Month: October 2008

You Know His Name: Review for “Casino Royale: Collector’s Edition” DVD

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It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that those money hounding fiends who market the 007 merchandise that we die hard fans crave have released a new Casino Royale DVD to coincide with the release of Quantum of Solace. But this is actually a blessing. The last DVD featured very little, for lack of a better word, features; only a msuic video, two documentaries and a special, Bond Girls Live Forever, were included. There are so many good things about this new collector’s edition. The menus, which were extremly bland and not at all in the style of a Bond DVD (especially those overly risque ones from the 2006 Ultimate DVDs), have now reached my approoval. Falling cards depict certain scenes from the film. Also available on the first disc are two brand new commentaries. The first one features director Martin Campell (also director of Brosnan 007 film GoldenEye) and producer Michael G. Wilson givig delicious anecdotes on the prduction and the story. The second gives a slightly more technical look at the film. The second disc thankfully gives you those features from the last DVD (Yay!, I’m not completely wasting my money buying this!). The title song is, admittedly, probably my favorite. Chris Cornell gives this rocking movie a rocking new title track with a classic title: “You Know My Name”. The third disc contains “Over 7 Hours of New Bonus Features”. And it is true to its word (no, faithful readers, I did not digest all the features in one sitting), with about four new documentaries, three featurettes, filmmaker profiles, and storyboard sequences. “The Road to Casino Royale” is a fascinating documentary, chronicling how long it took to actually make one of the best Bond films of all time. It has a segment featuring the lesser known of the James Bond actors: Barry Nelson. Barry Nelson starred as “Jimmy Bond” in a CBS presentation of the novel in 1953. It is not well remembered. “Ian Fleming’s Incredible Creation” talks mostly about the literary Bond, a perspecitive that is sadly left out of most Bond DVDs. “James Bond in the Bahamas” takes a very interesting look at the history of Bond…in the Bahamas! With breath taking visuals, this doc is really something to look forward to. “Ian Fleming: The Secret Road to Paradise” talks about how Bond ended up in the Bahamas in the books and in the movies. The four documentaries are very well put together and all together entertaining. (Extra: John Cork, author of James Bond: The Legacy and James Bond Encyclopedia, wrote and directed all four of these docs.) The featurettes on the Venice scene (“Death in Venice”) and the Madagasgar scene (“The Art of Freerunning”) are very interesting. The storyboard sequences are cool and the filmmaker profiles are a delight. The deleted scenes are good, but there’s very little to be witnessed. The DVD also comes witha free ticket to the new 007 film. Overall, this is one of the best releases of a Bond film ever. Then again, you can always bet on Bond.

Features: A+

“You KNow My Name”: A

Film: A

Overall: A+

For full details about the new James Bond blu-ray discs, visit

“Strangers” Than Fiction: Review for “The Strangers”

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In this world of people having sex whenever they want on TV (they now can, apparently, show butts) and where violence is treated with minimal concern, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that violent “terror” films, a new so-called sub-genre of horror, are being churned our like butter. These days, you can get a ripoff of Saw called Cut Me for only $7.50! Most of these horror films are low budget fare, like the After Dark Horrorfest: 8 Films to Die For. This time, again low budget, Bryan Bertino has made a film called The Strangers about a couple (Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler) who get terrorized by none other than strangers. The beginning (which to me, is most of the film) is amazingly slow paced and quiet. the film doesn’t even get suspenseful until the strangers actually start attacking. Scott Speedman, a virtually unknown actor, is really bad in this. His acting is amazingly wooden and enemotional; barely moving a muscle when approached by a masked intruder. Liv Tyler is not good, but far better than Speedman. This Elven wonder certainly can scream. The couple comes back to a cabin to stay for the night when a someone knocks on their door to ask for someone who doesn’t live there. Then they start attacking.  This film, with it’s violence and such, can be a conversation starter on the topic of “Is Horror Harmful?”. One should ask, “Is it?” But it depends on the film. The violence in this movie, thank God, doesn’t surpass the torture porn scenes in the Hostel and Saw franchises. It’s not as graphic. But then again, it’s not as good as, say, The Ring, which isn’t a film I would even call good. The suspense dwindles in your face but just doesn’t give you what you want. It feels just like the pretentious art that I imagine Michael Henke’s Funny Games would be. Only, this film, and the other, is not art. There is very little “terror” in the film, only people making loud sounds and screaming. With only a few real scares, this film is a total disappointment…and a bore.

Grade: C

Take One: Hits and Misses from the World of Bond

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As strange as this may sound, this week’s Take One will focus on the gun barrel sequence that kicks off every James Bond film. Maurice Binder, who created the titles for most of the Bond films until GoldenEye (except for From Russia with Love and Goldfinger) those were created by Robert Brownjon) took a small camera and stuck it inside the barrel of a gun and took a picture of it. He inserted it to the beginning sequence of Dr. No. It goes like this: a man in a dapper outfit walks with a white background behind him. The gun barrel is following him and when the man is in the middle of the screen, he turns on his heel and shoots at the camera. Animated blood flows down the camera, indicating that the shooter is dead. The producers, Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, didn’t know what it was. He explained to them that it was a gun barrel. It has been an icon of the franchise and has been parodied hundreds of times. But what is somewhat strange is, that before Casino Royale, there was no real back story to the Gun Barrel. Who was he shooting at? Was the man James Bond? The answer to the latter of the questions is, Of course he is! However, in Casino Royale, we are finally introduced to an actual story, a definite genesis of, not only the series, but of 007 himself.

