31 December 2007

OLR: Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)

The 21st century additions were done with care and subtlety, improving an already excellent film. (9/10)

d. Ridley Scott

23 December 2007

OLR: Trancers (1985)

Only tough-talkin' Tim Thomerson can possibly save us from that trancer Santa Claus. (7/10)

d. Charles Band

22 December 2007

OLR: The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)

I wish it were a wee funnier, but it was an entertaining enough Christmas fantasy (Kara's very first movie, though she ate and slept through it and can't focus far enough away to see the screen anyway). (6/10)

d. Michael Lembeck

21 December 2007

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1987-1989)

1987 - The Living Daylights - Rather than crack wise about 007’s inability to fit into modern times with his obsolete sophistication, Eon Productions finally decides to force that mother into modern times, updating him with new execution styles, new technology, and a new cynical attitude. Even new Moneypenny. They even go as far as kinda-sorta-not-really creating an origins story, showing off Bond’s skill during a training exercise gone wrong, which ends up being… pretty damn cool.

Timothy Dalton injects much needed youth into the role and as such, the movie feels dangerous. Or maybe it’s the change in cameraman, whatever gets John Glen’s heart back into things. I was struck by how dark everything looked, especially coming from the guy who compromised his style and directed Octopussy. Things behind the iron curtain haven’t looked this bleak since From Russia With Love.

Smacking of a more epic For Your Eyes Only, the relationship with the female lead plays a large role in the decisions 007 makes. There’s a tremendous amount of suspense because of their chemistry, and since the series is once again taking a step back and reexamining its formula, it feels like anything can happen to her.

There still exists the series’ “patented” brand of humor, but this is the first time a Bond film has felt like a spy film in at least a decade. I ask once more: why aren’t more of them like this?

“Eh, you’ve had your eight. Now I’ll have my eighty!” (7.0/10)
d. John Glen

1989 - Licence to Kill - Ever wondered what Bond would look like in an 80’s action film again? WHY?!

Wins the award for most depressing decline for any given actor’s series of Bond films. Forgetting that they already brought Bond up to speed to reflect the audience’s taste, the filmmakers go even further by reflecting the action films of the decade, possibly the biggest mistake they could make. An hour passes before the movie finally feels like a Bond adventure; it takes showing Dalton betting at a casino in a tux, and it’s so brief that I can almost feel the movie climbing off of me and saying ‘Was it good for you?’

Licence to Kill is about ¼ of a Bond film and ¾ of three other films, meshed awkwardly together. Why not get the motivation for the mission out of the way in the escape sequence, instead of introducing the characters, the villains, the methods, and taking forever to do all of it? Got me. Yes, Nassau is very beautiful, but does that have to be the setting every fucking time scuba diving is involved? DOES IT REALLY?

Felix Leiter, his new wife, and Bond’s useless first-act sidekick Sharky (guess what he knows a lot about) share loads of scenes with the star, but in this decade, that’s a mark of impending death. At least my question is finally answered: there’s dark (GOOD) and there’s sadistic (BAD) and here, they clearly tipped it too far towards the latter. Dismemberment-by-shark, implosion-by-decompression, and killed-by-rock-crusher are cool, but they all belong in a film with better characterization.

It’s in the final half hour where the love of making this film shows, and elevates the movie back into average territory. 007 nearly jackknifes himself to get his vengeance, going head-to-knife with scene-saving Benicio del Toro, who isn’t the main villain but hell he should have been. Trucks, explosions, Wayne Newton, closing credits soon follow.

Farewell, Timothy Dalton. The next role I see of yours will be the one where you take a steeple to the chin.

You may proceed to wow me, Pierce Brosnan.

“Launder it.” (5.0/10)
d. John Glen

06 December 2007

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1983-1985)

1983 - Octopussy - Let’s go back to bein all wacky! Why the hell not?

The series has basically earned the right to be anything it wants, no longer reinventing the wheel but cycling through the methods it has pioneered, alternating to keep up with the mood of the audience, what they think those anonymous bastards want to see, which apparently is bland India espionage. Jewel smuggling: still not interesting.

Here goes my vote for most one-dimensional Bond girl, so bland that the same attributes go to two different characters. “I collect memories.” Uh… okay, significance? Somebody? Anybody?

If you want to see what is basically a bunch of other Bond films jammed into one, this would be it. Most of the ideas appear to come from Goldfinger (an acrobatic army consisting entirely of women, plot to blow something up, intimidating henchman crushing objects with their bare hands, Bond spending much of the late second act at the villain’s villa, learning the plot via surveillance, spotting danger in a reflective surface, climax on a plane).

Probably the most forgettable Bond of the entire series. Nothing new here except for the occasional well-filmed action sequence and totally neato gadget. Buzz-saw yo-yo?! I want seven.

“And this… for my brother.” (5.0/10)
d. John Glen

1983 - Never Say Never Again - Ever wondered what Bond would look like in an 80’s action movie? … Why? Well, here you go anyway, a crazy alternate universe where jokes about Connery Bond’s total lack of being able to fit into modern times bombard him constantly from all angles while he looks too old for this shit. The film is actually a welcome change of pace. Moore has done a bang-up job so far, but I am a bit tired of him, and the official films are in their typical state of decline. And it's Thunderball. Thunderball! Mostly.

It’s ten years later and Connery looks better here than he did in Diamonds Are Forever, even with all of the makeup. That’s fine, though, because this makes up for the mistake that was returning to the role last time. It looks like he's actually fighting people!

Bad casting for Blofeld. Sorry, I can only see Max von Sydow as a seasoned priest or the creator of Precrime. Maybe a chess-playing knight. His role amounts to nothing, as the real villain of the story is Largo, played excellently by Klaus Maria Brandauer.

Good special effects, save for a shitty looking dive off of a castle via horse. Eon Productions should get up on this. The only formula the movie doesn’t get right is the gadgets. Whenever a hairy situation arises, it is quite obvious as to how Bond will escape.

This had great potential to be awful, as the 80’s is basically a holocaust for action films. This turned out to be quite good, and would have made a fine addition to the official series.

Later, Connery. I’d say goodbye, but who knows, you might return once more. We all know you love acting almost as much as you love smacking women around, admit it.

“Heavy, Mr. Bond?” (6.5/10)
d. Irvine Kershner
[will Rowan Atkinson ever look different?]

1985 - A View to a Kill - Always with the skiing. Why with the skiing?

Like You Only Live Twice, it’s a slow build to realization that this is going to suck, and suck it hard. The screenwriters must have thought that an illegal horse drugs ring would provide for many double entendres about sex. Kudos to them. Too bad roiding equines is about as interesting as smuggling jewels, and a bigger scheme which is basically plot-stolen from the first Superman film.

Christopher Walken can be menacing in anything. His back story: what the hell? If you’re going to bring up a KGB past with slight implications of genetic manipulation, you damn well follow through with it.

Within the context of the series, ie being in the mood for it and/or knowing that there are lower points than this, the film isn’t so terrible. It lacks love, passion, and a good script is all.

You’d think that British Secret Service would know by now not to look for Bond after a successful mission, as he is likely banging the hell out of the female costar, but no, they keep patching his image in to all government higher ups. What the hell is the matter with them?

Every aspect of the “winning” Bond formula loses here. Not only is it blithely executed, it is simply lazy, with the worst titular line ever. “Wow, what a view… to a kill!” DUN DUN DUNNNNN. Well I’m pumped, I wonder if that’s where the climax is going to be!

Both Moore and Connery’s worst outing as 007 have the same line, “But of course you are,” delivered under the same circumstances. COINCIDENCE?!!! Uh... probably.

Filmmakers at this point have confused ‘tongue-in-cheek’ with ‘cartoony bullshit.’ A somewhat triumphant rescue from a burning building is marred by reaction shot after reaction shot and an immediate clash with local law enforcement, again. More comic-relief ruining what could have been a kickass chase involving a fire engine with an unlocked ladder.

