JJ Redux

I finished Netflix’s Jessica Jones series last night, completing the back half in one whiskey fueled binge in which I took one drink of Maker’s Mark for every gulp Jessica took on screen.

JK! I’d be dead if I did that. But I did finish and it was supremely satisfying. And much like when I finished Breaking Bad, I spent today sort of ruminating over what I had seen, basking in the aftermath of the experience.

Actually, I spent more time looking for things to complain about than I did actual basking. I know that sounds petty, but when you’ve been through an emotional experience like a Fargo or Breaking Bad, you know on some level you were so swept away that you probably papered over some weaknesses, but I found very little that bothered me.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

Read More

Black Friday Specials

Yes, Black Friday is coming up and that means waiting in lines, lots of lines. But that’s not the only thing happening over the next six weeks that will land you in downtown boredsville with nothing to do but stare at your hands.

There’s also all that sitting around with relatives trying not to listen to your uncle’s racist conspiracy theories about who really runs the Elks Club. Waiting in line for Force Awakens tickets. Waiting for everyone to shut up so you can open your presents. The list goes on.

Here’s my quick and easy plan to get you through all that restless, boring downtime:

  1. Go to this page and click on the “Read On Any Device” logo under my book.
  2. Install the FREE Kindle Reader software on your phone, your pad, your phablet, your computer, all of it.
  3. Go buy all three volumes of Dangerous Thoughts.
  4. Spend all that downtime reading a rollicking science fiction adventure story.

For a limited time, Volume #1 is free and the other books are zero dollars off. Hurry now, so you can get three books for less than the price of a latte.”

There, I just fixed your holidays!

* When did we enter a latte-based economy where everything is measured by the number of lattes it’s worth? Is that a Starbucks thing? I think maybe I’ve had too much coffee. I’m over thinking it.

Spectre

My favorite thing ever — and I mean this literally, there is nothing I enjoy more — is when people criticize James Bond movies for any other reason than who played James Bond. What are James Bond movies about? James Bond. That’s why they’re called James Bond movies instead of Thoughtful Interpretations of Worldwide Intrigue and Subterfuge.

The only proper criticism of a James Bond movie is that James Bond wasn’t played by Sean Connery or Daniel Craig (and sometimes Pierce Brosnan). Okay, let me back off on that a bit and just say that the only proper criticism is that a Lazenby or a Moore was involved.

All right, let’s talk about Dalton and Brosnan. It is my belief that both of those actors would have made excellent Bonds. It was the franchise itself that sucked so hard during their tenures that made them look bad.

James Bond is a weird mix of two polar opposites, especially in the books. On the one hand, he’s a sadistic bruiser with a license to kill. Literally. He could shoot you for taking too long at a red light and no one would challenge him on it. But on the other hand, he’s really quite the suave charmer.

The reason Connery and Craig are uniformly and without question or challenge from the internet agreed to be the best Bonds is because they combine those two traits so well. They physically look like bruisers and yet both have the rough good looks and stealthy charm of a real lady killer.

If I could figure out how footnotes work in this Wordpress Theme, I would add a footnote here explaining that I don’t know why someone who is successful at seducing women is called a “Lady Killer” but it probably has something to do with old people. End Footnote.

The biggest sin of replacing Connery with Moore was that Moore took the role too far into the suave zone. He always looked like someone who would rather talk you out of some information than beat it out of you. But his reign as 007 also coincided with what appeared to be a lack of faith in the franchise at the producer level. For some reason, right when the world was actually dealing with international terrorism on a scale only Ernst Blofeld could have imagined, they decided Bond was to be mostly played for laughs.

They tried to get serious again when the role went to Dalton and then to Brosnan but by that time they were so indebted to all the in-jokes and legacy story elements that they really couldn’t get out of their own way. This, of course, culminated with the ridiculous invisible BMW.

James Bond movies are not about gadgets as so many people like to claim. They are about James Bond. And the more gadgets they came up with, the more stupid 007 looked.

Moon buggy race, anyone? Metal mouthed giant?

Here’s another footnote: The funniest gadgets ever were the exploding cuff links from one of the Flynt movies. Flynt was terrified he would accidentally drop one and blow himself up. Every time he heard a siren throughout the film, he’d quickly check to make sure both cuff links were still there. End Footnote.

So what changed? Why is Casino Royale considered by everyone who has and has not seen it to be the greatest of all the Bond movies?

Daniel Craig himself had an interesting take on that while being interviewed on the @nerdist podcast: Austin Powers. They had to stop, rewind and reinvent the character because Mike Myers had so perfectly deconstructed the whole Bond Movie Mythos in his spy movie send-ups that they literally had to distance themselves from their own material.

Are there problems with Spectre? Yes. Absolutely. Why take so long to introduce Ernst Blofeld? Why retcon his relationship to Bond? Spectre, an organization that the film is actually named after, appears on screen for about three minutes. WTF?

But who cares? The real answer is: Daniel Craig played James Bond which means the movie is flawless.

And the real question isn’t what was wrong with Spectre, it’s what will they do now that Craig is retiring? This is an opportunity that will not present itself again. The franchise owners must seize the initiative now or forever regret their lost chance at greatness.

What’s the big idea?

Retcon the whole series so that James Bond is not a person, but a designation for whoever is currently occupying the position of 007. That means that all of the movies and all of the Bonds exist in the same universe. When the Bond played by Connery retired, they hired a new man whose name we don’t know, to step up and become James Bond 007 and so and so on.

This would give us the chance for one scene in one movie with all the Bonds having martinis together in one room. Mind blown.

Let me rush in here to say that this is not my idea. I’m not sure if it came from Max Landis or if it’s one of those memes that is burped out and infinitely regurgitated by the restless mind of the internet, but I heard it from Landis during his extraordinary interview on the @nerdist podcast. I’ve talked about that interview before. It’s amazing. Go find it and listen to it before you judge me.

Who thought of it’s not important. What’s important is that Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan and Craig are all still alive. This is the one chance we have to make this universe whole.

Someone get me a Broccoli on the phone!

 

 

New Eps Are Up

Dangerous Thoughts: Episodes 1 through 3 are currently up at Amazon. Begin your journey now! Click on the book cover you see below! Your very life may depend on it! *

 

* Your life probably doesn’t depend on it, but mine definitely does (might), so please go buy those books and read them and come back here and talk about them.

Hysterical

One of the things I really miss about the old 1930s horror films is that one scene were someone completely loses their shit on screen. I’m talking about the scene in The Mummy where a shadow falls over the young archaeologist who has just read the scroll of Thoth out loud, inadvertently releasing the title creature. Or the scene in Frankenstein where the good doctor realizes his experiment has succeeded. Or, the coup de grace, any scene involving Renfield from Dracula.

In the case of the Mummy, the young archaeologist simply starts laughing louder and louder until he becomes unhinged. For Frankenstein, it’s the familiar refrain of, “It’s alive” over and over until he collapses from the sheer exhaustion of mania. For Renfield, it happens when his master turns on him and things get… ugly.

I don’t know if there’s an actor working today who could convincingly melt down this garishly, but it appears to have been a tool in the standard bag of tricks for actors in the 1930s. Maybe Pacino, but I don’t think even he could do the “It’s alive!” scene with the same unnerving sense of mounting hysteria and decaying sanity as Colin Clive did.

Likewise, there’s something remarkably malicious about Dwight Frye’s turn as Renfield. It’s a brand of lunacy that’s as hungry as it is unhinged. But of all of these, my favorite is the one from The Mummy. I remember quite clearly experiencing that scene on a dreary Saturday night Creature Features when I was a kid.

At first, I thought it was funny. The guy’s laughing. That’s funny, right? He sees this creature shambling toward him and starts laughing. So I started to laugh. But then the tone and pitch of the laughter quickly twist into something else, something terrifying. I mean, if you were standing in line at Wendy’s and someone started laughing like that, you would clear the hell out of there like your hair was on fire. That is the laugh of someone who has taken one giant leap away from his sanity.

