Chronological Bond: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

on_her_majestys_secret_serviceYear: 1969
Series Number: 6
Director: Peter R. Hunt
James Bond: George Lazenby

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is not one of the non-canonical entries in the James Bond franchise, but I sometimes get the impression that fans wish it were. Part of it may be that this is the first canonical James Bond film that doesn’t star Sean Connery. Part of it is certainly that it’s the first — and only — film with George Lazenby as 007. But it’s not all bad, and not all of the bad is Lazenby’s fault. Some of it is, though. Continue reading

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The Haul of Dubious Quality

Things have been a little quiet around here again the past few weeks. I’ll admit, after coming back from hiatus, it has been difficult to get back into a rhythm. Part of this is that my attention is considerably more split than it was before, and part of it is that on the blogging front, there have been technical issues. As I’ve mentioned before, I watch a lot of my movies via streaming, and I’m reliant on CenturyLink DSL for my internet service; other providers just aren’t here. As I’ve also mentioned before, CenturyLink DSL isn’t very good out here. In fact, it’s downright terrible. The maximum download speed offered is 1.5 Mbps and for the past year or so it hasn’t typically been working at full efficiency, leaving me receiving a speed of 0.7 Mbps during the day… and sometimes as low as 0.3 Mbps. For point of comparison, a typical basic cable internet service will offer a download speed of 30 Mbps. I’m falling short by two orders of magnitude. Needless to say this makes streaming very difficult; 480p, which isn’t HD but is good enough to not be bothered by pixellation, is just barely viable at 1 Mbps. I can sometimes manage it in the dead of night, but not with any reliability. This has limited my movie viewing significantly, and thus my movie writing. Frankly, it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm for blogging about movies when one’s ability to watch movies is repeatedly stymied.

But I think I’ve got a workaround of sorts now. After all, streaming has never been the only option available to me; just the one with the best mix of spontaneity and availability. But as long as I’m willing to accept that I am picking from a limited selection, I have alternatives. Which brings me to a purchase I made a little more than a week ago at a garage sale.

There was a box at one early sale I’d stopped at which was filled with DVDs, and was labeled “25 cents each, or $5 for all.” I verified that was the price, and after checking a few of the DVDs on the top of the box, I purchased the whole thing. My figuring was that I normally pay $1 each for DVDs at yard sales, so if I got five films I actually wanted, I got a bargain. And spending at 25 cents each as the initial asking price, $5 was a bargain for all as long as there were at least 20 DVDs in total; turns out there was a little more than 50. And anything I wind up deciding not to keep can at least feed the blog in the interim before being taken in to a swap shop. So all in all, $5 looks like a pretty good deal. So that’s the good news. The bad news is, I probably should have delved a little deeper into the box to see what was what first. Continue reading

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Tech Review: Google Play

Google-Play-LogoThis tech review is going to be just a little bit different from prior ones (and not just because it’s actually current; I think at least half of the old ones are for software that has since stopped existing). Most of the previous reviews have been for a specific piece of software; today, I’m looking at a somewhat broader platform.

“Play” is Google’s attempt to corner the market on digital media, or at least to have a healthy share of it along with Amazon and Apple. With Google Play, one can buy news magazines, movies, music, e-books, or Android apps. As I do not have an Android, and have little interest in trying out the magazines, I shall be focusing on movies, music and books.

On none of those three categories can I recommend Google Play. Continue reading

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Movie Microscope: Drop Dead Fred

Drop Dead Fred PosterThere are a lot of reasons why a film may become a cult classic, but it’s always easy to spot one. Find a title that isn’t talked about often, particularly not among critics or awards shows or all time sales charts. Then ask around about it. If nine out of ten people give you a blank stare and the tenth says “Oh my gosh, I love that movie!”, you’ve found one. Something about cult classics means their reception is always split between a small group of people who disliked it, a slightly larger group of people who loved it — almost never merely liking it — and a vast group of people who have never heard of it.

Sometimes the blame can be put down to a disconnect between professional critics and the viewers. If the critics don’t like it, it can reflect poorly on the box office, which leads it down the path to obscurity. This may be what happened to Drop Dead Fred. A box-office bomb, it was critically blasted… but those who remember it generally remember it positively, especially those who were young when it was released in 1991. The cause of such a disconnect isn’t always clear, but here it may be that the blame lies with its title character, played by Rik Mayall. Continue reading

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers 2 PosterThe bigger the sequel is, the harder it is to pull off. Avengers: Age of Ultron is arguably a sequel to multiple different movies at once, and its direct predecessor, The Avengers, was a massive success — so the bar was set fairly high for it. I’ve seen some criticism of it here and there suggesting that it didn’t live up to it, which suggests that perhaps expectations were simply set too high.

It’s not the home-run that the previous Avengers film is. But it’s still a pretty solid hit. Continue reading

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Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted PosterBeing “meta” — originally “meta-textual”, openly discussing the medium of a work within the work itself — is in right now. Has been for a few years; it’s an era in which self-awareness, irony, and talking back to the audience are at least as normal as a straightforward sitcom or movie. The Office and Parks and Recreation both relied on a “mockumentary” style, with the premise of their characters being filmed by a documentary crew as they go about their business; this is also the premise that will be used for ABC’s upcoming Muppets TV series.

But the Muppets have always been meta, always self-aware. In The Great Muppet Caper they sang about how they were starring in another movie. Earlier, in The Muppet Movie, they relied on the script to tell them where to go. Before that, The Muppet Show itself was a show… about putting on a show. And even the pre-Muppet Show TV specials leaned heavily on the fourth wall; the Sex and Violence special had Nigel (later relegated to conducting the house band) struggling to keep the show organized just as Kermit later would. The Muppets Valentine Special, the very first non-Sesame Street outing of the Muppets as a group, had a struggling writer character named Wally who types out the scenes just before they happen. Talking about the show — always with a degree of self-deprecation — is an inherent part of a Muppets production. Continue reading

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Dreamscape

Dreamscape PosterThe poster looks like something out of Indiana Jones. As Dreamscape was released in 1984, in the middle of the Indy era and the same year as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, perhaps it’s not surprising that the producers of the film decided to try and catch some of that enthusiasm. On the other hand, it is a little surprising considering the film has very little in common with that franchise. This isn’t an homage to 1930s-1950s pulp action heroes, it’s a science-fiction film about adventures in the mind. The poster even prominently features a “kid sidekick”; the kid in question has about ten minutes of screen time, though they do contribute one of the film’s most memorable moments. It’s definitely a stretch to ride the coattails of a more successful film.

On the other hand, the movie does feature Kate Capshaw as the love interest, so it does have that in common with Temple of Doom. She’s not as screamy here. Continue reading

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