Horror Trailer: The Bay (by Barry Levinson)

Another found footage horror flick is on it’s way to the cinemas in less than a month. This one just happens to have some heavyweight pedigree behind it. While it has producers of the Paranormal Activity series and one of this year’s surprise horror entries with Insidious it’s who ended up directing this found footage horror film that has given the film buzz since it’s premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Barry Levinson, he of Academy Award-winning fame for Best Director for Rain Man, does directing duties for The Bay and from reaction since it premiered at this year’s TIFF he has made a found footage horror film that is worth seeing. The scenes and trailers shown tells the story of an incident a couple years back in a seaside Maryland town which becomes part of a wide-ranging government cover-up. A cover-up meant to hide hundreds of deaths and the cause of it.

I’m not a huge fan of found footage films, but I do enjoy those that are well-done and brings something fresh to the table. If The Bay is even half of what the buzz and hype is saying about it then I think it’s going to be one that I plan to check out when it comes out in the next couple weeks.

The Bay is set for a November 2, 2012 release date from Lionsgate.

James Bond Film Review: From Russia With Love (dir. by Terrence Young)

Hi there!  The name’s Bowman, Lisa Marie Bowman.  And tonight, I’m continuing the Shattered Lens’ look at the James Bond film franchise by reviewing 1963’s From Russia With Love.

The 2nd film in the Bond film series, From Russia With Love is considered by many to be one of the best entries in the franchise.  I happen to agree with them.  There’s a lot of talk right now that Skyfall could be the first James Bond film to receive an Oscar nomination for best picture.  Personally, I think From Russia With Love (and not Tom Jones) should have been named the best picture of 1963,  (Seriously, has anyone actually tried to watch Tom Jones recently?)

From Russia With Love opens with a tuxedo-clad James Bond sneaking around outside the type of opulent estate that every Bond villain seems to own.  Suddenly, Bond is attacked by a hulking assassin named Red Grant (played by a pre-Jaws Robert Shaw) and, as the audience watches shocked, Bond is apparently killed.  It’s only after Bond’s dead and on the ground that we learn the truth.  The man in the tuxedo wasn’t James Bond at all — instead, he was just some random henchman in a James Bond mask!  It turns out that Grant works for the villainous organization SPECTRE and this is all part of his training routine.  Now, you would be justified in wondering why SPECTRE would go through the trouble to make a next-to-perfect James Bond mask for a simple training routine but. ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  It’s a great sequence, that manages to be both fun and suspenseful at the same time.  It’s also a great set-up for the rest of the film.

SPECTRE and its mysterious leader (and this is the first time in which we get to see that iconic image of a hand stroking a white cat while a disembodied voice says evil things) want Bond dead.  The job of arranging Bond’s assassination is given to Kronsteen (played by Vladek Sheybal, who has a truly fascinating skeletal face).  When he’s not off being evil, Kronsteen is a chess grandmaster and, not surprisingly, he views his assignment as if it’s just one big chess game.  In order to kill Bond, he knows that he’s going to need a pawn.

That’s where Tatiana Romanova (played by Daniela Bianchi) comes in.  Tatiana is a cipher clerk at the Russian Embassy in Istanbul.  She is approached and given an assignment by Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), a Russian intelligence agent who, unknown to Tatiana, is also working for SPECTRE.  Tatiana contacts MI6 and tells them that she’s willing to defect but only to James Bond.  Tatiana explains that she came across Bond’s picture in a Soviet Intelligence file and the insinuation is that she fell in love (or, at the very least, lust) with that picture.

(Interestingly enough, this parallels the fact that audiences had previously seen Sean Connery in Dr. No and, like Tatiana, spent the year between the two films fantasizing about James Bond themselves.  In that way, Tatiana is the perfect audience surrogate.)

James Bond is sent to Istanbul by M (Bernard Lee) but before he goes, he meets with the head of Q branch.  Desmond Llewelyn makes his first appearance in the Bond franchise here.  In a historic moment of film history, he gives Bond his first booby-trapped briefcase.

