My Week in Movies: July 28 – Aug. 3

Goldeneye (1995) Or maybe it’s GoldenEye. No, wait, it’s Goldeneye. The most curious thing about the Pierce Brosnan era of the Bond franchise is the films’ strangely uneven tone – the producers attempted to continue with the Dalton idea of a more serious, almost haunted James Bond, all while amping up the silliness of the Roger Moore years. There’s a great moment in the (otherwise iffy) documentary Everything or Nothing where Brosnan giggles with glee over the idea of invisible cars and surfing down a glacier, acknowledging the Bond films as his chance for a serious actor to get silly. But for all this unevenness, Goldeneye is one of the best Bond movies (more than that: it’s the best action movie of the 1990s) because it makes great use of the tonal shifts, allowing the silliness to work as comic relief to the darker elements. It’s a snazzy, glossy adventure that still thrills long after the politics and technology have grown outdated, because the story works, the action works, the characters work, and the fun, boy howdy, the fun works.

Summer School (1987) Speaking of fun. Carl Reiner’s 80s comedy is five pounds of dumb and fifteen pounds of funny. What struck me in this umpteenth viewing is how effortless its charms are. Despite its repeated use of sub-crude humor (which is hilarious, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still sub-crude), there’s an innocence here that seeps into every frame, carried almost entirely by Mark Harmon’s gosh darn nice guy performance. The idea of beach bum-as-authority figure is what makes Summer School more than just a slob comedy; it’s a genuinely appealing underdog story with a mellow heart. As Chainsaw and Dave would say, two thumbs up.

Karate-Robo Zaborgar (2011) Silliness! I wasn’t a fan of Noboru Iguchi’s Machine Girl and have since avoided his other lowbrow efforts (although titles like RoboGeisha, Mutant Girls Squad, and Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead are tempting). And yet I found myself drawn to Karate-Robo Zaborgar thanks to an irresistible set-up: it’s a spoofed-up remake of the 1970s TV series Denjin Zaborger that plays its anime-esque sci-fi lunacies for laughs. It’s the sort of weird-on-purpose style that could be tiresome if played wrong (imagine the worst Adult Swim live-action faux-serious snarkfest), but mercifully, writer/director Iguchi makes most of the absurdity work. It’s essentially two films in one, avoiding complaints about its way-too-long run time by cutting the film in half and giving us two adventures, set decades apart (as the time shift is one of the movie’s best jokes, I’ll not describe it further). Both halves are bonkers enough to entertain on their own; I prefer the second, which doubles down on the nuttiness and delivers some truly unforgettable comic images. It’s still lowbrow (oh, the things that shoot out of the lady cyborgs’ breasts!), but it’s my kind of lowbrow.

How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) I finally got around to continuing with this series… only to wind up with a major clunker. The full write-up’s here.

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