Cocktail Friday: Spectre Martini

Despite middling reviews (including one from me), the 24th James Bond film Spectre wiped up at the national and international box office last week, and should coast into the holidays on top. And one reason, of course, if 007’s drink of choice, the vodka martini. Belvedere Vodka (a sponsor of the film) shared with us James’ preferred martini — shaken, of course … not stirred.

2 oz. Belvedere vodka

1/3 oz. dry vermouth

1 Sicilian green olive (and a splash of brine)

Making it: Gently muddle a few olives in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add remaining ingredients and shake hard with ice. Double strain to a chilled martini glass. Garnish.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Shaken, not stirring: ‘Spectre’ falls short

DanielGCraigSpectreFollowing the artistic, entertainment and box-office success of 2012’s Skyfall, it seemed inevitable that the newest James Bond venture, Spectre, would pale, at least a little, by comparison. But there was reason to hope: Much of the creative team was back (star Daniel Craig and a solid supporting cast, director Sam Mendes, co-screenwriter John Logan and of course the folks at Eon Productions) and the through-line that has been developing since Craig took over — Bond’s slow development from thuggish assassin to sophisticated Ahab, hunting his white whale — continues. The tetralogy of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and now this are effectively a mini-series within the larger universe of Bond. These are good things.

But we have now been given the longest-ever Bond film, and one that, despite all the punching, often fails to pack a punch. And I’m not sure why.

The cold-open stunt (one of the tropes of 007), featuring an out-of-control helicopter twirling over Mexico City’s jam-packed main plaza, feels only non-threatening, like acrobats working with a net. A car chase through the nighttime streets of Rome is the least thrilling ground action I can recall from the series, and the romantic scenes lack spark. It is, as King Mongkut might have said, “a puzzlement:” Every element is there, but they don’t ignite. Where’s the fire amid all this smoke?

But while the alchemy is missing here, Spectre isn’t a disaster by any stretch. Quantum was one of the worst entries in the canon, this one is merely a disappointment. Maybe it’s us — maybe we’ve grown tired of the recurring bits that make Bond films so iconic (I did enjoy Sam Smith’s theme song played over thoughtful opening credits). And the care with which the screenwriters have taken to develop James’ character and tie together plot threads from the last three films before finally reintroducing us to Blofeld (MI6’s nemesis in the past, who hasn’t been seen since 1981… perhaps because Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil made him seem less diabolical than comic). And though he gets too-little screen time, Christoph Waltz ably captures Blofeld’s abiding insanity — sort of a psychological flip-side to James, and the successor to Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Spectre has too many positives like these to completely write it off, but best to go in open-eyed and skeptical. Expectations will do you in.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

New 007 film promises to be gayest yet … but ‘The Hobbit’ is still gayer

Ben Whishaw

Ben Whishaw

Skyfall, the last installment in the James Bond series, was about as gay as a spy thriller can be, with a clearly gay villain (Javier Bardem) hitting on a bondaged 007 (who didn’t seem offended at all, and even flirted back). But the upcoming one — which we just learned will be called Spectre — has even more gayness, though much of it behind the scenes.

In addition to the return of out actor Ben Whishaw, pictured, as Q, Lea Seydoux (who had steamy lesbian sex in last year’s Blue is the Warmest Color) and out actor Andrew Scott have joined the cast, which once again will be co-written by out scribe John Logan. And Daniel Craig is in it again, and we’ve long had our suspicions (fantasies?) about him.

Of course, gay blockbusters aren’t all that rare anymore. Consider: The main cast of the upcoming The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, includes Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, Lee Pace and Stephen Fry. And that got me thinkin’ — isn’t it funny how gay Middle-earth is? Indeed, most of the residents correspond to gay “types:” Hobbits are pocket gays; elves are twinks; dwarves are bears; wizards are grey wolves; and orcs … I dunno … butch lesbians?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

It’s very moving weekend we have in store. Wheel get right to it.

Starting today, Dallas’ Classic Chassis Car Club revs its engines for the 25th annual Golden Girls meet-up, a convention of member clubs that enjoy older, interesting or unique automobiles. The event includes mixers, a picnic and an awards dinner in Fort Worth. Here in Dallas, Park Place Motorcars officially launches its new Motorsports division, targeting those gearheads who have a need for speed.

One of the best movies of the year, Skyfall, opens today as well, with Daniel Craig, pictured, returning as James Bond and Javier Bardem as a gay supervillain. Even if you aren’t double-oh-seven fan, you’ll love it. Another admirable film opening this weekend is A Late Quartet, a clever drama where then members of a musical group find themselves actually performing the roles of a fugue as they interact. It contains an amazing performance by Christopher Walken, who should be short-listed for the Oscar this year. And it’s not too late to catch Cloud Atlas, another terrific movie with gay themes. Also, The Variants finished up its third season this week; you can watch it here.

On stage, Kitchen Dog Theater continues its new season with the dark comedy The Beauty Queen of Leenane opening Friday, and on Saturday 42nd Street tap-dances its way into Casa Manana. Also this weekend, the Theater Ministry of the Cathedral of Hope stages Standing on Ceremony, a collection of short plays about marriage equality. And on Thursday, Rick Miller performs, for what he says will be the penultimate time, his one-man show MacHomer at the Winspear.

Jim Duran, a Dallas fashion designer, launches his new menswear label, BLKLN, with a gala at Dish on Tuesday.  And sticking with fashion, model lensman Steven D. Hill holds his second annual toy drive with snacks from the Original Cupcakery and fashionistas on display. Oh, and last night, Stephan Pyles’ newest restaurant, Uptown’s Stampede 66, opened for dinner.

There’s also an anti-bullying concert being held at the Angelika Plano at the Shops of Legacy from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, with CDs available and proceeds benefiting anti-bullying causes.

Finally, Art Conspiracy returns for an evening of fundraising and art, music, food and other things that make life worth living. It’s at 960 Dragon St. in the Design District Saturday night.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Movie Monday: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in wide release

Tattoo you

The Swedish-language film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, while altogether serviceable, had a rocky time balancing those elements, but this territory is right up director David Fincher’s alley. His English-language remake is almost as bleak as his modern quasi-masterpiece, Se7en, but the topics and the tone? Pure Fincher.

He declares his own stylish mantra during the opening credits: Organic, abstract, even desultory and festishistic images to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ pulsating punk score establishes this as Fincher’s version of a Bond film. (It’s perhaps no coincidence the lead actor in the proposed trilogy is Bond himself, Daniel Craig.) Mechanical, urban, oppressive — welcome to the worlds of author Stieg Larsson and Fincher.

For the entire review, click here.

—  Rich Lopez

Movie Monday: ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ in wide release

First person shooter

While Cowboys & Aliens’ source material is, sadly, a graphic novel about settlers and scalawags in 1873 New Mexico, its real progenitor is the movie Western of yore: Black hats versus white hats. Lasses and scoundrels in saloons. Gunslingers and cattlemen.

And extra-terrestrials. Yeah, it still is a sci-fi film. It’s also a kick-ass summer film with excellent production values — War of the Worlds with six-shooters and arrows.

Read the entire review here.

2.5 out of 5 stars
Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Adam Beach, Olivia Wilde.
Rated PG-13. 115 mins.
Now playing in wide release.

—  Rich Lopez

First person shooter

An old-fashioned Western with modern FX, ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ rides roughshod

CRAGGY CRAIG | Daniel Craig projects the right amount of swagger as a gunslinger fighting ETs in 1873.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

2.5 out of 5 stars
Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Adam Beach, Olivia Wilde.
Rated PG-13. 115 mins.
Now playing in wide release.


Movie adaptations used to be based on literature and theater and even magazine articles. Nowadays, they are based on cartoons, video games, toys (the “Hasbro Presents” credit still gets a laugh during the opening credits of Transformers movies) and comic books. Such movies usually feel so pre-fab: Meta-cultural, with Hollywood navelgazing into a state of catatonia. (The games and comics are often inspired by trashy action movies, perpetuating the Mobius strip assembly line of dreck.)

But while Cowboys & Aliens’ source material is, sadly, a graphic novel about settlers and scalawags in 1873 New Mexico, its real progenitor is the movie Western of yore: Black hats versus white hats. Lasses and scoundrels in saloons. Gunslingers and cattlemen.

And extra-terrestrials. Yeah, it still is a sci-fi film.

