Monday, September 17, 2018

TIMECLOCK -- Entry #2

Entry #2 - Spoon Appraisal and A Latex Llama

That's how I got to the pawn shop. Actually a very expensive taxi ride is how I got to the pawn shop. I suppose it would have been cheaper to go to a pawn shop in my own town and not six states over, but I felt like a road trip. I also felt like going on a road trip, and the taxi driver didn't seem to mind all that much either. I think he was just lonely and craved human companionship.

Speaking of human companionship, I once tried out an online dating service that didn't involve computers or the internet. I was a bit confused about how they were able to call it "online" without the internet, but as they didn't even have a website, I couldn't figure out any way to ask. I wasn't even sure how to set up my profile, and the whole thing seemed rather inefficient and quite possibly entirely one big scam...

So after a few dates, I deleted my account somehow and moved on with my life.

Oh right, the pawn shop. Thank you for reminding me.

I took one step into the cluttered, dusty shop and immediately knew I was in the right place. Right there on the front of the counter, in big red letters, the phrase "We appraise spoons" was written in a very neat and tidy cursive. Honestly, I was more astonished that anyone knew cursive anymore than I was that they had made a sign so utterly specific to my exact need.

So I traipsed right on in and rang the bell that sat on the counter, in hopes that I could get some service.

"Hey! Be careful with that bell! It's an antique," came a shout from the back room. "You break it; you buy it."

"That seems an incredibly inefficient order of business," I replied. "Say I want to buy something that isn't broken."

"I'm not going to say that. Who am I to know what you want to buy?"

I stood confused at the question for a brief moment, before I remembered that I didn't actually want to buy anything at all. I then concluded that I should inform the man that I didn't actually want to buy anything at all.

"I don't actually want to buy anything at all," I said, quite sure that the argument had now been won in my favor.

"I suppose there's no sense in arguing with you about this," came the reply, which made me intensely proud. Feeling a newfound sense of boldness in my glory, I carried on taking charge of the situation.

"Yes, I actually stopped in to get this here spoon here appraised, and I read there on your sign there that you do such a thing here in this fine establishment here." I was getting good at this.

"Incredible!" shouted the weird little man as he finally stepped out from the back room. "I not only just put up that sign this morning, and I never thought I would get much business for it so soon... or ever. But here you are standing there, spoon in hand, wanting my appraisal of said spoon. I could just shoot myself with glee!!"

He began to grin a strange thin little grin that seemed to stretch from the left side of his face all the way to Arizona, which I can tell you is a long ways away. Actually I think Arizona might have been to his left, so that analogy doesn't actually work as such, but you get the point.

"You see, spoons have always been a big hobby of mine," continued Franco. His name was Franco by the way. Franco was a good four feet tall, four feet wide, and I'm fairly certain he was also four feet front to back. The man was round, is what I am trying to say. His grey hair reached his shoulders, except the hair that was on the top of his head, because there was none. He was bald with a mullet. He was round and bald with a mullet. But at least he was happy. Well, happy is an understatement. This round, bald, mullety lump of a man was ecstatic.

He went on about how ecstatic he was. "I can't even begin to tell you how ecstatic I am," he said. "Someone actually wants me to appraise their spoon! Yes, I just love spoons. I love to look at them, feel the roundness of the spoony part, admire the craftsmanship of the handle... Occasionally, there are logos and pictures on the top of the handle that tell you where the spoon is from! Did you know that you can also use spoons as a utensil to eat with?"

"Go figure," I said, placating the crazy little blob as best as I could. I felt it was best to appease the man, as he was apparently a tad unhinged. I also couldn't help but wonder what he thought normal people such as myself did with spoons, if not eat with them. I decided not to bother asking.

"Let me see that fine spoon of yours." I handed him the spoon cautiously, in case he tried to bite me or something. "Ah yes, let's see what we have here," he mumbled softly as he placed a monocle over his right eye. You don't see monocles all too often anymore, but then again, you don't really see a stuffed llama covered in black latex very often either…

Yet here I was looking at both. “Why would someone pawn a latex llama?” I started to think to myself. I was about to have an answer too, but Franco cut me off mid-thought.

"Holy crickets! Do you know what you have here?!" I answered as surely as I could, "A spoon?"

I thought my answer was sufficient, but I guess Franco felt differently. "Oh this is so much more than that! This is one of the lost spoons of Tawlanok!"


Read the full adventure HERE!

Monday, September 10, 2018

TIMECLOCK -- Entry #1

Entry #1 - A Play Of Words

My story begins with a spoon. But not just any spoon. That would be far too vague. No, this particular spoon is magic. Well it's not magic in and of itself, but it is magical. It contains magic. Or harnesses. I'm not entirely sure how actually, considering I am far from an expert on all things magic. To be brutally honest, I'm not even sure the spoon is all that magical really. That's just what I overheard when the guy at the pawn shop was telling me how magical the spoon was and when that guy told me I should gouge out my eyes with it.

Maybe my story shouldn't begin with that spoon. Perhaps I should start off with a little bit about myself instead and then lead into the spoon... The spoon isn't all that important really. The story isn't even about the spoon so much as it is about everything that came after the spoon and the pawn shop and the eye gouging... But again, I'll start a little before all that.

My name is Richard Flint and I'm professionally unemployed. The lady at the employment placement office asked me what I'm good at, and I told her "being unemployed."

"I'm sorry, we don't have any openings for that skill set," she replied in a relatively unemotional tone.

"But you do have jobs..."

"Oh yes. We have plenty of jobs, just not any that involve not having one."

So that's when I decided to go on my own and start a private firm. There isn't a lot of call for unemployed people, maybe it's a supply and demand thing? But I'm fine with that. If I was to get too much business, I wouldn't feel comfortable calling myself unemployed anymore.

So for the most part, I simply fill my overabundance of free time by doing things I think I might enjoy.

I was in a play.

Several of us unemployed people (When you're unemployed, you meet a lot of people in the same boat, so to speak. And by boat I mean situation.) Anyways, several of us caught the acting bug. Not a real bug, although Joey had a pet cockroach he kept in a matchbox. Oh yes, the play.

It was called "A Death Of A Salesman," not to be confused with the already existing play "Death Of A Salesman." I'm not sure the author knew about the other one… if he had, I think he would have sued. The guy's name was Tony and we all thought that the play might be good, considering his last name was Shakespeare. Like father like son, or so we thought.

It wasn't until later that we found out that Gregory Shakespeare was his uncle and not father, so that explained a lot. Maybe the talent missed his side of the family.

"The play is about a door-to-door gerbil salesman who lost his worldly possessions in a grease fire, and he becomes really depressed and he dies a little inside," he said.

Some guy named Grover spoke up, "So he’s not actually dead?"

"No, see, his death is mostly metaphorical and not quite as severe as you might think. He’s simply lost his zeal, desire and ability to sell."

The play didn't do very well, but my role as "Grocer number 2" (I also played "Interested Customer number 6”) led me to get a part time job as a bagger in a grocery store. I figured it wouldn't eat into my unemployment business too much, so long as I put as little effort into the job as possible.

It didn't help matters much that my eyesight is horrible though. I can see just fine, but more or less I'm almost entirely blind. Someone suggested wearing glasses, but I couldn't see my own face well enough to get them on. I kept missing, which is precisely what happened with the grocery items I was tasked to bag. You can only drop glass items beside a brown paper bag so many times before they fire you. Take that advice to heart, in case you're thinking of doing something similar.

But my poor eyesight is what leads me back to that spoon from before... I found a spoon. I could see that perfectly after I tripped on it, which is probably what made it so easy for me to find.

There it was just lying there on the ground outside my apartment building. So of course, I picked it up, gave it the old once-over, and shoved it into my pocket, because that's the sort of thing I have been known to do.

After walking around a bit, doing various things like buying lottery tickets and then throwing them away immediately on the assumption that I've already wasted my money anyways, I finally decided that I should get the aforementioned spoon appraised.

I did a little digging and discovered that there is no such thing as a "spoon appraisal service" nor is it a good idea to use random spoons for digging in other people's yards.

It was then, and only then, that I decided to take the spoon to a pawn shop.


Read the full adventure HERE!

Friday, July 06, 2018

Thunderball (1965)

Beefing on Bond

1965's Thunderball was originally slated to be the first in the long line of James Bond motion pictures, but due to a major legal dispute, it came fourth. I feel I can say that it served the picture well to have been pushed back. Dr. No had such a small budget and scale, I believe that alone would have harmed the success of the film and perhaps even the franchise.

Coming off of Goldfinger however, Thunderball is far less extravagant in comparison. The story is a simple one -- evil organization steals atomic bombs to hold the world ransom for money -- and at times it feels almost too simple for the scope and length of the movie. There is a lot of bouncing Bond around from person to person, villain to friend to foe to lover back to villain, with some overly extended underwater scenes thrown in whenever possible. At times, it seems almost forced in how drawn out some scenes are, as if they had a desired length and had to reach it, hell or high water. (Water pun intended.)

The only other downfall of Thunderball is that Sean Connery looks and feels a bit weary and worn out, not exactly as quirky and charming as before. This might have been intentional, and it might have just been due to the filming schedule. I opt not to fault him (or the film) for that; it's an easy thing to look past.

In all, Thunderball is a fantastic addition to the franchise, definitely falling into its place in the order. It didn't try to overdo and surpass the extravagance of Goldfinger, yet it still holds its own against it. While the pacing could benefit from some tighter editing, it's an incredibly strong and enjoyable movie with very few actual faults.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Goldfinger (1964)

Beefing on Bond

Being among the few people in the world who had never actually seen the classic Bond film Goldfinger, my only actual understanding of it was that it is basically the "epitome" of James Bond movies... That it essentially paved the way for what people (such as myself) understand a "James Bond movie" to be.

I can say now, having seen the film, that it did not fail to deliver that one bit. It had all the elements I expected it to have: a swaggering and charming Sean Connery, an almost untouchable villain with lofty and unrealistically ambitious goals, a beautiful lady who dies early on in the movie, the infamous Oddjob, and more!

What it also gave me, and I should have actually expected this, was an appreciation for the subtlety of the previous film, From Russia With Love. That's not to say that I still don't find fault with some of that movie's pacing among other things, but I do appreciate it more in hindsight now that I have seen Goldfinger.

What this picture does bring that the prior does not, however, is a very fast, but well, paced movie, ripe with action, intrigue, and (in my opinion) much more excitement. I feel safe to say that this was where the franchise really took off and figured out what it wanted to be.

This is the Bond film that all the rest would try to match or beat.

Friday, May 12, 2017

From Russia With Love (1963)

Beefing On Bond
From Russia With Love

 I've spent quite some time since my initial viewing of this film, trying to figure out what to say about it, re-watching it, re-watching it again with commentary, exploring the special features... I have to say that I find myself conflicted with my opinion regarding From Russia With Love.

On the one hand, you have an intelligently plotted story, full of all the fun spy stuff: betrayal, triple agents, chases, romance, murder... While on the other hand, the whole thing seemed pretty dragged out and almost forced at times. Almost like the "sophomore jinx" of the music industry, this picture failed to really grab me like the first one did. It fell a bit flat in some way, and I haven't exactly figured out how.

The budget was noticeably higher than Dr No had, and this did work in its favor quite well. Gone were the thrown together painted backgrounds of a flimsy office set, and in were the actual set pieces that not only felt, but were real.

The acting of course was phenomenal, as you could only really expect from any true Bond film.

I believe where the movie mostly dragged me down was the pacing... or perhaps the build up of the story itself, to be a bit more exact. All the elements were there and good and it was never boring, but I didn't find myself really gripped into the plot until the third act. Once they were aboard the train, that's when I finally found myself actually interested in what was going on. Up until that point, it felt like an overly long introduction to the important part, leaving me wondering when and if it was really going to go somewhere.

At first, I thought maybe it was simply the mood I was in on first watch, but subsequent viewing left me feeling the same way... So I think it's safe to say that the third act is when the movie really starts to draw the viewer in.

None of this is to say that it's at all anything less than a fantastic film. I wouldn't dare call it even as low as mediocre. I suppose the term I should use to describe the story is a bit more "subtle" than its predecessor.

I do not consider this to be one of the strongest in the series as I know it, but I really haven't seen very many so far, as I stated in my prior review, so this opinion might actually change with time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Strangers On A Train (1951)

Beefing on Hitchcock
Strangers On A Train

Strangers On A Train stars Farley Granger as Guy Haines, a young tennis player who, although already married, is in love with a senator's daughter, Anne Morton, played by Ruth Roman. A chance meeting on a train with a fan named Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) leads to a murderous misunderstanding. Anthony believes that Haines has agreed to a shared murder plot, Haines killing Anthony's mother and Anthony killing Haines' wife... and until Anthony has fulfilled his half of the supposed bargain, Haines had thought nothing of this bizarre encounter or the odd stranger.

This whole situation leaves Haines to frantically cover up any of his own perceived involvement in his wife's death, while simultaneously conflicted about whether or not to fulfill his end of the agreement, even though he never actually agreed to it.

In this movie, Alfred Hitchcock ties in many of the plot and story elements found throughout his pictures leading all the way back to his first silent films. Not only are the elements of the "wrong man" devices, but there's blackmail, chance encounters gone wrong, strangers injecting themselves into a lead's family life, moral conflict of what's right and wrong, and the list only goes on from there.

This particular kind of story is one that has always intrigued and discomforted me. A person you don't know, who seems to know all about you, easily turns your entire world upside-down, from which there appears to be no escape. One of my all-time favorite movies, Misery, practically has the exact same ending as the American version of this movie, while Throw Momma From The Train has nearly the same plot. There is just something universally terrifying about how much an unknown person can effect your life.

While I'm not sure I would classify this one amongst my personal favorites of his catalog, it's still easily one of his strongest films, and you see a lot of experimentation with angles and reflections as well as a lot of specific set, prop, and costume details that really make these movies work.

With this film, Hitchcock began to invest himself deeper into the minute details of production than he had in decades, even going so far as to pick out character's ties and what foods they ate. After years of working for Hollywood moguls and fighting over everything from story to casting, we find him taking more and more control over his pictures. This shift is what would eventually cement his legacy as "The Master of Suspense" - master being the key word.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dr. No (1962)

Beefing on Bond
Dr. No

I suppose that I should start off by admitting that I am headed into this series with very little actual experience with the James Bond films. I have seen every one from the final Timothy Dalton era, through the entire Pierce Brosnan era, up through current with the departure of Daniel Craig. When it comes to the original "classic" Bond, however, I have seen the single George Lazenby film and possibly one or two starring the fan-favourite, Sean Connery.

So many of these films are new to me, and I will be watching them with fresh eyes. Hopefully, my knowledge of the more recent movies will not haunt my take on these older entries, but occasionally I will not be able to keep myself from comparing them to what I know already about the later aspects of the series.

That being said, I will get my comparison out of the way right off the bat. Going into the first of the film series, 1962's Dr. No struck me as a very strong a serious picture. Because of the Brosnan era, and my own "understanding" of the cheesy spy action movies of the 1960's in general, I was actually expecting something a little more dated... a little more corny. I expected unbelievable gadgets and impossible plots by the evil mastermind... something a little more akin to a giant laser beam from space - the kind of stuff you roll your eyes at and just roll with the sheer stupidity of it all.

What I watched instead was a perfectly down-to-earth spy movie from the era, complete with Jamaican locations and stylized music, as were popular at the time. Here we saw a young 007, a secret agent from MI6, sent off to thwart a plot against rocket launches by way of radio jamming. The sounds pretty reasonable to me and not entirely far-fetched.

Along the way, he coyly flirts with women, snarks back and forth with people who may or may not be evil, and engages in some pretty fair combat. As I know to be somewhat commonplace in Bond films, he is taken hostage, has a calm chat with the bad guy, and eventually thwarts the evil plot in a giant secret installation in some remote location. In the process, he of course manages to save an attractive woman... all-in-all, a pretty good week.

While Dr. No was not the first in the book series, it was chosen to be the first in the movie series, still making references to earlier books, as it was all fairly popular at the time. I have not read any of the books, yet I still had no problem enjoying the film. A rudimentary sense of who and what "James Bond" is isn't necessary to following or enjoying the story, but I'm sure it all helps.

One of the biggest things that struck me, that I had not known about until watching the movie, was that the famous line that everyone knows better than possibly anything else in pop culture... it came first merely as a mocking response to the introduction of Sylvia Trench, who gave her last name first, followed by her full name. I guess when something sticks in the public's mind, you keep it... but it makes me think of other famous lines like "I'll be back," "You can't handle the truth," and "I am your father." No one really knows certain lines will catch on until after the fact, and "Bond... James Bond" I suppose was just another of those little flukes that grabbed on and refused to let go.

In all, I purely enjoyed Dr. No and considered it a great start to a budding film franchise. The budget was low, and that was hardly noticeable... and I'm sure that worked plenty to their benefit for making more after the picture was a hit. I can already see why Connery is many people's favourite and will remain the quintessential Bond.