Maybe Jared Leto could do it? I guess we’ll see when he struts and frets his Joker across the stage in Suicide Squad though I’m doubtful. The last time someone went Method on a comic book character we ended up with Blade 3.

Now that’s a terrifying prospect.

Return of the Living Dead

After mentioning this 1980’s classic in a previous post, I realized I had never sat through the entire thing so I decided to Netflix it and chill with it. After all, how bad could it be? It’s got a respectable 7.2 on IMDB and a 90 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s got Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Dead and Buried) and Clu Gulager. Plus, one girl spends the entire movie completely naked, even after she turns into a zombie.

This is also the only Dead movie where the word Zombie is used and is the origin of the quest for BRAINS vis-a-vis zombie dietary requirements.

So why is it so stinking awful? Probably because it would be fucking hilarious if you were stoned. Unfortunately, I was straight up sober for the whole thing and it’s a mess to behold.

O’Bannon, who had never directed a feature before and would only go on to direct one more, adopts the high school drama club mugging for a static camera style, stitching together master shot after master shot filled with people running around looking for something to do, stepping on each other’s lines, and mumbling into their hands when they’re not overacting.

There are three music videos embedded in the movie for some reason. Bad 80s music videos for generic 80s synth pop tunes that almost sound a little bit like that one song you hear a lot on that one radio station.

It’s no wonder that Clu Gulager is rumored to have had multiple violent meltdowns on set. The man was a quality actor whose agent somehow got him stuck up to his neck in this quicksand of lunatic amateurishness.

But, again, for a Doug Loves Movies or an MST3K night with the right mixture of mind altering chemicals, this movie could be deadly funny. Seriously, it could kill.

iZombie

I’ve been catching up on this show recently and have really come to enjoy it. Good writing and strong performances from the cast make this the closest thing to Buffy Season 3 I’ve seen in a long time, though they’ve been smart enough to keep the Scooby gang small for the time being.

There always comes a point in shows like this when the heroine’s secret is completely public and the universe the show exists in has to shift to accommodate the weirdness that keeps happening.

Murder, She Wrote really needed a Hellmouth to explain all those murders. Although, I have to say, I prefer this theory that Jessica Fletcher committed all the murders and the TV show is a story she’s telling in an attempt to blame other people for her actions.

But… back to iZombie. It’s truly refreshing when a zombie story doesn’t follow the usual formula:

  1. Neighbors look a bit funky.
  2. Oh, my God! My Face!
  3. Hole up somewhere (house, mall, fortress)
  4. Find out there is no escape from the Zombie Apocalypse.

Which is what made the book World War Z so fabulous and the movie such a piece of shit.

This zombie plague is spreading with the slow, irregularity of a particularly middle of the road influenza. This allows the writers (and us, the viewers) to focus on the characters and relationships instead of screaming, “Don’t open that door!” over and over at the television.

Interestingly enough, there’s only one major movie that I can think of in which the zombies actually feast on brains and that’s the off brand Return of the Living Dead, written by John Russo (Romero’s long lost partner from Night of the Living Dead) and directed by Dan O’Bannon who has done much better work, see Dead And Buried.

The only explanation I’ve heard about the need to eat brains is that the zombies use the serotonin to lift their spirits and quiet their pain. I don’t know about that, but I like iZombie’s explanation that it’s to stave off brain degradation and the characteristically shambolic behavior normally associated with reanimated dead bodies.

What they don’t explain on the show is how no one is suspicious of Olivia’s sudden loss of all pigmentation. Also, if their hearts only beat once every seven seconds, shouldn’t her skin feel uncomfortably cold and clammy to a living human like Major?

Meh, quibbles. It’s a fun show. You should watch it.

Check It Out

Check out the new Dangerous Thoughts page I added. That’s it right there… no, to the right. On the tab bar. The tab bar. The tab that says, “Dangerous Thoughts.” No, that one says “A Girl Unseen.” The tab next to that… yes, that one. Dangerous Thoughts. Sheesh.

With the first five episodes coming out in the next month, I thought I’d better put a page up where folks can keep track of the progress.

Look, you can even just click this: Dangerous Thoughts

Jessica Jones & Daredevil

I don’t remember the day I bought my last comic book, nor do I remember the reasoning behind the decision to stop buying them. I know it was my sophomore year of high school so I can assume leaving those illustrated stories of derring-do by men in tights and women in low cut tights had something to do with the presence of girls in my life.

But I like to think that part of it was also the dissonance between the world of the comic books and the world I was living in. The cleanly drawn line between good and evil, right and wrong in the books was more a fuzzy, wavering line in the real world and, while there were some straight up bad guys out there, I was starting to believe the good guys weren’t up to much good, either.

I was reading books like the Thomas Covenant Trilogy, Stranger in a Strange Land, and the Dune series along with stories by Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison. All with extremely conflicted ideologies and complex protagonists (if not complete anti-heroes as in A Clockwork Orange and A Boy and His Dog).

Even though I was still fond of my favorite heroes like Captain America, Nick Fury and Spider-Man, the crisp divisions of the four color pallet just didn’t seem relevant anymore.

Daredevil was a big part of that world, too. He stayed the longest because he was a vigilante who was conflicted about being a vigilante even though he meted out justice with extreme prejudice.

But he was still a guy in spandex starring in illustrated stories for kids.

The thing that I really longed for wouldn’t come along until I had stopped paying attention: Comics for grownups. I wanted that great artwork and those exciting panels to be put toward something that challenged my growing mind.

Earlier this year we got a truly dark, truly artful telling of the Daredevil story on Netflix and it was wonderful. I’m really looking forward to the second season. Where The Flash (and probably Arrow and probably Super Girl) is more of the simpleminded fun of the comics from my youth, Daredevil dwells in a far darker world, one more reminiscent of the one actually live in. I like them both but I get a stronger sense of satisfaction from Daredevil and Gotham than I do from The Flash.

And then there’s Jessica Jones. What was awful in the comic book, I can only imagine will be truly horrifying in live action. That David Tennant, my favorite Doctor, will be playing the Purple Man, makes it even worse.

Does it sound like I’m not looking forward to it? Wrong. Some fiction should be difficult. I’m filled with trepidation not because I don’t want to see this story brought to life but because I know that I’m going to feel all the feelings and as you get older you have a tendency to not want to do that, but every now and then good things come along and force you out of your cocoon.

Krysten Ritter is going to do a fantastic job. I’ve seen a couple of trailers, one short and one longer, and they both look as good as Daredevil. Tennant will be great, as usual. Mike Colter is perfect for the part of Luke Cage and the damn thing even has Carrie-Anne Moss in it. When it came to casting, Netflix wanted to make sure they had it nailed down.

It may be difficult to watch, but one thing is for damn sure: It will be better than Blind Spot.

Continuum

My first thought was that this was meant to be a CW show. Everyone is too pretty and too young. It just has that “The FBI’s hottest agents are all in one apartment complex” feeling.

For instance, Rachel Nichols who plays time traveling supercop Kiera Cameron was 32 when this show debuted, however she looks like she may be 28 at most. Still, her character is supposed to be a former soldier and current police detective/mother of a six-year-old. She just looked too young to be that person.

Secondly, her present day partner Carlos is played by Victor Webster, a former chin model and star of such soap operas as Melrose Place and Lincoln Heights.

Needless to say, I was not hyped for this show, but I had a whole weekend upended by cancelled plans and nothing else to fill it with so I decided to watch it anyway.

It gets off to an unsteady start (like most shows) but I was struck right away by the quality acting coming from Nichols and Webster. They had almost instant chemistry and never once let a line reading go flat.

This is the problem with dismissing actors just because they’re attractive. Some — though, probably very few — attractive people actually have soul it turns out.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

Read More