My Name is Bond Series: Licence to Kill (1989)

29 11 2011

Copyright 1989 Eon Productions

★ ★ ★ ★

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and with the four days off, I was able to watch a pretty decent amount of movies.  Some were good, some were terrible and one was Bond, so it gets incorporated into the “My Name is Bond” Series here on the blog.  Yes, I know I said I was going to go in order, but after seeing this one and having it fresh in my mind, I am going to jump around a bit.

Timothy Dalton takes his second and final turn as James Bond in this film.  Longtime friend and CIA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison) is on his way to his wedding with Bond as the best man.  On the way, however, the DEA intercepts him because of a lead on notorious drug runner Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi).  After an exciting pre-title action sequence that results in Sanchez’s capture, Leiter and Bond arrive for the wedding in epic style.  Under interregation, Sanchez offers $2 million for anyone who will free him.  DEA agent Ed Killifer (Everett McGuill aka ‘Big Ed’ to all you Twin Peaks fans) can’t pass up the offer and frees Sanchez during the transport.  Knowing his captor, Sanchez kills Leiter’s newly wed wife and feeds him  to the sharks, though he does survive in intensive care.  Bond, seeking revenge, plans to go gunning for Sanchez, but his boss M demands he stay on course and head to Istanbul for a field operation.  James resigns and gives up his “Licence to Kill”, instead embarking on a journey into South America to find and kill Sanchez.  Along the way, he garners some convenient help from a CIA operative named Pam Bouvier (Cary Lowell) and receives some help from Q (Desmond Lleweln) under the table.

In addition to being Dalton’s final appearance as Bond, this was also the final Bond film for Albert R. Broccoli in the Executive Producer position, Richard Maibaum as a writer, John Glen as a director (he directed all 5 Bond movies in the 1980s beginning with For Your Eyes Only), title designer Maurice Bender, Robert Brown as M and Caroline Bliss as Moneypenny.  So, in a way, this film marked the end of an era in the EON Productions Bond franchise; because of this and lawsuits that arose in the early 1990s, it was six years before a new Bond movie release, that being Goldeneye with Pierce Brosnan.

A lot of bond fans are not too keen on Dalton as Bond.  A more emotional, sentimental Bond than some in ways, yet more realistic and rough and tough in others.  According to many, Dalton’s portrayal is the closest to the original character in the books by Ian Fleming.  For me, personally, I immensely enjoyed Dalton’s portrayal and hate he didn’t stick around for a third film.  As for the film itself, director John Glen felt this was his best effort of all his Bond films; I have to agree.  It is gritty, it is dark and the action sequences are very well-handled.  Though little attention gets paid to this film in the canon, I really enjoy it.  This was my third time seeing the movie and it hasn’t lost any of the allure it had for me when I first saw it nearly seven or eight years ago.

In short, a great, underrated Bond film.  And no, I didn’t misspell the title; “Licence” is the British way of spelling what we Americans are more familiar with transcribing as “License.”





JFK: The Movie and the Man

23 11 2011

Copyright 1991 Warner Brothers Pictures

Yesterday marked 48 years since that fateful day in Dallas where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza.  When possible, I mark the anniversary with a viewing of Oliver Stone’s 1991 epic JFK, a three-hour ode to the problematic points in the Warren Report and chronicle of New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) to set the records straight.  Unfortunately, this year I was able to screen the film for the anniversary, but may likely catch up a day late tonight.

Why do I screen this film almost annually in remembrance of a man who died 20 years before I was born?  The answer is simple: I believe that on that day an injustice took place in this country that destroyed the innocence of a nation and propelled a recovering country into a senseless state of war and social mayhem.  With current times seemingly reliving the unrest and anguish of the period after Kennedy’s death, it seems even more so fitting to celebrate the life of a man who wanted to avoid war, avoid discrimination and avoid social injustice.