The sci-fi, though, doesn’t overwhelm the tale, which has the plainspoken good-and-bad dichotomy of the genre, anchored by a humanity lacking in movies like Transformers. Daniel Craig (looking ripped, god bless him) plays an amnesiac bandit who apparently has successfully fought off the aliens with their own weapon, a metal wrist corsage that shoots laser blasts (but only when it needs to). He’s posse’d up with the local oligarch (played brutally at first by Harrison Ford, later cuddly as a kitten) to hunt down the aliens who are stealin’ our gold and rapin’ our women. (Actually, it’s not clear why they take people — one of many plot holes best ignored if you wanna get through the film.)

Director Jon Favreau added much-needed humor into the Iron Man movies, an element all but absent here, but cinematographer Matthew Libatique more than makes up for it with gorgeous landscapes and moodily underlit tableaux. Craig is well-suited to the craggy, silent loner: He’s brimming with testosteronic swagger … at least until the clusterfuck finale, a convoluted mess that overwhelms everyone involved, including any sense of logic in the storytelling.

Until then, though, it’s a kick-ass summer film with excellent production values — War of the Worlds with six-shooters and arrows.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Equals? James Bond (or at least, Daniel Craig) dons drag for International Women’s Day

Tomorrow — Tuesday, March 8 — marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. And while some things have gotten better for women in the last century, some things haven’t changed. At least, they haven’t changed enough.

In honor of the 100th International Women’s Day, singer/activist Annie Lennox has brought together a coalition of  charities, that champion women’s rights to “step up the call to demand a more equal world.” The Equals? Partnership, according to its website, is “a partnership of charities and organizations that believe men and women are equals and that we should have equal rights, equal opportunities and equal representation in politics, education, health, employment, family life and media and culture.”

Here are some of the statistics from Equals? Partnership’s website: 1 in 3 women will experience violence at some point in their lives; women hold only 19 percent of the world’s parliamentary seats; only about 24 percent of the people in mainstream broadcast and print news are female; women perform 66 percent of the world’s work and produce 50 percent of the world’s food, but earn 10 percent of world’s income and own 1 percent of the world’s property.

Equals? Partnership has a number of events planned around the United Kingdom. But you don’t have to travel to the U.K. to see the coalition’s work. The coalition also has created this 2-minute video, using one of the world’s most macho fictional characters, James Bond, played by one of the most manly actors, Daniel Craig, to try and drive home the point that women still are not treated equally here in the 21st century.

According to the IWD website, there are 234 events planned in the United States to recognize International Women’s Day 2011. The first was held Jan. 12, and the last will be held in May. The only event I saw listed here in Dallas — in fact, the only event I saw listed in Texas — is Echo Reads: A Staged Reading and Salon Series which includes a staged reading of the new play by Isabella Russell-Ides called The Early Education of Conrad Eppler, happening March 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bath House Cultural Center, presented by Echo Theatre.

But of course, I already knew that the 9th annual Words of Women celebration will be held next Sunday, March 13, beginning at 12:30 p.m. at the Women’s Museum in Fair Park. You can get all the details here.

But even if you don’t go to an official IWD event, take a minute to realize that no matter how civilized and advanced we consider ourselves to be, there still exists a vast chasm of inequities between the genders. It’s up to us — regardless what gender we are — to bridge that gap.

—  admin

Rocky Mountain highs

New Mexico’s cool, outdoorsy antidote to Texas summer heat

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor

POT PALACE | Porcelain goddess Heidi Loewen makes gorgeous art in her gallery to buy, or you can take her class and learn to make your own. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

>>> See the SLIDESHOW for more photos

When you live in North Texas, New Mexico, our neighbor to the west, seems like a backbreaking drive. Well, no more. A year ago, American Eagle began a direct route to Santa Fe. This is big news at the single-gate Santa Fe airport; it means celebs (Daniel Craig was in the security line next to me) can get to the arts enclave without flying to Albuquerque an hour away and renting a car. And gay-friendly Santa Fe is surely worth a visit.

Once you get downtown, a car isn’t really needed either (which is good, because parking is hard to come by). Even in the summer, Santa Fe is a very walkable city of about 65,000 people that stays reasonably cool due to its elevation. (At more than 7,000 feet about sea level, locals joke they “look down on” Denver.)

Not much gets taller than that, either. (A skyscraper here comes in at about five stories.) From the air, the buildings recede into the landscape, as if a modern town where free wifi is widely available doesn’t exist yet. You might think this is still an Indian pueblo.

