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Spectre - Blu-ray Review

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Spectre - Movie Review

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3 stars

It is upon us.

For, thankfully, a fourth time, Daniel Craig returns as James Bond and delivers yet another quality entry in his stint as the super spy bulldog with a taste for drink and dames.This time though, Skyfall’s director Sam Mendes - who also returns for a celebrated second joint venture to guide 007 as he adjusts yet another wrist cuff after doing awesome things – is jogging right alongside him with a shared mutual grace.  However, the new adventure – apart from a whopper of an opening action sequence – doesn’t even begin to touch the elegance of Skyfall, a tough act to follow.

Spectre proves to be its own machine.

The intense connection Mendes and Craig share is never more apparent than with the gliding nearly single-take opening sequence that kickoffs the twenty-fourth Bond film produced by Eon Productions.  Spectre gorgeously opens in the sun-soaked Centro Histórico district of Mexico City during its massive Day of the Dead festivities.

While we aren’t privy to all the details, we quickly are made aware that Bond is masquerading as a literal agent of Death – still carrying out the former M (Dame Jude Dench) operations – as he searches for two very dangerous men. Explosions follow and so does an exciting helicopter sequence that rivals any previously seen in the long-running franchise.  It is an intense edge of your seat happening that is singlehandedly worthy of the price of admission.  If only the rest of the film operated like this we might have had another stellar Bond film.      

Upon the discovery of an unusual ring, Bond is sent headlong into some dark truths of the Quantum movement as familiar faces - M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (an exciting Ben Whishaw) – return to support Britain’s best “Blunt Object” as he trades looks and matches wits with Monica Bellucci, Dave Bautista, and the charming Léa Seydoux, who breathes new life into the role of the Bond girl with a rich chemistry she shares on screen with Craig.

Beautifully shot by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar), Spectre is a visual race between opposing forces that spans the distance between loss and renewal and comes by way of some very unexpected news.  Bond is, operating as steely-eyed and calculated as ever, knocking heads together as the truth of his new/old enemy hits hard against the homestead once again.  If you too are saddened by the underwhelming Sam Smith song (set here against a slick-looking octopus-themed montage), you might come to an understanding about where exactly the new adventure is headed.

For many fans (myself included), Spectre is a reunion of sorts as Bond returns to established franchise formula and goes toe-to-toe with the organization known as Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion and its leader who has taken the name of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played by Christoph Waltz).  Blofeld has long been missing from the franchise as his last appearance was in the opening sequence of For Your Eyes Only but the film attempts to make up for it with a twist many – if they had been paying attention to the trailers and much of Skyfall – might have seen coming. 

The biggest issue with Bond’s latest adventure comes in its handling of the villain; it is the stuff of parody.  Skyfall championed the significance of the Bond villain with Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva and the hope is that it would be the same with Spectre.  Get the balance right.  Unfortunately, where the writers take Blofeld is already the subject of spoof. 

Far too much of Spectre is spent on a sort of connecting rationale its committee of screenwriters - John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth – feel they must shoehorn in.  The idea is to make all of Craig’s outings operate as ONE well-oiled machine.  Do we need this?  Not so much. It is the character of Blofeld who suffers the most as he toys with our favorite licensed-to-kill MI6 agent and hangs him with his own identity.

Interestingly, the team of writers also rely more on the familiar Bond formula this time while Mendes languidly soaks in the style and decor, unhurried by their insistences to speed things up.  The humor is in place and the set pieces are exquisite.  Unfortunately, there is nearly a perceptable tug of war between what’s on the page and what's on the screen and it plays out with little of the usual finesse.  This tension becomes more evident as the film lurches toward its action-heavy denouement.

Spectre – while entirely watchable (and worth every penny, mind you) – will disappoint some who expect the previous zenith to be trumped.  Spectre is on a different mission and only somewhat rises to the level of beauty and excitement achieved in its magnificent opening parade of glamor, grit and stunt work over Mexico City.  But, again, THAT opening – knee deep in the Day of the Dead – is a damn good place to start.  Maybe too good.

Don’t worry, though.  Craig will be back as Bond.

Spectre - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language
Runtime:
148 mins
Director
: Sam Mendes
Writer:
John Logan, Neal Purvis
Cast:
Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux
Genre
: Action | Adventure
Tagline:
Spectre
Memorable Movie Quote: "It was me, James. The author of all your pain."
Distributor:
Columbia Pictures
Official Site: http://www.007.com/
Release Date:
November 6, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 9, 2016
Synopsis: A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Spectre - Movie Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 9, 2016
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps); French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps); Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps); Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; Google Play digital copy
Region Encoding: A, B

MGM's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray release of Bond’s 24th adventure, Spectre, is a mix of film and digital cameras and, as if there was any doubt, the results are detailed and explicit.  Director of Photography Hoyte Van Hoytema has captured a beautiful-looking film that works very well at home on television screens.  Blacks are solid and the shadows keep their lines in the various environments throughout the picture.  From Mexico City to the clinic high in the Alpines, the picture is a thing of purity.  The lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 track is a booming success that captures the energy of the shoot with an effervescence of immediacy that is undeniable.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Mendes sits this one out.  There is no commentary.

Special Features:

The supplemental items are, unfortunately, a bit of a letdown.  Outside of an extended look at the opening sequence in Mexico City, there’s very little meat on this one.  You get three trailers, a photo gallery, and 9-min worth of video blogs highlighting various parts of the shoot, including the women and the director.  Yawn.

  • Spectre: Bond's Biggest Opening Sequence (20 min)
  • Video Blogs (9 min)
  • Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers (5 min)

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