Never Say Never Again (1983)

"Die! Die! Why won't you DIE!"
“Die! Die! Why won’t you DIE?!”

Once more with feeling…

In 1958, Ian Fleming was hard at work adapting his bestselling Bond novels to the silver screen. After a disastrous relationship with the CBS anthology show Climax birthed a (largely, outside of Bond fandom) forgotten adaption of Casino Royale (now known as Casino Royale-no-not-that-one), Fleming teamed with producer Kevin McClory and screenwriter Jack Whittingham to develop an original Bond adventure. When that fell apart in 1961, Fleming took his toys home and turned them into the ninth Bond novel, Thunderball…without crediting McClory or Whittingham. They promptly – and quite rightly – sued, beginning a legal battle so protracted it prevented Thunderball from being the first Bond film. McClory and Whittingham eventually won the right to have their names attached to the story and any movies resulting from it, as we saw in Thunderball‘s opening credits. McClory also retained the rights to remake Thunderball after either ten or twelve (sources vary) years.

So far, so good. But after Thunderball paved the way for three more Bond adventures, McClory started demanding rights, not just to the story he worked on, but to every idea developed for that story – including SPECTRE and its leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. That’s why Bond’s “Arch Nemesis” basically disappeared from the series with Sean Connery, after Diamonds Are Forever and was unceremoniously killed off at the start of For Your Eyes Only.

Having finally rebuilt what he always viewed as his toy collection, McClory set out to remake Thunderball with a little help from Orion Pictures…a company that would go on to release some of the most influential films of the the 1980s (The Terminator, RoboCop, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and 90s (Silence of the Lambs, Dances with Wolves, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey), until its sale to MGM in ’98. Of course, Orion also let fly some of the stinkiest crap those decades had to offer, so this film really could’ve gone either way…but it eventually went to crap. Continue reading Never Say Never Again (1983)

The Raid: Redemption (2011)

Boot to the head.
Boot to the head.

Having finally listened to my betters, we come now to the The Raid…or The Raid: Redemption as its North American distributor, Sony, insists on titling it. Because that was cheaper than paying the the people who own the rights to “The Raid” as a movie title. A vast and varied speculator market’s grown up around buying such things. It’s like buying website domain names: most just sit on ’em until some hungry company comes knocking. Then (the thinking goes) you can extort whatever you want from desperate suits sweating a national release date some other suit probably picked at random the year before.

But sometimes the suits wise up and think, Wait…we can just add a semicolon! And stick whatever bullshit we want on the other side! Nobody will know the difference! Nobody will care! Besides…it’s a Foreign Film…and no red-blooded American with an ounce of sense will dare mar their eyes with one of…those. All true…except in my case, because I’m a natural contrarian who grew up on Japanese sci-fi films. So I’ll watch anything once…unless an overwhelming majority of the pop culture critics I watch/read/respect start speaking in one voice.

Back in April, that unified Voice told me The Raid rocked and rocked hard. I didn’t pay ’em any attention. James Cameron’s incredibly gauche decision to re-release his incredibly profitable piece-of-shit, Titanic, on the centennial anniversary of the actual sinking of the Titanic…pretty much broke my brain until The Avengers patched it up and restored my faith in the human race…for all of five minutes. If I’d seen The Raid in theaters back when you were all telling me I should that might’ve lasted the full ten. Continue reading The Raid: Redemption (2011)

The Golem: How He Came Into the World (1920)

"Are you SURE this is a good idea...? I mean...REALLY?"
“Are you SURE this is a good idea…? I mean…REALLY?”

Any student of horror stories will tell you messing with otherworldly forces is a bad idea and it’s an idea that’s been with us since the birth of film. Thomas Edison himself – or his film company, at the very least – produced the first adaption of Frankenstein in 1910. Like half the movies made before 1950, that sixteen minute film was thought lost until the mid-70s. But we’re not talking about that Frankenstein, or the 1915 adaption with the copyright-dodging title Life Without Soul. Today we’re going back to Weimar Germany and the twisted, medieval world of Expressionism.

Mary Shelley brought a lot to the table when she sat down to write her tale of a mad doctor and the life form he created but refused to take responsibility for, manufacturing his own tragedy. That basic outline’s formed the backbone of tall tales from around the world: the Hero who seeks to do Good but ends up doing Evil because he thinks ends justify means. Among them you’ll find the legend of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel of Prague, who, at some point in the late-15th century, created a golem to defend his ghetto from the latest round of antisemitic expulsion edicts.

No matter who, what, or where you are, there’s always going to be some asshole looking at your ghetto and seeing prime real estate…if only those damned “undesirables” would stop living on it. The idea of creating a communal defender, unbiased by human desire or prejudice, is far from exclusive to any one set of circumstances. But the Golem of Prague entered into legend by turning against its creator and going on a rampage. This was either due to an inherent design flaw…or to the golem making that Big Mistake most homunculi make and falling in love with a human woman who didn’t return his affections. Either way, Rabbi Loew defeated his creation, with either returned to dust and found itself stored in the attic of Prague’s Old New Synagogue, ready to be reanimated should the need ever arise. Continue reading The Golem: How He Came Into the World (1920)

Octopussy (1983)

"I think this will suffice as my fee for the next film, Cubby."
“I think this will suffice as my fee for the next film, Cubby.”

After twelve of these things, I finally come to a Bond film that’s exactly as old as I am. Feels strange to see it again from a recently re-educated perspective. Thanks to its pedigree this is was one of the first Bond films my generation saw as children and I’m no different. Throughout, I catch myself…not watching it so much as…remembering it. And more importantly, remembering the color of the walls in the room where I watched it for the first five hundred times. I was…how old? That part I can’t remember. It’s lost. But that room is as clear and bright now as it was back then.

I can remember the poster for this film, which – being the child I was – immediately made me think of Ray Harryhausen’s six-armed Kali from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Young-me was nonplussed to discover Bond never fights a magically animated statue, not even once. However, the scene where Miss Sweden 1970, Kristina Wayborn, uses her sarong to escape a second floor balcony, literally unwrapping her way down the ground, more than made up Kali Ma’s absence.

I think this is what you humans call “nostalgia.” I hear you use it to ignore faults in things you liked when you were children. Things that give you a warm, comfortable feeling of remembrance and security. Believe it or not, I enjoy those feelings as much as any bloke. And because of that I enjoyed Octopussy more than I thought I would. As usual, this does not mean I’m going to go easy on it, but feel free to j’accuse me.

Continue reading Octopussy (1983)

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

"Given the way things are going, I can't help but be concerned."
“Given the way things are going, I can’t help but be concerned.”

After Moonraker pulled in more money than God, James Bond’s producers could have pushed the envelope even further into self-parody and silliness. Thank your personal gods they didn’t and the Guy Hamilton/Lewis Gilbert aesthetic of tension-free action scenes, idiotic Bond girls and villains unworthy of their gorgeously sets/lairs finally checked out with the Carter Administration. It was so past time to go back to basics even the producers knew it. For a second, it looked as if they were going to go all out and hire a fourth actor for their lead roll, just to top everything off.

Makes sense when you think about it. By this point, James Bond was a bonafide icon and the movie-going world seems to like its icons young. Roger Moore was fifty-four at this point, over a decade older than the First Bond when he quit for the second time. Despite this, For Your Eyes Only is as heavy on the action as anything we’ve seen in this series. It’s also the first straight-up Cold War spy thriller we’ve seen since From Russia with Love. No supervillains! No international extortion! No plots to start World War III! What the hell is going on here? Is this even a James Bond film? Continue reading For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The First Doctor (1963-1967)

