2012 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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BEST AND WORST OF MY BOND MARATHON

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First of all, I have no life. I already know this, so please get over it and stop asking “Why the hell would you watch all 23 Bond movies in a month?”

Now that we got the obvious out of the way, as a film critic it’s very hard to undermine the pop-culture importance of the 50 year old Bond franchise. It has always been an influential staple in action film making and has tons of fans who love suave suits, bad-ass cars, cringe-worthy one-liners, blatantly misogynistic double enterdre female names, obvious alcoholism and lots and lots of gratuitious explosions.

So taking the 50th anniversary of the franchise and the release of Skyfall into account, I got the Bond box-set on Blu-Ray, which includes all 22 Bond films (Official canon EON productions, which doesn’t count Never Say Never Again and the spoof Casino Royale) except Skyfall. My plan was to watch these films in a row, document the changes in the franchise along the way and end my marathon with Skyfall.

The first thing that became clear to me along the way is that these films are very much products of the time each one was released in, therefore it’s hard to fully appreciate them on the visceral level they were meant to be appreciated, even the really good ones like Goldfinger and License to Kill. The style of film making, the cars, the vibe, everything in each film is meant to entice and impress the audience of the year it was released in. It’s easy to understand that the iconic Aston Martin with its sweet ejector seat must have looked amazing and cool in 1964, but in 2012 it looks quaint and retro.

The same goes for every ridiculous, semi sci-fi technology introduced in each film. That’s why no matter what the narrative quality of the film is, as much as there can be in a Bond movie, they become more entertaining and less tedious to watch as it comes closer to contemporary times. When the charm of the Connery Bonds wears off, it’s time to play the numbers game until the next decade: “3 movies until we get to the 80s”, “4 Movies until the 2000s” etc… As I got to Pierce Brosnan and the 90s slick action film making kicked in, it becomes that much easier to sit through. And once we get to Daniel Craig, we feel right at home. The opening of Skyfall was an exhilarating experience. But I can’t help but think how dated it will look 50 years from now.

Worst Bond Movie:

The Man With The Golden Gun or Octopussy, or any Roger Moore Bond for that matter. With 7 Bond movies, Moore made the most out of any Bonds, and pretty much all of them suck. Besides the fact that it’s gross to see him hook up with 21 year-olds when he’s almost 60, the overly whimsical tone of the 70s Bond was a bit too much to handle. Watching Moonraker, it’s easy to imagine that since it was the late 70s, everyone was high on coke.

Best Bond Movie:

Casino Royale, by a long shot. Daniel Craig is the perfect Bond and this is a highly entertaining film. It took 44 years for Bond to get it perfectly right with a smart and gritty reboot.

Most Underrated Bond Movie:

License to Kill. Timothy Dalton himself is an underrated Bond, with only 2 films to his name. But this is the gritty, more down to earth Bond of the Daniel Craig movies 17 years before Casino Royale came out.

Most Overrated Bond Movie:

Dr. No. Just because you’re the first, doesn’t mean you’re the best. Aside from a low-budget, Dr. No only takes place in a single location and has one of the lamest Bond girls in Ursula Andress. I guess we now know the dead-eyed blandness of Megan Fox is not just a 21st century thing.

Best Bond Song:

Bond songs are almost as iconic as the films themselves. A good song can make an unbearable Bond movie at least a little bit enjoyable. After the action-packed teaser, we always look forward to the iconic credits sequence full of naked silhouettes of hot women and guns (That’s about it really). The reason I like Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale the most is because it’s the only sequence that doesn’t utilize those two base concepts and bring something fresh to the animation. The song is great in my opinion. Every time a best and worst Bond song list comes out, Shirles Bassey’s Goldfinger always tops it. Although I enjoy the lounge and ballad Bond songs, I have a soft spot for the more upbeat rock tunes, like Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die and even A-Ha’s obviously shitty 80s techno-rock A View To A Kill.

Worst Bond Song:

The Man With The Golden Gun by Lulu, ear grating crap.

After sitting through all of these films, some with much boredom, it was sweet to see the franchise come full circle when at the end of Skyfall, we lay eyes on the classic production design of M’s office dating back to From Russia With Love.

ABOUT THE “DICKLESS LUNATICS” AT THE NRA

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When we live in a country where a gun-toting crazy fuck starts spraying his easily-bought semi-automatic at a public place, usually full of innocent women and children, it’s just a matter of time when the madness knocks on your back door. Don’t keep thinking “It’ll never happen here” because it will until there’s a legitimate and concrete change in our insanely loose gun laws (Or lack of any, I should have said).

That’s what happened to us in Portland. A day after Gabby and I were casually hanging out in the same neighborhood, another insane asshole opened fire at a mall and killed two people. Not like the media could have any time giving us every little tiny detail about this piece of shit’s life and background, therefore turning him into a public figure, which is probably what he was after anyway. Because two days after this tragedy, a much, much bigger one took place at Sandy Elementary.

Of course when asked, the “Dickless Lunatics at the NRA”, as affectionately coined by our lord and savior George Carlin, will blame anything but guns. They say it’s because of violent movies and video games, a godless society and even a lack of guns. Yes, according to them, the way to solve the gun-toting lunatic problem is by arming everyone aged 0 to 120. They think we live in an action movie and that Die Hard and 24 are documentaries.

They keep quoting war-torn nations having to train their teachers and staff to protect themselves from terrorists. If teachers were packing like they do in Israel, they so lovingly state, none of this would have happened. Of course in their eyes there’s nothing different between a professional who was trained in the army and a random, clueless guidance counselor who study after study shows will more than likely shoot more innocent people by accident instead of the assailant.

And why does the press ask the NRA about their opinions on guns after such a shooting takes place? When a serial child rapist is caught, no one asks NAMBLA their opinion. If they did, would we find it so offensive after they would defend the rapist and accuse the children of “asking for it”? Why are we so shocked when the NRA says similar stupid shit?

Anyway, what does any of this have to do with movies? Here it is: I am all for violence in movies and I support a strict separation of entertainment and real life. Whenever right-wing zealots complain that violent video games and movies are corrupting our youth, I just laugh it off.

But maybe there’s something to this. Maybe the corruption is not about the youth, but people’s maturity in general. After all, I’m sure there are millions of 12-year-olds who can differentiate the graphic violence  in R-Rated and M-Rated movies and video games and real life, consider it to be nothing but visceral entertainment and grow up to be normal members of society. I was watching R-Rated action movies when I was 10, now I hate guns and could not get near one. When I write an action movie, however, of course I will think of any creative and gruesome ways for random bad guys to die. It comes with the territory of the genre.

But apparently there are “adults” in this world, 40, 50, 60-plus-year-olds, who watch 24 and apply it completely to real life and believe torture to be an excellent way of interrogation. How else will Jack Bauer find that bomb that’s about to go off in 35 minutes? They watch Under Siege or Die Hard and wholeheartedly believe that if there was anyone armed in that situation, the day would have been saved.

Maybe there should be an additional movie rating next to the age limit. I would call it NRA-NO. Here’s how it works: When you’re buying a movie ticket online or at the box office, if the movie is rated NRA-NO, the computer will search your name in the NRA member database. And if you’re an NRA member, you don’t get to see the movie. It doesn’t matter how old you are.

I would say any action movie that turns shoot-em-up violence into pure entertainment should be rated NRA-NO. You’re an NRA member and you wanna rent The Rock? Tough shit buddy, you might get the impression that Nicholas Cage’s character, an egghead who would have been killed within two seconds in real life, would exist in real life and could have saved children if only he was armed. You wanna watch Skyfall? Fuck no! What if you actually believe any armed British person can kill the bad guy at a shopping mall shooting?

The bottom line is, we need to protect our NRA members from such filth. There should be strict protection on NRA-NO rated movies and video games so we don’t have to keep dealing with idiots who cannot separate fiction from real life.

OVER/UNDER PODCAST EPISODE 3: FLIGHT AND BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY

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Hi film lovers! Here’s the third episode of our Over/Under Podcast, where our film expert panel picks one overrated and one under appreciated movie and we discuss them.

This week’s films are Flight for overrated and Bright Lights, Big City for under appreciated. Both films deal with the problem of addiction.

Here’s some information about the films:

Flight (2012):

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1907668/

An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling.

Bright Lights, Big City (1988)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094799/

A disillusioned young writer living in New York City turns to drugs and drinking to block out the memories of his dead mother and estranged wife.

Our last episode reached an impressive 100 downloads and we’re hoping this episode will reach most of you as well. Please leave comments so we can improve with each episode.

TO STREAM, PLEASE CLICK HERE

TO DOWNLOAD MP3, PLEASE CLICK HERE

THE BEST AND WORST FILMS OF 2012

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The Best:

5- The Grey: Possibly the year’s biggest surprise. I reluctantly went in expecting a “Taken with wolves” style Liam Neeson action show, and was presented with a brutal, stark and unremitting study of Man’s struggle against his own mortality. Backed by luscious visuals of Alaska and supported heavily by the fact that the film was shot on location in the middle of real snow instead of a safe green screen studio, The Grey is a harrowing yet highly involving adventure.

4- Silver Linings Playbook: So refreshing to see people with real problems in a romantic comedy. David O. Russel smashes through the genre’s overly played-out conventions in order to bring a fresh spin to the typical “Disturbed quirky people find each other against all odds” premise. Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence are both tops, but it’s Robert DeNiro’s performance as the OCD dad that stands out. Welcome back from Fokkerland man, we knew you had one more left in you.

3- Django Unchained: Finally, a Tarantino steal-fest I can fully appreciate. After the aggravatingly tone-deaf Kill Bill, Death Proof and Inglorious Basterds, which try to exist in two completely separate universes of grindhouse fodder and sophisticated art-house cinema. But this time Tarantino brings us a full blast spaghetti western blood fest. There isn’t any higher purpose here other than to present the gnarliest Leone-Peckinpah mash up, and I loved it.

2- The Master: Confounding and perplexing to be sure, and definitely needs multiple viewings, but it’s impossible to disregard the visceral power of Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to the masterful There Will Be Blood. The cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking. The narrative is uneven and at times feels choppy and broken, but I can’t help but feel this was intentional since the Scientology-like religion it depicts is just as much confusing and disorienting. Not for everyone, to be sure, but the greatest enigma of 2012 nonetheless.

1- Argo: After two solid films as a director, Ben Affleck decides to dive into Costa-Gavras territory and presents perhaps the best political thriller of recent years. Tightly structured and executed, it swings back and forth effortlessly between The Player and All The President’s Men with a dash of Munich in between for good measure. Excellent performances all around and the finale that takes place in one of the most boring places on earth, a passport checkpoint, is more exciting and nerve-wracking than any traditional action movie gunfight or chase scene.

The Worst:

5- Total Recall: Pointless remake of a classic, completely sidesteps the psychological and philosophical implications of the original in order to present the blandest sci-fi actioner of the year. CGI-heavy, groan inducing, full of lame performances (Colin Farrell sleepwalks through the movie).

4- Silent Hill Retribution: More like a feature-length video game cut scene than an actual movie deserving of theatrical distribution. I kept waiting for the game pad to pop up in front of my seat so I could start playing but of course that never happened. Cheap, ugly, uninspired and worst of all for a horror movie, boring.

3- The Watch: I think it’s time for the writing team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to take a break. I loved Superbad but the amount of homoerotic jokes they randomly stuff in multiplies by ten with each script. Pretty soon, I expect them to pen a movie simply called Gay Joke. Supposedly a sci-fi comedy a-la Ghostbusters, all of the jokes fall flat, Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill and Vince Vaughn are all on autopilot and the brilliant Richard Ayoade from The IT Crowd is tragically wasted.

2- Once Upon a Time in Anatolia: I try to support Turkish films as a Turkish filmmaker, but this was Chinese water torture doled out 24 frames per second. Art-house idol Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest Tarkovski stroke-fest is needlessly slow, plodding, unnecessary and full of philosophical gibberish. It got many awards celebrating its minimalism. But there’s a difference between being a minimalist and having absolutely nothing of value to say.

1- Rock of Ages: Even if I liked or remotely tolerated 80s hair metal (I don’t, not in the least bit), this piece of turd would still end up as nothing but a hackneyed cash-grab without a sincere bone in its supposedly hard-rocking body. Nothing but bubblegum nostalgia for the airhead generation, the fact that it tries to sell mundane shopping mall music as “real rock ‘n roll” is the cherry on top of this shit sundae.

OVER/UNDER PODCAST EPISODE 2: GHOST DOG & WANTED

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Presenting the second episode of our podcast Over/Under Movies, where we pick one under-appreciated and one overrated movie and examine them.

For this episode, we picked Ghost Dog for under-appreciated and Wanted for overrated.

Here’s some information about the films:

Ghost Dog (1999):

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0165798/

An African American mafia hit man who models himself after the samurai of old finds himself targeted for death by the mob.

Wanted (2008):

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493464/

A frustrated office worker learns that he is the son of a professional assassin, and that he shares his father’s superhuman killing abilities.

To stream, please click here

To download, please click here

OVER/UNDER PODCAST EPISODE 1: AMERICAN HEART & THE BLIND SIDE

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Presenting the first episode of our podcast Over/Under Movies, where we pick one under-appreciated and one overrated movie and examine them.

For this episode, we picked American Heart for under-appreciated and The Blind Side for overrated.

Here’s some information about the films:

American Heart (1992):

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103670/

Jack is now out of jail and he meets Nick, his adolescent son. Their relationship will be complicated, because Jack has a problem with alcohol. But his love for Nick will help him to get over the past and reach his dreams.

The Blind Side (2009):

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0878804/

The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.

To stream, please click here

To download, please click below:

Over/Under Movies Episode 1: American Heart and The Blind Side