Take One

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:

Happy Almost Halloween!

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It’s October, the “scariest” month of the year (depending on who you talk to, December may be the scariest, especially near Christmas), and that means much more horror and suspense reviews. Expect classics, new releases, and bottem-of-the-barrel reviews. Happy Halloween!

Take One: The “King” of Horror

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One of my favorite writers is Stephen King. Yes, he writes lots of scary stuff, but 1. what’s wrong with writing in a certain genre and 2. he doesn’t just write horror. Or, if you think about it, everyone writes horror to some extent. But my point is that King is a good writer period, no matter what genre. He mystifies the reader in The Eyes of the Dragon, he brings sympathy to laborers with lousy jobs in the short story Luckey Quarter (published in Everything’s Eventual), and gives us a woman with a rapid mouth to root for in Dolores Claiborne. He creeps us out when we’re lost in the woods (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon), tells us if we ever become famous, stay clear of stalkers, or in Annie Wilkes’ words “number one fans” (Misery), and to be aware of everything you’re told and to not listen blindly to people ( the novella Apt Pupil). He brings us stories of our youth (The Body) and our lack of sleep cycles (Insomnia). Any good writer can transform a touchy subject, like domestic violence, which King touches upon a lot, into a mind blowing story for the ages. I personally enjoy scary stories, and I don’t really see King’s stories as “scary” per se. More suspenseful or terrifying I would say. I recently finished The Girl Who loved Tom Gordon  about a young girl who gets lost in the woods, and for comfort, imagines her favorite Red Sox baseball player with her. That is a story that many people can identify with. My favorite book of his is Dolores Claiborne, the story of a woman who is accused of killing the owner of the house she cleaned for twenty-two years. This woman is not fancy, but merely a woman who does her  job well, even though she hates it. My mother is very similar to the character. Both care for people as a job, both have foul mouths, and both are strong women with kids. Please comment on your reasons for enjoying Stephen King or disliking him.

Take One: Book Adaptations

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I apologize for the lack of reviews recently. I haven’t had much time to get out to the movies, much less rent them.

Anyway, this week’s topic is films based upon books. I have had a problem, because I am an obsessive perfectionist when it comes to adapting things (e.g. for papers, films, books). I know it matters more that there is creativity and originality and that it isn’t a shot for shot or page for page adaptation, but I prefer that Renfield isn’t taking the part of Jonathon Harker (in 1931 film Dracula). My least favorite film, or films, is the Harry Potter films. The omit some of the most important characters and plot lines. My least favorite of the series is probably Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. There are so many changes. Had I not read the books, I still probably wouldn’t care for it. The producer of the new film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows stated that he regretted leaving out the character of Bill Weasley, Ron’s older brother, because he has a large part in the film and Bill has not been introduced in the films. Well, serves you right!

Dracula is an excellent film, even if it is inaccurate. Béla Lugosi embodies the character that would start off his career of being typecast. “I bid you velcome” is one of the most memorable lines in cinematic history. In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola directed a more accurate version of Bram Stoker’s novel, entitled Bran Stoker’s Dracula. Despite it being more accurate than any other film version, its graphic nudity is a bit of a turn off.  Though there is stunning cinematography and really “neat” camera tricks, the film is a let down. I must say, Gary Oldman is a great Dracula.

If we are talking about vampires, why not mention F. W. Marnau’s masterpiece Nosterfatu. The film is very accurate and still can give people the chills. Marnau had asked Stoker if he could adapt the book, but Stoker’s wife urged him to say no, so he did. Marnau did it anyway, only changing small plot details and names. Count Dracula, played eerily by Max Schreck, turns into Count Orlok. The score is beautiful, and the acting is spot on. This film should be an example to all film adaptations.

Another great and accurate book-to-film is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which has been made into a film several times. My favorite version is the 1945 film with the same title as the novel. The film is very funny and yet very suspenseful. Only the ending is different from the book. The acting is great and it is a very memorable film adaptation of a classic story.

Along with Agatha Christie’s famed mystery And Then There Were None is another great adaptation with Albert Finney as the great detective Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express. The only differences in the film really are the changed names, but this great adaptation features great performances form Finney (Christie herself said he was one of the best Poirots), Lauren Bacall as the talkative Mrs. Hubbard, Sean Connery as Colonel Arbuthnot, Ingrid Bergman in her Oscar winning turn as Greta Ohlsson, and  others.

Please tell me about some of your favorite book adaptations or least favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

Take One: A Weekly Opinion: Audio Commentaries

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This week, I am introducing a new kind of post called “Take One”. Today, I am discussing audio commentaries that are featured on DVDs. Some audio commentaries I like; the ones that are made by intelligent sounding filmmakers and actors. Like the one provided on Across the Universe, which had director Julie Taymore and music producer Elliot Goldenthal discussing the film. Both were articulate and enjoyable to hear. Then there are commentaries that have  fun people offering tidbits, like the cast of The Office on the Season 2 and 3 DVDs. However, I have heard some bad commentaries before; Susan Stroman offered a dull commentary for the film adaptation of the 2001 musical The Producers. Not only is her voice unpleasant to hear, it also sounds like she is reading from a paper in a dull monotone. Please leave your opinons on audio commentaries in the comment box.