Saturday, November 18, 2017
Things To Do

Review: 'Spectre' is a clumsy, disappointing stumble for James Bond

RECOMMENDED READING


Has any franchise ever taken the tumble from one movie to the next that Spectre does from Skyfall?

I'm hard-pressed to think of one, and depressed to report that James Bond is alive and not doing well. Watching Spectre unfold, lumbering and slumbering, on the heels of a franchise high is a shock, so much talent coasting this time.

Spectre appears to wrap up Daniel Craig's era of Agent 007 fame; four films, now two disappointments counting Quantum of Solace. With Skyfall, Oscar winning director Sam Mendes set the myth on a new course that Spectre attempts to drag the first two Craig vehicles into. It isn't a nifty fit.

Mendes seems to have listened to anyone believing Skyfall didn't showcase enough Bond stunts. Spectre features several such set pieces, that Mendes hasn't displayed the chops for staging. Whatever plane, train, automobile or boat Bond can board (often without explanation) is ripe for a chase, crash or fisticuffs.

Just like every other soulless blockbuster, this one more head-shaking than usual.

Spectre sets its customary big-bang opening in Mexico City, teeming with Day of the Dead celebrants. One skeletal reveler is Bond on an unauthorized mission, filmed in an extended tracking shot as he seduces his way into a woman's bedroom for a clearer view to a kill. One target escapes, leading to a foot chase then fist fight inside a helicopter spinning too long and gimbal-smooth for thrills sake.

A promising start, although that impression lasts only as long as it takes to strike up Sam Smith's falsetto dirge Writing's on the Wall, appropriately played over the worst opening credits in 007 history. Craig glowers at the camera, shirtless, muscular arms folded, while gloomy under-dressed women writhe around him, and octopi ripple like Rockettes. The sequence is beyond bad, bordering on stale Austin Powers parody.

Between the limbs and tentacles viewers will spot Spectre's villain, played by two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz. Take a good look. Four screenwriters couldn't figure out a way to get Waltz further involved in Spectre until far too late and infrequently for an arch villain to matter, even with a spoilable secret identity.

Spectre is about the ghosts of Bond films past, specifically Craig's era. The movie is chock full o' callbacks to stunts, gadgets and emotional and bureaucratic scars left by Skyfall's MI-6 apocalypse. Judi Dench's M is dead, and her successor (Ralph Fiennes) is on career support, his Double-Oh spy program deemed obsolete by a hot shot (Andrew Scott) derisively nicknamed C.

Bond's Mexico escapade was a prequel vendetta, leading to his suspension from duty. That doesn't stop Bond, still driven by grief over Vesper Lynd's drowning in Casino Royale, and MI-6's destruction. A message from beyond the grave sends him globetrotting, with hesitant assistance from Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (an invaluable Ben Whishaw).

Revenge will require an encore by Craig's least interesting adversary (Quantum of Solace's Jasper Christensen), the introduction of a rare Bond girl who doesn't entice (Lea Seydoux), and another who's actually a 50-year-old woman (Monica Bellucci), a first in maturity for the franchise.

Bellucci's sequence is among the movie's low points, not for her presence but how Mendes and the writers abuse it. She plays the widow of Bond's Mexico City victim, with information the spy needs. Within hours of the funeral Bond has her backed against a wall for what amounts to a date rape interrogation. She gives in, gasping what Bond wants to hear.

We last see Bellucci perched in bed, satisfied in lingerie like countless starlets before, and the objectification of women in Bond films gains another facet.

Another clumsy moment occurs after Bond brutally dispatches an assassin (Tampa's Dave Bautista) and Seydoux's minx asks: "What do we do now?" Jump to she and Bond playing tonsil hockey, in contrast to every humorless moment before.

In moments like those Spectre might pass for parody, except Mendes raised the stakes so high with Skyfall that lowbrow isn't becoming on 007, and might spell his end. Like Sam Smith sings, much too shrill for a James Bond movie: The writing's on the wall.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

 
Comments

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 300 qualifying11 a.m.CNBCXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 3003:30 p.m.NBCSNCollege basketballMaryland-Eastern Shore at GeorgetownnoonFox SunBucknell at Maryland8:30 p.m.Big TenGolfPGA Europe: Tour Championship2:30 a.m.GolfPGA: ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Christmas in downtown Tampa as Winter Village ice rink opens

Christmas in downtown Tampa as Winter Village ice rink opens

TAMPAWhile her teenage daughter and 6-year-old son glided effortlessly across the outdoor ice rink at Curtis Hixon Park on Friday, Danielle Engram, 35, stood nervously on her rented blades.This would be the lifelong Tampa resident’s first time on the...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

New York, it seems, doesn't have a monopoly on pizza-chomping rodents.Around 2:45 p.m. Friday, the Tampa Bay Times spotted a squirrel digging a nearly entire slice of pizza out of a trash can at 146 Second St. N in St. Petersburg. The squirrel hoppe...
Updated: 11 hours ago
With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

ORLANDO — Christmas has finally come to Hogwarts at Universal Orlando in a new holiday attraction opening Saturday. In addition, Universal Studios has completely upsized its holiday parade with more Macy’s balloons, stunning floats and snowy effects ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

Perfect your crust. Try new filling recipes. Learn some decorating tricks. And prepare for the biggest pie day of the year: Thanksgiving.   From apple to thyme You’ve got the crust down. Now it’s time to choose a filling for your holid...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

From appetizers to pies and everything in between, we’re here to help you put together a low-stress Thanksgiving spread. Ideas for sidesThese recipes go beyond the traditional, with a corn casserole, Brussels sprout salad and moreSee what our food ed...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Making it in America, Ybor(w/video)

The first cigar rolled in Tampa’s Ybor city in 1885 marked the beginning of one of Florida’s most famed immigrant enclaves.Since it was founded by a Spaniard who emigrated to Cuba in 1885, Vicente Martinez Ybor, Ybor City has morphed into one of Tamp...
Published: 11/17/17
Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

"Transparent" actress Trace Lysette has accused actor Jeffrey Tambor of sexually harassing her on the set of the Amazon series.Lysette’s allegations mark the second time the star, who plays Maura Pfefferman on the critically acclaimed dramedy, has be...
Published: 11/17/17
Thanksgiving sides beyond the classics: corn casserole, Brussels sprouts salad, pecan pie carrots

Thanksgiving sides beyond the classics: corn casserole, Brussels sprouts salad, pecan pie carrots

There are probably a handful of essentials, things you must have on the Thanksgiving table lest some family members begin to riot. But I find there are often a couple of slots open for new things, chances to get weird or creative or, gasp, healthy. ...
Published: 11/17/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 19

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 19

Randy Newman: The legendary Oscar-, Grammy- and Emmy-winning singer-songwriter is known for hits like Feels Like Home, You’ve Got a Friend in Me and Sail Away. Every ticket purchased includes a physical or digital copy of his forthcoming album Dark ...
Published: 11/17/17