Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Decline and Fall of Modern Cinema

Tell me this doesn't look bad ass.
When I was young, my favorite place in the world was the video store. Not the cold and impersonal Blockbusters that came along to push every mom & pop joint out of business, but a place called Video Galaxy in Springfield, MA. It was there that I discovered movies – not just the ones that I had seen, but the seemingly limitless supply that would fascinate me for the majority of my life.

You probably remember stores like this if you’re old enough. You see, when you walked into Video Galaxy, there was row after row of hundreds of inspired and awesome VHS covers staring out at you with titles like Timerider, or The Blade Master. These weren’t the cut-rate straight-to-video fare that would permeate the outlets of the 1990s, nor were they the blockbusters that occupied megaplexes for weeks on end in the 1980s. These were those in-between films – the ones that someone was able to convince a major studio to put money into, but were marginally successful, if even that.

Some of these movies made it on to HBO, or late night on TV-38 in Boston, or WPIX in New York. I drank up movies like Zardoz, Buckaroo Bonzai, Surf 2 and Sword of the Valiant because they seemed ephemeral – this might be my only chance!! My parents’ VCR was programmed to record every James Bond movie that played on ABC, as well as Critters, Tremors, and other B-movie fare. It didn’t matter that a good many of these movies were patently awful (I can’t even recall viewing some of them though I know I did), all that mattered is they were something I hadn’t seen, and wasn’t sure I’d have the chance to see again.

But it was the experience of walking into Video Galaxy that was so intoxicating. I was probably 9 or 10 years old and these covers were like beacons of possibility to me. Worlds I hadn’t yet visited – often because of an R rating – but still had time to explore. I can remember the carpet in that place, the counter you brought your cases to, even the smell. And I remember it all like I was just there yesterday. But a lot has changed since then, and what has changed the most is not me, but the movies.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Love Letter to JJ Abrams

Dear JJ,

Four years ago, you made a film that showed such tremendous potential, it was nearly heartbreaking. Super 8 provided one hour of nostalgic, pure and euphoric entertainment before devolving into an hour of mind-numbing contemporary Hollywood monster movie theatrics. Had the full film lived up to the promise of that first hour – oh, what could have been!

Of course there are spoilers, silly!!
So when I heard it announced that you had accepted the role of writing and directing Episode VII despite your very legitimate reservations about the franchise’s cultural significance, my heart leapt with possibility. Sadly, in the intervening timeframe, I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness and possibility turned to panic. But I remained optimistic nonetheless, as it certainly couldn’t be worse than the prequels…

Could it..?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

SPECTRE: Or, a franchise in peril

I sat there at the conclusion of the opening pre-credits sequence, numb and confused. “What did I just watch?” Sam Mendes is a ‘serious filmmaker’ and thus he tried to do something impressive by starting the film with a nearly unbroken take taking us through the crowded streets of Mexico on the Day of the Dead (I’m guessing there’s a break somewhere we can’t see). In the process, he created something that I believe is a first for the Bond series: a suspenseless opening salvo. The only suspense here was in the waiting for something to actually get excited about, which never materialized. I had been eagerly anticipating this film for months, even more so when Christoph Waltz’s casting was announced. But less than fifteen minutes in, I was already having serious doubts. Then as the credits rolled, those doubts got much, much worse.  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Anticipating Spectre: Brosnan Revisionists

There is a peculiar movement of historical revisionism afoot. People are unable to accurately remember things that happened within the last two decades, and instead spin them to whatever ends they feel best suits their chosen perspective. I’m not talking politics here, I am talking something far more important. Would James Bond still be a viable cinematic property were it not for Pierce Brosnan?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Anticipating Spectre: The best James Bond Theme songs

I sat down to revisit the Brosnan films as a warm-up for this week’s release of Spectre. In doing so, I was reminded painfully of one of the worst periods in Bond theme music. In my teenaged years, I carried with me a cassette of 13 original James Bond themes and cherished listening to them all – the good and the bad. It is hard to fathom first of all that there have been ten more films since I owned that cassette. Harder to fathom is the mere idea that I could even stomach listening to such a compilation today. Let’s face it, a few of the more recent entries in the canon have missed the mark, but fewer still have achieved the lasting legacy that many of those of the bygone Moore/Connery era hold. So I figured, why not rank them all, worst to first, with category rankings to group them. And I'll let you know where I rank the latest some time after Friday. ;)