The Water Cooler: A Great Vigilante Comic, Ian Fleming's 007, And Your New K-Pop Obsession

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Welcome to The Water Cooler, a weekly feature where the /Film staff is free to go off-topic and talk about everything except the movies and TV shows they normally write about. In this edition: a terrific new comic series from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, a '90s TV classic revisited, a journey into the literary James Bond, and your new Korean pop star obsession.

Peter Sciretta is Reading the Comic Series Kill or Be Killed

Kill or Be Killed is an Image Comics series that launched last Summer, but I only got a chance to start reading it on a recent plane trip back from Hawaii. The comic book series is from the Fade Out and Criminal team of writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips. If you don't know the brilliant work of Brubaker from the comic world, than it's also worth mentioning that he was a producer and writer on HBO's Westworld, which you know I'm obsessed with.

This monthly comic book series is billed as the "twisted story of a young man who is forced to kill bad people, and how he struggles to keep his secret as it slowly ruins his life and the lives of his friends and loved ones." This is a great comic book for people who might not be into the typical tights and capes of Marvel and DC. It's a brutal and bloody thriller with a very compelling high concept take on the vigilante tale, with down-to-earth characters, and a brilliant deconstruction of a seemingly familiar story. I'm only a handful of issues in, but I've already bought and downloaded the rest of the run and subscribed to future issues in my comixology app. I would like to tell you more, but I don't want to spoil any of the fun of this series and the twist at the center of the premise. The first two trade volumes are available now in paperback.

on her majesty's secret service

Ben Pearson Has Been Reading Ian Fleming's On Her Majesty's Secret Service

I've seen all of the James Bond movies, but I'd never read one of Ian Fleming's novels until I picked up a used copy of On Her Majesty's Secret Service at a local bookstore. It's a quick read (only 190 pages), and after speeding through it over the course of a few days, it's easy to see why producers in the 1960s were interested in adapting these stories into movies. I found out after reading that, in the aftermath of the gadgets that had featured prominently in the first five Bond films, On Her Majesty's Secret Service director Peter R. Hunt deliberately chose to stick close to the source material for the movie (the only film to star George Lazenby as 007). Reading the book is almost exactly like watching the movie: nearly every plot point lines up, the pacing is quick, the action is exciting, and that heartbreaking ending is still as gut-wrenching as ever – maybe even moreso because I knew it was coming.

Because I was already familiar with the story from the movie, nothing in the book's plot surprised me. But the one thing that totally caught me off guard was Fleming's writing style. I expected a book from the '60s about international espionage to be sort of dry and sparse, but if this novel is emblematic of all of Fleming's Bond writing, he writes in a strange-but-enjoyable mixture of efficient descriptions and exuberant glee. It's the glee that really stopped me in my tracks. There are far more exclamations in the book than I thought there'd be; sure, the author naturally pumps up the writing during action scenes to make things more exciting, but there are also times when he'll be inside Bond's head and throw in phrases like "By God!" and "So!" just to punctuate thoughts or observations.

One last point: this book was first published in 1963, after the film adaptation of Dr. No became a smash hit around the world. A different author may have been tempted to incorporate aspects of Sean Connery's looks or performance into the latest descriptions of James Bond's character, but Fleming wisely resisted that urge (should the thought have even occurred to him in the first place). Regardless, it's a decision that served him well in the long run, considering how many actors have ultimately gone on to play Bond over the years. In fact, there's not much physical description of 007 in the book at all, so the readers can easily put themselves in his shoes and, at least momentarily, get swept away in the globe-trotting adventures of the greatest spy in the world.

Hoai-Tran Bui Has Been Listening to G-Dragon’s Eponymous EP Kwon Ji Yong

It finally came to it: I'm talking about K-pop. If any of you follow me on Twitter, you've probably noticed that I tweet about K-pop a few times a week. Okay, that may be an understatement. I have a bit of obsession, and it stems from my re-discovering the talented and flashy super group, BIGBANG. A five-member boy band that just celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, they lit the fire under my love for K-pop — which I had been avoiding after I'd been burned a few too many times by my high school dalliance with J-pop — and it has steadily grown into a fixation on the music genre.

To be honest, I don't listen to a huge variety of artists — most of the artists or groups I listen to are connected to BIGBANG in some way (it's easy since the South Korean pop industry is monopolized by four or five music labels much in the way that studios controlled the Classic Hollywood movie system). So it is natural that the first time I'll be writing about K-pop here is due to the release of the third solo album of one of the members of BIGBANG: G-Dragon.

The producer and lead rapper of the group, G-Dragon is a huge part of the group's global domination and trendsetting music. Most of his solo releases too have been experimental and trendy, dabbling in EDM, trap, rock, and synth pop. But his latest release — and likely his last before he has to enlist in South Korea's mandatory two-year military service — is the most personal and raw of all. And yes, I'm going to cry to it when he finally enlists later this year.

Kwon Ji Yong is named after the pop star's real name and only has five tracks, with a runtime of 18 minutes (a purposeful reference to G-Dragon's fixation on the number 8, which make up all the numbers in his date of birth: August 8, 1988). However despite its short length, the entire album is a masterful summation of his whole career, which began when he was only 12 years old. The songs run from the boisterously playful "Middle Fingers Up," the brash and grating "Bullshit," the trappy and wistful "Superstar," his stripped down title track "Untitled 2014," and the dark R&B outro track "Divina Commedia." The production values are sleek as expected with each song, though I've finally decided that "Superstar" is my favorite.Kwon Ji Yong was released earlier this month, but I've been listening to it a lot lately in preparation for G-Dragon's New York concert in late July, part of his world tour before he marches off to service. So this won't be the last I rave about GD!

Ethan Anderton Has Been Listening to the Baby Driver Soundtrack

It's been about a week since I saw Baby Driver (make sure you see it ASAP this weekend), and ever since then, I can't help but throw on the soundtrack whenever I get behind the wheel of the car. Since the soundtrack wasn't officially released until a couple days after I saw the movie, I latched onto a Spotify playlist that a user had made in the meantime. But now that the entirety of the soundtrack is available, it's all I've been able to listen to.

The Baby Driver soundtrack has songs that get me pumped, songs that are soothing, and songs that are just good to jam to. And because director Edgar Wright has crafted his movie to work harmoniously with the soundtrack, one can't help but think of all the scenes where the music comes alive and moves the movie forward, rhythmically, masterfully. I'll be listening to this soundtrack for weeks.

Furthermore, the soundtrack is a great companion to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack set. In fact, Baby Driver and the first Guardians of the Galaxy would make for one hell of a double feature some day.


Jacob Hall Has Been Binge-Watching the Entirety of Friends

Friends is my wife's favorite show, which means that I've seen my fair share of Friends. That's just how marriage works. Thankfully, as I've learned over the years, this NBC sitcom was a ratings champion for 10 seasons for a reason: it's a damn good show. And while I had seen episodes scattered about here and there, I only recently sat down to watch the entire series from start to finish (it's streaming on Netflix) and I found myself doubly impressed. For a three-camera comedy that aired on network television in the '90s and achieved mass popularity, this series is shocking consistent, always funny, and frequently emotional. I'm not prepared to call it great art, but I am prepared to call it great comfort food, a simple recipe executed to perfection by a charming cast and a team of writers who quickly learned how to play to these actors' strengths.

Not all of Friends has aged well. While the show was undeniably more progressive than most in its day, there are elements that are, well, problematic by modern standards. Ross is one fedora short of a "nice guy" monster. Chandler's gay panic is cringe-worthy. Joey is...a sexual predator? The lack of diversity in the cast stands out more than ever these days. And yet, judging entertainment too harshly for the political incorrectness of its day would be to miss the forest for the trees. I can grumble about what doesn't work now, but I can also rave about what still works brilliantly: David Schwimmer's adept physical comedy, Lisa Kudrow's brilliantly left-field line deliveries, Matt LeBlanc's hilarious reactions, Courteney Cox's good-natured neuroses, Matthew Perry's deliberate anti-wit, and Jennifer Aniston's rock solid comedic chops (which improve as the series goes on).

My favorite episodes tend to be those that stick the bulk of the cast in a single location and let them bounce off one another for 22 minutes. Specifically. I love season 3's "The One Where No One's Ready" and season 4's "The One With the Embryos," which showcase the energy of a manic stage play. Sometimes, all a television show needs is a set and a bunch of funny people to completely and totally work.

where'd you go bernadette

Jack Giroux is Reading Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette? is a hard book to put down. After buying the bestseller at an airport, thinking I'd read a few pages on the flight, I just couldn't stop after only reading a few pages. It's one of those entertaining books where pausing to do anything at all feels like an annoyance. Semple's story, which Richard Linklater is adapting into a film starring Cate Blanchett, involves Microsoft, Antarctica, and dangerous rivalries with neighbors. It sounds silly, and sometimes it is wonderfully silly, but it's also a great story about a mother and daughter, Bernadette Fox and Bee. The teenager has to go searching for her mother after she goes missing. There's no major crime involved. The story features the Russian mob, but that's another matter, one that doesn't feel out of place for a second in Where'd You Go, Bernadette? It's a story of a child learning about her mother, who she loves deeply. Their relationship is beautiful and totally believable – tt's their story, and it's a very good one. I'm excited to see what Linklater does with it. So far, he's put together some perfect choices for these flawed and fun characters.

you are a badass

Christopher Stipp Has Been Reading You Are a Badass at Making Money

Real talk: I often feel adrift in the flotsam and jetsam of life. I think at a certain age, you should have some of the basics nailed down about how to carry yourself and be knowledgeable about the basic inner workings of things like relationship building, how to be a good listener, or how you should always bring a gift to a housewarming. For me, it's always been a struggle to try and appreciate how money ebbs and flows in and out of your life. I'm not talking about how to make money quick or how to sit on my tuchas and will it into existence. That's a program for someone interested in the short term. I'm more interested in resetting my conceptions, my attitude, and, most importantly, my mind-set when it comes to gaining wealth. I had read Jen Sincero's other popular book, You Are a Badass, and was this close to not getting past the first chapter just based on her tone. I stuck with it and I started to feel there were some great nuggets to be gleaned from her writing and insights into just how you can reframe moments in your life in a more assertive, positive way.

I would probably be the first to tell you if I thought there was any hokum to any of this, but it's almost like unlocking the secret to how to lose weight: eat less and exercise. Here, though, the message is delivered in a much more satisfying way and as it pertains to her new book about money it's also tapping into those things that could help you raise up a notch or two on this subject. I will fully admit that I do not read this book in public with its dust jacket on and I am hyper aware of keeping my fingers wrapped close to the spine if only to obfuscate the title of the book. There's a little bit of personal shame, that's completely on me by the way, in telegraphing to the world that you're reading a book on how to think about money. I, honestly, wouldn't mention that I'm reading the book if I didn't think so many other people could be helped by the anecdotes and simple little steps you can take to try and increase your ability to live a better life.