SISTERS (2015) by B. Roche

With the Oscar nominations on the verge of being announced, there were a lot of award-centric options available for our first movie night of 2016.  But sometimes you’ve got to laugh.  Bianca and I chose to put a pin in Spotlight and check in with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

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NEW BLOOD: The FRIDAY THE 13TH Movie That Can’t Telekinetically Lift My Spirits by B. Roche

Starting a blog has given me Brass Ring Disease.  I try too hard to make every post super-special, and end up with a piece that's too long and not insightful enough.  I prefer the posts I just kind of dash off.  So I'm going to try to write more casually, more often.

A  great first movie for this effort is Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood.  They really dashed off that movie.

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Do You Trust Me? (A List About SPECTRE) by B. Roche

"Do you trust me?"

James Bond asks that question during an action scene in *Spectre*.  He doesn't wait for an answer; he jumps down an elevator shaft with his lover in his arms.  The question was just a way of getting ready to jump.

That was supposed to be a lead-in to a point about trust and self-expression, but I let it sit a few hours and now I don't know what the next part could be.  The progression:

1. Jump down elevator shafts.

2. But ask first.

3. But not for permission.

4. To clear your throat.

5. This will also project an air of trustworthiness to the person you want to join you in jumping down the elevator shaft.

6. Lost the thread again. Wait.

7. This isn't a reflection of the movie.  The shaft-plummet is relatively incidental, and perfectly fine.  It doesn't stand out in *Spectre*, nor would it any action movie.  We wish we could jump down elevator shafts with Lea Seydoux.

8. Spoiler alert.  Lea Seydoux makes it to the third act of the movie.  Did not expect she would be revealed as the rebooted Scaramanga.

9. Just noted my use of the word "lover" above.  I'm going to stick with it.  It's a sophisticated, cheesy, 80s way of talking, which I appreciate.  Talk like that requires comfort with intimacy and oneself.  My college girlfriend and I would jokingly call each other "lover" sometimes, in private.  It was our secret.  We legitimately laughed every time we said it.  *"Hey, Luvah."  "Come here, Luvah."* We fought a lot.  The lover thing some of the best moments we had together.  The word lover is fine.  If you find someone who'll let you call them that, try to keep it going.

10. James Bond.

11. I liked Spectre a lot.  I've found my feelings on the Daniel Craig Bonds shift over time so I won't rank it with the others just this minute.  But I do think it's as close to a regular-old 007 movie as we've had with Craig in the role.

12. Craig's Bond run has been characterized by the very throat-clearing he needs to jump down an elevator shaft.  Rather than going on a one-off adventure and basically resetting on the next one, each of the Craig Bonds has 007 gaining some experience, iconography, or cleaning up some unfinished business, that is keeping him earning his stripes or fully performing.  At the end of Skyfall it seemed like Craig had done the work and going forward could just be Bond.   But as the movie opens, Craig has gone rogue on a clean-up mission, checking on a hot tip from the previous M, Judi Dench, in a video sent to him in the event of her death.  The modern James is always starting or coming back, never being.

13. This sounds lame.  But all over the internet this week there were think pieces: Bond is misogynist.  Bond is old-fashioned.  Bond is a bad spy.  Bond movies have too much product placement.  Here’s who should play Bond after Daniel Craig.  All these criticisms point to a collective ambivalence about the very existence of this iconic character.

14. So if we don't know how we feel about 007, how are Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig supposed to feel about him?

15. Judi Dench’s appearance isn’t just a callback.  Her M is effectively a ghost.  This is just one manifestation of the death motif that runs throughout the film.

16. For one, It’s called Spectre.  And to my memory, this is the only time the actual meaning of the word has been exploited in the series.  Sam Mendes and writers John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth have made Spectre into a funeral.

17. The stunning opening sequence takes place on the Day of the Dead in Mexico City.  Skull masks, skeleton parade floats, skeleton suits, the whole deal.

18. There's an actual funeral.  And a widow.

19. There's a dreary, clinically menacing, or drab look to much of the film.  A clandestine meeting of the Spectre organization takes place at night in Rome, with people standing around silent, obscured in shadow.

20. MI-6 headquarters still stands after its destruction in Skyfall, a bombed-out haunted house.

21. Blofeld's

22. Spoiler alert.

23. Sorry, Blofeld's plan involves finally revealing himself as a) Bond’s long-lost adopted brother and b ) the mastermind of masterminds behind all of Craig-as-007's missions in the previous movies.  So he’s like a ghost back from the dead and taunts Bond with photos of his past nemesis and his lost love, Vesper Lind from Casino Royale - taunting him with ghosts.

24. Supervillain plans are notoriously poor - impossible goals are easy to thwart - but on the other hand they're just a slightly more outsized megalomania than that of a hyper-male James Bond, torpedoing around the globe, heedlessly treating women like garbage.  So the workability of the plan (honestly, can't even tell you what Blofeld had in mind, and I only saw Spectre yesterday) isn't relevant.  Blofeld's plan is performance art, with the final face-to-face explanation as the Prestige.

25. So when, spoiler, Bond refuses to kill Blofeld, he is not (merely) leaving a loophole open, he is refuting his old ways.  By voluntarily not using his license to kill, he hopes to move on.

26. Craig and Lea Seydoux fall rather suddenly in love.  She helps him out of a jam and he literally tells her, "I love you."  It doesn't quite work, nor does the pair have the paint-melting chemistry Craig enjoyed with Casino Royale's Eva Green.  But Craig's admission is so sudden, it felt by design.  Sometimes we see relationships as an escape hatch.  Bond wants out.  This is the way. At least that feels like the intention.  In execution it's rushed, awkward, and unconvincing, though they do look good together in a silver Aston-Martin.

27.  Lea Seydoux isn’t really Scaramanga.

28. Blofeld is played by Christoph Waltz, the creepiest, easiest bad-guy actor on the planet.  Most movie villains slather on effort, ticks and postures.  Waltz is the rare heavy with a dancer's touch.

29. The Bond series has always been a bit miscast as an action orgy.  Bond movie action scenes really just showcase a cool vehicle or location; lifestyle porn for everyone who wants to be James Bond (which is everyone).  This bomb-chicka-wow-wow action was impressive in the 60s and 70s, but as time went on and other action films upped the stakes, Bond weezed behind them.  In Spectre the action scenes are effective and moderately outrageous.  Sam Mendes and his second unit directors have learned to leave the envelope pushing to the Fasts & Furiouses and Missions: Impossibles of the world.

All this listing is making me a ghost.  I look forward to more viewings of Spectre.  I trust that, for the most part, it knows what it's doing.  It just needs a minute.

Notes on THE LAZARUS EFFECT, Which I Never Finished Watching by B. Roche

I'm a soft touch for horror movies. I'll watch anything in the genre if it looks like it has a little style, some cinematography and suspense.  I keep checking 'em out even though I'm frequently wrong in my interest.

So of course I watched The Lazarus Effect.

The credit sequence is really cool - close ups of what look like a pig's cells.

The movie is only 83 minutes long.  I like the brevity, but it can be a big tell of aggressive fixing.  As the film begins it clearly has been edited within an inch of its life. It pops from scene to scene with minimal transition.  

However, it features great atmosphere of a sinister science lab. Lots of silence (but for SFX of ventilation) and open space.

Pigs are recurring thing in LE. They're operating on pigs in the beginning.  Donald Glover scares Olivia Wilde with a pig mask.

Dreams. We never have dreams like people have dreams in movies.

Olivia Wilde's dream pictures creepy dolls and fire.

Mark Duplass is the head researcher. He's an unusual choice for a movie like Lazarus Effect. Yet he adds an improvisational energy that grounds his character and the entire research effort.

Duplass' presence affects the whole cast.  The characters' conversations have a loose, realistic edge.  They're talking, not reciting dialogue. That certainly helps.

I shut this off after Olivia Wilde became possessed.  It's not her fault, or Duplass', or Donald Glover, or the pigs, which are very smart animals.