007 IS James Bond




For years, Bond fans have debated the issue of one guy with a rebooted universe every few years or one of many Bonds every few years; the face changes whenever the former agent retires; whoever takes on the number 007 takes the identity of “James Bond.” It’s neither new or an epiphany, but its great fun to spell things out.

The guys assigned 007 means they take on his history; death of his parents in a skiing accident, his family estate in Scotland and all his enemies and emotional baggage; all new agents, rebooted, share the same “memories” and experiences.

Yes, he is a new guy, but in essence just replaced with a new shell, but remaining the same 007; MI6 had to think big on how to keep the man Bond in the field without word getting out he was “retired.” Changing his appearance over the years became not only smart business, but a necessity as it would make no sense to keep Bond as the same guy or as a REAL guy when he goes around the world saying his name to anyone who asks- banging every chick he meets-hardly a secret agent behavior, but it’s perfect cover as it would be even harder to track down a guy who is complete fiction and leaves no trace but used condoms.


By changing his face every few years, it confuses the hell out of the enemies, when they get conflicting descriptions of what he looks and sounds like….(Scot, Aussie, Irish, Welsh, English- WHAT is he?) with his height, hair color and weight constantly changing.

Plastic surgery would not be out of the realm of possibilities, but only for the first two. Brainwashing is more apt. It makes no sense otherwise for us to accept the absurd notion that he is the same Bond each time—a man who, incredibly, changes faces and remains relatively the same age no matter what the decade yet his friends and counterparts change and age.


The films have been reluctant to take such a stand, but have slyly toyed with said notion or in the case of Skyfall, gleefully took the stance of fence-sitter in not spelling it out completely but not ruling it out either, but however have left nuggets of information to chew on.

#1 Sean Connery

#2 George Lazenby

#3 Roger Moore

#4 Timothy Dalton

#5 Pierce Brosnan

#6 Daniel Craig

A scene that was scripted for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but was never filmed showed Lazenby under the knife to explain his new appearance. It of course was cut and doesn’t count, but it at least showed some consideration for the change up. Lazenby too drops a great riff after the fight on the beach, he quips, “This never happened to the other fellow.” A meta-wink most likely, but still it gave rise and slight credence to the possibility of many Bonds.

If things aren’t given, fans like me theorize and expound on things seen, unseen and merely hinted at- I see it as this.

MI6 recruits and trains the best of the best. It’s too not far-fetched to accept the notion that they brainwash, they implant memories of lovers, family, friends and enemies. A wise tactic to keep the agent complacent, due to their high intelligence, if there were any linger doubts of their existence, truth would be sought and an agent would with missing memories would lead him into another franchise of him seeking the truth-finding boredom, shitty camera and editing. By creating a fake persona and through indoctrination they can control him and do whatever it takes to keep her Majesty safe and sound. The following is based on the evidence given and spread throughout the various installments.

Die Another Day, has an interesting scene where we see off in the background behind Bond, many of his previous gadgets; the attaché, Little Nellie autogyro from “From Russia with Love”, and the jetpack from “Thunderball,” while flashing a knowing smirk.

Skyfall #6’s Bond has an original Aston Martin, from Goldfinger, a tool left over from all of his predecessors.  The same film also to some had put the issue to bed, but not really when it’s entirely possible for MI6 to create the character in the first place and to then create a world around him to make him feel normal and real.

License to Kill and Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough mentions Bond having been “married a long time ago,”…. It’s used to support the emotional thrust of the flick and pushing a female character away; all part of the character known as Bond, always surrounded by beautiful women, but forever alone.

“Hey, what about 3 laying flowers on Tracy’s grave at the beginning of For Your Eyes Only?”  Again, the implanted memories or just simply recognizing the past-all the references to Tracy Bond throughout the series could just be the later agents’ acknowledgement of and respect for a heartbreak that once occurred to one of their astonishingly exclusive clan- plus he was playing the part and the bad guys, especially Blofeld knew he had a wife, and was all part of the act. The best part, it neatly explains why Lazenby was quietly dispatched- he was too emotionally destroyed to carry on. But why didn’t Blofeld acknowledge Bonds changed appearance? He too used doubles, clones and plastic surgery; he was in the same proverbial boat, it obviously wasn’t the same Blofeld either.

The movie’s best example of this is Money Penny was played by the same actress from #1 through the end of #3’s run.  Q (Major Boothroyd) lasted from #1 to the second mission of 5 and the first M was with all of #1 and to the end of the fourth mission (Moonraker) of #3. Second M lasted through the rest of 3’s run and to the end of 4’s.

The first female M (Judi Dench) was with all of 5 and to the end of the third mission of #6- what does this all mean? They were all played by the same actors and they all have the same history and experiences, only Bond is the changed face, Hmmm?

And the first guy is always remembered the best. James Bond 007 started with #1 in the middle of the cold war in (Dr. No) 1962 and created a legend for himself. Known as a charming brute to some, but in reality a refined gentleman with an impeccable taste in wine and women; also a formidable opponent who struck the fear of God into many of his enemies. As he began taking his enemies down, he became too well known and had to be “discharged.” He retired in 1967.

Enter Bond #2, his only mission stops Blofeld, who should, but doesn’t seem to recognize Bond in OHMSS since they met in the previous film You Only Live Twice, understandable considering he looks different, Blofeld does too (a double perhaps?) Bond stops the Blofeld plan and marries, but revenge is sought as two of Blofeld’s henchmen murder Bond’s wife, Tracy on their wedding day- emotionally destroyed, distraught and rendered useless- #2 is discharged in 1969 never to be heard from again.









With no available 00’s and with no new 007 waiting in the wings, #1 is called back for one time use only- to stop Blofeld-again in Diamonds Are Forever. He too has changed his face with doubles, clones and plastic surgery. We see #1 again, on the hunt for Blofeld, he is out for revenge, for his friend #2 and for his own gripe with Blofeld. After Blofeld’s demise, he retires permanently in 1971. There were rumors of his return to service in the early 1980’s, but nothing was ever confirmed.


#3 enters in 1973 (Live and Let Die) and turns out to be the most successful Bond yet; he’s refined, a true English gentlemen who would rather use his wits to get out of a situation than his weapon. His posh looks disguise his ability as a mean fighter. He’s credited with stopping WWIII with Stromberg, worldwide death by Hugo Drax and finally killing Blofeld or at least his double/clone; stopping many other instances of war he is rewarded with his extend stay. He is kept around too long by his own admission actually and retired near demise of the cold war in 1985.

#4 enters in 1987 (The Living Daylights) and is regarded as a cold, efficient surgeon. He’s forgettable, humorless to some, a bad temper and does not last long with MI6. His final mission takes on a personal agenda that disrupts MI6 and his superiors and renders him unstable as he seeks revenge for the maiming of his friend and American counterpart Felix Leiter,(who is also treated to a similar change-up process) by a Columbian drug lord, and the murder of his bride; bringing back awful memories no doubt. His mission was disavowed and his actions spooked MI6 and he was prematurely forced out and retired in 1989.

#5 (Goldeneye) imbued with the spirit of #1 and the sense of humor of #3, a fighter, but very much a lover, enters in 1995, was frowned upon initially by his superior, M, who didn’t care for his predecessors nor his personal antics calling them a ‘misogynistic, sexist Dinosaur.’ She slowly gains respect for him relying on his resourcefulness and unconventional methods. In 2002, after four successful missions he is shown the door for reasons unknown.

#6 enters in 2006, (Casino Royale) as a former protégé of M. He is cool, calculating, a real bruiser- blunt instrument and is a bit headstrong.  She sees some of herself in him and they have a mutual respect that goes back to his earliest days of training. She often acted as a mother figure. She died while on a mission with 6. #6 continues to hold the prestigious spy designation of 007. While on his first mission, he experienced a personal loss as well.

Works for me….

Some far-fetched geeking out to something that would never happen, but an inspired opening sequence would explain what I just laid out and show the MI6 list of secret agents from the present to past has been stolen and all the former BONDS are being picked off.. We could see, briefly each and every past Bond in their current lives, a line or two, enjoying retirement, getting knocked off…Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan….Geeks heads would explode will the quintuple threat of manliness and cool.  While a brief sequence shows the NEW Bond getting his memories wiped, new memories implanted adjusted to fit the persona JAMES BOND 007.

A geek can wish- I didn’t think I’d ever get a Star Wars Episode VII and look how that turned out?


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Humanoids from the Deep 1980

While on Christmas break, I found myself perusing the archives and found some guilty pleasures that should bring a smile to any genre fan’s face.  Not the best example H-town has to offer, but certainly some of the best times I’ve had spent in front of a television. For what they are, they do the job. 

Motel Hell  1980


 The least known and recognized is first on the list. A vastly underrated gem that needs rediscovered. This sick, twisted little bugger was played constantly on HBO late night rotations back in the day around 1981 or so is when I saw it and it always struck me how clever it was able to slip in some decent jokes along with the macabre setting.  Even as a kid, I got most of the jokes and knew it was working on slightly altered wavelength. Released right at the zenith of the slasher/maniacs on the loose flicks in 1980, it unleashed sometime terribly original and in need of a good laugh.  We don’t laugh outright at the material, but we do get a near constant smirk at the wit and occasional irony; this film as dark as it’s trappings suggest, could have been a brilliant parody of horror films, but the actors take their jobs very serious and walk that fine line that moves closer to just satire, (yes, there is a difference). This is as close to parody as horror needs to get, it walks that razor thin line. What they do here is brilliance done with affection and tact with their tongues buried deep in their cheeks. B movie western star, Rory Calhoun, one of my Dad’s favorites, chews the scenery as if it were loaded with strawberry bubblegum, he not only enjoys his role, but he injects it and becomes Farmer Vincent who makes his Famous Fritters in the back of his Motel business that doubles as the family farm cultivating their secret ingredient that everyone constantly asks him about. Helping him run “the farm” is his younger sister Ida, played by wacko zeal Nancy Parsons, who would gain iconic fame a few years later as Coach Beulah Ballbreaker in the “Porky’s” series. Sporting pigtails, but appearing about age 45, she seems stuck in an arrested development, disinterested in social norms, dedicated only to her older brother’s passions. Both actors bring a surprising amount of professionalism that might otherwise be weighed down in campy, over-the-top evil or Johnny Depp-like “quirkiness.” Both characters at first are strangely likable; the film finds the right stylistic note for its central characters, who are simple, cheerful, smiling, earnest, and resourceful… cannibals.


This film couldn’t be done today or it would go bad at least two ways. The first being it would be dark, depressing with the washed out sepia-toned look, drop-frame editing, Directed like a TOOL music video with young nubiles looking to get high and or laid and then knocked off every 4 minutes after the 30 minute mark, overloaded with gore porn, paper-thin forgettable characters, performances and as dull as a silent fart.  The other way is it would be campy feel, over-the-top, loaded with stupid jokes or at least none with any style or irony whatsoever. The performances would be self-aware, wink-wink, grinning from ear to ear morphing into a bad SNL sketch that wouldn’t be able to find the balance.

On top of the jokes, MH provides several ghoulish moments; like the field loaded with victims, throats slashed to keep them quiet as they squirm making a croaking noise, who are fattened up before they are lead off to the slaughterhouse. It also has a social conscious as well, poking at the industrialized food production and over population. Vincent having no qualms at all that people are his secret ingredients. Calhoun plays up his ego and God complex as food provider that has a great pay-off near the end with the dueling chainsaws and Vince going creepy wearing a Pig’s head. “There are too many people in the world and not enough food. Now this takes care of both problems at the same time.” His final line in the film is classic. The movie proves horror doesn’t always have to be scaring the shit out of you or gross you out with torture porn, but it does have to keep you engaged with a brain and Motel Hell does it with style, wit and plenty of well-placed humor and we need more, much more of that today.

