Thursday, October 30, 2008

The name's Bond...

...James Bond is back and bigger than ever. Warning some minor [SPOILERS].

After much deliberation over whether I liked the new Bond theme, I was still undecided...until tonight.

Yes folks, I have just returned from watching "Quantum of Solace" the 22nd James Bond film and the news is predominantly good.

As you may have read, Quantum picks up almost directly after the final scene of "Casino Royale" and it proceeds to throw the audience right into the action with a beautifully orchestrated car chase. The term "beautifully orchestrated" might not be the first to come to mind when describing stunt sequences, but Marc Forster (Director) and his stunt team have got these sequences down to a fine art. Not only that, they have succeeded in creating sequences that not only tie Casino and Quantum together as one film but are also reminiscent of Bond films from the past. All of this and only five minutes of the film have passed (in an adrenaline pumping blur).

Cue title sequence. Another blend of contemporary and old-school Bond. Lots of images of sand reflecting the arid landscapes depicted throughout the film. And as Bond aficionados may spot, the return of the Walther PPK, Bond's weapon of choice up until it was replaced by the P99 in the Pierce Brosnan movies. The title song "Another Way To Die", as performed by Alicia Keys and Jack White did not immediately strike me as a typical choice for a Bond theme, however, it blends seamlessly with the images of bullets and scantily clad, undulating dancers. The only problem I have is that the wire-frame globe motif used throughout somehow reminded me of something I once saw in "The Man From Uncle" (another franchise screaming out for a contemporary "re-imagining").

Already the film had succeeded in grabbing my full attention, I was riveted. Some people have claimed that this film has less depth than Casino, but I am inclined to disagree. In a film with so much action it would be inadvisable to break up the flow of the film with extended, introspective shots of a brooding, bleeding-heart Bond. Instead Forster chooses to cut the excess expository dialogue in favour of a few brief shots that manage to easily convey the emotions of most of the primary cast. Amazing considering Quantum is a good 35 minutes shorter than its predecessor. These differences in style can be attributed to Casino and Quantum having very different directors. By simply comparing the back catalogues of Martin Campbell and Marc Forster it is plain to see that audiences should expect a different visual style to the one they became accustomed to in Casino. However, I find the two films work best when considered as one. Casino is a film created to show Bond's flaws and emotions. Quantum was created to show the aftermath of a mans breakdown and his re-emergence into the world, albeit through bloody, violent revenge.

And be warned, it is violent. I am somewhat surprised that it passed as a 12A.

Another issue that has been brought to light is that the character of Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) is simply not threatening enough for a Bond Villain. Tosh! Greene is a leading-edge villain fit for the modern age and the current political climate. He has no need for a facial disfigurements, white cats or caricature-esque hench-persons (I won't say henchmen, who could forget Bambi and Thumper?) to make an impact. Although he does share many character traits with Messrs. Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Elliot Carver insofar as he is a man of great influence and ambition who will do anything to succeed. I still haven't completely ruled out the return of Blofeld in a later film. The Bond slate has been wiped clean so to speak, the possibilities are boundless. Or that might just be my inner geek wishing out loud.

It seems that this film is bursting at the seems (or is that scenes) with sly little homages to past films in the series. Most aim not to specifically recreate past scenes, but do create a familiar ambiance that Bond fans will appreciate. Some of the choices of shots alone led me to believe that Sean Connery could burst onto screen at any moment. There is however, a single scene, that will either delight or disgust due to its (intended) similarity to a particularly memorable scene from 1964's "Goldfinger". You know the one.

So, lets complete our James Bond checklist. Car chase's: check, Bond girls: check, speedboat chase: check, obligatory tuxedo scene: check, M in a bad mood: check, Felix Leiter: check, explosive (and I do mean explosive) showdown: check, numerous product placements from Ford (extolling the virtues of hydrogen powered cars...remember this, hydrogen cells play a part in the penultimate scenes) and Virgin: check, Bond getting revenge and the closure he so desperately needs...well I'll let you discover that for yourself.

In conclusion, this was a truly excellent film. The juxtaposition of retro and contemporary worked a treat. The stunts were jaw-droppingly amazing and the dialogue tight and concise. This gradual insight into the mindset of Bond should leave audiences longing for more. Roll on Bond 23!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lack of review. review of HSM3 as promised. Sometimes I really need my deadlines to be enforced. I would probably get many more articles written for when I promise them if threatened with a suitably Victorian punishment.

Speaking of deadlines, I am still trying to fine-tune my application to the Beeb. 24 hours and counting until that particular deadline. The consequences for not meeting this deadline may not involve antiquated forms of discipline, however, the psychological damage could potentially be far worse. I am tired of my potential laying dormant due to my fear of rejection. Every writer has been turned down at some point. This should not be used as an excuse to give up, but rather as encouragement to improve and progress.

Wish me luck.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A little surprise...

I have just returned from previewing a print of "High School Musical 3" and my brain feels like it is ready to leak out of my ears. The film wasn't as terrible as I had assumed it was going to be, but at two hours long it felt like it was never going to end.

