Thursday, April 28, 2016
Below are images from "THE FIRM", the 1993 adaptation of John Grisham's 1991 novel. Directed by Sydney Pollack, the movie starred Tom Cruise:
"THE FIRM" (1993) Photo Gallery
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
"A VIEW TO A KILL" Review
The year 1985 marked a milestone in the history of the Bond franchise. This was the year in which EON Productions released their latest Bond film, "A VIEW TO A KILL". The movie would turn out to be Roger Moore's last turn as the British agent, James Bond. With this movie, Moore would become the only actor who has portrayed Bond for EON Productions more than any other - seven times. Sean Connery would also portray Bond seven times, but his last effort would not be for EON Productions.
But this review is not about Moore's tenure as James Bond. It is about his last movie - namely "A VIEW TO A KILL". The franchise's 14th installment is not what I would call a remarkable film. But I do not consider it a travesty like many other Bond fans do. On the whole, it struck me as a slight remake of the 1964 film, "GOLDFINGER" in regard to one scene and the villain's objective. In "GOLDFINGER", the villain's objective was to destroy the U.S. gold reserve at Fort Knox with a nuclear bomb in order to drive up the value of his own supply of gold. In "A VIEW TO A KILL", the villain's objective was to destroy the U.S. dominant control of the microchip market by causing a "natural disaster" in Silicon Valley. Both movies also feature scenes in which the villain reveals his scheme to potential "investors". But whereas "GOLDFINGER" created a major plot hole in its version of this particular scene, "A VIEW TO A KILL" managed to avoid one.
Bond's discovery of a microchip on the body of the dead Agent 003 in Siberia leads to MI-6's investigation of an industrialist named Max Zorin, who now owns the very company that the British government and military have contracts. Bond's investigation leads to his introduction of certain individuals - a former Nazi criminal/scientist named Carl Mortner, an oil geologist named Conley and the movie's leading lady, whose name is Stacy Sutton. In a nutshell, these three characters - especially Sutton - allowed Bond to discover Zorin's past as a KGB agent, his betrayal of his bosses, and his plot to destroy Silicon Valley. Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum's screenplay is not very original, considering its strong similarity to "GOLDFINGER". Fortunately for "A VIEW TO A KILL", director John Glen did what he could with Wilson and Maibaum’s screenplay and did a commendable job in avoiding the major mistakes of the 1964 film. Granted, the movie’s portrayal of the San Francisco Police seemed straight out of the Keystone Cops. Nor I did not care for the writers’ attempt to keep Stacy in the story by allowing her character to reveal the details of Zorin’s plot. It seemed to be stretching things a bit. But in the end, I rather liked the story. And I liked Glen’s direction. I believe that he did better with movies like "FOR YOUR EYES ONLY", "OCTOPUSSY”, "THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS" and even "LICENSE TO KILL". But at least I have nothing major to complain about.
The cast’s performance seemed to be pretty solid. The only complaint I have of Roger Moore is that in certain scenes, he looked a little too old and tired to be portraying Bond. Some fans would attribute this to his age (he was 57 when he shot the movie). But from what I had learned, Moore had been suffering from the flu at the time. However, there were scenes in which he looked like a handsome, middle-aged man. Despite his illness, Moore managed to turn in a good performance that had not been marred by the occasional silly joke, as it had in "OCTOPUSSY". Aside from the silly Beach Boysmoment and the movie's final scene, the humor in "A VIEW TO A KILL" seemed more restrained and tasteful. Ironically, three of Moore’s best moments featured both humor – which featured Bond’s impersonation as a spoiled and demanding playboy and his reunion with KGB agent Pola Ivanova (Fiona Fullerton) - and also drama – his dislike of Zorin apparent, following the murder of Mr. Howe (Daniel Benzali) of the Department of Conservation.
I would never regard Tanya Roberts ("CHARLIE’S ANGELS"/"THAT 70s SHOW") to be a great actress. Hell, I have enough trouble viewing her as a good actress. She was basically solid as Stacy Sutton, the California State geologist, whose oil company Zorin wanted to buy. But she did have her moments of wooden acting. Fortunately for Roberts, she can at least claim to be a better actress than either Barbara Bach or Lois Chiles. And despite her acting limitations, she managed to inject a great deal of spirit and moxie into the Stacy character. Oscar winner Christopher Walker, on the other hand, was great. I loved his slightly off-kilter portrayal of the greedy and psychotic Max Zorin – former KBG agent-turned-entrepreneur and industrialist. And considering that Walken was portraying a psychotic, it is a credit to his skills as an actor that he did not ham it up for the screen. He even managed to provide some great moments. But my favorite Walken moment featured Zorin’s reaction to his discovery that Bond’s true identity. And of course there is Grace Jones as Zorin’s equally psychotic henchwoman, May Day. Perhaps she was not as psychotic, considering she was able to mourn the deaths of her two female assistants (Alison Doody and Papillon Soo Soo). But like Walken, she brought a lot of style and verve to her role without going over the top. And for an exhibitionist like Jones, it was a miracle.
The regular Bond cast seemed to be their solid selves. I especially enjoyed Moore’s last on-screen interaction with Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny). However, I must confess that the movie’s last scene of Q (Desmond Llewelyn) using a remote controlled "rover" to peep into Bond and Stacy’s shower activities at the end of the movie struck me as distasteful. Included among Bond’s allies is Patrick Macnee, portraying Sir Godfrey Tibbett. Tibbett is a gentleman horse breeder who helps MI-6 investigates the mystery of Zorin’s success on the racetrack (microchips imbedded in the horses’ flesh). Macnee (the fourth ”AVENGERS” cast member to appear in a Bond film) gave a very competent and classy performance and seemed to have produced a good screen chemistry with Moore. It seemed a shame that he was only present in the movie’s first half.
Cinematographer Alan Hume did a great job in taking advantage of the elegant settings of Paris, the French countryside and surprisingly, San Francisco. In fact, I believe that ”A VIEW TO A KILL” marked one of those rare times in a Bond movie in which the U.S. locations actually looked tasteful or interesting. I am usually not a fan of Duran Duran, but I must admit that I am a fan of their rendition of the movie’s theme song – "A View to a Kill" (written by Duran Duran and John Barry). I am not surprised that the song ended up #2 on the U.K. pop charts and #1 in the U.S.
"A VIEW TO A KILL” will never be considered a top favorite of mine. Aside from the cinematography, the theme song by Duran Duran and Christopher Walken’s performance, there is nothing really remarkable about it. Many Bond fans consider it a travesty that Moore had to end his tenure on such a low. I personally do not regard "A VIEW TO A KILL" as a low note for Moore. In fact, I feel that he was lucky to end his tenure with a good, solid action film of which he had nothing to feel ashamed.
Sunday, April 24, 2016
Below is an article about the Polish dish known as Bigos:
When one mentions hunter's stew, dishes such as Burgoo, or Bruinswick Stew usually comes to mind. But there is one hunter's stew that dates back even further. I am referring to Bigos, which is a dish that originated in the Eastern European countries of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and the Ukraine.
The dish dates back to the medieval era and can trace its roots to fourteenth century Poland. The ironic thing is that the dish's originator was not Polish. In fact, his name was Jogaila, a Lithuanian Grand Duke who became the Polish king Władysław Jagiełło in 1385. He had created the dish - namely a hunter's stew - for his guests at a hunting party, after he had ascended the Polish throne. The name "bigos" allegedly means "confusion", "big mess" or "trouble" in Polish. However, Polish linguists trace the word "bigos" to a German origin. The PWN Dictionary of Foreign Words speculates that it derives from the past participle begossen of a German verb that means "to douse". And Bigos was usually doused with wine in earlier years.
Bigos usually consists of white cabbage, sauerkraut, various cuts of meat, tomatoes, honey and mushrooms. For those who do not eat meat or do not have any available, Bigos can be prepared without it. And it can be prepared without the white cabbage. But sauerkraut is absolutely essential. The type of meat found in Bigos can be smoked pork, ham, bacon, sausage, veal and beef. However, since Bigos is a hunter's stew, meats such as venison, rabbit or other game can usually be found, as well. The stew is usually seasoned with pepper, caraway, bay leaf, marjoram, dried or smoked plums, pimenta, juniper berries and red wine. Bigos is usually served with mashed potatoes or rye bread.
Below is a recipe for Bigos from the Simplyrecipe.com website:
1 ounce dried porcini or other wild mushrooms
2 Tbsp bacon fat or vegetable oil
2 pounds pork shoulder
1 large onion, chopped
1 head cabbage (regular, not savoy or red), chopped
1 1/2 pounds mixed fresh mushrooms
1-2 pounds kielbasa or other smoked sausage
1 smoked ham hock
1 pound fresh Polish sausage (optional)
1 25-ounce jar of fresh sauerkraut (we recommend Bubbies, which you may be able to find in the refrigerated section of your local supermarket)
1 bottle of pilsner or lager beer
1 Tbsp juniper berries (optional)
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp caraway seeds
2 Tbsp dried marjoram
20 prunes, sliced in half (optional)
2 Tbsp tomato paste (optional)
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce (optional)
1-2 Tbsp mustard or horseradish (optional)
Pour hot tap water over the dried mushrooms and submerge them for 20-40 minutes, or until soft. Grind or crush the juniper berries and black peppercorns roughly; you don’t want a powder. Cut the pork shoulder into large chunks, about 2 inches. Cut the sausages into similar-sized chunks. Drain the sauerkraut and set aside. Clean off any dirt from the mushrooms and cut them into large pieces; leave small ones whole.
Heat the bacon fat or vegetable oil in a large lidded pot for a minute or two. Working in batches if necessary, brown the pork shoulder over medium-high heat. Do not crowd the pan. Set the browned meat aside.
Put the onion and fresh cabbage into the pot and sauté for a few minutes, stirring often, until the cabbage is soft. Sprinkle a little salt over them. The vegetables will give off plenty of water, and when they do, use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. If you are making the tomato-based version, add the tomato paste here. Once the pot is clean and the cabbage and onions soft, remove from the pot and set aside with the pork shoulder.
Add the mushrooms and cook them without any additional oil, stirring often, until they release their water. Once they do, sprinkle a little salt on the mushrooms. When the water is nearly all gone, add back the pork shoulder, the cabbage-and-onion mixture, and then everything else except the prunes. Add the beer, if using, or the tomato sauce if you're making the tomato-based version. Stir well to combine.
You should not have enough liquid to submerge everything. That’s good: Bigos is a “dry” stew, and besides, the ingredients will give off more liquid as they cook. Bring everything to a simmer, cover the pot and cook gently for at least 2 hours.
Bigos is better the longer it cooks, but you can eat it once the ham hock falls apart. Check at 2 hours, and then every 30 minutes after that. When the hock is tender, fish it out and pull off the meat and fat from the bones Discard the bones and the fat, then chop the meat roughly and return to the pot. Add the prunes and cook until they are tender, at least 30 more minutes.
Bigos is best served simply, with rye bread and a beer. If you want a little kick, add the mustard or horseradish right before you eat it. Bigos improves with age, too, which is why this recipe makes so much: Your leftovers will be even better than the stew was on the first day.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Below are images from "THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE", the 2004 adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1930 novel. The movie starred Geraldine McEwan as Miss Jane Marple:
"THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE" (2004) Photo Gallery