Thursday, May 31, 2012

Skyfall Teaser, A Dissection

The new James Bond teaser has finally come out and like a fine wine I let it sit a little before enjoying it.  The purpose of this post is to take a closer look at the video and see what we can glean from it.

The trailer opens as 007 is standing atop a wind swept roof overlooking London.  This is his city and London will soon serve as the nexus for some major events in the coming months none more significant than the 2012 Olympics.  The words "country" answered by "England" are intoned in the background.  Bond is undergoing a debrief of sorts involving a word association game from an interrogator.  As the interrogator suggests words, the scenes switch so the viewing audience can make their own associations as to the mindset of Bond and the events he has recently become embroiled in.

As Bond goes for a run with what I originally thought was the Trafalgar Square memorial in the background (its the Telecom Tower) we hear the words "gun" and "shot".  We next view Bond in full silhouette, he seems to be tending to himself and the words "Agent" and "Provocateur" lead us to the next clip that shows a firing range target.  "Murder" is followed by the word "Employment" which leads to the interrogator's last association which is "Skyfall".  Bond hesitates, Skyfall is repeated and Bond responds, "Done"

Interview over.

That not so private tete-a-tete is quite revealing.  Bond confirms his dedication to Queen and country with the first association.  Was there any question?  Possibly, the movie will answer that. When Bond answers "shot" to the word "gun" I think he is referring to a wound he suffered in the line of duty not just the reflexive answer to what a gun does.  I say this because the next scene shows him tending to himself and when we see the firing range target it is revealed that his aim is off as there is two glaring misses.

I like how Bond answers "Provocateur" to the word "agent".  It shows that he is not just a simple government paid automaton.  He sees his job as one that sows dissent, stirs things up and deliberately agitates.  More "hilarity" ensues as 007 answers "Employment" to the word murder.  This is probably meant to intimidate those who are watching him behind the glass and it testifies to his cold, callous nature.  It's also to show there is no question in Bond's mind as to the true character of his profession.

We finally get to the film title and the last word, "Skyfall".  Bond hesitates when presented with the word.  We get a quick cut to a room Bond is exploring.  A figure is slumped in a chair.  "Done", snaps Bond when offered Skyfall a second time.  Was the mission a failure?  Does Skyfall happen off screen and before the time line of the movie?  It seems so.  The producers have hinted the main thrust of the story deals with a dark secret to M's past.  Perhaps she bet heavily on the success of Skyfall or maybe even meant Skyfall to clean up the mess that was made.  Either way things did not seem to go well.

We also get a cut of Ralph Fiennes mysterious character, Gareth Mallory.  (Mysterious in that his role in the movie is undefined.)  When Bond hesitates, Mallory shoots a look at M.  He seems to want to gauge the reaction of M to this hesitation.  Quite possibly he knows of the stakes as they pertain to M.  One might also hazard a guess that the stakes involve him also and he stands to benefit from M's possible failure.  Perhaps as her replacement?

We then get the standard Hollywood quick cuts as the teaser unwinds.  Everyone does it and it is getting a little tired.

Except in this case.

Staccato blasts of music follow the quick cuts.  The Shanghai skyline looms in front of us.   Berenice Marlohe's character, Severine, looks fetchingly unattainable from a nearby building.  Bond fires off two quick (and casual) shots also to the music (I bet he doesn't miss there.)  M stands behind a row of Union Jack draped coffins.  The aftermath of her failed endeavor and the sad postscript to Skyfall? 

We sail along the Shanghai waterfront with Bond dressed to kill.  The action must get furious from there as Bond endures a close shave from Naomi Harris', Eve. (Careful of that forbidden fruit James.)  We return to the streets of London and Bond is running against the stream of traffic suggesting all is not well.  To punctuate that point, Bond is plummeted into what looks to be an icy bath.  Further action ensues as he dodges gunfire, a helicopter appears (was it loaded with the occupants of those flag draped coffins?)  Bond slips through a torrent of weapons fire and then a figure is dropped down a shaft (back to Shanghai?) Methinks Bond's Shanghai pursuer falling victim to his prey.

Bond and M next share a quiet moment staring off into a craggy vista.  I think this is a prelude of what is to come.  We get a quick glimpse of a subway car crashing through a ceiling that reportedly takes place at Charing Cross station.  By all accounts it should be a stunning special effect. Bond steps into the light that is meant for his eyes only and we get a darkened figure approaching a blazing inferno.

One of the filming locations was in Glencoe, Highland which belongs in Scotland.  Our darkened figure near the end has something to do with the action there as he seems to have set fire to one of its castles.  The craggy vista that M and Bond overlook is possibly a prelude to that action and I'm think that figure is Javier Bardem's "Silva" who is billed as the main villain of the flick.  No doubt Silva has torched the best laid plans of Bond and M.

The staccato blasts of music are replaced with even quicker action shots and Bond themed action music.  Bond intones that "some men are coming to kill us, we're going to kill them first" which is eerily reminiscent of Tyrion Lannister's speech from the Blackwater episode of Game of Thrones when he proclaims, (to paraphrase) "those are brave men out there trying to kill us, let's go murder them!"  The actions takes us back to Shanghai, through London, it includes the soon to be famous motorcycle stunt from Istanbul and if you look closely we first get Bond clean shaven and then quite grizzly and rough.  Which is the before and which is the after?

I'm not sure but somewhere along the line I'm guessing Bond goes off the reservation a bit.  He's either acting on his own with the grizzled look or at the behest of a threatened M.  Or both.

Either way this is a great teaser trailer and it gives us a taste of Sam Mendes' visual style ably abetted by cinematographer, Roger Deakins.  I was a little worried about Mendes handling of the film but I am encouraged now.  Deakins has given us True Grit, No Country for Old Men and The Shawshank Redemption so there are no worries there.

I'm looking forward to the full length trailer and hopefully it won't give too much away like the recent Prometheus trailer did.  Just a little more guns, girls and a dash "Q" humor to top it off.  Yes, that would do nicely.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bullet Points: Fringe part 1

I'd like to take a forensic look at the magic bullet that struck Olivia Dunham in the last episode of Fringe, "Brave New World Part 2".  It only stands to reason that we should compare it to the bullet that Ella Bishop wore around her neck in "Letters of Transit".  I say this because many of us deduced that the bullet that Ella wore around her neck was in homage to her mother (we think) and she wore it to honor her mother's sacrifice.  (We're also assuming that Olivia is Ella's mother.)

As we look at the bullet above that Ella wears we can see an obvious indentation that both bullets share.  The bloodied bullet (very top) may look slightly different as its indentation seems more cratered than the cleaner version as seen below.  This difference may be due to the angle of the camera, the fact that the bullet is in reverse view and because the top one is covered in fresh blood which may also distort the damage to the spent slug. 

The bullet in the second photo seems flattened at the end of its crater as we approach the front part of the slug.  While the bloody bullet seems to have a curvature to it as seen by the merest of reflection from the light.  Please look closely at this difference.  We could surmise that. A: continuity was lost in the props department and they used more that one bullet prop. or B: the angle, the light and the blood have distorted or view or lastly C: there are two separate bullets and each have a alternate narrative.

If we go back to the bloody bullet note that we are looking at the tail end of the bullet that, at one time, was connected to the the cartridge.  It seems slightly misshapen.  The hammer that struck the cartridge would only inflict damage on the shell itself so it doesn't seem likely that it should be damaged.  Compare it to the bullet that Ella wears and you'll note that the curvature of its base seems wholly intact.  However, it must be noted that we can only see limited portion of the bullet base, therefore we can draw no final solution.

Bullets are made of soft lead.  Any damage that the bullets incur is due to that nature and any sort of structural damage is possible.  The front of the Ella bullet is facing us and from this we can derive several facts.  If this was a dumdum or hollow point bullet the end would not be flat as shown above.  Those types of bullets are meant to cause massive material damage and would cause grave tissue mutilation.  It would leave the type of wound that even cortexiphan immersion could not withstand.  A full metal jacketed bullet would also cause irreversible damage as it would have passed completely through Dunham's head and left a large exit wound.  Something from which a cortexiphan cure would have been impossible.

If the two bullets pictured are indeed the same then we can surmise that they are of standard issue for the 9mm Luger that Walter Bishop fired to disable Olivia.  A further extrapolation of the facts would lead us to believe that the bullet is of the 115 or 105 grain.  Here is a brief description of the Luger and its ammo taken from the site "

"Since 1908 the Luger pistol has been an official German military side arm. Georg Luger of the DWM Arms Company2 in Germany developed this weapon, known officially as Pistole 08, from the American Borchart pistol invented in 1893.
The Luger is a well-balanced, accurate pistol. It imparts a high muzzle velocity to a small-caliber bullet, but develops only a relatively small amount of stopping power. Unlike the comparatively slow U.S. 45-caliber bullet, the Luger small-caliber bullet does not often lodge itself in the target and thereby impart its shocking power to that which it hits. With its high speed and small caliber it tends to pierce, inflicting a small, clean wound.
When the Luger is kept clean, it functions well. However, the mechanism is rather exposed to dust and dirt".