Not only do I feel that Oliver Stone’s film is an important historical piece, but it is also a brilliant movie.  Rarely do you see a film so perfect, and I think the reason stems from Stone’s own personal feelings on the subject matter.  With an all-star cast, beautiful Oscar-winning cinematography and editing, JFK embodies all the elements that make so many question the “official” findings of the Warren Report, which concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting on his own volition, was the sole gunman from the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository.  The film, as does the content, urges one to lift the veil from over their eyes and search for the truth.  One or two complications of fact doesn’t warrant a conspiracy, but when you have more contradictions than evidence on any subject, there can be no other way to classify it.

Over the years, I’ve collected quite a collection of books on Kennedy’s death from “Best Evidence” to a fine copy of the Warren Report itself.  Now, even 20 years after Stone’s film, it’s still hard to say whether we’ve come much further in regards to hard evidence on the case.  The real theme, however, of the film is to never give up.  When there is injustice, it takes those who seek the truth to hunt it down and right the wrongs, no matter the length of time passed, no matter the change of era.  As mentioned earlier, now is as good a time as any to carry such a mind set.  We live in times that could make or break our country, and no matter the cost, we have to be willing to fight for justice, equality and what is right.  As the age old quote states, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  This film professes that logic and is a great example of how a piece of filmmaking can invigorate and incite people to search for what they feel is right.





Special When Lit: A Pinball Documentary (2009) Review

22 11 2011

Copyright 2009 Steam Motion and Sound

★ ★ ★ ★ (for a pinball lover)

I absolutely love pinball and have since I was very young.  There is something mesmerizing about playing a game that is mechanically based, rather than graphics on a screen; there is more control, more connection with the game and, to me, an overall more enjoyable experience nine times out of ten.  Don’t get me wrong, I have also been a heavy console gamer in my day, but pinball definitely holds a very special place in my heart.  Unfortunately, this beloved arcade classic gets a little less attention with each passing year and more and more are disappearing from store fronts as time goes by.  This documentary chronicles not only the history of this wonderful coin operated machine, but also celebrates its legacy.

Through voice over narration, interviews and on location shooting, the film explores the beginnings of pinball, through its heyday, and now into its decline.  It not only explores the opinions of collectors and avid players, but also those who design the machines and owned the arcades in which they were and are played.  Nothing about pinball is left uncovered in this extensive documentary, which turns out being both a blessing and a curse.  I enjoyed how complete a study the film was on its subject, but even I at times was waning a bit during a few of the interviews.

For me, however, over all it was a very enjoyable experience watching this film and brought back some great memories of some of the wonderful machines I’ve played and mastered in the past.  Now that I am older and pinball machines are no longer in many bars, soda shops and other establishments as they were when I was a young kid (during pinball’s second golden age of the early 1990s), I have decided to, like everything else these days, bring the entertainment home.  I have already ordered my first pinball machine, a Bally Doctor Who that was manufactured in 1992; it is currently being shopped and will be picked up at the end of December to early January.  I’m sure this will be the first of many, knowing my obsessions with things of this nature.  However, there is something lost, as with owning a home theater or pool table, when you don’t have that public environment, the general consciousness, surrounding your playing of the game.





Barbara Kent: Last of the Silent Film Stars

21 11 2011

Barbara Kent (1907-2011)

With all the commotion in my personal life and relatively little amount of coverage it received, I just recently heard of the passing of Barbara Kent at the age of 103.  Her passing signifies the last living connection we had to the dawn of cinema, an era defined solely on the visual content of the medium.  There are a few child actors still alive as of this writing, as well as screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas who turned 111 this year, but Kent was the last adult silent actor still living, at least in regards to American cinema.

Born Barbara Cloutman in Gadsby, Alberta, Canada, on Dec. 16, 1907, she graduated high school from Hollywood High School and, subsequently, got involved in motion pictures after winning the 1925 Miss Hollywood beauty pageant.  Under contract to Universal Pictures, she mad a few appearances in uncredited roles, before making a strong impression as the protagonist, Hertha, in the 1926 Garbo vehicle Flesh and the Devil.  No Man’s Law followed in 1927 and created a bit of an uproar with a scene that looked like she was swimming in the nude, though it was later revealed that she was wearing a flesh colored bathing suit.

Also in 1927, she was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars of that year and would eventually make a smooth transition into sound films with the 1929 Harold Lloyd comedy Welcome Danger.  She further appeared with Lloyd in Feet First in 1930 and would continue to appear in various films sporadically until 1935.  Never wanting to become an actor, her interests in the profession waned dramatically in the 1930s and she would make her final appearance on film in Guard That Girl in 1935.

Kent married Hollywood agent Harry Edington in 1932 and remained married until his death in 1949.  She met and married Lockheed engineer Jack Monroe in the mid-1950s and would remain with him until his death in 1998.  She became an avid golfer and even received her pilot’s license following her film career.  For the past decade, she made her home in an assisted living facility in Palm Desert, Calif., and was mentioned by many on various forums online to be in good mind and spirits even well into her 100s.

Never glamorizing her career or having much of an interest in the past, Kent rarely gave interviews or even acknowledged her time in motion pictures.  In the end, I guess it is ironic, yet fitting that one of the last remaining stars of that era remained, for lack of a better word, mostly silent of her time in the industry.





Horrible Bosses (2011) Review

21 11 2011

Copyright 2011 New Line Cinema

★ ★ ★ 1/2

I entertained the idea of seeing this film in the theaters, but it never came to pass.  So, with its recent home video release (weird to even call it that anymore with the amalgam of online streaming options that have seemingly taken over) yesterday, Maddie and I rented it from Redbox and gave it a watch.

The premise is pretty simple, Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) all have bosses they can’t stand, Dave, Julia and Bobby (played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell, respectively).  After reaching their breaking points, they come up with the idea of killing their bosses.  With the mediocre help of Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx), they head to scope out their prey and plan the eventual kills.  As could be expected, nothing goes as planned.

The film is a very basic premise, but it actually delivers fairly well, much credit being due in my opinion to the high profile cast.  In addition to the main stars and Oscar winners in the movie, cameos are made by Ron White, Donald Sutherland and even Bob Newhart.  Though I can’t say the movie was brilliant or stand out, it achieved what a good comedy hopes to achieve: it made me laugh.  There were many times I found myself chuckling at various comical lines and irreverent behavior displayed throughout, and with the way most comedies these days are, that’s a huge thing.

Final conclusion: This is a fun, silly comedy that has enough meat on it to be worth your hour and half on Friday or Saturday night and for an added bonus for the fellas, Jennifer Aniston looks pretty darn good as a brunette.





Doctor Who: The Movie (II)

16 11 2011

Announced Director David Yates

A couple of days ago Variety, one of the leading trade publications for those working in Hollywood, announced that a big budget Doctor Who movie is in the works in cooperation with BBC Worldwide.  Though no script or actors have been announced, the film will be directed by four-time Harry Potter alumnus David Yates.

According to Yates, the film is planning to be a stand alone venture, separate from the current sixth series of the reboot starring Matt Smith as the eleventh incarnation of the time traveling Doctor.  Furthermore, both American and British writers will be considered for the scripting duties; being a main stay of British culture, an American writer could upset fans.  However, Yates points to the precision of American writer Steve Kloves in capturing the British element of the Harry Potter films expertly as reason for leaving stateside writers in contention for the film.

I find the news to be both exciting, yet also quite worrisome.  In the past, two features starring Peter Cushing in the 1960s were made that are not considered part of the standard canon; in 1996, a telefilm starring Paul McGann was released in cooperation with the FOX Network, which is considered as part of the canon, counting McGann as Doctor number eight.

The excitement lies, of course, in the mere idea of Doctor Who getting royal treatment with a large budget and mass audience release.  Yet, the worry also stems from the same reasons for excitement.  Doctor Who has long been a cult program in some regards, with legions of fateful fans.  As a television series, it is just now somewhat breaking into the mainstream with the popularity of the 2005 reboot and younger, exciting Doctors like David Tennant and Matt Smith.  To fully commercialize on the series, I feel that a sacred aspect of this now nearly 50-year canon of two series and a telefilm might be dismantled.

To be fair, however, if there is one person that can pull this off, I think that the BBC made a wise decision in choosing director David Yates.  Yates, a National Film and Television School graduate, had early success in television before directing his first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  His adaptation was such a success, that he continued on as the director for the following three films.  He seems to have a good knack for understanding the sacred nature of beloved cultural icons such as Harry Potter or the Doctor.  In my opinion, his idea to split the seventh book into two movies to better serve the source material was an excellent choice.

Though it looks like the project may be three to four years away from release, it will be interesting to see how it is handled.  Hopefully, the production will not stray too far from the 50-year history to upset long-time fans, but will be able to be commercialized enough to recruit more fans for the beloved Time Lord.  After all, the more fans there are for a fictional character, the longer that character seems to stick around in popular culture.  As a huge fan of the series, I know we would all hate to see another nearly 16 year gap with no Doctor on television or film.





A Zed and Two Noughts (1986) Review

15 11 2011

Copyright 1986 BFI

★ ★ ★ 1/2

This is my third foray into Peter Greenaway’s repertoire, so I went into this film with a general idea of what to expect, at least in terms of narrative filmmaking and visual style.  For those of you unaware of Greenaway’s work, his films are less a narrative fiction, than a sort of visual essay the dissects the theme and tone of the, usually bizarre, narrative.

This film, as hard as it is to summarize, is the story of two twin zoologist brothers whose wives die in a car accident that resulted from a Swan crossing the road on Swan’s Way.  The driver, raven-haired Alba Bewick (Andrea Ferreol), looses her leg in the crash.  The resulting grief of the brothers results in a morbid fascination with the process of natural decay.  As they analyze the beginnings of life from single cell organisms to the decay of everything from an Apple to a Dalmatian, they try to find some solace and purpose in life and the accident.  To further complicate the structure, they both begin to have an affair with the legless driver of the fateful vehicle, Alba.  In necessity to achieve symmetry, she eventually has her other leg amputated as well.  Other characters include a set of conniving zoo keepers, a doctor with a fascination for Vermeer paintings and a whore who recites various prose.  Ah yes, and Zebras….lots of zebras.

I won’t lie, this is a difficult film to get through, even for me.  However, it’s not a bad film; honestly, it’s kind of cheating to call it a film at all.  It doesn’t flow like a normal movie and doesn’t have the aspects we usually look for in narrative storytelling.  It truly is, best described, as a visual essay with a loose narrative structure attached for continuity.  The direction by Greenaway and cinematography by long-time collaborator Sacha Vierny are exquisite.  The images are carefully symmetrical and the lighting approach is very mood oriented.  Visually, it is a beautiful film.  However, narratively, it is so unique that it is almost hard to rate.  Is it pretentious?  Yes.  Does it have a purpose?  Yes.  Would a lot of people hate the film?  Yes.  So, I leave it to you, the viewer, as to whether you think you might like this film or not.  I, personally, marveled at the visual beauty and enjoyed it on a level, but can easily see how some people couldn’t even stomach that much of an appreciation.  If you are up for a challenge though, this one is a challenge.





X-Men: First Class (2011) Review

7 11 2011

Copyright 2011 Bad Hat Harry Productions

★ ★ ★ ★

I think I saw the first two X-Men movies soon after they came out.  I’m sure I saw the first, but after that I generally lost interest; not because I don’t like the X-Men, the films just didn’t seem that appealing.  Wanting a break from thought-provoking films for a night or two, I put this film and the new Captain America movie on my Netflix (review of it forthcoming).

X-Men: First Class, as could easily be assumed from the title, explores the beginnings of Doctor Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) “mutant league”.  In contrast, it also explores the beginnings of arch enemy Magneto, whom is portrayed by Michael Fassbender.  It is interesting seeing the beginnings of these mutants as they begin to unveil the power of their abilities, not quite knowing how to shape them for positive use.  It is especially interesting seeing the friendship, and eventual decline in the relationship between Professor X and Magneto.  Original line-up mutants appearing throughout this film include Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), Azazel (Jason Flemyng), Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz), Emma Frost (January Jones) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), among others.  The arch villain in this installment is expertly portrayed by Kevin Bacon, the character of Sebastian Shaw.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film.  I might even say that is was my favorite comic book movie of all-time, which is quite a statement.  But, really, it was that good.  It has a good story, solid character building and enough visual eye candy to keep even the  most torrid of CGI junkies happy.  Though not a surprise necessarily, I was intrigued to find out at the end of the film that it was directed by Matthew Vaughn; that makes three for three good movies I’ve seen directed by him (I have yet to see Stardust).

In conclusion, check this one out.  It’s a real treat for comic book fans, but still a great flick for those who come from a none X-men perspective.





CLAW Award for “Banks of the Vltava”

1 11 2011

Copyright 2011 Walk in the Park Pictures, LLC

Banks of the Vltava is a short film project that I shot for frequent collaborator, Dan A. R. Kelly.  It’s a very near and dear project to my heart, as every member of both the cast and crew put 110% into this project to make it happen.  From the first read through of the script, we all knew that it was going to be an ambitious film to complete.  However, everyone involved was committed to the story and the determination and drive that exuded from writer/director Kelly spilled onto all those involved.  One of the most ambitious elements of the story is the fact that it takes place in Prague in 1943, but was of course to be shot in Greensboro, North Carolina in 2009-10.  This required numerous period costumes, props and other pieces to sell the time period.  On a large budget production, acquiring these items isn’t a problem, but on a smaller budget it’s much more difficult to secure.  Furthermore, the project required a large ensemble cast, an array of visual and makeup effects (as it is a horror film) and almost a complete schedule of night shoots.

Production spanned over, I believe, about a 15-16 day shoot over nearly a one and a half year period.  As stated earlier, nearly all of these days, outside of about two, were night shoots (6pm-6am).  During the time we shot this production, the commonality of DSLRs had not yet hit the market.  If you wanted a shallow depth of field and cinematic look on a lower budget camera package, a good old DOF adapter was really the way to go.  So, the film was shot on my HVX-200 with a Redrock m2 adapter and Nikon glass; this yielded a relative ISO of about 100.  For those of you not familiar with film sensitivity ratings, it takes A LOT of light to properly expose an image at 100 ISO when you are shooting at night.  We only had HMI availability on two nights, so the majority of the film was lit with an array of 1k and 2k fresnels, 1k PARs, a pair of Blondes, a Redhead, various smaller unit fresnels, a pair of Kino 2-4ft banks and a 750 ZIP light.  There are times where all units we had access to were being powered by a set of generators out in the woods.  In the end, I feel we did a good job of pulling it all off, and some of that was validated this weekend, which is really the true point of the post.

Over the weekend, the film screened at two festivals: the Terror Film Festival in Philadelphia, Penn. and the Buffalo Screams Film Festival in Buffalo, N.Y.  We were very happy to be nominated for awards at both festivals!  At the Terror Film Festival, nominations for their CLAW Awards were given to Best Horror Short Film, Best Specials Effects for the brilliant work by Shane D. Smith, Best Actor to our lead Rami Rothstein, and Best Director of Photography for myself.  At Buffalo Screams, the film was nominated for Best Makeup Effects by the talented Gretchen Adams.  Late on Saturday night, as I was watching an episode of Storage Wars on the couch with Maddie, I got a text from Dan, who had gone to Philadelphia to represent the film at the Terror Film Festival.  Turns out, we won the CLAW award for Best Director of Photography.  Needless to say, it was very exciting news and always a good feeling to be recognized for your contribution on a film.  It was also a very special film, personally, to be recognized for, because of the extra mile that was gone on all of our crew and casts’ behalf to get the film produced.  Also, as with anything, it’s a collaborative effort and I had a wonderful crew to support me in achieving the look I was implementing for Dan.

Check out more about this film and other WiTPP productions at: http://www.walkintheparkpictures.com








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