Indiana Jones is back

Andreas Moser Indiana Jones.JPG

He was spotted on the island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca in Peru.

Posted in Peru, Photography, Travel | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Film Review: James Bond “SPECTRE”

This film review doesn’t require a spoiler warning because the latest James Bond film SPECTRE doesn’t have a discernible plot anyway. It is more of an unorganized sequence of badly written and halfheartedly acted scenes. Like a car-boot sale trying to get rid of everything that was left on the cutting-room floor of the previous James Bond films.

It begins in Mexico, with the scene heralded as “the best action scene ever” in so many reviews that I became suspicious that many film critics were bribed just as Mexico City paid millions to bribe the producers into including that scene in the movie. Because the film’s opening is not fulminate, but bad. The Dia de los Muertos, the Latin-American Halloween, would be a thankful background, but the film doesn’t make use of it. The Mexicans are mere extras, they remain in the background, James Bond doesn’t interact with any of them. None of them come alive as a person. They are an amorphous mass without individuals. It feels as if the movie doesn’t really know what to do with them.

You can tell that Mexico City didn’t only buy the scene, but also the actress Stephanie Sigman, between whom and Daniel Craig no spark was ignited despite all the explosions around them. The action scenes are even worse. The collapsing buildings and the views from the helicopter are so obviously computer-animated that one is almost ashamed. If action sequences in 2015 look worse than they did in 1975, then maybe one should use the old technology again (tip: stuntmen instead of CGI boys).

The theme song Writing’s on the Wall by Sam Smith puts you asleep. The opening credits include photos of the protagonists from the last three films and confirm my fear: another retrospect and flashback Bond, instead of a stand-alone film. And a completely idiotic family story in which Bond and the villain Blofeld had a shared childhood. Weird that none of the earlier Bonds or Blofelds ever remembered that, let alone that it was never mentioned in Ian Fleming’s books.

Monica Bellucci as the widow of the guy just killed by Bond is not being seduced, but almost sexually assaulted. We already had this in Skyfall, where the former child prostitute suffers the same fate. The discussion about the borderline between consensual sex and rape seems to have bypassed James Bond, the scriptwriters, directors and producers. The facial expression of Monica Bellucci clearly shows what she was thinking: “What is the point of this bullshit? I should have gotten such a role 20 years ago.”

SPECTRE Monica Bellucci

“When will this movie be over? Can somebody shoot me please?”

I am well aware that James Bond films never stood out for their logical plots. We have gotten used to Bond surviving plane crashes, never being hit once by the bullets of machine guns fired at him and that the villain always reveals his plans before the end of the film. All of that, we don’t mind. But what SPECTRE tries to serve is an insult to viewers. There is not even the pretense of the thinnest thread of a plot.

Bond is being suspended for the third time, but not only does he keep his job, he can also steal a car from the MI6 basement without being uncovered and receives the support of Q, who can leave his workplace for Austria for a few days without being missed by anyone. All of that despite total surveillance, the theme of the film.

Bond then drives this car from London straight to Rome, where there is no traffic chaos at all, so that Bond and a pursuer can enjoy an allegedly fast and furious car chase. That the only car stopping him is a Fiat 500 with an old Italian who is listening to and singing along opera shows to what kitschy lows this film sinks.

When Bond finds the secret meeting of the secret organization SPECTRE, which is being held – very secretly – in a huge palace in Rome with dozens of luxury cars parked in front, he is already being expected by Oberhauser. It’s only strange that Oberhauser/Blofeld, who otherwise thinks of everything and plans ahead, simply leaves Bond’s car in the parking lot, allowing Bond to escape.

Mr White wants to hide from SPECTRE, but installs a webcam in his living room which transmits everything to SPECTRE HQ. At the hotel in Tanger (I believe it is the one from the Jason Bourne films, which are comparatively becoming better), he has a secret room full with switched-on computers, which he apparently immures after each visit and which the hotel doesn’t notice.