by Chad Denton

What’s remarkable about William Hartnell’s interpretation of the Doctor is how much of a lasting foundation it has been, after so many decades and quite a few seismic shifts in culture. Hartnell’s Doctor is an eccentric with an insatiable curiosity and willingness (if not eagerness) to meddle in anything and with anyone; who has a strong anti-authoritarian streak that drives him to talk back to tyrants, petty or powerful, and be personally, passionately outraged by any injustice, no matter how small or “necessary”; and who manages to be both inhumanly detached from events and yet endlessly compassionate, especially to the precious few individuals he deeply respects. With maybe a few quibbles, this broad description is as true for the very first incarnation of the Doctor as it is for the Doctors of this millennium. The lasting appeal of the Doctor rises from what a strong core the character has in spite of passing from writer to writer and actor to actor, and that core is, I think, largely the handiwork of Hartnell himself. Maybe the First Doctor was a crabbier and more sharp-tongued Doctor than what modern audiences weaned on the 2005 series would expect (although he certainly lightened up after the earliest scenes), but Hartnell’s description of the Doctor as “a cross between the Wizard of Oz and Father Christmas” (with a little mild forgetfulness thrown in) still rings true.  Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The First Doctor (1963-1967)

Gone Conning…

Geek Girl ConAs you’ve probably noticed, they’ll be no Friday review this week so that we here at AYTIWS Central might batten down our hatches for a quick trip up the coast. By the time you read this, I’ll most likely be on the road, headed to Geek Girl Con 2012 in Seattle. I’ll do our best to snap cool pictures, make wry observations, and more-or-less stalk two of my favorite Batman comic book authors, Gail Simone and Greg Ruka, who’re both scheduled to speak on various topics at various times. Wish us Bon Voyage and I’ll see you all Monday, when I plan to post pictures, or Wednesday, when I hope to hit with both barrels as I review of something…super…stay tuned…

Moonraker (1979)

We both know it's going to be broken at some point, James. You might as well cut out the middle-henchmen.
We both know it’s going to be broken at some point, James. You might as well cut out the middle-henchmen.

For various reasons, I haven’t been feeling so well lately. And when I feel like shit I like to take it out on bad movies. So I am very glad to be reviewing a Bond film I honestly despise, considered by some people to be The Worst James Bond Movie Ever Made. Of course, things would be pretty boring if it weren’t also acclaimed by almost-as-many people as the quintessential representation of everything this series is, was, or should be. It’s the Bond movie parents think they can safely pass down to their children…especially if their children have a pre-existing interest in sci-fi films, like some of us.

Because of that, it’s the first James Bond movie a lot of people (who aren’t me) see, forever coloring their expectations of the franchise. I’ll admit I’m predisposed to enjoy some of the elements you Normals may find the most ludicrous. But even for me, Moonraker goes right off the rails, abandoning any pretensions of being a spy-fi thriller made for people with functioning brains. In that, and one more area, it is the quintessential Bond movie: things start off well, but get steadily worse as they go on…and this movie does go on. At length. So at least it’s in good company, eh? Continue reading Moonraker (1979)

Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Tenth Planet (1967)

by Chad Denton

It’s 1986, and the release of “Crocodile Dundee” isn’t the only thing that’s noteworthy. An international space agency has just launched the “Zeus IV” rocket on a routine mission from its base in Antarctica. Afterward the base’s crew are shocked when they spot the Doctor, Ben, and Polly sightseeing the wasteland of Antarctica. They have them brought to the base and detained. The official in charge of the base, General Cutler, wants to interrogate the Doctor, but is distracted by the mission Zeus IV is on, especially once the crew on board spot a brand new yet strangely “familiar” planet that’s near Venus and the ship suffers an abrupt and unexplained loss of power. The Doctor proves his credentials by accurately predicting exactly what the scientists will discover: a planet that resembles Earth, but Cutler is still hostile and skeptical. While the base’s crewmen investigate the TARDIS outside, they are killed by a group of cyborgs who then disguise themselves with the crewmen’s coats. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Tenth Planet (1967)