A full review will probably appear when I crawl out of bed at some point later this afternoon. Although hopefully I will have finished refining my application to the BBC for a journalism apprenticeship by then.

Oh, and the little surprise. I have just received an e-mail from the lovely creator of to tell me that I now have a photo in the beards of the world gallery. How cool am I!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oh dear...

As if to reinforce my conviction that modern, mainstream cinema is going to the dogs; I have been informed that come Wednesday four of the largest auditoria (an entire fifth of those available) at the cinema in which I work will be dedicated solely to showing "High School Musical 3".

I understand that the movie business is exactly that, a business. Film companies will always choose to fund a format that has a guaranteed fan base and will therefore turn a profit. That, right there is capitalism in action, be it for the good of mankind or otherwise. It is not the actions of the studios that worry me. They are acting out of a sense of self-preservation in an incredibly competitive field. What I find so disturbing is the type of "product" that has become so prevalent in the multiplexes of the world. These films speak more about the state of modern society than they do of the business practices of Hollywood Producers. Supply and demand, it is as simple as that. I worry that the growth in lowest common denominator film making is a sign of the dumbing down of society. Give us 500 years and the world may well be like the one shown to us in Mike Judges' hilarious, if blunt film "Idiocracy".

The redeeming factor for HSM3 is that it comes from Disney. This should at least guarantee that it provides wholesome fun and some sickly sweet life lessons that will be ignored by the vast majority of the pig-ignorant youth that will head through our doors. The resurgence of the musical has a lot to answer for. I, myself will be running a check of one of the four copies of the film tomorrow night, so you can expect an in-depth review by Monday morning.

Until then, I leave you with this thought:

We cannot begin to expect more of our entertainment until we start to expect more of ourselves.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Fall

Several days ago I entered the cinema auditorium at The Cornerhouse expecting to see an interesting piece of film making. I got that and much more , it has taken me this long to truly process just what it was that I experienced. And this is an experience. A lavish, visual treat that may well be the most aesthetically magnificent film I have seen in recent times.

"The Fall", based upon the 1981 Bulgarian film "Yo Ho Ho", was shot over the period of four years by renowned commercial and music video director Tarsem Singh (although he prefers just plain Tarsem). His last foray into mainstream film was 2000's Jennifer Lopez sci-fi thriller "The Cell", an early indicator that Tarsem had a talent for creating elaborate and stunning visuals.

After the critical and commercial disaster that was "The Cell" it became increasingly difficult to find funding for "The Fall". However, Tarsem was so taken by the story that he plunged millions of dollars of his own money into the project, which saw shooting in 26 locations in 18 countries across the globe.

This is one of those films that I could rave about for hours, so you will be surprised to hear that the plot of the story is relatively straightforward. The year is 1915, a stuntman named Roy (Lee Pace) has been admitted to a Los Angeles hospital after an accident on the set of a new "flicker". In another ward a young girl named Alexandria (newcomer Catinca Untaru) sits with an arm in a cast, writing a note to the hospitals chaplain apologising for deriving her enjoyment from throwing apples at him whenever he crosses the courtyard. Upon trying to deliver the note, by means of throwing out of a window, it falls into the hands of Roy in a room below. Alexandria goes to retrieve the note but is taken in by Roy's charm and is curious to find out more.

Roy and Alexandria form a friendship of sorts; Roy now begins to tell Alexandria "an epic tale of love and revenge" that takes patients and staff from the hospital and places them in exotic lands with new personalities. Roy is now the Black Bandit, the leader of a group of buccaneers out for the blood of Governor Odious who has done each of them a terrible injustice. The story loosely follows the love triangle that has left Roy heartbroken and features Alexandria's favourite nurse (Justine Waddell) Evelyn as Princess Evelyn and Sinclair (Daniel Caltagirone); the film star who stole Roy's girlfriend, as Odious.

The story is simple, yet captivating and is given much more weight through amazing visuals that were created without any computer-based interference. The fantasy characters, as you would expect from a children's story, are suitably one-dimensional and yet marvellously entertaining (point in case: Charles Darwin...yes that one... dressed like a pimp and regularly talking to Wallace, his pet monkey). Its all really rather clever when you realise that although Roy is narrating the story, we are seeing events through the eyes of Alexandria. This is especially evident and sweetly funny when Roy begins to talk about a character who is an Indian, living in his Wig-Wam with a squaw. Alexandria has never learned about the American Indians and so the character is portrayed as a bearded, turban wearing man from India.

The story starts to take a darker turn as we start to realise that Roy has a personal motive for weaving his tale. He is depressed after losing the love of his life and realises that he may never walk again and so he attempts to captivate Alexandria enough so that in return for continuing the story she will steal morphine for him from the dispensary. Alexandria has invested a lot in Roy's fantasy world, as have the audience, but it is now up to Roy to decide whether The Black Bandit, and indeed himself, are to survive.

This film is a beautiful blur between fact and fantasy as witnessed through the eyes of a child. It managed to evoke feelings in me that I thought I had lost many years ago. It was genuinely refreshing to see a film so moving and yet equally sweet, funny and visually arresting.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough.

5 Stars!!!

The Fall - Trailer