Sadly, this is the exit. Farewell, Roger Moore, you were a good Bond. Can’t say I’m going to miss your commentary, though.

Bring on Tim Dalty.

“This will hurt him more than me. Hahaha.” (4.5/10)
d. John Glen

05 December 2007

OLR: Supergirl (1984)

Supergirl herself and the SFX are great, but they're trapped in a movie not quite goofy enough to be a camp classic and not plotted well enough to be taken seriously. (5/10)

d. Jeannot Szwarc

04 December 2007

OLR: Superman III (1983)

This is the most fun of the Reeve Superman movies to watch, with great comic book-style action (vs. a chemical fire! vs. a tornado! vs. a super computer! vs. his evil twin!) and a Richard Pryor performance that never fails to crack me up. (8/10)

d. Richard Lester

03 December 2007

OLR: Superman II (1980)

Despite significant flaws and some parts I plain dislike, it remains one of the most entertaining of super-hero movies. (7/10)

d. Richard Donner & Richard Lester

01 December 2007

OLR: Superman: The Movie (1978)

There'll never be a better portrayer of Superman, a better Superman score, or a better Krypton sequence than seen here. (8/10)

d. Richard Donner

27 November 2007

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1977-1981)

1977 - The Spy Who Loved Me - After trying a more comical tone didn’t work and after following in Connery’s footsteps also failed miserably, we are presented with something different: an espionage thriller cut wide open and replaced with Bond organs, creating a monster which works wonders. Moore finally gets his spy legs.

Between reminders of what you’re watching, it’s easy to forget that this is 007 and shit is quirky. See, here, shit is also heavy. 007 knocks a henchman off a roof and one-lines him at a moment where it would do good to no one, only to gloat I suppose. Bond’s marital status is even mentioned and responded to with a serious ‘shut your mouth’ look. Have I not been paying attention? Or did things just get this way?

After mucking up You Only Live Twice, the film is a total redemption for the director. This is who that Gilbert guy thinks he is, making Bond look absolutely badass riding a tiny water vehicle, backflipping over a snow dune, and dispatching Jaws with a giant magnet. This has come at a welcome time, too, since I haven’t fully enjoyed Bond for six films. Twelve years. Utter crap.

It really is nice to see actors and crew fully utilizing all of their talents, with none of the ’oh well, it’s only Bond’ attitude. Movie’s awesome. There’s no reason why they can’t all be like this.

“Pyramids. AHHHHHH!” (7.0/10)
o. 1977
d. Lewis Gilbert

1979 - Moonraker - I swear to sweet tiny Jesus (the littlest Jesus of all) the next time we jump cut to Bond after a double entendre, I will murder someone.

Oddly, the first act briefings have gotten predictable faster than the gadgets have. "Bond, come into my office to learn the plot. Flirt with Miss Moneypenny and off you go." Even the female roles have gotten a bit stale. Introduction means that in ten minutes, she’ll be dead or screwed.

Signs that the Bond movies are starting to go downhill: needless use of process screens. Another sign: when villains order Bond killed on their own property. How exactly is that not going to look suspicious to British Secret Service? Try being a spy for a bit, maybe, see if that works.

For the record, I love Jaws as a recurring invincible henchman, even if he is a bit overused here. He appears in every action sequence, grinning like a rapist. His reappearance is somewhat sudden, with no justifiable excuse other than ‘he was there/the movie had some.’ As if a skydive with no parachute wasn’t enough?

And how does Moore always get into a speed boat chase? Canals bring him nothing but trouble.

Bond succeeds in his pilot’s disguise this time and makes it into outer space, where well-done special effects await. The third act kicks the movie into high gear, accompanied by an excellent score which fills me with a sort of chest-inflating pride, grateful that 007 is on our side and saving the entire world sometimes.

And even though the scheme is recycled from the previous film, the idea is still neat. And- hey! That’s the guy from Munich! Woo. Not bad, third act, not bad at all.

“Well, here’s to us.” (5.5/10)
d. Lewis Gilbert

1981 - For Your Eyes Only - Fine, keep the double entendres, movie. See if I care.

I remember being especially wary about this entry, as it takes place in a decade where good action films go to have one unforgivable aspect ruin them entirely. The cheesily produced score does not help this one in the slightest, but luckily, the script and the direction help immensely, making for what is probably going to be my favorite of Moore’s films.

Keeping with Bond tradition, second unit director takes up directing job, with great down-to-Earth results. John Glen ain’t there to muck about. He throws out most conventional Bond filming techniques and treats the entire film like a second unit shoot, placing Moore right there with the action and only using projection screens as a last resort. Everything’s so damn honest, and combined with the setting, it makes me wonder what On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would have been like if it were handled as serious as this.

But perhaps the reason it is so serous is because it lacks the grandeur of the previous entries. Brilliant staging nonetheless, the actions scenes don’t go far outside of their point of origin, and with the ‘ending’ of the SPECTRE organization in the obligatory opening teaser, the plot is confined to mere lies and double-crosses between organizations. I for one delight in seeing 007 running around and being all angry and spy-full. Heheh, ‘spy-full,’ get it?

I'm left with not much to nitpick about. For Your Eyes Only does well in forcing my complainy trap shut.

"I trust you had a pleasant fright!" (7.0/10)
d. John Glen

18 November 2007

OLR: Children of Men (2006)

The most effective part of this movie for me is that, outside of the unlikely initial cause, it depicts the most realistic dystopia I've seen on film. (10/10)

d. Alfonso Cuarón

11 November 2007

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1973-1975)

1973 - Live and Let Die - Bond clashes with the seventies because he’s so progressive. He is? Yes.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is Roger Moore, Bond as a hotshot Cary Grant, less refined and more topical humor oriented, escaping harrowing situations not with a dark comic spin but with lightfooted wackiness. Moore’s got the look and he’s got the demeanor, but not so much the attitude, and therein lies my biggest complaint with this outing: did I accidentally walk into a Howard Hawks picture?

Owning a kind of Superfly/The Enforcer tone, 007 smirks his way through a simple mystery involving a kingpin and his pointlessly psychic assistant. Great action set pieces contained within, one with a double-decker bus, another with a grounded plane, a third with a bunch of speed boats and comic-relief police cars, and there’s even an escape from crocodiles. You certainly cannot fault any of the action.

For what you can… I’m not too sure. What is clear is that forcing the tone of the film to reflect the era doesn’t work. Bond is so out of place in this environment that it seems like sheer goodwill that he is allowed to survive. The producers were concerned that his suave elegance no longer interested a peace-loving antiVietnam-war audience, who wanted more of bluntly violent Dirty Harry-style justice and meandering plotless road trips. They didn’t consider that perhaps, maybe, the reason why Bond was sloping is because the material was missing some of the intelligence of earlier entries.

Heheh, “Butter-claw,” the first funny Bond quip since Thunderball’s “You can’t win them all.” Guy Hamilton does good here. It is clear to me that style isn’t his strength. He is much better at atmosphere. Is it just me, or is voodoo never adventurey? It can be scary or disturbing, not ‘boy this is fun.’

Yapphet Kotto as Kananga is a wonderful villain, second only to Blofeld. Bond’s confrontation with him at the climax stands at even height to the best Bond films. It gets undeniably cool towards the end. If only the rest of it were as interesting as these final scenes. Did that man ‘splode? Very much so.

I would have preferred a better debut for Moore, at the very least it’s a step in the right direction.

“Trouble!” (5.5/10)
d. Guy Hamilton

1974 - The Man with the Golden Gun - A return to the well, sorta. Gone is the prevalent 70’s tone and back is the dreamlike whimsy. Course, the problem is that the story could have been compressed to about an hour. Well, okay, more than just one problem: terrible opening theme, a stupid midget sidekick, Moore smacking women around and grabbing sumo ass, which is not my idea of spy coolness. That sort of thing is sure to send some corpses spinning.

Scaramanga’s obsession on dueling with Bond is the focus, but it is so overwrought that by the time it finally happens, it’s more of a relief that at least we don’t have to sit through any more setup. Christopher Lee's catlike also fails to interest.

It’s no cat-and-mouse game if there isn’t a mystery at work. We know why Scaramanga’s bad within the opening scene; he kills people by boring them to death in a stupid funhouse. After that, the progression is pretty simple: Bond figures something out, cut to a shot of Scaramanga looking pleased, Bond figures something else out, cut to another shot of Scaramanga being a puppeteer again. This gets tedious very, very quickly.

In spite of its numerous shortcomings, it does has its moments. The solar power implementation is neat, and Goodnight and Bond have great chemistry, probably the only thing that did fully immerse me in the film. I cared about those two kids getting together, even if it is painfully inevitable.

The Man with the Golden Gun ultimately saves itself from being terrible, barely, and I suppose that means that it is only a waste of time and nothing worse.

"I like a girl in a bikini. No concealed weapons." (5.0/10)
d. Guy Hamilton

04 November 2007

OLR: Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Yeah, people were crying an awful lot, but it was neato other than that. (7/10)

d. Sam Raimi

03 November 2007

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1969-1971)

1969 - On Her Majesty’s Secret Service - The series is in its darker days. A lead actor has quit and the replacement is doomed to unfavorable comparisons. It’s time to pick up the pieces and carry on. Is it pulled off? IS IT? HUH?

In several cinematic throwbacks to Dr. No, actual introduction of (the new) Bond is held off to the last possible second, George Lazenby finally revealed after a beautiful fight sequence on an underexposed beach. Fourth wall breakage, live-zooms, dropped frames, and echoed sound effects ensue.

For better or worse, it looks like the old school style is back. Using a veteran Bond editor and second unit cameraman as this movie’s helmer works very well. Peter Hunt has a definite vision for the series, and his portrayal is accurate; he clearly knows what he is doing, thankfully abandoning much of the style of the previous picture.

The film’s major downfall isn’t the casting change, but the length. It definitely feels as long as it is, and doesn’t ever recover from the pacing drop in the middle. Excellent sexual tension and interplay with the female lead is abruptly halted in favor of the main story, confining the budding relationship to a cheap montage.

So then the main plot steals center stage… and it’s a drag. Some of the blame goes to the poor pacing of the act. It takes Bond forever to uncover SPECTRE’s simple quest for world domination, and his method for doing so is interviewing (read: screwing) the girl test subjects. Gee, thanks for that giant waste of time, movie, it wouldn’t have felt like a Bond film without the womanizing.

It’s a huge relief when the romantic subplot returns to the forefront, and I can’t remember feeling that way about any movie. Ever.

Lots of love goes to supporting characters. Diana Rigg gets to hurt some bad guys, and Blofeld takes a hands-on approach to his work, hunting right along side his henchmen. Very refreshing to see, as opposed to trying to be Bond’s friend and killing the guy standing next to him by way of example. Telly Savalas is my favorite on-screen portrayal of the villain, hands-down.

In a sharp contrast to the brilliance of the fistfight at the beginning, the rest of the fight sequences aren’t convincing enough, especially the ski battles. Background plates are used frequently throughout, quality ranging from poor-looking to terrible-looking, and the climactic Bond-Blofeld fight could have been staged a whole lot better.

It’s typical early-007-era throughout, save for the ending, which still hits me pretty hard. This time, I don’t know if it’s because of content or context. The further I venture from the ‘good old days,’ the more depressed I get. Bond’s heyday is clearly at an end, and even the production team is palpably losing their passion for the material, letting the smallest things bother them (bad press, Lazenby’s set behavior, the lack of fitting lyrics to the title). Like the Korean war and the third season of Arrested Development, it is easy to forget this ever happened.

Farewell, Lazenby. Noble effort. I would have gladly accepted more.

“We do not discuss the affairs of ze cleaning!” (5.5/10)
d. Peter Hunt

[ASIDE - This marathon is already beginning to drain on me. It is no MST3K yearlong thing, for certain, which is the thought that keeps me going. This should be easy. These movies don’t require much thought to enjoy, and like the Eon Productions team stubbornly insists, they are fluffy escapes from the drudges of reality. But man, I had to watch Goldfinger a total of three times to knock out the commentary, unnecessary since (and I hate it when studios do this) most of the comments are edited from interviews from at least ten years prior. I understand when most of the crew is long dead, but it is annoying when comments are repeated in the featurettes. If these movies are nothing but escapes, why do we need multiple commentary tracks for any of them? I don’t care how ten minutes of Thunderball sounds in Italian, I really don’t.

I am getting through it all quickly enough, quicker than these reviews are appearing on the site (it takes time for me to write in a less interesting manner than ‘rex, after all). John Cork of the Ian Fleming Foundation does a fair job of moderating and explaining most of the contributing comments, but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the first time the commentary kept me interested. Peter Hunt talks about the stresses of being a first time director, the artistic choices he made with some of the scenes, and insists that this stuff is a lot harder than it looks. I believe it.

Save for getting all of the visual references in Madonna’s Die Another Day music video, most of this information is going to end up being useless to me. Maybe in situations where I could annoy people by rambling on and on about which title sequences Maurice Binder designed or how Tom Jones passed out at the end of the Thunderball theme. Does that make it worth pressing the right arrow button over and over again in the image gallery menus? No. It does not.]

1971 - Diamonds Are Forever - Sean Connery makes a triumphant return. This means it will be awesome, yes?

Not by a long shot.

Connery hurts his previous performances with this sad, sad show of near-B-movie antics. No one learned their lesson from You Only Live Twice, though unlike the slow build to crap in that movie, it is apparent right away that this one won’t be good, no, not at all.

After a poorly sound-designed rampage across the world in search of Blofeld, we are reintroduced to 007, who looks worse than ever, suffering from a clear case of ‘I should have been in the last one.’ He can’t throw a punch fast enough to knock someone out from behind, is distracted by breaking glass, and manages to make running around on the moon look ridiculous. His government offers no assistance, and I don’t care what anybody says, jewel smuggling will never be an interesting subject.

This was scribed by Richard Maibaum (he wrote Thunderball… THUNDERBALL!) and yet it’s so thin it could escape a prison cell a la stupid Catwoman. SPECTRE’s behind it, they despise the space program, and they want money. How interesting. Watch Bond kill somebody in a batch of mashed potatoes! Watch him run around Las Vegas! Watch him make unfunny quips about being helped out of hairy situations! Gasp at the ridiculous villains! You think killing somebody on their property in broad daylight is ridiculous, think how bad it is leaving him in a pipe and walking away. Surely Bond will die and the situation will work itself out. How in God’s name was this filmed, let alone written?

When it comes time for Bond to figure out where the climax will be, all he has to do is look at Whyte’s updated model of his factories, now including the newly constructed secret base where the laser control center is housed. Good thinking, Blofeld, villains have to keep the world current, after all.

The movie is little beyond an excuse to feature a car chase, a moon buggy chase, a three-way fistfight between Bond and two women, and an oil rig explosion. Hard evidence of how low the series can get, and I sincerely hope it never gets any lower.

See ya later, Connery. Bring me Roger Moore.

