Saturday, May 18, 2013

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

This is the DVD cover, because the
movie poster is silly and misleading.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the sixth James Bond movie, based on the tenth James Bond book. It’s a quieter movie than a lot of the others, it follows Bond’s relationship with one woman, Tracy, and an unaffiliated mission to track down Blofeld. This is the only movie starring George Lazenby as Bond, and there are a couple internal nods to the fact that this is the same character with a different actor.

The romance between Tracy and Bond is fairly poignant, if occasionally as over-the-top as the rest of the movie. The action plot revolves around Bond posing as a genealogist to infiltrate Blofeld’s stronghold in the Alps. Blofeld has a fairly silly plot to use a bunch of hypnotised young women to damage the world’s food supplies (this made slightly more sense in the book), but the important thing for our purposes is that it’s Christmas! So there is a ski chase which is sometimes very exciting and sometimes a little too obviously blue-screened, and a chase through a ice-skating Christmas party in a little Swiss town.

This movie is rather famous for its ending, which I did find quite moving even though I’d seen it before. The score is notable as well, some of the best music in the series. There is plenty of action, but overall it’s more grounded, in both emotion and level of realism, than many of the films that came before and after it. Among hard-core Bond fans, it’s often the favorite of the series. Until Casino Royale, it was probably the one that most closely follows the plot of one of the original novels.

I enjoy On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but I have to be in just the right mood for it. It’s a solid action/romance, though a little dated.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (1982)

Until I saw this special referenced in an article about the Grinch last year, I didn't realize there were other Grinch specials produced. Once I knew, though, I really had to track them down, even if their connection to Christmas begins and ends with The Grinch. But as far as I'm concerned, having the Grinch in something is pretty much the same as including Santa: de facto Christmas. I'm sure we'll get to the Halloween one eventually, but I wanted to take a look at the "The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat" while it's seasonal.

It was pretty easy to find on Youtube if you're interested in checking it out after reading my review. But, honestly, if you're still interested after my review, it probably means you have anterograde amnesia. Don't take chances: take a polaroid of the opening credits and write, "Don't waste your time" at the bottom. Shit. Who has a polaroid camera anymore? I guess you're screwed.

While I can't find official verification on this, I suspect this was supposed to be a Mother's Day special, at least while it was in production. Wikipedia insists its original air date was May 20, 1982, which means they missed Mother's Day by a week and a half. Still, I suspect the original intention was to air it for the holiday.

The special is set in early spring. The Cat in the Hat sets out on a picnic, only to have it thwarted by the Grinch, who then begins using sound and light manipulation devices to torment the cat. That's pretty much the entire plot. Think G-rated torture porn.

The Cat in the Hat wins by assembling a bunch of people who can't sing and getting them to sing a crappy song about the Grinch's mother, who isn't actually in the special, unless you count a picture on the Grinch's nightstand. Still, this warms his heart and - I don't know - his spleen grows three sizes or something. He disassembles his evil machines, and it all ends happily-ever-after.

If you're reading my description thinking there's about five minutes worth of material here, you're really giving it too much credit: that's a 2 minute premise at best. Unfortunately, network TV refused to air things less than a half-hour, so get ready for some stretching.

The worst thing about this is that, contrary to appearances, it was actually written by Dr. Seuss, so you can't just write it off as a cheap knock-off. It's deeply depressing to sit through something this bad with his name attached. Attached by him, I mean: just about everything with his name attached these days is garbage, but that's not really his fault.

This is pretty bad: skip it and watch the original Christmas special for the fiftieth time instead.