Thursday, July 31, 2014

Flick Pick: Heat

(Warner Bros., 1995)

The unquestioned biggest, baddest pure cops-and-robbers movie of modern times, starring two of the most phenomenal actors of any age. Starring Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Jon Voight, and Natalie Portman in her third film, who between them have five Oscars for acting and twenty Oscar nominations, and with Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, and Ashley Judd, who unaccountably have a total of none, the film is dark, glossy, nuanced, and rich in its portrayals, and the bank robbery shootout is both realistic and epic. Seldom does any movie nearly three hours long manage to fly by so quickly as this one does.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Flick Pick: The Last Starfighter

The Last Starfighter
(Universal, 1984)

An enjoyable sci-fi riff on the success of Star Wars, and a pioneering film in its use of CGI. Robert Preston was a delight in his last onscreen role, a con man to the last, and it also featured the lovely and too seldom-seen Catherine Mary Stewart in her prime.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Absolutely Fabulist

“I’m not a military planner,” Hillary confesses, “but Hamas puts its missiles, its rockets in civilian areas, part of it is because Gaza is pretty small and it's densely populated.”

Note to the former First Wench: weapons' storage in and launch from schools, religious buildings, and hospitals, and using children to dig tunnels for attacks as well as having explosives strapped to themselves for deployment as "not-so-smart-bombs" are all international war crimes.
Generally, someone with an IQ over 80 and a law degree (which are not necessarily co-requisites), let alone anyone who's served as a US Senator and as a US Secretary of State is supposed to know these facts without needing recourse to a three-day refresher briefing, crib notes during commercial breaks, or a hammer upside the head by way of reminder.

This is not a person seriously running for president, unless it's under the banner of the Ringling Brothers Party, and whose limousine will be a Volkswagen with 27 other clowns.
Evidently, like Gaza, her head is pretty small and dense as well, and with a similar level of common sense: i.e. none.

{Note for the terminally stupid, including the subject of this post:
A cursory 2-minute search of no more than Wikipedia and GoogleEarth, at minimum, would reveal that the Gaza Strip is over 139 square miles, replete with copious amounts of uninhabited fields and open spaces for storing weapons, as opposed to bunkering them in and under mosques, schoolrooms, and hospitals, or among any civilian populace whatsoever. Thus we note that when one lies reflexively, and as effortlessly and unconsciously as drawing breath, it becomes a difficult habit to break.}

h/t to DailySurge

Flick Pick: The Searchers

The Searchers
(Warner Bros., 1956)

Epic John Ford/John Wayne western, once again with the breathtaking beauty of Monument Valley in glorious color as a backdrop. If you want to see everything right in an unquestioned western masterpiece film, this is the movie to watch: a thousand film school instructors can't all be wrong.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Flick Pick: Breaking Away

Breaking Away
(20th Cent. Fox, 1979)

Great coming of age flick, as four Bloomington Indiana guys try to figure out a way through life post-high school. The parents of one lad are perfectly played by Paul Dooley and Barbara Barrie, a nearly adolescent Dennis Quaid appears in his first major role, plus Daniel Stern in his film debut. It's a great story, so good in fact that it won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Flick Pick: Support Your Local Sheriff

Support Your Local Sheriff
(United Artists, 1969)

The best comedy western ever made, bar none, and one of James Garner's best movie appearances. Solid light-hearted fun, and combines romantic comedy with a wry take on the traditional genre. Garner isn't quite a straight man in this movie, it's just that his wit is as dry as toast, while his co-stars, from Harry Morgan, Walter Brennan, and Jack Elam, to Bruce Dern and Joan Hackett each take their turn in the spotlight drawing the broad laughs. The movie satisfies the audience, ribs westerns without torturing them, and entertains from beginning to end.

We noted on this blog the passing of James Garner last Saturday. This film was selected and placed in this slot last October, and we only wish we'd picked a spot for it a week before rather than a week after (so much for being clairvoyant), but note again the long life and wonderful career of Mr. Garner, and hope you take the opportunity to view this piece of it, and remember a true Hollywood legend and good man so recently departed with a piece of his work that did nothing but bring a smile and leave the audience a little happier after the curtain rung down, both on the work and the man. With some people, 86 minutes is too long to tolerate them. With Garner, 86 years was barely enough.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Son Of Heller

Breaking: Decision in Palmer v. D.C.
"In light of Heller, McDonald, and their progeny, there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny. Therefore, the Court finds that the District of Columbia’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and enjoins Defendants from enforcing the home limitations of D.C. Code § 7-2502.02(a)(4) and enforcing D.C. Code § 22-4504(a) unless and until such time as the District of Columbia adopts a licensing mechanism consistent with constitutional standards enabling people to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.4 Furthermore, this injunction prohibits the District from completely banning the carrying of handguns in public for self-defense by otherwise qualified non-residents based solely on the fact that they are not residents of the District."
pdf from Alan Gura's website
Holy shit!

