Quantum of Solace

DVD review from The Bleacher Bum

Quantum of Solace

Like most guys, it doesn’t take much for me to enjoy a James Bond movie. A cool car, some alluring ladies, a few explosions, a brutal fight, an exciting chase sequence and dame Judi Dench are about all I need. If the movie has a good plot and some witty dialogue, then it instantly becomes a James Bond classic. Quantum of Solace has all the aforementioned ingredients. James Bond (Daniel Craig) uncovers a global conspiracy by a well-funded organization named Quantum. Quantum is trying to control the majority of Earth’s most treasured resource . . . water, not oil. Quantum also frequently converts CIA and MI-6 operatives into traitorous murderers.

As in Casino Royale, Craig is really good as Bond. He is very skilled and athletic at the physical stunts while being deft and cunning at Bond’s mental side. Bond also has a personal vendetta that he is trying to fulfill while saving the world. The movie traverses the globe, showcases lovely ladies and keeps the action movie at a breakneck pace. Quantum of Solace exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed the ride on land, in the air, on the sea and in the bedroom.

Bleacher Bum Movie Scale: homerun, triple, double, single, strikeout

Quantum of Solace: Stand-up Double without a throw

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Martian Time-Slip (book review)

Book review from the desk of The Movie Snob

Martian Time-Slip, by Philip K. Dick. This is just the first of five novels included in the new collection of Dick’s work by the Library of America, entitled Five Novels of the 1960s & 70s (2008). As with the previous volume, I’ll review each novel as I finish it, or else I’ll forget the first ones before I finish the volume. Martian Time-Slip (1964) is a good and, by Dick’s standards, fairly straightforward yarn. It is the near future, and Earth has gotten hugely overcrowded. Nervous breakdowns from the stress of life are commonplace. Some colonies have been established on Mars (where all the action takes place), and one of the main characters is a gifted mechanic/electrician who emigrated after suffering a breakdown on Earth. He is drawn into the orbit of the leader of the powerful Martian trade unions, who is de facto one of the most powerful men on the planet. Somehow (I forget how, exactly), the union guy comes to believe that a particular autistic child has psychic powers akin to time-travel, and he persuades the electrician to help him try to communicate with the boy (for purely venal motives, of course). Things unfold unexpectedly and satisfactorily. A good story, and not as suffocatingly paranoid as many of Dick’s stories.

Heroes (book review)

Book review by The Movie Snob

Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and de Gaulle, by Paul Johnson (Harper 2007). I picked this book up from Half-Price Books for $8, figuring correctly that it would be a pleasant and breezy read. Paul Johnson is a British journalist-turned-historian who has written some really long books on historical subjects. His Modern Times, which is a world history of the 20th century, is a really enjoyable book. But this is one of his shorter works (280 pages), and it is just a series of vignettes about people that he (and, in most cases, many others as well) regard as heroes. Many are military figures and rulers, as the subtitle suggests, but a few of the people he includes are odd choices (Emily Dickinson?) and a couple were people I had never heard of. But his writing is always engaging, and it’s nice to hear a Brit wax on about the heroic stature of George Washington.

21 Up

DVD review from The Movie Snob

21 Up (B+). I’ve blogged before about this series of documentaries about a group of British kids — well, they were 7-year-old kids in 1963, when they were first interviewed on film. Then the filmmakers went back and re-interviewed them every seven years after that, so this third installment was made or released in 1977. The two previous entries were like 45 minutes each, but this one is a full-length feature. It is very interesting to see these 21-year-old kids, some in college, some married and working, and at least one or two struggling to find a place in the world. I liked a couple of the kids better in this installments than previously. Especially the little boy who thought at age seven that he would go off to Africa and be a missionary. He seemed kind of weird in the first two installments, but now as a math major in college he seems much more grounded and sensible. The rich girl who came off rather badly in 7+7 struck me as a little more sympathetic this time around. It’s remarkable how many of the kids had divorced parents by this time. I do have one complaint, that the combination of bad acoustics and thick accents made some parts totally unintelligible to me. Still, I’m really looking forward to the next installment, especially to see how the three boys from the bottom of the class structure fared under Thatcherism.

The International

Movie review from The Movie Snob

The International (B-). I had kinda sorta wanted to see this movie just because it starred current cool dude Clive Owen (Children of Men) and cute little buck-toothed Naomi Watts (The Painted Veil). Well, it’s really Clive’s movie; Naomi is barely in it, and she has virtually nothing to do. But Clive does a good job as an Interpol agent who’s trying to bust a shady Luxembourg bank that’s dealing high-tech weapon systems to Third World countries. This is the kind of bank that has an assassin on permanent retainer, so you definitely don’t want to incur a lot of overdraft fees with them. The movie’s message is clear–giant international banks control everything, and they keep assassins on retainer, so don’t mess. Kind of a downer, don’t you think? Still, Clive is a pro, and there’s a massive shootout in the Guggenheim Museum that’s kind of fun to watch.

As I Lay Dying (book review)

From The Movie Snob

As I Lay Dying, by Richard John Neuhaus (2002). Not to get all morbid on you, but dying has been on my mind some of late. There are probably several reasons for that fact. I’m 41, so I’m getting pretty close to middle age. Three of my grandparents died when I was just a child, but my maternal grandmother just passed away a couple of years ago. And then some people I really admire have died even more recently, like William F. Buckley, Jr., and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus himself. Fr. Neuhaus was a Lutheran minister turned Catholic priest, and he edited a wonderful magazine that I have taken for years called First Things. He himself contributed lots of articles to the magazine, plus a mnothly column called “The Public Square,” and he always impressed me with both his erudition and his common sense.

Fr. Neuhaus barely survived a large tumor in his colon in the early 1990s, and he alluded to his brush with death in some of his articles. The cancer was discovered to have returned, I believe in late 2008, and he died in early 2009. But several years ago he wrote this little book, which is about half devoted to meditations on death in general and half devoted to Fr. Neuhaus’s own near-death experience. It is a thoughtful and interesting book, to be sure, but I suppose I was hoping for some sort of revelation about death and dying that really isn’t possible on this side of the grave. I think it was well worth reading.

MST3K: Volume XIV

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Mystery Science Theater: Volume XIV

This installment is definitely a mixed bag…

Mad Monster, plus short Commander Cody and the Radar Men from the Moon (D).  I think this must be been from very early in the show’s run.  They had a different guy supplying the voice of robot Tom Servo, and he just wasn’t funny.  Of course the movie is awful, an old black-and-white movie about a mad scientist who creates a serum that turns his slow-witted and unsuspecting gardener into a wolfman.  But the heckling just isn’t all that funny in this episode.  Maybe they just hadn’t hit their stride yet.

Manhunt in Space, plus short General Hospital (B+).  Yes, the short is a clip from a very old episode of General Hospital.  And the “movie” is actually cobbled together from episodes of a short-lived 1950s TV show called Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.  This is a funny episode, with amusing commentary and an entertainingly bad “movie” to boot.  Rocky is a square-jawed all-American-type space ranger, and he has a dorky, scrawny sidekick named Winky.  A gal named Vena is apparently part of the crew too, but the guys boss her around like a waitress and she doesn’t bat an eye.  Very funny.

Soultaker (B-).  I had seen this one before, and I thought I remembered it being funnier than this.  From 1990, this movie was written by the female lead, who bears an unfortunate and oft-remarked resemblance to Tonya Harding.  Anyhow, four young people are in a bad car accident in which their souls are thrown clear out of their bodies.  A dark angel or grim reaper or something, played by Joe Estevez (younger brother of Martin Sheen), starts chasing them all over creation in order to slurp their souls into these palm-sized rings he carries around.  Not bad, but not one of the best.  I was surprised to find that the writer-star of Soultaker, Vivian Schilling, has a website and has apparently had a couple of novels published.  Good for her!  Special bonus interview with Joe Estevez himself, who proclaims that he doesn’t have a problem with MST3K making fun of him and the movie, while still insisting the movie is pretty good.

Final Justice (B).  The inimitable Joe Don Baker (Mud) stars as a Texas deputy sheriff named Thomas Jefferson Geronimo who catches a murderous Mafioso named Palermo who’s trying to make a run for the border.  For some inexplicable reason, the State Department gives Geronimo the job of escorting Palermo back to Sicily.  But the plane is unexpectedly grounded on the island of Malta , and the rest of the movie unspools there as Palermo escapes and Geronimo tries to catch him.  Pretty funny, although the hecklers rely a little too much on Baker’s rotundity for punch lines.  Special bonus interview with the director, Greydon Clark.  Why do these guys agree to these interviews?  They cannot help but try to defend their movies, despite the evidence before our own eyes.  Not surprisingly, he reveals that the government of Malta was trying to encourage filmmakers to shoot there, which is why a movie that’s all about a Sicilian mobster takes place entirely outside of Italy .