boat.

So, yeah. Bond saves her by shooting the dude with the snakes who wears the goat head, shooting a wooden dummy of Baron Samedi with oddly working eyeballs (who rose up from a trap door beneath a grave), and then sword-fighting and knocking the real Baron Samedi into a coffin full of snakes. Easy-peasy.

Yeah, I still don’t really get this tbh

Then, Bond decides to go down through the trap door that Baron Samedi came out of (taking Solitaire with him), which reveals an Underground Lair of Evilness. Actually, not really, it’s just an underground monorail system for the shipment of opium.

Kananga’s got a shitton of men there, so he’s able to capture Bond and Solitaire pretty easily. I should have mentioned that Bond came armed with a shark gun, that has inflating pellets, which Kananga tests out on a couch:

He also dismisses the destruction of his poppy fields with a wave of his hand because “they’re a sturdy plant.” Um…explosives, dude.

Either way, he wants to kill Bond, but this time the best way to accomplish that is to string both him and Solitaire up to a weird lift thing, then cut Bond’s arm in several non-lethal locations, so that his blood drips into the water below. Then, Kananga lets a shark into the room (why did he have this? It’s never explained).

However, Bond’s watch doubles as a razor blade, so he cuts his rope. Then he turns on the magnet and picks up one of his inflating shots from his shark gun. And as he’s slowly doing all of this, Kananga and Mr. Whisper (and probably those guards who were lining the room earlier) are just watching and doing nothing. Logic. Solitaire spends her time clinging to the lift.

Anyway, Bond somehow traps Mr. Whisper inside of a bomb chassis or something?

Then he and Kananga fight and both fall in the water with the shark. Bond forces the inflatable pellet into Kananga’s mouth, and then pushes off his body and climbs out of the water before the shark gets to them. Kananga goes to the surface and takes a breath, causing this to happen:

Solitaire apparently didn’t watch any of this despite being right the fuck there, so she asks Bond what happened to Kananga. “He always did have an inflated opinion of himself.” Suddenly the pun about Xenia’s “good squeeze” is sounding Shakespearean in context. I’m not sure what happened to Kananga’s guards or everyone working under there, but I guess they stopped giving a shit, because Bond and Solitaire just skip on out.

So yay! Mission accomplished! The Lovers board a train so that they can fuck on their way to the 21 Club, where they’re apparently going to meet up with Felix again. However Tee Hee breaks into their cabin and folds the bed into the wall with Solitaire still on it:

He and Bond talk for a bit, and fight for like 5 full minutes, until Bond snips some mechanical wires in Tee Hee’s metal arm, causing it to malfunction and get stuck to the window. Then he manages to throw Tee Hee out the window, which I guess kills him. Bond pulls the bed back out to free Solitaire, and she just goes “well that wasn’t very funny!” because she couldn’t hear anything? Bond removes Tee Hee’s arm from the window for one final pun:

Solitaire: Now what are you doing?

James: Just being disarming, darling.

End movie. Cut to the front of the train where Baron Samedi is sitting and laughing. I’m not sure if we’re actually supposed to think he survived, but it is what it is.

This…this franchise goes beyond “problematic fave,” right? I mean, I’d hardly call it a fave. In truth, I have no idea how it is that I sat through this two-hour movie enjoying every second of it, but I did, I really did. And I’d happily put on The Man with the Golden Gun to watch JW’s triumphant return. So I’m just going to chalk this up to ironic enjoyment, and only be slightly paranoid if I find myself in any booths during my trip.


Images courtesy of United Artists

Kylie is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals on a mission to slay all the tropes. She has a penchant for complex familial dynamics and is easily pleased when authors include in-depth business details.

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‘Deadpool 2’ Plays With Us and Itself

Jeremiah

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Deadpool 2 is a thoroughly violent, raucous, hilarious meta heartfelt meditation on trauma and family. A giddy middle finger to the self-serious offerings from the Warner Brothers/DC movies. It’s also a glorious raspberry to the convoluted and lazy scriptwriting of Marvel’s latest Avengers movie. More importantly, it shows both studios how it’s done.

For all it’s irreverence and wacky fourth wall breaking, Deadpool 2 has a structure it stringently adheres to. By ‘structure’ I mean that it takes its time setting up and exploring characters and situations while still maintaining a sort of breathless nihilistic glee. It has time travel, but there are rules and consequences. Deadpool may have regenerative powers, but that doesn’t mean he is indestructible.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) as Deadpool is meant to be a sort of satiric caricature. He’s a comic book character who knows he’s a comic book character. The madman who knows more than anyone just how mad he is. The first Deadpool got a lot of mileage out of playing with this notion. At times Deadpool felt like a looney tunes cartoon on acid with Barry Manilow as the soundtrack.

