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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-

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Saturday Night Movie Review: Stake Land

I believe, fervently, that Saturday nights are made for watching bad movies, mainly because I’m a shut-in with the personal skills of a wounded bear who was already not too fond of people. But finding the right bad movie is difficult. You need to hit all the right notes of hilarious dialogue, wooden acting and over-the-top special effects. Sometimes you spend ten minutes flipping through the Netflix Instant selection of horror movies, think you’ve hit a winner (The Stuff) and then realize that you’ve made a terrible mistake (aside from the uncomfortable under and overtones and the wonderful casting of Michael Moriarty as a master of corporate espionage, The Stuff was dull. Insane, but dull). You have an option: turn back and spend another ten minutes browsing before clicking on Strippers versus Werewolves or just sticking it out with The Stuff.

So, in order to spare you and your loved ones the pain of watching the wrong bad movie, I offer to you my semi-weekly, most likely going to only do this twice, feature of Saturday Night Movie Review. I will scour Amazon Prime and Netflix Instant looking for the best, bad horror movie for you to enjoy. This is a service I graciously provide for free. Buy my book.

This week: Stake Land

I chose Stake Land because the poster reminded me of Zombieland and Zombieland still fills me with warm cheer whenever I think about it. There are also a few plot point similarities (post Apocalyptic America, surly vampire/zombie hunter teams up with teen to travel the countryside). The difference is that while Zombieland was an entertaining romp and hilarious, Stake Land is a giant downer. It’s Zombieland meets The Road. Vampires have overrun the country and it’s no longer safe to go out at night. Unlike in, say, Daybreakers, the vampires are not suave sophisticates, but drooling, brutal beasts that operate more on Old World Europe Vampyr rules than 19th Century Victorian Vampire rules.

StakeLand

Stake Land is not a bad movie. It’s well shot and has a great, grungy, country feel that I really dig. At times it felt a little like a western, especially in regard to the costume design and musical score: lots of fiddles and denim. There’s less of a coherent plot and more a journey of the two main characters, Martin and Mister. Mister is the bad-ass vampire slayer out of the two, if you couldn’t figure it out. They’re traveling north through the wasteland that is Vamp infested America to reach a place called New Eden which could be the best hope for our heroes to have a life that approaches normal. Or it could be a hellhole that’s out of food where the inhabitants have turned to cannibalism. It’s up in the air on that front.

They have adventures, they meet new people and one depressing episode after the other happens until we reach the end of the movie and it ends exactly like you thought it would. My only major complaint with the movie is The Brotherhood. They’re an ultra-religious movement that believes the vampires are God’s way of cleansing the Earth and, as such, anyone killing the vampires must be bad. They even go out of their way to helicopter drop vampires into surviving settlements to help purge the Earth of the unfaithful.

They’re almost cartoonishly evil and their leader is too over-the-top for a movie that’s, for the most part, relentlessly grim and surly. Stake Land does not pull punches and does not let up in its quest to make sure you’re as bummed out as you possibly can be.

By the end of Stake Land, I was feeling down, a little sad and I want to watch something with a rainbow in it.

And, in this regard, as a Saturday Night Movie, it fails. You won’t be laughing with your friends over the hilariousness of it. You will all look into yourselves and wonder at the bleakness of that world and wonder, truly wonder, at the costs you would pay if the world were to end and you were asked to make some truly difficult decisions. And then you’d grab another beer and turn on Strippers versus Werewolves.

I give it Two Cormac McCarthy Novels and The Executioner’s Song. Avoid for Saturday Night. Watch it Sunday Morning instead.

-D-

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Movie Review: Dark Knight Rises

If you didn’t see my earlier entry, let me recap here:

I really love the Batman movies. The ones by Christopher Nolan. I’ve been watching them repeatedly since Batman Begins came out seven years ago. I’ve obsessed over them and in no gentle way.

Partly this has to do with the fact that I grew up with the best cartoon Batman ever and partly it has to do with the general awesomeness of what Nolan accomplished with all three movies.

With the newest movie, Nolan has tied it all up, neat and tight. From beginning to end it’s a thoroughly satisfying narrative. He has managed to tell a story with all three movies in a way few directors could (Peter Jackson cheated by doing all three at once and using a single unified source. George Lucas uses plot holes to shore up a cliched story-arc.) They’re not perfect. I will not defend them to the death. There are gaps in logic and weird puns and stumbling lines and some oddly terrible actors hiding amidst stellar performances.

Speaking of which, Anne Hathaway surprised me. I’ve never had much of an opinion about her or her acting, but she took a character I could care less about and made me care. She was funny and bad-ass and stole almost every scene she was in.

But then, in general, The Dark Knight Rises  manages to hit all the right notes. And here and there, they hearken back to the two earlier movies without hitting the audience with a sledgehammer. There are mirrored lines and motivations and scenes that vibrate along those sympathetic wave lengths that make you turn to the person next to you and say, “Remember from Batman Begins when that thing with the thing happened?”

And at the end, satisfaction, because it feels like this was how it was always going to end.  It doesn’t feel contrived or forced. It’s a natural outcome of events as dictated by the actions of the characters.

And it was the best ending for a series I’ve been following for seven years.

Godspeed Batman.

-D-

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The Dark Knight Rises: Prepping

Ever since Batman Begins, I’ve been a little crazy for Batman. I read all the news. Got excited about the casting. Debated the merits of Katie Holmes and how she was going to ruin it.

When The Dark Knight was announced, I nearly exploded from joy. The Joker! Maggie Gyllenhaal! Two-Face! More Batman!

I became certain that I would die before it came out, that I would miss what was surely going to be the best movie ever.

And, now very soon, the third and last movie in the trilogy is coming out and I’m going to be there, front row center. Not literally. Those would be terrible seats.

This time, I have to be there at the  start to see the end. Expect a review tonight or tomorrow.

And expect it to specked with my tears.

-D-

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The Process

In order to get myself hyped about writing reviews again, I’m going to let ya’ll in on a behind-the-scenes look at the process I use when writing reviews. It’s also a good way to get two blog entries out of one movie.

1. First, I pick the movie. This involves going through the collection of horror movies available on Netflix. I flip through the list until I read a plot synopsis that makes me wince. This week’s selection is Hanger, a movie about an abortion gone wrong. Quality!

2. Next, I watch the movie. This can take anywhere from the running time of the movie to a full week, depending on how good the movie is. As I watch, I make notes to help me when I actually start to write the review. Usually the notes are far from helpful since they’re usually things like: “Dialog bad. What write movie?” “Jesus Crickets, this sucks.”

3. After a substantial recovery period, I start to write the review. Since I need a screencap for the review and since I always forget to take the screencap while I’m watching the movie, this means starting up Hanger again. A second substantial recovery period is needed.

4. I then write the review a full month after picking the movie. Generally, I’ve forgotten a great number of details, so I end up rewatching most of the movie to make sure I get my facts right.

5. By this point, I’m now the foremost expert on this movie and it’s time to pick the next movie.

Elapsed time: 2 months

This is assuming that everything goes well. Sometimes I’ll watch an entire movie and there’s nothing interesting to say about it, so I’ll move on to something else. Hanger looks promising though.

Dylan Charles

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