Why does the fat guy working for Blofeld try to kill James Bond on the train, if Blofeld is already expecting him? And in Morocco, you can apparently demolish a whole train, but they will still allow you to disembark at the station “Secret Headquarters of the Evil Mastermind in the Desert”.

There is not much talking in the film, maybe because that would highlight the lack of any story. The rare dialogues are so flat (“Why did you come here, James?” – “I came to kill you.” – “And I thought you came to die.” is probably supposed to be a cheap Goldfinger remake) and are being declaimed like at a high school drama group performance. Particularly with Daniel Craig and Christoph Waltz, I got the impression they were playing under protest. Christoph Waltz has more esprit in any of his talk-show appearances. Even his printed interviews read more thrilling than this film.

The allegedly genial criminal mastermind doesn’t remove Bond’s explosive watch, which Bond can detonate in such a miraculous way that it opens up all his hand-, food- and head-cuffs, leaves himself unharmed, but causes Blofeld to have the famous injury to his face, despite which Blofeld will be active again after a few hours. Bond himself doesn’t suffer for a second from the drill that had been rammed into his head in order to destroy his brain. (The scriptwriters on the other hand seem to have successfully tried out this method themselves.)

SPECTRE Daniel Craig plane

This plane doesn’t fly anymore. Nor does the film.

Bond escapes, Blofeld again lures him into a trap, of course again in London, as in the previous films. Again the girl is tied down somewhere and Bond has to rescue her before the 3-minute bomb, known from Goldeneye, will detonate. Luckily, the boat from The World is not Enough is still in the garage of the completely burned out MI6 headquarters, fully functional, with the key in the ignition and a full tank, and Bond can cause a helicopter to crash with one shot from a pistol. A crash which Blofeld naturally survives once again.

And so on, and so on. Nothing but moronic nonsense and dumb copies of the last films. Some of the scenes are even copied one to one, but unfortunately the most illogical ones. Like in the opening scene of Casino Royale, the desk-jockey doesn’t notice that the bullets were taken from his pistol and pulls the trigger. Anyone who has ever held a pistol with and without a full clip in their hand will immediately notice the difference in weight. Nobody is that stupid. But unfortunately, somebody is stupid enough to recycle the same stupid scene.

As a James Bond fan, I don’t find it easy to pass such hard judgment, but I really can’t remember anything positive about the whole film. Save your money, this film doesn’t deserve a single dollar and the scriptwriters deserve our particular scorn.

Posted in Films, James Bond, Mexico | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Street Scenes in Quillacollo

I always thought that the Feast of Corpus Christi is a somber affair. In Quillacollo in Bolivia there was indeed a short religious procession to the cathedral, with ice-cream and beer vendors already going about their business while the priest was talking about Mr Jesus. But most people had come for the festival that ensued with several hours of dance and music bands parading through the streets.

On that day, I was with Edward Allen, whom I had met through Couchsurfing and who took all the following photos. You can see that he is not as shy as I am about photographing people. Probably because I was with him in case somebody wanted to attack or sue him.

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The main street is adorned with several large paintings made of sand and flower petals, depicting scenes from the Bible and other religious symbols. By the way, Edward was one of the few people I have met who is an even more radical atheist than me.

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When you look at the shoes of the next band, keep in mind that they had to walk, dance and play around town for at least 4 or 5 hours in them.

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Yes, the lady is drinking a can of beer while performing.

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But this huge event was only the trial run for the festivities to celebrate the Virgin of Urkupiña, the patron saint of Bolivia’s national integrity, in August.

You have to admire how Bolivia combines dancing girls in very, very short skirts with devout worshiping of an alleged virgin.

Here you can see more of Edward’s photos from Bolivia.

Posted in Bolivia, Music, Photography, Religion, Travel | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Locks of Love

On the bridges that connect Užupis with the rest of Vilnius, there are hundreds of locks. Couples write their names on the lock, then attach it to the bridge and throw away the key.