The Inn and Spa at Loretto, a luxury hotel that abuts the famous Loretto Chapel, is, like virtually every other building in town, a short, adobe-like edifice of brown stucco, but the décor works. Inside, spacious rooms are decorated in earth tones with high-end amenities (lush furnishings, wide-screen TVs). The common areas are also beautiful.

Nothing more so, in fact, than Luminaria, the exceptional on-site restaurant. Much of the seating space here is outdoors, giving chef Brian Cooper’s creations an al fresco elegance. The housemade breads alone are worth a visit, though there’s much, much more to enjoy.

New Mexicans are proud of their culinary traditions; you’ll find pinon-flavored coffee, syrup, nuts and more, plus loads of green chiles. That makes for an unapologetically caliente cuisine, from Luminaria’s quesadillas with chipotle salsa and spicy pico de gallo to a power-packed gazpacho to a green chile burger charred beautifully on the outside and pink as a prom dress in the middle.

You could spend much of your trip just eating here and lying by the pool or enjoying a relaxing, aromatic massage at the acclaimed Loretto spa, but Santa Fe is worth a venture outdoors. Indeed, that may be the best reason to come here: To commune with nature away from the sweltering Texas heat.

Northern New Mexico is home to many Pueblo Indians, among them the Santa Clarans, whose centuries-old Puye cliff dwellings are still a sight to behold. Carved out of the pumice-like rockfaces of low-lying mountains, the tours here, conducted by tribe members, only recently started up after a decade when fires had all but closed the attraction. Even if you don’t consider yourself a hiker, it’s a fascinating look at the history of our nation before it was a nation.

In fact, this year Santa Fe is celebrating its 400th year — it was founded when William Shakespeare was a living playwright. That makes it the oldest state capital in the U.S. (Not the biggest, though: Despite New Mexico’s size — geographically, it’s the fifth largest state — the population of the entire state is about 2 million — less than that of Dallas County.)

The Santa Fe Opera is an open-air facility that operates in repertory in the summer, producing major operas and world premieres against a sage-brush landscape. An on-site cantina makes for a casual way to enjoy high culture.

Indeed, Santa Fe town is justly known for its thriving arts community, which may account in part for its gay-friendly reputation. Many galleries are concentrated along Canyon Road, a five-minute walk from the Inn and Spa. Here, you can peruse literally hundreds of collections from local, national and international artists.

CLIFF NOTES | Santa Claran Indians give guided tours of the Puye cliffs near Santa Fe. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

If you think the only thing to buy here is turquoise and paintings of cow skulls, you’re sorely mistaken. While Native American art is plentiful, the styles range from classic to contemporary. You’ll get an especially diverse selection of edgy, intriguing work — from paintings to sculpture — at InArt Gallery, run by the McKoskys.

Don’t just stay near Canyon Road, though — visit the Heidi Loewen Porcelain Gallery, with handmade pottery from the positively charming Heidi herself. You can buy one of her beautiful pots or take one of her classes and learn to make your own (she’ll even glaze and fire it for you).

If you’re not planning to buy, of course you’ll need to stop by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, devoted to the state’s most famous painter. The current exhibit of her work in abstraction (on through September) illuminates how her notoriously vaginal flowers were part and parcel with her overall style.

The New Mexico Museum is also worth a stroll, boasting its current exhibit of artsy cowboy boots. Among the works are several drawing by Delmas Howe, the gay artist who is to cowboys what Tom of Finland is to European leathermen. (This fact apparently escaped the curator — the notes fail to mention the homoeroticism of the art.)

If you enjoy gambling, Indian casinos dot the landscape, but really, for comfortable tranquility and outdoor adventure, everywhere in Santa Fe is a safe bet.

Read Part 2 of New Mexico’s summer travel pleasures later this month in Dallas Voice.



The Inn and Spa at Loretto and Luminaria Restaurant, pictured, 211 Old Santa Fe Trail.

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, 217 Johnson St. Heidi Loewen Porcelain Gallery, 315 Johnson St., Santa Fe. InArt Gallery, 219 Delgado St., Santa Fe. Loretto Chapel, 207 Old Santa Fe Trail. Loretto New Mexico Museum of Art, 107 W. Palace Ave. Puye Cliff Dwelling National Historic Landmark, 104 S. Riverside Drive, Espagnola. Santa Fe Opera, 301 Opera Drive.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas