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I’m a simple guy who loves to watch and talk about movies. I go to the movies on holidays, weekends, and will even venture to the theaters by myself. I may have single handedly caused MoviePass to go under with how often I used it. Will you enjoy your time at the movies? Check out my reviews to find out!

REVIEW: Bloodshot

Sony Pictures
Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 109 minutes
Director: David S.F. Wilson

The Story/The Direction:

Bloodshot is a superhero film based on the Valiant Comics character of the same name. It is supposed to be the first installment in a series of films set within a Valiant Comics shared cinematic universe. The film was directed by first-timer David S.F. Wilson. It obviously stars Vin Diesel, and has Eiza González, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, and Guy Pearce as co-stars. Bloodshot tells the story of a marine who was killed-in-action, only to be brought back to life with technological superpowers by an organization that wants to use him as a weapon.

If viewers have seen and liked a Vin Diesel action film before, there is a lot of stuff in this to like as well. This film has a muscular man running around with explosions, shootouts, and beatdowns. Most of the action scenes in this film, aside from the first one, are pretty well done and engaging—they definitely look a whole lot better than other Diesel films. The pacing is pretty decent, and one who enjoys the action won’t feel bored as there are a lot of quick cuts during fight scenes. The director’s experience with computer graphics (CG) is noticeable in the action scenes in both good and bad ways. The good is that some of the action looks very coherent and engaging. 

The Characters:

While I have never read the Valiant Comics’ ‘Bloodshot,’ it does have a lot of fans, both domestically and internationally; and when Diesel is added as the character—who also has his own fanbase—theoretically, a good film would be produced. Diesel himself does do a decent job as this action hero who grunts and flexes some decent action sequences. He kicks a lot of butt, which is the most that can be expected from a film like this. His character basically looks like he should have been from TerminatorGenisys in some scenes. This actually looks fairly cool and keeps the film entertaining. He does add his characteristic machismo which effectively makes him an action hero, but the actor’s performance itself doesn’t bring any depth to the role.

Vin Diesel’s character shown regenerating after being shot in a scene of Bloodshot | Sony Pictures

The Flaws:

Overall, however, this is not a good film. The CGI is really bad at points, the characters are very underdeveloped, and the story is all over the place. There is even a line of dialogue in the film that has Pearce’s character, Dr. Emil Harting, making fun of one of his designer’s stories because he had done every cliché in the book, which honestly seems meta in a way? Because this film is really—and I mean really—cliché. Pearce is okay, but he really isn’t that villainous as an evil-scientist character. He seems more emphatic towards his creations than anything. There is a comedy in this film which seems off from a film aspect. If this film had been made more as a complete action story, it could have been better. The comedy made me laugh, but that was from how corny it is than anything else. Also for a film called, ‘Bloodshot,’ there is very little blood. This is probably due to the PG-13 rating, and maybe an R rating would have made this film better in that aspect. However, this film is probably marketing for young teenagers, which an R rating would prevent them from seeing it. 

Overall:

Bloodshot is a popcorn movie that one might want to watch while doing laundry. It does have solid action scenes and a relentless pace that normally would have been really good for a 4DX theater. The film definitely was fun to see in this format, but it is not needed as viewers probably won’t be watching this film too many times, or would be willing to pay extra. It’s a shame because Diesel is put into a terribly written film that could have been so much more. However, it does have some solid Vin Diesel action and thus some entertainment value, but maybe wait for it to be on television or a streaming service. If you’re not a fan of Vin Diesel, skip it altogether.

Now, what did you think of the film? Let me know in the comments section, and hit me up on social media. The Formal Review is on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Recommendation: MAYBE A MATINEE

All 24 ‘BOND’ Theme Songs Ranked

Grammy winner Billie Eilish and brother/collaborator Finneas O’Connell wrote “No Time To Die” for the new 007 film.

Music is part of a film: both as instrumental scores and vocal performances. Music in a film can have the ability to shape emotional responses, create rhythms in scenes, and/or to comment on the action. With the release of Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die” (along with the newest Bond film, No Time to Die) makes one wonder what precisely is the best theme and why? People have had heated debates on who is the best portrayal of the Bond character but the themes aren’t debated as much. The purpose of a theme is to establish a mood and to provide an audible cue that reminds one of the film. The instrumental Bond theme starts off increasing with intensity right up to the guitar riff and then it repeats until it reaches the climax. This song has anyone instantly thinking of ‘James Bond’. This is what a song with vocals has to do. As No Time to Die is apparently the final chapter in the Daniel Craig Bond series, one should go back and look at everything that has come before it. The theme songs are as important as the films themselves and deserve a glance at what makes them good or bad, and why. A successful song will have recognizable notes that make the listener feel like they are driving an Aston Martin instead of their Ford Focus, or drinking a martini instead of their Bud Light.

24. “For Your Eyes Only” – Sheena Easton in For Your Eyes Only

This ballad sounds good by Easton but it is completely out of place for a Bond film. It tries to add what Carly Simon did with “Nobody Does It Better” but it feels like it belongs in a corny romance movie. This song is on the list is because there has to be a “worst” song.

23. “Die Another Day” – Madonna in Die Another Day

Madonna’s biggest songs come from the 1980s but seemingly this feels exactly that: it has synthesizers and her voice is distorted. There is some violin in the background but this song was definitely a step back from other films’ songs. It seemed to care about making the song a pop hit that could play on the radio. Like the film it represents, this song seems to die as soon as it starts. The only reason is that it is not 24 is that “For Your Eyes Only” is definitely worse.

22. “A View to a Kill” – Duran Duran in A View to a Kill

This song is straight out of the 1980s, as one would expect when listening to Duran Duran. It can transport listeners to the 1980s very successfully with synthesizers. It’s as if someone combined Billy Joel and Phil Collins. However, the 80s were not known for elegance, which really takes listeners away from the “Bond” effect.

21. “We Have All the Time in the World” – Louis Armstrong in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

If one listens to this song outside of the Bond world, it is very good. When one listens to Louis Armstrong’s voice in the context of the film, he is able to sing about love and sorrow that speaks to the film’s plot. However, Armstrong’s voice transports the listener to Italy or France—not to the place in between where the film takes place, Switzerland. Would listeners think of Bond for this song? Not really.

20. “You Only Live Twice” – Nancy Sinatra in You Only Live Twice

While the opening few notes feel similar to the Bond theme and the song has ability to transport the listener, the song does not contribute a look at the character of Bond or give any danger to the film. Also, the film takes place in Japan and this song won’t transport the listener to Japan, but rather Italy which makes no sense. The song is nice in itself but does not scream “Bond.”

19. “Moonraker” – Shirley Bassey in Moonraker

While Shirley Bassey is very well known for her Bond songs, this is her weakest song seeing as it does not add much to Bond’s character. It’s not awful (mostly because of Bassey’s voice) but it’s not that memorable either. Her voice can go as far as the stars, as Bond does in the film, but the song itself fails to take off.

18. “Another Way to Die” – Jack White and Alicia Keys in Quantum of Solace

Alicia Keys has the voice to make a fantastic James Bond theme; however, her mashup with Jack White seems off. It feels that the studio wanted to keep the rock aspect that Cornell brought with “You Know My Name.” Unfortunately, this song has a lot of messy aspects that touch on Bond’s qualities. In that sense, however, it does match the film that it is from very well.

17. “All-Time High” – Rita Coolidge in Octopussy

Unlike Easton’s attempt, this song is able to keep some of the qualities that James Bond is known for. The saxophone, strings, piano, guitar, and band combination, takes the audience to a similar place as Carly Simon but it is not as successful. The lyrics say “all-time high” but it only reaches the “all-time mediocre” level of Bond songs.

16. “The Living Daylights” – A-ha in The Living Daylights

Similar to “A View to Kill,” this song screams “the 1980s” with its synthesizers. However, this time around, A-ha keeps some of the traditional horns in their song. This gives a mysterious feeling to this obviously 1980s song, which does do some good work on taking a listener to a James Bond living in the 80s. However, again, the 80s were not known for their elegance.

15. “From Russia with Love” – Matt Monro in From Russia with Love

This song was released with the second film in the series. It seems to touch on the traveling aspect of Bond (he does travel to a lot of exotic places such as Russia or Italy); however, the song seems really out of place as it feels like a combination of the places that Bond travels to in the film. The film takes place mostly in Turkey and Russia but begins in Jamaica and ends in Italy. Having the theme sound similar to some of those makes sense but this song feels safe. It’s not a bad song by any means and it gives a very lounge feeling. Listeners can feel like they are traveling with Bond but it does not speak to the character.

14. “Nobody Does It Better” – Carly Simon in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Although Bond is mostly known for having a different woman in every film, Carly Simon’s ballad differs from a lot of the Bond theme songs as it gives this loving side of Bond that viewers haven’t seen before. Though a new woman is introduced in the film, it still adds a mystery of who is this woman that Bond loves? There is a slight elegance to the way Simon sings which does allow for some reconnection with the Bond character.