 Humanoids From the Deep 1980

A classic from the grindhouse days of Producer/schlock-meister Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.  This is one B movie that has earned its grimy reputation; I adore it simply because it knows what it is, makes no invention, no pretense; it’s pure, utter exploitation and wallows in its sleaze like a pig in mud!

imagesCAU0KMFR Taking its cues from better, serious pictures of the previous decade, something evil is happening in the Pacific Northwest sleepy fishing village of Noyo. Fish-like humanoid creatures, spawned by mutant DNA, begin rising from the ocean looking to mate with the local women. Scientist Susan Drake (Ann Turkel) along with local fisherman Jim Hill (Doug McClure, The Land That Time Forgot) seeks to investigate the cause of this invasion of creatures from the ocean floor. But when the annual Salmon Festival begins, some unwanted guests are about to crash the festivities. It’s never really explained why the fish mutants want to mate with human women, why not other fish mutant females? But if you are watching a movie with “Humanoids” in the title and ask such questions, you need to check your snooty pretense at the door. Complaining about science in a movie like this is akin to the drooling retards who complain about the science in “Star Wars,” – WHO CARES?!

 The three leads are some genre favorites, Doug McClure known for his early tv westerns, but later in genre stuff like, “The Land that Time Forgot and its sequel, The People that Time Forgot, At the Earth’s Core and a lesser known, but a favorite of mine, “Warlords of Atlantis“; is his usual square-jawed hero persona as Jim Hill, a boring guy with a boring name. Ann Turkel is Dr. Susan Drake, who is investigating these strange murders. Not well known outside genre films, (junk like, 99 and 44/100% Dead) Turkel does her best, although she speaks some very bad science. In one of his final film roles before his tragic death, (he was killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie), Vic Morrow plays Hank Slattery, the town bastard; the type of role he had been great at and became typecast in since the early 70’s. All do a decent job, even when things go into idiot mode, but normal actors are not the reason we care, we want to see nudity, violence, destruction and gore and we get it- plenty of it!


 A wonderful schlocky mash-up between “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “JAWS,” this glorious dung heap knows the real stars of the show are the mutants themselves; some impressive suit work headed by the legendary Rob Bottin, who was just getting his start and would set the world ablaze with iconic imagery two years later for John Carpenter’s masterpiece, “The Thing.” The creatures and their enormous bald-brainy heads are an original creation, just as cool as the xenophobe from ALIEN. Although, I’m not a fan of their elongated arms, the suits are impressive as they are full of great detail and craftsmanship, never looking like a rubber “suit” especially at the end during the raid on the Salmon festival, when the mutants come out at night and inflict monster Fu.

imagesCARQ940ZAnother surprising aspect is the look of the film, surprisingly competent and handsome for a movie of such a high sleaze factor. Composer James Horner, working with Corman here and a year later in “Battle Beyond the Stars,” and a year after that in “Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan,” delivers a chilling, effective score that surprisingly doesn’t rip anything off…

For a film that’s nearly 34 years old and coming from a low-budget, the gore is inspiring, the make-up is flawless; one great effect after another. It’s almost as good as all the gratuitous nudity, a revelation for a an impressionable 8 year-old, watching this for the first time going out of my mind. Not just for the mammary surprise, but the gore too- such extensive and realistic lengths; it’s hard to not get the urge to spew.

 A fine slab of cheese and the gratuitously high mammary count doesn’t hurt, to be sure, particularly since these are the old-fashioned kind unseen in this Silicon Age. It also shares an odd noteworthy distinction as one of the few entries in the sub-genre known as “Rape horror,” “Galaxy of Terror” followed a year later with a similar scene only it was rape by a giant maggot; a year after that, “The Beast Within” had rape from giant Secada humanoid-  Roger Corman produced the first two flick, who must have been a weird kinky fetish at the time.. Enormously ironic considering the movie was Directed by a woman, Barbara Peters, who claims the gore and rape scenes were added after she left the project by second unit director James Sbardellati. Sure, honey, sure…the rape scene is not all that horrifying anyway so I’m not sure why she dumped this like yesterday’s garbage. it’s a bit impossible to connect to a rubber suited mutant trying to mount a heavy-chested beauty, its more comical than menacing, but ultimately genius as we are talking about it all these years later. I’m certainly not advocating this sub-genre, but in the context of both films, it’s strangely effective and a lot easier to handle than say in something more serious and realistic. Although Ridley Scott’s superb, “Alien,” came before, it’s “rape scene” was very subtle and far more restrained and tastefully done, as well as something like that can be done. Strangely enough, it would not be made today with the same memorable impact for two reasons; CG effects in horror look like video game garbage and nudity is not nearly as prevalent today, (very odd!) as it was in those days. It’s very sad how technology can do anything in movies today except for the most part, make them memorable. Horror movies are in a weird phase now where anything is off limits, really, yet no one seems to take advantage of that. Not sure why or how practical effects lost out, but they are superior in every way, having a perceptible look and feel that ugly CG cannot match.


Humanoids from the Deep is a fast-paced and peppy camp classic that should please horror and sleaze fans with its graphic gore, copious female nudity, and sardonic humor. It may very well be genre trash, and the snooty negative nimrods may cast their clueless aspersions thus, but it’s my kind of trash and I love it long time. The film is not without flashes of humor; a young couple are in a tent on the bench ready to get down. In a strange method of foreplay, the guy has a ventriloquist doll dirty talking to the young woman. The creatures attack, going for the young beauty, then a strange thing occurs- the dummy, unconnected to the guy’s hand does a double-take all by itself as the creatures attack the female and ravage the male. It’s very funny in a bent sort of way.


 A remake was produced for and aired on Showtime in 1996, during the horror resurgence, for some strange reason, the violence and nudity was toned down producing a very lazy, forgettable turd; I guess people only wanted story- YEAH right! Avoid it.

Amityville II: The Possession 1982

 This strangely good entry in what should never have been a franchise, is a helluva lot better than it deserves to be; this sequel/prequel takes on the similarities of real life story of the Defoe’s who were murdered by the eldest son in November 1974. The REAL horror story has yet to be told accurately and completely, if it was, Hollywood would be ashamed of itself for every humoring George and Kathy Lutz. Despite this being a lame sequel, this works slightly better than the predecessor despite the flashes of absurdity and the eventual aping of “The Exorcist” in the film’s final act. The sequel, for legal reasons was unable to tell the true story of the Defeos, but the film goes through the bullet points of the tradgedy. Instead of Defoes, its Montellis. Burt Young would have made a great Ronald Defeo Sr. (Paulie from Rocky series) the loud-mouth, bully father who beats his wife and kids, just as the real Defoe was notorious for, but the clothes, music, hair styles and cars clearly show it’s set in the (then) present of 1982… 

George and Kathy Lutz continued to try and make money from their idiotic lies, but their idea for this movie was dumped in favor of what we see. They of course sued and lost.  Names are changed, but the beats are there, but unlike the first film, the creep factor is turned up to 11 and makes for one spooky watch. For all the BS that proceeded and follow, this film KNOWS how to create a scary mood.


The film follows one spooky element instead of several seen in the first. The singular entity haunts the Montelli family, concentrating on the eldest son who goes berserk one night and guns them all down. Even though it feels a bit exploitative, it helps the film in the long run. The sequence leading up to the son’s possession is one of the most inventive of any horror film of the time or of recent memory and it’s a shame it was stuck in such an uninspired franchise. Director Damiano Damiani working from the screenplay by Tommy Lee Wallace, based on the novel Murder in Amityville by the parapsychologist Hans Holzer, takes the creepy milieu and employs inventive camera work, using POV shots as the evil presence There are times when Damiano never knows when over-the-top is enough as the camera does a 180 vertical roll over a character’s head and then another horizontal 180 roll to right itself and come face to face with him; in another shot,  Sonny Montelli, (Jack Magner) lies on a bed pinned down by the demon while the camera wildly zooms up and down on him like the cameraman was jumping up and down on a trampoline, it sounds absurd, but is highly effective and no it’s not shaky cam like that crap they would use today- the scenes that follow Sonny chasing his family down, especially his little brother and sister with a high-powered rifle is horrifying in every way possible- extremely uncomfortable that will leave anyone shaken. I made the mistake of watching it alone in the middle of the night- bad idea. Didn’t sleep at all!

amityville II 1



The film’s budget was modest at the time and makes use of their gadgets and tricks. Lighting is used to great effect to show Sonny getting possessed and to show him talking as the demon and to show the Demon’s presence, we don’t get flashy, ugly CG creations, just simple techniques. Very simple, but creative and effective. The evil spirit casts a spell over the family as they slowly begin to turn on each other; a screaming melodrama becomes an uncomfortable exploitation flick. The brother seduces his sister, the parents beat and scream at each other while the little kids get slapped around, it’s not always easy to watch, but for some strange reason it works and has more oomph than ghost stories from the lying Lutzes.  MIA actors Diane Franklin and Jack Magner, her seen in several other cult 80’s flicks (The Last American Virgin, Better Off Dead), and him all but disappeared after Amithyville II-  as the seduced sister and the seducer brother- both do admirable work of not making it too disgusting and ultimately sad. Of course, Lalo Schifrin delivers another great creepy score. Avoid all the sequels that followed.



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Fall TV is Here!

It’s that time of year when the networks roll out the next big hit. While CBS & NBC continue to show hatred for humanity through its popagation of terrible unfunny sitcoms, FOX and ABC have offered up some potentially interesting genre fare that I hope get better with time.

 FOXSleepy Hollow


After Ichabod Crane “dies” during a mission for General George Washington in 1781, he awakens in 2013 Sleepy Hollow, New York. But so does the Headless Horseman, whose head Ichabod chopped off before his perceived death. The horseman begins his nightly killing spree, and Ichabod must partner with Lt. Abbie Mills to stop the impending doom of humanity and the coming of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Crane’s time traveling ability is explained away by having been under a spell. Little bits of the whys and hows have been revealed, but not everything, which is fine since only two episodes have aired.

THE GOOD– The photography is some of the best you will see on television right now, it feels and looks like a movie. Produced by the creators of the also late, great “Fringe.” The New England spooky goth vibe is vivid and palpable and gives the show more reasonance than it probably has earned. The biblical allusions and the feel of dread is executed flawlessly. One of the best images from the series so far was the headless horseman firing a machine gun.

THE BAD -Tom Mison as Crane, Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills are both excellent, can’t fault the actors for any problems the material gives them, yet that’s the problem. Paper thin characters and motivations were all over the second episode. Things moved too fast, there were no character moments and they just followed as the script dictated. I like how Crane reacted to modern technology and his rage against high taxation was very funny as was his questions about being a slave, but there is not enough of that. Mills is a dead weight at this point, a nothing personality wise, she needs to stop being JUST a crime solver, relate more to Crane. I think in order for this continue on, there needs to be a Skully/Mulder dynamic, not romance, but a real connection for these two to make us believe the unbelievable. A connection that puts them down as friends on a mission and contrived bickering doesn’t cut it. Play up Crane’s fish-out-water, they all think he’s nuts, let that go for a while, but make Crane adept at crime solving, he can be an eccentric, but don’t make him an idiot or buffoon. The biggest complaint is that the show is too plot-centric. Very true. It has too much plot; all that action, conducted by characters without character-feels tedious. Mostly and disappointingly so, it feels like the very awful, Law & Order from that aspect; dry and very mechanical, no emotion and detached. Still, I’m rooting for it, let’s hope we see some improvement.

ABCAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D

agents-of-shield-tv-show It was a no-brainer that ABC/Disney would capitalize on the monster success of The Avengers. It was inevitable that Marvel’s vast universe would come to television to be rightly and properly explored. Clark Gregg returns as Agent Phil Colson, revived from the dead  after his encounter with Loki from The Battle of New York in this direct sequel to “The Avengers.” Colson has assembled a group of select characters with different personalities to seek out others with super human abilities and hope they play on the good side.

THE GOOD – Pilot episodes are always a bit shaky, this one seems to have most of the kinks worked out. It had a Smallville vibe to it; FX were impressive and the characters mostly nailed it. The supporting cast is great despite their dynamics still being formed. Nothing terribly groundbreaking here, other than it’s the most pure fun you will have on television today.

THE BAD– I hate to rag on the show, but I’m not a big fan of the newly created characters when Marvel has close to 4,000 to choose from. Michael Peterson is created for the series which makes no sense. Maybe he will be revealed to be Luke Cage or some one known. Let’s hope this is not a usual thing, they need to dig deep in the archives and pull out some of the best of the goodies and the baddies. Stay away from the usual show-hogs, Cap, Iron Man, Thor etc… For my money, I’d like to see, She-Hulk, Jessica Drew as Spider-Woman, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and perhaps re-introduce Daredevil… I’m sure they will do their own thing, but to keep the universe interesting we need some old familiar faces.



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Man of Steel


It’s been a long time since Superman has been relevant at the movies, but Man of Steel finally nailed it. Superman Returns had good intentions and for this fan, is fine film, but it was chained too closely to the past, not nearly as ambitious and too earth-bound to fully succeed. Despites it’s goodwill, it left audiences mostly cold. Man of Steel is bold, noisy, and full of sound and fury. A surprisingly emotional film that went places the character has never been and shows us why he is the most important of all the superheroes in the DC universe. I have been enjoying the hell out of the current run of Marvel’s greatest hits, with “The Avengers,” being one magnificent thrill ride from start to finish, but my boy has always been Superman. Christopher Reeve being the most identified with the role and selling it in the first two original films Directed by Richard Donner, which for me are still fun and are a blast in their simplistic, yet epic ability to entertain. Reeve and Kidder’s performances, humane and very funny, convince you that the absurdity of it all was real.  They nailed the Boy Scout version of Superman, the perfect embodiment of the Silver Age.  Despite its simplistic portrayal, as a kid I was hooked and never felt the character was corny or out of whack with the times. His decency and demand for justice was a something aspires to and left the perfect impression on an eager fan seeking heroes.
Man of Steel is certainly replicating the tenor of the times, according to Director Zach Snyder and writer David Goyer, this an older and wiser myth, not necessarily better, but more intuitive to the outside world than any other previous incarnations. Let it me not be misunderstood, as this is myth building at its finest and I’m sure Warner Brothers is hoping this will be the flagship to their planned superhero franchise, with the Justice League being their crown jewel; an idea that became very much a reality when The Avengers started gobbling money up like a Jewish Pac-Man.
The story is an amalgam of the first two originals; it’s an origin story and a fight to save Earth from his Kryptonian cohort’s intent on destroying Earth to remake their home world. We know the beats so I won’t repeat them here, but it’s a simple story, well told and Director Zach Snyder makes some wonderful bold moves, BUT nearly ruins it with his choice of style, a choice I don’t get -ever, especially from this Director who never used it before until now. The much hated Shaky-cam shows up and nearly takes me out of the movie. I say nearly, as I was enthralled from start to finish and was just happy to see Superman kicking bad guys into buildings and just doing what we expect from comic book movie adventures.  I won’t harp on Snyder as the film is excellent despite all that, but a swift kick in the ass is deserved for using such a cheap, lackluster style instead of traditional, superior techniques.  Let’s hope it never returns.
He does manager to assemble a fine group of actors.  Amy Adams as Lois Lane gives her the spunk and pep we expect from the intrepid reporter.  Like Superman, she reflects the woman of her times; in the 1940’s and 50’s she was akin to a “His Girl Friday,” trying to make her mark in a mostly male world, but still very capable. The 1970’s Margot Kidder, from “Superman: The Movie,” saw her as a feminist; she was Clark’s superior in many ways, having achieved the top of her profession with Perry White calling her his “best reporter.” Adams as Lois is has no need to burn her bras as she proves herself nicely and is very much her own person. She threatens to walk if the story is not done her way and Perry White listens to her and doesn’t treat anything less than a good reporter. She follows leads, hunches, hints of what makes a good story. Her discovery of Clark before he has a chance to reveal himself to the world is nice twist on the secret identity thing so often used by previous incarnations, she finds him as Superman before she ever meets Clark, which kind of makes you wonder how things will play out in the sequels once Clark joins the Daily Planet. Will she be kissed and forget or will she just keep her trap shut?
Michael Shannon had big shoes to fill as General Zod. Terrance Stamp from Superman, SII, owned the part, made a massive impression and to this day it’s his best known role; “KNEEL BEFORE ZOD! Shannon shows a little more depth as the scheming General who was once friends with Supes dad, Jor-El, but his goals are only tweaked a little- conquering Earth and if a few billion people die in the process, so are it.  The difference here, he’s a zealot, he will complete the mission at all costs, revenge will work too, but he wants his Kryptonian heritage to live! He has no choice but play the warrior, the only role he’s ever known.  Antje Traue as Faora-Ul,  easy on the eyes and makes for a great bulldog ,Hench-person. She’s part of the action and real ass-kicker with zero morality.
Russel Crow is great as Superman’s biological father, Jor-El, we get to spend a significant amount of time with him on Krypton before things turn to shit. Unlike the previous films, it doesn’t look like a happy place, maybe more evolved, but it too is mired in the politics of life.  Crow sticks around in hologram form too like Brando and offers young Kal- El  advice.  All of the support cast is good, adding human moments to an otherwise absurd situation.; Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni, Laurence Fishburne, Rebecca Buller, and Joseph Cranford, small moments, but connect the dots to make it all hang together nicely.
Like all good reiterations of the character, he is supposed to reflect the mood of the times. THIS Superman is slow and deliberate, he doesn’t just jump out and save Lois from a plummeting helicopter,  and announce himself to the world as he did in the original films; he eases into his role as Earth’s savior which makes his dramatic entrance, well, very dramatic. Still in use are the biblical allusions; Clark travels from job to job helping where he can, seeking his purpose, trying to find the exact moment to step out.  Perhaps trying to figure out if humanity is worth saving.
Following Pa Kent’s advice, he travels very lightly and aware not to show himself too soon, fearing he will cause mass panic among the populace. One of my favorites is when he visits a small town church, asking the Priest what God might think of an Alien on Earth.  The biblical imagery is plentiful but never overdone, subtle if you weren’t already aware. While Clark is in the church talking with the priest, a very large painting of Jesus is clearly seen behind him.  Several times when he flies out to the Kryptonian spaceship, he pushes himself off; arms outstretched doing his best Jesus pose.
The original Reeve films played up his biblical allegory; a little bit of Moses and a little bit of Jesus, but his humanity stood out. Man of Steel does too, but it’s his conflict with his two fathers asking of him to look inside himself, that gets plenty of airtime. Jonathan wants him to be a good person first; to be the architect of his character in spite of his abilities, but he’s afraid for him; demands he be careful of the world around him while Jor-El suggests he uses his powers to inspire the masses.
We don’t get linear narrative, but flashbacks of his days in Smallville and we learn where his love of humanity is cultured and formed. One of my favorite scenes is when Clark is being bullied, he wants to smash the guys, but he knows he can’t.  So he takes on the stigma of pushover simply because he’d push the kids skulls in if he followed with his rage. This scene is important as it has a great pay-off near the end with Zod.
One that caused some nerd controversy and it mostly dead-wrong, only the ignorant morons who don’t know comics would object to this and also- THIS is his origin story, the Superman we are familiar with, is not quite there yet, he is slowly coming into focus.  The killing of Zod, which was a shock and needed, will obviously shape him and weigh heavily on him for the rest of his days into the sequels and Justice League movies.  I would be very surprised if the fallout doesn’t make an impression and mold him into the Boy Scout we all know. That act proved Superman is more human, (again more biblical allusions) than alien as he is prone to our faults and temptations for all the same (or wrong) reasons. The killing made a strong and important character point, that Superman would do ANYTHING to save humanity; sacrificing a bit of his soul in the process, just as Zod would do anything to further his political agenda. It also again, showed how Superman’s moral code is not quite built and formed. Sure, he’s an upstanding guy, but there is still wiggle room and he has to discover what he will and won’t do to seek justice.  As for Zod’s death, two strong personalities at an impasse, Superman was left only one choice.  Another reason the rage is wrong is because Superman HAS killed before- to say Superman has never done that is quite frankly a lie, but again, this is an origin story so what we knew as Superman is not there yet…
Henry Cavil is the films greatest and best asset. He’s charming, warm, vulnerable and tough as hell when he needs to be.  Some fans have complained that this Superman is far too serious, of course he is, he’s discovering himself; they fail to understand that Superman does have angst; he’s not bright and shiny all the time, his angst stems from his inability to save EVERYONE. From Pa Kent on down, he knows what he is capable of, yet death and injustice happens every day around him and it drives him nuts that he cannot totally stop it.  This is an origin story after all and until he figures out exactly how his powers work, it’s going to be trial time-not gee, whiz golly time.
There were a few complaints about the way Pa Kent died. It made sense. He tells Lois, “I trusted my father and he died.” Jonathan believed so much in his son, and to an extent into the fear that he would be rejected if he revealed himself too early to the world, two fathers each with opposing views; Pa Kent wanted it to be kept secret, Jor-El wanted him to be the Earth’s savior by inspiring the world and both died for their beliefs. The turmoil this creates for Clark is fascinating and Cavill does an excellent job, he embodies the character, shows how much he trusted Pa Kent, to the extreme.  He has to figure what his true purpose is and how it fits in with humanities plan. Plus, he has multiple identity issues to deal with, it’s a wonder he’s not a super psycho. His biggest obstacle is how Clark had never trusted his instincts before, he constantly looked towards Pa Kent for guidance; he learned a very hard lesson that day.
Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent is excellent, he’s always been his best as an actor when he’s straight-forward and decent. The Smallville scenes in all of the movies and television series have always been my favorite. Pa Kent was a role tailored made for the actor.  It’s the small moments that show Clark full of fear and more human than he realizes and how his love for foster parents and their strong moral code is stronger than any alien bad guy could ever be that are the most satisfying to me. The characters bring fear and trepidation into an inherently absurd situation and make it real and believable.  His scenes choked me up several times when he asks Clark ‘to demand better of himself, to be the architect of his character.’
Diane Lane is excellent as Martha Kent, equally decent, imparting her quiet strength she has several stand out moments. When Clark is a youngster, traumatized and overwhelmed by his powers, he runs from the classroom, after having his x-ray vision show him the bones and guts of his teacher and classmates, locking himself inside a closet, not understanding any of it, he cries, “the world is too big, Ma!” Quietly, matter-of-factly, “make it smaller”, she says.  She’s there many more times to offer comfort, sage advice and provide the emotional anchor needed to keep the movie afloat. She’s loving, smart and kind, but a real mama bear when needed. A nice character moment occurs after the baddie melee, her house is all but destroyed, she searches through the rubble, undisturbed by the destruction, she quietly digs out the family portraits and keeps sakes.
Without Cavill’s earnest, strong performance and the emotional obstacles he encounters this would be one action porn scene after another and it would get old real quick, enjoyable, but old, but it doesn’t. He fights with Zod and smashes crap for nearly the last half of the movie and it’s wonderfully kinetic and brings to life every comic book panel ever drawn- and just when you think it’s gone into overkill, you realize, that’s’ the point, this all means something. Zod and Superman constantly test each other, each with these strange powers; they are seeing just what they are capable of; throwing each other into cars, buildings, buses. A massive leap in technology as it’s a long, long way from the Metropolis melee in Superman II.  All of this destruction does look very cool, but it’s driven by character, not plot and it never succumbs to the random chaos and noise seen especially in the last two Transformers where nothing matters and it’s just an FX orgy that bores the audience to tears and no they don’t destroy every building in town nor is Superman OK with people getting smashed up, we seem them evacuated and how he’s protective of them. Besides, I’m fairly sure this will factor in greatly with Batman’s appearance and Lex Luthor in the sequel, he will take great advantage of the damage done and do the most insanely inaccurate and lie-filled campaign since the re-election of Barack Obama to get the public on his side and smear Superman into oblivion. Taking great advantage of his strong moral character.
While building the universe, (and destroying) they have fun with the mythology and drop some familiar DC faces in for a cameo spots to let us know there are other heroes in this universe and we just might seem them in the sequels. During the alien melee, we can quickly see a Luthorcorp Tower getting pummeled by some damage; the first (and most subtle) sighting of Lex Luthor’s conglomerate’s domination is when Clark Kent is walking up to the family home after hitchhiking his way there on a LexCorp truck. During the Metropolis rumble, there is a gas tanker that gets some damage, big letters on the side, LEXCORP and a construction site where Zod and Superman battle flying the Luthor flag with a huge banner declaring “LexCorp: The Future Is Now!”
One of the best and easiest references to spot is when Clark discovers the Kryptonian scout ship buried deep in the artic. When Clark enters he looks over four cryogenic sarcophagi- three of them have skeletons, but one is empty with its hatch wide open– a gentle nod to his cousin, Supergirl.
Plenty of Smallville references too- Pete Ross is on the school bus that Clark rescues and they later meet during the IHOP melee, we also see nods to Chloe Sullivan, the Sullivan family at least, Lana Lang and Whitney Fordman.
The Wayne Enterprises logo is on a satellite that Zod destroys; another Dark Knight reference is when Zod’s tearing the building apart with his heat vision, there’s a Be Calm And Call Batman sign on the wall…S.T.A.R. (D.C’s answer to Marvel’s S.H.I.E.LD) labs and Dr. Emil Hamilton have a minor role with a few lines; this should amount to more than a cameo in the sequels as Cyborg is born from this lab, as is Superman baddie Metallo.
Lastly, this one is a bit of a stretch, but after the oil rig rescue, when Clark jumps into the sea, he strikes (another) Jesus pose to quiet his head, we see some whales in the background, sent perhaps by Aquaman to see if he’s injured.
As for the score, how does one surpass, top, honor anything created by John Williams? Superman Returns used the theme to mostly great effect, but Man of Steel chooses not to, which was probably a wise choice, although at this point, if James Bond can have his own theme, why can’t Superman have Williams score? Composer, Hans Zimmer had a gargantuan task ahead, but he pulls it off with relative ease. He will always have the hindrance of being after Williams, so of course his score is not nearly as iconic, but it’s not bad by any stretch. The main theme, although not as bombastic and uplifting as Williams, it’s emotional and slowly builds on its greatness.
I love this film for many reasons; mostly because it broke wide open the vast DC universe that we have really never seen on film before. Nolan had his stab at it, but he seemed reticent to use the rogues’ gallery and never let us get much of a peak into Gotham’s dark corners. Man of Steel seems a bit more of an epic affair, not afraid to fly its geeky flag and let Superman soar high and proud as DC greatest hero!
The film is not perfect and I would have preferred a smoother, more traditional style of camera direction to truly evoke the most iconic potential from the material, but what it is, it’s awesome and I cannot wait for Superman to meet Batman.  Marvel has scored mostly all A’s so far with their legends coming to the screen, (except for those awful Iron Man sequels) now it’s DC’s turn to continue on, don’t break our hearts with “Justice League.”

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Star Trek Into the Darkness

2009’s Star Trek was a welcomed breath of fresh air. Nourishment given to a dying friend, it brought relevancy to a film franchise done under by safe and predictable guidance by its previous tenants. Into the Darkness harkens back to the best and brightest moments of the original series; high-adventure, a strong moral compass, sci-fi hook and the problems of today played out in the 23rd century theater. This is an excellent film with a huge heart and some awesome summer spectacle!
Things get fairly political in ways i wasn’t expecting and it’s been a long time since Trek has stood on a soap box to yell at the world. The original series reflected the idealistic times of the 1960’s, civil rights was moving forward, LBJ’s “Great Society” was passed and Man was prepping to land on the moon. Fast forward 50 years later and idealism has been replaced with skepticism of government, terrorism has made us cautious of our neighbors and NASA has been all but underfunded and discarded. Into the Darkness mines the heck out of that “darkness” and crafted one of the best films of the franchise.
The film picks up a short time after the conclusion of the 2009 entry. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew are trying to save a primitive society from an erupting volcano. In the process, Spock (Zachary Quinto) becomes trapped and Kirk must violate The Federation’s “Prime Directive” to save him. This results in the Enterprise being given back to Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and Kirk being demoted to First Officer. However, as this is happening, a rogue Starfleet officer, Commander John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), has declared war on his employers. He detonates a bomb in London then stages a sneak attack on Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco. Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), Pike’s superior, gives Kirk back his ship with new orders: track down Harrison, who has gone into hiding on the Klingon home planet, and bring him to justice.
So sets things in motion to put a twist on what we would normally expect.  Benedict Cumberpatch as Khan is a vastly different creature than Ricardo Montalban’s perfect embodiment of wounded ego and personal vengeance. Not so much a psycho, he was, but more of an self-entitled narcissist. Montalbahn’s Khan had a legitimate beef with Kirk, he felt he was purposefully abandoned on a rough planet, fueled by the death of his wife. Once had hijacked USS Reliant, he had the chance to escape, but he took it personal leading to his demise. Cumberpatch’s Khan is a really a nastier creation, one created by the Federation very much in the vein of Osma Bin Laden, he’s been a Starfleet officer being his freak out and it’s up to Kirk to clean up the mess. There is no personal grudge with Kirk per say, but the Federation as a whole and like the previous Trek, this is like original series Trek, “only bigger.” This version of Khan is a more complex, different version, (NOT better) as he’s a product of the Federation. Vulcan being destroyed was the first film’s 9/11. That catastrophic event changed things forever and for the worse as it made Federation, no longer a noble gesture of seeing what’s out there- but cautious, some would say, paranoid as in Khan and his supermen’s case, having been discovered years before the Enterprise originally did, this timeline, their discovery was meant with a ‘what can they do for us now,” mentality. They exploit Khan and his people to no end, create a monster and then are surprised and shocked when he turns against them leaving Kirk to clean up the mess. Sound familiar?
On the minds of our 23rd century counterparts is terrorism, unheard of in the original timeline, but already established in the alternate timeline in the first film with the destruction of Vulcan. The fallout has created a paranoid, suspicious Federation who is having trouble going where no one has gone before. Instead of Kirk and crew, it’s the Federation that discovers Khan Noonian Sighn and his crew of super humans launched in the 20th century on board the Botany Bay. This  Khan Noonian Sigh, is vastly different, still power mad and ego-centric, but his reasons for being pissed are bigger than in the original timeline. This time his beef is with the Federation as a whole, think of him as a Osma Bin Laden- type. In WOK, Kirk’s well-intended gesture turned into a pissed off despot who blamed him for everything bad- here, both men are out for vengeance. Khan is out to kill all things Starfleet; Kirk is out to kill the man who killed his friend. Both are correct in their rage, but its all about how one channels that energy.
Abrams and crew did a great job of stepping in the same area as “Wrath of Khan” but they make sure not to repeat or try to outdo the perfect original.  With the alternate timeline that can take familiar characters and situations and give them a unique twist or bent perspective.
I know the ending is directly taken from Spock’s death, this time it’s switched up and although is not nearly as touching or impactful as Spock’s, but the point is the same- a teachable moment, this time for Spock instead of Kirk, whose death is more than gimmick as it shows him learning humility and Spock embracing his humanity. Kirk’s death is a catalyst, it’s the light bulb going on, it’s the you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone moment, where finally he understands. It doesn’t matter that we, the audience, know that the death won’t stick, what matter is that Spock sees the light.  Spock and Kirk have no reason to think it won’t. So that is a real moment for them, and it’s hugely powerful, I think. Spock’s death in WoK is the coda to their shared lives … but Kirk’s death in ID is the defining moment that propels them into that legendary friendship. BOTH deaths meant something for each character – For Spock’s sake, Kirk wants him to understand that he put his career on the line to save him because he matters, because some things are more important than the rules. But for his own sake too he needs Spock to understand that, or what was the point? And the fact that Spock does get it, and says so, that’s his reward. That’s him knowing he didn’t do what he did for nothing. That Spock Prime was right.’ It’s his crisis of leadership’.
In the original WOK, Kirk was arrogant, having cheated death constantly, he never lost anyone close, when he finally did, he was humbled, and in strange, bitter ironic twist of fate, he gained his friend back, but lost his son David in the process as if fate was rubbing it in and was daring him to that again. Spock’s definitive declaration of friendship, “I have and always shall be your…friend,” and his death, are the culmination of a decades’ long relationship between him and Kirk. They both know already that Spock has always been his friend, that their friendship has defined them, but for whatever reason it’s never been said out loud. Now, in his final moments, Spock wants to say it. He wants it on the record, so to speak. But he’s only stating the obvious. This time, in the altered timeline, these two guys haven’t got that history. What they’ve got is frustration and misunderstanding and cross purposes and, for Kirk, a heads up from Spock Prime that they’re supposed to be lifelong friends. So he doesn’t quite get that it’s just not happening, and Spock – who’s never had a friend, doesn’t know what to do with a friend, doesn’t know how to be a friend – he’s just doing what he knows how to do, what he’s been taught is the right thing to do, and is genuinely shocked when it keeps backfiring on him. There’s a part of him that wants the friendship, knows he needs the friendship, even feels the friendship, but he’s not capable of articulating that in any way. Kirk gets friends easily and plentiful, especially females, but none ever stick around, until now.
So for the crybabies who may have balked over the de ja vu feeling with Khan,  it’s not about being unoriginal, it’s not about disrespecting the source material, contradicting it, it’s about reinterpreting, re-imagining, taking a pivotal moment in history and bending it around the fact that nothing in this timeline will be precisely as it was in the original,  which would be the whole point. Because filtered through a prism. A singular moment reinterpreted to give it new meaning. It’s not about Kirk finally facing death as it was in TWOK; it’s about Spock finally understanding the power of emotional connections, something he never even fully had with Uhura. Spock is half-human and he finally realizes that.
Director JJ Abrams has now became more famous than his cast, having already signed up for Star Wars Episode VII, we can only guess how he will treat that franchise, but for Trek, he’s done good. His direction this time is steadier, smoother, coherent, Spielberg-esque actually, the adventure parts of the film are a great thrill and his cast have some excellent moments. Two things I do not like however- I still hate the Enterprise Bridge, it looks like an over-stuffed Apple store with lights constantly shining in the viewer’s eyes and the engine room is needless retro. The original series never had that many pipes, so why does this one have to look like Shotz Brewery? A quibble, not a complaint as I loved the rest of the movie.

The cast continues to impress, Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zach Quinto (Spock) have their own unique chemistry that belongs to them. The supporting cast is excellent, the only misstep is Simon Peg as Scotty, he’s mostly too jokey and has yet to find the dramatic power of the late great James Doohan as the original Mr. Scott.
I never watched Star Trek for the techo-no babble or to complain about something scientific not being accurate, (like some do with the cold fusion bomb with Spock) I watched it for the characters, the thoughtful sci-fi ideas, social commentary, the action and humor, but mostly for the characters, the way the personalities played off each other. I got to know that crew and, as we were meant to, admired them and yes, cried with them when Spock died in “Wrath of Khan,” and for Kirk when his son David was murdered by those “Klingon bastards!”
Those are precious, iconic moments that will live with me forever not just as a fan, but as a human being because they spoke about bigger, more meaningful things than just sci-fi B movie spectacle. Nobody, but the original cast could have that same chemistry, like a precious gem, it belongs to those actors, but the new cast has done their best to forge their own path, to do their own thing without trampling on the originals kid’s work. I know there will always be those who want a replay of the first telling, Star Trek the way it was–but honestly, you could really not ask for a better rebirth of the source. They tapped into a spring that had been nearly dripped dry thanks to lazy storytelling and zero soap-boxing. So much of the criticism is overlooking the very obvious and respectful love being brought into these productions, by everyone involved. I am absolutely hoping for at least one more adventure with this same cast, same writing, same director, and the same art design (applied to some wonderfully unexpected new vistas, except for that damn bridge! Make it closer the original series).
Twice in a row is already beating the odds. JJ has shown his love for Trek, despite being a Star Wars fan… (not sure why he has to choose, I never did) I drool at what he cooks up for the next Star Wars!!!! Lastly, let’s get a proper ending for the Next Generation crew! Make it so!