“And Tree was a crowd, Mr. Kidd.” (4.0/10)
d. Guy Hamilton

01 November 2007

OLR: Stargate: "Children of the Gods" (1997)

Effective as a sequel to the movie and as a setup for series; hooray for the bonus nudity even the feature film lacked. (7/10)

d. Mario Azzopardi

OLR: Stargate (1994)

You have to hand it to Colonel O'Neil: going to an alien planet on the other side of the Universe and blowing up a nuke is pretty much the most badass suicide plan anyone could ever think of. (7/10)

d. Roland Emmerich

SWH07: Week 6 (thirteenth)... Halloween

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 6 (thirteenth)

Tales from the Crypt: "Spoiled" (1991)
Twenty-five minutes of waiting around for a 10-second zinger at the end. (5/10)

d. Andy Wolk

Tales from the Crypt: "Yellow" (1991)
This big big-budget tale of the horrors of World War I, though not exactly a traditional TftC story, was a great finisher for season 3. (7/10)

d. Robert Zemeckis

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (trailer)
Bad Channels (trailer)
Looney Tunes: "The Case of the Stuttering Pig"

The Shining (1980)
It's feels like a horror movie made by someone who'd never watched a horror movie in his life, or intentionally tried to ignore the traditional conventions, or thought he could create new conventions. (9/10)

d. Stanley Kubrick

The Return of the Living Dead (trailer)
Evil Dead (trailer)
Happy Tree Friends: "Remains to be Seen"

Masters of Horror: "Sounds Like" (2007)
What if Daredevil was a fat, bald guy who could see and hated his wife? (6/10)

d. Brad Anderson

The Exorcist (TV spot)
Class of Nuke 'Em High Part II: Subhumanoid Meltdown (trailer)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror: The Raven"

Masters of Horror: "The Washingtonians" (2007)
Everything outside of the Washintonians themselves was played far too seriously to match the utter goofiness of the cannibal cult. (5/10)

d. Peter Medak

Halloween (1978)
Still the greatest slasher movie of all time. (9/10)

d. John Carpenter

This Halloween, I was joined by Mrs. K and C. Once again, the upstairs lights were kept off. Sorry kids: movies are more important than handing out free candy. A feast of pizza, Beck's Oktoberfest and Halloween cupcakes were enjoyed by all (well, Mrs. K had to stick to that god-awful O'Doul's).

I saved the three glass bottle flavors of Jones Soda's Halloween flavors for Halloween night. Monster Mojito still tastes to me like the alcohol drinks served in college that make you vomit. It's not really a flavor I crave in a carbonated, stand-alone form. Dread Licorice tastes exactly, exactly like liquid red licorice. It's not bad. If you've ever used a red licorice whip as a straw when you were a kid, the experience is similar. It's fraternal twin, however, is awful. I knew Black Cat Licorice, the black licorice-flavored drink, had the potential to be pretty bad. It was. Even though I'm one of the rare people on the planet who actually likes black licorice candy, I couldn't even finish this one. I addition to the liquid black licorice flavor, it leaves the distinct aftertaste of skunky beer on your pallet once you swallow. Not pleasant. Of this year's seven flavors, it's the only one I couldn't drink. Compared to other years, this is actually an improvement for the Jones company. Maybe they can make 7/7 good ones in 2008?

I decided to dress as Mirror Universe Spock for work this year. I know, I know. Evil Spock didn't wear that type of uniform shirt. You can dock me 10 points from my geek account. No one would've ever have figured out who I was suppose to be if I tried to duplicate Evil Spock's weird, shiny blue shirt-with-sash thing. In fact, no one did figure out the whole evil part. Despite the goatee and that one South Park episode that emphasized the idea of evil facial hair, no one guessed that I was the evil version of Spock. Ah well. I knew.

It's always interesting to hear what people will say to you when you're dressed up. Especially since most of the people at work don't wear costumes. Those of us in disguise were in an exclusive club; we acknowledged each other's shared experience when chatting in hallways, lamenting everyone else's lack of holiday spirit. Memorable comments from the non-dressed-up folks included:
  • called "Dr. Spock" four times
  • called "Captain Kirk" three times
  • delivery guy: "Hey, why aren't you teleporting?" me: "I need the exercise"
  • lady in elevator: "Do you have your translator chip in?" she asks, pointing to spot behind her ear. "We could really use those here." (no idea what show this she's thinking of here)
  • guy from India who apparently wasn't aware of what day it was: "If you don't mind me asking, what's with the outfit?"
There were also many Vulcan salutes directed my way, plus many smiles as people recognized who I was dressed as. All in all, it was fun. And, damn, those uniform shirts are comfortable.

And, that's it! My Six Weeks of Halloween celebration is over. I didn't watch as many movies, nor eat as much candy, as I did in years prior. That's fine. I had fun and maximized my enjoyment of this, the last child-free Halloween of my life. Next year: making a goofy costume for the kid, and reading kid Halloween books as bedtime stories are what I'm most looking forward to.

31 October 2007

SWH07: Week 6 (twelfth)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 6 (twelfth)

Tales from the Crypt: "Deadline" (1991)
The only thing of interest here is the out-of-nowhere expressionist set in the framing scenes. (5/10)

d. Walter Hill

29 October 2007

SWH07: Week 6 (eleventh)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 6 (eleventh)

Masters of Horror: "We All Scream for Ice Cream" (2007)
Surprisingly well-executed despite the ridiculous premise. (7/10)

d. Tom Holland

Tales from the Crypt: "Mournin' Mess" (1991)
Mrs. Tom Hanks, no! (6/10)

d. Manny Coto

Tales from the Crypt: "Split Second" (1991)
I don't think this was supposed to be about gay lumberjacks, but it's fun to look at it that way. (7/10)

d. Russell Mulcahy

28 October 2007

SWH07: Week 6 (tenth)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 6 (tenth)

28 Weeks Later (2007)
Though there are several excellent horror movies scenes, the movie overall is plagued by people making unnaturally stupid decisions. (6/10)

d. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1967)

1967 - Casino Royale - Detroit Free Press’s blurb ‘A spoof to end all spy spoofs!’ on the DVD cover is a bit misleading. Spoof implies that there is some humor to be found here. There isn’t. Trust me there isn’t. In fact, the only part of it that I find truthful is that it salts the earth in the ‘let’s make fun of spy movies’ garden, at least until the ZAZ crew makes it big.

A Russian character at the beginning of the film says, while surrounded by hungry lions, “I did not come here to be devoured by symbols of monarchy!” which by my account should make me laugh. Changing every 00 agent to 007 to protect the agency, as well as the MI-6 training program consisting of femme fatale resistance should be laugh-worthy. Figure out why they’re not and you’ve figured out what makes Casino Royale so insultingly terrible. With the exception of Woody Allen’s performance, there’s the feeling of ‘funny on paper, not funny here.’

A bunch of time, money, energy etc. could have been saved by not filming the worthless introductory dialogue and the destruction of Bond’s mansion. It also would have shaved ten minutes off the run time. We don’t even see McTarry die, so there isn’t even a need for Bond’s visit to his widow. That’s another half hour shaved off right there, no suffering through the unfunniest series of skits I’ve ever seen in my life (Scottish rituals sure is wacky take that Scotland). Where was the editor during this? Did one even exist?

Magic tricks, Orson Welles? Really? Fine, whatever, thanks for the contribution.

The actor playing (the real) Bond doesn’t help in the slightest. The stammering, a “joke” I guess, was a terrible idea. Why wasn’t this caught at the offset? And John Huston directed the first two chapters? Sheesh, someone was on drugs. I wish I was.

The conclusion I have come to is that the viewer should be the editor: skip watching the film entirely, bringing the runtime down to a nice, sexy 0:00. Never have I seen such a criminal misuse of a lucrative franchise, a studio budget, and a talented cast. A note to super villains: next time you capture 007, make him watch this. It is torture to the edge of madness.

“I have a very low threshold of death. My doctor says I can’t have bullets enter my body at any time.” (2.5/10)
d. John Huston, Ken Hughes, Val Guest, Robert Parrish, Joe McGrath

1967 - You Only Live Twice - Heheh, “Bond rises in the East.” I get it.

So let me get this straight… Bond pretends to be a corpse for as long as it takes for his burial at sea to be arranged in order to allow his overly planned fake death? Fair enough, but the sea-faring motif was perfectly executed in Thunderball. You’ll need something to make it seem fresh… Japan! Of course! Shoot Bond out of a torpedo bay until he arrives in Tokyo! No he can’t use the bloody door, just do it! Sigh, I miss Terence Young already. He certainly wouldn’t have stood for this approximation of the Bond universe. Who the hell does this Gilbert guy think he is, anyhow?

Connery still owns the attitude, but either it has outgrown him or he has outgrown it. Apparently two years is enough time to make him look too old for this. Probably why he decided to “retire” from playing the role; he won’t even go down a slide (28 sec) anymore! It is a bit understandable, considering what transpires in this film, i.e. mostly insipid bullshit. Evidence suggests that Connery is only believable as Bond when Young is directing (unless Irvine Kershner pulls through).

You Only Live Twice has an all right line going for a bit, wasting no time introducing several allies and staging a fight scene and an escape sequence. Sure, Japan’s equivalent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service is made to be quite the cuckold when Bond points out that all they need to do is ENLARGE THE PICTURE in order to generate some leads, but it’s fine… for a bit.

No, it’s slow to realizing that the film is going to be a low point in the series. The real killer is when they turn Bond Asian and suspension of disbelief takes a well-placed ninja knife to the spine. No point in doing the disguise at all, really, as assassins seem to have no trouble recognizing him. Bond stumbles across the secret volcano base completely by accident afterwards, and the disguise inexplicably disappears.

Where Thunderball was a wonderfully believable dream, this installment is a shock back to illogical reality. The villains decide that shooting at Bond right outside of one of their buildings in broad daylight with hundreds of witnesses would be a good way to get rid of him. Not the most ingenious of plots. Neither is kidnapping both Russian and American astronauts in order to… you know what, I’m not even sure. Play both sides, I guess. World domination, whatever. Go hunt Michael Myers, Pleasance, you aren’t helping.

I have been foolish in thinking that I knew what thin was. Lesson learned. Thin is interrupting a torture scene to get implied sex out of the way before Bond is once again attempted to be done away with in a less-than-totally-diabolical fashion. Thin is forcing a wife on him so his sexy sidekick can be killed with no one noticing.

It’s barely anything beyond one stupid scene after another. Ninja Training School, bird-no-make-nest-in-bare-tree my ass. I wondered where the sharp gradient into pitiable action set-piece territory would occur. Here it is: elegant Bond in the throes of death.

“Mr. Osato believes in a healthy chest.” (4.5/10)
d. Lewis Gilbert

27 October 2007

SWH07: Week 6 (ninth)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 6 (ninth)

The Munsters: "Herman the Rookie" (1965)
I theorize that the movies for Frankenstein and Dracula never came out in The Munsters' universe, which is why everyone just thinks they're accident victims and mutants. (6/10)

d. Jerry Paris

28 Days Later (2002)
Though I'll never be a huge fan of fast zombies, they make for effective scary monsters (judging from the wife's constant covering of her eyes). (8/10)

d. Danny Boyle

26 October 2007

SWH07: Week 6 (eighth)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 6 (eighth)

Terror Train
What nice old man the conductor was, not minding a frat party on his train and making smart decisions when the bodies start to pile up. (6/10)

d. Roger Spottiswoode

25 October 2007

SWH07: Week 6 (seventh)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 6 (seventh)

Masters of Horror: "Valerie on the Stairs" (2006)
I loved the Barkerian Valerie and the Beast (played by Candyman himself) and I'm impressed that Clive's story got Garris to finally grow a pair, but everything else from the acting to the story was subpar. (6/10)

d. Mick Garris

Tales from the Crypt: "Undertaking Palor" (1991)
I had a lot of fun with this perfectly casted Goonies-esque horror adventure. (8/10)

d. Michael Thau

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1964-1965)

1964 - Goldfinger - Right out of the gate, director Guy Hamilton shows us that he isn’t quite as talented as director Terence Young. Thin plot isn’t something that can look like it was shot on MGM’s backlot, which this entry looks consistency like it does (with such liberal use of projection screen cutaways, it’s no wonder green screen is as widely used as it is today; why even go to locations anymore). Look at it in the wrong way and it all falls apart, and I guess I’m looking at it the wrong way. Who’s idea was it to frame an opposite angle of Goldfinger in a way that makes it look like Bond can see him from the binoculars? Honestly, that’s insane.

Technical aspects do improve in other areas. There’s a nicely timed helicopter shot circling around a hotel and zooming in on a swimmer jumping off a high dive, an effective cutaway of a random soldier flying out of the Aston Marten DB-5 via ejector seat, and a genuinely suspenseful laser slab torture sequence.

Not fifteen minutes in and Bond uses his animal magnetism no less than four times on the way to sloppily meeting the movie’s villain. Bond is clumsy throughout, his survival dependent not on his skill but everyone else’s lack thereof. Turns out his biggest weakness (besides inordinate amounts of Pussy Galore and a high-powered laser to the junk) is a mirror. Pullin the ol’ elevator in the floor trick to get out of a jail cell, now that’s some good spy work, jack. I fear these are the origins of the sit-com type setups, ones that permeate the Roger Moore films and signify that a lead actor change is extremely nigh. Also, did Bond just badmouth the Beatles? Yes, yes he did.

For such a famous car, the Aston Martin DB-5’s debut was disappointing, certainly no trick suitcase. Bond uses most of the car’s tricks in one blow and then it’s all over. Thanks for pioneering the ejector seat, you may now go home.

Compared to the last two, little actually transpires; opening credits, villain introduction, obligatory briefing, golf game, action scene, beginning of third act/all information given, climax. Sprinkle one-liners throughout, and boom, there’s the movie. No better example exists for the Bond formula, but better executions certainly do. Yes, the final showdown at Fort Knox is very nice, however, I am simply not invested. Bond barely makes it through alive and I barely make it through without turning on the subtitles and pressing fast-forward. Why this is the most widely seen film in the series is beyond me.

And what a poor casting choice for Felix Leiter. What happened to the dreamboat?

"You can turn off the charm. I’m immune." (5.0/10)
d. Guy Hamilton

1965 - Thunderball - After taking a break from the series to direct a non-Bond picture (snob), Terence Young makes a triumphant return, reminding us how it’s done.

They must have gotten my complaints back in ‘65; Thunderball doesn’t skimp on the plot. It’s forty-five minutes of setup before Bond officially gets his assignment. The entire British Secret Service is involved this time. OO Agents are everywhere, helping to uncover SPECTRE’s newest sinister scheme: hijack a nuclear warhead and hold the world hostage. It’s personal, and it’s also better than ever.

What results is a near-perfect balance of Bond picking his battles versus directly saving the day. No scale tipping here, everyone gets their fair share of success and failure. This is probably the best example of imperceptible flow, villain’s scenes coming in just when they are needed, motives on the table and in the open, while remaining mysterious enough to be interesting. A superb return to form for everyone. This is what being a spy is all about. Did Bond just punch a woman in the face? Ye- well, kinda.

Young takes the entire series to school, never-minding the adrenaline and instead wrapping his hand around the heart of the pacing and never unclenching the fist. Bond is quick, but he has to be because the moment he lets up, he’s dead. This is proved at the very beginning when he put through a slightly comical but somewhat disturbing torture sequence. He doesn’t appear to get over this slipup, his wrath continuing for most of the picture. Don’t do that you never do that to Bond again, random henchman.

The spear jihad at the climax is just about the most spectacular action sequence ever. People get harpooned! It’s underwater! It’s epic, dammit!

Connery’s finest hour as 007.

"This bed feels like a cage. All these bars. Do you think I’ll be… safe?" (7.0/10)
d. Terence Young

22 October 2007

OLR: Alien Nation: The Udara Legacy (1997)

They ran out of time and had to wrap things up far too quickly; whatever, I'll miss the adventures of George and Matt all the same (but, what the hell happened to Vessna?). (7/10)

d. Kenneth Johnson

OLR: Alien Nation: The Enemy Within (1996)

One has imagine the hydrofluoric acid mutants as zombies rather than deformed Newcomers in order for this show not to end in happy genocide. (6/10)

d. Kenneth Johnson

20 October 2007

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1962-1963)

1962 - Dr. No - You’re a filmmaker and you’re told to grab the audience at the offset with a good opening, and since you’re Terence Young and you’re awesome, you take that to mean making kickass opening credits. So you call up Maurice Binder and let him work the magic. The result: you, yeah you, wait until those weird 50’s sci-fi noises finally stop and then it’s time for ROCKING, a loud orchestral climax followed by flashing colors and an early Romanek iPod commercial. Sweet.

We’re off to a great start for a series that is more or less in the experimental stages, in a film which sets about breaking rules in the action genre, the spy genre, and the noir genre. Combining old Hollywood shooting style with a hip, exuberant editing style. A story that while told in a meaty adult tone, is pure candy at the core.

There is an inherent quickness; Bond accomplishes goals almost faster than the camera can catch him, quipping at times when it is most damaging to those in proximity and only expounding on the plot when another character needs to hear it. Not much handholding going on until the title villain’s speech towards the end, and by then, it’s like, fifteen minutes before the fadeout.

Connery truly was born to play this role. Every action looks calculated and professional, even when he is caught off guard by kinky dames playing golf in his hotel room. And does he sidestep danger? Hell no, he meets it foolishly head on, making sure he sleeps with Miss Taro first before he turns her in, what any good OO agent would do.

So okay, enjoyable as it is, I’m finding it hard to accurately explain how I feel about this film; it’s a miracle that it works, that it was pulled off at all. It’s got bulls-eyed style supplemented with confident camerawork, brutal killings, and appropriate humor, enough to balance it all out and distract from how ridiculously thin and dreamlike this stuff is. Did Bond just fight a tarantula? Yes. Yes he did.

Honey Ryder’s iconic introduction is the most unnecessary moment in the film, but it’s a marvelous addition to the rich tapestry. By the time all motives are revealed and the showdown above the radioactive isotope finally occurs, it doesn’t even matter that Dr. No Hands is obviously not Chinese. It is an inexplicably good ride.

Oh, and Felix Leiter, now properly named, is yet again, a badass.

“You’ll be sorry! You’ll all be sorry, you rats!” (6.5/10)
d. Terence Young

1963 - From Russia With Love - Why did SPECTRE feel the need to dress up a human target as Bond? Because they knew that he wouldn’t appear for another fifteen minutes or so? I suppose more ridiculous things have happened, and I’ll be getting to those soon.

Take Dr. No’s political intrigue and ratchet it up about 100 percent and you have this film. The complicated chess match between SPECTRE and Her Majesty’s Secret Service is what sets this apart from its predecessor(s). SPECTRE uses an unwitting Russian agent to play an undercover role in defecting and offering a decoding device to England, which really is a front operation in itself, but England knows at least half the story and all the while Bond plays it oblivious, never believing for a second that Russia would ever betray its allies. What gets better than that? Not destroying America’s space program with radiation or bankrupting an organization in a card game, that’s for sure.

It’s still by-the-numbers spyness, and whether or not it is enjoyable comes down to taste. I found the bits of information even more unnecessary, as it didn’t amount to anything substantial beyond making the universe easier to swallow. The film veers off on a tangent somewhere in the middle, where 007 follows around his Russian contact and learns ‘the gypsy way,’ which is nothing but two girls rolling around in the dirt. Honestly, even with the amount of intrigue, the film feels even thinner than Dr. No. Only when it goes behind the curtain does it really interest me, and thus the prime advantage: the villains aren’t silly-dangerous but actually-dangerous, and wouldn’t hesitate to stick you in the throat with a shoeknife.

Speaking of gadgets, I am doing my best to appreciate their inventiveness now before they deteriorate into screenplay exits and deus ex machinas. Q Branch’s suitcase kit is neat, and is very nicely utilized. Amazing how many situations call for a one-shot sniper rifle.

Still a good film. I would have married the hell out of Miss Moneypenny.

“Twelve seconds… One day we must invent a faster working venom.” (6.0/10)
d. Terence Young

19 October 2007

SWH07: Week 5 (sixth)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 5 (sixth)

Beneath Still Waters (2005)
The orgy at the town's anniversary showed small signs of old school Yuzna, who was barely detectable in the dull and poorly plotted remainder. (5/10)

d. Brian Yuzna

Masters of Horror: "The Black Cat" (2006)
An excellent adaption, capturing the spirit of Poe and his work near-perfectly. (9/10)

d. Stuart Gordon

Baby shower 2/2 was the main focus of this weekend, again, rather than Halloween. Though, driving through Michigan at this precise time of year is incredibly beautiful.

I gave two Jones Soda flavors a day in court: Strawberry Slime and Gruesome Grape. They taste almost exactly like their equivalent Faygo flavors (which, I'd like to state, was good drinkin' long before utter idjits started promoting it). What this means to me is that they're completely drinkable. Unbelievably, I found all 4 of the half-can Halloween flavors to be tasty this year. Jones is getting better at this. Of course, next weekend I will be experimenting with their new licorice-flavored drinks. That may change my opinion.

Silent Hill 4: The Room was about as bad as I was expecting. A dull game full of bad choices. One of the worst ideas from the Resident Evil series -- the item box -- was imported and made even more annoying. Rather than multiple boxes that magically teleport your items between each other, there's only one box with which to manage your limited inventory. Accidentally pick up too many bullets and have no room for that key item? You'll have to make a trip all the way back to the apartment, dump some stuff in the box, and walk all the way back. There's no way to simply drop items where you stand. In the universe I live in, this is not remotely close to fun.

About half of the game is an escort mission, essentially. Making sure that a dumb AI-controlled character doesn't get itself killed is rarely more than frustrating (though I did get into it in the excellent Dead Rising). Herding Eileen through levels isn't too bad. You can run faster than her, making it easy to trap her in a room by exiting it before she's close to the door (the AI being too stupid to using doorknobs). Still, during my playthrough, she got wounded enough to get me the worst of the four endings.

There are no bosses, really, to speak of until the end of the game. There aren't really any puzzles outside of collecting items. The areas are the same old stuff: the requisite hospital, a subway, a prison, a forest, an apartment building. To play the game, you shuffle from area to area, occasionally batting down a mutant dog (also a requisite) while picking up items to unlock the path ahead. That's about it. It's as tedious as it sounds.

Play mechanics were never the series' strong suit. The storyline is supposed to be where SH shines. Not so much, here. A serial killer -- who happens to come from Silent Hill, though the game takes place in a different town altogether -- everyone thinks is dead isn't really and he's trying to finish a black magic ritual by killing 21 people. Also, he thinks your apartment is his literal mother. Outside of that bit of psychosis, SH's trademarked psychological horror is largely absent here. You're the hero: you save your pretty neighbor and the world from a bad guy. The end. It's a complete disappointment. I hope the Americans making the next two games can rescue the series from this low point.

18 October 2007

OLR: Alien Nation: Millenium (1996)

Lacking scope and more like a double-length episode, but acceptable enough. (7/10)

d. Kenneth Johnson

15 October 2007

OLR: Alien Nation: Body and Soul (1995)

George and Matt going commando and raiding a secret government facility, kidnapping their experiment and destroying first their weapon and then their entire building is pushing things a tad too far. (6/10)

d. Kenneth Johnson

14 October 2007

SWH07: Week 4 (fifth)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 4 (fifth)

Masters of Horror: "The Screwfly Solution" (2006)
I'm a sucker for a post-apocalyptic movie and, wow, Jason Priestley lives in town? (7/10)

d. Joe Dante

An even more barebones Halloween this weekend. Real life is pushing my normal non-stop horror movie fest to the side this year. Ah well, that'll happen. Others are picking up the slack for me, and I appreciate it.

I did manage to read a pair of horror-themed graphic novels over the weekend. My advice is that you stay as far away as possible from Papercutz's Tales from the Crypt #1: Ghouls Gone Wild. I haven't read such a pathetic horror anthology comic since the disappointing days of Flinch. This book does not contain reprints from the classic '50s series. It's all new material with modern-style art in a digest-sized book. None of this is the problem. The problem is that the writing is awful. The stories all follow the same pattern: asshole does something evil, something supernatural punishes him. Granted, the original series was the creator of this pattern, but, 50 years later, it's tiring to see it resurrected. Why can't anyone do horror anthology comics right these days?

I had exactly the opposite reaction to The Walking Dead, Vol 7: The Calm Before. This series never fails to blow me away. What would real people -- not people trapped in a 90-minute movie -- do if the dead came back to life? How would they interact with other survivors? What problems, both internal and external, would they face? Which problems would they conquer and which would best them? The Walking Dead lays it all out in a stark, realistic, humanistic terms. Vol 7 was no exception. It's telling of the series that the "calm" of the subtitle of this volume involves a doctor-free birth, an amputation, an exploding building and a suicide. For a Walking Dead book, this was all practically relaxing. I'm actually afraid of what terrors volume 8 will visit upon the characters within.

As for what occupied me all weekend, I'll say that if all goes well, next year I'll be Six-Weekin' from here:

13 October 2007

OLR: Alone in the Wilderness (2003)

Something I knew my father-in-law would love. (9/10)

d. Bob Swerer Jr. & Dick Proenneke

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1954)

1954 - Climax!: "Casino Royale" - Certainly gets the series started with a couple of bangs, and gets me all geared up for some suave spy action.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much out of this, but it ends up being surprisingly watchable, like they adapted the most exciting part of the novel and sewed in the necessary information. "Climax!" Oh, I get it.

It’s fairly well-executed for a live broadcast, full of atmosphere and neat set design. It looks like a casino, it feels like a casino. However, the restraints do bring it down in the long run, as a large portion of Act II is spent playing a suspense-less Baccarat game and running back and forth across the same locations. And what can Bond do to someone holding a cane-gun to his back but flail wildly backwards? I’ll have to remember that one.

Disregarding wardrobe, Eisenhower hairstyle and lack of absolute suave confidence, Barry Nelson’s performance was adequate. I can only imagine how audiences were reacting to this first portrayal of 007, especially if they were oblivious to the novels. Within the context of the rest of the series, it might seem like blasphemy to see James Bond acting like an insecure Rock Hudson, his character constantly referred to as "Jimmy." At times his performance goes a bit too far, getting all tv-frantic and overacty. Act III is the shining point, where his obvious vulnerability works for the hot water the character is in, pitted against the always frightening Peter Lorre.

It’s a bit of a shame, but Clarence Leiter steals the show, fooling henchmen left and right, flawlessly wearing his cover while protecting 007’s interests and being an all around badass. He’ll do what he damn well pleases, he will.

Most of the common elements are present: intrigue, listening devices, mysterious dames, supervillain on high, double crosses, torture to the edge of madness… There is no sex but to tell you the truth, I didn’t miss it. Hell, I even got a small kick out of what looks like tv’s most unconvincing Baccarat dealer ever.

Worth a view for those curious to see another version that is better than 1967’s spoof.

"My cane is in your back, but it is a gun, not a cane, and can blow the base of your spine without a sound." (5.5/10)
d. William H. Brown

12 October 2007

OLR: Alien Nation: Dark Horizon (1994)

The intensity has been amped up rather well compared to the TV series. (7/10)

d. Kenneth Johnson

10 October 2007

SWH07: Week 3 (fourth)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 3 (fourth)

Prom Night (1980)
Ah, that's what every other slasher movie I'd ever seen has been missing: tons and tons of disco music. (7/10)

d. Paul Lynch

08 October 2007

SWH07: Week 3 (third)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 3 (third)

Vampire Wars: Battle for the Universe (trailer)
Werewolves on Wheels (trailer)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror IX: Hell Toupée"

From Beyond (1986)
Though somewhat flawed in its execution, I've always loved the idea behind the story. (7/10)

d. Stuart Gordon

A busy couple of days squeezed the weekend Halloween celebrating down to barebones. Did you know that people will give you stuff just for deciding to breed? It's true. To be honest -- rather than attempt to wrangle people into some horror movie watching amongst the post-shower litter of tiny, pink outfits, stuffed animals and books made of thick cardboard -- I decided to play a massive amount of legendary co-op Halo 3 with the brother-in-law. For shame: not very seasonal, I know.

Upon returning home, Mrs. K. and I watched the above. I gave Jones Soda Lemon Drop Dead a day in court as the movie unfolded. This is another repeat flavor from last year, though it has received a demotion. Previously, it was one of the "prestige" glass bottle flavors; now it's relegated to the kid-friendly mini-cans. The shape of the container isn't the only difference: it now tastes a helluva lot like its namesake candy. Last year, its flavor was more like that cheap, powdered lemonade elementary schools tend to serve at lunch. It wasn't worth the glass it was bottled in. This year's version tastes like a can full of pure citric acid. Interesting. Not something you'd drink after running a mile in the desert, but kind of a fun thing to try.

Speaking of H.P. Lovecraft, I've only reached 1916 in my chronological reading of his stories and poems. So far, he's an arrogant racist whose poetry is mostly stiff and tedious. He's not a likable guy in the least. Hopefully, he'll mellow as he ages. I haven't even gotten to his first adult short story, "The Tomb," yet. Judging by his impressive skills in this area at the age of 15, I'm expecting it to be a much-welcomed relief from the unending onslaught of poetry he wrote preceding it.

Guest: Bond, James Bond (opening thoughts)

Happy Birthday. 45 years since the release of the first official entry in the James Bond film series. This calls for consecutive viewing, it does. The way I figure, if it’s good enough for TBS to marathon once a year, it has to be good enough for me, right? Right.

This will be useful, since I have trouble recalling the details of some of the earlier films in the series. Outside of my overall rating, events, characters and plot points bleed together, and I’m not entirely certain what happens in Octopussy; it's quite possible that I have never seen it.

Atonement of this inexcusable laziness consists of purchasing all four volumes of the James Bond series, as well as the separately packaged 21st film, viewing unofficial entries, and resolving not only to watch everything in order but to follow up every film with the corresponding extras on the discs (yes, that includes full-length commentary). I expect to be the nerdy Pai Mei of Bond films after this is all over. If not, I will at least stop getting Bond wrong.

Afterwards, I can tally my intellect with the Bond Scene-It DVD mini-game included in Volumes 1 and 2. It’s the only way I can reconcile the spending of so much money. Second most profitable franchise indeed.

Nobody does it better, eh? Well, we'll see about that.

06 October 2007

OLR: 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

This was my escape during baby shower 1/2; it worked well. (7/10)

d. James Mangold

Guest OLR: Munich (2005)

Remember: assassins have feelings too... and those feelings are awesome. (8/10)

d. Steven Spielberg

03 October 2007

Guest OLR: War of the Worlds (2005)

Being that the aliens were responsible for awe-inspiring visuals and the humans were responsible for irritating me to no end with their constant unnecessary bitching, I would have offered the CG terrestrials some penicillin. (6/10)

d. Steven Spielberg

Guest OLR: The Terminal (2004)

Andrew Niccol isn't going to write something as good as The Truman Show ever again, is he? (6/10)

d. Steven Spielberg

Guest OLR: Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Sign me up for crime, then, if it really is that much fun. (7/10)

d. Steven Spielberg

30 September 2007

SWH07: Week 2 (second)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 2 (second)

Night of the Living Dead (1960, colorized) (trailer)
Night of the Living Dead (1990) (trailer)
Night of the Living Bread

Masters of Horror: "Family" (2006)
Very little happens until the last few minutes, but at least Landis' trademarked smarminess was largely absent. (6/10)

d. John Landis

The Omega Man (trailer)
I Am Legend (trailer)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror VIII: The Homega Man"

Cabin Fever (2002)
I wanted to like this as a serious horror movie, but it kept making faint stabs in goofy directions that just didn't fit. (7/10)

d. Eli Roth

The Adult Version of Jekyll & Hide (trailer)
Man with the Screaming Brain (trailer)
Looney Tunes: "Hyde and Hare"

Masters of Horror: "Right to Die" (2006)
Abby's burned up ghost crawling around was pretty cool in a Julia Cotton sort of way. (7/10)

d. Rob Schmidt

C came over this weekend to enjoy the above, as well as our traditional Pizza House. And, Mrs. K stuck around for both the first Masters of Horror episode and Cabin Fever before retiring for the night. Both of them enjoyed the shows more than me, but that's not unusual.