13. “Live and Let Die” – Paul McCartney and Wings in Live and Let Die.

As a former Beatle, McCartney is able to lure his listeners on name alone. He croons for the first 47 seconds then he adds a change in key and a guitar riff. Each time before the instrumental chorus hits, the song hypes up the song. McCartney seems to say that James Bond is no longer the man who you think he is: he is no longer only the suave man he was but he is now someone to look at as an action hero; he is able to fight with intensity. Even though there is one bit of the song that seems out of place (1:27), this song speaks James Bond; however, it doesn’t scream James Bond as some of the other songs do. Outside of the James Bond context, though, it is one of the most popular among most listeners.

12. “Tomorrow Never Dies” – Sheryl Crow in Tomorrow Never Dies

This song starts off like a lot of the other songs do: teasing you of the world behind it. Crow’s lyrics and vocals are fairly captivating and capture the essence of a good Bond song. Some of the lyrics even state precisely what a Bond film is known for. It may not be the top of the list but it is definitely a very good Bond theme song though the title of the song/film may seem off.

11. “Thunderball” – Tom Jones in Thunderball

This theme has obviously been inspired by John Barry with its horns, and is very similar to “Goldfinger,” but not as good. It isn’t bad by any means, but it does feel unoriginal as the only difference is the singer and the film’s plot.

10. “The World Is Not Enough” – Garbage in The World is Not Enough

The title of the song alone speaks to the Bond character. He has everything he wants: women, cars, a good job, and a license to kill—but he is still not fulfilled. Garbage’s name does not speak the song’s quality; the loud orchestra and the vocals of Shirley Manson successfully keep to the man of mystery’s origins. Although it’s still good, it feels a little short of some of the other theme songs.

9. “Licence to Kill” – Gladys Knight in Licence to Kill

This film is one of mt favorite James Bond films because he steps away from MI6, something he hasn’t done before. Sometimes he has to speak to his idea of justice and stop caring about being covert. While this may not be a typical Bond film, it is a remake of him and is almost a comparable character to Batman. This film’s song is obviously a remake of “Goldfinger,” but works well to speak to the character. It screams “the 1980s” with its synthesizers, but still transports us to an earlier time, thanks to Knight’s voice. She is able to twist this 80’s song into a Motown love ballad. However, the only thing that makes the song feel Bond-like is the use of Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger.”

8. “The Man with the Golden Gun” – Lulu in The Man with the Golden Gun

The introduction does feel very Bond-like and Lulu is able to replicate the feeling felt in “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey—she sings about the villains and uses some great instrumentals. It is a little more of a pop song than the other songs below it on this list; however, that’s not really a bad thing because it screams about the popularity of James Bond.

7. “No Time to Die” – Billie Eilish in No Time to Die

On the first listen, Eilish’s voice does not fit the Bond theme. She seems to mumble a lot of her lyrics. The song feels epic but her voice does not replicate that. This feeling can continue on to the second and maybe the third listening. After perhaps a few more listens (and also listening to how other Bond songs have sounded) her new song is not that bad, but that feels more due to the instrumentals than her singing. Her voice sounds creepy but also mysterious, which speaks to the Bond character on the later point. When she hits the climactic note, it feels almost similar to Adele’s “Skyfall.” But overall, the song does depend on the instrumentals more than her voice. The instrumentals feel exactly how a Bond theme should. It can definitely grow on someone after a few listens that may make people appreciate Eilish’s addition to the list of Bond themes.

6. “Goldeneye” – Tina Turner in Goldeneye

The title alone will instantly say that there is a similarity to Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger.” The way it uses strings and horns is also very similar; but that does not mean this song is not unique. Turner’s voice is her own and the song speaks for itself on why it belongs at the top of this list. It starts off by creating an environment of mystery but the lyrics state that there is romance and revenge in the shadows. When Turner sings, “This time I won’t miss, now I’ve got you in my sight,” listeners know that studios have realized what works for Bond songs and asked themselves, “If something isn’t broken, why should you fix it?” This song still has some 80’s feel to it but it transports the listener right back into a Bond film in the best way possible.

5. “Writing’s on the Wall” – Sam Smith in Spectre

In 2015, Sam Smith was known for his ballads which are mostly about breakups—Smith’s performance is fairly representative of Bond. He searches for love but is unable to in his line of work. The epicness of the instrumentals adds to Smith’s voice, which fits perfectly well into a Bond theme. It is the second film to hit #1 on the Billboard charts, and it is the second to win an Oscar. However, it does feel a slight bit of a let down after Adele’s “Skyfall.” Similar to how Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album was considered a let down after “Thriller” because of the latter’s enormous success.