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The Dark Knight Rises and then Sinks…

 Christopher Nolan was just what the Batman movie-verse needed. He gave respect and emotional depth to the world’s greatest detective. He didn’t make a mockery of his glitch or carry his fetish for bats over the top. He gave us two of the best comic book movies ever made, “Batman Begins,” and the sequel “The Dark Knight” is one of the best sequels ever made and was a fantastic ode to mayhem. The Joker was finally realized on film and he was exactly what he was meant to be; a mean, unpredictable, unhinged son-of-a-bitch.  The late Heath Ledger gave his best and nearly last performance of his career nabbing a posthumous Oscar win.
And then he made, “The Dark Knight Rises,” everything the first two films are not. Not sure exactly what happened in the interim, but what a colossal squandering of potential. I tried really hard to like this movie, my first viewing was elation, but soon, I was shocked to learn how forgettable the whole thing is; the inconsistent dialogue, no real iconic images or moments, nothing as I write this that makes me want to revisit it, it’s tedious, but strangely too; it’s as dull as a silent fart. Not one single action scene that sticks out or compels me for another view.  What does the title mean, exactly? Rises from what? His seat, a deep sleep, his selfish exile?
I used to think Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher did far worse acts to Batman, but now, I’m not so sure. They never made a good Batman film so the expectations were never fully realized, but Nolan played with our geeky hearts and effortlessly  broke them in half, spit in our eyes and said, “Take that, suckas!” Nolan seemed to have too much resentful anger inside and this is the result. Maybe he lost interest or just fooled us all into thinking he knew Batman, because from the looks of this, he has not a clue.
What a difference a year makes. It has taken me that long to realize one of the biggest movies of 2012 is one of the worst, which is mind-blowing and disappointing as it’s photographed and shot beautifully, but a pretty package does not enough make for a quality Batman adventure. I wanted to start this review honestly and with good intentions so I watched the film again recently and its many flaws, warts, omissions, glitches and out-right stupid moves jumped out at me and wagged its finger as if to daring me to spot them all. I did! Most of them.
I want to stress the fact that I am not being overly-critical or fanboyish- this film is sloppy- these things do jump out; it’s incoherent and needlessly complex, too many occasions there are scenes missing that should have been noticed in the editing bays or even during the first re-write. There’s an excellent story in here, but it’s buried underneath awkward moments, out-of-character moments and just dumb moments. The film, despite some moments of brilliance and awesome, implodes on too many scenes that make zero sense, convenient coincidences and as if it’s re-counted by an out-of-breath 8 year-old, describing all the good stuff; “And this happened, and then this and this…”, leaving out the necessary connective tissue. I’d rather see that version of the movie, as the one we got commits the worst sin any movie can make- it’s boring!  The skeleton of this movie is solid, but the brain is dead, the muscles atrophy and the heart in cardiac arrest.
Right from the giddy-up I never understood why the Batman had to be vilified, while Harvey Dent a martyr. Commissioner Gordon liked what both men were doing, why not support them both? Why not put the blame of Dent’s death squarely on the Joker and reiterate that the Batman stopped him and do a propaganda campaign of sorts to make Batman a citywide hero? This crap of him taking the heat, brunt- whatever made zero sense and was politically stupid on Commissioner Gordon’s part. Sure, it came back to bite them, but why was it even implemented?
Why again was Bruce Wayne a hermit for 8 years? Did it not occur to him that if he did that, Batman would also being missing for the same exact time and people might connect the dots. What does that say about Bruce that he would rather hide and pout instead of fight back. Why where his legs so busted up? There is no mentioning that he fought anyone after the Joker. He seemed fairly well after that battle. A quick montage of sorts would have been nice show how he got so badly whipped another strange scene has a doctor listing off his injuries like he’s an NFL player. All of that from catching FOUR bad guys, Huh? Yet it does a flip flop and shows us he’s quite alright. For a movie grounded in realism (remember all the bruises from the first film) we see Batman shrug off an awful lot of punishment in this film; first the no cartilage in the knee, the ass beating/broken back from Bane, a stab to the gut from Talia. Batman shrugs all of this off and doesn’t lose a single step. As a matter of fact, the more punishment he receives it appears the stronger he gets through the film.  If there was something to show us he was healed – fine, but we got nothing. Bull and crap!
Bane certainly has a dramatic entrance, but it’s undercut by that annoying voice. Tom Hardy seems to be miscast, not quite big or intimidating enough to break Bruce Wayne’s will and his back. Sounding like Paul Lynde doing Sean Connery- that stupid voice sounds phony and very queer. Hardy tries, but is not quite there. Bane too is involved in many dumb moments, the first is when his team breaks into the city stock exchange; the cops surround the place and they escape on motorcycles- HOW? When and where did they get the bikes? A panel truck somewhere? A closet?  Where?
Who the hell is this John Blake character as fake Robin? Why, why, why was he created when Nolan could have used any version of boy wonder, Robin; the original, Dick Grayson who goes on to be “Nightwing;” Jason Todd who is murdered by the Joker, Tim Drake or Bruce’s biological son, Damian Wayne. Why did we get a made up loser who fits in nowhere in the Batman’s history and comes out nowhere to make not one bit of difference. Robin is not his given name, it’s a nickname due to his family being circus performers, Dick’s aerobatics and skill as a performer prompted his family to call him “Robin” since he flew swift and fast like the bird. The name “Robin, The Boy Wonder” and the medieval look of the original costume are inspired by the legendary hero Robin Hood, as well as the red-breasted American Robin, which parallels the “winged” motif of Batman.  His origin has a thematic connection to Batman’s in that both see their parents killed by criminals, creating an urge to battle the criminal element. Bruce sees a chance to direct the anger and rage that Dick feels in a way that he himself cannot, thus creating a father/son bond and understanding between the two.. .See how much better that works than some idiot nobody with a girls name.
Too bad, Joseph Levitt is a solid actor, he was the right age, size and could have been the right antidote to Bale’s serious case of pretentiousness and overall douchebaggery as the real Robin.  I’m still a little perplexed as to why Robin was never introduced, (he should have been added to part 3) his story is just as important and compelling as Bruce’s. With a sidekick it would have lightened Batman up to a familiar degree and get him out of his pretentious funk Bale is so good (or bad however you take it) at doing, maybe even dropping the cancer throat voice, which worked when he said only a few words, but entire speeches is a bit much to take and at times hard to understand. For both the hero and the villain to have f—ed up voices, this movie was at times a wanna-be wrist slitter.
One of the fatal flaws is the look of the fights between Batman and Bane  which are laughable and undersold especially where Bruce’s back is broken. In the story from whence it came, “Nightfall,” this was a huge deal and some of the best writing the character ever had; a brilliant deconstruction and rebuilding of the character with one simple act. Here, it’s basically a throw-away. The fights between the cops and the thugs are worse, all that was missing was the “BAM,” “POW!” and “BIFF!” action bubbles from the Adam West years. It’s worse, because this is supposed to be serious, yet the melees are terribly choreographed, they look fake as hell, worse than wrestling. No hits ever connect and no bodies are shown lying on the ground. The biggest fight of them all between Bats and Bane is an epic failure. Batman is known for his gadgets, yet he never uses them once for his fights, sure he flies around, but none for his fighting; just weak fisticuffs. They trade swings, unconvincingly. It amounts to big shoulder shrug as the Batman never uses his environment to fight back, again, just trade blows like an episode of “Matt Houston.” SO what! Where are those fighting skills we saw in the previous films?  Batman is as good as Bruce Lee, imagine a Batman moment cooler than anything in “Enter the Dragon,” I think you know what I mean…
Another Lamont Sanford  style, “Big Dummy” moment, Bane breaks his back and then sends him off to some hole… in Europe I think, maybe Mongolia, or was it Asia? The build up to this hole is huge; we are to think it’s, well, a hellhole, but once we get down there- it’s not so bad.  This prison hole is supposed to hold the worst of the worst, YET they have electricity, flat screen, shaving devices and all seem rather nice to Bruce; they nurse him back to health, one punches his back, forcing the vertebra into place.
Again, here comes the weird time, I’ve never had a back injury, but it would seem the very shortest amount of recovery would be 6-8 weeks, vertebra in or out of place, an injured one would hurt like hell, yet he’s up and moving in no time… I mean really, NO time. What’s worse, and here come more time idiocies, Bruce could barely walk without his robo-legs in the beginning of the movie from cartilage wearing out. This isn’t something that heals all by itself. After he is stripped of his gear and thrown into the prison he seemingly has no troubles walking after a couple weeks of recovery. We are shown his robo-legs were taken when he is doing the exercises in shorts later in the prison scenes. Did he grow new cartilage? How did the legs heal so fast?
Some weird chanting and up a rope he goes to escape… YET how does he get back to Gotham? He doesn’t have his wallet; he can’t make a phone call? Or Maybe he did we just didn’t see it… HUH? No effort is made to show how he makes it back! These aren’t simple mistakes, this is lazy filmmaking.
Don’t tell us, show us, but we get neither!  I can accept a lot of things, but obvious and needed transitions shots are a must to tell a coherent story. We didn’t get a transition shot of any kind, no airplane, no helicopter, no hot air balloon- nothing… no logical sense of time passes to which is the beginning of the end for this flick as it has massive problems with the stories timeline. Where were the planes that Talia mentioned; Alfred co-piloting a chopper and spotting Bruce signaling for help… anything would have made sense, but no, we get nothing… A simple few second shot.
The same thing happens to Bane- he’s in the hole, then the VERY next scene he’s back in Gotham! How????? I still don’t know! I realize he has planes and transportation at his command, but c’mon! Another dumb moment, is how can a CIA plane transporting an important scientist they have captured seemingly have no radar support to realize another plan is hovering directly above them. At no point is the plane ever mentioned as being stealth or equipped with some cloaking device, just two ordinary planes  flying along – yeah, right!  Also from that same sequence, one of Banes suicidal followers is given a blood transfusion from a doctor in order to fake his death. This wouldn’t fool any forensics team into ID-ing the dead body from a plane crash.  Dumb.
It wastes sub-plots that mean nothing… I could get past that, IF this was an otherwise great film, but it’s not, far from it. It’s horribly schizoid and forgets what the characters are about. Butler Alfred Pennyworth as played by Michael Caine, a fine actor, but here he’s way out off the mark. To use a co-worker’s term, ‘he’s quite the bitch.” He never acts the way Alfred should; stoic, loyal and resourceful. He’s winy, teary-eyed and demanding. The ultimatum he gives Bruce is not something he would do. He would stand by Master Bruce’s decisions, but would try to talk sense into him if he thought it necessary, he wouldn’t weep, tell a heart-tugging story and then give him a, “if you do this, I’m gone” sort of deal. I could let that pass if the rest was not so dead-freaking wrong for the character. He has another odd and stupid scripted moment when he tells Bruce the first time he heard his voice, “in that room up there…” WHAT ROOM? The original Wayne Manor burned at the end of Batman Begins, how it could be the same, ‘THAT room?’ Trivial, but not really, because it could so easily have been corrected in editing.
Director Nolan made a huge deal of making Batman real and went to great pains of giving the universe some depth, yet he forgets that the biggest part of reality is time. I have mentioned some weird time happenings before, but the worst offense is in the final act when the bomb is dispatched. At one point the following things happen; Talia stabs Batman in his gut with a knife. He then gets in the flying chopper, battles Talia and her henchmen while they drive a big tanker carrying the bomb with Commissioner Gordon in back; along with some chopper fu and gun play and then takes the bomb out to sea so it can detonate- ALL in ten minutes! I can’t take a good dump in ten minutes. Again, it’s lazy filmmaking.  Also, the timer on the bomb constantly changes its time readout. Some shots it reads 10 minutes, other shots it reads 17 minutes, back and forth and not in linear form- all of this after Lucius Fox has said, “There is only ten minutes left!” All this coming from a visionary writer/director that boasts he has the entire movie blocked out in his head and knows the run time and budget long before actual filming starts…and my mom would be a wagon if she had wheels.
“YOU Big Dummy” moment occurs right with the Gotham police force. Are we to believe the ENTIRE police force has to go down into the sewers, and several thousands of them, led down below, together… It’s stated they are of questionable character, corrupt perhaps, but are they all that gullible and stupid? Down below, all at once, but don’t worry they’ll emerge looking clean and healthy. WHY?  Bane and his crew were hunting down cops on the surface like dogs. We are given this information several times. If their goal is to hunt down and eradicate the cops and exile them to death to walk across the ice then why the hell are they feeding and giving the cops supplies for THREE MONTHS!?! Why not just kill them – he wants to get his revenge anyway- while they are down there, rape pillage the city like a good bad guy… but no, he goes through the Bond villain productions and thinks he’s the smartest kid in the room, pathetic… If that’s not bad enough and it is, Talia Ah-Gaul shows up in a too-late-to-give-a-hoot plot twist that she is going to get revenge on the city for the death of her father… What took her so long…?
Why was Talia so wasted? She’s brought in for Bruce to have a roll in the hay and for her to help him take back over Wayne Enterprises which is battling corporate takeover. Why didn’t she get more screen time, Bane should have been nothing more than a henchman, a Darth Maul of sorts, doing her dirty work, IF Talia was going to be the main baddie that is. A female villain would have been a refreshing change. Poison Ivy would have worked great as her sidekick as a wacko environmentalist,(a terrorist for a cause- a perfect sign of the times) a great movie we could have had, but no. It all feels like a money-grab. Nolan no longer interested and just full filled his contract, nothing more.
Anne Hathaway did a fine job as Selina Kyle, “Catwoman,” but I’m still not sure why she was in the movie other than to give Bruce Wayne a happy ending, but that’s wrong too- Batman is doomed to never have a happy ending since his search for justice is unending, unyielding. He’s the perfect tragic character- all the money he could ever spend, but the one thing he wants so badly constantly and forever eludes him. Batman thought to be dead was wrong as well. No one wants the last James Bond movie to end with him dead or giving up, no one wants to see Indiana Jones dead or quitting, the same for Superman. Hell, or even John McClain. Instead the make Bruce Wayne a quitter? Bull and crap. A nice shot of him flying away to continue to fight the good fight.
The entire cast, except for Hardy, did a great to acceptable job. Oldham being the best. Ultimately, they are not to blame as they can only do so much with what they are given; two things killed this flick; unrecognizable characters and Christian Bale’s continued poisonous pretentiousness, he’s done this in nearly all of the films I’ve seen him in since post “American Psycho” and he’s becoming a joke= The English Robert Deniro. He’s always come across as one step away from dismissing the comic book thing as stupid kids stuff.  It does not have to be that way.
It’s shameful. $250 million squandered on crap that is far too distracting to be interesting. Also too, the film is a flipping bore! It’s nearly an hour before Batman shows up and then he’s gone right when things get good. Like the rest and especially the ending, it strays too far to have a ring of truth and does not stick to its convictions, it wants it both ways- but no one wants Batman dead so why even attempt it? He made Batman into a quitter which made no sense.  I complain because there is a great story here, we saw glimmers of it, but the final product was weak, sloppy and the characters full of dumb and amnesiac moments.
Nolan needs to get past this “realism” kick and just make a solid movie. He seems afraid of the Batman universe to fully commit. The previous incarnations understood the universe, but didn’t understand the character, Nolan kind of understands the character but never the universe so he had to remake it from the ground up. It worked twice, but thrice- no dice!  For the next go around, let’s get someone who would use Clay face, the Riddler without hesitation, Solomon Grundy and even the Penguin. Fear is for losers and Batman has had too many of those.
Man of Steel is my new best friend.

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Iron Man 3

images Arriving with sound and fury but of little consequence, I no longer care about Tony Stark in his solo adventures. The third time is definitely not the charm as the superhero curse continues to meddle with trilogies: “Iron Man 3, Superman III (started this curse), “Batman Forever,” Spider-man III,” “ X-Men: The Last Stand,”& “The Dark Knight Rises”- all collapsed for one reason or another, the very last one far worse than IM3, which is not nearly as awful as some on the list, but it stumbles and falls where it shouldn’t and comes nowhere the fun established by the original.
It’s necessary to say that Robert Downey Jr. is as much as the titular character as Christopher Reeve has been attached to Superman. Both performances were fun, human and impressive and gather so much goodwill the audience forgave them for a lousy sequel. If RDJ can survive “Iron Man 2,” and he did by knocking it out of the park with the fantastic, “The Avengers,” he too shall survive this mostly bloated, by-the-numbers adventure.
When it was announced that Shane Black was taking over Directing duties, I was ecstatic, Black has an impressive resume and he’s not Mr. Vanilla, Jon Faveraue, but he also doesn’t have a good storytelling sense it seems. There are way too many scenes of talking and talking and talking. Much like Tarantino, Black is too much in love with his words and doesn’t know what good editing can bring to a movie. I don’t go to the movies for nice long chats; show the characters in action, don’t talk about it or tease us.
Downey starts the film off with a great flashback where we see our old friend living the good life, but throughout Iron Man 3 we’re left with a totally different Tony Stark – one Post-Avengers-Stress-Syndrome. As anyone who knows, Black loves to dump on his characters,(Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon) bring on the pain- drop them in emotional wringers and Stark is no different, he has near debilitating anxiety attacks due to his Avengers antics.  Sure, this can lead to some good drama, but it really doesn’t. The film never really uses this and seems all over the place because of it resulting in Stark having a bit of an identity crisis, not in the narrative sense, but screenplay-wise, he’s treated unjustly, but not really knowing what Stark is all about.  The first film dealt with Tony’s identity crisis as a war profiteer and being Tony Stark and then dealing with his injury. Part 2 had him slinging the booze and dealing with his identity as Iron Man. Part 3 he’s too busy cracking wise and making jokes at Pepper’s expense on top of the occasional anxiety attack which is mostly played for laughs. There is way too much humor, often times stepping close to camp. At this point, Downey’s shtick has become tiresome; his line delivery is too glib; if he doesn’t care, why should I? He’s still a fine actor, but maybe the needs a break from these solo flicks?
Movies like this live or die on the strength of the bad guy and The Mandarin is as weak as the come. Worse than in Part 2 simply because of the potential lost.   I feel this will leave many geeks split right down the middle as it either took big balls of hubris to do what they did or was the dumbest move since Richard Pryor hanging from Superman’s grasp.  I’m sure it’s more of the former, since the movie is gobbling up money like a Jewish Pac-Man, but the collateral damage may not be felt until the next installment.
I have no loyalty to either interpretation, but I didn’t care for the switcheroo. I prefer my comic book villains, mean, ego-maniacal and with a clear purpose. Is that clever storytelling or are we so entrenched and held hostage by political correctness that Marvel was afraid of charges of racism if they cannot cast an Asian actor as a baddie? I would guess the latter since it’s fashionable to cast any character any way progressive even if it’s inaccurate. There is absolutely no reason why an Asian actor could not have been cast- where the hell was Chow Yun-fat????
As if there were never bad Asians in the world before this character and none worthy of our hate. Give me a Nell Carter-sized break!  All of the comic book bad guys can’t be played by Anglos- just as all the heroes can’t, so why did the Mandarin need this strange twist because the villain we got was a bit of a dullard, odd considering Guy Pierce has played bad guys before and been very good. His lame backstory, his current position didn’t make for a compelling baddie in the slightest. He’s as every bit as rich as Stark, BUT his motivations are downright murky. What was the point of all the terrorism? Why is he committing all of these heinous acts? He says he’s attempting to create a supply and demand for his product, Extremis, but to do so he apparently feels the need to kill the President of the United States (and countless others in terrorist’s bombings) and enlist the Vice President into committing treason? Was he seeking revenge? Did a government person steal his work and reap the glory and fortune for themselves? Did they frame him for a crime and steal his money? What?  Why exactly would Killian need to go to such great lengths to gain wealth or power? Other than long-ago snub, what was his gripe with Stark? When Stark challenges and gives out his address to the Mandarin to come to his Malibu home; why didn’t he have some defenses online waiting for him? Why was it a surprise attack? It seems to me if I call a psycho out to come to my home, I’ll have the proper weaponry waiting to dispose of him and when he arrives, I’ll be READY FOR HIM! Instead Stark, acts as though it’s a complete ambush, damn near gets himself and Pepper killed in the process dodging and weaving chucks of debris and classic cars.
These questions are never answered in a satisfying way.
He’s obviously an intelligent guy, and possibly most important of all: his product works. He has an incredible product in Extremis; it rebuilds the human body and makes humans stronger. An incredible invention that should have him making more money than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined, plus the awards, accolades, the overall good  guy award from the medical community most of all, Nobel prize most likely…yeah, a real bastard that one!
Why was Killian such a bad guy other than the screenplay saying so? The stupid part is, Killian’s goals are all obtainable without acts of terrorism and forcing elected officials into committing treason no matter how satisfying it was imagining our real life elected slugs in such a similar situation. Ironically, the guy would accomplish more if he were good; this is why the film fails for me, a lame real villain and a defanged fake one; both as dull as a silent fart.
And what’s up with Tony and Pepper? Are they or are they not? I guess on, but they seem bored already with each other or was that me bored with female characters that exist only to yell at the main character. Too bad, Paltrow has the old-fashioned moxy we like from comic book heroines; a Lois Lane smart-ass vibe, here she’s relegated to screaming and waiting to be rescued. She does have a heroic moment in the last act, but it feels more of an obligatory gesture instead of organic one. Downey continues to play Stark as if he has ADHD and flirts with Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen; she’s in the film no more than five minutes before she’s shot dead by her boss right in front of Stark who doesn’t seem to care- what happened to the anxiety attack then? Things like this are not just a matter of taste and preference, but shoddy screenwriting from people who should know better, who have done better and are paid way too much to ask the audience to give them a pass. I can suspend my belief; it’s my damn analytical brain that won’t turn off when stupid shows up.  Don Cheadle as Iron Patriot is given the shaft again in a terribly under written and thankless role that makes zero impression.
One of the few things that should have been a disaster plays better than it sounds was the kid sidekick, Harley. Granted, this kid was actually fairly energizing considering the mess that was the first act. He and Tony’s relationship was fairly amusing, a surprising highlight during this part of the film, finishing to the point where he’s called a pussy by Tony of course. The kid stays in check most of time and never gets in the way of the “action,” but at this point, any distraction is a welcomed one.
I will give high praise to excellent action sequences that are masterfully done- the rescue of 13 people thrown from Air Force One and the final showdown between Stark and Killian… perfectly shot and edited. The score, by Kevin Tyler, is excellent, the best a Marvel movie has ever had… too bad it was attached to such a disappointing movie.
All in all, this film simply wasn’t well fulfilled. The VFX looked immaculate, as it should, but with the lack of a well written, proper villain, and a plot which strays constantly; it’s a very messy affair. The first film was streamlined and with purpose, the second film less so, but focused; here it’s warm-fuzzy and all over the place.
The film ends with a big wrap up bow on top, not sure what to think of a “fixed” Stark, with his metal fragments removed from his chest and Stark HQ mansion as rubble in the ocean.
An Iron Man 4 is promised, but if this keeps up, Downey and company can shove their iron suits.

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imagesSometimes it’s tough being a horror movie fan. It’s worse when one of the classics and my single favorite horror film, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,”  keeps getting raped, beaten and victimized, over and over by terrible sequels. To be fair, 1986’s TCM Part 2 and 1990’s Part III are worthy and is where they end for me. They rest are worse than cheap cash-ins, just awful, stupid ugly messes.
So it goes with “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D“- yet another embarrassment, the worst one yet, to the saw— NOT that saw) legacy. 3D should be the tip off; horror and 3D do not a merry mix make. The 1980’s showed us that 3D sequels were work of the hackiest, desperate order, “Jaws 3D, “Amityville 3D” and “Friday the 13th Part 3D.” Of the new batch, “My Bloody Valentine” made no impression and the 3D provides evidence that audience want quality not getting head aches with crap jumping out at you.
Despite knowing better, I was rooting for this hunk of piss to be good; the premise at least had me for a few moments. Taking place immediately after the events in the original, (a necessary montage shows us in case were forgot what happened). The film then picks up with the Sheriff asking for “Bubba/Leatherface” (now known as Jedidiah, huh?)  to come out with his hands up and ends with the burning of the farmhouse and the supposed death of Leatherface. One of Leatherface’s kin is nursing a small baby, and while the mother expires in a gruesome shootout with the locals, her tiny infant survives. Flash forward about twenty years and that infant has grown up to be Heather (Alexandra Daddario), a young woman who was adopted by the man who actually killed her mother and who has no inkling of her storied past. That all changes when Heather’s biological grandmother dies and leaves her a large estate in Newt, Texas, something that forces Heather’s adoptive parents to confess the truth—or at least as much of it as they’re willing to come clean about, which includes no salient information about the horrifying murders Leatherface perpetrated nor any information about the deaths of Heather’s own extended family in the resulting shootout. Heather is understandably distraught to have this sudden revelation thrust upon her and decides to leave for Texas immediately with several of her friends in tow.
She’s met in the town by Farnsworth, who hands over the keys to the kingdom and quickly beats a path out of there, obviously only too aware of the history involved. Heather and her friends then begin exploring the premises, where something of a repeat of the opening montage happens, where at least a couple of characters venture into the basement, only to discover—well, guess. Leatherface is alive and well- duh! And so it goes, more of the same, nothing new and terribly dull by the end. So many stupid moments, where do I begin?
WTF? Will be asked often and with good reason. Remember, the original film takes place in 1973 as per John Larroquette’s opening narration instructs. This film opens up immediately right after Sally Hardesty has fled in the back of the pick yup truck… and then the film flashes forward to a grown up female child, to be around 20 years of age. By logic and the calendar, the year then should be 1993- but no, it takes place in 2013!!!!!  Captain Kirk and his crew couldn’t correct this strange time distortion and those missing 20 years!
For those us not retarded, Heather, should be 40 years old!  A simple and required rewrite would have saved this slug from being the worst film of the year. What of the odd ball math and time jumping, is never mentioned. Not in a clever way or even a stupid way, just not at all.  Lazy, stupid writing is one thing, but incompetent and complete disregard for the most rudimentary logic is unacceptable. I dig all kinds of movies of varying degrees of quality- this is the bottom of the barrel in presentation, creativity and insinuation. If a sustained period piece is a budget buster- guess what, don’t do it! Also, don’t have a movie take place in 1973, jump to the present with said character aging 20 years and reveal its 2013 and expect me not to notice! Why? There is no reason for such stupidity. I can think of several logical variations instantly that are better… Alice is 40, she has a 20 daughter, and the story follows her…BOOM! Done! The most annoying part is every time they show a picture, newspaper or tombstone, the year is obscured, as if the audience is unaware…zzzzzzz.  I can go with a movie only so far, but when it starts to insult my intelligence to cover up heavy work on the film’s end, I’m done.
I also resent the retro-active rewriting of the character and his back story.  That’s just one of many problems with this dung pile.   Nothing is really explained how Heather’s biological grandmother, (paternal or fraternal, who knows?) knew that she was alive or who adopted her. Who is this grandmother? Not Leatherface’s, he would be 70 plus years old by now, which would put Granny well over 100 at least going by this wonky time lime.
Yet another stupid redo is the sudden appearance of the new Sawyer family members- suddenly after Sally has fled and the Sheriff shows up, we see all kinds of relatives crawling out of the woodwork to stand in the Sawyer house only to be burned alive– in a move that is infuriating in its waste of potential, we have stars of the original Bill Moseley (Hitchhiker), Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface’s/Bubba), Marilyn Burns (Sally) and John Dugan (Grandpa)- for horror fans those names are legendary. They are all wasted here.., my mind floods with the potential that could have come from an interesting premise, although they were playing with fire trying link such a pedestrian effort to a bonafide classic.
Per order of the horror movie formula, the characters are always young, annoying dumb 20-something kids with nothing new to say or offer. They are nothing characters just burning time till the bad guys show up, but in this hemorrhoid, even the baddies are boring. As if it could get worse political correctness creeps in; Alice’s boyfriend is black of course, a wanna-be rapper; a big huge stereotype that would offend if many people saw this heap.  Per usual, Leatherface’s is yet again, not nearly as menacing as in the original, before the sequels diluted nearly everything inherently macabre about him. Even the mask is laughably bad.
Leatherface’s continues to suffer further indignities as Heather is revealed to be a long lost member of the Sawyer clan, a cousin. Despite him having tried to kill her, having killed two of her friends and her boyfriend, a lame ass plot twist requires her to defend him in one of the worst moments in recent memory of any horror film. I’ve sat through a lot of terrible horrible films over the years; Zombie’s piss Halloweens, Split Second, & Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan, but this felt far worse, perhaps because it was tied so tightly to the original; that film being of such purity and brilliance, this one such crass, cheap and stupid filmmaking- it hurt to see an icon like Leather face treated to such indignity.
Members of the town having burned the Sawyer clan to death, reunite when they discover he has been living in the basement of the house inherited by Heather… he escapes and chases Heather into a carnival, where he goes mostly unnoticed despite many people around! One moronic scene after another has Heather and Leatherface teaming up. Yes, it plays worse than it sounds. What made the original film and Leather face as a character so powerful and memorable is that you didn’t know anything about him other than he was mentally retarded, insane and a cannibal. Here, he’s removed from his confines and released into the real world, where he is no longer scary. The real world sees him and he’s rendered as just another psycho.  A character that was best described as a physical embodiment of the boogeyman; he worked when the strangers entered his domain, where he had the power and control. The first film kept him in his environment and you saw bits and pieces of what made him tick; kept him creepy, vicious and pure evil. Here he’s reduced to a joke and looks nothing like Hansen’s original.  A fatty running around with a chainsaw that needs some oil. The closing scene will leave and Saw fan enraged at its sheer stupidity and completely NOT what the character was ever about.
Par for the course in the horror genre as no classic is sacred these days.  It would be great if some actual talent got on board and made some quality films detailing the Sawyer clan and how and why they are so bugger nuts. Grandpa has a story, let’s see that! Where’s the story of the Texas Rangers getting revenge for a killing… the original Part 2 touched on that, but didn’t explore enough…
I hate this movie, not for only squandering some sound ideas, but for its laziness, stupidity and blundering commercialism. Leatherface is of no more scary use. I leave him as I found him; dancing his manic glee in the Texas twilight… before the dark times.

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Here we go, deja vu all over again. We are awash in remakes and as long they turn the tiniest of profit, the hacks in Hollywoodland will continue on and so it goes with the latest reiteration, “Evil Dead.” Hyperbolic much, why of course but it’s still a true. Evil Dead for all its newfangled bells and whistles, steps dangerously close to dulls-ville. I saw it one week ago and now it’s a vague memory. It failed to impress me past the usual checklist of what is supposed to impress me. It would be a lot easier to hate it if it was outright horrible and incompetent, but it’s not. It’s very well-made, acted and has one of the best horror scores, ever. I love the music most of all, but that’s just not enough.

I was never a huge fan of the Sam Raimi original, (Part 2 and 3 are it for me!) but I have always admired it. A very low budget, it made the best of very limited resources and proved to everyone large amounts of money is not needed to make a memorable film. That’s the problem with this current redo is that it’s all so forgettable- the worst sin any film can make.

That’s the problem with this latest glut of remakes, nearly all are so disposable, terrible and forgettable, (Total Recall anyone?) The world never asked for a terrible remake of the John Carpenter’s classic, “Halloween,” and the world does need the upcoming remake of “Poltergeist,” great films that need to be left alone. There are exceptions of course, “The Blob” is still one of the most underrated monster flicks ever made and 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead,” a fantastic zombie apocalypse whose only sin is that it should never have been called “Dawn of the Dead” as one automatically thinks of Romero’s masterpiece. It’s slim pickens for other horror remakes.

The frustrating part is Evil Dead is produced by the original trilogy bastards, Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell (Ash) and Robert G. Tapert. Another annoying aspect is that it’s constantly being reported as a remake and it’s NOT! The subtle title change, dropping THE and the fact that the characters are original creations and the main girl Mia, at one point sits on an old junk car in front of the cabin that happens to be Ash’s Oldsmobile from the originals. Call it homage, but why if it’s a remake are props from the original inserted to distract us, hmmm? It’s not a remake and I wish the coverage would stop stating it as so. Here, from the Director himself, Fede Alvarez he more or less puts the remake crap to rest…
  “Now, the way I personally like to see Evil Dead (2013), it’s as a story that takes place 30 years after The Evil Dead ended. The car is there, the cabin is there (a family bought it and did some work on it more than 20 years ago) and the book has found its way back to the cabin… New kids will encounter it and suffer its wrath. Is Evil Dead a sequel then? Maybe, But the problem with the sequel theory would be that there are too many coincidences between the events on The Evil Dead and the ones on Evil Dead to have happened on a continuous story line…But if you believe the Naturom Demonto can force these things to happen… then it could be a sequel… and I do believe in coincidences.”
 Finally, let’s put the REMAKE notion to bed. It’s NOT, different characters, motivations, situations. As I write this, I try to recall the movie and nothing…. I liked the setup- a young woman is headed “the cabin” for a few days to dry out- (far more interesting than the usual reasons of getting laid or high) detox from an addiction to Heroin bringing her best friends and brother along. Things go quickly south as they discover the Necronomicom (Book of the Dead) and the evil spirits are unleashed on the poor souls. The cast; Jane Levy as Mia, Shiloh Fernandez as David, Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric, Jessica Lucas as Olivia, Elizabeth Blackmore as Natalie, do what is expected of them and pull it off mostly, but there could not be a group of actors with less charisma. Especially the male lead, Shiloh Fernandez as David, a real zero, but then what do you except from a guy who’s favorite movie of all time is “That thing Called Love!” I thought I was only one that remembered that turd- Yeesh….
 Levy is good as she puts herself through great disgusting trials to sell it and Pucci too for he probably gets the roughest treatment out of them all. Fine actors who try their best, and may very well go on to bigger things, but here, fail to etch a memorable mark. Beyond their trained abilities they are blank spaces. A problem with most films today, too many actors with zippo charisma. Which stumps me; because a movie called the EVIL DEAD should not have boring characters no one cares about. Unlike the original with Bruce Campbell as lunk-head Ash turned into demon hunter, we have…
Who exactly?
  Alvarez’s style is good, solid, no shaky-cam or crappy editing and he does a good job of aping Raimi’s original chaotic mood. The gore is plentiful, but not nearly as gross as I’d hope. Yes, unfortunately they DO use CGI to assist, I noticed it several times, the obvious point when the girl cut off her arm. There were others time, which probably allows it to not bother me, which is too bad. Half the fun with these movies is to make you sick.
  I’m spoiled; I was raised on the horror films of the 70’s and 80’s, when the genre knew how to scare and thrill us while being creative and original. The most annoying aspect of the film and horror films today in general are the sameness to them all. They all look the same. They all seem to have the same lighting director because everything is always cast in this ugly, bland hue with de-saturated colors and too much shadow. There is no depth the surroundings and it looks like a video game. Action movies, science-fiction and horror films all suffer from that these days which kills an otherwise good film. Maybe it’s just fad the industry in going through, but I know I’m not the only one, as “Skyfall” and “Django Unchained” were two of the best looking films of not just last year, but any years…H-town ended Shaky cam garbage, let’s end this terrible trend too…
 That entire aside, if this one makes plenty of box-office bank and it gives us a sequel to Army of Darkness as the rumor goes then all will be forgiven….



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Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders – A Book Review


Which Jesus? There’s all kinds of Jesus there’s a black Jesus down in Florida, he’s having a good time, there’s a Mexican Jesus down in Mexico, I mean there’s all kinds of Jesus there’s a Jewish Jesus. I mean Jesus, you know all kinds of Jesus coming back everywhere! And nothing can stop it! It’s a consciousness that lives in your mind!! Ladadadada!”  -Charles Manson-

I wanted to do something a little different here on the site, offer something other than the usual nerd offerings; plus its always good to expand ones horizons and not get stuck doing or watching the same old thing. Another area of interest for me is crime, noir stories and true crime novels. Attorney Vincent Bugliosi wrote the single best crime novel as he details every inch of the bizarre Manson family and the twisted soap opera that followed.

I was offered the chance for some extra credit in my Criminal Justice class and thought a book review of “Helter Skelter” would be an interesting topic considering it’s been a fascination of mine since high school. Manson is constantly lumped in with the rest of the psychos the media has brought to our attention over the last 50 years. Except he was not full-blown insane as usual suspects of Bundy, Gacy, Berkowitz and Ramirez. Sure, Manson was a wack-a-do of the highest order, his derangement stemmed not from a physical trauma or chemical imbalance, but a hatred for society. His terrible upbringing; his teen prostitute mother, his status as ill-legitimate delinquent- all stewed together to make the most infamous Sociopath. Manson provides the study of a man whose life revolved around interpersonal violence in all its manifestations. There was nothing this man wouldn’t do to reach his goals – he would rape, murder, manipulate, and lie – all in the name of his personal ambitions. He was really no different than most of our elected officials of the last 40 years, except Manson was a dirty hippie, ex-con with the knack to convince ugly women to follow him. Whatever Manson lacked in solid judgment and reason, he made up for it with charisma and the ability to communicate exactly what he wanted you to know; an ability most politicians would kill to have.

As many times as fiction has tried, none have created a villain as compelling, fascinating, stupid, brilliant, evil and pathetic as Charles Manson. It’s hard to believe Manson has been in prison for over forty years now due to his participation in the Tate-LaBianca murders in Los Angeles in the summer of 1969. So far removed, yet still chained to current events, Manson has become the go-to boogey man only nightmares are made of, yet a true individual who was destined to burn his world to the ground. An unremarkable man, he become the icon of the failed hippie movement of the 1960’s, a twisted representation of free love that was spawned in Height Ashbury Park in 1967 and culminated with the deaths of nine people, life sentences for the perpetrators and a murder story that created a media frenzy foreshadowing what occurs with alarming regularity today.
Long before OJ Simpson and the media circus began with a “trial of the century,” Prosecuting Attorney Vincent Bugliosi had the daunting task of convincing a jury of twelve that Charles Mills Manson manipulated, twisted and convinced his band of bloodthirsty, naive followers to do anything he ordered them to do- including murder. His first-hand account, “Helter Skelter” is quite simply the finest true crime novel ever written. It spares no expense, highly detailed and gets inside, as much as anyone could, the mind of Manson and his followers, or at least his twisted motivation for his/their reign of terror.
The novel reads very much like a noir book; it establishes a vibrant Los Angeles city; a character itself, full of conflict; dreams, beauty and unheeded evil and establishes a cast of wild characters each with their own unique reveries and motivations. Bugliosi never goes overboard with legal talk and always keeps the prose easy and understandable. He sets the scene and the backstories of all the victims and the murderers are given much detail and insight; he dissects and cracks their psyche; we feel we know them by the time the horror begins with the two nights, of the drug-induced murder spree.
A fascinating story from all angles, the idea that a short little ex-con in his 30’s could rope, manipulate and coerce a band of young men and women in their late teens and early 20’s into doing his bidding could only be claptrap cooked up by Hollywood B movie makers, but it happened. A sordid, disturbing assembling line of characters plays out like a sleazy soap opera full of all the required ingredients; sex, drugs, the Hollywood connection, a roller-coaster narrative, double-cross and murder, set against the backdrop of the “free love and counter-culture movement” of the late 1960’s. Bugliosi does a fantastic job of setting the historical context and keeping things linear and coherent, he captures the tenor of the times. There is a massive amount of characters and players in this bizarre story, but Bugliosi and co-writer Curt Gentry keep it simple despite its wordy 700 pages; we feel we are getting a history, law and criminal lesson all in one.
He keeps the focus on the story’s main villain- Manson- a study in the power of words, charisma and a perverse, evil vision. The best aspect of the novel is how Bugliosi engages Manson; he establishes a rapport and draws him into conversations. He knows this inconspicuous little man is proud of what he’s done and wants to brag in his own way; as does his conspirators, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle, and Leslie Van Houten. There are some truly deranged thoughts and words that emerge, but Manson stays the focus and we quickly realize what a con he’s always pulling. A terrible upbringing, no father, a prostitute mother, with a persecution complex, he always blamed everyone else for who he is, telling the jury “you made me this way.
The novel’s engrossing elements are two-fold; the legal perspective as Bugliosi works diligently and at times, he thinks, futilely, to prosecute the gang on what at first, appears to be flimsy evidence. His talents were not just telling the jury Manson and his bunch were nutjobs, he did that, but allowed them to show off their psychosis through tantrums, yelling profanities, On several occasions, Manson verbally threatened both the judge and prosecutor Bugliosi in court, and at one point attempted to physically attack the judge while his followers were laughing during testimonies of the relatives of the victim’s stories. The criminal perspective as, for the first time, Manson is allowed to give his reasons for the killings. This is truly the work of a bizarre, crazed mind. Although never clinically diagnosed as “insane” he appears to have done it to scare people and to impress his followers and to instill some form of loyalty among his Family making them believe in and with him, they’d not survive what was going to happen. The gospel according to Manson as foretold, by The Beatles, on The White Album Manson was preparing in early January 1969, the Family escaped the desert’s cold and positioned itself to monitor L.A.’s supposed tension by moving to a canary-yellow home in Canoga Park, not far from the Spahn Ranch.   Because this locale would allow the group to remain “submerged beneath the awareness of the outside world”, Manson called it the Yellow Submarine, another Beatles reference.          There, Family members prepared for the impending apocalypse, which, around the campfire, Manson had termed “Helter Skelter”, after the song of that name. By February, Manson’s vision was complete. The Family would create an album whose songs, as subtle as those of the Beatles, would trigger the predicted chaos. Ghastly murders of whites by blacks would be met with retaliation, and a split between racist and non-racist whites would yield whites’ self-annihilation. Blacks’ triumph, as it were, would merely precede their being ruled by the Family, which would ride out the conflict in “the bottomless pit”—a secret city beneath Death Valley. Manson and his clan would hide out and wait for the victor to seek them out, deeming him King Charlie. However since it didn’t begin on its own, the Tate/LaBianca murders would set things in motion. It happened gradually as he begged the prison to let him stay upon his release in 1967, but as he gained power and influence over his minions, he saw the opportunity and jumped on it- always the opportunist.
The most intriguing element in the entire Manson saga is how he manipulated the young people to do his bidding. How does a guy in his early 30’s relate to the new generation who was supposed to be suspicious of anyone over 30? Incredible more so that most of the girls that came to live with the family were from good, wealthy, upper-middle class families with nothing to run from- yet they ran straight into the arms of a devil. Some of the girls did have father-issues and Manson was quick to tell them how he could fix that problem. Through constant drug use, (LSD mostly) sex and good ole’ fashion brain washing, Charlie got inside their heads and remade them; removed their social conditioning and installed his rules. Much like a drill Sargent in the army; he stripped them down to build them back up into his own soldiers. Whatever the young people believed in, Manson would tear it down. Whatever they didn’t understand or like, Manson would praise it, love it and keep it. He told them exactly what they wanted to hear and what he wanted them to know.
The worst kind of Sociopath you can imagine coupled with mother issues and a twisted world view. He hated society and felt he was given a raw deal in life and wanted everyone to pay for it. He had already created his own society; had his own rules, values (lack thereof) and morals. He rewrote everything about society he hated; (removing taboos- murder was acceptable) in thy image. By instigating a “race war,” he wanted to replace the current society with his own; one where he was somebody who mattered and people paid attention to him. Every time in the past when someone hurt Manson, he tried but usually failed to strike back, now was the first time he had power behind his threats- for one brief moment in time he was somebody; no longer the dirty ex-con with the bruised ego and demolished self-esteem that people shunned.
To say Manson was/is nuts is easy to gather, but he was never diagnosed as insane, but with a severe Anti-social Personality Disorder, which makes it impossible for him to feel remorse or empathy for his actions. He would like to be remembered for his kooky race war scenario, but Manson was and still is just a taker having never taken any responsibility for his actions despite the overwhelming evidence against him. Which is why he did what he did- anything that came out of his warped brain was fine with him and gave power to his blossoming Messiah complex- makes sense as to why he constantly referred to himself as Jesus Christ- in his many self-aggrandizing speeches he wanted everyone to know and feel sorry for “poor Charlie,” yet he also called himself the Devil as he liked to use fear, power and intimidation to get his ways. Whatever he called himself, his Family believed every word he said. They worshiped him, they were all his disciples.
The real reason for the murders was initially being rebuffed by Beach Boys’, Dennis Wilson who at first tried to connect Charlie up with music producers to get a deal and later pulled away from the family. No one liked what he was selling and Manson was angered. He had been to the Tate residence 10050 Cielo Drive, himself in the early summer of ’69, looking for music producer Terry Melcher, but he had moved. His motive was to instill fear into Melcher because Manson felt he had given his word on a few things and never came through with them. As for the LaBianca killings- Phil Kaufman – who Charlie befriended in Terminal Island prison before being released in 1967 – had connections to the music industry and was trying to help Manson get a break. Kaufman also used to hang out at the home of Harold True, who until September of 1968 lived on Waverly Drive next to the Labianca house. None of Kaufman’s music industry connections panned out for Charlie and Phil suggested that one possible reason why Manson picked the Labianca house was to send him a message.
Here was a little man who had nothing of achievement behind him, floundering in the present and prison for his future, undone by the power of his own hubris. Surprisingly, Charlie has a point, society was the one that made him; we all are, he was thrown in and out of reform school and prison with no real evidence or efforts of rehabilitation. Not a real smart way to handle criminals, to make them worse coming out than when they went in, but then Mason wasn’t the brightest bulb in the lamp and could have reformed on his many chances at freedom, but his ego, and over-powering need to “strike back” was too consuming.
Bugliosi brings it all to a sobering end with a win for the Prosecution- sending Manson and his family to prison for the rest of their natural lives. Reading the novel, even if you weren’t alive at the time the crimes occurred, (I wasn’t born until 1972) you feel a sense of dread as you realize Post-war America died that summer of 1969; all the dreams, ideals and hopes set forth by President Kennedy in 1961 were finally swept away.
These were horrible times in American history, California Dreaming or not, and the simple fact of the matter is that Charles Manson and his family lived a counterculture lifestyle that was hip with middle class and upper-middle class culture during this era. They hung, ever-so-briefly, with the young in-crowd of Hollywood, (Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, music producer Terry Melcher, son of Doris Day) But when the constant use of psychedelic drugs, Manson’s derangement, combined with the unique isolation of Spahn (and later Barker) ranch, began to take hold, Manson and his family entered a deadly alternative world having no touch with reality. The in-crowd slams the door in their face, the hope for rock and roll super stardom disappears, Manson becomes God, and it’s time to strike back at the rich and powerful piggies. It’s such a sad and ugly story.

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