New Favorite Show: Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations

Over the past few months, I’ve found a real love for Travel Channel’s No Reservations, a show featuring renowned chef Anthony Bourdain traveling around the world, sampling local food and waxing poetic about his encounters. I don’t want to paint the wrong kind of picture here. Bourdain’s no hippie beatnik, but instead a man who looks past the glossy images we’re presented of most foreign countries and instead experiences them himself through the most communal of endeavors: sharing a meal. The best episodes happen to be the ones where things don’t quite go as expected. There was one where the production crew found themselves in a country ripped apart by civil unrest or revolution (I can’t quite remember which or what country at the moment). Instead of eating his way through the area, Bourdain got to really experience what it was like to be in that kind of situation and he has such a way with words that those emotions are well conveyed to the audience.

Tonight’s season premiere found Bourdain traveling through Haiti, a country that has been devastated by both earthquakes and corrupt government. But even with all the death and hunger and poverty, as Bourdain points out, the people still seem to be in somewhat good spirits, create new art and music and do their best to keep their clothes fresh and clean. He and his fellow travelers like Sean Penn and native hosts point out that the media has a tendency to show only the awful things that have happened without 1) showing the full story and 2) doing any real good. It’s gotten so bad that the people of Haiti don’t want to be photographed, something that I haven’t seen on any of the previous episodes I’ve had the pleasure of watching. It’s a lot to take in, which is why I like the show so much. It teaches you without being too heavy handed and shows off the world in a different light than I’m used to seeing.

So good is that show, in fact, that you almost forget it’s about food, which makes it an apt choice for the Travel Channel over, say, The Food Network. Yes the food is important, but it’s more of a way to get into the lives of people instead of the main focus. But man, sometimes, No Reservations makes me HUNGRY. I mentioned that my favorite episodes tend to be the ones where things don’t go quite as planned, but that’s not entirely true. I also adore the ones where Tony, a generally cantankerous man, finds himself completely absorbed in the pleasure of enjoying food and drink with others. There was one where he was in I believe Brazil, and the episode ended with him just hanging out and enjoying some cocktails and kind of zoning out. It looked pretty fun.

Digging Double Oh Seven: License To Kill (1989)

As I mentioned the other day, I really enjoyed Timothy Dalton’s first outing as James Bond in The Living Daylights. Well, as it turns out, his second and last Bond flick is even better. Much like classic comic book characters who have lasted decades, the great thing about James Bond is that you can take the essence of his character, add some new layers to it and put him in just about any setting or situation and just watch what he does. This time around, the filmmakers seemed to be going for a completely different kind of Bond movie. Instead of the adventure turning personal as they sometimes do, the main thrust of this movie is about Bond getting revenge for his friend Felix Leiter who got fed to sharks for arresting gangster Franz Sanchez. Afterwards, Bond tells M he wants to go after the now-escaped Sanchez (he bribed a Fed) but M tells him that’s not his new assignment. Instead of doing what M says, Bond makes a break for it and starts investigating matters on his own. Heck, even the opening scene is different because you’re not seeing the end of one mission leading into another, you’re seeing Bond helping his friend catch a bad guy that directly leads to the two parachuting into the wedding (the only way Bond should ever go to a wedding, really). I mentioned in my review of TLD that Dalton brought an interesting below the surface intensity to the role that hadn’t been there with such force previously. He really gets to work with that this time around. Watching the movie, you never once forget that he’s pissed off at his friend’s assault and wants revenge.

But don’t think this is a Bond movie completely without it’s little joys. Q shows up at Bond’s hotel room and hooks him up with some gadgets, but also gets to play field agent a bit for only the second time in the series (the first was in Octopussy) which is always a hoot. Desmond  Llewelyn brought such charm to these movies. I still miss him even though John Cleese is a good replacement. The movie also features one of the more able Bond girls in Carey Lowell’s Pam Bouvier. Sure she has a thing for our hero, but she also manages to pull her own weight for possibly the first time in the series. It also helps that she’s a strange mix of adorable and sexy that draws one’s attention to the screen. The film also has it’s fair share of action scenes, two amazing ones bookend the movie and involve everything from drugs and planes to gas tankers and fire, just to give you an idea.

I also had a good time celeb-spotting in the movie. Sanchez is played by now-veteran character actor Robert Davi and his henchman Dario is a young but super-intense Benicio del Toro. Twin Peaks‘ Ed Hurley better known as Everett McGill plays the turn-coat federal agent. The gorgeous Priscilla Barnes has a small part I don’t quite want to ruin. And other character actors like Grand L. Bush, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Frank McCrae, all dudes you would recognize after checking them out on IMDb, I guarantee.

Finally, it was fun watching the shark and fish warehouse scenes because those bits were taken from the book Live And Let Die, which I have actually read. I mentioned it earlier, but I think it would be cool for someone to edit together parts from existing Bond movies that create a more faithful adaptation. Fun stuff. I haven’t read the IMDb Trivia on this movie yet, so I’m curious to find out why Dalton didn’t come back and what lead to the longest gap between Bond movies yet. More on that next time!

Adventures In Freelancing: 5 Things I Miss About Working In An Office

After “How’s that freelance writing thing going?” the most popular question I get from people is “Do you miss working in an office?” My usual answer is “I miss working with the cool people I’ve worked with over the years, but I prefer working from home.” I really do love being a freelancer and the freedom it brings. I can get up whenever I want and go to sleep when I want (though that freedom will disappear for a while once the baby is born, I assume). Plus, on days when I’m feeling a little more shut-in than I prefer, I can always run over to the coffee shop, get some amazing coffee, tea or a chai latte and talk with the always-friendly baristas. But, if I’m being completely honest with myself there are some things I do miss about working in an office. Here are five of them.

1. Being Able To Blame Someone Else For Getting Me Sick
Seeing as how I only have regular contact with one person (the missus), it’s really easy to figure out who got me sick. When you work in an office there’s always someone who may or may not have gotten you sick, but working from home narrows the possibilities down pretty substantially.

2. Work Parties
Around Christmas time, I actually got pretty bummed out because my company party consisted of the cat and I watching Silent Night, Deadly Night with a Coors Light at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday. Hearing the missus come home talking about how she could hardly get her work done because of all the holiday parties she had to attend didn’t help. It brought back fond memories of the occasional holiday party or the company picnic that gave me my last opportunity to play football. Plus, getting a little (and sometimes a lot) buzzed on the company dime was always a lot of fun.

3. Free Donuts
I’m not the biggest fan of sweets in the world, but I do love a simple glazed donut. I miss that thrill of the chase when word got around that free food/candy/donuts were on the water cooler. If you weren’t quick, you weren’t getting a treat (at least in the days when there were more than a dozen people in the office). The other day, I got a real hankering for donuts and realized it was because I hadn’t had one in quite a while. I guess I could start taking advantage of the Dunkin’s right down the street, but food always tastes so much better when someone else buys it.

4. Lunch
I was lucky enough to work with some great people, so our lunch time was actually a lot of fun. We’d either all get together in the office’s lunchroom and talk about comics, TV and life or all head out to a singular location and do the same there. Lunches got a little thin there for a while, but once we moved down to the city I found myself surrounded by a lot of those same people. Sure, not every lunch was amazing, but it was nice to know that I could see some friends and get some interesting food. Now, lunch is just another way to get food in me so I don’t pass out. Without other people involved, I have a tendency to forget to eat until late int he day, which leaves me lightheaded.

5. Free Stuff
Between the free table, people getting rid of their stuff and the constant flow of things into our office, there was always something being offered to you that you’d otherwise have to pay for. In addition to that, we had access to one of the largest comic book and trade paperback libraries around (I’ve never seen a bigger one personally, but I’m sure they’re out there) with nearly every comic printed coming in every week. This might sound strange or greedy, but it’s not easy going from unlimited access to none. I think I’m finally done with the withdrawal that came after that, but I do miss being able to keep up on all the comics I cared about and getting the occasional free action figure. On the flip side, I also miss having a place to get rid of some of my comics. You’d be surprised at how hard of a time I’ve had getting rid of a longbox I’ve had in the backseat of my car for months.

Digging Double Oh Seven: The Living Daylights (1987)

For some reason, I thought Timothy Dalton was in a lot more Bond movies than just two. I think it’s because he was the guy playing James Bond around the time I was starting to gain a foothold in pop culture mountain. If you’re wondering Sean Connery was in six official movies and one extra, George Lazenby has the fewest with one, Roger Moore did seven, Dalton was in two, Pierce Brosnon has four under his belt and, so far, Daniel Craig has done two with another in the works. After thinking that Moore was getting a bit old to be playing an international action hero, I was glad to see that I enjoyed the younger and more mysterious Dalton in the role. He brings something extra to Bond, a kind of brooding intensity that Connery hinted at, but Dalton really nails. Even though he’s obviously a younger actor than Moore, it still feels like, as a character, he’s still gone through all the things that the character did when previous actors played him. This isn’t a simple, good guys versus bad guys story either as allegiances are questioned, orders are ignored and traitors are dealt with.

But, hey, it’s not all brooding intensity, there’s also a lot of fun to be had in the movie. The beginning starts with a training session that very creatively reveals our new Bond (three Double Ohs who we can’t see are sent on the mission, as the game continues we see that one looks kind of like George Lazenby, the other like Roger Moore and then finally we see Dalton), then we see Bond getting out of Russia thanks to a pneumatic tube that takes him into a lab where Q’s people are testing a ghetto blaster that actually shoots rockets. He even calls it a ghetto blaster! I know some people think that kind of stuff is cheesy and it is a little, but it’s also a ton of fun and one of the elements I missed when watching Craig in Casino Royale the one and only time I watched that movie. Ideas like that are continued to a mansion where M and some other folks are having a meeting and the gardener outside has a rake that acts as a metal detector. Again, it might seem corny, but real spies have often benefited from hiding important tools in everyday items.

I have a tendency to miss some of the details when watching these movies (and most movies, really) because I’m almost always doing something else, usually on the computer. Great movies completely pull me away from the computer and draw me in, most movies draw me in for the interesting bits, which this flick had a lot of. But, because of my poor attention, I missed some of the broader plot strokes. Here’s the deal though, Bond was supposed to help a Russian general defect, but it’s really all a ruse. There’s also a cellist acting as an assassin, an actual assassin called Necros and John Rhys-Davies as a framed Russian. Oh Joe Don Baker’s up this piece too as an arm’s dealer. The movie hops from Tangier to Afghanistan and there’s a scene with Bond and Necros fighting on a net holding opium dangling from the back of a plane in flight. It’s pretty rad. Okay, I guess I’m not really sure what the overall plot of the movie, but it was pretty fun regardless. My only problem with the movie? I didn’t like the cellist played by Maryam d’Abo nor did I like how much Bond seemed to fall in love with her. It never ends well when Bond’s really into a woman (see the novel version of Casino Royale or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). But, to make up for that, we get to see Bond at a carnival, so that’s a bonus. Looking forward to the next and last Dalton Bond movie!

Casting Internets

First up, go check out my new toy blog called Toy Chest Central.

I really enjoyed this CBR interview with Judd Winick about Justice League: Generation Lost. I haven’t read the last few issues of that book, but I was digging what I read. I’m excited to catch up in trades. I’m getting really excited to see Sucker Punch. The trailer’s been all over TV and then you’ve got these awesome retro pin-up style posters as seen on /Film. As you might expect, I’m a big fan of Jason Chalker‘s James Bond posters. You can see the one for Dr. No here and follow the link to see his take on Goldfinger.

I’m disappointed to hear that DC’s First Wave line is getting the axe. I liked that they didn’t try to cram characters like The Spirit or Doc Savage into the regular DCU even going the other way and including different versions of DC characters in this new pocket universe. The problem to my mind is that they expanded too quickly and had trouble getting the First Wave series itself out on time. Bummer. (via The Beat)

I haven’t been watching Jimmy Fallon much, so I’m thankful to Rolling Stone for posting a link to this video of Bell Biv DeVoe and The Roots performing “Poison” on his show. This song took on new significance when I got to Wizard and started hearing it at the bar every time we went out. Then, even more a few years later when I saw Skeletor perform it in Philly. Good stuff.

According to Comic Book Legends Revealed, Alan Moore wrote a BJ & The Bear comic (sorta). That. Is. Awesome. This is also awesome. (via Progressive Ruin)

I finally got around to reading this Rolling Stone piece written by Mikal Gilmore about hanging out with The Clash in 1979. Then RS talked to Gilmore about talking to The Clash back then. Both are worthwhile reads.

Maybe we’ll finally get Kill Bill The Whole Bloody Affair now that /Film says it’ll be playing at the New Bev in LA. I’ve been holding off on buying those flicks, which I love, in hopes of getting that version.

This is my all time favorite photo of The Ramones (via Only The Young Die Young)

Digging Double Oh Seven: A View To A Kill (1985)

Wow, Roger Moore really went out of the James Bond game with a bang. It’s kind of funny, because, according to the IMDb Trivia Page, Moore actually really dislikes this flick because he didn’t get along with henchwoman Grace Jones, realized he was older than Bond Girl Tanya Roberts’ mom and villain Max Zorin (played by Christopher Walken in his prime, though not craziest) became a little more bloodthirsty on screen than Moore liked. Well, aside from the age thing–which I think they covered by having Bond himself being less physical, but still taking a role in the action mostly through long shots and whatnot–I disagree with him. And heck, is it such a bad thing that he disliked an actress whose character is trying to kill him (sex scene and ending aside, of course)?

This flick revolves around Zorin’s plan to flood Silicon Valley, killing everyone and wiping out all the microchips so that his microchips will be the only ones in the world. There’s also some stuff about horses and him using microchips implanted in horses and whips making them run faster (I know they explained how this works, but I did not get it). Zorin has Jones’ May Day on his side as both a love interest and bad ass henchwoman (she actually acts kind of like a slasher in the movie as she’s super strong and has a tendency to sneak up on people and kill them from the back seat of their car). There’s also a female Russian spy involved in the story (the KGB trained Zorin) and Donna’s mom from That 70s Show (Roberts) playing a geologist who beds Bond and explains how an earthquake and some pipeline flooding can cause all of Silicon Valley to get flooded. She’s basically one step above Denise Richards as Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough.

There’s a lot to love in this movie from the opening ski scene (there’s some fun new tricks in there compared to some of the others, including James Bond snowboarding!), the chase scene that ends with May Day jumping off the Eiffel Tower (insane) and the finale, cave-in climax. I also like that Bond actually used a series of aliases this time around, though he didn’t hide his face which is exactly how Zorin was able to figure out his real identity (on one of those monochromatic green computer screens no less). Zorin also has a pretty rad underground horse lab in a stable where an entire horse stall lowers into it elevator-style. Seems a bit excessive, but looks sick. I think what really makes the movie sing for me, though is the tag team duo of Walken and Jones. They’re both just so strange in just about every aspect of their beings that it’s hard not to stare at them, which is not something I can say about a lot of other Bond characters aside from some of the beautiful women (which this movie does not lack). All in all, A View To A Kill was a great way for Moore to go out as Bond and also to inject even more modern realism into the universe (what with all the microchip talk, even if some of it was a bit outlandish). Now it’s time to see what Mr. Timothy Dalton can do.

Jersey Shore Season 3 Episode 9 “Hooking Up”

Hey, here’s a shocker, when Jersey Shore isn’t focusing on two jerks who shouldn’t be together constantly fighting and trying to figure out whether they should or shouldn’t be dating, it’s actually a pretty fun and entertaining show. If only Sammi had left earlier! We begin the episode with Snooki and the dude she brought home at the end of the previous episode (the one whose name she couldn’t remember) waking up. He doesn’t want to cuddle her and asks if he can leave, which he does. Snooki really knows how to pick winners, doesn’t she? Anyway, later in the day, she calls this dude Nick who’s one of Roger’s friends and it sounds like they’re going to hang out, but he won’t pick up her ridiculous number of calls in a row, so JWOWW calls Roger to find out what’s up and it turns out that the dude she slept with the previous night is friends with Nick’s cousin, who she also hooked up with. Or something. The whole thing was confusing. Snooki just can’t catch a break this episode, because later she wants to cuddle with Vinny after going to the club but he’s not having it because she just hooked up with some random dude a few days prior. Ronnie’s also having a bit of a tough time, but I think this might be the first episode in a while where he wasn’t sad or crying. Instead he called his pops who comes down to the Shore to hang out with his boy. Ronnie’s talking about leaving and his dad has the good point that the break up is going to hurt no matter where he is, so he might as well stay at the Shore. Later Ronnie talks to Sammi on the phone and she says that, if she comes back, they can be friends, but Ronnie tells the camera that he doesn’t think he can see himself being friends with her. In a lighter moment, Ronnie took a spin on the tiny motorbike Mike wound up buying for Pauly as a birthday present after wasting $100 on a boardwalk game that he brought back to the house after work. The rest of the day/episode winds up being rough for almost everyone involved. Snooki and Deena get bored and start having a marshmallow fight, then decide to stick marshmallows all over the house including the phone. Then they decide to go to a place called Jenkinson’s. I have no idea what that is, but it’s apparently near Red Bank. Anyway, they ask Mike if he wants to go and he says he needs to make some phone calls. While talking to his sister they start harping on him to use the phone to get a cab. He hangs up with his sis and makes the call for them, but decides to play a prank of his own and asks the cab company to tell the girls they’re going to Jenkinson’s but to actually take them to Times Square. It’s a pretty funny prank, but doesn’t seem comparable to sticking marshmallows all over the house. Anyway, the cab driver’s really nice and charming and they don’t realize what’s happening for a while because he tells him he’s trying to avoid traffic. Eventually they realize they’re heading to NYC and kind of freak out, but the cabbie stops, lets them get out so they can buy booze and enjoy their ride home. Meanwhile, back at the house, the guys decide to go get some dinner and ask Mike if he wants to go. He says sure, then jumps on the phone and makes a call. Before he’s done the other guys have gotten ready to go out. But Mike still needs to get changed. He says he needs five minutes but winds up spending an undesignated amount of time upstairs with the guys calling up to him several times. Pauly’s getting pissed and Ronnie needs to get out of the house so they just leave, Pauly’s thinking being that Mike needs to understand they mean business when they’re going to leave. There’s some beautiful editing as they drive to the restaurant and Pauly talks about Mike trying to get with his ex in the previous episode (the bloom seems to be falling off the Mike/Pauly rose). Then, once they get to the place and Mike has gone with JWOWW to get some food which he eats alone for some reason there’s some wonderful cutting back and forth between the guys having a lot of fun at the restaurant and Mike sitting at a table all alone talking to versions of his roommates only he can see at the table, telling not-Ronnie that he should man up and not-Pauly that he JUST bought him a birthday present. JWOWW stands behind him listening to the whole thing.

Eventually, the guys get back and Mike’s not too happy with them. He gives them a little shit and the only thing that bothered me is that no one straight up said to him “It’s because you didn’t get ready fast enough.” Just be straight with the dude. Then Snooki and Deena get back and act like they had an awesome time (which they didn’t really) and then Snooki flips and tells Mike she hates him. The meatballs also decided they were mad at Vinny and Pauly for not saying anything to them about the prank. Vinny tries being all serious, but Pauly just bursts in and says he’s mad at them for being mad at him and he didn’t even do anything. Dude knows how to handle a situation. At the end of the episode, it looks like the gang is getting ready to go out and have a good time. Ronnie’s laughing and making a giant drink for himself. There’s jokes being thrown all around about accents and whatnot. Then, out of nowhere, Sammi walks in. The look on Ronnie’s face was incredible. The smile MELTED off his face and as she started saying hi to the roomies he ran out the door and went to his outside crying couch. The end.

It looks like the next episode will feature Ronnie not accepting that he and Sammi are broken up, following her around the club like a psycho. Well, that’s better than them fighting all the time…I guess. I’m sensing more fighting though. Blerg.