Some may find this romantic. – I just think of all the bicycles that could have been protected with these locks.

Posted in Lithuania, Love, Photography, Travel | Tagged | 10 Comments

No signal

Pokemon Go had only been introduced in Peru a few days ago. But it had already transformed public life. Selva Alegre Park in Arequipa suddenly saw more teenagers, but they didn’t see anything of the park. Outside of Santa Catalina Monastery hundreds of people stood lined up against the wall, staring at their phones with no interest for the historical convent on which they were leaning. I thought these Pokemoners would go home again, but the next day there were so many that the police had to regulate the traffic and mobile food vendors had set up their carts to feed the addicts. You couldn’t ride on a bus anymore without seeing red and yellow monsters on the phones next to you.

Probably these Pokegods are so popular in Peru because they are modeled on Inca gods. Pikachu and Pachamama. Aerodactyl and Apocatequil. Croconaw and Coniraya.

Maybe I should have expected that a girl who plays Tinder also plays Pokemon Go. Still, I was slightly taken aback when the otherwise rather mature girl pulled out her phone to check for Pokemonsters as soon as we entered Brujas Bar. “Isn’t this something for children?” I asked, trying to get her to stop and, more importantly, to focus on me. She quizzed me with a bewildered look. Putting on the most serious face I could, I expressed frustration about being ignored on a first date. With visible consternation, she put her phone away, but kept glancing at it every minute.

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She didn’t wear her glasses that day, claiming cockily that they made her look too sexy and making the somewhat worn-out joke that she didn’t yet know if I was a serial killer.

Each time it beeped and feeped and vibrated, she hastened to reach for it, as if happy about not having to listen to me anymore. Or maybe it made her feel more important. Really important people (like me) of course don’t have time to answer their phones at all. The fact that I stopped talking and eating each time the busy lady replied to a WhatsApp message or downloaded a spreadsheet was interpreted by her as my failure to multi-task, it seemed, not as the silent protest it was meant to be.

“Dating websites shouldn’t ask whether you smoke or drink, but if you are addicted to phones,” I suggested dryly. But she smiled a smile that melted my anger. Until two minutes later, when her phone rang. “My best friend,” she said, as if that would explain why she was impolite enough to answer. Good that I had ordered a salad which wouldn’t get cold.

A few minutes later the same procedure. “My other best friend,” devaluing the concept of friendship, I thought. I was close to taking out my notebook to start writing this story, but she might have interpreted it as permission to continue her phone conversation until late at night.

“I prefer not to,” I replied after she had hung up and asked me to continue the story I had been telling. “With that many interruptions, I won’t be able to finish it today. You will have to wait for the book.” “Oh, come on,” she replied, with a sheepish attempt at a seductive look. “Or,” I suggested, “the next time, let’s meet some place without a phone signal. Maybe we have to drive to the desert. Or get on a boat to the Solomon Islands.”

After the weekend, she sent a message: “Andreas, I have been thinking about your proposal. Let’s go for a trip to Atacama Desert.” Maybe she had already caught all Pokethingies in Peru. Or run out of best friends.

When she picked me up, she was wearing her glasses. It didn’t turn me into a serial killer. But then, every serial killer has to start small.

Atamaca desert donkey

Three days later, she is still considered missing.

Posted in Fiction, Love, Peru, Technology | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Strange clouds

DSCN9065(Photo taken in the Madonie mountains in Sicily.)

Posted in Italy, Photography, Sicily, Travel | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Paulo Coelho

“Peru has Mario Vargas Llosa. Colombia has Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Mexico has Carlos Fuentes. I am so tired of Brazil: only samba, beach and sex. We have nothing intellectual!” the girl at the check-out counter at Belem Library complained.

“It’s not that bad,” I began. One of her eyebrows rose in anticipation. “You have Paulo Coelho.”

We both burst into laughter simultaneously. If one of us hadn’t been the librarian, everyone else would have told us to shut up.

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Posted in Books, Brazil | Tagged , , | 3 Comments