Deadpool 2  leans into this sensibility while also showing the character is actually quite fertile for growth. Unlike his counterparts, Deadpool spends his time not helping people so much as murdering bad people who have hired him to murder other bad people. Any heroics that happen to be achieved are purely accidental and probably in the vein of Wade’s self-interest.

At least until Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Wades vulgar cynical soul mate is gunned down in their apartment. Vengeance bound, Wade quickly runs her killer down and doles out his own particular brand of justice. Distraught and morose Wade attempts suicide in a way that feels utterly cartoonish but wholly organic to Deadpool.

Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) arrives to put Wade back together again, literally. Deadpool 2 zigzags through genres and tropes, but it never feels as if it just merely checking off boxes. With each zig and zag, we find our expectations thwarted.

Reynolds is so perfect as Wade Wilson that it’s less acting and more laconic conjuring. The Deadpool mask covers his face entirely yet somehow we can feel the manic toothy grin all but strain against the red blood soaked fabric. The comedic timing is pristine, but it never comes at the expense of the pathos of Wade Wilson.

What is sometimes forgotten is that without his powers Wade Wilson is just a man dying of cancer. David Leitch brutally reminds us when Wade is forced to wear a collar that inhibits his regenerative capabilities. Stripped of his suit and his ability to heal he is instead just a man constantly on the edge of death. Remarkably though, Wade never ceases to be Wade. Though riddled with cancer and self-pity the humor and allergy to authority are never gone.

Colossus and his protege, the epically named, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) drag Wade kicking and screaming to Xavier’s Home for the Gifted. Deadpool is an anarchic cyclone of murder and chaos. Predictably he bristles at Colossus rules and orders of how things are done.

A petulant Wade stomps around the mansion, his only source of joy is Yukio (Shiori Kutsuna), Negasonic’s girlfriend. Yukio and Negasonic are rarely, if ever, not in the same frame holding hands. A couple so cute and perfect even Wade is forced to smile and cheerlead the two.

Part of Wade’s X-Men training has him showing up to help a young boy Russell (Julian Dennison). It’s here Deadpool 2 begins to hint at something deeper. A young mutant with the ability to shoot fire from his fists seems hell-bent on destroying everything in his path. As a trainee, Wade is thrown into the situation to try and talk the kid down. Because all Wade does is talk he’s able to discover the boy is being abused. His anger is valid and the destruction merely a cry for help.

Deadpool 2 has stakes. The stakes aren’t the end of the world or galaxy threatening, thank God. Rhett Reese, Ryan Reynolds, and Paul Wernick’s script instead focus on something the superhero movies with a couple of notable exceptions have ignored or forgotten. What does it mean to be a hero?

By design, Deadpool is not meant to be part of a team. Yet Wade desperately wants a family. He and Vanessa were working to have a child before she was brutally gunned down. Much of Wade’s anguish is the loss of the dream of having a family. All corny and melodramatic which is why it’s so brilliant that Deadpool 2 pulls it off not just well but brilliantly.

Cable (Josh Brolin) a bounty hunter of sorts from the future arrives to hunt down Russell. Wade may be crazy, but even he’s baffled as to why anyone would want to kill a  kid. Yet, Wade also can’t keep his mouth shut and alienates Russell when he needed Wade the most.

Brolin does quiet, wordless brooding in his sleep. Likewise, Cable is a part that fits Brolin like a glove. He struts across the screen with a swagger capped by a smoldering grimace. Charismatic as all hell, Brolin somehow manages to get us to root for him and against him, often within the same scene.

Unlike Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2 slams rules and exceptions on time travel. Its a plot device but not one without consequences. Not only does this raise the stakes but it also draws boundaries around what, when, and where the characters must go to further the plot. The writers are forced to deal with issues both narrative and emotionally as opposed to leaving them dangling or hand wave them away.

What’s more Deadpool 2 has the audacity to switch bad guys in midstream. The evolution of the character arcs of Russell and Cable and how they relate to Wade borderlines on a sort of loony sad poetry. Death surrounds Wade, even as he tries to assemble a team of experts and mutants.

Along the way, Wade meets Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose power is luck, and the plot begins to fall neatly into place. Beetz is a ray of effortless sunshine. She gives Domino a flower child, easy going demeanor who’s not afraid to get her hands bloody.

The culmination of all this time traveling, random death, and wisecracking monologues is Wade’s realization that his actions and words have consequences. Bad guys are sometimes good people, and monsters often look like everyone else.

Leitch paces Deadpool 2 as if it were a manic breeze. He packs the frames with action in the foreground and background. Much like his other movies John Wick and Atomic Blonde he allows us to see the punch and the kicks land. The fights are a ballet of haphazardness. Most superhero fights are like a dance. But when your character is the Tasmanian Devil personified you’re forced to dance the Macera to a Mahler composition played on a flaming tuba with kazoo accompaniments.

Leitch’s biggest accomplishment is following the simple creed of “Let Deadpool be Deadpool,” and all that may entail. Deadpool 2 is a deeply felt violently hilarious melodrama about loss and loneliness. The heavy stuff works not just because the filmmakers know how to balance the tones, though they do.  

It works because the script has slyly laid the groundwork. But it also works because it allows us to not just spend time with Domino, Wade, Cable, Russell, Negasonic, Yukio, and Colossus. But because it allows us to understand why they are the way they are.


Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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The Happytime Murders Looks to Murder Your Childhood

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Following the deaths of the stars of former show The Happytime Gang, two detectives (one human and one puppet) try to solve the murders. Have you ever imagined what Who Framed Roger Rabbit? would be like if it tried to be as crude and immature as humanly possible? Well, that’s what The Happytime Murders looks like. I sure hope the actual movie isn’t as bad as this trailer was.

I suppose the concept could work. Take the idea of humans and Muppets living side by side, make it visually gritty, don’t take yourself too seriously, and really sell the idea of this world’s existence. This trailer seems to do literally the exact opposite of that. I couldn’t watch this without feeling like Happytime Murders just wants to use Muppets to be as shocking as possible in hopes of cheap laughs. Nothing about this trailer made me feel like they tried to make a real world out of this movie at all. I really hope I’m wrong. Hopefully, I am.

If I am wrong, then this trailer was a huge failure. All it did was make me hate the very idea of this movie. I’m not sure I’ve ever rolled my eyes as much as I did during the ejaculation joke at the end. And then they doubled down and did it again. I guess some people will take this less seriously than I do, and that’s fine. No judgment here. After all, humor can be very subjective.

The Happytime Murders hits theaters on August 17. If it’s as bad as it looks here, and Melissa McCarthy somehow makes it work, then maybe consider her for some awards. And if I’m wrong about how bad the movie looks here, then I will happily eat crow about it.


Images Courtesy of STX Films

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The Top 5 Best Portrayals of Sherlock Holmes in Film or Television

Jeremiah

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Due to scheduling conflicts, Thad and I were unable to record our episode of Beneath the Screen of the Ultra-Critics. We will return in two weeks with an episode about the Hays Code. This time both our voices will be audible, so it doesn’t sound like one long Andy Kauffman style prank.

This week though Thad and I decided, in light of Elementary being renewed for another season, to rank our favorite Sherlock Holmes in film and television. We had one caveat; the character has to actually be Sherlock Holmes. What this means is characters like Dr. Gregory Hous (Hugh Laurie) who are clearly inspired by Holmes are not eligible. Nor is Justin Playfair (George C. Scott) on the list because he only believes he is Sherlock Holmes and that doesn’t count either. Sadly, this means Basil of Baker Street (Barrie Ingham) is nowhere to be found but rest assured he is, in fact, one of the great fictional detectives.

Once again, we blithely court controversy by daring to rank the portrayals of a fictional detective over a hundred and thirty years old.  We fully acknowledge that this is list is the only one of its kind in existence. Which makes our decisions all the more final and inarguable.

5. Basil Rathbone

Sherlock Holmes’s iconic deerstalker hat came not from Doyle, so much as from the illustrations that accompanied the Holmes stories in The Strand. Likewise, the image of Holmes we conjure up in our brain when we think of the Baker Street occupant is more than likely Basil Rathbone’s. Remarkable since, even though Rathbone played Holmes for seven years, few people today have seen or heard of him.

Yet, all prior depictions have been more or less been modeled after his gaunt granite thin-lipped demeanor. The sly sardonic smile and steepled fingers practically thrive in the public conscious when we think about the great detective. Rathbone’s performance is lodged in our collective psyche. Holmes is an archetype, and early actors played him as such.

Rathbone’s performance lacks any real complexity, but then again the scripts weren’t calling for it. They called for a simmering and brooding Holmes with acidic quips and sharp denunciations and that’s what Rathbone gave us. More than any physical attribute, it’s how he walked at the clipped pace and held himself on the edges of the frames. When Rathbone played Holmes, it was less a character and more a calm and collected wraith.