There are two salient points that we can take from the above description.  The first of which is, despite the high muzzle velocity the stopping power is limited.  This would also explain why the bullet didn't shatter Dunham's skull.  It is also noted that it leaves a "small clean wound" the type of which Dunham suffered as seen below.

It should also be added that to perform at maximum potential the Luger must be kept clean in order to "function well".  Take note of how the weapon was stored in the picture below.

The Luger was kept in a glass encased wooden box.  This not only serves to showcase the fine antique weapon but also keeps it in top working condition should anyone want to use.  It seems William Bell not only took pride in his possession but also took great pains to see it preserve its functionality should the need arise.

With the fact assembled above we can safely assume that both bullets pictured are indeed the same.  From this we can pursue a secondary line of reasoning which would entail,
  • Motive
  •  History
  • Plausibility and Causality
  • Time Frame Scenarios
  • Legacy
 However, it would be prudent to preserve some modicum of skepticism should the bullets be two different entities and if so we'll entreat more theories if applicable.

Coming soon, "Bullet Points: Fringe part 2".

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Observers and Tinker Bell

Here's one question I hope gets answered Friday night.

What is the mystery behind the little golden orbs that float around Fringe?  You know, the ones we see associated with the glyphs and all the Fringe promos such as the ones below.

If you closely at the escalator picture at the top of this post you'll see three of the golden orbs reflected in the escalator handle.  To me, these little clues mean we are going to get a visit from one of the Observers and to look closely for them. Sometimes the orbs are a reflection, as seen above, and sometimes they are a muted light or light bulb in the background of a scene.  (And sometimes they are fire flies right Peter?)

After the episode, "A Better Human Being" I did a blog post where I examined this very same phenomenon and you can read it here.

Wouldn't it be interesting if the little golden orbs where the non-corporeal manifestation of the Observers as they traveled through time and space?

You know, Tinkerbells from the future except not nearly as cute or nice.  In fact, they are mean and bald and have delusions of grandeur.  "Monsters" Walter called them.  

Let's hope September gets a fairy tale ending at least.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ask Not For Whom the Bellie Tolls.... tolls for me!

So William Bell is officially back, not a big surprise since we saw the ambered version last week, but am I happy about it?  Not really.  His return as the grand master puppeteer undercuts one of the juiciest villains we ever had in David Robert Jones.  Remember when Jones had everyone running in circles trying to figure out was his next move would be?  In the original season one timeline he was the eager puppy trying to please William Bell.  I guess that hasn't changed much here.  At least back then he was doing everything on his own.  Now he has been de-fanged and half the man he used to be.

It wasn't that long ago that Jones was weeping over one of his creations that he had to sacrifice (there's that word again).  Would a man, who was basically a second fiddle now, feel that much pain?  I doubt it.  Only a true creator would grievously suffer such a loss.  David Robert Jones was that man.

Now Fringe would have us believe he was just a pawn (or Bishop as he would say) to Bell's grand scheme.  Of course I'm a little bitter that it scotchs some of my overall endgame theory for Fringe.  Now I have to substitute Bell for Jones and hope I still get my Trojan horse led, green bubble universe.

I'll survive.  While we're on the subject of Bell triumphant let's take a closer look at the man.

I always cringe a little when I see Nimoy in his golden years.  I love the man and I want him around forever.  When Spock said his goodbyes in the last Star Trek reboot I had tears in my eyes.  Don't go!

Upon closer examination there seems something different about this Bell and the one we saw encased in amber.  Let's take a look.

The hair is closely cropped in the amber version, not at all the same as the casual bangs Bell is sporting along with his Members Only jacket.  The scientific mastermind in amber and the gleeful arch villain in another.  I bet you can guess where I am going with this.

Yep, there is more than one of everything.  The above picture of Bell is one from when he first met Olivia at the World Trade Center.  Looks a lot more like Amber Bell than Members Only Bell.  So I'm calling it.

There are two Bells.

I know, there is one episode to go and I will probably get buried by this but what the heck.  If I get my way in this then there is hope we'll see another David Robert Jones.  Throw in the Red Universe Nina and I'll have a wicked cool summer.

Who's with me!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fringe Boldly Goes...

Leave it to Fringe to explore the final frontier.

As many of you Fringe fans recall when Walter Bishop made his presentation to the joint Fringe Divisions (ep. Worlds Apart) he admitted that his recognition of Jones' gambit came to him in a dream.  Now dreams have often been a plot device or theme throughout the history of Fringe.  So to the viewing audience this wasn't much of a surprise.  However the Fringe players there were a bit skeptical.

It was a nice moment early on in the episode because it afforded Walternate an opportunity to back his doppelganger and illustrate the cooperation between the two sides.   But it made me think of where Walter truly got his inspiration.  