When Bond arrives in Istanbul, he meets with station head Kerim Bey (played by Pedro Armanderiz, who tragically committed suicide before From Russia With Love was released).  With the help of Kerim Bey and Tatiana (who Bond first meets with she turns up, naked, in his bed), Bond steals the Lektor decoder device from the Russian consulate.  Though Bond doesn’t realize this, he’s aided in this task by none other than Red Grant.  Grant has been following Bond and perversely, he’s been protecting Bond from KGB assassins so that he might have the chance to kill Bond himself.

Bringing the Lektor device with them, Bond, Tatiana, and Kerim Bey board the Orient Express.  It’s on the train that they meet Nash, a British agent who says that he’s been sent by MI6 to help make sure that Bond and Tatiana safely make it back to England.  Of course, what the audience knows, is that the somewhat smug Nash is none other then … Red Grant!

I love From Russia With Love.  Everything that makes the James Bond series so special — romance, memorable villains, spectacular locations, exciting action, and a rather sardonic sense of humor — is present in From Russia With Love.  Playing Bond for the second time, Connery is more confident with the role here than he was in Dr. No and, as opposed to some of his later appearances in the series, Connery appears to be enjoying bringing this iconic character to life.  There’s none of the boredom that marred some of Connery’s later performances.  Instead, Connery is exciting to watch and it helps that he and Bianchi have a very real chemistry in this film.  As opposed to some Bond girls, Tatiana is a believable, multi-layered character and you actually care what happens to her.  The relationship between Tatiana and Bond feels real and, therefore, the film has a surprising emotional resonance to it.

As opposed to Dr. No, with its somewhat bland title character, the villains in From Russia With Love are a fascinating quartet of rogues.  Lotte Lenya brings an unexpected amount of depth to the role of Rosa and her final battle with Bond is one of the best in the history of the franchise.  Even more exciting than Bond’s fight with Rosa is his final fight with Red Grant.  As played by Robert Shaw, Grant comes across as if he’s the literal personification of Bond’s dark side.  Both men are killers and both are rather smug about it but the difference is that Bond is capable of caring about Tatiana whereas Grant has surrendered whatever emotions he may have once had.  Shaw’s performance so dominates the film that, when I rewatched the film, I was surprised to discover that Grant is only in a handful of scenes.

If Dr. No was an enjoyable B-movie, then From Russia With Love was a cinematic masterpiece that transcended the limitations of genre.  If Dr. No established the basic conventions of James Bond, From Russia With Love showed that those conventions could be used to make a great film.

Tomorrow, we’ll be taking a look at the third film in the Bond franchise, Goldfinger.

And like that, Oscar season begins: The Gotham Independent Film Awards Nominations

As I’ve said many times in the past, I am an Oscar fanatic and Oscar season is my favorite time of the year.  Well, I’m happy to say that the 2012 Oscar season has now officially began.  The Gotham Independent Film Spirit Awards have been announced.

“The what?” you my be asking.

Well, okay, it’s true that the Gothams aren’t as influential as the Golden Globes or the National Board of Review.  But, still, for independent filmmakers who are hoping not to be forgotten in the rush to embrace mainstream films like Lincoln, The Great Gatsby, and Zero Dark Thirty, every little bit of publicity helps.

The nominations appear to be dominated by Bernie, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Master.  That’s not a bad thing because I consider each one of those films to be one of the best of the year.

Here’s the nominations.  I’m going to hold off on offering up any commentary, beyond saying that I’m glad to see that Bernie is being remembered.

Best Feature:


The Loneliest Planet

The Master

Middle of Nowhere

Moonrise Kingdom

Best Documentary:


How To Survie a Plague

Marina Abramowtiz: The Artist Is Present

Room 327

The Waiting Room

Best Ensemble Performance:


Moonrise Kingdom

Safety Not Guaranteed

Silver Linings Playbook

Your Sister’s Sister

Breakthrough Director

Zal Batmanglij for “Sound of My Voice
Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky for “Francine”

Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin for “Now, Forager”
Antonio Mendez Esparza for “Aqui­ y Alli¡ (Here and There)”
Benh Zeitlin for “Beasts of the Southern Wild

Breakthrough Actor
Mike Birbiglia in “Sleepwalk with Me
Emayatzy Corinealdi in “Middle of Nowhere
Thure Lindhardt in “Keep the Lights On
Melanie Lynskey in “Hello, I Must Be Going
Quvenzhane Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You
“An Oversimplification of Her Beauty”
“Red Flag”
“Sun Don’t Shine”
“Tiger Tail in Blue”

Which Way Forward For The “Batman” Movie Franchise ? Take Sixteen : The Batmobile!

This actually isn’t a diversion from where we were in the plot of our hypothetical Batman I  film. Well, okay, not too much of a diversion.

If you’ll recall, when we last left things the other day, Vincent Lucchesi, Gotham City crime “boss of all bosses,” was headed out to oversee an important shipment coming into town that his guys had neglected to find replacement “security” for once the cop-on-the-take they’d hired to fill that role, the always-crooked Lieutenant Flass, had been sent upriver by Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon. All of which means it’s time to cut to some semi-momentous shit that we’ve all been waiting for (assuming there’s a “we” out there still reading this interminably long series), namely our first scene of the Batman in costume, followed in short order by the debut of this new bat-trilogy’s version of the Batmobile.

So shouldn’t I be doing a post on the Bat-costume first, and then get to the car? Yeah, I suppose that would make sense, but bear with me while I explain how this whole little scene plays out in my mind —

We’ll cut from Lucchesi storming out of his plush penthouse office to Bruce Wayne attentively analyzing a series of shipping manifest numbers on the giant screen of his Bat-computer deep in his cave. Alfred is standing by, attentive as ever, while Bruce says something along the lines of “so if the pattern of Lucchesi’s shipments holds, his next one should be coming in tonight.”

“You intend to be there to meet it, sir?”

“That’s the plan, Alfred. Getting an entire crate of whatever it is he’s shipping in is out of the question, but if I can just get enough to fill up this vial, I’ll transmit an image through to you for analysis.”

“I shall be at the ready then, sir.”

“And speaking of ready — it’s time I got that way myself.”

At this point Wayne will press a button on a keypad control and a plexiglass case containing a Batsuit will rise up from the floor, but I’m thinking for now we should see it only from behind, and that his “dressing” scene should amount to shots of him suiting up in his kevlar under-suit, maybe snapping some gauntlets on his hands, etc. — no full view of him in costume yet, just hints of the overall picture, if you will. This will be followed up by an obscured shot of him breezing by Alfred and mouthing the word “car” into his cowl-mic, at which point a stone dais will rise from the deeper recesses of the cave revealing, in all its glory, the new Batmobile!

Now, when it comes to exactly which Batmobile we’re talking about here, I admit I hunted high and low through various online image archives to find what I felt would be the perfect model. I’m not interested in a repeat of Christopher Nolan’s “Tumbler,” nor did I want a carbon-copy version of Tim Burton’s more classically-inspired ride, although something more akin to the Burton version, based as it was on an amalgamation of several of the better comic book designs, was what I had in mind. Still, the picture-perfect model well and truly escaped me, until —

I found that image reproduced at the top of this post. It’s a conceptual CG mock-up by a guy named Danny Gardner done for the Batman : Arkham City video game. Never having played the game myself I can’t say for certain whether or not it’s the car — or, hell, one of the cars — Batman uses in it, but I think for the overall tone of this new imaginary Bat-trilogy of ours, it’s pretty well goddamn perfect. I’m sure whatever Hollywood designers were working on this film if it ever came to pas would want to tweak it here and there, obviously, but as far as a “this is the kind of thing we’re going for” blueprint goes, I think it’s great. It’s sleek, it’s modern, it’s bad-ass, and yet it’s got something of a timeless quality to it that I think would ensure it ages well along with the film itself. It would also blend into the night pretty seamlessly. What say you, dear readers?

And now, with the car out of the way, tomorrow we can finally get to the business of a “full reveal,” as the saying goes, of the Bat-costume itself!

Artist Profile: Basil Gogos

Born to a Greek family living in Egypt, Basil Gogos immigrated to the United States at the age of 16.  Gogos was interested in art from a young age and studied at several New York city art schools.  Gogos began his professional career in 1959 and found his greatest success painting covers for The Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.  In the 1970s, Gogos retired from commercial art and devoted himself to doing fine art.  In 2006, Gogos received the Monster Kid Hall Of Fame Award at The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.