Monday, February 29, 2016

It’s Homeland Without the Lithium, or Tom Hiddleston as The Night Manager

The spy genre has never fully recovered from the glory days of the Cold War.  It may have something to do with our 24-hour news cycle; the intelligence services rely on information and these days it seems as if we know just about as much as they do, sometimes earlier.  There may be a cultural perception of the CIA and other agencies dropping the ball in 9/11, and that has led to a cynicism and disappointment that is reflected in contemporary spy dramas like Showtime’s Homeland or the wish-fulfillment action binges of Jason Bourne or Mission Impossible.  Homeland has almost become a cliché of waiting for Carrie to go off her meds, and those action movies are more about American actors saving the world once again than the thoughtful and poignant world of keeping secrets and recruiting assets.
However that Cold War drama of an ordinary man caught between overwhelming forces has been updated for the 21st Century in The Night Manager, a BBC-One miniseries based on John le Carré’s 26 year-old novel.  The miniseries is immediately compelling thanks to Tom Hiddleston’s sensitive and nuanced performance as Jonathan Pine, the titular night manager of a swanky Cairo hotel.
As the night manager during the 2011 Egyptian revolution Jonathan Pine is both concierge and confidant to the ex-pat British residents and Cairo elite that frequent his hotel.  When the beautiful mistress from a ruling family hands him a shipping manifest of weapons from a British arms dealer for safekeeping, Jonathan can’t help but to leak the documents to a friend at British Embassy.  This ultimately leads to the death of the beautiful mistress and Jonathan’s primary motivation for bringing the aforementioned British arms dealer to justice.
Four years later, now the night manager in a swanky hotel in Switzerland, Jonathan Pine gets his chance to lock horns with that British arms dealer, played with insouciant malice by the consistently perfect Hugh Laurie as Richard Roper.  He reaches out to his contact at MI-6, played by Olivia Colman aka Sophie from Peep Show, and dives headfirst into the spy game.  He’s a natural at copying information and digging sim cards out of the trash.
There are no gadgets, parkour chases or last minute cut the red wire and save the world scenes.  Instead the viewer is treated to an extended mental chess match between Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie.  Some viewers may find this boring, but I don’t think those people are reading this blog.  The rest of us will find The Night Manager to be a refreshing thougtful spy thriller, written for adults with enough patience to quietly watch as the Great Game unfolds.

And as a side note, everyone knows Hugh Laurie as House but what about Bertie Wooster, and his stellar work in Blackadder and A Bit of Fry and Laure?  He spent the first half of his career in comedy but unlike his American counterparts (I’m looking at you, Jim Carey) he was able to slip out from under that yoke and merge into an even more successful dramatic career.  It must be the accent.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Weekend TV Suggestions, or Time Displacement and Dark Cabals in The Lost Room

 Much like Charade (1963) starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn was actually directed by Stanley Donen and not Alfred Hitchcock, The Lost Room, a Sci-Fi miniseries from 2010 is the most Stephen King story never written by Stephen King.  Peter Krause from Six Feet Under stars as Joe Miller, a police detective who finds a key that opens any door but always leads to a hotel room in Gallup, New Mexico.  His daughter, played by Elle Fanning disappears into the room, and sets the plot in motion.
An unexplained experiment in 1961 caused the motel room and all its contents to vanish out of time and place and imbued the objects within the room with unexplained and quirky powers.  The Key can open any door, the Comb can stop time, the Deck of Cards causes frightening visions, the Bus Ticket teleports anyone who touches it to Gallup New Mexico, you get the idea.  There are Object Collectors who pay millions for them, the Legion, who hunts the Collectors and the Order, who worship the Objects and the Room as pieces of God.  All of these groups are chasing Joe because he has the Key.
Also starring Chris Bauer aka Andy Bellefleur as Joe’s partner and veteran actor Dennis Christopher (check out his IMDB page, it goes back to 1967) as a pathologist who goes a little crazy and joins the Order.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Now That You’ve Seen Jessica Lange in American Horror Story, Go Watch King Kong

King Kong was first remade in 1976, a full 43 years after the original version, though the big guy had never really left the American cinematic landscape and had even fought Godzilla in 1962.  However the 1976 version was a big budget feature produced by Dino De Laurentis and introduced a 26-year-old Jessica Lange in her first big screen role.
Screen legend Charles Grodin plays Fred Wilson, an oil company executive chasing rumors of big deposits on the mysterious, permanently fog-laden Skull Island, somewhere in the South China Sea.  Jeff Bridges, aka The Dude, joins him on the boat as a stowaway primatologist Jack Prescott and later they conveniently rescue Jessica Lange as Dwan from a life raft, an shipwrecked aspiring actress floating on the waves like a mermaid in a slinky black evening dress.  
“You know, like Dawn,” Dwan explains, “except that I switched two letters to make it more memorable..."
If you are accustomed to Jessica Lange’s hard-edged roles as bitter witches and venomous nuns in American Horror Story you will be pleased to see her doing her best breathy-voiced Marilyn Monroe impression in King Kong.  She lights up the screen with an old school glamour that seems nostalgic even in a movie from the 70’s, and perfectly compliments the rapid screwball dialogue between Grodin and Bridges.
There’s a certain cultural insensitivity in all the King Kong movies that you just have to accept or it will ruin your viewing experience, just like Mickey Rooney’s horrifying portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or basically all of Huck Finn.  We are here to see a movie about a giant ape that’s worshiped as a god by a tribe of stereotypical Africans, on an island that has dinosaurs.  I mean, if you spend all your time with you arms folded being offended, you’ll miss the fight scene between King Kong and a giant snake.
Skull Island in this version of King Kong is real, gloriously analog, and filmed on Kauai.  There are some obvious matte prints of the giant wall surrounding the village, but you also get stuntmen climbing on a life-sized version of said wall.  And speaking of life-sized, Kong was performed by a guy in a suit, and an animatronic 40-foot King Kong, complete with a massive face and hand for Jessica to act against.  Incidentally, the guy in the ape suit was Rick Baker, who would go on to win an Oscar for makeup for AnAmerican Werewolf in London (1981). 
Back in New York, Kong’s rampage ends up atop the World Trade Center, which was only three years old in 1976.  It was a refreshing update from the Empire State Building at the time, and now it serves as a nostalgic and poignant reminder of the pre 9/11 world.  He’s shot down by military helicopters instead of WWI biplanes, and falls to his death in what will eventually become the September 11 Memorial & Museum 36 years later.

I suppose we do need to compare this movie with Peter Jackson’s overblown version, and all I have to say on the subject is Naomi Watts ain’t no Jessica Lange.  One flaw that has always bothered me is that they never mention or explain the logistics how they got the big guy off the island and onto the boat.  That was the most disappointing part of Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005) except for, all of it.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

James Franco Goes Back To The Future to Save JFK in 11.22.63.