My thoughts went back to "Letters of Transit" when there was that moment of recognition between Walter and Etta.  Walter stammered something like, "You" as if there was something beyond the simple recognition of a loved one.  It seemed a bit strange to me, as if Walter recognized something different other than his titular granddaughter.

Etta noticed something also.  But hers was more of the familial variety.  What I am thinking is that Walter had made some sort of post hypnotic or subconscious suggestion to Etta at the tender age of Four before he submitted himself and his team to an Amber preservation.  This would explain her obsession with finding the Fringe team that went beyond the simple search for artifacts from that earlier era.  Even Simon thought she was crazy for pursuing her chase.  You could explain her drive with the loss of her mother and the unresolved disappearance of her father and the rest of the Fringe team.  But Walters reaction goes beyond that and perhaps Etta realized that too with this epiphany.

Now lets go back to Walters dream and his solution to Jones' plans.  If Walter was clever enough in the past to make a suggestion to Etta that would prove useful in the future.  Why wouldn't he do the same in the future to benefit the past?  The Walter of 2025 (with brain intact) knew his plan was successful otherwise he would still be trapped in amber.  Also, why put yourself in amber unless you had an exit plan.  He said as much to Etta and Simon as they escaped Massive Dynamic.

Simply put, what I am saying is Walter didn't just have a dream about Jones' plan he may have had a visit from his future self and made the suggestion in person!  Whether he used hypnosis, dream suggestion, or even LSD, I think Walter tipped himself off somehow that led to Walters solution in the present.

We've seen this device before when Spock made a similar suggestion to Dr. McCoy in the movie, "The Wrath of Khan".  It eventually led to Spock's resurrection later on in that series of movies.  In Fringe's case, Walter makes a suggestion to Etta that eventually frees him from the amber much as Spock was freed from stasis on the Genesis planet.  

Isn't it amazing that we see the same actor that portrayed Spock in those movies resurrected again as William Bell seemingly back from the dead.  I don't think it is a coincidence.  We all know JJ Abrams is involved wit the new Star Trek movie series, why not borrow that trope and apply it to Fringe.  And why not use it in reverse so Walter could make a suggestion to himself in the past.  I think it is pretty clever and it works really well.  It also wraps the Fringe and Star Trek families tightly together especially in the wake of so many Star Wars references in the episode before.

That rivalry will never die.

So what do you think?  Did Walter plant the seed in Etta's subconscious and did he use it on his own self in reverse fashion from the future?

It's Fringe, imagine the impossibilities!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Strange Days on Fringe

Strange Days Indeed.

When I heard Peter remark to Lincoln Lee, "Strange days" I started thinking to myself, "Oh, cool another Doors reference".  So I began to sing along in my head as the show wound down, "Strange days indeed, most peculiar Mama, whoa!"  The show ended I'm still singing to myself when I realized I wasn't singing the Door lyrics but something from John Lennon instead.

The lyrics I was singing come from Lennon's "Nobody Told Me".  Here's a sampling.

Nobody told me there'd be days like these
Nobody told me there'd be days like these
Nobody told me there'd be days like these
Strange days indeed -- most peculiar, mama

Everybody's smoking and no one's getting high
Everybody's flying and never touch the sky
There's a UFO over New York and I ain't too surprised 

If there can be zeppelins flying over New York in the Red universe, what's a few UFO's over the Big Apple on the Blue side?  In case you were wondering if there were any Fringe like references from the Doors' Strange Days here's another sampling.

Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They're going to destroy
Our casual joys
We shall go on playing
Or find a new town 

I bet the people of Westfield VT. were thinking the same thing after David Robert Jones reduced their town to just a few square yards

As a movie buff there was another relation to strange days and that was a movie by the same name.

I've seen it and it is a bit strange indeed.  It was a movie by Kathryn Bigelow with an assist from James Cameron.  The movie was critically well received but was a box office flop.  Bigelow went on to bigger and better things with "The Hurt Locker" and Cameron, of course, had Titanic and Avatar.  Ralph Fiennes must be a favorite of Bigelow's as he was in Strange Days and The Hurt Locker.  The movies theme dealt with a dystopian future which is very Fringe like and even involved so called "Squid" devices that allowed the wearer to experience whatever the device had in its memory.  Like a murder.  I know Walter likes to "experiment" but I don't see him getting a thrill over experiencing someone else's death.

You know, it could very well be that Peter's intent was to not give us a pop culture seminar but a clue to next week's episode.  I'm thinking with the two part "Brave New World" we will see some strange days indeed.  Hmmm, I wonder if Peter is a Shakespeare fan?

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world!
That has such people in't!