Bond is back in one of the best but not best-remembered Bond flicks. Here, he is the subject of a direct attempt to kill him by involving him in a trap that SPECTRE knows he’ll fall for precisely because he knows it’s a trap. The lovely but naive Tatiana Romanova is their patsy and Red Grant their oiled-up angel of death. Along the way, a Gypsy catfight goes on too long, Bond keeps forgetting why he’s in Istanbul and why he stole the Lector device. Tatiana redeems herself in the third ending, and I wonder how Bond is going to explain her to his girlfriend. I don’t have the book to do extensive comparisons, but I do identify most of the cars, not that Bond drives them; he only drives a Chevy pickup.
Start the film with the roaring lion at the same time you start the commentary. (54 MB)
The James Bond series leaps into action with guns blazing as Sean Connery spends several hours talking to British colonial officials and wandering around Jamaica looking for a clue. Then he turns up the heat and starts blasting by sneaking around an island for a while, hoping not to get captured, before getting captured. Okay, it’s a little slow for what we’ve come to expect, but in 1962, this rocked. And even today, Miss Taro and Honey Ryder can still make your palms sweat. I compare the film to the book thruout and look for motifs, iconic elements, and firsts. I compare it to the Flint and Austin Powers movies that it inspired and to other Bond flicks. Note: Some comments are shaken while others are stirred. Somehow I make the bizarre mistake of saying that Sean Connery appeared in Zulu Dawn.
Start the film at the same time you start the commentary. (52 MB)
An imperfect commentary for a nearly perfect film. Bill Murray is chief idiot to Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis in a modern Marx Brothers-style epic comedy thriller. Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson support, not to mention Rick Moranis, William Atherton, and Yugoslavian supermodel Slavitza. Director Ivan Reitman delivers the goods in thrills and chills while the top-talent cast supplies the laughs. I describe the statue-spirit motif, the dual-story structure of the plot, the cartoonish nature of the Ghostbusters which makes them inherently merchandisable, and the evils of synthesizer music. I mistakenly say that Gozer has a “Grace Slick haircut” when I mean a “Grace Jones haircut.”
UPDATE: I’ve filled in most of the long quiet stretches with more piercing and insightful observations like “Sigourney Weaver is a year older than Bill Murray.”
Start the film at the same time you start the commentary. (48 MB)
Third in my White-House-related commentaries, overly-dramatic lighting, multiple freak rainstorms, and a complete failure to get Diane Lane’s shirt soaking wet detract from a fairly taut, multi-layered thriller. Wesley Snipes is a swaggering DC homicide cop who somehow beats the snot out of several highly-trained Secret Service agents and government assassins. Diane Lane kicks him as his sidekick until she get a chance to save his ass. Alan Alda and that creepy guy from The Agency play “good cop, creepy cop.” Dennis Miller miraculously avoids smirking too much. I say “that doesn’t make sense” too much and explain a lot about the White House.
I explore the logic of assigning an ordinary DC detective to a White House murder case when they already have their own police force. I ponder the idea that the president might be sneaked into the White House by someone other than the Secret Service agent assigned to guard his bedroom. And I consider the plausibility that there might be hidden tunnels underneath the White House (there are!) that Wesley Snipes could sneak into (no way!).
A romantic comedy (at least I think it’s a comedy) set in the White House, with Michael Douglas as a widowed president and Annette Bening as a flustered and flattered—yet somehow hard-as-nails—lobbyist trying to conduct a romance while politics intervenes. I consider the public’s negative response to the romance to be a little silly. I ponder how the staff’s panic is a little overdone. But I praise the dialog as sharp and the direction as tight, which helps the film over its bumps, which makes sense because this was basically the prototype for the TV show The West Wing.
The White House art direction looks beautiful, which I explain at great length, as I did for The Sentinel. However, I misstate the case about the state dinner depicted; it was based on the Yeltsin dinner during the Clinton administration.
Little Judy Garland wins friends and kills witches dead in her vain attempts to just find a way back to Kansas. I compare the movie extensively to the original novel. I explain the concept of a frame story and the minor inconsistencies in the plot, like the troublesome character of Professor Marvel. I use the word brilliant too much. I ponder the possibility that the Wicked Witch is ethnically a Winkie and wonder why the Good Witch isn’t ethnically a Munchkin.
I bust a few myths, like the one about the hanged stage hand and the one about the “Oh-ee-oh” song. I suggest that Playboy, if it had been around in 1939, might have done a pictorial of the “Girls of the Emerald City Wash & Brush Up Co.” I compare the Wicked Witch to Jaws. I suggest that the movie should have been remade in 1985 with Arnold Schwarzenegger. And I beg children not the follow the film’s advice of not looking for a better life beyond your own back yard.
Secret Service agent Michael Douglas squares off against Kiefer Sutherland while Eva Longoria looks on. I compare the film to In the Line of Fire, the main point being that, here, the hero is “secretly serving” the first lady and not his partner. I explain my Kiefer Sutherland Rule of Cinema. I wonder how a guy like Walter Xavier even keeps up on the sports scores, let alone gets information about an assassination plot.
I also explain every detail of the White House interiors, given my intimate familiarity, including where the director and producer are wrong in their commentary and how the Secret Service offices seem to be as big as the entire rest of the West Wing. I offer choice tidbits of presidential history and the origin of Camp David. And I contemplate the possibility that the Canadian mounties fingerprinted Paul Bunyan in 1875.
Bonus: We built an entire Web site to explain the location of this movie: White House Museum. That’s service, my friends, and it’s no secret.
Start the commentary at the same time you start the movie. (48 MB)
It’s Arnold and Arnold in an action adventure that probes the delicate social issues of the day and shoots them with lasers! I compare the film to Total Recall, Minority Report, James Bond, Frankenstein, and others. I mix up my Michaels. I get totally creeped out by the Simpal Cindy doll. I point out how Schwarzenegger’s character is simultaneously a technophobe and a technophile, depending on which tech you present him with. I ponder the fever for the flavor of a nacho banana. I raise the delicate question of why Judi Dench is never cast in this kind of film. I point out plot holes such as “why does any of this happen?”
I boldly postulate that the bad guys are not nearly as bad as some of the good guys. I also boldly postulate that Michael Rappaport is not a cat person, but I may still have him mixed up with Michael Rooker or possibly Michael Ironside. I make the mistake of saying that Adam 1 got a RePet instead of a Simpal Cindy, when both Adam 1 and Adam 2 got Simpals. Plus: free advice to young filmmakers and mad industrialists!
Start the commentary file as soon as you start the movie. (55 MB)
Join me for what is not my favorite movie but nevertheless a classic part of the Schwarzenegger oeuvre. I compare it to The 6th Day and other films and explain where it goes off the rails regardless of which story you believe: the dream story, the reality story, or the alternate reality story, or even the alternate-alternate reality story.
I pity the poor rats. I try to find the point the movie may stray from reality. I say “If this is reality…” too many times and get distracted by Sharon Stone. And I get carried away with saying that Paul Verhoeven got carried away with the head games. I don’t bother much with the “science”, but I do make fun of Cohaagen’s henchmen being the worst secret agents ever. And, at some point, I believe I may have suffered a schizoid embolism.
Start the commentary file as soon as you see the DVD player register 0h 0m 1s. (52 MB)
Join me for a great romantic comedy/thriller from 1978 starring Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase. Hawn fends off the world with a yellow umbrella. Chase embraces the world clumsily. Dudley Moore tries to screw the world unsuccessfully. The pope thinks The Mikado is supposed to end with dead guys hanging from the mast of a ship from another production. Maybe he just thinks it’s “far out.” I compare the film to other romantic comedies and other thrillers as well as to Far Out Space Nuts.
I don’t talk quite as much in this one, but I think the observations are a little richer insights into theme, character, and plotting, and not narrating the scenes so much. I forget to mention that the title is a play on words, since the assassination attempt occurs during a stage performance—a comic opera, actually, but Foul Opera would sound silly. I did slip in a mention in editing that the setup is borrowed from The Man Who Knew Too Much.