When Bond discovers that one of the MI6 agents has been selling secrets to the Russians, he tracks down the one who has been taking the money. He gets into a brawl with the man in a bath room, and after holding the man’s head in a sink, Bond throws him to the floor. Bond’s gun had been tossed across the room during the fight, and when he bends down to pick it up, it is discovered that the man who had been thought dead, was really alive…and has a gun of his own. At this, we have the point of view of the bad guy’s gun and we can see Bond turn around and shoot the man. And voila, the Evolution of the Gun Barrel.

I think that this move to create a back story for the famous sequence was very good, especially because Casino Royale was a reinvention movie, a back-to-basics for Bond recreating the entire series. The film succeeds in every way (Thank gosh there’s no invisible car!), with Bond on his first mission.

But 2006’s gun barrel sequence wasn’t the first reinvention for Bond. In 1995, Daniel Kleinman took the original gun barrel and created a 3D version, distorting the image according to light balance as the gun barrel moves across the screen. The blood looks more realistic, a change from the cartoon blood that had, before then, flowed down the screen for over thirty years. Sean Connery did not actually appear in a Gun Barrel sequence until 1965’s Thunderball. The man who was actually in front of the camera was stunt man Bob Simmons, who coordinated stunts for several of the movies. This is one of the most famous images in the world and Craig will assume the role of Bond in the next 007 film, Quantum of Solace, on November 14.

Bob Simmons Gun Barrel:

Sean Connery Gun Barrel:

Pierce Brosnan Gun Barrel:

Daniel Craig Gun Barrel:

I Simply Lovett: Review for “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

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 There have been many, many incarnations of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street. From appearing as a cult character in a penny dreadful to singing barber in Stephen Sondheim’s terrific musical, the tale of the demon barber has become one of the most famous legends in history, helped by its incarnations in popular media. The most recent version was a film directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. IN 2001, John Doyle revived the Demon Barber in a new way: he stripped it down. He lost the most of the settings and replaced it with a wooden floor and back wall; the inside of an insane asylum. He threw away the orchestra and instead had all the actors play the instruments. He removed most of the splattering blood and replaced it with blood in a bucket. Michael Cerveris and Patti LuPone as the diabolical couple brought rave reviews and LuPone’s sixth Tony nomination. The play has gone on a national tour, and I attended a performance last night at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, CT. The beginning of the play starts out with a woman in a white jacket, sitting a man with a straight jacket on to a chair. She hand him a violin. The character he is about to play is Tobias. The stripped down aspect of the play is positively brilliant, but then again, Sweeney Todd, no matter how corny his appearance was in the early 1950s, was always brilliant. Bloody brilliant, in fact! The lack of setting gives more to the play; gives it a feeling of more fear. It becomes your worst nightmare, being confined to this small space with these people. The actors are brilliant, with Merrit David Janes as the demon barber, Carrie Cimma as Mrs. Lovett, and Chris Marchant as Tobias. The film is similar and different to the film in a few ways. The emotional impact pacts a wallop, just not as big of a wallop and the end, where the actors resume their parts as inmates. But both experiences, one directly made for the stage, the other for the screen, are exhilarating. It is especially interesting and engrossing to see it performed live, and for those who are not that excited about the blood in Tim Burton’s adaptation, the play is for them. Janes’ Todd is wonderfully dark and his voice is very good. I especially liked Cimma’s Mrs. Lovett, who is one of the funniest Lovett’s of all (except for Patti LuPone). Her voice borders on the extordinary, with notes never too sharp. Of course, Sondheim’s music is the ultimate highlight of the play, with the actors doing a fantastic job performing the music and performing to the music. This is an experience that you will cherish and the movie, play, and music are all fantastic.

Grade: A+  

Life and Death and Life Again: Review for “Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season” DVD

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Ned (Lee Pace), also known as the Pie Maker, has his own pie shop called the Pie Hole. He also has a strange power: if he touches a dead thing, it comes back alive, but if he touches it again, it becomes dead forver. There is also the part where if he keeps a returned dead thing alive for more than a minute, something else must take its place in death. He puts this ability to use by working with a private investigator named Emmerson Cod (a brilliant Chi McBride). Ned asks the dead people who killed them and then collect the reward. But his childhood sweetheart, a girl named Chuck, is murdered, he brings her back to life and keeps her alive. The fact that they cannot touch creates trouble, but also gives the writers a very good creative outlet. The fact that the two are so much in love and can show it without really touching each other is amazing, especially in a world where you can see people’s butts on network shows. Anna Friel is fantastic as Chuck; cute and peppy. Chi McBride’s character is cynical, but not to a point where you don’t like him. Kristin Chenoweth is amazing as Olive, the object of unrequited love for Ned. The environmentis very cute and really colorful. The special features are a real treat, with a little featurette for each episode. Though, it would have been nicer if they had included some insight on casting.

Show: A+

Features: A-

Overall: A                   

Here’s a sneak peek at Season 2: