Category Archives: EMExclusives

Save Us From Sequels, By Douglas A. Gordon

I’ve been depressed. I used to watch my Star Wars trilogy collection at least once a month. Now I can’t even bring myself to look at my old action figures. Come to think of it, it’s the same with my Austin Powers video. After my last viewing – my twentieth? twenty first? I’ve lost count – I didn’t even have the energy to rewind the tape. What is it that has rendered my usual and most reliable sources of joy and mirth completely ineffectual? Sequels.

Yes, sequels. The summer of 1999 was supposed to be a high point in a lifelong hobby of movie going. I can think of no summer where I looked forward to the studio release slate with such fervid anticipation. Not only would I see the first new Star Wars movie in over 15 years, I’d also get a second helping of the hairy, dentally-challenged swinging super spy, whose sleeper debut was arguably one of the funniest comedies in years.But it is not joy I feel, only pain. I feel betrayed by both George Lucas and Mike Myers. Why? The new stuff just isn’t up to snuff. Of course, we expect sequels to be similar to the chapters before them. Some continuity of character, theme and tone are necessary, otherwise audiences would be left scratching their heads. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the third Indiana Jones movie, provided this continuity in its memorable prologue. Look! There’s the young Indiana Jones falling in a pit of snakes. So that’s how he got his intense phobia! Wow! Young Indy is taming a lion with a whip! Not only was it a good way to show how he learned to use his signature weapon, it was also a clever way to explain Harrison Ford’s real life scar on his chin. As the young Indy is crowned with his trademark fedora, the prologue concludes one of the biggest shared “”in jokes”” between a movie and its audience. Spielberg gives the audience what it expects quickly, and then is free to tell the story he wants using a familiar character. The audience is refreshed, as if it’s been reintroduced to an old friend it’s not seen in quite some time. Lucas and Myers got too bogged down in giving the audience what it expects. So much so that it affected the quality of their respective stories. After all, why worry about the audience getting tired when it’s been told time and time again You Are Going To Like This Movie! With the ubiquitous marketing and sheer frenzy prior to the opening of “”Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”” and “”Episode 1: The Phantom Menace”” was there ever any question about whether or not people would go see these movies? When marketing and history have pre-sold your movie, why concern yourself over silly little details such as the story?I can almost picture George Lucas sitting down to write “”The Phantom Menace.”” He has a yellow legal pad out on his desk and he’s jotting down thoughts as they come into his head. What lines do I have to put in, he thinks. “”I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”” Of course, that has to be in there. He continues thinking, last time out I had goofy furry alien creatures fight nameless, armored soldiers in an effort to blow up a shield generator. While they’re doing that, there should be an air battle, the goal of which should be to blow up a giant space station that is the key to the enemy’s power. What should I do this time, he asks himself. After a moment of reflection, eureka! He has found it! I know, he proudly thinks, this time I’ll have an air battle, the goal of which should be to blow up a giant control ship that is the key to the enemy’s power. While that’s going on, goofy scaly alien creatures will fight nameless, robotic soldiers. Perfect!While the above writing process was unfolding, Mike Myers sat at his computer, hypnotized by the blinking cursor and – surprise – was hardly able to come up with original ideas for Austin’s second romp. In the first Austin Powers movie, we do not see Dr. Evil’s face until after he has sent the Fez-topped Mustafa and several others to a fiery death. Suddenly we see Dr. Evil and he wants to get on with the announcement of his diabolical plan. But wait! What’s that noise? It’s Mustafa, calling down from below that he’s been “”badly burned”” and is in need of help. It’s a great skewering of the typical action movie convention of violence without consequence, where people are killed without any regard to pain, suffering or remorse. Myers has fun with this, and the result is hilarious.So, Mike Myers decides it worked so well in the first movie, why not try it again? In The Spy Who Shagged Me, Mustafa is thrown off a cliff and a similar line of “”badly injured”” dialogue ensues. This time around, however, it’s not as funny and feels tired and used. With so many spy and action movies in the canon of American and British cinema, it’s a shame Myers couldn’t mine more clich

Disney’s Nymphets, By Courtney Kenny

Is it just me, or is the competition getting a lot younger? Every time I turn around, there’s some teenage girl on television bearing her flat mid-riff and her perfect Barbie doll figure. They’re young. They’re tan. They have that twinkle in their eye. And, you just know that they can eat all the pizza and candy they want without gaining an ounce. I hate ’em.

