Category Archives: Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

Ranked

Hello,

One of the things I noticed while I was researching Moonraker‘s standings with Bond fans is that there a million best of lists for James Bond movies and they’re all garbage.

All of them.

There is no consistency where what movies lay where on the rankings. Oh sure, you’ll see From Russia With LoveCasino Royale and The Spy Who Loved Me hovering near the top consistently, but it’s a wild shot in the dark to see what movies are actually the best and which are actually the worst.

There are two conclusions that I can draw from this:

The James Bond movies aren’t really great movies, with one or two exceptions, and the differences between the majority of them is entirely subjective.

This conclusion is erroneous.

The second, true, conclusion I came up with is that there is not a consistent scoring system designed to actually rate the James Bond movies. But I have it. I made it. It exists now.

I’m going to randomly go through the Bond movies and create a list based on numbers and facts and it’ll be glorious.

Starting now.

-D-

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

Raked Over the Coals: In Defense of Moonraker

Hello,

I want to talk about Moonraker. Not the book. The movie. The criminally underrated movie.

On most lists ranking Bond movies, lists by the way that are all shockingly wrong, Moonraker is usually toward the bottom, sometimes below such objectively awful entries like Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again.

just watched Moonraker for the first time, have, in fact, been avoiding it due to the reputation it has an I’m livid that I waited this long to watch it.

Full disclosure: Roger Moore is my favorite James Bond. He’s less of a callous bastard than Sean Connery’s Bond and much more wry and playful at his job than any other Bond. He might also be the only Bond I’ve seen who turns down a overly amorous woman (Lynn-Holly Johnson‘s Bibi in For Your Eyes Only).

Back to Moonkraker.

This a Bond film that kicks off with a space shuttle being stolen midflight and then a spectacular sky diving sequence where Jaws and James Bond battle it out in mid-air as they hurtle toward the ground, a sequence that took 88 jumps to capture on film.

This is a Bond film that, once again, has Bond matched up with an equally competent and equally wry secret agent as his love interest (Lois Chiles as Doctor Holly Goodhead). Note: The novel has Bond working with an agent from M5 who is infiltrating Hugo Drax’s installation. So, you know, basically the same thing.

This is a Bond film that ends with a laser battle in space and the villain has a truly derange plot that he lifted straight from a story in Doctor Who.

This is also a Bond film where Bond shoots a gun once and that’s it and yet he still manages to stop the bad guy and avoids being murdered by Jaws.

Oh yeah, Jaws is in this. I can take him or leave him.

The point is, this is a Bond film that has all the moments and pieces that you need for a truly great Bond flick, especially if you’re a fan of the best era of Bond movies (The Roger Moore Era). So what you should do is what I should have done and ignore everything that people have told you about Moonraker and just go watch it.

This experience has convinced me that I need to come up with a definitive rating scale for the Bond films, especially given the number of prfoundly wrong lists I saw while researching this entry.

Also, check out my last Bond blog entry, my endorsement of the many Bonds theory.

-D-

Leave a comment

Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

Soundtrack

Hello,

Music and I have an iffy relationship at best. I’ve never been the kind of person who sits and just…listens to music. The idea of doing that doesn’t even really make sense to me, although I’m aware that my attention span requires a very specific set of circumstances to keep me in my seat.

Most of the time, music for me is background. It’s just there if I need a certain amount of distraction to keep me focused on my writing or cleaning or whatever. If I’m writing a western story, I like to have Hank Williams. If I’m writing horror, I like AC/DC. If I’m writing a my 22nd consecutive blog entry, it’s anything.

Although, today it’s the James Bond themes on repeat again.

Because if there is something that i will listen to over and over and over again, it’s soundtracks.

I have an immediate emotional connection to a soundtrack that I don’t have with just a random song. And this applies to terrible soundtracks as well. It doesn’t matter how creatively bankrupt a song is if it conjures up images of giant robots cutting through sharkticons with buzzsaws.

In my heart, I feel like this makes me a bad person, that I should appreciate music more for what it is on its own. The chords and the melodies and the notes and…the other…things and pieces.

But…in the end, I know I’m just to continue to use music as a tool for other purposes, rather than appreciating it for what it is on its own.

-D-

Leave a comment

Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

Movie Review: Vengeance: A Love Story

Hello Again,

I just finished watching this movie and I have thoughts.

It is not a great movie. It is, at its best, an average movie. There are small moments here and there that make it interesting and there are some very large plot arcs that also make it interesting, at least to me.

****Just as a warning, the movie deals pretty heavily with sexual assault, so I’ll be talking about that as well.****

Let’s get the synopsis out of the way:

Based on Joyce Carol Oate’s Rape: A Love Story, Vengeance: A Love Story is about a young single mother, Teena (Ann Hutchinson) who is brutally gang-raped in front of her twelve-year-old daughter, Bethie (Talitha Eliana Bateman). Because the justice system caters to jagoffs and rapists, it’s up to Detective John Something (Nicolas Cage) to put away the trash….for good.

This is not going to be a typical review. I’m not doing a blow-by-blow of the cinematography or the acting or whatever you want. I do want to talk about the rape scene, which is brutal and awful and involves a child actor being present for a fair amount of it, to the point that the daughter covers her own brutalized mother’s nudity with the discarded and torn clothing.

This is…unnecessary. Whenever I see children in this type of movie, I think about Danielle Harris. She’s an actress who played the ten-year-old niece of Michael Meyers in the Halloween movies (IV and V?). Because the production team did such a lousy job of protecting her and screening her from the worst of it, she suffered nightmares and eventually did the Rob Zombie Halloween movies as a form of therapy, which is…the most mindbogglingly sentence I’ve had to type.

So there’s that. Additionally, I’m extremely over scenes of extreme sexual violence in movies because usually they’re just used as a catalyst to propel the male character to do some violence.

Ann Hutchinson as Teena.

However….this movie did something right. Nicolas Cage’s character is the over-the-hill cop who has seen it all and is tired of the system and the revolving door in our criminal justice system….except he’s very low key and he’s not really in the movie that much. He appears here and there and then shows up toward the end in a big way, but for large chunks of the movie, it’s about Teena and Bethie dealing with what happened and the emotional ramifications of that.

There’s an especially affecting scene when Teena is about to swallow a handful of pills in a suicide attempt and then throws them away in an angry fit. In a lot of movies, that would be the end of it. She conquered her suicidal depression in one angry act! But the movie continues to show that she is not okay, that she is still having trouble emotionally processing the attack and what happened to her and that’s she’s still suffering from suicidal ideation.

And Nicolas Cage is Sleepy Cage in this movie. He’s not grandstanding. He’s not taking over the movie when he’s around. He’s mostly silent, mostly in the background and mostly just waiting to act. And when he does act (yes it’s to murder the rapists) it’s thoughtful, careful, planned violence that removes the problem with no collateral damage.

This movie is still problematical in that in robs Teena and Bethie of dealing with the resolution themselves, but it does something right in that it actually highlights their journey after the assault. It highlights the women that were attacked, the women around them who are trying to help.

This is not a good movie. It has some great moments, Ann Hutchinson and Talitha Batemen work well together and have great chemistry and don’t pull any punches with their performances. And Cage makes the right choice in this movie and minimizes his impact.

I’m not recommending you see this movie, unless you, for some reason, think we need another movie in which a woman is brutally raped and her male whatever needs to avenge her. Vengeance takes a step in the right direction. Focus on her story. How she deals with it and copes with it.

It’s not his story.

-D-

Leave a comment

Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

Care About Other People

Hello Again,

Today, there was a news report about a woman who has the measles and who apparently decided to travel through every major population center in Eastern Massachusetts.

Now, ten years ago, I don’t think she would have hit the news, much less having articles tracking her progress through Massachusetts like new anchors tracking Santa’s sled during Christmas.

The thing that’s changed, of course, is that a surprisingly large number of people have decided that, just because they don’t understand the basic science behind how something works means they no longer have faith in it working.

Which is surprising to me, because I’m sure a large number of those same people drive cars, use computers and talk on telephones without batting an eye. They do not let the fact that have a profound ignorance in these devices and how they work to deter them from using them.

However, the moment vaccines come up, suddenly they become experts who feel the need to shout down the actual scientists and researchers who know how vaccines work. Let’s be frank here: you do not know how the science behind vaccines work, so stop pretending you do. You did not try to educate yourself on how they work, you just shoved your head into the echo chamber and heard your own ignorant rants repeated back at you.

And then, here’s the kicker here, you let your ignorance kill people because you did not want to vaccinate your child.

If you’re an anti-vaxxer, you contributed to the deaths of human beings.

That’s it. That’s all you’ve done.

There are people who would be alive today if you had just done the sane thing and protected your own children from disease.

That’s all.

-D-

Leave a comment

Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

Play Review: Chalk by Walt McGough

Fresh Ink Theater Company presents CHALK. Written by Walt McGough and directed by Sarah Gazdowicz, it is currently running at the Boston Playwright Theater through January 24.

I haven’t been to very many plays.

Five.

I’ve been to five plays.

So I’m not the most informed when it comes to this particular medium. However, I do know when I’ve had a damn good time and I had one last night.

Chalk is a tightly wound story, involving only two characters and a single space that, at times, feels perilously small for the heroine. Maggie (Christine Power) is, by all appearances, the last survivor of the end times. Until, that is, her daughter Cora (Caroline Rose Markham) suddenly reappears. It quickly becomes clear that this is not a friendly reunion and that something is horribly wrong.

Chalk makes great use of its space. The set sketched out the environment without being visually overwhelming. Old books, stacked cardboard boxes, and flickering lights and the thrum of a generator in the background let me know all I need to about Maggie’s refuge. And there are so many little touches that helped to enhance the feeling that we were peering into a little slice of post apocalyptic life. As the audience was sitting, Maggie went about her morning routine within her shelter; brushing her teeth, some calisthenics and tending to the circle. It let us into her life gradually, before we were thrown in with a bang.

Both Christine Power and Caroline Markham brought their all to their performances. Power’s Maggie reminded me a lot of Frances McDormand’s character in Fargo: sweet no-nonsense sensibilities with a biting sarcasm when necessary. And Markham was a spitting, mean-spirited creature, full of vitriol and animalistic fury. They counterbalanced one another and drew toward one another and held my attention the entire show.

In spite of the subject matter, which could potentially be overwhelmingly depressing given that is the end of the world, there was hope and humor rather than grim and gritty. Walt McGough‘s story eschewed the usual tropes and cliches that are rife within this genre. This is no The Walking Dead or A Boy and His Dog where humanity is shown to be THE REAL MONSTER: this is a small scale story focusing in on a mother and her daughter. It’s two people circling each other and figuring each other out and it’s funny and touching and wonderful all balled together. There’s one moment at the end, when Maggie throws back a line at Cora that’s hilarious, the kind of line you’d hear in any action movie as a throw-away gag, but it turns into an important, defining moment in the final act. It’s a play with good feelings in bad times and that’s really what I needed right now.

It’s a well-written, well-acted, well-produced feature that provides a great reason to get out of the house and into the theater. Even if you’re like me and you don’t really go to plays, this one you should make the effort to see. It’s seventy-five minutes long, hilarious, deals with the end of the world and will make you have an emotion or two. Go!

I give it five bags of chalk dust and a cherry pop tart.

To buy tickets to see Chalk (playing at the Boston Playwright’s Theater), please go HERE.

For more information about Fresh Ink Theater and their future works, go HERE.

-D-

Leave a comment

Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

James Bond: Chapter One; The First Chapter

“Today we are fighting Communism. Okay. If I’d been alive fifty years ago, the brand of Conservatism we have today would have been damn near called Communism and we should have been told to go and fight that. History is moving pretty quickly these days and the heroes and villains keep on changing parts.”
― James Bond, Casino Royale

I like James Bond. And, like everything else I’m interested in, I have to like it in a obsessive compulsive way that deeply worries the people closest to me. I hate half-measures and lackluster efforts. I have to take my interests and plow them into the ground, wringing out every last bit of enjoyment until I can’t stand the subject and put it on the shelf for a year.

James Bond is one I keep coming back to. He’s a hero that has survived over sixty years, from Ian Fleming’s first novel all the way to his next movie that’s due to be released next year.

He has fought communists, insane madmen seeking to blow up Silicon Valley, North Korean terrorists with a penchant for plastic surgery and duplicitous water stealing businessmen.

James Bond is a hero who has maintained the same posture and panache for his entire run, but, throughout, has maintained a relevancy that few other characters can claim. It is remarkable that someone who was so defined by the culture of the Cold War has not only survived twenty years after the end of that war, but has thrived.

He is defined by a cultured ruthlessness, a suave viciousness. He will lecture you on the correct way to drink a martini and then callously dispatch a henchmen without reflection or doubt. He remains, in many ways, thoroughly British, though beloved around the world.

His longevity is compelling in and of itself. He has been portrayed by many different actors in many different ways through vastly different era. His novels are still being written to this day, in spite of the fact that the original author has been dead and buried for fifty years.

Because of my obsessive compulsive madness, I need, NEED, to figure out a way to go the extra mile in James Bond researches. So, with a complete lack of careful thought and a dutiful inattentiveness to how much free time I actually have, I have decided to watch every James Bond movie, in chronological order, until I lose interest or I reach the final movie.

I will start with the first on-screen appearance. Which is, obviously, the hour long TV episode of Casino Royale.

Look for it at this location next week.

-D-

Leave a comment

Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts