29 April 2009

A View To A Kill

A View to A Kill Still A Guilty Pleasure
By Kristin Battestella

Despite my better judgment, I like the 1983 swansong of Roger Moore as British uber spy James Bond in A View To A Kill. Taking nothing but the contrived title from an Ian Fleming short story, A View To A Kill boasts very dated computers, Duran Duran music, a freaky Grace Jones as May Day, and a senior citizen Moore. Oft considered one of the worst Bond outings, for me A View To A Kill is so bad, it’s good.

007 (Moore) tracks computer microchips to Zorin Industries and uses Zorin’s (Christopher Walken) interest in horses to infiltrate the ex KGB agent’s annual horse sale as James St. John Smythe. Bond-now as Stock, James Stock- and oil heiress Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) trail Zorin to San Francisco and uncover his ‘Main Strike’ plan to blow the San Andreas Fault and destroy Silicon Valley. Along the way, Bond wrestles with henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones) and attempts to turn her sway from Zorin.

A View to a KillWell, let’s get the biggest hang up about A View to A Kill out of the way first. By golly, Roger Moore looks old. Old and what we would today call Botoxed. Perhaps in knock down drag outs with the boys, Moore’s elderly Bond might stand a chance. Unfortunately, against the strong and hard-core May Day and the soft and svelte Stacey Sutton, Moore looks too out of touch. When people claim that Moore is ‘sleepwalking’ through his tenure as Bond, this is the film they mean. Bond is almost a non-factor here. Being out witted by a juiced horse and a trick race track-in some ways I feel bad for Moore. Again his villain upstages him.

Best Supporting Actor Winner Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter) steals A View To A Kill as megalomaniac Zorin. He plays the part to a T, and yet it so eighties clichéd and over the top. His platinum hair is still a delight a quarter of a century later. Zorin’s bizarre relationship with Grace Jones’ (Conan The Destroyer) strongwoman May Day adds to his creepiness, along with his unusual blend of insane genius and gentlemanly style. Unfortunately, Zorin’s use and abuse of May Day doesn’t leave room for the henchwoman to shine. Although her style was a little harsh then and still is now, Jones does make a few scenes play in her favor. Her penchant for death and strength is a little too frightening to be sexy, but it’s certainly memorable.

You can tell I’m an eighties baby since I think Tanya Roberts (The Beastmaster, That 70s Show) is a cool chica. Another Bond girl who doesn’t have much to do and actually doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time, but Roberts’ oil heiress turned geologist Stacey Sutton is one of the few pretty things in A View To A Kill. Her voice is a bit too husky marshmallow to be sprouting tech babble geological talk. But come on, by time we get to Sutton’s analysis of the plight, are you really paying attention to the plot?

Though the snowboarding styled opening sequence is still cool, A View To A Kill is in may ways, not just the end of the Moore era, but the changing of the Bond guard. Lois Maxwell shows her age and retires her role as Miss Moneypenny here. The neon opening credits mixed with the very popular at the time Duran Duran are trying too hard to be hip, and A View To A Kill’s closing tags do not mention which film is coming next. It’s as if veteran director John Glen and screenwriter Richard Mailbaum (late penner of 13 Bond pictures) peaked with a very old and proper Bond in his English riding boots and teeny saddle and little riding hat and didn’t know what to do next.  

Even though the dates of the films rollover, Connery was very much the Sixties ideal, Moore the seventies suave, and Dalton the eighties man in his brief appearances. Already Brosnan’s tenure is dated, and we’ve moved on to Daniel Craig-whose currently hot reboot will fall along the wayside in about fifteen years, too. In 1983, A View To A Kill was quite a violent picture, but the franchise has definitely gotten darker and more brutal since.

Yes it’s a little hokey, dated, and silly, and nearer the bottom of the Bond barrel, but A View To A Kill also exemplifies this long standing franchise. With all its faults, there is something about the innuendo, memorable scenes, and catch phrases that bring viewers back. Knowing how weak this outing is, I can still tune in to A View To A Kill, leave it play in the background, and take pause at the better scenes. Through all its good and bad, changes, and redos, I do believe there is something Bond for everyone.

A View To A Kill looks tame today on the violence and sex front, but its not quite viewing for the entire family. Older action fans can appreciate the early computers and Silicon Valley premise, and no doubt Bond fans already have A View To A Kill in their collections. If you’re a closeted Bond fan, come out with this one for some late night viewing. No one will know, I promise. Look for the DVD or forthcoming bluray if you dare.

28 April 2009


Goldfinger One of the Best Bond Pictures
By Kristin Battestella
Pussy Galore. That naked dead chick painted gold. For casual viewers unfamiliar with the franchise, Goldfinger provides a healthy dose of such quintessential Bond iconography. This 1964 third entry in the James Bond series has babes, gadgets, proper villains, gold heists, and solid action.

As MI6 agent 007 James Bond (Sean Connery) wraps up his Miami vacation, CIA ally Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) brings word from MI6’s head M (Bernard Lee) that Bond is to trail Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), an international gold thief. In Switzerland, Bond joins with Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet) as she avenges her sister Jill’s (Shirley Eaton) death at the hands of Goldfinger and his Korean henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata). Bond infiltrates Goldfinger’s base and learns of Operation Grand Slam. Unfortunately, he is captured and flown to Kentucky by Goldfinger’s pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Can Bond sway Pussy’s allegiance and foil the plot to blow Fort Knox

The pre title sequence in Goldfinger sums up all we need to know about Bond’s world, and Sean Connery has at last settled into his role as 007. He acts like a secret agent, gets the babes, and has the best quips. The way Bond moves in on Goldfinger is completely confident. Connery has the right handle on the fine blend of sex, humor, action-and he fully mixes business with pleasure. Even Bond has to laugh at the over the top nature of his world. The screenplay from longtime Bond writer Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn (Murder on the Orient Express) gives Bond a level of complexity along with great one liners. We know his weakness for the ladies, and in Goldfinger, it costs him.

Connery’s banter with the always charming Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and Q looks so natural. Desmond Llewelyn looks to be having great fun with his decked out Aston Martin creation. Of course, some of the gadgets are highly improbable, but that’s okay. Unfortunately, I do wish we also had a regular Felix Leiter. His rotating actors and all American access is a little deux es machine, but you can’t worry about these things if you intend to enjoy Bond. 

We want Bond to axe the bad guys and bag babes, and one of my favorite things about these pictures is the naughty names for all the leading ladies. Honey Ryder, sure there’s some innuendo, but Pussy Galore? The only thing better then her name is Bond’s reaction: “I must be dreaming.” (I heard a rumor that he was to say ‘I know you are’ but that was too scandalous!) Honor Blackman (The Avengers) boasts all her sixties sex appeal and wit into the role of rough and tough pilot Pussy. Yes in the novel she is a lesbian (magically converted by Bond!), so you do get a sense of butch in her style and mano y mano chats with 007. Nevertheless, Blackman keeps Pussy Galore likeable, cheeky, and equal to Bond physically and sexually. I do wish she had better clothes, but that wouldn’t fit in with her kick ass judo skills. Pussy Galore’s female pilots in her Flying Circus are in the male pilot position just as she is, but they’re played up in sexy flight suits with pointed bosoms and matching blonde hairdos.
I imagine some women’s lib gals might really like Blackman’s banter with Bond or hate it. There is nothing wrong with having a strong action female in a solid action movie, but Goldfinger does fall back on the woman needing the man or switching sides in the end. And of course, we do have our share of kink from Ms. Galore and several other eye candy ladies. Overall, by presenting more than one type of woman beyond the bed for Bond, Goldfinger keeps its edge. It’s dated in its portrayals yes, but the multidimensional women here keep this installment memorable.
Naturally, that takes me to Jill Masterson and her unique death via the golden tan. Although Shirley Eaton (The Saint) doesn’t survive fifteen minutes in the film, the absurdity and the symbolism of death by gold is not lost on today’s audience. It’s sexy, dangerous, completely silly, and yet a frank statement from Ian Fleming about our monetary obsessions. I would have liked more of Tilly Masterson’s brief revenge, but she’s only there to make us hate Goldfinger more rather than fulfill her own vendetta. Thankfully, Goldfinger is such a wonderful villain. We don’t doubt his ruthlessness, but his easy dupes at cards and golf courtesy of Bond make him somewhat goofy. Most Bond villains have some silly hang up, and Goldfinger’s liking gold for its pretty color is no different. Veteran German actor Frobe (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), however, keeps it fun. He’s chubby and bad ass and an insane genius who’s thought of everything except Bond getting under his skin. Like Goldfinger, another classic character that has been oft parodied is his henchman Oddjob. Death by metal hat, people, be honest. Moreover, aren’t there any early Bond pictures without corrupt and stereotypical Asians? 
Goldfinger has a great instrumental soundtrack from John Barry, and the theme here works well with the traditional Bond tunes. It has its hip sixties brass vibes, but still sounds good today. The vocals by Shirley Bassey, are however, something I could live without. Some of Maurice Binder’s opening title sequences are also better than others, but the overlay here of Bond footage against a golden woman are sexy, classy, and making a statement artistically as well as socially. Well done.

Filmed mostly at Pinewood Studios in England, some of Goldfinger’s Miami facades are a bit hokey. My goodness, all the short shorts, terry cloth, and the bright blue like the ugly sheets on Dark Shadows are ridiculous! I’m also a little tired of all the dubbing done in these early films. Maybe it makes the voices clearer, but it’s amusing when the lips don’t match and all the chicks sound the same. Good thing the Swiss locations are green and lovely, and the car chases are still tight and entertaining. Goldfinger makes its mark with fun gadgets, cool cars, and that great family jewels threatening laser. The gold lame on the women and gold, gold everywhere is a bit overdone, but we’re keeping up with a theme remember. The big finale at Fort Knox has all the intricate, clock ticking action and suspense we need; and I don’t think its any spoiler to say Bond gets his Pussy.
In the twenty films that follow, Bond has certainly had his ups and downs. Goldfinger is the first picture, however, that gets everything right. There’s not a lot of visual naughtiness or gory violence compared to today’s pictures, but the innuendo of Pussy Galore might be too much for younger audiences: “You’re a woman of many parts, Pussy.” Fans of early Bond pictures can watch Goldfinger again and again; and viewers craving solid action and intelligence should give this one another viewing. Look for the affordable DVD or splurge on the bluray release.

26 April 2009


Hey Everyone!

There's a lot of fancy gadgets and treats out there for the thinking internet surfer, but I don't want to clog up the blog too much with all kinds of flash. So, here's one post of bling for all my fancy widgets.

If you know of a widget, quiz, website, or other fun stuff or if you want to exchange banners or links, feel free to leave a comment. I hope you enjoy some of the toys we offer in addition to some of our not so light reading!

25 April 2009

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

What The Heck is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?
By Kristin Battestella

In this crazy Bond adventure I’ve found myself on, I had to stop and think about On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I thought I had seen every Bond picture at least once, but honest to goodness I cannot recall ever having seen George Lazenby’s one off 1969 turn as James Bond before my recent viewing. That is not a good sign.

007 James Bond (Lazenby) mingles with crime lord Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti) and his complicated daughter Contessa Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) and attempts to find the whereabouts of SPECTRE mastermind Ernst Blofeld (Telly Savalas). When M (Bernard Lee) wants to take Bond off the Blofeld case, Bond turns in his resignation. M accepts, for unbeknownst to Bond, secretary Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) changed the request to two weeks leave. While romancing Tracy, Bond travels to Switzerland as Sir Hilary Bray and infiltrates Blofeld’s Piz Gloria clinic. Can Bond stop the Angels of Death being brainwashed by Blofeld, save the world, and marry the woman he loves?

Any fan or even layman to the series knows the circumstances around this black sheep of an outing. The once outlawed Never Say Never Again has become more socially accepted as a legitimate Bond picture than the EON sanctioned On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Right from the opening, Lazenby’s debut is too different from the first five Connery pictures. Here Bond doesn’t really do anything cool in the pre credits sequence; in fact, where most openers have Bond with a Babe, this one loses the girl! Maurice Binder’s title animation is also unique: highlights from the previous films scroll through a martini glass motif-and we have an instrumental theme, too. What gives? Would there have been such drastic differences in look and feel if Sean Connery had reprised his role as producers initially hoped? It’s as if everyone is trying too hard to make On Her Majesty’s Secret Service a Bond picture while at the same time trying to distance it all from Connery’s tenure. Yes, Connery is only one incarnation of Bond, but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service changes too much from what the introductory films have established. Bond leaving MI6, settling down to get married? Lazenby’s in a kilt and Scotsman Connery never was- and there’s no attempt at a Highland rasp, either. Do you need more proof that even the producers love this one less? Well, they went back to Conner for Diamonds Are Forever, didn’t they?

Make no mistake; I have no love lost over Sean Connery. Australian George Lazenby, however, is no Bond. He seems too dorky or not the right build to be a secret agent. No suavity and some very wooden delivery; Sometimes in his hat and glasses, I would forget that this guy was Bond, James Bond. Instead of being a new, younger, more serious character, Lazenby’s Bond looks as if he’s been transported from a 1945 black and white picture to 1969 color and he can’t keep up with it all. Allegedly, he’s dubbed in some scenes, and Lazenby didn’t even get along with director Peter R. Hunt or leading lady Diana Rigg. No wonder he hasn’t done much else before or since.

Thankfully, Diana Rigg (The Avengers) takes her role as Contessa Tracy di Vicenzo far better. She’s charming and cosmopolitan enough for 007, even if she’s a little too English to be an exotic Contessa. The serious romance with Bond is a bit much, but we like Tracy as a counterpart to Bond and feel for her tragic fate. Unfortunately, what is going on with Telly Savalas (Kojak) and his brainwashing Blofeld? ‘You love the chickens…’ what a stupid cover! By time we get to the meat of Rigg and Savalas’ parts, I really just don’t care. It’s also sad that the strides made by this Blofeld and Mrs. Bond are also wiped away for Connery’s return in Diamonds Are Forever. Fans of the franchise, however, can watch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as part two of the Blofeld show begun in You Only Live Twice. Again, when the villain trumps the Bond, generally, it’s not that good of a Bond picture.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service - 2-Disc Ultimate EditionAt two and a half hours, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is too long and seems much longer than it is. The action is weak, even compared to hokey sequences in the previous five films. Skiing away from the begoggled bald Blofeld! Bond staples M, Q, and Moneypenny also don’t have much to do, and surprisingly, there are very little gadgets here. One time director Peter R. Hunt attempts to make a relevant, serious picture for a dissident Vietnam era audience, but eh; On Her Majesty’s Secret Service misses the mark. 

Nevertheless, appreciators of Lazenby’s lone performance and Bond completists will eat up the forthcoming bluray set. Some aficionados swear by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and that’s fine-there’s a Bond for everyone I suppose. Collectors can certainly find the DVD individually or stuck in the middle of a set. It’s a little annoying to me that the sets don’t go in chronological order or aren’t just packaged per Bond. This forces fans to pay really ridiculous prices for films they aren’t interested in-and it looks like we’ll have to do it all over again with the bluray releases. Ergo, I wouldn’t pay extra for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service if I didn’t have to. Along with Moonraker, I’ve seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service one time too many.

21 April 2009

The Living Daylights

I Like The Living Daylights, So There!
By Kristin Battestella

The Living DaylightsI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Timothy Dalton is my favorite Bond; and it’s a dang pity that I’ve only got two performances of his to review.
MI6 agent 007 James Bond (Dalton) helps KGB General Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) defect after a thwarted shooting attempt by cellist Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo). When Koskov disappears again, Bond sneaks Kara out of Bratislava-only to find the shooting was faked. With Kara’s help, Bond tracks down new KGB General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) and American turncoat General Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker). Unfortunately, KGB double agents, crooked weapons dealers, and Arab drug lords make allies and enemies blur for Bond.

After a popular but relatively crappy final showing by Roger Moore in A View To A Kill, Timothy Dalton takes the reigns here as a darker, younger, much more energetic Bond. Unlike some of its predecessors, this film is decidedly Dalton’s. Little time is spent on the villains in comparison to Bond’s action. Sure, he doesn’t bag a dozen babes or even have his martinis as usual, but Dalton’s Bond is actually acting like a secret agent most of the time in The Living Daylights. Maybe some fans didn’t like this straightforward action against the tongue in cheek British style of the Connery and Moore eras; nevertheless, Dalton brings multidimensional depths and keeps Bond’s suave style. In previous productions, either the villain stole the show or there was never a doubt that Bond would win the day. In The Living Daylights, Bond’s KGB defections and switcheroos aren’t always so clear-cut. During Dalton’s tenure, there were times when I had to ask myself a Han Solo, ‘How is he going to get out of this one?’

I loved the late Desmond Llyewelyn’s Q, and I’m glad that he remained part of the franchise through nearly every Bond incarnation. His banter with Bond changes from time to time, but his love for his gadgets and his little old Englishman style is great fun. Don’t we all wish we had a Q? Unfortunately, I don’t like Caroline Bliss’ new young and Working Girl-esque Moneypenny. Joe Don Baker (later a CIA good guy Jack Wade in Goldeneye) has his moments in The Living Daylights as military aficionado Whitaker. His obsession with historical campaigns and dictators gives him a unique twist, but it isn’t explored to its full potential. Likewise, John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of The Rings, Indiana Jones) seems to have quite a small quotient of screen time in this two and a half hour yarn.

I like Marym d’Abo’s (Something Is Out There) unconventional Bond lady Kara Milovy. She’s a bit of a naïve artist rather than a femme fatale or a debutant. d’Abo is lovely, there is no doubt, but she’s an unconventional beauty, rather than an accepted goddess like some of the woman before and after. Although her accent gets on my nerves, I like that her hang-ups are both a wrench and an asset to Bond.

Though they are beginning to show some age, the action sequences in The Living Daylights are still fast-paced, exciting, and witty. Though outfitted with the hippest gadgets, Bond’s latest Aston Martin meets an early demise- but the sequence is well worth it. Some may find Kara’s cello toting action an annoying contrivance, but I like it. It’s a little geeky for Bond, no matter how many ways he can MacGyver the instrument. Although I enjoy keeping track of the numerous Bond Girls, there isn’t a lot of that kind of action in The Living Daylights. Some fan boys may not like that. However, the intelligent, cat and mouse, Bond versus the KGB intricacies keep the serious audience in tuned. Intriguing also to see Russian espionage and Afghanistan warfare from the late eighties, politics that are very different from what they were twenty years ago. Is The Living Daylights a thrilling, epic, Oscar worthy masterpiece? No. Can it still hold your attention as a sprawling action yarn? Yes.
If you’ve never liked the James Bond franchise because you thought it overblown with dated innuendo and ridiculous scenarios, reconsider with The Living Daylights. Though Dalton’s serious and realistic portrayal would fall out of favor, the series has rebooted with similar grit in blonde Bond Daniel Craig. I don’t understand why the current style is so praised and Dalton’s tenure is so unloved. Strangely, I would say this is one of the more family friendly films in the collection, for there’s hardly any of the tongue in cheek sex and double entrée names we love.
Compared to the violence and gore abound today, The Living Daylights can look like a complex, thrilling, adventure to appreciative younger audiences. Action fans and Bond obsessors alike can still enjoy The Living Daylights. With risk free rental choices, television airings, and on demand or online viewing possibilities, audiences can revisit this worthy Bond flick before taking on the DVD collections or bluray upgrade.

17 April 2009

Dr. No versus Never Say Never Again

Not Much Changed between Dr. No and Never Say Never Again.
By Kristin Battestella
I’m not a serious, die-hard Bond aficionado, but I know what you’re thinking: Surely she knows Never Say Never Again is a remake of Thunderball! Indeed the return of Sean Connery in the illegitimate 1983 Never takes its roots from Thunderball, but my recent viewing of the first EON release Dr. No had me thinking about how little the franchise changed between the original Bond’s first and last appearances.
MI6 agent 007 James Bond (Connery) is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of fellow British Intelligence operative John Strangways and quickly falls into foreign intrigue and local superstition. CIA Agent Felix Lieter (Jack Lord) and local fisherman Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) have both heard ill news about Dr. No and his dragon on nearby Crab Key. Bond sets off for the island and must infiltrate Dr. No’s forces before the SPECTRE (that’s SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion) agent can disrupt an American space launch.
Twelve years after his last mission, 007 (Connery again) isn’t ready to leave MI6 just yet, despite changes in the program orchestrated by the new M (Edward Fox). M doesn’t feel Bond has what it takes to be a secret agent in this day and age, but after the theft of two nuclear warheads by SPECTRE agent Maximillian Lago, Bond is back in the game.
Naturally I should begin with the technically not first but still definitive Bond Girl Ursula Andress (What’s New Pussycat, Clash of the Titans) in comparison with unofficially official Bond Girl Kim Basinger. Dr. No’s Honey Rider is truly little more than eye candy. She doesn’t appear until the latter third of the film, and Andress’ voice was dubbed over, further proving it was not her acting delivery that the production wanted. Despite quiet moments explaining Honey’s sad back-story, one has to wonder what she could possibly be there for if not her Swiss good looks. An exceptional woman scavenging for sea shells who just happens to get mixed up in Bond’s plot to take down Dr. No? Sure, it’s why many guys like Bond flicks-heck, its part of why I like them! Unfortunately, the tongue in cheek treatment of women in early features is another nail in the dated coffin. Recent Bond pictures have to have intelligent, independent women worth more than just a subservient romp.
You would think Oscar winner Basinger (L.A. Confidential) would have some of those progressive eighties working women vibes, but she is also the picture of a girl under a man’s thumb. I would say Basinger is very un-Italian looking for such a character, but my father’s family is full of tall, fair Northern Italians. Still, there’s no vocal inkling of exotic Italy, either. We meet Domino Petachi while she’s dancing in her eighties leotards and follow her vengeance against former lover Lago through her barely there slips and towels. Again, it’s not a matter of if she’ll be used and bedded by Bond, but when. Never Say Never Again departs from the norm by suggesting Bond retires with Domino, but can we really see a lasting relationship here? I think not.
Despite a twenty year difference in production, Dr. No and Never Say Never Again look somewhat the same. One might say Dr. No was on the ball and high tech for the sixties, but Never Say Never Again looks very dated with poor underwater sequences, dated computers, and ill shipboard equipment. We take Dr. No for what it is, because, well, it’s old, but neither film has stood the test of time in action, costumes, and technology. For me that is part of the Bond films’ charm-they are dated and over the top with British innuendo and don’t always look the best. With each new film, we fluff Bond up with villains, women, and the latest gadgets, but these are temporary delights. Isn’t it really all about the man’s man Bond as he always wins and looks suave doing it?
What I find more amazing about Connery’s first and last appearances is his continuing ability to bag the bad guy’s henchwomen. Always stereotypically exotic and fast moving, Never Say Never Again’s Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera, Dallas) slightly improves upon Dr. No’s turncoat Miss Taro (Zena Marshall). Fatima’s hard-on for Bond in addition to her work with Lago makes her hot and violent. In some ways, it’s a step up on Lago, more dangerous somehow. In other ways, it’s a step down-a woman whose downfall is in thinking with her legs open. How typical. Miss Taro, along with all the other white women made up to look Asian in Dr. No., again fills a weakling, subservient role. The clothes, beehives, and insulting speech do nothing but set up another slick scene for Bond. So far, not much has changed from 1962 to 1983.
In the decade between Dr. No and Never Say Never Again, not much has changed on the villainous front, either. Oft spoofed, Bond villains always have a special crutch or hang up. Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) is clichéd as the not really Asian looking Asian with fake hands and a SPECTRE complex. In the mid 20th Century, I supposed we could fear wealthy and eccentric boys with toys bent on world domination, but today, eh, not so much. Klaus Maria Brandauer does a little more with the updated Lago, making him somewhat charming and vulnerable, but again his ridiculous plans and cruise ship headquarters are too dated and unbelievable. As with the ladies, we know Bond will complete his mission. Today we like to think we favor multi dimensional complex men of evil, but these pictures are never about the villain. That’s part of why we like them. It’s about how bad ass Bond is going to be and how he can top himself.
We know the stories about how Sean Connery (Highlander, First Knight) came to be the first official James Bond. Cary Grant was too old, and runner up Roger Moore would get his chance to play Bond ten years later. As quintessential as many find Connery’s debut in Dr. No, some of his style and delivery is uneven at best. Yes, some of the key quotes and martinis here lay the foundation for all subsequent Bond actors, but Connery’s mixed accent wavers his suave. Is his Bond meant to look and sound like Cary Grant or does this Bond have a decidedly Scottish spin? It seems as if Connery and director Terrence Young (helmer of the next Bond flick From Russia with Love and 1965’s Thunderball, ironically) can’t decide on the right sound.
Likewise, Sean Connery doesn’t have a complete hold on his return to James Bond in Never Say Never Again. Again, the story is a familiar one. After a twelve year absence since the less than shiny Diamonds Are Forever, Connery returned to the role in this rival showing against EON Productions sanctioned Roger Moore and his Octopussy. Never Say Never Again is unique in that it acknowledges this Bond as old and not necessarily up to snuff while at the same time ignoring all his previous encounters with juicy SPECTRE agents. Connery plays the part tongue and cheek as usual, but it doesn’t seem as if this is Bond as we know it. Connery doesn’t have the decided Bond edge anymore. He does seem out of practice and not up to being Bond. Having said that, I’d still rather see the admittance of an aging spy rather than the current hottie reboot coughCasinoRoyalecough.
Truly though, I’m somewhat indifferent to most of the Connery as Bond pictures, but I’m also seriously spilt on most of Moore’s tenure. By God, I hate Moonraker: but I really like The Spy Who Loved Me. However, this ‘Battle of the Bonds,’ as the media dubbed it back in the day, didn’t interest me at the time. Both the actors seemed too out of touch, and I was much more excited in the up to date portrayal of 007 from Timothy Dalton. I think it says a lot about us as viewers and as a society that Bond has gotten younger over the decades. Dr. No began 007 as a veteran of the spy game, older and able to handle a woman. This archetype was borne out of our cloistered patriarchal good old days. In the Me eighties where men were still mostly on top, we could believe in an old Bond for Never Say Never Again.
Look at the television of the day: Magnum P.I., Hunter, The Equalizer- it was perfectly acceptable to see an in charge middle aged man being vital and kicking ass. With Dalton, Brosnan, and now Daniel Craig; we’ve remade Bond each time into a younger, more physical, pc, and tech savvy man that will no more stand the test of time as ‘Old Man’ Bond does now. This franchise remains popular because it is in the bizarre position of upholding our dated past standards while continuing to keep up with modern trends. I liked the series without the Blonde Bond reboot. The current producers have built themselves into a corner, for as long as they keep trying to change with the times; they grow further from Bond as Fleming originally envisioned him. No speedo wearing, Blackberry carrying pretty boy can be a model of mid fifties macho and Cold War espionage. Dr. No and Never Say Never Again are time capsules for how little was changed for Bond between the sixties and eighties and how much is changed for the character today. Is this good or bad? Bond fans young and old, veteran and new are up to the debate.
New fans may not want to jump into the hefty DVD sets or pay more for forthcoming Blu-Ray releases; but rental options, individual discs, and on demand viewing makes finding your part and parcel Bond favorite easy. Though time has made them imperfect, Dr. No and Never Say Never Again share unique milestones in the James Bond franchise-and they still aren’t half-bad. Connery’s iconic debut and his last hurrah are essentials for obsessive Bond fans, and both are worth another gander from action fans young and old.

Jacob: The Bible Collection

Jacob Important and Honest, But Imperfect
By Kristin Battestella

In my search for family friendly religious film, I was very pleased to see TNT’s The Bible Collection available on DVD. Taking on the ambitious of chronicling Biblical drama from Abraham to the Apocalypse, this second film in the series falters on slow pacing and little action.
Jacob (Matthew Modine) is the second son of Isaac (Joss Ackland, Shadowlands) and Rebekah (Irene Papas, Z). He follows the God of Abraham and seeks to do what is best for his people, unlike his elder, hairy twin Esau (Sean Bean). Esau favors hunting and Canaanite women and trades his birthright to Jacob for some porridge. At his mother’s behest, Jacob disguises himself as Esau and takes Isaac’s dying blessing. Discovering the betrayal, the angry Esau vows to kill his brother. Jacob flees to his uncle Laban (Giancarlo Giannini, Quantum of Solace) and falls in love with Rachel (Lara Flynn Boyle). They wish to marry and return to Canaan and amend ties with Esau. Unfortunately, the deceptive Laban tricks Jacob into years of suffering with false marriages and indentured service.

Jacob (The Bible Collection)It’s a lovely Biblical tale, and I applaud Ted Turner and his production team for not only dramatizing the better known or frequently told Old Testament epics. However, Jacob’s story of love, betrayal, and servitude doesn’t translate well to the screen. Writer Lionel Chetwynd (Kissinger and Nixon) gives us several quiet two-man conversations, but these sentimental moments don’t dig deep enough into the familiar relationships of Jacob and Esau or even Jacob and the love of his life Rachel. Director Peter Hall (The Camomile Lawn) gives us one brief and somewhat humorous camel chase-but some implied animal death adds a bitter exclamation point. This is an older television movie, so there’s nothing too scandalous, but the wedding switcheroo between Rachel and her sister Leah (Juliet Aubrey, Primeval) is way too obvious-even for younger folks who aren’t up to date on his or her Genesis reading.

Jacob is supposed to be all about the man himself, but Matthew Modine (Vision Quest, Memphis Belle, And the Band Played On) has little material to with which to work. The tale seems thin as it is, but this telefilm also doesn’t take the story deep enough. If Jacob loves Rachel so much, how can he have so many other wives and handmaidens? Is he conflicted about this? What are his relationships with his sons? Modine does his best to show love, anger, and frustration, but the bare script gives little room to maneuver. I think we’re meant to believe Jacob is quiet and stoic, but it’s not. In 1994, Modine was quite the star, and I do believe the Emmy nominee has the talent to pull of a juicy tale if given the chance.

Likewise, Sean Bean (Sharpe, Patriot Games) and Lara Flynn Boyle (The Practice, Twin Peaks) have little development beyond their relationships to Jacob. Both suffice as his antagonist and faithful foundation, the entire supporting cast looks the part and delivers on form. Nevertheless, I want more of Jacob. Where’s Esau bringing forth the Edomites? Where’s Rachel’s maternal strength? That’s all we get of Isaac and Rebekah? Sean Bean in a cop out camel race and Lara Flynn Boyle squatting over her dad’s stolen idol statues are not what I have in mind. Sure, it’s only a ninety minute television production, but if given the proper treatment and appreciation, Jacob can take its little love story and show its proper weight against those other pillars of Jewish history. I kept waiting for Rachel to bear Joseph and Benjamin already, but the show ends with a rather broad montage implying the settlement of Hebron.

Though Jacob is a slight misstep, you can’t quite skip it and go directly from Abraham to Joseph. The Bible Collection is a wonderful series for reflection and teen Bible study, but I do wonder if Jacob’s nudge nudge wink wink bedroom bait and switch is too much for immature youth. Jacob portrays Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah accordingly, but if it’s not for giggling teens making jokes about the kinky ways of the Old Testament; then for whom is this picture? Serious adults looking for Biblical reflection will find Jacob fairly broad, and teenyboppers will love or laugh at its love story mentality trumping the issues of betrayal and the struggle against the followers of the God of Abraham.
Even with its misguided direction and untapped potential, Jacob is an essential part of The Bible Collection and gives some justice where justice is due. However, parents and teachers may want to preview Jacob before a showing with the kids. Despite its slow pace and underutilized cast, lovely locales and an authentic feeling shine through. The entire Bible Collection can be found affordably enough individually, as a set, or online. For a little history and Biblical reflection, spend a night with Jacob.

