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JAMES BOND 007 DECLASSIFIED
File #2: "From Russia With Love"
This series will trace the cinema history of James Bond, while also examining Ian Fleming's original novels as source material and examining how faithful (or not) the films have been to his work.
This edition of this column is dedicated to my father, who took me to see "The Spy Who Loved Me" in 1977, igniting my own lifelong relationship with the character. He was an old-school fan, a Fleming fan, a Connery fan, and if I got any particular part of my fanboy DNA from him, it's Eastwood and it's Bond. Bond has been shared language for most of my life, and the same is true of my friendship with Scott Swan, who has been my Bond buddy since "The Living Daylights."
When you've had those Bond-nerd conversations, when you've talked about theme songs and title sequences and Bond girls and which bad guys are the best and all the things you talk about as Bond fans… that's a very specific thing that's shared. And like Batman, I notice that all Bond fans have their own Bond that they like, and I don't just mean the actors that played the character. Each fan has what they consider "the" version in their head, the perfect definition of who Bond is, of what elements they want and like, and how the films should play.
It still seems surreal to me that there really is a mega-budget bigscreen live-action film based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories about Barsoom and John Carter, since as long as I've been paying attention to Hollywood, and even well before that, there has always been a John Carter movie in some stage of development.
The good news is that Andrew Stanton, one of the cornerstones of Pixar and the director of both "Finding Nemo" and "WALL-E," has made a nimble jump to live-action, and much of his movie is imbued with a wild, thrilling pulp energy and a genuine sense of wonder. It is a charming science-fiction adventure that makes no apologies for what it is. This is the sort of film where there is talk of Jeddaks and Tharks and Barsoom and you're supposed to just pick it up and understand, and where we accept that Mars doesn't look a thing like modern science tells us it does because that's the conceit. It will be interesting to see who gets hung up on the difference between reality and this film's conception of Mars, because there's nothing about this that plays as "real," but there is such a strong sense of voice that I think Stanton sells the reality beautifully.
It looks like 2012 is going to be a big year for studio anniversaries. We've already talked about Paramount's centennial celebration, which was rung in with a classy screening of 1927 inaugural Best Picture winner "Wings" at the Academy in January, as well as a new iPad app putting the studio's classic output on a pedestal.
Also celebrating this year are Universal Pictures (getting 100 spankings like Paramount) and subsidiary Focus Features (marking its tenth year). Like Paramount, Universal has unveiled a new logo trailer for its films (see below) and started a stream of restoration Blu-ray releases that makes the mouth water. (Drew McWeeny is all over it.)
Focus, meanwhile, has released a tribute package of great performances in the company's films over the years, including those from Oscar winners Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardener"), Sean Penn ("Milk") and Christopher Plummer ("Beginners") and Oscar nominees Julianne Moore ("Far From Heaven"), Heath Ledger ("Brokeback Mountain") and Viggo Mortensen ("Eastern Promises").
I reviewed NBC's "Awake" yesterday, and since the pilot has been available online and On Demand for a couple of weeks, many of you have already offered your thoughts on it. But since I figure at least some of you still watch TV on TV, and on a more traditional schedule, here's one last opportunity to discuss the first episode. Did you find the shifts between worlds easy to follow? Did you prefer one world (or partner, shrink or family member) to the other? Given the subject matter, did it feel too depressing? And do you plan to watch more?
"The Berwick Discovery" sounds like the Dan Brown book, but it's actually a very cool new find that would make me even happier if I had stupid amounts of money laying around waiting for me to spend it on pre-Code movie posters.
On March 23, Heritage Vintage Movie Poster Auctions will evidently be putting around 30 very rare movie posters on the block, all part of the same incredible find last fall. I didn't hear about it then, but reading the details now, I'm blown away and, more than anything, it reminds me how much I love the evolution of the movie poster and how random and strange and occasionally wonderful the world of the hardcore collector can be.
When I was writing "Cigarette Burns" with Scott Swan, we talked to print collectors and memorabilia collectors and we collected way more stories than we could use. One of the things that seemed to run in common between all of them though is that the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of the accidental discovery is a big part of what compels them. If you could just go to the store and buy a pristine 35MM print of "Suspiria," it wouldn't be special, but when Quentin Tarantino tracked down a gorgeous IB Technicolor and screened it at the original Drafthouse and Tim League cranked the soundtrack so loud it made my fillings shake, part of what was magical about that night was knowing how rare that experience is.
Tonight we have an avant-garde challenge, which is either a chance for the final five to let their freak flags fly fabulously or allow them to hang themselves with their whackadoo ideas. I always find these avant-garde challenges a bit hard to judge, simply because the intersection between innovative and wearable can be so very, very small. More than anything, though, I think the judges usually look for stuff that's more wearable than avant-garde, regardless of what they may claim -- which seems patently unfair. It's not as if truly avant-garde designs don't have a home in fashion, either. After all, no one thinks Commes des Garcons is a crap label, but Kawakubo has sent some weird ass stuff down the runway (hunchback dresses!) and no one gives her a hard time.
I'm not sure I'd make too much of the news that Disney has signed a deal with James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller to start development on a sequel to "The Muppets" without Jason Segel attached to co-write.
First, even last year, when I visited them on the set of "The Five-Year Engagement" (and we'll have more on that this weekend), Stoller and Segel said they'd already brainstormed ideas for a sequel. Those guys make great collaborators, and I have no doubt that at this point, Stoller would be able to take those ideas that they'e discussed and execute them quite ably.
The big news here is that Disney feels good enough about the performance of "The Muppets" to officially start development on a sequel. I think it's amazing that the characters have finally made their pop culture comeback in a way that stuck, and I hope this is the beginning of a real return to the sort of omnipresence they had when I was a kid in the '70s.
A review of tonight's "Parks and Recreation" coming up just as soon as I eat egg salad with Colin Powell...
Bruce Springsteen’s 17th studio album, “Wrecking Ball,” comes out March 6 and The Beat Goes On is blatantly stealing a page from our colleague Kris Tapley’s “The Lists” concept. In anticipation of the new set, we’re ranking The Boss’s Top 7 albums. Take a look at our gallery and let the debate begin.
Springsteen’s canon of work dates back more nearly 40 years to 1973’s “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.” While there was a major shift with his third album, 1975’s “Born To Run,” in terms of transforming from a proud Dylan wanna-be who crammed as many words as possible in to a song to someone who found his own identity and voice, what hasn’t changed has been his commitment to his craft and his live show.
At 62, Springsteen has become the chronicler of our times. Or as he says, it has always been his job to write about the distance between the American dream and American reality. Unlike many other artists whose songs aren’t rooted in any specific geography, Springsteen’s narrative spans from sea-to-shining-sea. He is a product of New Jersey and the U.S.A. and the lyrical territory he roams in song seldom extends beyond our shores (despite the fact that he is now a bigger concert draw in Europe than he is here).
But to concentrate on Springsteen’s role as social commentator only shows one part of the story. Over the last several decades, Springsteen has delivered some of the goofiest, most joyous songs ever committed to record, whether it be the rollicking “Ramrod,” the double entendre-filled “Pink Cadillac,” the giddy “So Young And In Love” or the purely jubilant “Rosalita.”
It felt like a cheat to include live albums on here, so I didn’t. (I also chose not to include any bootlegs). However, any Springsteen fan’s collection is incomplete without two sets: “Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Hammersmith Odeon London 75” and “Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Live 1975-1985.” The Hammersmith set, which wasn’t officially released until 2005, captures a moment in time: Springsteen's first U.K. show that has now become the stuff of legend. Springsteen was freaking out beforehand as Columbia’s hype machine was in full effect and he wanted the music to speak for itself. The loose-limbed, sped-up “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” is a frenetic frenzy, and the 13-minute “E Street Shuffle” feels like it traverses space and time. It’s nothing less than revelatory to hear a 25-year old Springsteen, still so early in his career, at such command of his stage craft.
“Live 1975-1985,” if nothing else, shows the tremendous range of the E Street Band and serves as a de-facto greatest hits. It was also the first album to capture the wide-ranging magic of Springsteen's show including such chestnuts as his covers of “Raise Your Hand” and “War” and songs that lay flat on vinyl, like “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” but came alive in concert.
There are high notes on every album released, even the ones I would rank toward the bottom of a list should I have included the full catalog, such as 2009's “Working On A Dream” (though I’m hard pressed to find anything good to say about “Queen of the Supermarket”). As with all such lists, this one is totally subjective. For example, though I find them among his most cinematic works, I find myself seldom returning to largely acoustic, solo albums like “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and “Devils & Dust”
Before you flip to the gallery, if you aren’t a Springsteen fanatic (yet), watch this video, and see what joy he brings millions of us (plus, there are wonderful shots of dearly departed members Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons):
Werner Herzog's new documentary mini-series, "On Death Row," got even more real yesterday when interview subject George Rivas was executed by lethal injection in Texas. Rivas, who was 41-years-old, was known as the ringleader of the Texas 7 gang, which organized the state's biggest prison break. While on the run, the group committed a robbery that led to the death of a police officer. All of the escapees were ultimately sentenced to death, including another man Herzog features in the program.
We're two weeks away from "Community" returning to NBC's airwaves — and fans attending Saturday night's PaleyFest panel in LA (or watching the feed in New York) will be able to see a new episode even earlier than that(*) — but I pledged to keep these posts about why I miss the show going until it returned, and so I gladly shall.