I also tried my first Jones Soda Halloween flavor of the season. I picked Candy Corn, as it's the one flavor that's been duplicated from the past two years and it's the one I've always liked the least. In fact, I've always found it undrinkable. Last year, I poured my remaining cans into the sink after a few sips of just one. Adding candy corn flavoring to what is already essentially just a can full of corn syrup is beyond overkill. This year, though, Jones has switched to pure cane sugar in all of their drinks. Huge difference. No longer is the candy corn flavoring amplifying the corn syrup sweetness. Instead, the cane sugar adds just the right amount of sweetness to the candy corn flavor. It's still not the greatest soft drink in the world, but I easily finished this can for the first time and I kinda liked it.

We also employed my new popcorn maker during the movies. Chef gave this to me last week. He found it in disrepair, ready to be thrown out. Using his engineering background, he fixed it and got it working and looking great. It's pretty nifty, just like a for-real movie theater. I did learn one lesson: close the lids on the kettle! Butter-flavored sunflower oil is now spattered all over the inside of the thing. That ain't gonna be fun to clean. The popcorn was good, though.

29 September 2007

Guest OLR: Minority Report (2002)

My favorite type of sci-fi, and until recently, the best Philip K Dick adaptation. (7/10)

d. Steven Spielberg

Guest OLR: Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)

In some alternate universe, Kubrick lived to direct this, and it was better. (6/10)

d. Steven Spielberg

27 September 2007

Guest OLR: Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Hits just about all the right notes and, for about an hour and a half, makes me forget that I'm watching a war film. (9/10)

d. Steven Spielberg

24 September 2007

Guest OLR: Amistad (1997)

Good, but not in the tear-jerking emotionally affecting sense. (6/10)

d. Steven Spielberg

Guest OLR: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Ian Malcolm and his sarcasm fail to carry the film over the sloppy storytelling. (5/10)

d. Steven Spielberg

23 September 2007

OLR: Escape from Suburbia: Beyond the American Dream (2007)

More scattershot than End of Suburbia and without any entertaining ranting from Kunstler. (7/10)

d. Gregory Greene

SWH07: Week 1 (first)

Six Weeks of HalloweenSix Weeks of Halloween 2007
Week 1 (first)

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (trailer)
Sexy Adventures of Van Helsing (trailer)
SNL: "Consumer Probe: Unsafe Halloween Costumes"

The Monster Squad (1987)
Best remembered as teaching us all a valuable lesson on werewolf anatomy, this is also a damned fun kid adventure. (8/10)

d. Fred Dekker

[Why don't they make movies like this anymore? The closest modern kid films I can think of are the Spy Kids movies. Those lack the cusp-of-puberty edge that films like The Monster Squad, The Goonies and Explorers have, however. There doesn't seem to be anyone making movies with realistic kids going on fantastic adventures anymore. Or I'm just too old to notice?]

Trick 'r Treat (trailer)
Two Thousand Maniacs! (trailer)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning"

Masters of Horror: "The Fair-Haired Child" (2005)
A classically-constructed horror tale containing Crowley-esque demonology, excellent photography and a touch of extreme gore, among other pleasures. (9/10)

d. William Malone

Frailty (trailer)
Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (trailer)
Merrie Melodies: "Pigs is Pigs"

Near Dark (1987)
Still my favorite vampire movie of all time; I'm a complete sucker for a horror-romance movie. (9/10)

d. Kathryn Bigelow

The Company of Wolves (1984)
A big stew of sexually-charged symbolism masquerading as a werewolf take on "Little Red Riding Hood" that my brain will be chewing on for a while. (8/10)

d. Neil Jordan

Capping off a weekend of old-schooling hanging out -- probably the last before my baby is born -- Chef Gregory and I enjoyed the above. It had been twenty years since my dad popped in a tape of The Monster Squad for us to watch during a sleepover. I remember the ten-year-old Chef being nervous at the time as the loud, introductory flashback played. "I don't usually watch movies like this," he explained. I was sure to bring this up two decades later. "You all right? Not too scary, is it?" I ribbed. He replied with a curse. We both were surprised at how well the movie held up. It has all of the elements necessary for a cool kid movie: a secret club, an absolutely bad-ass tree house, BMX bike transportation, a vague interest in the opposite sex, an adventure only the kids -- definitely not the adults -- can go on. Good stuff.

Grolschenstein Approves

22 September 2007

Guest OLR: Eastern Promises (2007)

A disappointing distance from A-game material. (6/10)

d. David Cronenberg

OLR: Mystery Science Theater 3000: "Space Mutiny" (1997)

Other than the Roman host segments, this is the best that MST3K ever got. (8/10)

d. David Winters & Neal Sundstrom & Kevin Murphy

OLR: V for Vendetta (2005)

V is Morpheus and Evey is Daniel. (9/10)

d. James McTeigue

OLR: 300 (2006)

Like looking at an oil painting of two T-rexes fighting on the side of a volcano and there's a thunderstorm in the air and a giant squid watches from the ocean. (8/10)

d. Zack Snyder

21 September 2007

OLR: Crank (2006)

Like, x-treme to the max! (8/10)

d. Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor

20 September 2007

Six Weeks of Halloween: 2007

Six Weeks of Halloween

  1. 20 Sep - 26 Sep | first
  2. 27 Sep - 03 Oct | second
  3. 04 Oct - 10 Oct | third - fourth
  4. 11 Oct - 17 Oct | fifth
  5. 18 Oct - 24 Oct | sixth
  6. 25 Oct - 31 Oct | seventh - eighth - ninth - tenth - eleventh - twelfth - thirteenth

My halloweenish goals for the season:

I should drag myself to the theater to see Rob Zombie's Halloween. I only venture into cinemas about once a year; other than the giant screen, there's not a lot to like about the experience these days. I like Rob Zombie -- both as a musician and as a director -- and John Carpenter's Halloween is my favorite horror movie, but I'm not looking forward to seeing this. It seems unlikely this movie falls into the tiny minority of remakes that are actually worth the effort.

I need to play through Silent Hill 4: The Room. I've only owned it for 3 years... it's time to get around to finishing it. From what little I've played, I can already tell it's the worst of the series and it's clear that it started life as something other than a Silent Hill game. Still, it needs to be completed before I can pick up the upcoming Origins and part 5.

I'm going to start my chronological H.P. Lovecraft read. Having finished the works of Poe, HPL is next on my list of the giants of horror literature. Cthulhu fhtagn.

I've gotta try the official Jones Soda Halloween 2007 flavors, as I do every year. I'll be interested to see if I can taste the difference in the repeat flavors, now that they've switched to cane sugar from HFCS. I can't say the concept of a black licorice pop sounds appealing, though.

A trip to the Dexter Cider Mill is in order. I'll acquire my seasonal supply of apple cider there, and maybe a resupply of cider spice mix.

Horror movies and TV shows, the anchor of any good Six Weeks of Halloween, will abound. I expect discs containing episodes of Masters of Horror, Tales from the Crypt, The Munsters, and The Simpsons to spin often. I see movies containing killer babies, Japanese torturers and young monster hunters -- among others -- appearing on my TV in the near future.

And, as always, I will watch John Carpenter's Halloween on Halloween. This would've been the 9th year in a row I've done this, except an unexpected death interrupted my streak. I'll count this as 9, anyway, as I did watch Halloween with the commentary track turned on at the start of last year's six weeks.

Six Weeks of Halloween is Go!

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