Saturday, June 29, 2013

Catching up

One of my cats is quite ill right now, and so everything else has fallen to the side.  I have a couple more James Bond movies to review, but just haven't been able to find the desire to write them up right now.  So, in the meantime, I thought I'd do a quick catch-up post on everything else I've been unduly ignoring.

Publishing news!  My third Bat Masterson/Wyatt Earp short story, entitled "The Wager," is now out in the Dreamers in Hell anthology, available in Kindle, Nook, or print versions at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   Always exciting when a book comes out, and I'm sorry the bad timing in my personnel life has prevented me from enjoying and promoting the book release as I normally would.

Over the last couple months, I caught Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, Epic, and Monsters University in the theater.

Iron Man 3 - loved it, found it satisfying and quite humorous, loved Ben Kingsley, can't wait to pick it up on DVD when it comes out.  However, I never had that desire/need to see it multiple times, like Avengers, so only saw it twice.  Iron Man 2 remains my favorite film of the three Iron Man movies, followed by this one, then the first Iron Man movie.

The Great Gatsby - went through lots of mixed emotions watching this one, but by the time it completed, it had won me over, and I quite enjoyed it.  I did not like the use of modern music at the party scenes, but at the same time, it actually worked somehow, which is very strange.  Visually, it was amazing, and everything looked exactly as I pictured it from the book.  I loved the actors.  I'd seen the Robert Redford 1970's version, which fell completely flat for me.  This movie actually helped me understand the book, which I greatly appreciated.  I walked away with a much deeper appreciation of the story.

Epic - old-fashioned good vs. evil story.  Quite fun and very pretty.  I liked the characters, and I was fascinated how the story had at least four single parent/child relationships, each one quite different, but each complementary.  Intriguing.  Loved the character of Ronin and really related to him.  This is one I'll buy for my nephew as soon as it comes out on DVD.  He will love it.

Monsters University - the best part about seeing this one was listening to the three twenty-something young men sitting in the same row react to events in the movie with all their hearts.  You'd have thought they were ten-year-olds, not adults, they were sooooooooo into it.  It was pretty awesome.  Alas, for me, this movie did nothing, and when I was ready for it to be over, there was still another twenty minutes and another adventure left.  If I wore a watch (which I don't) this would have been a clock-watcher.  That doesn't mean it wasn't a good movie, particularly for kids, it's just it hit none of my buttons.  I really didn't want to be the characters, I could not relate to anyone in it, and I am really not a fan of most underdog stories or origin stories.  I do adore Monsters Inc., and it is my fourth favorite of the Pixar film, but all the heart and emotion and charm and suspense in Monsters Inc. was missing in this one.  My nephew enjoyed it (but didn't love it), and the audience clapped heartily at the end, so I suspect I am in the minority on this one.

Other than that, we've truly hit summer and the temp is well over 100 degrees.  I'm longing for fall/winter to get here.  But my tomato plants are gigantic and producing tons of tomatoes.  My apple trees, which gave me fabulous apples last year, are giving me much larger, but not as tasty, apples this year, and my apricot tree gave me at least 300 fabulously wonderful apricots.  I love this apricot tree.  I had to hunt and hunt to find the right variety when I bought it, but it paid off.  All apricots are not equal.  It has been a good year in the garden, at least!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Moonraker (1979)

I was wondering how Moonraker would hold up over time.  I haven’t seen this one in a long time, but it was a favorite when I was young.  Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, for me at least, it held up just fine.  Oh sure, the space stuff is a bit silly, but it wasn’t nearly as cheesy as I feared.  And really, they do a pretty good job with the zero gravity, particularly considering this was made in the late 70’s.

I was pondering why I love this one, and why I don’t love The Spy Who Loved Me, and I think that, once again, it comes down to people.  I don’t like the characters in Spy.  They don’t resonate with me, and I really don’t care about them.  I do like the characters in Moonraker, and I do care about them.  Corrine’s death is one of the few deaths in all of James Bond cinema that gets to me.  I really wish she was the lead actress in this rather than Lois Chiles.  Though I do like the latter’s Dr. Goodhead. I just like Corrine better.  Dr. Goodhead works for the CIA and is a trained astronaut.  Dig it.

I still love Drax as our main bad guy, played by Michael Lonsdale.  He is entertaining, and I rather like his plan.  More sensible than Stromberg’s in the last movie.  While Drax also plans to destroy mankind and repopulate it with his chosen few, at least Drax’s plan only wipes out the people.  He leaves the world, animals, and plants intact and radiation-free.  Much smarter.  I find Drax quite entertaining, and I love his dialogue.  “See that some harm comes to him.”  He does suffer from the usual “why does nobody just shoot Bond when they have the chance and be done with it” syndrome.  Is it so hard?  I know, I know, the creative ways in which bad guys attempt to kill our hero are half the fun, but still.  Why doesn't someone just gun Bond down already when they have the chance?! 

Though I do I love that, for once, Roger Moore’s unflappable Bond is left a bit flapped after his near-death in the centrifuge.  It’s one of my favorite parts in all of Moore’s Bond films.  Look, he’s human after all!  It takes him a fair bit to recover, and I always love the way he pushes Goodhead’s offer of help away. 

Jaws is back as our main henchman, though he ends up being played more for laughs than scares.  This is probably to make it easier for the storyline to ease the audience into accepting his betrayal of Drax and helping of Bond instead.  And as I was always cool with that switch, I guess it worked.

This one has a fair amount of silliness.  I think the only thing that allows me to just shrug it off is there’s not that much of it, and I saw it when I was so young, so I’m used to it.  I think if I saw this film for the first time today, it would probably not be a favorite.   But my childhood affection for it still carries over.

Also, as we know, the musical score is a big factor for me... and this score by John Barry is great.  One of my favorites of the whole series.  It’s such a relief, actually, after The Spy Who Loved Me’s crap music to get back to real music, with the right Bond feel, and the right seriousness.  I think part of what helps me not treat this movie as silly as it is, is because the music is serious and straight-forward.  I love when that space station theme kicks in for the first time.  Impressive, most impressive.  This was a score we owned on LP growing up, and it got a lot of play time.

Favorite parts:  Bond’s escape from the centrifuge.  Corrine’s character.  The fight on the cable car.  Drax gets spaced!  Which might be my all-time favorite end for a Bond villain.  The fight in the room full of priceless glass objects where every single thing gets broken.  The opening aerial footage with the fight over the parachute.  Hang-gliding over Iguazu Falls.  The music!  This really is a prime example of the score being better than the movie and elevating it as a consequence.

Music:  Love it
Theme song:  Love it - Shirley Bassey is back, and she is awesome as always.
Credit sequence:  okay
Bond girl:  Love them all, from Corrine to Dr. Goodhead, to Manuela, even to Dolly.
Bad guys:  love them too
Overall personal rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

What I love about opera

I'm guest posting about my passion for opera over at Rabia Gale's Writer at Play website.  Opera is the single thing I love more than anything else, even over movies, books, writing.  It's the one thing I would not want to live without.  Rabia was kind enough to let me ramble on about why I love it so much.

Rabia is an excellent writer I've known for quite awhile now.  She has published some great fantasy stories.  I particularly enjoy reading her fairy tale re-workings, but have really loved every story I've read by her.