4. Robert Downey, Jr.

Far from the first American to play Sherlock Holmes, Downey brought his singular energy and presence to the role. Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes pay little heed to Doyle’s original source material. But through it, all Downey gives us delightfully fun and impish Holmes.

Arguably Downey’s Holmes is the least mature on the list. Ritchie’s characters tend to be the types found on the floors of local bars near closing time. The contrast between Doyle’s staunch upper-class tendencies and Ritchie’s deeply embedded working-class humor leads to a weird adventure yarn more suited for a Doc Savage book than a Sherlock Holmes story.

Downey pulls it off. His Watson (Jude Law) hews much more to the stuffy tweed wearing visage of his origins. Mixed with Downey’s street brawler Holmes though the two make the whole thing feel like an idea Shane Black had but never got around to working out. Downey’s performance seems to hint at the Holmes imagined by Doyle more than any other before or since. Less a faithful hew to the performances before him, Downey’s Holmes was a punk rock rebel.

3. Sir Ian McKellen

Of all the movies about Sherlock Holmes, I find none of them as haunting and beautiful as Bill Condon Mr. Holmes. Less a faithful adaptation of the source material and more of a meditation on Holmes himself. Mr. Holmes none the less is a moving story about the great detective nearing the end of his life.

Sir Ian McKellen plays Holmes stripped of his pretenses. His determined gait and calculated movements now replaced with shaky hands and a walking stick less for show and more for necessity. Filled with regret and longing for the choices he’s made McKellen’s Holmes is a tragic melodramatic figure. Old age and dementia are raving the once great mind.

Condon plays with us as he intertwines the memory of Holmes and our expectations of Holmes laced with Holmes disapproval of the public’s perception of him. Staying with a widow and a young boy he finds himself enjoying their company. When the boy lashes out at his mother, Holmes demands he apologizes.

“Go after her. You must apologize for saying things that were meant to hurt. You were cruel. If you don’t apologize, you will regret it.” The boys scoff at the old man. “People always say that.” “Because it’s true.” Holmes snaps.  When the boy asks if Holmes regrets anything, “So. Much.” McKellen’s Holmes is a man who realizes his loneliness is of his own doing.

2. Jonny Lee Miller

Elementary is far and away the most complex and adult modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. The picture of Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) with Watson (Lucy Liu) is apt. Unlike almost every other adaptation Watson is viewed as an equal part of the Holmes narrative. What we get is not just a Holmes story but a Holmes story about his relationship with another person who challenges and supports him at the same time.

He’s a fully functional adult who’s struggling with addiction. Holmes forthright struggle with addiction humanizes him in a way most other portrayals fail. Earlier Holmes either downplay Holmes drug abuse, such as Steven Moffat’s Sherlock. Or flat out ignore it.  By addressing it and understanding that addiction is a lifelong progress, Elementary forces Sherlock to evolve not just as a character but as a human being.

Miller brings a wounded and confused anxiety to his Holmes. People are more than puzzles to him—they represent possibilities. He trains Watson because she shows an intellectual aptitude and a moral fortitude to what Holmes believes to be a higher calling, a private detective. His Holmes understands intelligence is something that is both inherent and taught. Miller’s Holmes is often the smartest person in the room but rarely is he the only smart person present.

 

1. Jeremy Brett

Of all the Holmes on this list, none of them capture the mercurial enigma that is Jeremy Brett’s, Sherlock Holmes. His Holmes bubbles with glee and excitement underneath his quivering jaw. Cool and calm under fire but un-hesitant to leap to the floor crawling at the floorboards to reveal a hiding spot. Brett fumes with a manic energy that brings an entirely fresh and singular vision of Holmes.

Far from the stiff upper lit Londoner, Brett’s Holmes has a twinkle in his eye. A hunger for the rages within his breast as he shares with Watson how he had figured all out. Yet, much like Miller’s Sherlock, Brett also has a great humanity within him. The Case of the Blue Carbuncle, in particular, shows him scouring the London streets on Christmas Eve to help out a local policeman who’s come to him for help.

The Case of the Six Napoleons reveals to us the complex sensitive and egotistical side of the great man. Inspector Lestrade compliments Holmes on his deductive work. “We’re not jealous of you, you know? No sir, we’re proud of you.” Brett’s cool demeanor cracks as he receives validation from a source he respects very much. Brett’s Sherlock is quite simply a marvel of restraint with sudden outbursts of great emotion. Rarely has the great man ever been portrayed with such passion, glee, and deep sympathetic humanity.


Images courtesy of CBS, Miramax, and Warner Bros.

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