Tuesday, 20 December 2011

BlogalongaBond: For Your Eyes Only

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Me: Wow, that was soooo much better than Moonraker. I know that's damning it with faint praise, but it's hard to believe they came from the same series because this one is so good.

Her: Absolutely. Moonraker is as bad as For Your Eyes Only is great.

Me: Indeed. After the extravagant insanity of Moonraker, this seems like a back-to-basics approach. Just good, old-fashioned Cold War shenanigans with the film following the classic spy formula - none of this "I'm trying to take over the world" nonsense or massive space battles with frickin' laserbeams or stupid sup-plots about giant henchmen falling in love.

Her: And thank the gods for that. But you can tell we're into the '80s for this one, which creates all new problems. I'm not sure that I like Sheena Easton's theme song, and some of the other music in the film is a bit too "holy crap, we've just invented synthesizers" for my liking.

Me: True. And the title sequence under the Easton song was pretty average.

Her: That's an understatement. I would have said it was crap.

Me: So '80s-bashing aside, what makes this a good Bond film?

Her: The stunts were amazing. The chase down the luge track is very cool.

Me: Hell yeah. I'm not sure who did a better job - the Bond stuntman skiing down the luge track with no ski poles or the motorcycle stuntman chasing him.

"I said, 'You can't park here'."

Her: Also the helicopter scene at the start was great - that was some tight chopper piloting.

Me: The stunt that blew my mind was in the mountain climbing scene where Bond is climbing up to the Greek monastery. The stuntman had to take a massive fall halfway down a cliff face and then hope that the rope would hold him - I don't care how many safety wires and back-up plans you have going on, it's still scary as hell. That was a 100-metre plummet, maybe more.

Her: As always, the stuntmen are awesome. And the stunt drivers.

Me: Oh yeah, the car chase is great. And I don't think I've ever seen a car chase where the characters have had to get out of the car, roll it back onto its wheels and then push-start it to get the chase happening again.

Her: Yes, that was very cool.

Me: So what else did you like?

Her: I dunno... it just felt more grounded and less silly. The plot was a lot more believable.

Me: Agreed. The race to recover a piece of secret military hardware is much better and more exciting then repeating the idea of starting a new society in space or under the ocean. Or whatever the hell Diamonds Are Forever was about.

Her: So what did you like about it?

Me: Aside from the slightly more realistic Cold War intrigue of it all, I liked that Bond was a little more ruthless and the film was less jokey... except for the ridiculous Margaret Thatcher post-script. Also, the Bond girls were better developed. Melina had her whole revenge plot, and even the ice-skater, for all her annoyances, felt like a fresh and unique character.

Her: The ice-skater wasn't a Bond girl. You're only a Bond girl if you shag Bond.

Me: I think you're a Bond girl if you get a decent-sized role in a Bond film.

Her: Nope. He's gotta shag them. That's the rules.

So none of these are Bond girls?

Me: Umm... OK. Anyway... overall, I think For Your Eyes Only was a strong, solid Bond film.

Her: I've got a couple of questions though. Bond visiting the grave at the start of the film - what was all that about?

Me: That was the grave of his wife who died in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Her: Hmm, I thought so. But why put that in there?

Me: I dunno. I've always liked the theory that James Bond was a persona... like a position that you got promoted to at MI6. "Yeah, I started here on work experience, worked my way up to field agent, and now I'm James Bond."

Her: The grave scene doesn't fit with that theory.

Me: Unless this James Bond was doing it as a sign of respect to the previous Jame Bond....

Her: Wouldn't he just visit the previous Bond's grave?

Me: Ok, I think my mind's slowly blowing... let's stop talking about that.

Her: Another question: why the hell did Melina leave an oxygen tank on the bottom of the ocean?

Me: Lazy plotting?

Her: Final thought: my favourite bit was the villain dragging Bond and Melina behind a boat to kill them. That was cool.

Me: Yeah, but I wish villains would just shoot people, like in the wild west. Those were the days....

BlogalongaBond will return in Octopussy.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

BlogalongaBond: Moonraker

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Me: Wow, that sucked.

Her: Hey, don't I usually say that?

Me: Sorry. You go then.

Her: Wow, that sucked.

Me: Much better.

Her: Thank you.

Me: But that was just terrible. It's as if they forgot they were making a Bond film.

Her: Yeah, I mean, what's with the whole "Jaws falls in love" subplot? Seriously? They actually had them running to each other in slow motion. It felt like they were making a Bond parody. Although there was one scene I really liked.

Me: Let me guess - it was the sequence with the woman running through the forest while being chased by dogs?

Her: Yes, how did you know?

Me: I don't know, I just knew you'd like that bit. It was like something out of a horror movie, but it was beautifully shot and looked great, even if it was the result of a stupid idea.

Her: I know! Why the hell didn't she get back into the golf cart instead of just running into the woods? That was infuriating, but at least the bit where she ran through the woods looked pretty.

Me: I can't remember a film that isn't a horror movie where so many characters have made so many stupid decisions. "Hi, I'm James Bond. I know I'm on a super-important mission for Queen and country, but gosh I really want to ride in a centrifuge machine-thingy right now. What could possibly go wrong?"

Her: That wasn't terribly flattering for Roger Moore's face.

The face of someone who is too old for this shit.

Me: He's starting to look a bit old in places during Moonraker - maybe it was because of the centrifuge.

Her: How many more Bond films does he do?

Me: Three more.

Her: Good, I still like him. He still looks good.

Me: Did you like anything else in the movie?

Her: No, not really. Although, surprisingly, I thought the plot was quite good - the whole "destroy mankind and start again" thing. I liked that idea. But it was all sewn together terribly.

Me: Agreed. It's as if they had a shortlist of things they wanted to do and linked them all haphazardly. "Ok, parachute stunt, centrifuge machine, woman chased by dogs, gondola that turns into a car, Star Wars. Done. Print it."

Her: I'm surprised they didn't bust out lightsabres during the finale. They may as well have. I kept thinking I was watching one of your stupid Star Wars movies again.

Me: Wow, here I was impressed that you used the word "lightsabres" in a sentence and then you had to go and ruin it....

Her: Anyway... did you like anything about the movie?

Me: The parachute stunt was pretty cool. Strangely, I only just watched Point Break a couple of days beforehand, where they did the exact same stunt and thought it was cool then, so to know they got the idea from James Bond makes it even cooler. Also, the special effects in the final showdown on the space station were impressive. The moment when the gravity is turned off was pretty spectacular. But the whole thing is just too absurd. The Jaws romance, the centrifuge, the gondola-car, Q's "re-entry" double entendre, the double-taking pigeon....

Her: Oh come on, the double-taking pigeon was kinda cute.

Googled "Moonraker pigeon" and wasn't disappointed.

Me: It was ludricrous. And Lois Chiles was good as Holly Goodhead, but once again she wasn't given much to work with. And as far as villains go, Drax was kind of underwhelming.

Her: I liked his dogs. I thought his display of control with them was intimidating.

Me: Yeah, but he was an idiot. Drax tried to have Bond killed before Bond even had a clue that Drax had anything to do with the theft of the Moonraker. Talk about dead giveaway.

Her: So we're in agreeance that this was a crap 007 movie.

Me: The crappest. Which means things can only get better from here.

Her: Here's hoping. If any more of them feel like a lost Austin Powers movie, I'm outta here.

BlogalongaBond will return in For Your Eyes Only.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

BlogalongaBond: The Spy Who Loved Me

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Her: Well, that was terrible.

Me: Oh no - is the Roger Moore love affair over?

Her: No, he's still all right. But the movie was terrible.

Me: Really? I thought it was quite good... at least as good as The Man With The Golden Gun.

Her: Wow. I'm surprised to hear that.

Me: I'm equally surprised by your response. This is actually considered one of the best of the Moore years. And we all know how you feel about him....

Her: I can't see how it's highly regarded. It was just so stupid in places. I mean, look at Jaws. How dumb is this guy? He's trying to kill Bond and Triple X and all he decides to do is start tearing the panels off their truck. And whenever he goes to bite someone with his stupid metal teeth, he takes forever, like he's in slow motion. Jaws is a rubbish henchman.

Me: Are you serious? Jaws is the first henchman that represents a proper threat to Bond since Red Grant in From Russia With Love - no hat-throwing, no mechanical arms, no acrobatic hot chicks with stupid names. Just a big powerful colossus who looks like he could squash 007 in one hand then bite his head off with his metal teeth.

Her: Yeah, a big powerful colossus with the IQ of wet towel. He doesn't pose a proper threat. The guy with the hat was more formidable. The guy with the mechanical arm was more imposing. The acrobatic hot chicks were... well, they were rubbish. And Jaws is equally rubbish.

Me: But he wrestled a shark! And then bit it to death! A freakin' shark!

Her: Whatever. Rubbish.

Me: Well, he's in the next one, so... ah... enjoy that.

Her: Oh great.

Me: Was there anything you liked about The Spy Who Loved Me?

Her: There were four good things, and only four.

Me: Ok....

Her: Number one - the theme song was really good.

Me: Indeed. Nobody Does It Better is one of the best.

Her: Number two - Triple X is the hottest Bond girl so far.

Me: Really? She certainly has the coolest codename, but I don't know if Barbara Bach is hotter than Ursula Andress or Jane Seymour or Britt Ekland. I mean, she's hot, don't get me wrong, but is she the hottest?

Her: Yes. And she's got the best wardrobe. That dress she wears in Egypt is amazing.

Me: That's all well and good, but her acting is terrible.

Her: Yeah, but who cares when you look that good in a great dress?

"Out of the way, Bond, we can't see the dress."

Me: If you say so. What's the third thing?

Her: Number three - the set design was pretty good. Stromberg's lair looked pretty cool and inside the supertanker was good.

Me: Agreed.

Her: And number four - the car that turned into a submarine? Awesome.

Me: Somehow I found that more believable than the car plane.

Her: But other than that, the movie was crap. Bad dialogue, bad story, Jaws, bad rear projection in the opening chase sequence... just bad.

Me: Well, I thought it was good. Even though there was a sense of deja vu with a lot of elements, I don't think the series has gotten too tired yet. Sure, the plot and villain are similar to You Only Live Twice and the idea of working and sleeping with the enemy has been done a fair bit and instead of a car-plane we got a car-sub, etc, etc... but overall I think it hangs together well. The film flows nicely, there are some great stunts such as the opening parachute escape and the car-vs-helicopter firefight, plus the locations are cool, Moore's still doing a bang-up job, and, although things are getting a bit cheesier, the campiness is generally kept in check. Plus, despite what you may say, I believe Jaws brings a real sense of danger. All in all, it's a solid outing.

Her: Well, I think that one's down near the bottom of the pile and they better start improving from here or else I don't think I can get through another 12 films.

Me: The bad news is that the next one is considered the nadir of the series.

Her: And it's got Jaws in it? How about we give it a miss and just tell The Incredible Suit that we watched it?

BlogalongaBond will return in Moonraker.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

BlogalongaBond: The Man With The Golden Gun

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Her: This may be controversial, but I think Roger Moore might be the best Bond so far. Maybe it's just the films have been better or that I haven't seen a bad one with Moore in it yet, but he's my favourite.

Me: Are you just saying that 'cos you think Moore is sexier than Connery?

Her: Hmmm... I don't know which is sexier. Let's just say I wouldn't mind being the guest of honour in their threesome.

Me: Umm... ok... anyway... I'm taking it that you liked The Man With The Golden Gun then?

Her: Definitely. Moore's two from two in my book. I don't think he's as cheesy as Connery, or he doesn't have as many cheesy lines. Either way, I found this more enjoyable because it had fewer groan-worthy moments.

Me: I know you loved Live And Let Die - is this as good as that one?

Her: No, probably not, although I found it more believable because it didn't have the voodoo stuff or people walking over alligators.

Me: But this one had a flying car... which is either the coolest thing ever or the lamest. I can't decide.

Her: Yeah. Ok, except for that.

Me: It also had some of the worst kung fu fighting I've ever seen, which was obviously just thrown in to capitalise on the Bruce Lee craze.

Her: True. But do you know what was even worse than the crappy martial arts?

Me: Yes, I do - it was that stupid fucking sound effect they put over the barrel-roll car stunt. Perhaps the coolest stunt in the history of Bond, spoilt by some ridiculously infuriating whistle noise. It was like George Lucas making Darth Vader say 'Noooooooo!' on the Blu-ray edition of Return Of The Jedi. Way to spoil the moment.

"You know what this incredible car stunt needs? The dumbest fucking sound effect you can find."

Her: Correct, Star Wars nerd. Great stunt, well ruined.

Me: So what did you like about The Man With The Golden Gun?

Her: I really liked Tic-Tac.

Me: Nick Nack.

Her: Whatever. He should have been called Tic-Tac. Because he's little, like a Tic-Tac. And that guy from Lord Of The Rings was good - Saruman.

Me: Scaramanga.

"Your love of the Halfling's leaf has clearly slowed your mind."

Her: Whatever. And I thought the plot was pretty good. Nice and believable, flying cars aside. The title sequence was certainly better than Live And Let Die.

Me: Indeed, but that has to be one of the worst Bond themes ever - certainly the worst so far.

Her: Yeah, you're right. On the plus side, the set design was fantastic.

Me: Definitely. I think this was probably one of the best-looking Bonds yet. Scaramanga's lair was awesome, even his funhouse killing floor was great, and the skewed shipwreck-turned-secret base was stunning.

Her: I also liked the return of JW Pepper.

Me: Really? I found him barely tolerable in Live And Let Die, but just painful in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Her: It's starting to sound like you didn't like this one very much.

Me: No, I actually did. But it's weird - this was one of my favourites when I watched most of them as a teenager. I loved the barrel-roll car stunt, I loved the golden gun, and I thought Scaramanga was a cool villain, but I think I was blinded to a lot of the faults. Such as some of the plot-holes - MI6 doesn't test the golden bullet that is sent to them at the start of the film, yet Bond travels to Beirut to find another bullet connected to Scaramanga so it can be tested. Or how Andrea Anders doesn't tell Bond when they first meet that she sent the golden bullet and that he was the only man that could save her and only tells him much later in the film. Things like that bothered me this time around. Having said that, I still think The Man With The Golden Gun is good, despite its many flaws. As you said, the set design is great, Moore does a good job, Scaramanga is a great villain because he's Bond's equal and Lee plays him with subdued style, and the Bond girls are quite good. Maud Adams gives Andrea Anders the right amount of vulnerability and inner strength, while Britt Ekland's Goodnight is endearing because she's obviously trying hard to be a good agent yet is clumsy and clearly smitten with Bond.

Her: Yes, but how dumb is the bit where she hits the button with her button? How could you not know when you've hit something with your butt?

Me: Maybe she has a desensitised arse?

Her: You're gross.

Me: Whatever. Look, my point is that for all its flaws, The Man With The Golden Gun somehow works. It never quite tips totally into stupidity or campiness, but it never quite achieves the greatness of Live And Let Die or the better Connery films.

Her: Well, I liked it. It's one of my favourites.

Me: Many Bond afficianados consider it to be one of the worst.

Her: They're obviously jerks.

BlogalongaBond will return in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

BlogalongaBond: Live And Let Die

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Her: I dug it.

Me: Really?

Her: Yep, best one so far. Hands down.

Me: I enjoyed it too and think it's one of the better Bond films, but I'm intrigued as to why you liked it so much.

Her: It's just great. All the characters are great, the plot makes sense, the action sequences are strong and Roger Moore is an excellent Bond.

Me: You like Moore?

Her: Absolutely. I mean, Sean's hotter, but Roger's perfect in this. He slots in perfectly.

Me: True. From that very first scene, you just accept him as Bond. He seems so comfortable in the role - he has that right blend of suave coolness and physicality that 007 needs.

"Bond. James motherfucking Bond."

Her: Absolutely. When we watched the one with George in it (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) you had to get use to him, but think I just went 'oh yeah, he's Bond' within a matter of minutes of Live And Let Die opening. In fact, I don't think I even thought about it.

Me: He does get a few too many goofy puns though, but that's not his fault and he delivers them pretty well.

Her: Oh yeah, there's still a bit of cheesiness there. But I like Moore already.

Me: Well, just so you know, he's responsible for some of the most poorly regarded Bond films.

Her: Don't tell me that! You're ruining the surprise! La la la, I can't her you!

Me: Sorry. But I did really enjoy Moore's work and I'd rate Live And Let Die as one of the best so far - up there with Goldfinger and Thunderball, maybe just ahead of You Only Live Twice.

Her: I think it's my favourite. But why do you think it's so good?

Me: Well, for starters: Best. Bond theme. Ever.

Her: Is that your sad love of Paul McCartney shining through there?

Me: No. What are you talking about?

Her: Nothing... Paul lover.

Me: Shut up. Look, Paul gets a bad rap for his post-Beatles work, which is totally unfair... I mean, look at Baby, I'm Amazed or Band On The Run... just because he wasn't as edgy as Lennon, but....

Her: Ok, ok, yes, we've all heard your "stop hating on Paul McCartney" speech.

Me: Sorry. But it is the best Bond theme ever. That's a fact.

Her: Whatever. What else do you like about the movie?

Me: I thought the plot was good. Just a bit of good, old-fashioned heroin smuggling. And the film moved along nicely. The boat chase through the bayou perhaps went on for too long - I swear that lasted 20 minutes - but even then it was still enjoyable. Some of those stunts involving the boats sliding across roads and lawns and back into the river were outstanding. But the best stunt has to be Bond running across the crocodiles.

Her: Yeah, that was incredibly cool. Do you think they were all real crocodiles?

Me: The last one was definitely real. I suppose you could fake the other ones, but either way it was very cool.

Her: What about the Bond girls?

Me: I think that in Solitaire and Rosie Carter we have two of the best Bond girls to date. I mean, Jane Seymour's acting was probably a bit sub-par, but both characters were actually interesting and given a bit more to do than just be a bit of tail for 007. Rosie gets a few good lines and funny moments and Solitaire is a really intriguing character who adds more depth to the voodoo side of the film and Kananga's character, while being well fleshed out herself.

Her: Well fleshed out, eh? Wink wink, nudge nudge. Wait a minute, what was wrong with Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman's acting?

"I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war."

Me: I dunno - she just didn't cut it for me. Her delivery, her emotional display... I didn't buy it sometimes. Still - great character.

Her: I thought all the characters and performances were good. Actually, that's probably a contributing factor as to why I liked it so much. I didn't cringe as often... or at all. I thought Felix Leiter was quite good.

Me: And the villians. So many great iconic villians - Kananga, Baron Samedi, Tee Hee, even Whisper. They were all unique and had a sense of danger too them... except Whisper. Although it was pretty damned funny when they blew up his couch.

Her: Ha, yeah! That was great.

Me: So, overall, best Bond film so far?

Her: Undoubtedly! Bring on the next one - I can't wait!

Me: Ah, yeah, about that....

Her: La la la, I can't hear you!

BlogalongaBond will return in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

(M) ★★★★

Director: Rupert Wyatt.

Cast: Andy Serkis, James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton.

"James, we need to talk about your unhealthy passion for Seth Rogen."

AFTER Tim Burton's mis-fired "re-imagining" of the classic Planet Of The Apes in 2001, no one was really clamouring for someone to try again at restarting the saga of a world where primates are superior to humans.