Judge Scullin just opened the ball on Son of Heller.
In short order, in someplace like NFY or Chicongo, this will get applied to the states as well as D.C., just like McDonald did for Heller, and at that point, Sarah Brady and ChuckU Schumer may as well go home and slit their wrists in a tub of warm water.

DCPD must be $#!ing in their pants.
Anyone legally allowed to own a gun can carry a gun in public anywhere in the District outside of schools or official buildings.

Flick Pick: The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid
(Columbia, 1984)

John Avildsen's second four-star effort, eight years after Rocky, featuring the unlikeliest pairing imaginable between then 52-year old (and looking even older) Noriyuki "Pat" Morita with 22-year old Ralph Macchio (passing for 16). It also introduced Elisabeth Shue in her first big role on the way to a notable career. It's an effortlessly well-crafted coming-of-age film, was one of the biggest box office hits of the entire year, spawning no end of sequels to date, and still holds up just as well now as the day it opened. Morita went from bit player and small-screen regular to movie star on the strength of this performance, which netted him both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Flick Pick: El Diablo

El Diablo
(HBO, 1990)

An absolute little gem of a modern Western "the way it really was" is this happy little cable flick with Lou Gossett Jr. setting Anthony Edwards straight about a few things that don't work in real life quite like they play in the pulp nickel westerns of the day. It's a romp without being ridiculous, with shootouts, chases, dynamite, Indians, bandits, and of course the required climactic duel. Through it all, it's also the perfect Odd Couple buddy flick between a tenderfoot schoolteacher and the hard-bitten gunslinger who pulls him through an absolutely high-quality rip-roaring adventure.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flick Pick: The Wind And The Lion

The Wind And The Lion
(MGM, 1975)

One of my favorites among this whole collection is writer-director John Milius' brilliant magnum opus, a fictionalized account of real events in Morocco in 1904, when America was moving to center stage in world affairs. It was a critical and box office success, doubling an amazing range of locations in Spain for both African and American scenes. Connery makes the perfect Berber pirate, Candace Bergen is a beautiful handful as the lady in distress, and Brian Keith is the living embodiment of Teddy Roosevelt. The action is everything you'd expect in anything from Lawrence Of Arabia to any Indiana Jones adventure, and everything in between, the Jerry Goldsmith score is sweeping - and was nominated for an Oscar - and the scene of Marines storming the palace at Fez is so inspiring it's used to this day as a motivational lecture opener both at Annapolis, and at Marine Corps OCS at Quantico - which is where I first saw it. It's a pity they don't use it to explain the facts of life to new presidents.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mutant Zombie Bikers

The theme keeps cropping up, and it's time to dispel the nonsense and lore.
Overwhelmingly, it's fueled by both good and bad apocalyptic fiction, which is generally a poor source for serious factual information.

Most of the people yapping about their preps now aren't that bright, but the BS Fantasy Factor goes off the scale when one hears from those alleging that come the day, they're going all WROL to go take everybody's stuff, or trying to raise the alarm about the inevitable rise to dominance of such folks.

Ain't. Going. To. Happen. Like. That. At. All.

The best example: the dipshit from Doomsday Preppers was a felon with priors for child molestation, was subsequently arrested post-shooting his mouth off, and is now back in prison for some good time. If there's a collapse tomorrow, he'll be eaten by his fellow inmates, if the prison guards don't simply start solving that problem for everyone in the first place under Rule 308.

Other bad people travelling in a pack are going to have a life expectancy measured in days if not hours once things get sporty, chiefly because living outside the law means living outside all law, including gaining any assistance from anyone, and getting regularly back-stabbed by your erstwhile allies 24/7/365. To presume they won't be hunted like rabid dogs by mutual consent is historically ignorant.

Furthermore, positing that suddenly there will be honor among thieves runs contrary to every experience of 6000 years of recorded human history.
It isn't going to change when TSHTF, and those planning otherwise are in for the rudest surprise of all.

It's far likelier that "Wanted" posters will go up, and bounties offered, and they'll be shot at from hill to hedge, and hung from every tree and lightpole coast to coast, the day after the first ones arise, and in perpetuity.

Anybody actually prepared to hunker down for 6-12 months will face 30-70% less problems just from the probable die-off that would occur in a societal collapse, and there won't be any Marquis of Queensbury rules, ACLU, plea bargains, defense lawyers, lenient judges, or parole boards five minutes after things kick off for those who choose the mutant zombie biker route under those circumstances. There also won't be any medevacs, Red Cross, or safe havens. A convoy of them coming down the road like some sci-fi Hell's Angels is far more likely to fare about as well as the British march from Concord Bridge back to Boston than it is to openly ride roughshod over the plains like the riders of Genghis Khan. If you want to know how that tactic works, look up the James Gang's raid on Northfield MN. Note the box score.
Crime will be dealt with by drumhead courts, sentences will be a rope or a bullet, about a minute after the verdict, and the crops will grow green in the spring over the graves of those who took a me-first approach to life.

People who decide to live felony stupid in or after any sort of problem have been foolishly conditioned like hothouse flowers for two generations to expect that everyone will helpfully stand around and wait for The Police and The Courts to enforce law and order while being preyed upon.  The actual reality (as it is turning out even right this minute in places like Detroit to a more modest extent) is that crime will dwindle and virtually disappear, because the death penalty will be back in vogue, and the waiting period will be about as long as it takes any citizen to squeeze a trigger or tie a knot. Recidivism at that point will be about as prevalent as resurrection is now: zero. The official mascot of two-time offenders will be the passenger pigeon, or perhaps the dodo. Even the peones in Mexico have reached saturation on the amount of $#!^ they'll take from the cartels with the "government" still in place, and no history of self-reliance, and they've been disarmed down there forever, officially. That should be instructive to anyone.

The people on Flight 93 are a typical guide to the reaction - and the OODA loop timeframe - once the average American realizes the rules are changed.
About an hour, on average. With butter knives and kitchen implements, if necessary.
As the new normal is where our nation lived for nearly 300 years, it won't be a particularly difficult or strange transition to make, except for the people on the wrong side of "Let's Roll", and who are almost universally completely and utterly ignorant of both history and human nature.

Human existence, in the worst scenario, might revert to the Middle Ages.
It will not revert to Cro-magnons vs. Neanderthals, and if it did anywhere, however briefly, the Neanderthals would fare about as well in Round Two as they did in Round One.
Last I looked, my ancestors stopped operating in tribes around 1066AD at the latest, if not more like around 400 BC.
The people still operating tribally after those points in history were mainly sporting practice for those who didn't, as their lack of further human progress or history might helpfully portend. And the only tribes on this continent were virtually wiped out to man, except for those who could adapt to running casinos, on land so bad that nobody else wanted it. Not my idea of a successful paradigm.

Note what I'm not saying:
I'm not saying no one will try, nor that you shouldn't prepare for the possibility.
But the failure curve will preclude just about any serious suggestion that learning will occur before they achieve room temperature. Hell, crime doesn't even pay now - look at our prison population - and yet we have a never-ending conga line of the terminally stupid who still try it, firmly convinced that they're smarter than all of society, despite the evidence of 3,000,000 of their colleagues in stripes.

My counsel is to stop looking at examples from Bosnia or Mogadischu, let alone Road Warrior or The Walking Dead unless you want to know how Bosnians, Somalis, or Hollywood screenwriters react to societal disruption.
If you dropped Topeka or Spokane into any of those places, there would be a militia, posses, a big wave of hangings, and shortly afterwards a thriving city-state, probably inclined to start conquering the savages nearby and exerting their influence in ever-widening ripples, because that's how we roll, going back to at least 1603. We can count the number of times savages have gotten the better of this society on our fingers, and if we knock out the Lost Roanoke Colony and Custer at the Little Bighorn, you could probably do it on your thumbs.

If there is any risk or threat during or after a serious catastrophe or collapse from some faceless Them, it comes from where you'd expect it to: those prepared, organized, and operating under color of authority, but using that last for their own selfish ends, first, last, and always.

We joke that the scariest words now are "I'm from The Government, and I'm here to help you." And with only the evidence of our lying eyes in minor disaster to minor disaster stretching back to forever to fuel that suspicion.
If things get to the point that society gets set back a century or so, the minute The Man decides that the correct course of action is to take an interest in what you and your community of whatever size are up to, and what resources you possess, rather than working to coordinate the success of communities everywhere while leaving them largely alone to sort out local problems, rest assured that your primary target has probably just pulled into view.

Any enforced socialism, at that point, shall be a hanging offense.

Flick Pick: Zulu

(Paramount, 1964)

The far better film mentioned yesterday, from 15 years earlier, and an enduring masterwork in the war film genre. Made mostly on location in Natal, co-written and directed by the same (blacklisted) Cy Endfield as Zulu Dawn, and co-produced by him and the star, Stanley Baker. They also had Jack Hawkins in another great performance, and managed to find some promising new guy never featured before named Michael Caine. Alongside them are a host of British actors otherwise forgettable elsewhere who shine in every role in this film. With hardly a wasted moment, shot, or line, this movie was phenomenally good, and rightly regarded thusly both then and now. The format has been aped accidentally or on purpose times without number since, and even unquestioned greats like Ridley Scott outright stole bits of it (using the Zulu attack chant wholesale - unforgivably lazy for such a film maestro, even if it was an intended homage - in Gladiator) because it is reportedly one of his favorite films. They get far more of the details, and the actual story, right, than all the things they take cinematic liberty with, and it stands as proof of how easy it is to make a great flick and get most things right, if you just make the effort to try. It unaccountably fell out of copyright for awhile, so there are any number of awful DVD versions out there. But even the worst of them can't mute this masterpiece or the story it tells so well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flick Pick: Zulu Dawn

Zulu Dawn
(American Cinema,1979)

A high-budget commercial flop war movie about the opening and miscalculation that led to the greatest defeat of a modern army unit by native forces, at Isandlwana in 1879. With minor stars like Burt Lancaster, Peter O'Toole, Denholm Elliot, Simon Ward and Bob Hoskins, it didn't take well despite taking fairly good care to provide an honest accounting of what happened, how, and why, without taking egregious cinematic liberties. It's still well worth watching, and provides a nice bookend to a far better film - tomorrow.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Thought For The Day

Israel uses their missiles and bunkers to protect their civilians;
Hamas uses their civilians to protect their bunkers and rockets.

Flick Pick: Skyfall

(Columbia, 2012)

 Perfectly directed by Sam Mendes, the 23rd Bond, in the 50th year of its onscreen run. So far. It opens with the second instance in the series where 007 gets killed in the beginning of the movie. Then onto more and more instances for the resurrected Bond to burn through bad guys like a human chain saw. Minimal, as in virtually no, gadgetry, maximum stunts and mayhem, and in the perpetual nods to iconic moments in the early films, this time the Aston Martin DB V gets to take one more turn around the track before going out in a blaze of glory. As does Judi Dench, retiring her portrayal of M, and handing it off to Ralph Fiennes, who shows that when one fails to be the Wickedest Wizard on Earth, becoming head of MI6 is a good career fallback. The theme song by Adele won her an Oscar for Best Original Song, it also won an Oscar for Best Film Editing, and the movie set the record for the highest box office gross of any film in the series, even accounting for inflation, at over $1.1B. Which puts the series second only to Harry Potter, until it inevitably passes it too. (Which means Fiennes won't be hurting on residuals checks for the rest of his life.) And apparently Mendes, the new M, Q, and Moneypenny are all in for the next installment, working title "Bond 24", and Craig has signed for at least three more films.
James Bond Will Return.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

RIP James Garner

Great actor, great guy, consummate class act.
Married to the same woman for 48 years, which tells you how much of Hollywood rubbed off on him.
You likely wouldn't know his politics without digging, because he had the good grace not to wear them on his sleeve 24/7.
And he was generally gracious about his moderate success.
I'm happy to say I literally bumped into him once, in 1996, got to tell him in person I'd been a fan forever, and he thanked me and walked over towards his set, and I went about my business. I've missed that opportunity with so many others who are gone now, so I'm glad to have had that chance.
He made a perfect unit scrounger as Hendley, one of three American fliers, in The Great Escape, in no small part because he'd been exactly that for real in the Army in Korea in 1951. He was wounded twice in combat in Korea, once by the enemy, and once by "friendly" strafing, but wasn't awarded his Purple Hearts until 1983. Apparently being Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford got him more pull after asking about his missing awards than he might have obtained as former Pvt. James Bumgarner, but to their credit, the Army came through, 32 years later.
IMHO, Support Your Local Sherrif is the best comedy Western ever made, with Blazing Saddles a raunchy distant second. (Sorry Mel, but that's the truth.)
And The Rockford Files was the quintessential must-see TV detective series of the 70s-80s, and literally launched Magnum P.I. and Tom Selleck's career, along with boosting those of about 100 other contract actors at Uni in the late 70s. He was rightfully nominated for Best Actor for 1985's Murphy's Romance, though Columbia hadn't even wanted him in the picture. (Co-star Sally Field reported later that her on-screen kiss with Garner was the best cinematic kiss she had ever experienced.) The series Maverick was iconic, to the point that making the movie version without Garner was unthinkable, and was yet another star turn for him at age 66.
He died at home in his own bed, at peace, and had a helluva run to get from Oklahoma to Brentwood, and while he's gone, it won't sting as much as long as his movies and TV shows are on the shelf to enjoy.

Flick Pick: Casino Royale

Casino Royale
(Columbia, 2006)

Nearly 40 years after it was originally done by another production company, the Bond franchise producers acquired the rights to it and revisited this story. After a string of comparatively lackluster to outright dopey recent offerings, with Pierce Brosnan having hit 50, they brought in Daniel Craig as their sixth incarnation of 007. Once his casting was announced, the catcalls and protests started immediately; once audiences and critics saw him in the role, it became obvious to everyone that he didn't just inhabit the character, he crushed it. Little time was spent on off-the-cuff quips, and a lot more on elbow smashes and mayhem. This Bond works for a living. Eva Green was stunning, the villains all properly sinister, and the emphasis was on character, plot, action and stunts, rather than gadgets and gags. This is one of the best films in the series, if not the best.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Flick Pick: Goldeneye

(MGM/UA, 1995)

I'm skipping to this one because the interim movie wasn't worth the trouble. After a six-year hiatus for legal wrangles, Timothy Dalton left the series, Pierce Brosnan - no longer hamstrung by NBC - was in, and the Soviet Union had collapsed of its own weight. Critics who thought the Bond franchise should go the same way didn't reckon on this movie, or the response to it. It was an absolute box-office monster. The stunts were turned up to 11, Brosnan was superb, and the phenomenal Judi Dench became 'M' without batting an eye, and absolutely owned the role. And, God bless him, Desmond Llewellyn as 'Q' still cranked out gadgets to help 007 save the world. For a movie where the only connection to Ian Fleming was using the name of his Jamaican estate as the title, not bad at all.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Flick Pick: The Living Daylights

The Living Daylights
(MGM/UA, 1987)

After twelve years and seven films with Roger Moore, finally some new blood in this installment of the Bond saga, with a new Moneypenny, and second-choice Timothy Dalton as Bond was simply excellent in all respects. The flagging story of the last flick was nowhere to be seen either, this time giving way to a tight and coherent plot, with Bond returning to espionage and action much more in tune with the traditional 007 style.. It helped that former model Maryam d'Abo was absolutely stunning, and that Dalton wasn't older than her mother.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How Stands The Union?

In the course of some forum debates on the nature of things, and what our choices are:

What do I think about government?
Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
Wait, no, that was George Washington, after the Revolution.
That government governs best which governs least.
Oh, sorry, that was Thomas Jefferson.
Power always thinks that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws.
The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
Oh, sorry again, that was John Adams.

So I share the sentiments of the first three presidents on what government is, and I would love to live under a constitutional republic. Someday, I hope to.
Its absence and lack since long before I was born has been keenly felt in this country, and want of it is killing us. And by no means only metaphorically.
The time to start slitting throats is being forced upon us, but we're not there yet.

I inherently and immediately suspect anybody that argues for going there until all other options have been exhausted.
So until that day, the order of the day should be to so harry, harass, hinder, delay, and obstruct the machinations of the current metastasized abortion that they wonder what hornet's nest they've kicked over every waking moment of their lives, and those who would subject us to the very slavery our forefathers shrugged off at perilous cost drop the reins of government as though it were a red hot iron in their hands, repent of the vines and weeds they've sown around the nation's liberty as we hack them down and uproot them, and that they would flee with all haste to some more agreeable climate, physically if necessary.

To paraphrase another president, this nation cannot long endure a situation where half the country wants to be let alone, and the other half wants to direct every last detail of our daily lives, down to the minutes and seconds, and would decree that they have a rightful claim on every penny in our pockets, every drop of sweat on our brow, and every drop of blood in our veins to the very last one.
Our side's terminal handicap as those who wish to be let alone is that we are perpetually loathe to engage in any struggle if we can go about our business.
We just want to be left cheerfully to exercise our liberty. But the vanishing corner of moth-eaten liberties we are being left to is grown so excrutiatingly small and so increasingly intolerable, that we must either resolve to do everything in our power short of war to overturn and reverse it, or we shall reach the inevitable point that the only option at all is an open and all-out war to the death for one side or the other.

Some seem to be under the impression that we have an abbreviated continuum between a constitutional republic and anarchy.
In fact, we are on a ponderably large continuum, and can scarcely see constitutional republic off in the misty distance we've travelled since the over 200 years ago when we achieved it from where we sit, it is so far away and so long gone from any living memory. And we have descended so deeply into slavery, that even anarchy may seem a pleasant respite and a short step.

This isn't, for me, a left-right thing. It's more like travelling the seas.
Anarchy is sitting alone in a raft amidst a hurricane: as Hobbes noted, such a life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
A constitutional republic is sailing on a luxury liner as masters of our own destiny.
And our current situation: Let's just agree that for fuck's sake, it's long past time to be arguing about the relative comfort of the different brands of chains they've put around our ankles, or trying to come to agreement on whether some smaller and lighter version is somehow more acceptable.
We've been measured and fitted to them for several generations, and had them placed on for longer and longer periods, to the point that now life without them is hard to recall, like horses broken to saddle, bridle, or collar.

I propose instead that we stop pulling on the oars until the chains come off and we're free to walk about or leave the ship if we chose, have a full say in whither it proceeds, and that the fellows with the whips are to be hung from the yardarms in haste.
While reserving the right to resolve to rise up and strangle the guy at the stern beating the drum with all possible dispatch the minute the opportunity presents itself if the response is more whip.

Do everything legally and humanly possible to starve the beast to the size of the Chihuahua our founders intended.
Dial it back from its current 12 on the dial, to a 1.
Hack, slash, burn, and starve it back to a size where we needn't live in daily fear of its predations.
And let's please, once and for all time, stop being "reasonable" about it.
When a man with a machete proposes to cut off my legs, the reasonable response is not to compromise, and agree to sacrifice only one leg, and say "It was the best deal I could get".

We should instead be the most frothingly unreasonable sons of bitches at the slightest predation on the public purse or our personal liberty that you'd expect from Genghis Khan's hordes hung-over, saddle-sore, and with blood dripping from their swords.
Getting anything from us, past us, or over us, should be as pleasant as trying to take a bone from a hungry Bengal tiger, or meeting a grizzly bear with a toothache.
On our best and most sweetly-disposed mothereffing day.

The other side should present the slightest suggestion of same with rivers of fecal material running down their legs, as their knees knock together, after having signed a will and settled their affairs, and should expect that the only thing that would be returned of such a delegation should arrive in separate small baskets.

Hint: This is not a job for the likes of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell.

{Update: Greetings to anyone from WRSA etc. who landed here from their link or similar, and my thanks to C.A. for the referral, and the subsequent rocket launch of views.}

Flick Pick: A View to A Kill

A View To A Kill
(MGM/UA, 1985)

Roger Moore's final appearance as 007, tainted only by the most worthless heroine in the entire Bond series in Tanya Roberts, but mitigated by one of the greatest hench(wo)men in Grace Jones, and the inimitable Christopher Walken as the villain. A hook-and-ladder chase through San Francisco and a fight on a blimp over the Golden Gate round it out with some of the best stunt sequences seen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Flick Pick: Octopussy

(MGM/UA, 1983)

Thirteen is rarely considered a lucky number, but this film mostly defies the superstition. No small amount of controversy was over the use of one of Ian Fleming's 20-year old short story titles (and little else from it) as the film title, despite the obvious double entendre. Roger Moore returned for his sixth go at the character, and Maud Adams performed the unprecedented feat of being a two-time Bond girl by returning for the title role eight years after appearing in The Man With the Golden Gun. The movie features minimal gadgetry and maximal plot derring-do, including an opening stunt with both where Bond flies a mini-jet through a hangar, in a time when CG to pull it off didn't exist. Louis Jourdan provides a suave criminal villain, even if not quite up to the standards of a Dr. No or a Goldfinger, and Moore still up for the action, as well as the usual tongue-in-cheek comedy that is his forte in the role, including in a gorilla suit, doing a Tarzan yell, and dressing as a clown while defusing a nuclear bomb.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Flick Pick: For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only
(United Artists, 1981)

In a welcome return from the outlandish comic book cartoonish aspects of Moonraker, and the unkillable Jaws villain, the producers set out to bring back a more believable Bond with this go before things got completely out of hand, and they largely succeeded. Long time second unit director and editor of the series John Glen was promoted to director starting in this film, resulting in some of the best action sequences and stunts in the series, and clearly hearkening back to the early days of the series from beginning to end. Despite his advancing years, Moore continued to be the unflappable Bond, and this is one of his best turns in the role. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Flick Pick: Moonraker

(United Artists, 1979)

Made for the unheard of price in this series of $34M, this Bond adventure was one of the most visually stunning in the series, and at the same time inarguably one of the plot-goofiest. Essentially merely an attempt to poach material from every recent sci fi flick in the wake of the success of Star Wars, it provides a seemingly endless series of locales and stunts, and finally when it can't top itself on earth anymore, blasts off into orbit and completely jumps the shark. Audiences loved the comedy both intentional and unintentionally provided, and amidst the tongue-in-cheek screwing around, Michael Lonsdale's superbly understated villain Hugo Drax provided one of the most subtly menacing villains in the series in just two lines:
"Look after Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him."
This installment was the highest-grossing episode in the series until Goldeneye in 1995.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Flick Pick: The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me
(United Artists, 1977)

A smooth Marvin Hamlisch score, a great theme by Carly Simon, and one of the most spectacular opening stunts in the entire franchise launched the tenth Bond flick onto the screen, and provided a worthy addition to the franchise. The gadgets and stunts are generally marvelous, and Moore finally gets a car to equal Connery's iconic Aston Martin DB V, in this case, the amphibious Lotus Esprit. And even on a $14M budget this time, UA was still making Bond movies with the profits from just the first one.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Flick Pick: Silverado

(Columbia, 1985)

Today, a little break from the world of Bond to take note of one of the all-time great westerns, on the 29th anniversary of its original premiere. Together with his brother Mark, co-writer/producer/director Lawrence Kasdan delivers top-notch entertainment in the form of this epic love letter to every tumbleweed tale ever filmed, featuring one of the best film intros in any movie ever. Kasdan was fresh off of making The Big Chill, but in editing that movie down, had been forced to cut nearly every scene of a former stage manager turned actor, and leave his part on the cutting room floor. But the kid took it gracefully, so Kasdan made a part for him in his next movie, and his role in this flick made Kevin Costner a star, and yet another 15-year "overnight success". All the parts are well-casted, and co-stars Scott Glenn, Kevin Kline, and Danny Glover each carry their share of the load in the telling of this tale. Nearly twenty years after its premiere, and the unfulfilled promise of the closing line "We'll be back!", I asked Kevin Kline if we'd ever get to see what happened to Paden and the boys. A slow smile, mixed with a look of wistful sadness crossed his face, as he noted "Lawrence Kasdan doesn't like to make sequels." (This would be the same Kasdan who co-wrote both the second and third Star Wars films, and is co-writing the next three as well. So I suppose we just need to find a way to get George Lucas and Disney interested in getting him to pick up the tale again where this one left off...) Do, by all means, make sure you see this in a widescreen version. The climactic shooting duel between Kline and villain Brian Dennehy was shot using every inch of theatrical 2.35:1 widescreen, with each actor at the extreme edge of the frame, and when it's shown on standard 4:3 format for TV, or standard aspect video, you only get to see one of the two at a time, with the other one cropped off to the side. It's difficult to think of a greater sacrilege one could commit on such a panoramic movie as this.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Flick Pick: The Man With The Golden Gun

The Man With The Golden Gun
(United Artists, 1974)

A weak, though topical, plot was made up for nicely by an excellent villain in Christopher Lee, two of the best-looking Bond girls, martial arts gone wild, the return of Sheriff J.W. Pepper, and the cherry on top, Tattoo as the sawn-off villainous sidekick. It's also one of the few outings where the bad guy gets better gadgets than Bond, from his gun to his lair to his laser to his flying car.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Flick Pick: Live And Let Die

Live And Let Die
(United Artists, 1973)

After a longer than usual hiatus, mainly to find a new 007, and after Clint Eastwood rapidly turned down the role ("Bond should be played by an Englishman") Roger Moore was selected to take over the job starting with this pic. It combines vintage blaxploitation with state-of-the-art special effects, the beautiful Jane Seymour, and Sheriff J.W. Pepper into a veritable screen orgy of tongue-in-cheek Bond light-heartedness, suiting Moore's fortes to a T. And still managed to turn a $7M budget into $124M at the box office.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Flick Pick: Diamonds Are Forever

Diamonds Are Forever
(United Artists, 1971)

Induced both by a dearth of other roles, and UA's then-record $1 1/4M salary offer, Sean Connery was dragged back to playing 007 one more time in this one. It was a much lighter take on the role, coupled with Connery having gotten notably heavier.
It was also, due to legal wrangling, the last time Blofeld and SPECTRE make an appearance, and until they do, it's a more mundane cops and robbers sort of case, although the locations and beauties keep up the Bond standard.
Long-time recluse Howard Hughes is somewhat parodied in the film, but in actuality was friends with one of the producers, Jimmy Dean playing him was working for Hughes in Vegas at the time, and Hughes' used his influence to get streets closed in Vegas for the car chase scenes, which were decently done (although even MAD Magazine joked that the two-wheel Mustang stunt owed more to Connery's added weight than 007's driving skill), and the oil rig lair attack was fairly involved and rather spectacular.
This one was a bridge from the more serious early Bond flicks to a decidedly lighter side in subsequent ones.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Flick Pick: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

On Her Majesty's Secret Service
(United Artists, 1969)

After five appearances as 007, Sean Connery told the producers he didn't want to be James Bond anymore, at any price, as he was tired of the film publicity grind, and wanted to try his hand at other roles.
The producers picked Lazenby from a number of unknowns. Audiences of the day were largely unwelcoming, but in this go, virtually without gadgets, and concentrating on story and characters, Lazenby gave us a Bond a little less fantasy and a lot more human, while still pulling off the action expected. The downhill chase was one of the best examples ever captured. Later audiences, esp. Bond fans, regard this example as one of the best Bond films.
For the ultimate icing on the cake, we got the absolutely fabulous Diana Rigg, stunning at 30, and fresh from being Emma Peel in The Avengers, after 5 years with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She makes it impossible to visualize anyone else playing the only woman who could and did make an honest man out of James Bond.
The tragic ending was to have been saved for the opening of the next-up Diamonds Are Forever, and Lazenby was to have a 7-film contract with producers Saltzman and Broccoli for further Bond movies, but Lazenby's monumentally stupid agent convinced him the role was a dead end, because the Bond character could never endure through the coming feminism of the 1970s. So after filming concluded Lazenby indicated he was a one-timer, and the final sequence was therefore placed at the end of this film instead. It's not quite captaining the Titanic, but in cinematic terms, it's hard to imagine a more ill-advised decision in motion picture history.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Flick Pick: You Only Live Twice

You Only Live Twice
(United Artists, 1967)

The fifth official Bond outing. Almost didn't happen when a separate production company got the movie rights to make Casino Royale, which premiered a couple of months ahead of this movie, was atrocious, and by the standards of the time risqué enough to shock people such that UA considered pulling the plug on the series. (Trivia Question: Which actor who played James Bond does almost no one ever correctly name? David Niven.) While the set pieces went to new lengths, and the volcano set was lavish and impressive by any standards, Connery was getting tired of the role, fearing he'd be typecast, and the movie basically threw out Ian Fleming's absent plotline for one made up mostly from scratch, and it wanders a bit in the middle. But Donald Pleasance as the finally-revealed Blofeld provides the proper menace to the role, and the climactic battle lived up to the franchise standards, receiving the usual audience response.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Flick Pick: Thunderball

(United Artists, 1965)

The fourth installment, and the biggest to date in every way, with a budget tripled to $9M, a car chase, boat chase, submarine chase, explosions, and even a jetpack, this was the largest grossing film in North America in 1965, and discounting people who doubtless saw it more than once, it sold enough tickets that nearly 1 person in 3 in the United States saw it. Connery appears somewhat less charming and more lethal, the locales and underwater scenes were spectacular by anyone's standard, and the explosions weren't always mere effect: the boat explosion utilized a rare rocket fuel, and the resultant blast actually shattered windows 30 miles away in Nassau. It won another Oscar, for Best Visual Effects. And pulled in $141M, making the series' second blockbuster, and their continuance virtually a license to print money. One reviewer's quote: "The cinema was a duller place before 007." Indeed.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Flick Pick: Goldfinger

(United Artists, 1964)

Third time out, triple the budget of the original, and commensurately raked in $124M, not least of which because it's rightly regarded as one of the best Bond movies ever. More locales, more gadgets, the iconic Aston Martin DB5 (with Q-Branch modifications), more locations, the best villains, and a great screenplay all pushed this one to the pinnacle, including the first film in the series to win an Oscar (for Best Sound Editing). If there is a perfect installment in the series, this one is it.

Friday, July 4, 2014

We Don't Need An All Out Second Revolution

Aesop's Thought For The Day:

Given other historical precedent, there's nothing wrong with our current government leaders that wouldn't be solved far more rapidly, by simply chopping 342 of them open with tomahawks and hurling them into Boston harbor.

Flick Pick: 1776

(Columbia, 1972)

All totaled, there are nine pictures on this last that are or could be considered musicals. I'm not a fan of them per se unless they're flat out good. So the ones I've picked are all purely enjoyable to watch, and this one is no exception.
Historically, it's cobbled together from all sorts of writings and sources from much later to serve the purpose of the show, which is the whole point: it's not intended as a pure documentary, it was a film version of a hit Broadway show, utilizing most of the same cast. (In reality, the Second Continental Congress met in secret, because it was essentially treason, and there are no actual minutes of the debates as such.) Critics did everything they could to savage it, it pretty much flopped at the box office, and the Bicentennial came and went.
And then VCRs came out, and audiences pretty universally liked it and realized the critics were full of crap.
William Daniels and Howard DaSilva have more fun doing Adams and Franklin together than one has a right to expect. (Why nobody decided to bootstrap their roles into a pair of one-man shows, or even a two-man show subsequently is a mystery for the ages. Either and both would have been fantastic.) And Blythe Danner's onscreen appearance shows that her daughter Gwyneth Paltrow is but a pale imitation of the original.
Ultimately, it was the only gasp by Hollywood to try and show the country's founding in any sort of light that wasn't tainted by the recycled hippies who lurched into Hollywood ever since, nor fuelled by revisionist and reflexively anti-American bilge. If you do no more than flick the fast-forward past every musical number and watch only the dramatic scenes, you're still left with a pretty good and watchable film.
When the legend is a much better story than the unrecorded facts, watch the legend.
In this case, bring popcorn. Happy Fourth of July.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Flick Pick: Gettysburg

(Turner, 1993)

Superb and epic adaptation of Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, detailing with carefully considered precision what 100,000 of our countrymen were up to in the Pennsylvania backcountry 151 years ago this week, for 3 days in particular, culminating on today's date.
Originally it began life as a miniseries until ABC foolishly weinered out. Ted Turner, to his credit, picked up the project, saw it through, and even insisted on releasing it theatrically, despite the 4-plus hour running length on release. While it was a "flop" theatrically, in a very limited release, and hampered by the time length, it actually proved brilliant in that it provided both additional legitimacy to the project, and built up a fan base. When it premiered on cable TV after the theatrical showings, it set a cable TV record for audience, and has been lionized since in DVD release, and as used in classrooms in perpetuity since it came out.
No small part is due to the overwhelming support of a virtual army of historically fanatic re-enactors, and the unprecedented before or since access to the actual Gettysburg Battle Site by the US Park Service for the filming of some scenes.
And if you're still an absolute Ted Turner hater despite that, it's worth watching to see him take one in the chest near the opening of the climactic Pickett's Charge.
The main actors were simply brilliant, in roles large and small, including a pivotal role by Richard Jordan (as Gen. Lew Armistead), who put everything he had on the screen, even as unbeknownst he was dying of a brain tumor, which ultimately took him two months before the film was released.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Flick Pick: From Russia With Love

From Russia With Love
(United Artists, 1963)

A quick follow-up to the runaway success of Dr. No, the film was chosen for production because JFK had mentioned it as one of his ten favorite books in a LIFE magazine piece; it ended up being the last film he personally screened, on November 20, 1963.
The budget was doubled by UA (to $2M), and Connery was given a $100K bonus on top of his $54K salary to return by way of thanks for the success of the first one. It also introduced a number of "Bond" conventions, introducing the opening sequence, the first appearance of Q and his gadgets, and the "James Bond Will Return" convention at the end of the final credits.
Given the bigger budget, the film was much more lavish and international, setting another tone that continued afterwards. It all paid off, critically as well as financially, bringing in just short of $80M, a nice increase on the nearly $60M return on Dr. No.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Flick Pick: Dr. No

Dr. No.
(United Artists, 1962)

They had no idea when they made this one they were creating one of the most durable franchises in cinematic history, launching a relatively unknown actor on the path to superstardom, or creating one of the most ear-conic themes ever composed. They just wanted a decent action-adventure movie, that came sufficiently close to the Ian Fleming novels that they'd make their money back, and hopefully even a tidy profit. It is, and it did. And all the rest.

And yes, if you're wondering, except for a few departures, it's going to be a mostly Bond month here for awhile. It isn't summer without them.