16 April 2009

The Bible According To Hollywood

Uneven The Bible According to Hollywood Still An Informative Documentary
By Kristin Battestella

I caught part of the 1994 documentary The Bible According To Hollywood on television not long ago and was excited to find the show available on DVD. Hindered by its under two hour time and an unsure approach, nonetheless The Bible According to Hollywood does have insights on the stormy marriage between Hollywood and its long standing adaptations of the Bible.
The Bible According To Hollywood feels a little biased largely due to its presentation. Narrator John MacElwayne is only silenced by brief interviews with the likes of Charlton Heston, Peter Ustinov, and Virginia Mayo. Some of the older footage of the talent is at a low volume and tough to hear, so what insights these gems might have is lost. It appears some material might also have been touched up or tacked on for the DVD print as well. MacElwayne’s tongue in cheek summaries of the film plots he’s describing also loose their wit after the first half hour. The Bible According To Hollywood would have been served better by having a panel of film historians, religious scholars and critics interjecting how these Biblical films affected the society and industry of the time. Brief touches of Red Scare talk and blacklisted players don’t go far enough in fully explaining the scope of Hollywood in the fifties. Was going to the theater and seeing a serious Christian picture like Ben-Hur the proper post-war patriotic American thing to do? Were audiences and industry personnel making such films to prove their lack of commie strings? The Bible According To Hollywood doesn’t give us the answers, and neither does director Phillip Dye and writer Alan Kellerman.

Likewise, anti-Semitism in religious film is only touched upon lightly. If the Jews do run Hollywood, as the old saying goes- isn’t it a bit ironic that they were making Christian themed pictures to keep the studios from going bankrupt? The Bible According To Hollywood has no problem showcasing Hollywood’s butching of Scripture in hopes of box office romance, action, and success and admitting that early producers had to balance the fine line between reverent pictures and worship of the almighty dollar. Yet it seems as if taking a historical look at the two dominate religions in Hollywood is off limits. Sure, the topic could take a whole documentary in itself and then some, but to ignore it is a bit too obvious and inaccurate for a documentary.

In addition to not having a balance look or scholarly panel, The Bible According To Hollywood also confuses itself by presenting the Old Testament and New Testament as separate hours. Instead of beginning with the history of cinema and continuing through the decades with hit and miss Biblical dramas, the two hours follow the books of the Bible. The Bible According to Hollywood begins with adaptations of Adam and Eve and concludes with inspiration fiction from the latter half of the New Testament. It’s a little confusing, to say the least. We see snips of silent features misportraying Genesis and Exodus, then we jump up to the lavish spectacle of 1949’s Samson and Delilah. We go from 1998’s The Prince of Egypt back to the 1923 Ten Commandments. From Jesus Christ Superstar back to The Silver Chalice, this jumping through time does not work for a casual audience. We can’t expect The Bible According to Hollywood to catch every film and television show, but it’s non linear approach means its more likely to miss something. What happened to Barabbas and Jesus of Nazareth? Even Raiders of the Lost Ark counts if you’re talking about loosely themed religious blockbusters, right?

Film scholars will enjoy seeing clips from early pictures and lost silent film, but young Sunday School students aren’t going to care about a silent movie every ten minutes. MacElwayne briefly mentions that some of the early pictures have been lost. Unfortunately, I doubt a young audience will understand the meaning here. Erroneous questions may arise-were these films banned? Deliberately destroyed because of their Biblical subject matter? No explanation for the ravages of time on early nitrate film is given in all the bouncing to and fro. I would rather have had the show start at the beginning of feature film and continue straight to the 21st Century, not leaving such basic history to chance. Instead, The Bible According to Hollywood ends with reflections on how the mid fifties spectacles and Bible epics were the height of religion on film. While I still love a lot of those over acted yarns, I don’t think that sentiment is accurate. Why bother to mention The Prince of Egypt and The Passion of The Christ if you aren’t going to talk about the modern independent film industry? Where are all the made for television attempts and controversial TV series? Isn’t that where religious film is today? I think the tacked on updates for the DVD, dated 2004, make The Bible According to Hollywood look more dated and out of touch.

The Bible According to Hollywood is very informative in highlighting early Biblical films and sharing the trials and tribulations of bringing such ambitious projects to the silver screen. Unfortunately, its unusual presentation and lone narrator offer an uneven and one-sided view that doesn’t capture the whole scope of religion versus film. The humorous approach jokes that Hollywood worships two masters-money and God-yet The Bible According To Hollywood is also split. Like the films its depicts, the documentary can’t decide whether it’s serious and reverent or funny and light-shall it touch on deeper subjects and themes or only gloss over the basics?

The Bible According to HollywoodFans of filmmaking, movie historians, parents, and teachers will enjoy the premise for teaching and discussion. The Bible According To Hollywood is too wishy washy for a casual audience, and students must springboard from it into their own research. The DVD has no features, but can be rented or purchased affordably enough for the classroom library. Until we get a serious six hour analysis of Biblical film ala Ken Burns, The Bible According to Hollywood will have to do.

10 April 2009

Essential Easter Viewing

Essential Easter Viewing (And a touch of Passover, too!)
By Kristin Battestella

I’m later than I’d like in this informative list of films, TV shows, and documentaries for the Easter Holidays, but I thought what the heck, it’s never too late for some quality, wholesome, inspiration, family viewing-am I right? Naturally, I hope to write in more detail on some of these greats.

Here’s some Passion centric viewing for Christians and even non-believers.

Ben-Hur - Who can forget Charlton Heston’s Judah as he rows his way from a path of revenge towards redemption with Christ? The chariots, the lepers-even if you don’t like some of the over-the-top styles of fifties films, you must see this film once in your lifetime.

The Passion of The Christ- Mel Gibson’s controversial Passion Play tour de force is not for the squeamish or folks under 15, and its not the best film to introduce newcomers to Christ’s ministry. Nevertheless, this bloody film can inspire the faithful by lavishly detailing the brutality of the Crucifixion.

Jesus: The Complete Story- This Discovery channel series devotes almost three hours to exploring Jesus. From his birth to his ascension, it’s refreshing to see a program tackle as many of Jesus’ aspects from as many angles as possible. Narrated by Avery Books, young and old can be inspired here. In the Footsteps of Jesus is another fine series that also can’t be found on television anymore.

The Robe- Yes, Richard Burton tends to over act just a tad, but this lovely story about the centurion who crucified Christ and takes his cloak leads us on a haunting road to salvation. Though tame to most, the execution montage may be upsetting to kids. It’s beautiful, yet tragic imagery makes this one staple holiday viewing. Victor Mature also stars in the sub par, but still wholesome Demetrius and the Gladiators.

Elmer Gantry- Burt Lancaster gives an Oscar winning performance here as the titular con man who starts out as a fake and pays the ultimate price before learning the error of his ways. Not necessarily an Easter film, Elmer Gantry nonetheless shows us how sin and salvation are never apart in our lives-in fact; they are closer than we think.

King of Kings/ The Greatest Story Ever Told- I don’t mean it in a mean way, but if you must have the television on while the family’s about for the holidays, these two lengthy epics are the perfect way to keep the true meaning of Easter about the house.

I haven’t forgotten about our Friends celebrating Passover, but there’s really only one big one:

The Ten Commandments- You can’t go wrong with this 1956 classic anytime of year. Teen audiences may prefer the 2006 miniseries of the same name, and for the kids there’s the charming Prince of Egypt; but there’s nothing like a Cecil B. DeMille epic to get you into the spirit of things. This is one of my favorite movies ever. Growing up, I used to watch it daily-I kid you not. I learned how to make sheets into togas and pin towels to my head, but strangely, I always preferred Yul Brynner’s ruthless Rameses to Charlton Heston’s booming Moses. The music, the exceptional cast, the dialogue-there’s so many iconic and dare I say divine moments here for any person of faith, young or old.

National Geographic: The Gospel of Judas versus In Search of Easter

National Geographic: The Gospel of Judas versus In Search of Easter
By Kristin Battestella

Since less and less television networks devote their programming hours to religious documentaries around Easter, I turned to Netflix for my Biblical fix. I’ve enjoyed National Geographic materials for many years, and was pleased to find two of their specials available: The Gospel of Judas and In Search of Easter. Strangely, I thoroughly enjoyed Judas and hated Easter.

The National Geographic: The Gospel of JudasArriving first, The Gospel of Judas chronicles the recently discovered and restored lost gospel of Judas Iscariot-the disciple who betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gesthemane for thirty pieces of silver. According to this long lost tale, Judas did not betray Jesus, but in fact had received special instructions from the Messiah in order to facilitate the crucifixion.

To hard core fundamentalist Christians, this notion is not even a pill to consider swallowing toughly. What’s in the Bible is the insurmountable truth, what is says is well, gospel, and anything outside of it isn’t worth reading. The Gospel of Judas, however, makes a convincing case for Christian scholars to consider this tale and other rediscovered Gnostic gospels- including the Gospel of Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Philip, Valentine, and dozens more. The Bible as is, I have to say, is a damn good tale of trials, tribulations, sin, faith, and salvation. It really can’t be beat.  

On a style note, the four canonical gospels do have the best showcase of Jesus’ life, teaching, ministries, death, and resurrection. These long lost and restored gospels are often missing extensive segments and often have a talking head Jesus sprouting wisdom but not going anywhere or doing anything. The Gospel of Judas is no different, but the scholars onscreen explain that these extra gospels are meant for the student or the historian to study and compare. I agree that you can take what is good from these materials and leave what you don’t like as you would if you were reading any other comparative bible study book. You wouldn’t introduce someone to Christianity with the Gospel of Judas, certainly. However, an intelligent individual secure in one’s faith should not be deterred, much less threatened by these newly discovered materials.

The Gospel of Judas does get hokey with some of the reenactments, just like more and more documentaries that rely entirely on an acting cast to tell their tale. Thankfully, the special takes the time to show the restoration and authentication of the Judas codex. In a time when so many hoaxes have come about; it’s refreshing to know that even if you eventually disagree with what’s inside, there’s new antiquities still to discover. If The Gospel of Judas proper does not convince you, the DVD contains interactive timelines, extra interviews with the guest experts, and photos and excerpts from the text. Overall, this National Geographic documentary provides the religious, historical, and scientific aspects for the viewer to divulge and make up his own mind.

National Geographic's In Search of: EASTERUnfortunately, I cannot say the same for In Search of Easter. I was very excited when this disc arrived, only to be very disappointed in the under one hour special. Where The Gospel of Judas spent almost ninety minutes analyzing and authenticating, In Search of Easter is forty-five minutes of long-winded scholars tossing out the big questions. Did the resurrection really take place? Why do the gospel accounts differ? Why did the disciples react to the risen Christ the way they do? How can you expect to answer these kinds of questions in forty-five minutes and get into a side story involving the resurrected Christ’s appearance to early Mormons?

In Search of Easter has the same scholars that can be seen on numerous religious programs, but all they do is talk. Their speeches are laced with words like ‘vision’ and ‘miraculous’ and ‘faith’ and it’s almost always followed by a ‘but’. But what? It’s almost as if In Search of Easter is mocking Christians for believing that the risen Christ miraculously appeared in splendid visions to Mary Magdalene and our good friend ‘Doubting’ Thomas. They provide little historical examination or scientific understanding to Christ’s death and resurrection, but seem to nudge nudge wink wink at those of us who take this on Faith. I’m very surprised that National Geographic would produce such a poorly put together, secular, and somewhat offensive documentary. In Search of Easter is more offensive and insulting than whatever you may think earth shattering in The Gospel of Judas. If In Search of Easter was on television, I would have changed the channel.

Thankfully, beyond the links to further National Geographic media, the In Search of Easter DVD also includes the special Quest for Noah’s Flood. It’s as if the NatGeo powers that be knew In Search of Easter would be ill received, so they added this proper program as well. Why is this show not available on its own DVD?

National Geographic - Quest for Noah's Flood [VHS]Quest for Noah’s Flood follows one scientist’s search-Dr. Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic- upon the Black Sea for evidence of Noah, his ark, and the Biblical flood that cleansed the earth. Expert explanations, scientific adventure, Great Flood pros and cons from the Bible and The Epic of Gilgamesh. All in all a very well round program, who knew?

There’s plenty of religious programming out there, even if it doesn’t seem to be airing on television anymore-I’ve been recording classroom specials coming on at 5 a.m.! Online viewing and rental sources take the risk out of the hit or miss nature of such documentaries, but you expect a certain level of consistency from a name such as National Geographic. I should be happy with two out of three, but the radical set up of The Gospel of Judas, the wishy washy feeling of In Search of Easter, and the technical science in Quest for Noah’s Flood give the feeling that religious programming is being geared towards a smaller and smaller audience. NatGeo either wants to make news with The! Earth! Shattering! Stuff! or gloss over with broad generalities so as not to take a big religious risk and heaven forbid offend someone in Secular Valley. It’s sad that once staple television has come to this. I’ve done Seder dinners on Palm Sunday and would just as soon watch The Ten Commandments as I would Ben-Hur. (Thankfully, they are both airing this month!) Stop worrying about what you say or what your ratings might be and make a show because you have something credible and intelligent to say. Underestimate your audience and you’ll loose it anyway.

The Gospel of Judas had me hankering to reread some of my extra-Biblical references again, but In Search of Easter made me angry at the increasing negative view of organized religion and traditional beliefs. Not only the opposite of what I expected, but a sad reflection as well.

08 April 2009

The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club Wasn’t Half Bad
By Leigh Wood

First, allow me a disclaimer: I don’t like Jane Austen. I don’t read much Regency at all. In fact, I really actually hate Jane Austen and liked nothing I’ve read by her. So, why am I watching The Jane Austen Book Club?

The Jane Austen Book ClubDivorcee Bernadette (Kathy Baker, Picket Fences) decides to help her friends overcome life’s troubles by starting an all Jane Austen book club. Happily independent dog breeder Jocelyn (Maria Bello) recruits sci-fi geek Griggs (Hugh Dancy, Blood and Chocolate) to the book group, in hopes he will distract her best friend Sylvia (Amy Brennman) from her recent divorce with Daniel (Jimmy Smits). Their gay daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace, Lost) is reluctant to join the club, but moves back in with her mother. Confused French teacher Prudie (Emily Blunt) struggles with her sports minded husband Dean (Marc Blucas) and her attraction to student Trey (Kevin Zegers, Air Bud). As the group reads Austen’s six novels, the works take on new meaning against their current trials and tribulations.

You’ll forgive me if some of the cute references and allusions to Austen’s work go over my head, and I must say I find it irritating that source author Karen Joy Fowler can write a book essentially copying all six of Austen’s novels. The storylines from each book weave through here and each of the ladies mirrors Austen’s heroines. As I said, I don’t know all the finite details of all of Austen, but some of the Emma matchmaking and Persuasion relating is way obvious. Do something original already! Then again, The Jane Austen Book Club is a bestseller and a successful movie, so what do I know?

The Jane Austen Book Club’s realistically cast and likeable ladies are what keep the film’s storyline from going over the top. Each lady has her moment to shine according to what month and book is on, though I think an opportunity was lost in the too brief appearance of Lynn Redgrave (Gods and Monsters, Shine) as Prudie’s commune living, pothead Mama Sky. Instead of getting to the meat of this relationship, this intrigue is only used to make Prudie more neurotic and Austen dependant. I have to stay, I didn’t recognize Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Henry VIII) amid her (hee) plain Jane, French loving style. Each gal and guy is a little clichéd and obvious, but since we are familiar with most of the cast, we indulge. I like Amy Brenneman (Judging Amy), even if she seems to play a lot of the same characters. It’s nice to see not just the young, hip chicks, and clichéd lesbians (They’re not butch, but young and pretty yet we never see them hot and heavy onscreen like the hetero couples), but older women as well. No one here is thirty-something.

I don’t necessarily like Maria Bello (The Dark, ER), but I’m seeing her in more and more films. She isn’t stellar or unique, but somehow bohemian and free spirited. I swear she looks pregnant in this film-all her clothes are baggy and her boho bags are always in front of her stomach. The looks aren’t flattering, and it is odd to see her with the young techie Griggs. Unfortunately, the men get shorted here-ranging from sensitive boy toys to jerky husbands. I can see that Marc Blucas (It’s Riley from Buffy!) might not have had many offers coming his way, but why did Jimmy Smits (Dexter, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Star Wars) take on such an unflattering part? He’s a respected working actor who can get a lot meatier part I’m sure. Again, character relationships were sacrificed between Smits and Brenneman-who looks just dandy together onscreen- in favor of more Austen reflections.

Now, I’m sure there are plenty of die hard Austenites out there, but I barely got through Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, and to me, Northanger Abbey is totally inferior to Wuthering Heights. I don’t like her style or her uppity and romancey subject matter, and can’t see how any modern successful woman can enjoy books about prim ladies who stay home all day and debate love versus money. I don’t think I’m a feminist, but I don’t know how anybody who favors women’s equality can enjoy the backward movement of Jane Austen. Oh, Keira Knightly in Becoming Jane! It’s nothing to be proud of to say you’ve read all of Austen, it just proves what a girly girl you are. Sports head Dean and Jane wannabe Prudie would never have even married in real life. As if a guy like that would really turn on the dime over Persuasion. The Jane Austen Book Club is a little unrealistic in saying that loving Jane Austen cures all. Like Jocelyn’s reluctance to read Ursula Le Guin, there’s a lot better classic literature out there, and far better material to emulate.

Parents, teachers, and watchdog groups always complain that watching too much television, seeing so much sex and violence, and playing too many video games is frying the next generation’s brains. If human see, human do is true and kids kill and have sex because they see it on television; then shouldn’t the same logic say that if we see people reading books on film, we might read more? Sure, we see someone holding a book for a few seconds in a window seat or at school, but the nature of the book and its story don’t often come into play in a mainstream movie’s plot. Yes it’s a bit too chick flick for these ladies to be bemoaning Austen’s work in relation to their own lives-I kept waiting for someone to say ‘Are we still talking about Sense and Sensibility or are we on you now?’. It is, however, refreshing to see the good, bad, and ugly of a book’s characters, style, and story discussed by a mixed group of intelligent, respectable people. These aren’t geeky loveless teens infatuated with Shakespeare ala 10 Things I Hate About You; for so often if books are figured into film, it’s usually the uptight nerd of a group who loves libraries and fawns over books. Is this an accurate representation of readership in America? I think not. When will we see hip, tech savvy, post college folks reading via Kindles onscreen?

The Jane Austen Book Club will probably scare away most men, understandably, but hard-edged women who don’t like chick flicks or women’s fiction should also avoid. Anyone who loves films about books should give this one a chance- if there is an all books all the time television channel out there, please let me know so I can pester my cable company about it! Of course, anyone who loves a bit of sappy viewing and good old Jane herself will enjoy. The Jane Austen Book Club is not as heavy on the chick as a lot of recent romantic comedies, and it did keep my interest to the end. Nevertheless, I kept thinking of that famous quote by Mark Twain: Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig up Jane Austen and beat her over the head with her own shinbone!