It used to be that supermodels were everywhere, and that was okay. With supermodels, it was obvious that they had just lucked out on the genetic lottery. It was also obvious that these women never ate. They just smoked their way through life. I accepted the fact that I never would (nor would I want to) be a supermodel. Then the “”Bubble-Gum Cutie”” came along. Now every time I turn on the television I’m subjected to some Disney reject like Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera, or some “”Dawson’s Creek”” babe. They’re cute. They’re sweet. They’re perfect. They’re everywhere. And, they make me want to lose my lunch.If I sound like a woman scorned, it’s because I am scorned. I’m sick of all the standards that women have to put up with. At least with supermodels the normal woman never stood a chance in the first place. And, the normal guy didn’t expect her to. But with these teen-queens, there’s a constant reminder that I used to be just like them. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted. I had that perfect figure once. And try as I might, I’ll never have it again. Why? Because these girls are still growing, and I’m grown. I have hips. They don’t. They’re in that stage of growth where their boobs have developed before anything else. It’s that perfect figure we all remember having once upon a time. Now, it’s a fashion statement. It doesn’t matter that my religion is the workout; my temple is the gym, and my prayers take place everyday on the stair-master, or in the swimming pool, as I pray that I work off that annoying flab on my outer thighs. There will still be that constant reminder of what I once was. That outrageous standard that’s constantly thrown in my face every time I try on trendy clothing.Still, my only consolation is that someday these girls will grow up and their metabolism will take a nosedive. They’ll eat the same food the same way, and suddenly, it will make a difference. The rest of their bodies will catch up with them. Their perfectly flat stomachs will develop that small pooch. And, their sense of self-esteem will be shot. Then they’ll realize what every other woman goes through. Then they’ll have to watch and envy the next set of teen-agers with the perfect body. But, maybe by then they’ll be lucky. Maybe then the standards will have changed. I hope so.

Reflections on Bond, James Bond, by Paul Sparrow-Clarke

Oh, to have a time machine, and travel back to 1962 to see the premiere of the first Bond film, Dr. No, starring a relatively unknown Scottish ex-truck driver, Sean Connery. I’ve seen Dr. No on the big screen, about 10 years ago at a repertory theatre, but I doubt that it captured the magic. But there again, with my jaded 90s filmgoer eyes, it would be impossible to know the excitement of audiences as they realized they were seeing a new type of hero in a new type of screen adventure.

Bond has now been on the screen for 37 years, the character has become a cultural icon, and the films have long become formula.But what a glorious formula it is, and what incarnations the character has gone through (and survived) a rogue, clown, killer, superman (not to mention Scottish, Australian, English, Welsh, and Irish).I’m a Bond fan. I’ve seen every movie at least 3 times, and read all the books. My first movie theatre experience with a Bond film was unfortunate, 1979’s Roger Moore opus Moonraker, surely the worst of the series. But I survived that, and went on to look forward to the release of each new Bond picture. With the release of The World is Not Enough, which looks to be the best Bond film in a long time, I want to share my reflections, thoughts, and opinions on the Bond film series.Fleming: Father of BondBefore I begin writing about the movies, I want to pay my respects to Ian Fleming, the English writer who created agent 007, and wrote 14 books based on the character, starting in 1953. The first Bond novel was Casino Royale, which Fleming wrote on the eve of his marriage at age 42. The Bond novels are characterized by Fleming’s attention to detail and ingenuity with plot and character. Bond himself, while not exactly a great literary character, is nevertheless fleshed-out, human, and a far cry from most of the later film portrayals. The Bond novels remain great reads to this day. The best of the Bond films are those that closely follow at least the spirit of the books.Fleming always thought that his Bond novels would make good films, and this was proved when producers Harry Salzman and Albert “”Cubby”” Broccoli teamed up to film the first Bond big screen adventure, Dr. No. The casting of Bond was a difficult one. At one time or another, Carey Grant and James Mason were considered for the part. Fleming himself thought David Niven would be right for Bond. (I’m glad Fleming wasn’t the casting director.) Instead, they chose a little-known actor, Sean Connery, who ended up delivering the definitive screen 007.Connery’s the ManNo doubt about it. No matter how good they are, any subsequent Bond actor falls in the shadow of Sean Connery. He defined the screen character, and played him perfectly. He had the looks, the style, the moves, and the voice. And though not letter-perfect to the character from the novels, Ian Fleming liked him in the part. So much in fact, that Fleming even gave the literary Bond a Scottish background. The best Bond films are the first three – Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger. All of these films feature a greater emphasis on plot and character, too often lost in later movies. My favourite moment from these three is the fight scene in From Russia With Love. If you’re familiar with this film, you know the scene I’m talking about.The setting is the Orient Express. The villain, Red Grant (superbly played with convincing menace by Robert Shaw) has got the drop on Bond. 007 is on his knees in front of Grant, who is holding a gun on him. Through ingenious means that I won’t reveal here for those who haven’t seen the picture, Bond gets the upper hand, and a fight ensues. Though the fight takes place in a small compartment, with very little room to maneuver, the choreography is so well done that the scene is riveting. It still remains one of the best fight scenes ever filmed. In a much later Bond film, Goldeneye, director Martin Campbell intentionally pays homage to this scene with a close-quarters fight between Bond (Pierce Brosnan) and Alec Trevalyan (Sean Bean). But the original is best. The scene encapsulates everything that made the first Bond films work so well. Memorably-played characters, plot ingenuity, well-filmed and exciting violence, convincing danger, and a glib remark to provide some release from the suspense. Screenwriter Richard Maibaum and directors Terence Young and Guy Hamilton deserve much of the credit for the early Bond style. (Though Hamilton deserves a raspberry for his later Bond films, some of the weakest ever.)By the third film, Goldfinger, the Bond Formula became well-established. It includes the following: pre-credits scene that is a mini-movie in itself, visit to M that sets up the mission, visit to Q branch where Bond receives his latest equipment, beautiful woman that has to be wooed, big villain surrounded by “”little villains”” or henchmen, Bond ally who is murdered by a henchman (or woman), Big Villainous Plot that Bond uncovers, and climactic battle where the villain is defeated (after the body count racks up significantly). Other elements include the one-liners that Bond delivers (usually after or during action scenes), and of course the gadgets themselves that Q (Desmond Llewellyn) provides.When the fourth Bond film, Thunderball, was released, Bond mania was at its height. With that film, the series began to rely on its sets and gadgets more than its characters and plot. You Only Live Twice was even more gadget-laden, and completely ditched the Fleming novel for the first (but sadly not the last) time. Connery quit the part after this film, and the producers desperately hunted for someone to assume the Bond mantle and continue on with the series. They chose an Australian model, and thankfully went back to Ian Fleming for inspiration.Lazenby: Honestly, Mr. BondPity George Lazenby: chosen to follow the most-loved actor of his time in the most successful film series ever. And he had no acting experience, beyond television commercials. Though relatively unsuccessful at the time, Lazenby’s only appearance as 007, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, is now considered by many Bond fans to be one of the best in the series. And it’s a terrific film, with a convincing and involving plot, refreshing lack of gadgets, and spectacular action. It’s ski chase sequence is still one of the best ever filmed. The big twist in the plot is, of course, that Bond falls in love and gets married. Diana Rigg plays his bride, Tracy. She is excellent in the role, playing a Bond woman who is tough and independent.Lazenby is quite good as Bond, though his inexperience shows. He lacks the self-assured presence of Connery. In a way, though, this fits the film perfectly, and allows a more honest, human Bond that jives better with the story. Though initially derided by critics, Lazenby’s only Bond film stands as one of the most memorable and powerful of the whole series.OHMSS did not, however, fare as well at the box-office. So the producers lured Connery back for one more turn as 007 in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. This film, while entertaining and well-acted by Connery, marks the beginning of a sad emphasis on comedy and outlandish plots. It also began a downward slide in quality, that continued in earnest with the casting of Roger Moore as Bond.Moore: The Comedy YearsEven in Moore’s first Bond film, Live and Let Die, the problems are obvious. The filmmakers continue the lighthearted comedic style they began in Diamonds Are Forever, and this time they have an actor more than willing to take that style and run with it. The result is what is widely known amongst Bond fans as the James Bond Comedies. They are characterized by outlandish plots, silly villains, cardboard characters, ridiculous slapstick humour, unbelievable gadgets that 007 relies upon to get out of sticky situations, and a Bond that is more concerned with spouting bad puns and not wrinkling his suit than dispatching villains.The ultimate bad Bond movie is Moonraker. To sum up how bad this film is, one need go no further than considering the chase scene in Venice. Bond is in a gondola, pursued by evil villains, and calmly opens a panel to reveal electronic controls that turn the gondola first into a speedboat, and then into a hovercraft. We are then “”treated”” to a scene where Bond drives the gondola/hovercraft through a crowded square, and shots of pigeons doing double-takes and drunks staring at their liquor bottles and throwing them away. Funny, I was 13 when I saw Moonraker, and couldn’t believe how juvenile the film was. Gone is the interesting Bond character created by Ian Fleming. Instead we have a cardboard superman, invulnerable in any situation, tossing off bad jokes and raising his eyebrows. Sigh. But perhaps I’m a bit too hard on the Roger Moore era. Sure, it produced the worst films of the series, but Moore did have some effective moments. The Spy Who Loved Me was very good, with effective set pieces, a memorable villain (“”Jaws,”” the steel-toothed giant), and some sporadic good acting from Moore. For Your Eyes Only was a return to the Fleming style, and features Moore’s most effective performance as Bond. When he coolly dispatches a villain by kicking his car, precariously perched on the edge of a cliff, onto jagged rocks below, you actually sense his anger and desire for revenge. Great stuff, and true to the Fleming character.The last two films of the Moore era, Octopussy and A View to a Kill, were passable. There were scattered good moments vying for attention with scenes like Bond swinging on vines through a jungle, a Tarzan yell on the soundtrack. All in all, though, I was glad to see the end of the comedy years. And for a fan of the books, longing for a return to the true spirit of 007, the next Bond incarnation was a dream come true.Dalton: Back to BasicsInitially, Pierce Brosnan was the actor chosen to next portray James Bond. At the last minute, however, his contract to the tv series Remington Steele prevented him from playing 007. So the producers of the Bond films decided to go with Welsh actor Timothy Dalton, who was one of the actors originally considered when Connery first left the role. Dalton made a great 007. He brought the character back to earth, paved the way for the incredibly successful Brosnan films, and made an acting contribution to the Bond films surpassed only by Sean Connery. It’s odd that most people don’t seem to like him as Bond. I think that you have to have read the Fleming books to really appreciate Dalton’s performance. Back in 1987, with the release of the first Dalton Bond The Living Daylights, I breathed a sigh of relief that the years of the James Bond Comedies were over. Here was an all-too-human James Bond, who was also a ruthless killer when required. Bond was back with a vengeance.There’s one scene in The Living Daylights that comes close to summing up all of Dalton’s strengths as Bond. It’s set in a fairground in Vienna. Bond has met one of his allies, Saunders, in a café that features an electronic sliding door at the entrance. Saunders gives Bond some valuable information, and Bond thanks him, clearly showing his respect. As Saunders walks out of the café, one of the villains activates an electronic device that slams the sliding door into Saunders, killing him. Bond runs over, kneels in front of Saunders’ body, and spots a balloon with the words “”Smiert Spionon”” (“”death to spies””) written on it, indicating that the death was not an accident. The look on Dalton’s face as he realizes this is pricelessâ€

Bea Arthur’s One Woman Show

After spending years starring in such hit television shows as “”The Golden Girls””, “”Maude””, “”Columbo”” and more, in a career that spans more than four decades across television and movies. Veteran television star Bea Arthur returns to the medium that she loves the most – Broadway. In the National touring production of her one-woman show, there’s no pyrotechnics, costume changes, or elaborate sets. It’s just Bea, her longtime collaborator Billy Goldenberg, and us, her appreciative audience.

Anyone that can hold an audience in the palm of their hands by simply telling a hysterically funny story about Lamb Chops deserves her own show.Bea Arthur started her career in the heart of New York

Just Bring It – Saturday Night Live

Welcome to the first installment of my daily rants, raves, and darts. There are lots of things in this world that really piss off your fearless leader and instead of keeping them bottled up. I’m just going to spew them here in this regular column. It’ll mostly be showbusiness related, but occassionally I will vent my spleen about the cable company, phone company, satellite television companies, and just crappy big business in general. But the first target of my hit parade is Saturday’s “”Saturday Night Live””.Feel free to comment on anything in this column, although I speak universal truths, it’s hard to imagine anyone disagreeing with my all knowing comments.

Did anyone catch this past Saturday’s SNL with Drew Barrymore and Macy Gray? My god that was a horrible show. It was the first time I watched SNL in over a decade and now I remember why. What happened to the days when “”SNL”” had a “”small”” but extremely talented cast that we can all “”relate”” to? Or at the very least remember their names. I watched the opening credits and there must be what 10 or 15 cast members and contributors now, none of whom I could have picked out of a line-up. The only name I recognized was Chris Kattan, and the only reason I even remotely knew who he was, was because we promoted his film “”Who Is Corky Romano””. Who the hell where all those no-talented people?Drew Barrymore’s opening monologue was mercifully short, but totally self indulgent and pitiful. “”I was scared to fly, but Rudy said be brave and come to New York. So listening to Rudy, I wanted to be brave so I came. Then when I got here, theydiscovered Anthrax in the building and I was going to go home, but then I remembered Rudy saying, be Brave, so I stayed. And you are brave to for being here. Even my husband, Tom Green, made the trip with me.”” Of course they show Tom Green with his gas mask on. Oh my god, that was sooooooooo funny, I was rolling on the floor laughing. God, can I puke now?And please, do we need to see Tom Green, everywhere Drew Barrymore goes? Yes, you two are in love and are married. So what? Who cares? Stop rubbing our noses in your “”happiness””.The only semi amusing segment in the entire program was the “”Weekend Update””, the rest of the sketches seemed to be totally self-involved “”in jokes””, like that annoying hot tub bit where they were so amused with themselves without letting the rest of the audience in on the joke. Or another totally self-involved bit about a mock television station called WUUB. I guess it was supposed to be a spoof of the WB and local UHF programming, but it was wretched and lasted way to long.And Macy Gray’s performance was HORRIBLE. It looked like she was high, and what happened to her voice? She was off key, and you could barely hear her. Being a huge fan of Drew Barrymore’s and Macy Gray, I thought this “”SNL”” couldn’t go wrong, but it did, and in every conceivable way. Huge disappointment.Awful. Wretched. Complete shit.Just Bring Itby Michelle Alexandria

Sean’s Best & Worst of ’01

In order of importance….

BESTMementoAmelieIn The BedroomMoulin RougeHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneSpy KidsA Beautiful MindAliShrekThe ScoreWORSTKeep in mind, I managed to avoid TOMCATS, DRIVEN, GLITTER and SAY IT ISN’T SO, but here it goes…John Carpenter’s Ghosts of MarsFreddy Got FingeredHead Over HeelsSweet NovemberScary Movie 2Hardball3,000 Miles To GracelandJoe DirtSugar & SpiceDr. Doolittle 2

Michelle’s Top 10 Final List

Ok, folks in the entire history of running EM, I think this is the very first time that yours truly has put together a best/worst film list of 2001. I’ll go on record as saying I probably only saw 50 – 80 films this year of those 80 films, I barely remember 15 of them, that alone 10 films, I would consider gems. So for those that care about these sorts of lists Here it is.

