Live and Let Die (1973)

B&S About Movies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.

Fans of James Bond all have their favorite era. Live and Let Die (1973) is the eighth Bond film in the franchise and the first to star Roger Moore. Having cut his teeth on the British TV shows The Saint and The Persuaders, Moore proved himself to be a perfect Bond and went on to play the character six more times.

Released at the apex of the blaxploitation era, the film features many African-American stars from films in that genre, some used to great affect and others not so much. Yaphet Kotto is great as Kananga/Mr. Big. The clever gangster who -through the use of an alter-ego- both produces and distributes heroin throughout the United States…

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Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris (1999)

B&S About Movies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.

In the mid-1990s, Japan’s Daiei (later Kadokawa) films resurrected their 1960s competitor to Toho’s Godzilla series, Gamera. A giant flying turtle-like creature nicknamed “the friend to all children.” 1995’s Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was a considerably more adult film than its predecessors and was a hit with adults and youngsters alike, prompting the sequels Gamera: The Advent of Legion in 1996 and Gamera 3: The Awakening of Iris in 1999 – all written and directed by the very talented Shusuke Kaneko. The first two films in the trilogy are very good. This movie is great. It’s not just a monster movie, it’s an art picture. It’s the Kaiju film that set a new standard in…

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Scream of the Wolf (1974)

B&S About Movies

In a sleepy town along the coast of California, an unknown animal begins killing people, beginning with a ‘70s version of Dana Carvey. The local sheriff (All My Children’s Philip Carey) recruits local writer John Wetherby (Peter Graves) who used to earn his living as a big game hunter to help track the animal.  Baffled by the presence of both four and two-legged tracks, he approaches his shifty ex-hunting buddy Byron (Clint Walker) for assistance who refuses to cooperate. As more people die, the townsfolk begin to believe there’s a werewolf in their midst. 

 A few weak red herring characters peppered throughout the story aside, Byron is the prime suspect. Not only was he bitten by a wolf, he has a strange obsession with the exchange of power between predator and prey. He hates John’s new “emasculating” life of leisure and possesses a rather creepy yet swaggering demeanor. 

Based on the…

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Positivity in a Time of Pandemic

Two years ago, I wrote an article titled “Polarity of the Mind.” The ideas presented are more relevant than ever in these current times where many of us feel anxious about the evolving Coronavirus pandemic. I have built on the original article and updated it here within that context.

Corona Graphic

One of my jobs is the ghost-writer of autobiographies. People tell me their life histories and I write them in their voice. Over several projects, it became apparent that individuals remember the negative events with considerably more clarity than the positive ones.

For example, I recall vividly falling into a campfire and receiving a third-degree burn on my leg in the summer of ’82, but I cannot tell you what I got for Christmas that year. I can remember every negative comment made by the opposite sex about my looks going all the way back to kindergarten. It’s harder to recall the compliments. This can have a massive effect on a person’s general outlook and self-esteem in life.

Broadly, we can organize interactions in our lives into three categories: Positive, negative and neutral.

Examples:

Positive = You receive a compliment on your hair.

Negative = You are told by your boss they will not implement your new idea.

Neutral = A barista takes your order.

Research shows that for every one negative experience, it takes a full five to counterbalance it (1). Since our brains are wired with a bias towards negativity, neutral experiences can also become negative. For instance, if someone spends a lot of time planning and cooking a meal for their friend and they do not receive gratitude for the effort (perhaps the friend had a bad day at work or just forgot to say thank you) then the feelings associated are those of indifference and neglect. The friend didn’t say the food sucked, but they said nothing at all and sometimes that is worse. So the neutral becomes negative.

Besides interpersonal interactions, we are also under constant bombardment from the media telling us we aren’t good enough and we all need X product to feel positive. We hear about school shootings and corrupt politicians.

With the Coronavirus pandemic in full swing, we are forced to self-isolate and it seems that there is very little good news in the world. With such overwhelming negativity all around us, what can we do to feel positive or at the very least, balance the polarity?

First, we can try to focus on the good things in our own lives. Try not to allow the neutral become the negative. Accept your flaws and move forward. Try not to let it get to you when someone disregards your own politeness, help or is an outright asshole.

Turn off the news. If you have a pet, play with it. Read a favourite book or watch a film. If you are musician, pick up your instrument. Go for a walk in a wooded area and observe nature. For centuries, the Japanese have called this “forest bathing” but it is only recently western scientists have studied the physical and psychological benefits of spending mindful time in nature.

We can also attempt to help others to create good memories. Be mindful of someone who looks like they might need a kind word, no matter how insignificant it might seem. Utilise the technology and message your friends and family to check up on them.

When this is all over and society returns to normal, if you’re at a restaurant, and the food is good, tell someone. Instead of sitting silent when a co-worker makes a good suggestion, speak the words “good idea.” Compliment your friends on whatever it is they do well and thank them for their efforts, even if they fall short.

Tell your spouse how much you appreciate the way they do that silly, insignificant thing that makes you laugh. It may be the 1st positive thing that this person hears that day. Or it may be the 5th that changes their whole outlook and remembrance of that day or week forever. It’s really not that hard.

We all want our autobiographies filled with good memories. Particularly now. But we can’t do that on entirely on our own.

Times Square (1980)

My contribution to “Radio Week” for bandsaboutmovies.com

B&S About Movies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi calledWomanycom.

A cult classic about teenage rebellion, the medium of radio (and the importance of rock music) features throughout Times Square (1980.) In the plot, it’s the vehicle through which the two protagonists connect. Initially, to each other and eventually to the greater adolescent female population of 1980 New York City.

Two girls, Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson) and Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado) come from divergent backgrounds. One is a street kid with no family bounced from home to home and the other the motherless daughter of a wealthy politician gaining notoriety for cleaning up the area where Nicky lives. Times Square. The two meet in the hospital where each is being examined for…

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Eulogy For A Friend

 

We were 12 when we met and remained best friends until our late ‘30s. Rebels in a sea of conformity. Watching Evil Dead while everyone else watched Cosby. Listening to Dead Kennedys while everyone else listened to Night Ranger. Reading Oscar Wilde while everyone else read Nancy Drew. Writing sketches and jokes to crack each other up while others played sports.

She was my shadow and my light for more than 30 years. A better writer, smarter, prettier and wittier than I ever could be. Her own shadows were deeper and darker than anyone I have known and her light so brilliant as to transform a room full of people and leave all in its glance enamored. Perhaps it is apropos that hers was not a face to grow old and lose its luster. A light that never goes out in the grieving hearts of those who knew her.

Oscar Wilde wrote, “Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.”

We are all better people for having known her, flawed and beautiful a woman as she was. Human as she was. Rest in Peace, my friend. I love you. Always.

  • Marley

James May Misses His Mark In Japan

Recently, Amazon has produced some very good programmes for its streaming platform. James May’s new Amazon Original programme Our Man In Japan is not one of them. To be fair, where travel television concerns, I am a cruel critic. I don’t care for travel programs in which the presenter tries to be “the idiot abroad” or shows where the segments are ill-planned. This series includes both things far too often to achieve top marks but also contains just enough correct historical and cultural information for me to allow a pass, albeit begrudgingly.

Although the concept of traveling from the north island of Hokkaido all the way to southern Kyushu is a good one, they squandered the opportunity to show us the most fascinating parts of each island in favour of dog sled crashes and endless shots of May’s awkward interactions with his crew and/or diminutive robots. I nearly spit out a mouthful of umeshu when they lifted several sequences directly from Anthony Bourdain’s old Travel Channel series No Reservations. The most notable is a martial arts scene meant to recreate an old Shaw Brothers’ kung fu film. May’s voiceover comment that the producers couldn’t discern between the martial arts traditions of Japan and China speaks volumes to this production’s failure. It’s one of many mistakes the aforementioned Bourdain would never have allowed. His sequence appeared in the Hong Kong episode. Right where it should be. Why the hell the producers left it in here is baffling and insulting both to the audience and the traditions in question. At its best, travel television breaks down stereotypes and fact-checks fallacies. It should never ever reinforce them. Bourdain and his crew understood this. For the most part, May and his crew did not.

The series only manages one or two instances where May’s intelligence peaks out from behind its pandering cosplay mask. First was the inclusion of the art and history of Geisha. It was important in breaking down the misconceptions many westerners might have about their role in Edo-period Japan. The second was May’s contemplation on the influence of the indigenous Shinto religion on the popularity of modern yuru-chara mascot culture was a query the answer to which could have occupied a full episode on its own. Instead, the viewer is offered images of our host riding around in a miniature racing car dressed up as Ultraman. Most frustratingly, we see only a momentary glimpse of two Yakuza’s back tattoos inserted randomly during the series wrap-up. Evidence the crew filmed something but chickened out in the final edit. When combined with May’s refusal to enter a Maid Cafe, the series becomes the very definition of vanilla TV.

Kudos to the producer who figured out that pairing May with a Japanese person in every episode was akin to giving him a life-preserver. By the end of his first appearance, Yujiro Taniyama was far more charismatic than his uptight counterpart. He should have been the host. Hey…There’s an interesting concept! Why not have an English-speaking Japanese host? It would have been far preferable to take this journey through Japan with someone whose English was not perfect rather than to spend six episodes in a beautiful country rich in culture and beauty with a guy who still couldn’t pronounce sumimasen properly after 11 weeks.

If there is one image in the whole series that sums it up, it’s that of May’s Kyudo arrow stuck in the wall 3 feet next to its intended target. Unlike the shot of the Yakuza, they linger on this one for a good long while. It’s sad that Amazon’s producers couldn’t be more creative. Or creative at all. The result was a ripoff of superior travel shows. Going forward into a second season, it would be better to think outside the box. Or get a new host instead of placing James May inside a box entirely too big for him.

Life Coaching and the Capitalist Cycle

The business of Life Coaching didn’t exist until recently. In the old days, we called them parents. In the very old days, we called them sages. They didn’t demand payment for their services. It is a vocation created wholly within the petri dish of unregulated capitalism and could not exist without it. Parents now have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet and can’t adequately coach their offspring through life. When these kids grow up, they have limited prospects themselves. Many from modest backgrounds bought into the scam that education is the key to upward mobility and are now saddled with high levels of student debt. Rather than tread water in a sea of underpaid retail jobs, some go into business for themselves and become life coaches. Those from wealthier backgrounds with connections graduate with no debt, go to work at a Hedge fund and a few years into scamming people, find themselves rich. Soon, they become bored and directionless because their parents weren’t around to teach them how to function like adults and get a library card. They hire a life coach who gently guides them to emotional fulfillment through an overly-complicated series of stringent walk-in closet organization techniques. I can think of no better way to relieve such a person of their ill-gotten gains than a proper hour-long discussion over the best way to store socks. Rolled or folded? It’s a conundrum well-worth the £700 per hour some coaches charge. In a wonderfully ironic ending, the newly-scammed rich end up paying the previously- scammed poor to guide them on how to live a fulfilling, independent existence. How do we break the cycle? Some say the first step is to realize that contentment is not transactional. It exists only within experiences. Just ask Timothy Treadwell who spent his life savings on a bunch of camping gear and a plane ticket to Alaska to find peace within the wilderness. He got eaten by a bear. Circle complete.

PURE TERROR MONTH: The Embalmer (1965)

B&S About Movies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.

The Embalmer (1965), aka Il Mostro di Venezia is a slow burner that fits somewhere in between the horror sub-genres of early Italian Giallo and the Italian gothic films of the 1960s. It is part murder mystery and part an exercise in atmosphere. 

Several young women have disappeared into the canals of Venice. A visual signifier freeze-frame appears for each victim at the moment the killer chooses them. He then stalks them from the nighttime canals in a scuba suit and pounces once they are alone. He drowns them and takes them through a series of tunnels underneath the city to his abandoned Monastery laboratory lair. Once inside, he skulks around in…

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PURE TERROR MONTH: The Curse of Bigfoot (1975)

B&S About Movies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.

I cannot describe The Curse of Bigfoot (1975) as a good film under any circumstances. It features very little Bigfoot and no curse. Regardless, I’ve seen it many times. It represents a simpler time in childhood when public domain films like this ran regularly on TV stations throughout the United States. A time when we had just four channels, dammit. And we liked it that way! 

The Curse of Bigfoot (1975) contains another older hour-long B-movie titled Teenagers Battle The Thing (1958), in which a group of high school students discover a pre-historic mummy on an archaeological dig. The mummy, having been sealed up in a preserved cave for centuries, returns to…

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