But here we are with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, an unwanted but surprisingly awesome film that either serves as a new origin story or a prequel to the Charlton Heston-starring original, depending how you look at it (or how they screw it all up with a sequel).

Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist working on an Alzheimer's cure by testing it on chimps in the hopes to save his dad's deteriorating mind.

When one of the test subjects goes, ahem, ape droppings, the experiment is closed down and Will makes some rash decisions - he takes home a baby chimp rather than put it down, and begins testing the cure on his father.

If you're wondering how a set-up like this could lead to a chimp-fuelled overthrow of humanity, that's part of the beauty of Rise....

The slow downward spiral of the film from this intriguing starting point is engrossing, especially the way it suddenly flips on you and you realise you're barracking for the apes, not the humans.

For a blockbuster spectacle, it's surprisingly sharp and subtle in places, even if some plot points unravel the more you think about it, particularly the idea that a chimp in a scientific test could be pregnant and give birth without any of the scientists/handlers knowing about it.

But Rise...'s flaws can be largely forgiven because it's hugely entertaining, reasonably intelligent in its story-telling and offers some magical, beautiful and horrifying moments along the way.

The lead ape, Caesar, is a great character, brought to life wonderfully by Serkis and a team of motion-capture boffins, who imbue him with a level of humanity and nobility. The effects, for the most part, are pretty good - as is to be expected in this day and age - and the final rampage of primates versus the police has some undoubtedly cool moments.

Rise... doesn't slavishly reference the previously made Apes movies, getting by with a handful of references, but it does offer one zinger; a "holy crap!" moment revolving around the original film's "get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape" line.

This won't be a classic like the 1968 one but the "wow" feeling that it leaves you with as you exit the cinema makes it well worth the price of admission.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

(M) ★★★★

Director: Joe Johnston.

Cast: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci.

Military uniforms haven't been this lax since M*A*S*H*.
SUBTITLED as The First Avenger, this is in fact the last film before Marvel unleashes The Avengers, the much-anticipated superhero supergroup movie that will feature Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America (among others).

In order to do this, they needed to introduce Captain America - a prospect nearly as risky as hammer-weilding Norse god Thor. The reason for this is Cap has been seen as a jingoistic flag-waver at times in his lengthy comic book history, a problem compounded by the fact the US isn't everyone's favourite world superpower at the moment.

But at it's heart, Captain America has always been about truth and justice (to paraphrase half a line from rival comic company DC), as well as standing up to the bully and protecting freedom.

Thankfully, that's what this iteration of the shield-throwing superhero focuses on. The man who would be Cap, Steve Rogers (Evans) is a frail young man whose lack of physical prowess has seen him rejected five times by the American Army, which is fighting the Nazis in World War II.

Rogers is given a sixth-time-lucky opportunity by German-born scientist Abraham Erskine (Tucci), who fled Hitler and his henchman Johann Schmidt (Weaving) and came to America with a prototype of the Super Soldier Serum - a substance that will turn the ordinary troop into a superhuman fighting machine.

Erskine sees something unique in the spirited but scrawny Rogers and offers him the chance to take the serum and fulfill his dream of fighting for freedom... as Captain America.

In terms of big-budget spectacle, The First Avenger delivers, taking an old-school approach to create a rollicking adventure with a similar vibe to Raiders Of The Lost Ark, or one of Johnston's previous films, The Rocketeer.

Most of the effects work well, especially the much criticised "shrinking" of Evans to play the pre-serum Rogers, but don't watch this film in the poor-quality 3D that some cinemas have as it detracts from the polish of some of the action sequences.

Evans is great in what is effectively a dual-role and gets good support from Atwell, a well-accented Weaving (who is suitably menacing as Schmidt's alter-ego Red Skull), Tucci and Jones, with the latter two providing some handy comic relief.

The humourous touches are very welcome, helping to take some of the silliness out of the concept. His slightly ridiculous costume is introduced cleverly as Cap fulfills his duty selling war bonds, and the film trades well on the character's rich comic book past, including his original shield, his famous Hitler punch from issue #1, and a rag-tag team of sidekicks that is a composite of comic book units the Howling Commandos and the Invaders. (Sidenote: these sidekicks, which include a Brit, a Frenchmen, an Asian-American and an African-American, may seem like a stretch for political correctness or a way to temper the All-American nature of the hero but rest assured, they're all drawn from the original comics.)

The bonus with many of Marvel's key characters and backstories is the intriguing personality flaws and themes that come with them, and Captain America is no different. While his greater internal conflicts won't appear until The Avengers, he represents the importance of determination and integrity, as well as the ideal that power doesn't have to change a person - or a nation - for the worse.

It's not perfect - there are some unavoidably silly lines and moments - and how much you like the film will depend on how accepting you are of the character and his world, but Captain America's existing fanbase won't be disappointed.

Five movies into their new "cinematic universe" and Marvel have got a Pixar-like strike rate of four out of five (with Iron Man 2 the only disappointment). If this is only The First Avenger, then bring on the rest of them.

And don't forget to stick around after the end - the post-credits sequence will whet the appetite and make anyone looking forward to The Avengers hate even more the fact they'll have to wait 10 months to see it.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

BlogalongaBond: Diamonds Are Forever

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Me: Are you going to ask me why Sean Connery is back and what happened to George Lazenby?

Her: No.

Me: Go on.

Her: Ok. Why is Connery back and what happened to George?

Me: Well, Lazenby's agent told him that Bond was just a passing fad and not to sign on for an extended deal. And so the studio threw wheelbarrow-loads of money at Connery until he came back.

Her: Fascinating.

Me: You don't care, do you?

Her: Not really. I don't really care for Diamonds Are Forever. I don't care for it at all.

Me: At all?

Her: At all. That was the worst one so far... even worse than the one starring poor George. It started well and then just got progressively lamer and lamer.

Presenting Lame and Lamer.

Me: Agreed. It started so well though. The first non-Bond-like shot of a pretty Japanese table, which was soon smashed by a good fight scene, and Bond finally tracking down a fake Blofeld, and the set-up of the diamond smuggling plot - all that was really good. I was hooked in the first 10 minutes.

Her: Yes. And then it all just got incredibly silly. And stupid.

Me: True. Did the plot even make sense? I'm not sure that it did.

Her: No, I don't think so. I got lost and bored... like I was in the world's crappiest maze.

Me: Did you find any redeeming features?

Her: I really liked Mr Wint and Mr Kidd. They were good villains.

Me: Yes, they were entertaining. They were menacing but funny, even if they were perhaps a throwback to that era when homosexuals were considered scary and weird and something to be feared. One of them was named Bruce Glover and looked a bit like Crispin Glover... do you think they're related?

(A subsequent Google search revealed he's Crispin's dad.)

Her: Who cares? This movie was just rubbish. The moon buggy chase was ridiculous, the finale on the oil rig was lacklustre and Tiffany Case's outfit changed colours halfway through, and the subplot with the Howard Hughes-like guy was unnecessary and stupid. And Bambi and Thumper? Bambi and Thumper? What the hell?

Bambi and Thumper? Seriously?

Me: Yeah. Calling out who is going to attack in a fight is not tactically brilliant, is it?

Her: You know what else isn't tactically brilliant? Leading a car chase into a small carpark.

Me: I guess, but that stunt driving to get through the thin alleyway was pretty cool.

Her: Meh. I feel very underwhelmed by this film... not even vaguely whelmed.

Me: Oh come on, there were some good lines and moments amid the increasing lameness. What about the gag when they throw Plenty O'Toole out the window? Or Bond's line to O'Toole: "You must have been named after your father?"? Or the fight in the elevator?

Her: Ok, they were fine. But Plenty O'Toole was terrible, and Tiffany Case's character was much like the movie - started out being interesting and just became annoying.

Me: Fair call.

Her: Do we have to watch many more of these?

Me: Well, we've watched seven so we're about a third of the way there.

Her: Seriously?

Me: I thought you were enjoying them.

Her: I was, but the last two have been rubbish.

Me: That's no reason to write off the whole series. We've got the Roger Moore movies to come next, then Dalton, Brosnan and Craig.

Her: Fine, I'll keep watching. But they better get better than those last two.

BlogalongaBond will return in Live And Let Die.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Cars 2

(PG) ★★

Director: John Lasseter & Brad Lewis.

Cast: (voices) Owen Wilson, Larry The Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro.

Cool cars never look back at the explosion.

IT'S finally happened. Pixar's mythical run of great films is over.

Adding insult to injury is that it's come with a sequel that no one really wanted except the merchandise money counters - Cars is generally regarded as a good film, but certainly the runt of the Pixar litter.

It's hard to know where to start with this movie. It's a sequel to Cars in as much as it's set in the same alternate reality (ie. a world of inhabited entirely by vehicles) and the main characters return in varying amounts.

That's where the similarity ends. Cars 2 is a James Bond homage that focuses on first film sidekick Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) as the accidental secret agent in an environmentally fuelled tale of espionage, set against the backdrop of a tri-series car race that promotes a type of bio-diesel.

Meanwhile, some of the emotional themes fly in the face of the first film, in which NASCAR upstart Lightning McQueen is forced to slow his life down and adapt to the pace of rural life so as not to upset anyone (and learn some lessons about humility). Here the message is be yourself no matter what and don't change for anybody, even if you're being an ignorant laughing stock who's upsetting people (although there are some other lessons along the way but this is the main one).

Like an automobile, Cars 2 is cold and emotionless. It's also sadly humourless, unless your idea of a hilarious joke is "Japanese toilets are different to Western toilets" or wanting to see how far the film-makers can push the "cars do wacky human things" envelope.

With no heart to it, we're left with a so-so spy movie that bizarrely stars cars, in particular Mater. A decent sidekick and comic relief character in the first film, he becomes almost painful to endure as a lead, although the film does improve as he eventually comes into his own.

As you would expect with Pixar, Cars 2 looks spectacular, and there are some interesting ideas, such as the environmental theme and elements of the espionage parody, plus the ending is strong.

But overall it feels like three different movies welded together or - worst of all - that Pixar is running out of ideas. Even the pre-film short is a return visit from the Toy Story team (albeit a welcome comeback).

However, the presence of Woody and Buzz just serves to remind you of how good Pixar sequels can be, and how disappointing this one is.

Monday, 20 June 2011

BlogalongaBond: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Her: I want those two hours of my life back.

Me: That bad?

Her Oh yeah. So bad.

Me: Was it George? Are you just pining for Sean?

Her: No, it was nothing to do with George. He did a good job with what he had to work with. Unfortunately, what he had to work with was a steaming plate of poo. And he had to eat it.

Me: That's a horrible mental image.

Her: I know, but that movie was bad. It was a total stinking plate of poo.

Me: Oh come on, there must have been something you liked about it.

Her: That car race/chase was pretty cool. And I thought some of the fights were better. Lazenby really threw himself into those - I think you can tell he was a better fighter than Connery.

Me: Well, Lazenby would probably beat Connery in a fight, but I really disliked a lot of the early fight scenes. I thought the Bond movies had evolved past the point of speeding up footage and editing it choppily to make it look more action-packed, but obviously not.

Her: Well, either way, I've got to say - and I hate to admit this because you'll probably put it on the bloody internet - but I had no idea what the plot was and what was going on. I mean, why was Bond following Tracy around? Why was she wandering off into the water? Why did her dad want to pay Bond to marry her? And what was Bond doing for the whole film? I mean, what was the bloody point of it all?

"Has anyone found the bloody point of all this?"
Me: It did feel like the film started part-way through something and never told us explicitly what it was. As far as I can work out, Bond was keeping an eye on the suicidal/crazy Tracy in the hopes of ingratiating himself with her dad so that he would spill what he knew about Blofeld, who Bond had been trying to catch since the end of You Only Live Twice. At least I think that's what was going on.

Her: Well, I didn't get that. It was nonsensical.

Me: Yeah I don't think the script fit together very well at the start. And while that is a big problem with the film, I think the biggest problem was that it didn't feel like a Bond film. They make an effort, particularly in the rubbish opening titles, to reference the previous films, then the film-makers turn OHMSS into a quasi-reboot for the new guy. It took 90 minutes before it started to feel like a 007 adventure. I mean, the final 30 minutes are really good, but it was as if they got to the end and realised they'd forgotten they were making a Bond film and crammed all the action and Bond-ness into the final act with a ski pursuit, an avalanche, a car race, and a toboggan duel.

Her: Yeah, it's very un-Bond. I mean, what the hell was the go with that "falling in love" montage in the middle of the film? I nearly puked in my popcorn. And since when does Bond get married? That's not Bond!

Me: Agreed. His previous womanising seemed fine because he didn't have a girlfriend, but by having him fall for Tracy then go and shag a chalet of shielas just makes him a cheating bastard.

Her: Mind you, I didn't think much of Tracy... or any of Blofeld's mind-controlled hussies. Once again, the Bond girls were a disappointment.

