And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Licence to Kill (1989)
Isn't it just as cute as a death button?

Isn’t it just as cute as a death button?

By now, EON Productions had these Bond films running on a rock-solid two year schedule. Writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson seemed to have hit upon a winning formula: fuse the few remaining pieces of Fleming’s short stories together with plot elements “torn straight from the headlines of today’s newspapers.” This served the twin purpose of keeping James Bond “relevant” to a changing movie landscape and shaking up the stale formulas that had constrained the series for two decades.

Inevitably, the loudest criticisms of The Living Daylights and its sequel come from Bond fans who felt (and still feel) this series grand quest for “relevance” was a whole lot of tilting at windmills. The Dalton Era gets a lot of flack for a lot of things, but nothing more so than its lack of “fun”; that “campy” “charm” which supposedly made the Moore Era so much “enjoyable” and the Connery films “instant classics.” Gods forbid anyone treat those like “serious” spy-fi action pictures…even if that’s exactly what they were intended to be.

They succeed on their own merits with no “camp,” required, save the kind its audience brings with it via the expectations in their heads. If you want real “camp,” I’ve got a version of Casino Royale you should check out…me, I think Bond should’ve gone “darker” decades prior. He might’ve stayed ahead of the trends instead of constantly playing catch-up. Licence to Kill almost does this and, on the strength of that almost, becomes my favorite Bond film of its decade…and the preceding one. Continue reading



The Phantom (1996)
What is it with the "fist-on-hips" thing?

What is it with the "fist-on-hips" thing? I mean, really...

A lot of people have trouble taking superheroes seriously, what with the tight suits and the underwear on the outside of their pants. But I challenge anyone to walk down a dark alleyway at night, hastily turn around, and not soil yourself in fear when you find the goddamn Batman standing there, right behind you. Sure, your rational mind would soon take over and you might remind the costumed fool that “Halloween ain’t ’til manyana”…giving him the perfect opportunity to perform some amateur dental surgery on you with his boots.

Unfortunately, Batman was far from the first costumed hero of the 1930s. Created for the daily newspaper strips of 1936, The Phantom represents one of the last costumed mystery-men to make the scene before Superman came along and changed everything. Four months separated the two hero’s debuts in their respective magazines. Can you guess which one won more culture cache? Here’s the hint: the only man in a purple suit who’s going to frighten me is the Joker. And even I have trouble taking the Phantom seriously. Continue reading