Horror Review: Day by Day Armageddon (by J.L. Bourne)


The last decade or so has been a sort of renaissance for all things zombies. Zombies have become the “monster of the moment” in the entertainment industry. These shambling undead (or Olympic sprinters for some of the more modern take on the genre) have permeated film, video games, comic books and novels. Even tv has been invaded by the recently ambulatory dead. J.L. Bourne debuts with a fast-paced and exciting first novel that takes the well-known conventions of the zombie tale and gives it a nice personal touch to set it apart from the many other zombie novels flooding the market.

Day by Day Armageddon doesn’t go the usual straight narrative of most novels. The novel’s written in the point-of-view of an anonymous narrator, but told through an epistolary-style Ssmilar to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Bourne’s novel tells the story of this one man’s struggles to survive the gradual collapse of civilization and then the days in a post-apocalyptic undead world around him through journal entries he has taken up to keep himself sane and focused. Bourne’s choice of writing style lends a bit of a personal touch to the proceedings as it imbues the tale with less hyperbole and flowery language. The journal entries gives the reader just the right amount of look into this man’s life instead of bombarding the reader with everything. Not everything’s explained in these journal entries, but enough clues were hinted at to keep the reader interested in reading more. From the beginning of the crisis (which has a timely feel of today’s current events) to the confusion of the situation spiralling out of control with our narrator as confused as the people in charge seem to be.

Day by Day Armageddon doesn’t lack for action and gory detail, but they seem to be more of affectations to the rest of the tale. Bourne concentrates more on the thoughts of his anonymous narrator. From how to plan for a siege to finding a way to distract the growing undead in his first refuge in order to rescue a neighbor who might be the only living person left the area. When the novel does finally have the narrator and the other survivors place themselves in danger in order to find more supplies or a better refuge, Bourne does a great job of keeping the pace of the story fast and tight. There’s not a lot of overly descriptive passages of the environment and its new undead in habitants. This minimalist style also lends itself to keeping the characters real. They behave with a rational and logical mind in trying to cope and deal with the worsening situation outside their refuge. Plans are thought out in advance and every precaution and angles factored in whatever decision they make in regards to their survival. In fact, Bourne’s characters seem to have either read Max Brook’s Zombie Survival Guide or at least something similar since they behaved and acted just how Brook’s guide said people need to if they’re to survive a coming zombie apocalypse.

If there’s a bone to pick with Day by Day Armageddon it would be the ending. To say that it ends in a cliffhanger would be an understatement. The last couple of journal entries became so action-packed that it succeeded in raising the adrenaline and making this reader want more of the same. But just when things really got cooking the book ends suddenly and with no resolution. The novel’s suppose to be just the first book in a larger series. Other than that little complaint, I thoroughly enjoyed this debut zombie novel from a new writer who seems to enjoy the zombie subgenre and knows how to handle it well. No running zombies for Mr. Bourne, though he’s hinted at radioactive zombies with abit more oomph than their less glowing undead brothers. Here’s to hoping Bourne keeps the sprinting undead to a minimum. Now where’s that second volume to this series.

James Bond Review – Goldfinger (dir. by Guy Hamilton)


The Shattered Lens continues the Bond Marathon leading up to the release of Skyfall with 1964’s Goldfinger. Normally, one would figure that the third film in a series is the one with the most danger of ruining everything. You’ve already had two successful stories and you’re asking audiences to come back for yet another round. Yet Goldfinger manages to be considered a favorite by many, and even managed to be the first 007 film to win an Academy Award (for Sound Effects). It does this by expanding on what was already done.

Building on the format that From Russia With Love started, Goldfinger opens with the gun barrel animation and Bond already on a mission. As he reaches what looks like an oil field under the cover of night, he manages to sabotage it (with a little help from C4 or possibly C3, given the time) and arrive back in a neighboring town before it explodes. Heading to his hotel room, he finds a young lady waiting for him who tries to capture his attentions before he catches sight of a thug in the reflection of her eyes. In the fight that ensues, Bond’s quick thinking and a bathtub full of water makes all of the difference. This prologue will become commonplace in all of the EON Production Bond films save for Dr. No (of course) and Quantum of Solace, which gives you the gun barrel at the end of that film.

Sean Connery reprises his role as MI6’s best agent, finding himself in Miami, where he interrupts the card game of one Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), cheating with the help of Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton). When Bond is caught off guard and knocked out, he wakes up to find Jill dead in her bed, covered in gold paint. The scene actually sparked a number of rumors that Eaton had died in the process of filming it, and as it was mentioned in the film, without leaving a free space near the base of the spine, the actress suffered “skin asphyxiation”. This was later tested on the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, and while skin doesn’t “breathe” the way Fleming wrote, your sweat can’t get out of clogged pores. You end up dying of heat stroke. Guess my science teachers were right there, to a degree. The image is so popular, it was even referenced by Quantum of Solace, though Oil was the substance of choice used there.

Bond is given the mission to track Goldfinger and figure out what he’s up, but not without a quick visit to Q Branch. It’s here where we find James’ new car, the Aston Martin DB5, and are introduced to one of longest professional relationships between an automotive company and a production one. Aston Martin would go on to cover nearly every Bond film save for a few (Goldeneye quickly comes to mind), but I’ll profile that relationship in a separate article. The car is outfitted with machine guns, oil slicks, smoke screens and even an ejector seat, believe it or not. Among the gadgets he’s given are two trackers (one large and one small). In terms of the overall series, this is the point where 007 seemingly becomes more of a gadget hound than relying on his actual abilities. I always felt that the ones in From Russia With Love supported him just when he needed it. In Goldfinger, they come across as utility belt like items, though functional all the same.

One of the other standouts in the film is Goldfinger’s henchman, OddJob (Harold Sakata). With a bowler hat that served as a razor disc, he’s one of the most iconic villains in the series, perhaps second only to Richard Kiel’s Jaws. Tomorrow Never Dies and even Goldeneye went on to use henchmen (or henchwomen in Famke Jassen’s case) to great effect.

In going after Goldfinger, Bond runs into Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet), who mistakenly tries to kill him. They’re eventually caught an in classic 007 Fashion, Bond is placed in a situation that causes one to ask why no one has ever tried to kill him outright. The laser scene that has Bond tied to a table features one of the most famous lines in Goldfinger. When Bond asks Auric if he expects him to talk because of the laser that’s due to cut him in two, Goldfinger stops, turns to face him and exclaims, “No, Mister Bond! I expect you to die!” Needless to say, Goldfinger changes his mind after Bond mentions “Operation Grand Slam”, a plot to seemingly rob Fort Knox. It’s only later that we find that Goldfinger isn’t out to rob the reserve, he’s planning on detonating a nuclear weapon in it that would make all of the nation’s gold radioactive (and all of his gold worth billions, as a result). This is all showcased in a grand sequence involving Pussy Galore’s flight team and some knockout gas. As a kid, I loved it.

Finally, what Bond film would be complete without a Bond Girl? For Goldfinger, we have Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. In doing some research on this, I found that according to an article in Empire Magazine, in order to get the name by the American censors, the movie producers took them out to dinner. They decided to not interfere with the name, but it was never exactly listed in any of the US marketing promos. I’d always wondered about that, myself.

As a Bond Girl, Pussy was great in that she handled herself well with both weapons and hand to hand combat. Honor Blackman was well versed in Judo, so her action scenes with Sean Connery were easy to make. Cold and to the point, Pussy Galore wasn’t the “crying over a broken nail” type, but this being the 60’s, they still had the character succumb to Bond’s advances. Personally, I’m not exactly cool with that, but understand that given the time period and possibly the audience, it had to be written as such. Future Bond Girls would make up for it. At least it was good to see that there was a Bond Girl who could stand toe to toe with Bond.

Regarding the casting, one thing that’s also interesting to note that Gert Frobe, who played Goldfinger had a heavy German accent, so heavy in fact that his lines had to be dubbed by someone else. All of the Bond regulars from previous films make a return – Desmond Llewelyn as Q, Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, in particular. Felix Leiter would be played by a different actor (my favorite being David Hedison from License to Kill).

The impact of Goldfinger has been huge over the years. It’s one of the films everyone usually recalls, and even famed Video Game creator Hideo Kojima pays homage to the film by way of the theme song used in it’s game “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater”, as the game takes place in the same time period as Goldfinger.

Overall, Goldfinger remains one of the strongest parts of the 007 saga. Tomorrow, the Shattered Lens takes on Thunderball, the Fourth Connery film and the controversy surrounding it. I’ll leave you with Shirley Bassey’s iconic theme to the film.

Which Way Forward For The “Batman” Movie Franchise? Take Seventeen : Costume Survey


 

One of these days, I probably really should get around to playing the Batman : Arkham City video game. Of course that means buying a video game system of some sort and that will inevitably lead to getting more games and more games means less time for things like movies and comics. It could even mean less time with my wife, at which point I know I’d be well and truly beyond all help. So I think I’ll refrain.

But still — a fair amount of what we’ve been discussing in this little (okay, not so little) Bat-thread of mine seems to revolve around ideas presented in this Arkham City game, and it’s rather flabbergasting that I’m freely swiping so many concepts for my imaginary new Bat-movie-trilogy from something I really have no first-hand experience with — but hey, that’s the way it goes sometimes, I guess. All of which brings us to the above-reproduced CG menu from the game.

How does that follow, you ask? Well, we’re at the point in our first Bat-flick where, having hinted at aspects of the costume in silhouette-fashion, and having given the new Batmobile it’s so-called “full reveal,” it’s time for Batman to arrive at the Gotham City docks and crash the little party Lucchesi and his men are holding there, so now seems like as good a time as any to show the Bat-costume in all its glory, hence the picture at the top of the post — which also comes, no surprise, from Arkham City. Apparently you can actually pick which of the various Bat-suits used over the years you want your Batman character to wear in the game, and that pic represents the menu of options that you as a player have to choose from.

Let me start by saying that none of them are exactly perfect for what I have in mind for Batman’s look in this new trilogy, but one of them sure comes damn close, in my opinion. Keep in mind, we’ve already shown that this particular iteration of the Batman is wearing his Kevlar-armor bodysuit underneath his costume, so the suit serve as his armor in and of itself as it has in the Christopher Nolan and, to a lesser extent, Tim Burton Bat-films. So that rules out, going from left to right,  option three and six as pictured. So — it’s survey time! In the next, shall we say, 24 hours, should you feel so inclined, please chime in here and let me know the following :

*Which of the remaining options you  would choose for Batman to wear in the new hypothetical trilogy;

*And which one you think I have picked out.

If nobody responds — it is the weekend after all — I’ll just chime in tomorrow night with my own choice, as well as detailing the small change or two (or three) I’d make to get things exactly as I picture them. Any and all opinions are welcome, of course, but in the end, as they say, there can be only one, and being the dictator of this thread means I’ll have the final say, but if you can lay out a solid argument in favor of your selection, it may just be enough to get me to change my mind!

Until tomorrow night, then!