Stephen King adaptations are tricky.  The best ones that immediately come to mind are Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), Brian DePalma’s Carrie (1976), and The Mist (2007), with Pet Sematary (1989) getting an honorable mention because I like The Ramones so much.  It’s also interesting to note that Stephen King was notoriously unsatisfied with Kubrick’s version of his beloved Overlook Hotel, to the point that he made his own miniseries with Stephen Weber in 1997.
Stephen King is able to create amiable characters and compelling plots, mainly because his novels are completely grounded in reality but with one twist, one supernatural or science fiction schism to fractal across the story with interesting and often horrific consequences.  Ordinary lives are changed in one extraordinary moment, and while this sounds cinematic, Stephen King’s narrative style is slow, meandering and leisurely.  He wants to draw the reader in and he takes his time, a strategy that is problematic for movies.  Viewing is an entirely different experience than reading, simply because we can’t read minds and everything has to be shown, or told.
A filmmaker has a better chance of adapting his novels in a miniseries, as producers JJ Abrams and Stephen King have accomplished with 11.22.63. on Hulu.  James Franco, who did such a great job in The Interview (2014) and, always seems to play the same role, (let’s call him the maniac pixie best friend) is Jake Epping, who goes back in time to prevent the Kennedy Assassination, revisiting a theme Stephen King explored in The Dead Zone.
He accomplishes this via an unexplained, magic time travel closet like The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe that always leads back to a specific date in the early 60’s.  Mid-century America is portrayed as bright and optimistic, albeit with segregated rest rooms, where all the men where suits and everybody smokes.  The streets are crowded with gorgeous vintage cars in showroom condition, an anachronistic element that always takes me out of the story.
The story has elements of The Lost Room(1996), the Sci-Fi miniseries starring Peter Krause from Six Feet Under, Groundhog Day (1993) and of course like Biff from Back to The Future 2, Jake Epping finances his crusade by betting on sports events that have already occurred.  The first episode also reminded me of Fringe (2008), as he is essentially a time travel agent with unseen, undefined quasi-supernatural forces working against him.  “Time pushes back,” Jake is warned and he encounters grisly Final Destination (2000) type accidents that need to be avoided like sand traps or video game levels.
The larger question raised by this series is how relevant are baby boomers, at least from a pop culture perspective?  The national trauma of Vietnam is like a faded scar compared to 9/11 and the chaos of the Mideast, the current refugee crisis, and the almost daily mass shootings.  And consider the optimistic idealism of the Kennedy campaign as portrayed in this miniseries against the cynicism and indifference of the 2016 election year.

There’s a certain naïveté to this baby boomer wish fulfillment of a brighter past and a bleaker future.  The miniseries supposes, of course, that the world would be a better place now if JFK had survived.  He remains our most respected president, next to Lincoln, but what if he had lived?  Would he still be "JFK", or would he be a president who had an affair with Marilyn Monroe, a footnote in history, much like the blue dress from The Gap or the Watergate tapes?

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Not The Man Who Fell From Earth, or Thoughts on The Man From Earth

John Oldman, played by David Lee Smith, who guest-starred on Star Trek: Voyager (this will become relevant) is an immortal 14,000 year old cave man in The Man From Earth (2007).  He invites some friends and has a long conversation about immortality, memory, self-awareness and religion in an isolated cabin before he leaves them to start a new life.  His friends struggle to accept a man they thought they knew who claims to have met Van Gogh and studied under the Buddha.
I do enjoy these one-room conversation stage plays where an entire world unfolds through dialogue and story telling.  It’s like a modern campfire story or a radio play; the filmmakers can explore any theme or genre they want without using special effects or makeup.  The actors simply tell you what has happened, and we as viewers become drawn into the dialogue and the room you are watching on the screen expands to include the entire theater.
There are two other Star Trek alumni among the cast, Tony Todd who was Kurn, the Second Son of Mogh and John Billingsley who you know as Dr. Phlox from the under-rated Star Trek: Enterprise (am I the only one who actually liked that theme song).  In fact, the entire movie plays like a Star Trek episode in street clothes, which is appropriate as the screenplay is by Jerome Bixby, a writer for the Original Series and the Twilight Zone.  In Requiem for Methuselah (1969) similar themes are explored as Kirk meets an alien who lived on earth as Da Vinci, Alexander the Great, Lazarus and Merlin.
Immortality is usually portrayed as a curse, and The Man From Earth is no different in this regard.  You trade the fear of death for the crushing reality of loneliness when you live forever.  Your perception of time would speed up until a decade would seem like a week, or a day.  Imagine watching someone age from a child to an old man in a day, like the Sphinx’s riddle.  It would be pointless to get to know someone under those circumstances.
Personally I prefer the Highlander scenario of fighting duels and gaining power, but then again, I love swords and the song by Queen.
Jerome Bixby also wrote It’s A Good Life (1966), the seminal Twilight Zone episode where a 6 year old boy controls an entire town with his mind, the Star Trek episode Mirror Mirror and Fantastic Voyage (1966).  So he created the Mirror Universe and got to meet Raquel Welch, I’d call that I life well lived.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

There Wolf, There Castle, or Daniel Radcliffe in Victor Frankenstein

I was going to call this post Harry Potter’s Mary Reily (1996), but I figured that was too obscure a reference, even for you.  Also, as much as I enjoy referring to actors not by their proper names but by their most famous roles, it seems unkind when Daniel Radcliffe is making every effort to distance himself from his time at Hogwart’s by appearing in movies like The Woman in Black (2012) and Horns (2014).
However, much like Julia Roberts as a servant in Dr. Jekyll’s house (played by John Malkovich, no less), in Victor Frankenstein (2015) Daniel Radcliffe plays Igor, Dr. Frankenstein’s faithful assistant.  He is first seen at the circus, loping around the big top, twisted and malformed until James McAvoy, playing the eccentric Victorian mad scientist Victor Frankenstein rescues and cures him in a quick montage.
Now standing straight, with a shower and some new clothes, Igor is able to assume his more modern role as an intellectual partner and medical prodigy than the traditional assistant/ grave robber.  Apart from this interesting twist, Victor Frankenstein is a classic Victorian London steampunk horror, with high collars and top hats, CGI fog, and a lab full of brass oversized gears and crackling electrical arcs.
Like every good start-up company Igor and Victor produce an impressive proof of concept monster to raise funding, a part lion and chimpanzee “homunculus” that escapes from one of those grimy Victorian operating theaters and runs amuck in the halls of the hospital.   It looks and moves like a digital effect but is nonetheless authentic, creative and more interesting than the actual monster.
The monster Victor subsequently creates is more grounded in science, with two sets of lungs and an extra heart to compensate for its larger frame looks like a scarred bodybuilder, but with the traditional grunts and head-bolts. There’s a clunky and distracting side-plot to co-opt Frankenstein’s research and build a Victorian super-soldier that threatens to take the movie into The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) territory, but it is quickly discarded.
Victor Frankenstein also features Jessica Brown Findlay aka Lady Sybil Crawley as Lorelei, a friend from the circus and Mark Gatiss who you know as Moriarity, as the devout Police Inspector Finnegan so the filmmakers can bring up that old science vs religion theme that must remain central to any Frankenstein movie.
Comparisons with FRANK3N5T31N (2015) are inevitable though perhaps unfair.  Victor Frankenstein had a much bigger budget, used effectively to make a movie that is superior in every way.  With gorgeous costumes, authentic sets, and a classical sweeping soundtrack, you can tell the filmmakers have affection for the genre and a commitment to the story that was sorely lacking in Carrie-Anne Moss’ version.  If you like Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, and if you don’t I’m not sure we can be friends, you’ll enjoy this movie.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Monday, February 22, 2016

I Was Gonna Make Espresso, or Carrie-Anne Moss in Frankenstein

Every Frankenstein movie is technically steam punk, not horror, just sayin’.  It’s a popular misconception, but the regeneration of dead flesh stolen from fresh graves with the application of science (or lightning) makes it science fiction, or at the very least a sci-fi horror.  The title of the original novel is Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus; Mary Shelly focused on the debate between science and religion while here in Hollywood we focused on the fun parts.  That being, you know, grave robbing, chopping up bodies and subsequently reassembling them into an unholy super-strong abomination that inevitably escapes to terrorize the villagers.
Which brings us to Frankenstein (2015) or as the millenials like to call him, FRANK3N5T31N, a direct to video movie starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Danny Huston (Director John Huston’s son, which makes him Hollywood royalty, you know him from American Horror Story: Coven and as the lead vampire in 30 Days of Night 2007).  Not to be confused with Daniel Radcliffe’s Victor Frankenstein, which came out the same year.  This is the problem when you develop a work in public domain; you get overlap and confusion like Sherlock and Elementary.  (Universal owns the rights to their iconic makeup, but not the story, character or the name Frankenstein.  I know you were wondering).
This incarnation of the Mary Shelley novel has Danny Houston as a modern Victor Frankenstein in Los Angeles inventing a 3-D flesh printer, which is used to create the monster, instead of body parts.  Carrie Anne Moss plays his wife Dr. Mary Frankenstein, along with a team of mad scientists in lab coats just waiting to be splattered in blood when the monster escapes.  It reminded me of Splice (2009) a far more cogent argument for the modern Frankenstein film.  Carrie-Anne Moss struggles bravely with the weak script and lackluster character, but ultimately fails to be compelling as a mad scientist, or a mother figure for the Monster.
All of the beats of the original Universal movie are transplanted to downtown Los Angeles; the little girl at the river, the angry villagers with garden implements and Tony Todd as a homeless blind blues player who befriends the Monster and teaches him to speak (my favorite part of the movie).  It’s always a treat to see Tony Todd at work, but I was continually reminded of Gene Hackman as Harold the Blind Hermit in Young Frankenstein (1974).
Alas, I found FRANK3N5T31N to be humorless and dispassionate, not that I wanted a comedy, but rather that I didn’t get a sense of affection for the genre, and there’s no reason to make a movie like this one if you’re not committed to it.  The trouble may have started with the original concept of a modern retelling of this classic movie.  There are so many better ways to tell this story if you want to modernize it, what with artificial intelligence, genetic manipulation and all those weaponized zombie viruses that seem to be out there.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekend Movie Suggestions, or The Italian American Godfather Devil Extravaganza

 Years before Jersey Shore, the most popular stereotype for Italian Americans had been formed by a certain movie and sequel starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.  The 70’s were dominated by Italian American movie stars, with Pacino and De Niro starring in the biggest movies of the decade alongside Stallone and Travolta.
Fast forward to 1987, the same year Snooki was born, and you have Angel Heart, starring Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel, rumpled private eye in mid-century New York.  He’s hired by Louis Cyphere, a sinister bearded gentleman with sharply manicured fingernails, played with immaculate malice by Robert De Niro, to investigate a missing person case down in New Orleans.  In the Crescent City he encounters Charlotte Rampling as a faded Southern beauty and Lisa Bonet as a voodoo priestess.  Angel Heart also features an excellent jazz soundtrack by Trevor Jones.
Ten years later we have an updated 90’s version of the Fallen Angel with The Devil’s Advocate (1997) starring Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron.  Keanu is a hotshot lawyer who is recruited by John Milton, head of the prestigious Manhattan firm Milton, Chadwick & Waters, played by Al Pacino in a power suit and cuban heels.  
Of the two films I prefer Angel Heart.  It’s a far clever story with a nice twist, and a better director, Alan Parker.  It’s easy to see why Mickey Rourke was considered a sex symbol when you watch his portrayal of Harry Angel.  Keanu Reeves is adequate in The Devil’s Advocate, but I have high hopes for his John Wick franchise.  Pacino is in full Al Pacino shouty-mode in his portrayal of the Prince of Darkness.  But then again, it was the 90’s.  Everybody was shouting.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Return of Dr Mambo, or I Watched the Cabin Fever Reboot, So You Don't Have To

