And now we get to talk about Sequelitis. You’d expect the fifth Bond movie to bear some resemblance to its predecessors, but You Only Live Twice can’t seem to help calling attention to its heritage. Personally, I blame Roald Dahl. He should’ve turned this project down from the start. He and Ian Fleming were apparently good friends in real life, but their writing styles couldn’t be further from each other if you placed them on opposites sides of the cosmos. Dahl hated the novel that shares this film’s title and, twenty-one years after the film premiered, flat-out admitted to Starlog magazine “I didn’t know what the hell Bond was going to do.” Producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman answered by giving him The Formula, whole and (more or less) complete by 1966, at the latest.
As Dahl defined The Formula would go on to define this series:
“Bond has three women through the film: If I remember rightly, the first gets killed, the second gets killed and the third gets a fond embrace during the closing sequence. And that’s the formula. They found it’s cast-iron. So, you have to kill two of them off after he has screwed them a few times. And there is great emphasis on funny gadgets and love-making.”
With this information, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory became the author what is essentially Dr. No 2: In Japan. You can tell how many people actually bother to read Dahl’s work by whether or not they call this film “silly.” Sorry, Charlie, but compared to The Chocolate Factory (published the same year as this film’s eponymous novel) and especially compared to The GlassElevator, this is Roald Dahl phoning it in after he’s taken a fist-full of horse tranquilizers. And he still managed to create one of the most influential films of the series, large portions of which have become fertile ground for parody, satire and knowing reference. So I come not to bury this fifth Bond film, but to lament what could have been…and argue that, as “silly” as things get in this picture, they could’ve stood to get a whole lot “sillier.” There might be more to recommend. Continue reading You Only Live Twice (1967)→
Whenever I get sick of dealing with live action superhero films and the all-but-inevitable disappointment that entails, I look to animation and shout, “Save me.” Specifically Warner Brothers, who’ve looked down and whispered “No,” more times than not. That’s what happens when the marking department dictates what we’ll get, and when. Given there’s a new (live action) Superman movie in production at the time of this writing, here comes the latest animated one, Superman vs. The Elite. Will it rescue us from the crushing mediocrity of things like Justice League: Doom or Batman: Year One? Or will it become what it hates in the name of The Greater Good?
Oh hell, you guys know me, I can’t keep a secret. Not only is it better than Doom and Year One, it’s the second best piece of Superman animation we’ve seen since the cancellation of his last cartoon series…the first being All-Star Superman, of course.
Not that you could tell from the fan reactions. The happy few who stoop to view animated features might be shocked to learn this, but some of my fellow Superfans found All-Star wanting. Few outright hate it, but it’s still a too-short adaption of an twelve issue miniseries, large chunks of which were excised to fit the marketing-mandated 76-minute run time. If you want to “premiere” your film on the Cartoon Network, seventy-six minutes is the perfect length. But as I’ve been saying for five damn years (at this point) arbitrary length restrictions won’t make your film any better. If the WB wanted to do that they’d tell Cartoon Network’s ad-buyers to fuck themselves and make something feature length. It’s not the 40s anymore, guys. You can have a Third Act that isn’t rushed. Continue reading Superman vs. The Elite (2012)→
The Doctor lands in 1966 London with Dodo. Right away the Doctor notices a newly constructed tower and tells Dodo he can sense something “alien” and “powerful” about it, similar to the feelings he had when he first encountered the Daleks. Pretending to be a scientist and his secretary, the Doctor and Dodo enter the tower and meet Dr. Brett, the inventor of a new computer system, WOTAN, that is capable of independent thought but has “no imaginative parts.” Brett boasts that WOTAN will be linked to other government and military computer systems across the Western world and even the Doctor is disconcerted by WOTAN’s capabilities.
While the Doctor attends the press conference announcing the existence of WOTAN, Brett’s assistant, Polly, takes Dodo to a nightclub. Dodo feels ill and remembers being exposed to a high-pitched noise while in WOTAN’s room, and then disappears after a sailor named Ben gets into a fight with a man harassing Polly. Behind the scenes of the press conference, WOTAN manages to brainwash Brett, one other scientist, and the tower’s chief of security. WOTAN declares its intent to “develop the planet further,” by naturally enslaving or wiping out humanity. It turns out that WOTAN also managed to take over Dodo’s mind, and enlists her in the goal of acquiring the Doctor’s valuable mind. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The War Machines (1966)→
Way back in my Halloween 4 review I half-joked that, in the vast multiverse of franchise films, only Star Trek and Godzilla have managed to field strong fourth entries. I was immediately “well, actually”-ed by friend of the site David Lee Ingersoll‘s contention that Thunderball “isn’t bad.” Shopping this critique around, I realized Thunderball divides quite a few Bond fans…though nowhere near as much as some Roger Moore movies I could, and will eventually, mention.
I should’ve expected this. Now that we’re on Film Number Four, we can see the full scope of Bond’s world. From this point on, we’ll have plenty of time to consider all its wonderfully disparate elements and decide which we’d prefer to see…as opposed to what we’re actually watching. Because what we’re watching will increasingly serve to remind us of other, better, James Bond films. And why shouldn’t it? Goldfinger made a ton of money, so why not give the people more of that? Making this film knowing in their guts that it would be a hit must’ve felt like a license to supply heroin to William S. Burroughs. Especially since the bones of this script were already four years old by the time cameras rolled. Continue reading Thunderball (1965)→
This time the Doctor and his companions found themselves on a planet that appears uninhabited by intelligent life except for a single city. The Doctor sets out to explore, leaving behind Steven and Dodo, and finds himself taken to meet the Elders, who run the technologically advanced society within the city. Both the Doctor and the Elders are complimentary toward each other; the Elders claim they’ve observed some of the Doctor’s adventures and greet him as the Traveler, while the Doctor also recognizes the Elders’ planet and notes that they’ve achieved a great deal of scientific and cultural progress in a short span. However, the Elders, especially one named Jano, are elusive when the Doctor asks how their civilization evolved so quickly in the first place. Meanwhile an impatient Steven and Dodo set out on their own and find themselves stalked by people using Stone Age weapons. Before they can investigate further, they are also taken by the Elders’ soldiers to the city as honored guests and given a tour. It isn’t long, though, before Dodo stumbles across the answer to the Doctor’s questions: the Elders have been abducting people from the surrounding landscape and literally siphoning off their mental energy.
Finding his suspicions confirmed by Dodo, the Doctor rages against the Elders. Seeing a golden opportunity, Jano decides to subject the Doctor to the siphoning process, in spite of the objections of the scientists who have never subjected a strong intellect to the process before, and receive the Doctor’s intelligence himself. Unfortunately for Jano, he absorbs some of the Doctor’s personality as well. As for Dodo and Stephen, they escape from the city and are hidden in a cave system from the Elders’ troops by the “savages.” The companions learn that the “savages” used to be an advanced race with a sophisticated culture, but generations of being exposed to the process en masse has caused their civilization to regress. With their help, Dodo and Steven rescue a very weakened but still conscious and slowly recovering Doctor. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Savages (1966)→
“Sir, I’m aware of my shortcomings. But I’m prepared to continue this assignment in the manner you suggest…if I knew what it was about. Sir.“
And so we come to the production model: James Bond v. 3.0 Alpha. Current series producer Michael G. Wilson has said they start off every film trying to make the next From Russia with Love (only to end up, more often than not, with “the next Thunderball“), and while there’s truth to this, Bond’s second outing isn’t nearly as influential as his third. A more accurate assessment might read, “They start out each film trying to make the next Goldfinger” because Goldfinger carved the Bond Template in stone, no matter the producer’s frequent assurances that they’ve “updated” the character for each generation.
This is the first film that starts off with a “true” pre-credit sequence: Bond in Mexico, taking care of some heroin smugglers by bombing their supply of Nitro. (Every good drug kingpin knows its best to keep the nitro within easy walking distance of the production facilities.) Back at the hotel, Bond’s girl of the night asks why he always carries a gun. Bond straight-up admits “I have a slight inferiority complex.” Only slight, James? You’re British and it’s the 60s – your country’s still recovering from WWII. Military bases the world over are either closing down or being taken over by those Ugly Americas with their machine guns. The sun’s setting on the British Empire for the first time in four hundred years, and you, Mr. Bond – a walking example of Hefnerian overcompensation – you’re talking about “slight” inferiority complexes? Continue reading Goldfinger (1964)→
Well, it didn’t take them that long before they made a reference to the Odyssey.
Now I did say that I didn’t want these write-ups to be “reviews” in the strict sense, mostly because I’m more interested in exploring The Simpsons as a cultural phenomenon (but also because I think I suck at reviewing comedy, although in my defense it is one of the hardest elements of entertainment to explain). However, I should say off the bat that this episode was strange to watch, because – even more so than with the last two episodes of the first season – the jokes were few and far between. I should add right away that I think this was deliberate, and in a lot of ways the whole episode felt like more of a quasi-dramatic American sitcom than any I’ve watched yet, just with the occasional touches of the surreal made possible by the wonderful possibilities of animation. In fact, “Homer’s Odyssey” is interesting to watch just because it contains within it a couple of potential “alternate universe” Simpsons series “in utero” – one that had a more realistic and even a dramatic bent, and one that would have been a working-class comedy like Roseanne except centered around a lazy but well-meaning father instead of a hard-working but cynical mother. Continue reading Trash Culture’s The Simpsons, Season 1, Episode 3, “Homer’s Odyssey”→
Reviews with swear words and sociopolitical analysis from David DeMoss