1) Not Another Teen Movie A laugh out loud funny movie, that has stayed with me longer than any film this year. Can’t be defended on it’s artistic merrits, but it’s a comedy, therefore really doesn’t have to be. A comedy only needs to make you laugh to succeed and Not Another Teen Movie does that, I still laugh everytime I think about it.2) Moulin Rouge The first 45 – 50 minutes of this film is an bold, audacious mess. But the last hour is brilliant. As they said in Spinal Tap – “”There’s a fine line between brilliance and stupidity””.3) Shrek Hey who didn’t laugh at The Gingerbread man being tortured or the 7 dwalves being lead out in chains?4) Jay and Silent Bob An hysterical comedy while you watch it, but instantly forgettable. 5) A Knight’s Tale Paul Bettany’s boffo performance as Chauncer is what elevates “”A Knight’s Tale”” from being a perfectly mediocre film into being a memorable filmgoing experience.6) Final Fantasy (I’m the only person on the planet who dug this film) Many people did not get this film and the complex story. But I did, I loved it’s stunning visuals and the story’s mix of eastern religions with it’s own unique take and traditional manga pathos about the end of the world. The two things I really didn’t like was the use of recognizable stars for the voiceover work (it takes you out of the film) and the formless bad guys.7) Harry PotterA fun Hollywood popcorn film8) Brotherhood of The Wolf A weird film to categorize, it’s a 17th Century French period piece complete with horror elements, a mystery, Kung Fu action and supernatural thriller all rolled into one. And did I mention it has subtitles? Yet this mess of an idea works and sucks you in. The wheels fall of during the last 1/2 hour but it’s a fun ride while it lasts.9) Series 7 What can I say? If you ever wondered what would happen if someone created a reality television show where the whole premise is you need to kill the other contestants or be killed then this wickedly funny satire is for you.10) Exit Wounds Oh my god! Steven Segal in a film that doesn’t Suck!Worst 1) A.I. – I walked out 40 minutes into it. Pompous, borring, pretentious and preachy. Steven Spielberg has forgotten how to make a fun, watchable movie. Saving Private Ryan was only good for the first 1/2 hr, the rest of it was dribble.2) In The Bedroom Great acting, horrible movie. The film basically ends an hr into it and then the remaining 1 1/2 you are watching a lifeless corpse. Oh, how I wanted to walk out of this. Marissa Tormei deserves an Oscar nod for her incredible performance. 3) MementoThis is an example of a film that had no reason for existing, a boring, cliche, filled plot and only succeeded with the critics because it had a “”hook””. You take away the film’s gimmick and you have a 1/2 hour ho-hum, run of the mill movie. I watched this on DVD and could barely sit through it was so awful.4) O Brother Where Art Thou – Barely watchable Other than that song, what was this film about? Was there any point in it being made?5) HannibalI hated Silence of The Lambs, and I tried to read the book to Hannibal and couldn’t finish it, so what made me think the movie Hannibal would be any better? Lame, lame, lame movie. 5) SnatchInteresting ideas, horrible execution. 6) The Gift Another overrated snooze fest of a film. Why is Cate Blanchett even in movies?7) The One Jet Li what happened to you? You were so good in your Hong Kong films, then you go Hollywood and you can’t make a good film to save your life. Although I do get a certain amount of perverse pleasure in watching Romeo Must Die over and over again.8) The ScoreAnother borring film, with big name stars in the standard heist plot. Next year can we please not have 5 films in a three week span that deal with the Old ex con who gets sucked into doing “”one last big score””? God I’m sick of this film plot/cliche, etc. Everyone in this troding film looked like they were sleepwalking. I want to be like Elvis and shoot the screen the next time a lead character says the line, “”I’m out. I’m finished. I’m done. I’m not going to do another score.””9) The Wedding PlannerI don’t get the J’lo craze. I’m sorry, I just don’t. 10) America’s Sweethearts/Lord of The Rings Couldn’t decide which film I was more disappointed with America’s Sweethearts or LOTR so I just put them both at number 10 for essentially the same reason – wasted potential. I would be tempted to move LOTR up higher on my list, just on general principal, because of the combination of it’s hype and mediocrity, instead judging the film apart from the hype and on it’s own merrits it has to tie at number 10. I managed to avoid Rat Race, Tomcats, Puttie Tang, Glitter and Freddy Got Fingered, the trailers for the first two and my strong dislike of Tom Green was enough to stop me from going to see these films. And I have Rat Race and Freddy Got Fingered both on DVD and VHS and still haven’t bothered to watch it. Maybe one day I’ll be bored enough to do it.And for my best list I didn’t see Ghost World, or Amelie yet.