Say what you will about Eli Roth but Hostel (2005) was a clever movie. He took an outdated formula, turned it on its ears, cut off the ears and resurrected the 70’s grindhouse genre from the grave for the 21st century audience.  But much like M. Night Shyamalan, he has been making the basically the same movie since then, with ever diminishing returns. 
The original Cabin Fever (2003) was an interesting experiment in self-indulgent bio-terror.  The movie worked, for the most part, because of clever writing, an adequate cast and plot that became more and more absurd as the movie progressed.  It was equal parts funny and gruesome, and succeeded admirably in walking that indefinable tightrope between comedy and horror.  As Eli Roth’s first film and directorial debut Cabin Fever achieved a well-deserved cult status, and had the promise and potential for greater things.  And then he came out with Hostel and freaked out the entire world, so he delivered on that promise.
But now we live in a Twilight Zone alternate universe where any movie can be remade for no reason whatsoever and the latest contribution to the wasteland is the 2016 Cabin Fever remake.  It’s not shot for shot, like Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (1998, with Viggo Mortensen, you know, Aragon) but features the same script by Eli Roth.  Yes, the leg-shaving scene is there, I know you were wondering.  Alas, there’s no harmonica death scene, and no creepy albino kung-fu kid.  The Dr. Mambo scene has been faithfully recreated but without the accompanying Eli Roth cameo it seems pointless and distracting.  It might have made a bit more sense if the new director, “Travis Z” had taken on the role of Grim but that was a missed opportunity in a movie essentially composed of missed opportunities.
Instead we have a new group of interchangeable selfish and self-centered college kids in the wood, but now with cell phones and Instagram accounts.  It’s the same bio virus and water contamination but without the random no random surreal violence or dark humor of the original it becomes a cheap simulacrum, or a color photocopy of a better movie. 
Note I said a better movie; Cabin Fever was not a great movie.  This isn’t a Sam Raimi in 1981 low budget Evil Dead getting a lot of big Hollywood bucks thrown at him so he remakes it and calls it Evil Dead II (1987) situation.  It’s more like George Lucas going back and adding more Jawas and Rontos to Mos Eisley Spaceport in Episode 4, and we all know how well that went.  And Eli Roth is no George Lucas (and I bet you never thought you’d read that sentence).
And then again, for what it’s worth, I’d have to say that the 2016 Cabin Fever remake is far superior to the 2013 Evil Dead remake.  This is what American Cinema has been reduced to; comparing the relative merits of mediocre remakes while the public demands more R-rated superhero movies.  It’s a crazy mixed up world, kids, and you don’t even know it. 
I vote for a remake of Captain Kronos,Vampire Hunter next.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Irish Vampire Crying Game, or Neil Jordan’s Byzantium

Neil Jordan is a slick and professional storyteller, always filming nicely framed, quiet moments punctuated by savage and unspeakable violence.  As the director of Interview With the Vampire (1994), he is no stranger to the genre.   He also directed Mona Lisa (1986) starring the great Bob Hoskins, The Crying Game (1992), which you should already know about, Breakfast on Pluto (2005) and a Red Riding Hood werewolf movie you may have also seen entitled The Company of Wolves, (1984).
Saorsie Ronan from Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) plays Eleanor, a 200-year-old teenage girl, who writes in her journal and narrates the film.  Eleanor lives with her mother Clara, played by Gemma Arterton from Quantum of Solace (2008) and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), who supports the two of them as a stripper/prostitute/hustler/thief.  Hunted by the by vampire elders, they hide out in a seaside town where Clara meets a lonely hotel owner and Eleanor meets Frank, a shy lad dying from leukemia. 
The vampires of Byzantium are non-traditional; they can walk in daylight and have no fangs.  Instead they utilize a talon-like thumbnail, both feral and feminine in equal measures.  Clara decides to turn the hotel, named Byzantium, into a brothel while Eleanor floats around the local college pretending to be a student.  It doesn’t take long for the vampire elders to catch up with them.
When the sexuality is overt as it is in this film, the vampire metaphor shifts from sex to addiction.  In Byzantium we have a codependent vampire mother and daughter falling into the same tragic patterns as their more earthly sisters.  Constantly on the run, viewing men as threats and paychecks, introducing Eleanor as her sister rather than her daughter, Clara could just as easily be addicted to alcohol or heroin.  Eleanor for her part keeps to herself, playing the piano beautifully (200 years of practice, she explains to Frank), and writing in her journal of the loneliness of immortality.  She is as compelled to tell her story to her victims as much as her mother is compelled to lie about their true nature to her own victims.
This quiet and sensitive film is more like the Swedish vampire movie Let The Right One or Låt den rätte komma in (2008) than his previous and now seminal work Interview With The Vampire.  Byzantium is no big Hollywood summer release starring virtually every star from the 90’s (and also Kirsten Dunst, who had a fantastic performance as Peggy Blumquist in Season 2 of Fargo).  Interview had a built-in audience thanks to Anne Rice, and the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat was intriguing and controversial.  Byzantium is an original movie with a first rate cast, also including Jonny Lee Miller, (who you really should be watching in Elementary) as a creepy syphilitic Royal Navy Captain.  But the themes as always remain the same; immortality, loneliness, the search for love and identity in a constantly changing world and underlying all of it, that unceasing and neverending thirst for blood…

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Kim is Not Skyler, or Thoughts on Better Call Saul

 We left Jimmy at a crossroads at the end of Season One.  He had cut ties with his brother Chuck, explained what exactly was a Chicago Sunroof at an epic bingo breakdown and had one last grifting binge back in Chicago.  He pulls away from the courthouse after swearing to Mike that he’ll never pass up the easy money again and starts humming Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple as he taps the wheel with Marco’s pinky ring and begins his inevitable evolution towards Saul Goodman, Defender of the Common Man and Upholder of The Constitution.
The first episode of Season 2, “Switch” features two fun callbacks to Breaking Bad, both related to the loudmouth yuppie Kim and Jimmy encounter at the hotel bar.  Walt blows up his BMW at the end of Cancer Man, after being cut off by him at the bank and the gas station.  You remember him, his license plate read KENWINS.  The second reference concerns the $500 shot tequila they enjoy while Jimmy runs his scam for free drinks and dinner.  The tequila is Zafiro Añejo, the very same brand Gus Fring used to poison the Mexican Cartel in Salud. 
All these references, and the fact that this is a sequel to Breaking Bad and exists in the same universe, (or Bad-verse, if you will) means that a comparison of Kim and Skyler is not only interesting but necessary.  What’s fascinating to me is that Jimmy’s relationship with Kim doesn’t illicit the same irritation and frustration I had with Walt and Skyler. 
Skyler had invested 17 years in Walt and felt a loss of power as he pulled away and transformed into Heisenberg.  Truth be told, Walt had so many secrets and was living a double life.  Breaking Bad was as much a story of the dissolution of a marriage as a building of an empire. 
Kim is more of an equal partner and has a clearer vision of who Jimmy actually is.  She’s also a lawyer, and has carved out her own identity and self-worth not contingent on Jimmy, or any relationship.  I suppose if we were to continue with the Breaking Bad comparisons she would be more like Lydia Rodart-Quayle, except without the frightened rabbit/Stevia obsession that annoyed so many viewers but I found endearing.
There are many more differences of course, Jimmy and Kim aren’t married, and they’re not beat down by a mortgage, broken dreams and unfulfilled lives.  Skyler was a much stronger and significant character in Breaking Bad than Kim’s role in Better Call Saul, at least presently.  But the primary difference is Jimmy is honest with Kim, far more transparent with what he’s thinking and who he actually is than Walt ever was.  And Kim for her part, is under no delusions as to Jimmy’s character, and is probably not in love with him, at least not yet (and hopefully, never).
Also, because it made me laugh, I calculated that a 25-ounce bottle of Zafiro Añejo would be about $8300, in addition to the hors d’oeuvres they ordered.  Poor Ken can’t catch a break but in his defense, he did tell them he was a money making machine... 

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.