James Bond Review: Thunderball (dir. by Terence Young)

The Shattered Lens is taking on all of the Bond Films, one a day until the U.S. Release of Skyfall on November 9th. Today, we approach the fourth Bond Picture, Thunderball. Before I start, I should note that this film actually has a bit of controversy behind it. Thunderball had the potential to become one of the first Bond films, but a law suit in 1961 stating that Ian Fleming’s novel for the story was based on the screenplay for the film. Producer Kevin McClory was able to win the lawsuit and hold on to the rights. This would later result in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, with Sean Connery returning to play the same role in the same story as he did in 1965. In the meantime, Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger were released with great success.

Before watching the movie, I watched a 1965 documentary from NBC called “The Incredible World of James Bond”, which talked about Ian Fleming, James Bond, and the overall popularity of the character. By the time Goldfinger came out, you’d find lines around theatres all around the world. People were buying colognes and watches – if it had 007 written on it, it was an easy sale. Both the books and the movies were doing extremely well. So with Thunderball being the latest release, it was similar to having perhaps the next Harry Potter or Twilight film on the way. I also learned that Q (Desmond Llewelyn) actually has a name, Major Boothroyd. That was cool to discover.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed Thunderball.  It’s the only Bond film I’ve never seen and the production values for the film were some of the most elaborate around at the time of it’s release. They went out of their way to create submersible machines and other equipment, but the fact that so much of the film took place underwater really caused me to lose interest in what was going on. Granted, it may be fun for many people, but I really wanted to them to give me a few more locales under than the major underwater harpoon fight that occurs near the film’s action climax. Both Tom Jones’ theme song (which describes Bond’s approach to things) and John Barry’s score help to set the mood of the story.

Thunderball continues the SPECTRE story started with Dr. No. Originally, this was supposed to be SMERSH, but that was a real group, much like the KGB or CIA. For movie purposes, SMERSH became SPECTRE to avoid giving any of the Bond stories an anti-nation slant. This would also be done with Quantum of Solace, the organization being something private rather than being any kind of counter intelligence group. This time around, the story opens with Bond attending the funeral of one of the SPECTRE members, and on seeing his wife getting into a car on her own (something I didn’t see as wrong), he follows her to her home to confront her. It’s revealed that the widow is actually the SPECTRE agent (I wasn’t expecting the punch that revealed it), and in the fight Bond ends up killing him. He makes a quick exit and uses a jet pack to get out of the building, where his Aston Martin is waiting for him. It was kind of interesting to see that there was that kind of technology in the 60s.

SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) is given the task to acquire two Nuclear weapons and decides he’s going to blow up Miami if he doesn’t get his way. Bond is assigned to stop him, and along the way he meets Domino (Claudine Auger), who assists him on this.

At the time of it’s release, Thunderball was a major hit and even won an Academy Award. It managed to come out at the height of Connery’s career as the secret agent. It does suffer from one or two flaws. As most of the story takes place on or near a beach, there are tons of underwater sequences, including a full out battle. Even Finding Nemo took some time to stay on the surface once in a while. This doesn’t make Thunderball a terrible film at all, it simply focuses the story on one element. I would have liked a little more variety.

Q’s gadgets for Bond this time around included a Geiger Counter, a rebreather, an underwater camera, and a personal flare gun, all for the life aquatic.

Overall, Thunderball’s a good film to watch if you’re doing what we’re doing here and are watching the films in a series. You may find yourself a little bothered by the amount of underwater scenes, but the movie still manages to keep some of the spy vibe of the earlier films. Below is Tom Jones’ theme to the film. Tomorrow, the Shattered Lens will take on the David Niven / Peter Sellers version of Casino Royale.

A Horror Quickie: Paranormal Activity 4 (dir by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost)

Paranormal Activity 4 is the first proper sequel to Paranormal Activity.  Whereas the second Paranormal Activity film showed events that were happening at the same time as the first film and the third film took place several years before the first one, Paranormal Activity 4 actually takes place several years after the conclusion of the first and second films.  It also makes an attempt to further expand the franchise’s mythology but, ultimately, this film just proves that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

In Paranormal Activity 4, Kathryn Newton plays Alex, a teenager who is suspicious of both her odd neighbor Katie (played by a returning Katie Featherston) and Katie’s creepy son, Robbie (Brady Allen).  When Katie is mysteriously taken ill, Alex’s family agrees to take in Robbie while Katie recovers.  As soon as Robbie movies in, all of the usual Paranormal Activity stuff starts happenings.  Doors are mysteriously slammed,  a chandelier falls from the ceiling to the floor and nearly crushes Alex, and Robbie befriends Alex’s adopted little brother, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp).  Alex rightly suspects that Robbie is somehow involved with everything that’s happening but she can’t get her constantly bickering parents to listen to her.  So, she does the next best thing and she gets her geeky (but cute) boyfriend (played by the very likable Matt Shively) to set up every computer in the house with a webcam.  Soon, even more strange things are happening and the cameras are there to record all of it…

I saw Paranormal Activity 4 at a midnight screening with my best friend Evelyn and that’s probably the best way to see it, late at night when you’re less concerned about logic and surrounded by a bunch of people who are determined to make the film an interactive experience.  The worst thing you can do, while watching a Paranormal Activity film, is to start thinking about why nobody ever leaves the house or whether or not someone would actually keep filming while being chased by demonic spirits.  Instead, you just have to sit back and enjoy the silly experience for what it is.

When compared to the other films in the series, Paranormal Activity 4 is better than the first two entries but nowhere close to being as good as the third installment.  Kathryn Newton and Matt Shively are likable in the lead roles and there’s an adorable orange house cat who shows up at various points during the film.  (The cat may actually be the smartest character in the entire film because, whenever anything weird starts happening, she does the smart thing and leaves the room.)   Plus, the house in Paranormal Activity 4 is a really nice house.  Seriously, if not for the evil spirits and all that, I would love to live there.

Another year means another Paranormal Activity (or, as Evelyn put it when we saw this film, “Again with this?”).  Since these films all tend to have the same strengths and flaws and since they all tend to tell the same story, they can be difficult to review.  You can either enjoy these films for what they are or you can just throw your hands up in the air in frustration.   If you enjoyed the first three Paranormal Activities, you’ll enjoy the fourth.  If you spent the previous Paranormal Activity films wondering why everyone was so busy setting up video equipment (as opposed to just leaving the house), then Paranormal Activity 4 is not for you.

October Music Series: 下村陽子 – Beware the Forest’s Mushrooms

Yoko Shimomura was a rising star when she composed the Super Mario RPG soundtrack in 1996, fresh out of Capcom and ready to embark on a higher profile career with Square. The whole soundtrack was exceptional, but one track in particular was so catchy that it’s been stuck in my head ever since, and it’s most certainly appropriate for a fall theme.

Within the game, the song plays to a forest maze–one of those looping maps that can have you wondering around forever if you don’t pay attention. ‘Forest music’ has always been among the best tracks in RPG scores, but I don’t know that anyone’s pulled one off as effectively as Yoko Shimomura. It’s not quite as dark and haunting as say, Koji Kondo’s “Forest” from A Link to the Past or Yasuaki ‘Bun Bun’ Fujita’s “Deep Forest” from Breath of Fire, nor as calm as Yasunori Mitsuda’s “Secret of the Forest” from Chrono Trigger, to name some contemporaries. It’s far more friendly and inviting, which really makes it all the more dangerous, because at the end of the day you’re still getting lost in a deep forest maze filled with monsters out to kill you. It draws you in, makes you want to keep on wandering, like a good proper evil enchanted forest ought to.

It’s also the theme song to Geno, a doll possessed by the spirit of one of the stars you’re out to rescue, who really creeped me out as a kid because I thought that orange thing on his hat was his nose for some reason.