4.”You Know My Name” – Chris Cornell in Casino Royale

As the film was the start of a new Bond in Daniel Craig, Cornell seems to state that, even so the audience knows who he is singing about. While it is not a ballad and more of a rock song, Cornell still establishes a very good update to the Bond songs. The song has more guitars that create this dangerous and new feel. It almost feels like listeners have heard this song before but not really. This song is almost perfect as a Bond song but not quite there as it doesn’t convey elegance but it speaks it while shouting mystery and danger.

3. “Diamonds Are Forever” – Shirley Bassey in Diamonds are Forever

Though the production of diamonds is questionable at best, they are known to be shiny and supposedly “a girl’s best friend.” They are the toughest mineral on the planet and can have ages between 1 billion and 3.5 billion years. James Bond is known for his elegance, so connecting these two items makes complete sense; and when Shirley Bassey is said to add even more elegance, listeners know what to expect. Her returning voice sings about how diamonds will never lie but the music says that there is something hidden behind the beauty. The instrumentals feel eerie in a way that produces a mystery that the elegant James Bond must figure out.

2. “Skyfall” – Adele in Skyfall

Prior to 2012, there was perhaps one artist that almost everyone wanted to sing a Bond song—and that was Adele. At the time, she was riding the high of her second album, 21, and people were comparing her to Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James. Everyone knew that it was coming, and boy did it arrive with a bang. Adele’s powerful voice captures the mood and style of the previous themes while also keeping the dark and moody aspect of the film. The song made Daniel Craig cry, and it was the first Bond song to win an Oscar.

1. ” Goldfinger” – Shirley Bassey in Goldfinger

This has become one of the most iconic songs when it comes to Bond. One who listens will instantly think 007. It starts off with very epic and loud trumpets that establish who the villain of the film is. This starts the 1964 film with a knowledge of who Bond will face. Any listener can hear the inspiration from John Barry in the song. The instrumentals also scream suave and this ballad by Bassey instantly places you in a lounge sipping on a martini, shaken not stirred. She is about to tell her audience a story and everyone is ready to listen.

Well, there you have it. All 24 ‘BOND’ movie theme songs. I’d love to know what your thoughts are on these iconic songs, and which are you favorite(s). Let me know in the comments below.

REVIEW: The Call of the Wild

20th Century Studios
Rated: PG
Run Time: 100 minutes
Director: Chris Sanders

The Story/The Direction

The Call of the Wild is an adventure film based on the Jack London 1903 novel of the same name, with numerous other cinematic versions of the story. The film is directed by Chris Sanders—in his live-action directorial debut—and stars Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford, and Colin Woodell. It takes place in the 1890’s Klondike Gold Rush. A dog named ‘Buck’ is stolen from his home in California and sent to Canada, where he befriends Thornton (played by Ford). Buck gets in touch with his ancestral wild side and his experiences change his life forever. This story was previously adapted into a silent film in 1923 and then again in 1935, 1972 and 1997 with dialogue, starring Jack Mulhall, Clark Gable, Charlton Heston, and Rutger Hauer as Thornton, respectively.

For those who did not read the book in their middle school or high school English classes, the novel deals with a Christian theme of love and redemption. It also is about the survival of the fittest as London puts Buck in conflict with humans, other dogs, and the environment itself. He must challenge, survive, and conquer all of these conflicts. Buck is a domesticated dog at the beginning of the story but he must change to survive. He must learn to get in touch with his ancestral instincts and become a wild animal. The law of the pack rules, and good-natured animals can be torn to pieces; as such, London also looks at “nature vs. nurture”. Raised as a pet, Buck is (by heredity) a wolf. The change of environment brings up his innate characteristics and strengths to the point where he fights for survival and becomes the leader of the pack. 

The 1935 film has become more famous for its off-screen problems between its stars of Gable and Loretta Young which I’ll get to in a minute. Aside from the issues behind the scenes, this movie really changes the protagonist of the original story. The film omits all but one of the book’s storylines and concentrates the film on Thornton. Having said that, the most famous scene from the book did make it into the movie where Thornton bets that Buck can pull a half-ton sled for 100 yards. But the film focuses not on the harsh conditions of life encountered by a sled dog but it is a lighthearted romantic adventure film that just so happens to feature a dog as a pet. 

