The Internship

When I saw the first trailer for this movie, I was a little concerned. It looked like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were trying to survive on the vapors of past success. Time marches on for all of us and the idea of these two making a raunchy comedy seemed a little distasteful. As it turns out there is almost nothing raunchy about this. It enhances the story that these two are a little long in the tooth and it plays like a more straightforward comedy from the 1990s, with a newer subject but the same mixture of humor and heart that was so typical of that era. This is much closer to “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” than to “Wedding Crashers”. As a result it is a fairly easy film to recommend to a wide audience. Last summer I could smell the stink on “The Watch”, and I avoided it, this year, I was suspicious but I am really glad I did not turn my nose up at it.

The setup is something anybody of a generation from before 1990 will be able to relate to. The world has changed, and while you might have a good skill set, it may not be the one that anyone is looking for anymore.   Nick and Bill are sales guys who have a great personal touch but are antiques in the modern age of communication. It seems strange to think that guys like this are old school, but since that was the name of one of the early hits for Vaughn, maybe it is correct. This is basically a fish out of water story, and as such it comes down to how willing you are to believe that the fish can master a new environment. There are a couple of cheats just for laughs. I think guys in their forties are going to know who the X-Men are and would not fall for the joke that is teased in the trailer. One of them even makes a more current pop culture referent to “The Hunger Games”. So they are not totally out of touch.  Someone savvy enough to do a Google Hangout for a job interview is likely to know of “Instagram”. Other than a couple of short cuts like that the film manages to be pretty realistic in setting up the characters at the internship they manage to get with Google. Programming and engineering are not their strong suit and so the movie plays best when showing them struggling with the technical side of the job.

Everyone on their intern team becomes a dutch uncle, pointing out their weaknesses. There is a snotty rival team member who discourages one character so much that the obligatory plot complication in the last act seems pretty reasonable. Outsiders are vulnerable to self doubt, although the Vince Vaughn character of Bill, seems like the least likely of the two to give into it. Some good seeds were planted early on so it is not a complete contrivance. We get some nice background bits without having too much of the characters played by Rob Riggle and Will Farrell. Riggle gets enough screen time to be mildly disturbing but not so much that you wish the part was gone from the film. Farrell on the other hand, brings the movie to a complete stop in his brief time on screen. The scene is needed for us to believe that Wilson’s character would go along with Vaughn, but Farrell does his usual scream acting. He seems to believe that louder is funnier. In fact it is just irritating. He has become a parody of himself instead of an interesting personality. Vaughn and Wilson are doing some of the same stuff they have done for years but they freshen it up, and actually try to make it work for the story. It is an interesting contrast in the development of their careers.

I’ll tell you who this film will not work for: hipsters. It is too conventional and the characters are too grounded to satisfy the desire for the new and innovative. I on the other hand appreciate a story that is well crafted, even if it is derivative. The construction of a good meal starts with solid ingredients, and a good recipe. Sometimes people don’t want the ravioli with chipolte tomato bisque and goat cheese. They want a simple ravioli with a good meat sauce. It may not be as inventive but it will go down well and it is usually a lot more satisfying. If you hate movies that you can see the story arc from a mile away on, than you should skip this. If you like a movie that tells a fun story and is well performed and very entertaining, than this is right up your alley. Wilson is his usual surfer burnout persona, but it was used very nicely here. Vaughn is the emotionally driven cheerleader type, but it was limited to reasonable doses along the way. The “Flashdance” inspiration story is not nearly as irritating in the film as it was in the trailer, so don’t be scared away. The Google connection is the biggest product placement component I have seen since FedEx in “Cast Away”. You can’t get around it, and while it looks like it might be interesting, it also makes me a little squeamish. The work environment feels just a couple of steps away from “Stepford”, where everything is perfect.

This film was so much better than I thought it was going to be. It is a conventional comedy, and that was the biggest surprise. The script and story are largely a result of Vince Vaughn’s work, and he is not swinging for the fences. He is trying to keep the game going by getting a hit and he manages a solid double. I can’t say that everyone will like it, it may be a little staid for younger audiences, expecting filthy language, outrageous behavior and cutting edge humor. If you are looking for a pleasant evening at the movies, with a date or a friend, than “The Internship” will be rewarding enough for you. You will be glad that you applied and the experience will be worthwhile.

Furious 6 or Fast and Furious Six, or

I saw the original Fast and Furious in 2001. That was twelve years and five whole movies ago. It was a guilty Summer pleasure that did not stick with me for more than a minute or two. I do remember that it was the last time I went to Universal Studios, right after the 9/11 attacks, because the cars from the movie were on display. Nothing fancy, they were just sitting there. OK, that was kinda cool for two minutes and then I moved on. It appears a lot has happened in the last ten years, the movies are now heist films, the good guy from the first movie is now a member of the criminal gang, and Dwayne Johnson has had some dealings with them in the past as some kind of U.S. Federal agent. That last part works out well for me because I like the former “Rock”. He is an action star with some charisma.

It does not work out as well for Vin Diesel. I have no problems with him except that he is incredibly unexpressive in this whole movie. His tone of voice never varies, I don’t remember any facial expression that could be described as more than a slight smirk, and he has a whole bunch of ponderous lines he has to read. Johnson by comparison is full of attitude, the voice changes from scene to scene,  and he only does two or three incredibly silly, gravity defying action moves. Don’t get me wrong, the flying headbutt that Diesel performs is fun, but it is also over the top ridiculous. This is Johnsons third big film of the Spring and he has not outworn his welcome yet. Diesel on the other hand needs a cup of Joe and some Benzedrine. I saw the trailer for the Riddick movie coming out later this year, he looks sleepy in that also.

“Furious 6” features a returning cast member who was apparently presumed dead. She now has to be recovered and a strategic genius rogue British Special Forces guy has to be defeated. We open the film with a car race. There is a car race in the middle of the film pitting Diesel against his old amnesiac girlfriend. The film ends with a car race in Tokyo. In between the car races are car chases. The primary difference between the two types of car activities seems to be that the crashes are deliberate in the chases.  If you are not into car chase shots and racing motifs, you should skip this movie (and hell why would you even have thought of seeing it in the first place?). Although it is set up as something of a heist film, there is only one element that fits that bill and it is mostly buried in the big car chase that involves a tank. I like cars well enough, but I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a gearhead. They don’t really talk much about the cars or show why one might be better than another, and it seems that they will have an endless supply to crash as the movie goes on.

There are a half dozen or more “good guy” characters to keep track of, and an equal number of villains. I suppose we have met some of Diesel’s crew in the earlier films, I’ll just accept them as they are and treat them like the established characters in any continuing series. I did not feel any particular affection for any of them, and there was only one scene where Johnson and one of the crew take a little revenge on a snooty car broker, that had much comedic value. This movie could use a stronger plot for the villain, and better dialogue for the secondary characters. It could also be tightened up by about twenty minutes. Some of the chases go on way to long. Instead of a breezy 90 minutes it is a ponderous two hours plus. Nonsense works best when it is brief and to the point. This movie is of course complete nonsense. That does not mean it isn’t fun. I had a pretty good time, even though I was frequently lost in all the car chases trying to figure out which set of cars was chasing what other set of cars. No one seems capable of dying in a car crash, and they all appear to be the worst marksmen in the world. That’s OK because then they can race again a little while later.

I did like the character of Gina Carano, as Johnsons sidekick. She is a tough looking but attractive woman who looks great fighting.  I saw her in “Haywire” last year and she should definitely be doing these action kinds of films. Her character is wasted in a plot line that was not necessary and is a contrived cliché. It does appear however that in the next movie, we will get a different kind of kick ass character. I don’t know if there is some story line I missed in the previous movies, but it looks like “Handsome Rob” is going to be an antagonist in the next film and that short burst of charisma he injects in the film at the end makes the villain in this movie look tepid.

007 Posters / A Top Ten List

This is in my entry way at home. 007 greets you at the front door.

Last year in all the hubbub around the release of Skyfall, I put up several lists of Bond related rankings. The blog-a-thon I participated in includes dozens of other posts that I shared. Many of those ranked the Villains, Title Songs or Bond girls. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that a poster ranking would be a ripe subject for me. My Blogging friend from Long Island, Eric, suggested this to me the other day, and I smacked myself on the forehead wondering why it had never occurred to me. I have two or three books that cover all the Bond posters, and publicity material and I am an avid collector of posters myself. As soon as Eric suggested it, I immediately went to a file on my computer where I have most of the images stored, I’ve used that file for a screensaver a couple of times since I’ve had this current computer. I first chose a poster from each 007 film. Most of them have a teaser poster, which appears in theater lobbies several months before the film arrives. That is usually followed by an advance sheet, sometimes referred to as the “A” sheet, which usually has the main artwork and tag lines for the movie. When a film actually shows up in theaters, there is a “B” sheet that is a slight variation of the “A” but includes contractual credits and refinements of the artwork. Once reviews appear, then the posters get modified with blurbs from critics. Finally, there are character posters that have become a trend in the last twenty years or so, each poster featuring leading characters from the story.

That is a lot of posters to choose from, and I wanted to pick only posters that I liked. So all 24 Bond films will not be represented here. Instead, I will share the cream of the crop. I did choose to limit a film to one appearance on the list, but the poster could come from any of the different lines of posters.I did not include the limited edition print versions of the Bond posters that adorn my family room wall, but I may give you a peek at the end of this post.

10. Die Another Day Teaser

This is the Advance U.S. One Sheet, sometimes known as a teaser. It does not include the star of the film or any images from the movie, given the film itself that was a wise idea. It does let us know the title and that it is a James Bond Film. I like the effect of the gun, hot from recent use, melting into the block of ice. It suggests action without showing any. The ice theme is a big part of the film, both in reference to one of the locations but also to the use of diamonds as a Maguffin.

9. Diamonds are Forever

This is the U.S. one sheet that is the version used when the film makes it’s appearance in theaters. This art work was done by Robert McGinnis, who painted a number of the iconic Bond works of the sixties and seventies. I particularly like the pose of James Bond on the top of the arm of the moon buggy, and the girls holding the diamonds at crotch level, drawing focus to that part of the image. The explosions on the oil rig and the diamond encrusted satellite make the story intriguing. The one thing missing from the poster is any reference to Las Vegas, where the majority of the film takes place. When I saw this poster in the foyer of the Garfield Theater in 1971, I knew I wanted to see Sean Connery as James Bond, back again.

8. Casino Royale Teaser

Daniel Craig is introduced as James Bond in this advance teaser for the film. The lighting of the shot sets an ominous tone for the film. The poker chips combined with the title remind us that it is a gambling theme that will be the focus of our hero’s conflict. The gun laid out on the gaming table tells us that the stakes are more than money. I love the strategic line up of the words in the title to allow the O’s in each word to form the iconic 007 gun logo. I also think it was very effective not to have Bond looking directly at us. The photography was by Greg Williams.

   7. The Spy Who Loved Me

007 and Triple X are featured back to back in evening wear, as they stand above stolen nuclear submarines, and in front of the Egyptian Pyramids that are the location of a major section of the film. In a nod to the era of films before it, the corners feature action beats and settings. All of this using a color palate that screams the seventies. The art is the product of Bob Peak. It’s BOND and BEYOND, a little word play with the name of our hero.

6. Octopussy

This is the second of two teaser posters(a B Style). The first featured a half seen Octopussy from the rear, facing eight mirrored Roger Moore Bonds. The A sheet features this image but adds some additional artistic splashes of action in the foreground and corners. I prefer this version because it emphasizes Bond but keeps the Octo reference on the right character. Like an eight armed Shiva, Octopussy is embracing and threatening to Bond at the same time. The Shiva like reference and the costume hint at the locations for the film, without coming right out and saying India. The artwork is by Dan Goozee.

5. The Man With the Golden Gun (Christmas Teaser)

As you can probably tell at this point, I like teaser posters. They hold the allure of the movie out, without revealing too much. They do exactly what they are supposed to do, peak our interest and make us anticipate. The gadgets have always been a draw for Bond films, and here is one featured in the poster. No artist or Art director was listed in my sources, these images appear to be art renderings of photographs. The way the gun comes together is shown in that last image before the title border. The film opened at Christmas time so the idea that the villain has a present for James Bond is used in the tag line. You can buy a replica of the Golden Gun, the last time I looked it was about $450.

4. Goldfinger

The most arresting image on this poster is the nude woman painted gold. That was an iconic image from the 1960s and it is the central focus of this poster. While not as visually striking as some of the other posters on my list, the black background and the gold highlights look great together. This promotion has a terrific play on the idea of the Midas Touch, instead of gold, everything he touches turns to excitement. The layout is attributed to David Chasman and Robert Brownjohn. The “Golden Girl” image was used on most of the promotional material for this film.

3. Thunderball

James Bond in a Jet Pack! 007 in an underwater battle! Our hero surrounded by women in swimsuits! My dreams have come true. The art work from this poster made me want the steel lunchbox that I never got. I love the tag lines building and the use of the logo in the word LOOK, this was very clever branding. Frank McCarthy and Robert McGinnis did the artwork. Special kudos to McCarthy on the Jet Pack painting, it is spectacular work.

2. The World is Not Enough Teaser

Forget “The Hunger Games”, here is the real “Girl on Fire”. The reverse silhouette of the girl in the flames, surrounded by a back background is amazing enough, but then you notice the figure of James Bond, posing in the traditional gun in hand position and it becomes something even more. Bond’s outline and the girls, merge to form one of the few photoshop style designs that have ever been used on a poster that I liked. Again, the golden 007 logo announces the release date for the film and tells us nothing about the story. It uses iconographic symbols to pull us in with desire.  It is like a single frame from a Maurice Binder title sequence. The credit goes to Creative Director Randi Braun, Art Director Diane Reynolds, and choreographer Vincent Patterson.

1. Live and Let Die

Robert McGinnis returns one more time to my list for the fantastic art work he did for this poster. Before I comment on it let’s look at a couple of other elements. This was Roger Moore’s first Bond film, and the graphic designer took advantage of his first and last names, to again utilize the 007 icon. They also used a dagger in the tittle to suggest the danger in the film. This movie may have some dated elements to it, but the whole voodoo tarot card motif was visually exciting and it is integrated into the poster very effectively. The woman representing Solitaire, does not look like or dress like Jane Seymour in the film, but she sits astride the big gun between Bond’s legs and fans the deck of tarot cards toward us alluringly. The larger deck of cards seems to offer 007 up as the main character card, flanked by Baron Samedi and a bevy of beautiful women, representing the Devil, Lovers and Fortune.  In the foreground are explosions, car crashes and a giant alligator vomiting out a speed boat. Bond gazes out calmly in his raised gun pose and takes it all in. The image is colorful, evocative and memorable. Those are all things a movie poster should be, on top of that the artwork is just gorgeous.
I’m sorry to say I have only two of these posters in my own collection. Some day when those lotto numbers come in, I’ll indulge myself and travel around the world in pursuit of a complete collection, like bubble gum cards. Until then, I can admire them from afar, I hope you will as well. 
And her’s a little something for Eric.