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Spectre

The Peanuts Movie

November 5, 2015

Spectre (** ½) PG-13

The James Bond franchise, up until this point, has been that rare cinematic franchise that dared to march to the beat of its own drummer. Sometimes the individual Bond films fell into formula trappings but it was also a franchise that did its own thing, often quite successfully, time after time. With the latest entry, the 24th feature film Spectre, it’s apparent that the protectors of the James Bond brand have opted to go trendy and have made the decision to turn the film franchise into a continuing series of interconnected adventures, a decision that’s likely to alienate casual viewers of the series.

The obvious decision to steer the series into the same territory as the Marvel and DC franchises, to name only two examples, is only one issue that plagues the film. The problem with Spectre is the same age-old dilemma that has railroaded far too many big budgeted film properties, namely coming up with ways to top previous successes.

Since the last entry in the series, Skyfall, was widely considered to be one of the best if not the final word in the franchise and was wildly successful from a financial standpoint, the keepers of the Bond flame have opted to try and top themselves with even bigger action set pieces than one would find in the previous entry.

Daniel Craig in Spectre, the new 007 film

Unfortunately, over the top action sequences do not a successful film make and the blatantly obvious problems with story inherent in the film are readily apparent when the film isn’t trying to wow us with its assaults on our senses.

The film opens with what is admittedly an arresting set piece that’s likely to remain in the hearts of Bond fans for some time to come wherein Bond (Daniel Craig, of course, but unfortunately looking very disinterested throughout) is in Mexico and attempting to take care of business as requested by his late boss M (Judi Dench) in a video found after her death. The credit sequence, in spite of a lackluster song by Sam Smith, is also on par with the one found in the last film.  From that point on, unfortunately, it’s all down hill as Bond finds his job threatened by a newcomer to the organization (Andrew Scott) who wants to shut down the spy business. Bond later uncovers the shadowy organization known as Spectre, run by the film’s villain Blofeld (Christoph Waltz, bringing really nothing new to the role). Along the way, he also gets romantically involved with Monica Belucci (the oldest Bond girl yet at 50 and looking pretty amazing) as well before the inevitable showdown between Blofeld and Bond that forms the final section of the picture.

As I said, on the plus side the film does feature some terrific stunt sequences but Spectre really sputters when it’s on land. It feels like a patchwork of the best material found in the previous Bond films featuring Daniel Craig. It may not be as bad as Craig’s low point in Quantum of Solace from 2008 but it’s dangerously close. 

The Peanuts Movie (***) G

Cautiously optimistic is a term I use quite often these days when it comes to certain reboots/remakes, at least those which appear, at first glance, to have been made with some sort of loving care or affection for the original source material. Usually it’s quite evident that too many of these retreads are put into production with the ultimate goal being just to turn over a quick profit. Every now and then, however, a nice surprise comes my way. The Peanuts Movie is one of them.

Those who grew up with the beloved Peanuts characters will be pleasantly surprised at how reverential the film is to the comic strips and animated specials that sprang from the mind of Charles Schulz beginning some 65 years ago. There are references galore to many of the key lines and situations that are indelibly etched into the public consciousness from the multiple animated Peanuts specials made during the 70s/80s heyday of the comics’ popularity.

This plot hinges on one of the signature set pieces from those specials of the 1970s, namely Charlie Brown’s crush on the little red haired girl and his attempts to win her heart. Charlie Brown is still just as unsure of himself and filled with as much self-loathing as ever as he struggles to muster up the courage to speak to the girl of his dreams. A good chunk of the film’s story hinges on Charlie’s attempts to concoct a scheme that will allow for some sort of validation from his crush but, of course, the film stops long enough to allow time for Snoopy to do battle with The Red Baron every now and again. The film also gives the audience ample opportunities to spend time with the other colorful characters from the Peanuts gang.

The film was shot in 3-D and animated digitally but still manages to remain faithful to the look of the classically hand drawn Peanuts specials of days gone by. The 3-D effects are nice but I wouldn’t say that it’s absolutely necessary to see the film this way as 2-D is probably going to serve the film just as well.

If there were a complaint to hedge against the film it might be that the film tries, at times, to be too reverent to the classic Peanuts as we know and love them. Every now and then I found myself wishing that the film might venture off into some unchartered territory and surprise me. Still, it’s comforting to see a film that obviously was made with such loving care and attention. It’s hard not to applaud an effort like that.

Both films are currently playing all around the area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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