Me: Another disappointing aspect was that they seemed to be "hazing the new guy".

Her: What do you mean?

Me: Well, I think the costume department were picking on Lazenby a lot. Connery got all these awesome outfits and he always looked great. Lazenby gets some really shabby suits, a pale blue ski suit, lots of frills, and a kilt. A freaking kilt! And the script made him act kind of gay for a bit. There's nothing wrong with being gay but that's not Bond! He's a real man's man... wait, that sounds gay too....

Her: If they were really hazing Lazenby that would have made him dress as a woman.

Me: That would have clinched it. I'm surprised they didn't.

"Well, I'm not wearing any underwear. What about you ladies?"

Her: Poor George. I liked him, but he really got dumped with a rough deal here. I would have liked to have seen him do a more traditional-style Bond film.

Me: I thought he lacked charisma. That's the one thing Bond really needs, but Lazenby didn't have it.

Her: Whatever you think about George, you have to agree at least he was better than the new Blofeld.

Me: True. Telly Savalas was way too smug and nowhere near malevolent enough.

Her: And where did his scar go? And his accent? Wait a minute - they should have recognised each other from having met during You Only Live Once... but I guess they both look different in this one... but they're supposed to be the same guy... holy crap... I think my brain is about to explode.

Me: There's a really cool fan theory that James Bond isn't so much a person but a position in MI6 - hence the different-looking Bonds over the years. And I guess Blofeld could be the same - he's just a different Number One who takes on Blofeld's name and mantle.

Her: Stop talking. My brain hurts.

Me: Okay. But did you know this is actually a really highly regarded Bond film?

Her: What? How? Why? That was rubbish - the worst one so far by a long way.

Me: I don't think it's a total waste of time, but it does feel like they've tried to get away from the over-the-top nature of the previous films and have gone too far the other way, replacing the over-the-top-ness with bland-ness.

Her: My popcorn was more interesting.

BlogalongaBond will return in Diamonds Are Forever.

Friday, 20 May 2011

BlogalongaBond: You Only Live Twice

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Me: I actually hadn't seen that one before.

Her: I thought you'd seen them all.

Me: A couple may have slipped by me during my teenage years... those were crazy times.

Her: Didn't you live on a farm as a teenager and mostly sit in your room and listen to Nirvana?

Me: Crazy times....

Her: Anyway, did you like You Only Live Twice?

Me: Absolutely. I think it's up there with Thunderball and Goldfinger as being one of the best Bond films. It's got a good script in particular, written by Roald Dahl, don't you know?

Her: Yes, I knew that.

Me: Really?

Her: It was in the opening credits.

Me: Oh yeah. Were you intrigued that the guy who wrote Charlie & The Chocolate Factory wrote a Bond film?

Her: I guess... I think I did a "hmmm... interesting" nod.

Me: Ok... so, did you like You Only Live Twice?

Her: Yeah. Absolutely. What you said.

Me: What did you like about it?

Her: Well, I liked the helicopter battle and the bit where the helicopter picked up the car with a magnet and Little Nellie.

Me: They're all things to do with helicopters.

Her: Oh, and I liked the ninjas.

Me: You liked the ninjas and the helicopters? What are you - a 10-year-old boy?

Ninja attack!

Her: Ok, ok. But those bits were awesome - when the ninjas suddenly materialised on the volcano, it was a cool moment.

Me: And I have to agree the helicopter battle was quite spectacular, a few dodgy shots aside and the fact Connery looked kind of stupid with his crash helmet and his little yellow autogyro.

Her: Because a crash helmet's going to save your life when that thing falls out of the sky.

Me: True. He didn't seem to have a parachute on either.

Her: Speaking of parachutes, is it just me or was Helga's method for attempting to kill Bond incredibly stupid?

Me: Yeah, that section of the film didn't work. Helga captures Bond and threatens to peel his face off, then Bond works the mojo and she tricks him into getting on a plane with her before trapping him in the plane and parachuting out as it crashes.

Her: Trapping him with a piece of four by two, no less.

Me: Indeed. Not the most efficient way of killing a super-spy.

Her: Another thing that bugged me was the Bond girls. They were... kind of unneccessary.

Me: Obviously there has to be a love interest...

Her: ... you mean a "lust" interest...

Me: ... so the Bond girls are necessary to an extent. And Aki did save Bond's life about three times. But, agreed, Helga was pretty useless. And I don't think it was necessary for 007 to actually marry Kissy.

Her: I did like that wedding scene though. I always enjoy the culture-ish bits in the Bond movies.

A "culture-ish bit" in You Only Live Twice.

Me: What? Sumos raising their legs and showing off their notchas wasn't culture-ish enough for you?

Her: I was trying to block that from my memory. Thanks a lot.

Me: Sorry. Anyway... how about the rest of the positives? I think the script is really good - a few plot-holes aside - and the set design is fantastic. The Osato office, Blofeld's lair, the volcano rocket-launch pad, Tiger Tanaka's home... it all looked amazing.

Her: Agreed. The direction was pretty good too, as was the cinematography.

Me: I thought I was the film reviewer - aren't I supposed to say those things?

Her: Oh... sorry. Would you like to mention something movie snobbish, say about the score or something?

Me: Oh yeah. I'm not much of a fan of the theme song but I liked the bit of the soundtrack in the final rocket pre-launch sequence... it was in a really cool Propellerheads song.

Her: That didn't sound movie snobbish.

Me: Sorry. How about "the pacing of the film was excellent, particularly the opening act, and the dialogue really sizzled in places, giving the film a comedic edge that pushed it above the previous installments"?

Her: That's much better. There were some good lines... amid the groan-worthy ones. I hope it doesn't get any cheesier though.

Me: Just what until Roger Moore takes over.

Her: Oh dear. What's the next guy like?

Me: To be honest, I haven't seen all of On Her Majesty's Secret Service so I can't fully appraise George Lazenby's performance. But he's an Australian, so that's something.

Her: I've got to say I'm a bit nervous about a Bond film without Connery. But it's ok - I'm kind of hoping there's a crap one soon so these blogs will get more interesting.

PS. Can you believe we made it all the way through without mentioning how unconvincing Sean Connery is as a Japanese man?

BlogalongaBond will return in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Friday, 22 April 2011


(M) ★★★★

Director: Kenneth Branagh.

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Anthony Hopkins.

Thor's mashed potato sculpture left a lot to be desired.

A SIGH of relief. That's what you'll hear from many Marvel movie fans after they see Thor.

Expectations were high, yet there was this niggling fear among some - how will the film-makers reconcile a Norse god/superhero from another planet/plane with the more realistic approach of the Iron Man movies and The Incredible Hulk?

So that sigh is because they found a way. And not just any way. Thor is exciting, entertaining and enjoyable, plus it puts the Marvel movie series back on track after the miss-step of Iron Man 2, and edges us ever closer to the Biggest Comic Book Movie Event ever, The Avengers (due next year).

For those not brushed-up on their Norse mythology or their Marvel comics, Thor (Hemsworth) is the son of Odin (Hopkins) and the brother of Loki (Hiddleston). He wields a big hammer called Mjolnir, loves smashing Frost Giants, and he can fly.

But unfortunately, he's also brash and cocky (you would be too), and after re-sparking a war with the Frost Giants through his own arrogance, Thor is banished from his home in Asgard, stripped of his powers and dumped on Earth.

There he meets a team of scientists (Portman, Skarsgard and Dennings) and takes a lesson in being human as he battles a force that is trying to keep him from returning home.

Thor's secret weapon is its sense of humour, plus the surprise pick of Branagh as director. Best known for his love of Shakespeare and fopping about hilariously in one of the Harry Potter movies, Branagh proves an ideal choice to helm this. There is something definitely Bard-like in Thor's plot machinations, with its familial and regal twists and its themes of humility, jealousy, and proving one's worth.

It's not without its flaws, of course. There are probably too many characters - aside from Thor's immediate family, there are also his warrior off-siders and a gatekeeper, plus the Earth-bound trio of scientists and SHIELD's Agent Coulson (Marvel series regular Clark Gregg) - and few get developed as much as you'd like, particularly Portman's Jane, but the cast does a great job with what they've got, which is doing a lot with a little.

Strangely, some of the special effects are rubbish. In this day and age, with this kind of budget, that shouldn't happen. Also, Branagh goes crazy with the lens flares - an ever-increasing bad habit, seen most prominently in Michael Bay movies and the recent Star Trek. Sure, a couple are okay, but when directors go over the top with them they just become distracting.

But there is a lot to like here, especially Hemsworth. He is excellent as the hammer-wielding god of thunder, making one of Marvel's more far-fetched characters eminently believable, and is ably met by Hiddleston as his brother Loki.

And lens flares aside, you can't help but feel Branagh has done a superb job at grounding its more fantastical moments, and ensuring nothing feels too silly or over-the-top.

Fans rejoice. Not only do you get a great movie here, but there is also a neat cameo and a very revealing post-credits scene that points towards The Avengers. Bring on Captain America in July.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

BlogalongaBond: Thunderball

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Her: Well, that was actually a good one. I enjoyed that.

Me: And yet you fell asleep halfway through it last week and we had to try again.

Her: I got tired. Sorry.

Me: That's ok. I'm just glad you actually liked it. Maybe this whole James Bond thing is growing on you.

Her: Maybe - let's not get carried away. But yes, Thunderball is, in my opinion, the first really good one.

Me: Even better than Goldfinger?

Her: Yeah. I mean, that underwater battle at the end is great. I've never seen anything like that before.

The 1965 synchronised swimming finals were a bloodbath.

Me: Indeed. And how cool is Bond in that sequence, just cruising through the fight, stabbing a guy here, cutting off a dude's oxygen there. It's brilliant - we get to see 007 in a whole new scenario.

Her: Plus I think the plot in this one is great. None of this "irradiating the world's gold" nonsense - just some good old-fashioned nuke stealing.

Me: I like the way the plot sort of rolls along. Bond happens into it all by chance really, and then detectivates his way closer and closer to the nuclear missiles.

Her: "Detectivates" isn't a real word.

Me: So what? Neither's "Thunderball".

Her: Whatever.

Me: Did you like the Bond girls?

Her: Yeah. The red-headed assassin chick (Volpe) is great because she seems like the first real equal to Bond, even more so than Pussy Galore. And Domino was a good character. But that Paula chick - she was useless. Why was she even in the film? Her character could have been cut and it wouldn't have made any difference.

"Umm ... what the fuck are you doing, James?"

Me: True. Although I found Felix Leiter mostly useless. Although he often is in the Bond films, except to pop up conveniently and save 007's arse.

Her: Do you think this is a good Bond film?

Me: Absolutely. It's certainly on a par with Goldfinger and I rate that one highly. The formula is set, Connery's on a roll, and they haven't gone totally berserk with trying to up the ante on the previous films.

Her: Except for the rocket pack?

Me: What about it? Those things were real.

Her: Oh come on. That bit was naff.

Me: Whatever.

Her: Well, what did you like about the film... other than the stupid rocket pack?

Me: Thunderball has my favourite line of any Bond film: "Do you mind if my friend just sits this one out? She's just dead.". That's awesome.

Her: What else?

Me: The aforementioned underwater battle is very cool. And the SPECTRE meeting is so iconic, especially with the explosive chairs. Tom Jones does a great job with John Barry's hastily written theme song - that last note is a killer. And Largo is an excellent villain - you can't go past a villain with an eye patch. But the beauty of his role in the film is similar to Goldfinger's. In both films, they get to share a lot of time on screen with Bond, sussing each other out while remaining gentlemanly and polite. It creates great tension and fleshes out the villains a bit more, so they're not just cardboard-cut-out bad guys.

Her: And what didn't you like?

Me: That final bit on the out-of-control boat... that hasn't aged well, with its shoddy rear projection and horribly sped-up footage. But I can't think of much not to like about Thunderball.

Her: Well, I'm glad we watched it.

Me: And I'm glad you stayed awake.

BlogalongaBond will return in You Only Live Twice.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

BlogalongaBond: Goldfinger

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Her: I thought you said that was a good one.

Me: Are you kidding? That's a great Bond film. It's quintessential.

Her: I still don't see the appeal. I mean, the movie's okay but I don't get the Bond thing. Bond is a sleaze. He tells a woman that it's time for "man talk" and then spanks her on the arse as she leaves.

Me: Yes, yes, the '60s were terrible, all men are pigs, hooray for feminism, blah blah blah, but don't you think Goldfinger is another step forward for the Bond films?

Her: Sure, it's better than the other two... wait - did you just flippantly dismiss feminism?

Me: I would never do such a thing, honey buns.

Her: Ahem.

Me: Joking. Look, I agree with you totally on the sleaze thing. But why do you think Goldfinger is better than Dr No and From Russia With Love?

Her: Well, it flows much better and the script is sharper, for all its cheesiness.

Me: There are some great lines in there.

Her: Let's not get carried away....