It has some really breathtaking winter scenery and the actors are on point. Gable plays his alpha male well while Jack Oakie provides comedic relief. Loretta Young is the damsel-in-distress, but she’s not always helpless. Gable and Young have some really good chemistry together mostly because it was real. They were noted to be very flirtatious on set but there’s more to it than that: Young and Gable were rumored to have an affair during filming but on the train back to Hollywood from Washington state, Gable entered Young’s compartment and raped her. She then became pregnant with Gable’s child who he constantly denied was his. For many years Young insisted the girl was adopted even though she bore a striking resemblance to her two attractive parents. This led to a lot of problems in her life( of which I won’t go into but it is a very interesting story). Feel free to check out Anne Helen Petersen’s article on this story for the full details. Aside from these off-screen issues, this film does give some good entertainment from an old film even though it’s barely a faithful adaptation of Jack London’s story. It’s worth checking out especially if you’re looking for a classic feel of a movie. 

The only person most Americans will recognize in the 1972 film is Charlton Heston. This version is more faithful to Jack London’s novella but still it focuses more on the human aspect of the story. The cinematography is great and Heston does well in the lead role. If you’re a fan of his, this film is worth checking out. The 1996 film has a slightly longer title The Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon and is narrated by Richard Dreyfuss. This film accurately shows this rugged and unsentimental portrait of a dog’s life pushing to survive. However, the film still feels hard to attach to because of the real life dogs. This film is worth checking out as it is the best adaptation in comparison to the prior two films.

Now does this story and meaning track over to the newest rendition? For the most part, yes, it does. Does it show the story’s brutal side? No, but it’s a PG movie. It’s a simpler take on the book but that makes it more appropriate for younger viewers; however, the themes and messages of London’s story are still there. Buck is still learning to survive in the wild and through his CGI eyes, this film is an entertaining family film with themes of courage and perseverance. There are also some really nice set cinematography when Buck becomes a sled dog for Perrault (Sy) and François (Gee) on a mail delivery route.

John Thornton (played by Harrison Ford) in a scene with ‘Buck’ in The Call of the Wild | 20th Century Studios

The Characters

Buck’s arc is similar to the book starting off as this very spoiled dog living in the south on a plantation. He then sees his wild side in an (honestly) very well done symbol. Using Terry Notary for the motion capture of Buck has been criticized because it made Buck more of a cartoon than anything else. Admittedly, it does feel like a Disney cartoon a lot of the time, however that’s not too much of a bad thing. The last three live-action films, that mostly focused on either the humans or the dogs, were not relatable. This was the issue with the most recent version of The Lion King. The non-cartoon look of the CGI made the film absolutely boring—even with the songs, there was nothing relatable to the film. Adding the big, expressive eyes made Buck more relatable, and the use of CGI ensures that no animals were mistreated. A human could follow Buck and care for him. The audience wants him to survive and feels for him when he’s hurt. Along with that, it allows for Buck to be able to interact with other wild animals authentically and viewers do not have to worry about any animal cruelty.

Dogs and animals aside, Ford is perhaps perfect as Thornton. His Thornton is such a relatable character and one can see why he attaches himself to Buck. Their relationship is perhaps the best part of the film.

John Thornton (played by Harrison Ford) in a scene with ‘Buck’ in The Call of the Wild | 20th Century Studios

The Flaws

The biggest flaw about the film is that it feels a little softened compared to the original brutal version of London’s tale. It does feel fairly corny at times such as when Sy’s character says, “We don’t just carry the mail. We carry lives.” Stevens’ Hal is a very corny villain but he is having fun with it. Sometimes the CGI dog does feel a little too cartoonish, but it feels very Disney. There are some scenes that are a little silly, like a dog pulling off a WWE move. In addition, the relationship between Buck and Thornton is the best part; however it takes two-thirds of the movie for them to have a scene together. This is not a big deal because Buck is still relatable but when the film was marked to include more of their relationship, it was definitely less. However, that is more accurate to the story even though a viewer would think that Ford was in the film more than he was, given the marketing.

Overall

Though safe, the film is a fairly enjoyable retelling the tale. The scenery looks really great at times, and Ford is close to perfect as Thornton. Dog lovers will have their heartstrings pulled.  The CGI dog is not too bad because he is relatable and kids will love him. There are enough moments to keep parents entertained while the kids are watching the cute dog do funny things. It is not Pixar or anything but it is a fine film. London’s themes are there to discuss with kids without scaring them. It is a good film to take kids to, but maybe for a matinee.

Now, what did you think of the film? Let me know in the comments section, and hit me up on social media. The Formal Review is on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Recommendation: MAYBE A MATINEE

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