Me: What about "Do you expect me to talk?", "No, Mr Bond I expect you to die!". Gold. No pun intended.

Gold, you say.
Her: Ha. But I must say the fight scenes are rubbish. There's no music over most of them so all you hear is scuffle, scuffle, thwack... and they fight like rubbish.

Me: I'd never noticed the lack of music, but the fights are very of-their-time, before Hollywood started paying attention to how Asian cinema filmed fight sequences. But what about the rest of the film - did you like anything else about it?

Her: Pussy Galore was great. Best acting of a Bond girl so far, and a good character... even if she did still let Bond shag her in a scene bordering on sexual assault.

Me: Yes, well, sexual assault aside, Pussy Galore is definitely a great Bond girl.

Her: And the story's pretty cool. Yeah, it's okay. But what's with all the... umm... what you movie nerds call them... green screens?

Me: Actually this is before green screens - they're using a techinique called rear projection, I believe.

Her: Whatever, movie nerd.

Me: Ahem. Yes, well, there is quite a bit of unnecessary rear-projection work in the Miami hotel scenes, but I guess they must have blown the budget on the Fort Knox set and couldn't afford to fly Connery back for re-shoots.

Not pictured: Connery in Miami.
Her: That's a lame excuse. What did you think of the film?

Me: I think it's a great Bond movie - certainly one of the best. It flows better than the previous ones, it looks better, it's iconic and has so many memorable aspects to it that set a new benchmark for Bond. There's the girl killed by being covered in gold, the laser scene with Bond strapped to the table, the larger than life villain in Goldfinger, and the tricked-out car with the cool gadgets. Oh, and Oddjob.

Her: Hmmm... I still don't understand how Oddjob could throw his hat and decapitate a marble statue and yet when he threw it at that Masterson girl in the forest, it just knocked her out. I wanted to see her get decapitated.

Me: Maybe he had his hat set to stun.

Her: You're a nerd.

Me: You know, some people have suggested that you're in fact fictitious and that I've just been having imaginary conversations with myself for these blogs.

Her: Maybe I am fictitious. How would you know?

Me: Well, if you are fictitious, then I'm a better cook than I realised. And I had no idea masturbation could be so good.

BlogalongaBond will return in Thunderball.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

BlogalongaBond: From Russia With Love

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Her: I don't get it.

Me: Huh?

Her: So the Russians are stealing some machine from themselves?

Me: No, SPECTRE is stealing a Lektor decoder from the Russians with some help from James Bond. But he doesn't know it.

Her: When did they say it was a decoder? And what does it decode?

Me: It was at the start in the briefing with M. And it decodes Russian codes.

Her: I don't get it.

(Five-minute discussion about the plot and the Cold War omitted for brevity.)

Her: Ok, I think I get it.

And here's the rest of our post-film discussion (re-written in a mostly fictitious fashion):

Me: So?

Her: You know, I've heard so much about James Bond, he's supposed to be it-and-a-bit and awesome and everything, and everyone knows who James Bond is, but I'm not that impressed.

Me: Really?

Her: Yeah. Look, don't get me wrong, Connery's great - I mean, the man's a stud - but the two movies so far haven't impressed me that much. From Russia With Love has too much shit at the start and not enough shit at the end.

Me: What?

Her: Ahh... there's too much quick dialogue that I didn't follow at the start and then a few too many naff action scenes at the end.

Me: Oh, okay. I don't know about the dialogue at the start - I thought it was good, and the script overall is great and a marked improvement on Dr No - but the end does kind of sag. From where Robert Shaw's Grant gets on the train until the end of his fight with Bond, it's great, tense, action movie stuff. But the helicopter sequence and the boat chase are a bit lame and the end of the film suffers as a result.

Her: Yeah, that's what I meant. That boat chase was so lame. Who decides to pull their boat over next to some highly explosive barrels? Seriously? That was rubbish.

Me: Good point. And why would you save a grenade to drop on James Bond after you've already flown a helicopter perilously close to him on numerous occasions?

Her: True.

Me: Did you like the stuff on the train?

Her: Yeah, that was pretty good.

Me: I love that fight scene on the train between Grant and Bond. Once Grant gets on the train, the movie steps up a notch, and then that fight is incredible - so close and intense, like some kind of Bourne predecessor.

"I said 'try the veal!'."

Her: Agreed. Do you like From Russia With Love better than Dr No?

Me: I think Dr No has more spectacle, but From Russia With Love is a better film overall - the script is sharper, the direction has improved, and the characters are more solid. Kerim Bay is an excellent Bond sidekick, Grant and Colonel Clebb are brilliant villians, and Tatiana Romanova is a much better Bond girl than Honey Ryder.

Her: You're just saying that because you think Romanova's hotter than Ryder....

Me: It's not just because of that but fair point....

Her: You know something that bugs me in the two 007 movies we've seen? It's the women. I'm no bra-burning feminist, but the chicks in the first two Bond films just frustrate me. Why do they act so subserviant and puppy-dog-ish? Did women really act like that in the '60s?

Being a woman in the '60s was no bed of roses.
Me: Well, I know I'm getting on in years, but - believe it or not - I wasn't around in the '60s. However, that element of the Bond films is very dated, whether women really acted like that or not. Does that get in the way of your enjoyment of the films?

Her: That statement presumes I'm enjoying the films in the first place.

Me: Are you?

Her: Well, I haven't said "will you just piss off with the Bond films already?" yet, have I?

Me: No.

Her: Look, they're okay. But I don't see what all the fuss is about. They don't live up to the mystique of "James Bond", this supposedly awesome movie character. The movies so far are like Paris - you spend all your life hearing about Paris and how wonderful it is and then you get there and it is wonderful but it doesn't live up to the expectations that everyone's been crapping on about. James Bond is like Paris.

Me: Nice analogy. The good news is that they get better. While From Russia With Love - and Dr No to some extent - are sometimes regarded as the best Bond films ever due to their simplicity and lack of over-the-top gadgets and the fact they have solid scripts, I think the best is yet to come. The next two - Goldfinger and Thunderball - are among my favourites because they seem more quintessentially "Bond". The first two films do feel a bit like the film-makers were still working on the formula. All the elements are there in the first two movies, but they're yet to coalesce into a complete project yet. Having said that, it's impossible to dismiss Dr No and From Russia With Love because they're groundbreaking films that created and defined some of the cinematic rules for action movies.

Her: You're doing that thing again where you make up a massive spiel to sound like a movie blogger, even though you didn't say any of that stuff in our real-life conversation.

Me: Shh, don't tell anyone.

BlogalongaBond will return in Goldfinger.