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Nobody does it better – 007 of the best

May 5, 2010

Bond 23 is shelved indefinitely due to ”studio issues” – to fill that void lets take a look at one of the most uneven series of films going…

7.  The Spy Who Loved Me

Roger Moore’s had featured in 2 Bond films already, but they were fairly turgid affairs. 1977’s TSWLM was going all out – Bond was getting an adrenaline shot. Story wise it’s identical to ‘You only live twice’ with subs being stolen instead of shuttles and we have an underwater base instead of a volcano. OTT would describe this film pretty well as OO7 parachutes of a mountain, fights a private army and battles a 7ft chap with no regard for HIV. With a massively increased budget this was the most technically impressive Bond to date and its aged very well. Barbara Bach is one of the best Bond girls playing a sophisticated and deadly Agent XXX.

Best moment: The Lotus literally becomes a submarine. One of the definitive Bond moments

Rating 8/10

6. Goldfinger

Sean Connery’s third outing is the series most influential. Dr No and From Russia with Love were your typical Cold War spy escapade but Bond as we now think of him was born with Goldfinger: the larger than life villain with the larger than life plan, suggestive character names, a car with a few surprises and a devious henchman – the Bond formula.

The film oozes style and swaggering confidence. Sean Connery is the agent every guy wants to be and every girl wants to be with. Bond is now the callous womaniser and actually uses a young lady as a shield at one point. The one liner’s are here too with a particularly effective ‘shocking’ following an electrocution.

Best moment: Anything with the Aston Martin – pure genius.

Rating 8/10

5. For Your Eyes Only

Roger Moore was back for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. 1979’s Moonraker had literally gone out of this world in pursuit of the Star Wars craze but many felt it was a step to far and it was time to return to a Cold War spy tale. What makes this film stand out is its succession of stunning set pieces – Bond evades thugs in a Citroen Dolly in the most extensive chase sequence to date, he then battles underwater enemies in no fewer than two great sequences, before escaping sharks and launching a daring mountain top raid on the enemy HQ. Director John Glen would helm this and the next 4 entries – the most consistent period in Bond history which produces three entries in our list.

Best moment: Guy attempts to steal Bond’s car. It explodes. Pwnd

Rating 8.5/10

4. The Living Daylights

1987’s The Living Daylights was the series first reboot. John Glen was back but Roger Moore was not. Timothy Dalton would be a Bond far closer to the Bond of Ian Flemming. A reboot was badly need and the gamble paid off.

Timothy Dalton plays a darker Bond, ruthless, conflicted and with a more restrained libido. The story attempts to be the best of both worlds with a down to earth tale based on the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan but still featuring an incredible array of gadgetry with an actual ‘ghetto blaster’. Bond had become a bit too daft with Moore – The Living Daylights gives us the remedy.

Best moment: Bond fights a foe while hanging from a net trailing from a cargo plane. Tense!

Rating 8.5/10

3. Licence to Kill

The Living Daylights had attempted to fuse the old with the new – a down to earth Bond still aided by some out of this world situations and equipment. Licence to Kill was the brave attempt to break the formula and send Bond in a new direction.

Licence to Kill attempts to be gritty and realistic throughout – our villain is an all too plausible drug baron, played by the excellent Robert Davi. Bond is out for revenge, quitting M16 on his way to a bloody showdown in South America.

License to Kill is harrowing in its violence to the extent it was only released unedited in the last 2 years. Guys are torn to bits by sharks, exploded and shredded. This is brutal and for many – very un-Bond. That of course was the point. License to Kill was bold, daring and brilliant.

Best moment: an incredible chase sequence with oil tankers ranks as among the series very best sequences

Rating 9/10

2. Casino Royale

2006 saw Bond rebooted for the second time. Pierce Brosnan was out and Daniel Craig was in. For the second time Bond was going to be toned down – gadgets and world domination were out and, just as Timothy Dalton had tried in his two offerings, Bond was going to be a ruthless killer again.

A Bond film had never seen higher production values – Casino Royale looks breathtaking throughout. Craig brings something new to a very familiar character – he’s more brutal than ever, but falls hopelessly in love for only the second time in Bond history. Craig’s Bond is human.

Best moment: a chase through a building site in Madagascar set against the back drop of the Indian Ocean is exhilarating and demonstrates some stunning cinematography and editing.

Rating 9/10

1. Goldenye

1995’s Goldeneye brings so much of what is good about Bond together that it goes in at no.1. Pierce Brosnan fused Connery’s swagger with Dalton’s psychology and delivered a superb Bond. Goldeneye was the most lavish Bond offering to date and really marked a step up from the cash strapped 80’s offerings. Goldeneye manages to reconcile the timeline, keeping Bond’s roots in the Cold War but ensuring he’s a modern assassin ready for today’s challenges. The plot, involving wayward tech from the former USSR, serves to underscore this transition.  Sean Bean gives us an excellent villain as a rogue MI6 agent and I wish he’d had just a bit more time to play on his former M16 credentials. It’s hard to find any fault with this film, it’s just about the perfect Bond offering.

Best Moment: Bond chases a Russian general through the streets of St Petersburg in a tank. (Yet none of the sequence is even filmed in Russia…)

 Rating 9.5/10

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So far, so good, so what? Jan – April in review

May 4, 2010

A better way to fill 2 hours? We haven’t found it…here’s the first 4 months of 2010 in review…

*My comments (Danjo Kazooe) appear in italics underneath James comments.

Daybreakers – frankly nonsensical vampire farce, highlights include blood rations controlled by Starbucks employees and, mid interrogation, letting the chump go outside to make a phone call unescorted. 3/10

A great premise, and some interesting concepts get forgotten as the movies plot holes and lack of scope take centre stage. 5/10

The Road – majestic and haunting visuals follow you long after the credits have rolled. A beautifully depressing film. An absolute must see. 8/10

So bleak, its hard to say you actually enjoyed it – but still, The Road is an incredibly tense, and moving cinematic experience. A movie that will haunt you for some time. 8/10

Edge of Darkness – Mel Gibson isn’t just angry at religious groups but also ”the government” predictably up to nefarious things again. How this got a theatrical release is really a tale of ‘the little story that could’. Avoid! 4/10

When your movies big heroic showdown ends with the bad guy being forced to drink a bottle of milk, you know something has gone wrong – that said, this movie has gained additional points for simply not being as bad The Ghost. Dull, but at least stuff actually happens in this political thriller. 4/10

Sherlock Holmes – Guy Ritchie makes grimey London look…grimey. Entertaining if unspectacular. 5/10

A surprisingly good take on the Sherlock Holmes mythos, and hopefully the slightly awkward beginning of a potentially fantastic franchise. Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law work brilliantly together . 6.5/10

The Crazies – odd the film title was based on the writers and not the events of the film. The Crazies features government quarantine zones over thrown by yokels and some dubious understanding of how water, pipes and bacteria interact…Anyway, solid enough.6/10

Neither good, nor bad, just very meh! A half decent way of spending 90 minutes or so. Just dont expect to see anything you havent seen a thousand times before. 5/10

The Book of Eli – Denzel Washington must take a Bible to Alcatraz where it can be archived safely. Thrilling! 5/10 

This movie tricks you into thinking that you`ll going to be seeing a kickass, post-apocalyptic action movie. Instead, you get a 2 hour bible class. Denzils a prophet, I get it! Dull, Dull, Dull! 2/10

The Wolfman – blighted by backstage malarky, The Wolfman is a film bored of itself. Throw in a werewolf wrestling match! Just what the film needed. 5/10

A cool beastie and  OTT gore do not make up for its terrible script and dull performances. That said, you do get to see a hairy Anthony Hopkins and a hairier than usual Benicio del Toro come to blows in a wonderfully camp  fight scene. 6/10

Alice in Wonderland – read our reviews to see just why this film must be avoided like a Mike Tyson whisper. 1/10

Tim Burton by the numbers. The lead actress is more wooden than a match, and Johnny Depp does his usual man child, weirdo thing. Oh, and the 3D effect looks horrible. Alice in Wonder Pants! 4\10

The Ghost Writer AKA The Ghost – The Prime Minister knows the CIA! Guess its time to revert to a feudal system! Boring! 3/10

Even more boring than Edge of Darkness. The movies failed attempts at being mature and thought-provoking  made me honestly wish I had of re-watched Ghost Rider instead; a movie more grueling than a colonoscopy.  3/10

Repo Men – if it weren’t so dumb it would have just been dull, just what were the writers thinking? 3/10

Pure torture – which is quite fitting considering its premise. Horribly pretentious, stupid and sadistic. 2/10

Clash of the Titans – gods fighting gods should be incredibly epic right? Wrong – 5/10

A completely forgettable experience. Some interesting sets and character design work aside, this movie is as lifeless as Sam Worthington’s performance. 5/10

How To Train Your Dragon – surprisingly intelligent animation with real heart. And a dragon. 7/10

Kick Ass – It’s violent, we agreed on that much – little else.  5/10 (James)

My favourite movie of the year so far. Yes it is violent, but it also funny, exciting and a well observed satire of the on-gong comic book movie boom! 8.5/10

I Love Your Phillip Morris – entertaining, interesting and well acted, now there’s a change, 6/10

Green Zone – leaves to another film the task of making the definitive Iraq commentary, 6/10

Shutter Island – cinema is very subjective, that said – I adored this, 9.5/10

This movie is certainly well crafted; but its predictable and logic defying plot left me a little cold. 7/10

Iron Man 2 – a two-hour preview of either the Avengers movie or Ms Johanssen’s body – I wasn’t sure, 5/10

You get the impression that this movie was plotted by a group of kids with Iron Man action figures. Some exciting moments and a good cast just about make-up for its complete lack of actual story. 6.5/10

Scre4m…

May 2, 2010

No, I didn’t photoshop this. Scream 4 is coming.

What’s more unbelievable is Neve Cambell, Courtney Cox, Wes Craven (directing) and former WCW World Champion David Arquette are all signed on.

Wes Craven has said that Scream 4 will lampoon the state of the horror film genre today and will take shots at the Saw franchise.

The movie’s director told Entertainment Weekly that the fourth Scream instalment will continue the tradition of exposing the conventions of the slasher plot started by the first three films.

“It feels like the end of an era of a certain type of film. There are series of films, a lot of sequels, and a lot of remakes, and part of the humour of Scream 4 is when characters comment on that. ‘Enough of Saw 25 and all’. A lot of films, directors, and studios are the butts of some of the jokes.”

He continued by saying that just like in the trilogy, knowing the horror formula will help them beat the Ghostface murderer.

“In order to figure out what’s happening around them, the characters have to figure out where the genre of horror is. So this is a look at horror after ten years of a lot of sequels rather than original films coming up year after year. One film is successful, and then they make 25 of them.”

The creator also promised a reinvention of horror itself.

“I think it’s time for something new. I’ve done remakes of my own films too, with, The Last House On The Left and The Hills Have Eyes, but we feel it’s time for something new and different, and that’s what this film is going to be.”

Scream was great. Let’s face it – it was cool, it was sexy, it was insightful. Scream was postmodern – understanding the genres cliches it reworked them into something new. Now Scream 2 was just lazy and Scream 3 was some sort of self parody – possibly the first example of a film setting out to make fun of itself.

Wes Craven seems to have some ideas and he’s got a likeable enough cast to make it work (Neve Campell was (is?) such a babe. One wonders how someone like Wes Craven, who is very much the ”problem” with modern horror films, can be its saviour…it will be interesting to see how this works out.

Scream 4 hits screens April 15th 2011.

Another sort of film rating…

May 2, 2010

 

Where would we be without film ratings? As a kid a high rating kept me from so many films and while my 18th birthday is now just a distant memory it still feels like a ‘big’ event each time I can see an 18 certificate film.

The BBFC censors have an odd attitude to sex, drugs and rock n’roll – lets take a look at a few films they rated but never actually seem to have watched…

Beowulf (2007) – its CGI so it must be for kids, right? Beowulf featured graphic violence and dismemberment, our hero fighting while naked, a deformed monster, an elderly man’s suicide and full frontal nudity from Angelina Jolie. The BBFC decided it was all good fun and gave the film a 12A.

Our rating:

Beowulf is a hard 15 certificate.

Jaws (1975) – Spielberg made one of the most definitive horror films ever made. An entire generation grew up fearing shark attacks (though more die from bee stings each year). Jaws is a masterpiece in film making with relentless tension, graphic violence and pure terror. The BBFC must have thought this was a film about James Bond’s nemesis and gave this a PG. Utterly baffling.

Our rating:

Jaws is terrifying. Dodgy effects keep this from an 18, so we settle on a 15 certificate.

Star Wars (1977) – everyone loves Star Wars, children, adults – everyone. The BBFC gave it a U rating – suitable for all. Let’s take a closer look. Star Wars features Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru being burnt to death, a guys arm being severed, Jawa massacre, intergalactic genocide and Greedo being fried. Not to mention anti-droid racism. Star Wars is surprisingly violent.

Our rating:

Star Wars is a PG film through and through.

The Terminator (1984) – released with an 18 certificate (now downgraded) Terminator looks positively tame these days – and probably fairly team by 80’s standards too. Sure a punk has his heart removed and we see the sweet, sweet act of love but Terminator is just a lot of fun.

Our rating:

Terminator is the quintessential 15 certificate film.

Goldeneye (1995) – the BBFC seemed unsure about Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as Bond. Its theatrical release was cut and awarded a 12A, but the DVD has gained a 15 certificate. It features fully clothed sex and Sean Bean but I really struggle to find anything that compares with Licence to Kill’s multiple shark attack scenes (which earned that film a 15). No swearing, little blood and a nice tale of good vs bad – 15 is harsh.

Our rating:

This needs to go back to the original 12A rating.

Transformers (2007) and Transformers Revenge of the Fallen (2009) – in America only Spielbergs direct appeal to the US censors got this downgraded from an ‘R’ to a PG-13. In the UK it earned a 12A – despite every shot of Megan Fox being soft core porn. Sexual innuendos and relentless swearing – (in a giant toy commercial) where totally inappropriate. Oh, we have plenty of drug references too.

Our rating:

Transformers just gets a 12A but Revenge of the Fallen is a 15.

Kick Ass (2010) – a coming of age comic book film sounds friendly enough. Kick Ass features children beaten about the head, enemies being cooked, sliced, crushed and exploded and relentless swearing. Oh and Nicolas Cage burnt to death. This was nasty violence – but a 15 certificate was seen as adequate. Kick Ass is among the most disturbing films I have ever seen at the cinema.

Our rating:

Kick Ass is a cast iron 18 certificate.

Any films ratings that had you scratching your head? Post a comment, lets hear your views!

Iron Man 2 – what I remember

May 1, 2010

There are two types of sequel.

1. The Alien 3 style sequel – films that actually damage what came before

2. Revenge of the Fallen style sequel – films that make what came before look positively inspired.

Iron Man 2 is a Fallen sequel. 2008’s Iron Man was okay, had its moments, had a likeable cast, had Gwenyth Paltrow wearing tight clothing. It wasn’t a classic. Well, that’s what I’d have said a week ago. After Iron Man 2 – hell, Iron Man looks like something else.

Iron Man was simple, focussed and inoffensive. Iron Man 2 is bloated, dull and annoying. Perhaps answering calls it was weak on story director John Favreau piles in angle after angle and a seemingly limitless cast of characters to tell it. Let’s have a quick recap – we have Tony Stark dealing with blood poisoning, an uncaring father, a company that doesn’t seem to make anything but Iron Man costumes and a PA that thinks she runs the show. We have a Russian drunk with father issues and a love of whips. We have a one eyed Nick Fury trying to…I dunno actually. Plus there is a Scarlett Johanssen looking hot some nerdy other billionaire, the military, the senate and probably the cast of The Wizard of Oz too.

Yes, you’re right. This is Batman and Robin and Spiderman 3 – overbooked and overcooked. There is so much going on to so many people that even Iron Man himself rarely appears. Iron Man went with one basic storyline – here we have dozens, and only one – Tony’s medical probs – has any real depth. Perhaps none of this would matter if there were as many action set pieces. Sadly we are left with only 2. Thankfully both are pretty good. In the first ‘whip man’ or ‘angry Ivan’ or whatever he was called fights Tony in Monaco in an impressive sequence. At the conclusion of the film Iron Man and ‘War Machine’ fight the cast of the Metal Gear games. Trouble is, effects are poor. War Machine starts out looking like the Silver Surfer and the final fight at the Stark Expo never looks like a real sequence and I was left wondering when the ‘GAME OVER’ screen would pop up. It’s 2 hours between sequences and the pacing is where Iron Man 2 really falls down. We have plenty of yakking on about our uninteresting storylines but no body actually shoots anything.

Marvel has high hopes for 2012’s ‘Avengers’ film – too much of Iron Man 2 plays out like a trailer. Did we really need this? It’s somewhat disrespectful to both he ‘Iron Man’ character and also the audience who didn’t pay for a trailer, no matter how lavish it is.

Moving on, Iron Man manages to use both of my least favourite villain clichés. The first being enemies are rubbish but numerous – thus rather than one rubbish villain we get dozens. Yey. The other is that the villain will be bigger than our hero. First War Machine and then ‘Angry Russian’ feature larger robot suits – we can’t create tension so we’ll go with a visual thing instead.

I could go on about the odd lack of AC/DC in the soundtrack (or the presence of AC/DC at all) or the strange ease with which you can create new elements, instead I’m going to rap this up. Iron Man 2 is bloated, dull and a total waste of the Iron Man character 5/10

With Iron Man 2 so very close…

April 28, 2010

Iron Man 2 goes on general release tommorow (Thursday) and I found myself casting my mind back to the original…

2008’s Iron Man was a film I enjoyed. Enjoyed – but didn’t love. The effects were great, Robert Downey Jnr was inspired as Tony Stark, and to be honest, I thought there was enough action and that Obadiah Stane was a good villian. Iron Man was the sort of escapism the cinema should be all about – right?

Actually, no.

Iron Man was thoroughly Hollywood – I’m going to describe it as a ‘shake and bake cinema’. Add charismatic lead, sexy females, explosions, clear division between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and just a hint of ‘The American Dream’ – serves 30-40 million cinema goers.

Iron Man isn’t immature but I would call it silly. I wanted to buy into the films ‘universe’ but scene after scene played for laughs didn’t help. I found myself asking why if Stark has created Artificial Inteligence he sells military equipment less advanced than his desk lamp? It’s the equivalent of Bill Gates developing Windows 7 and giving the world Windsows 3.1 (remember that one?). I also wanted to know why the US Military allowed this…Suppose I need to mention the absurdity of building a reactor in a cave ((with second hand parts) while being watched by thugs checking if your making a missile. Not sure if I was supposed to be ‘impressed’ with Stark or just walk out of the cinema in bemusement.  

My biggest gripe was that Iron Man never tried to be anything. £8 of your money was all it sought – not to tell a great story, not to be memorable. In the film the ultimate Stark weapon is the Jericho missile – ‘fire and forget’. Iron Man is view and forget. Perhaps thats a weakeness of the source material  – flying superhero (Superman) + playboy billionaire (Bruce Wayne) = Iron Man, second tier hero. The whole film lacked anything unique – and where was the inspiration, the scene that was ”wow”? Perhaps I’m asking too much for unique – but surely not for inspiration? Was The Dark Knight unique? No, it was just sticking closer to an old comic. However, it had inspiration – someone was trying to make a good film.

With Iron Man 2 I am hoping we get a bit more substance to go witht the style – a story with some depth, 3-D characters, a bit of ‘wow’.

Iron Man was a comic book film. I’m hoping Iron Man 2 is an actual film.

In defence of….Licence to Kill

April 24, 2010

In 1985 a 60 year old Roger Moore had starred in ‘A View to a Kill’, it was a solid Bond offering but it was becoming apparent that Bond was aging. 1987’s ‘The Living Daylights’ rebooted Bond, for the first time we saw Bond played by Timothy Dalton – the James Bond character Ian Flemming had in mind.

The ‘Living Daylights’ was an excellent but cautious film, not yet ready to stray too far from conventions – Bond may have been darker but he was still driving cars with rocket launchers and fighting Aryan super men. 1989’s ‘Licence to Kill’ had the confidence to do away with all of that – we weren’t going to get the Bond we’d known for 20 years, we were getting something radical for the 16th Bond film.

James Bond and Felix Leiter secure a major coup with the arrest of drug lord Franz Sanchez. Sanchez’s connections (and money) soon see him make a daring prison break and he sets out for revenge. Sanchez murders Felix’s wife and then feeds Felix to a shark at the marine research facility he uses as a front – Felix, still alive, is then dumped at his home as a message. Those familiar with the Bond series will remember Felix as Bond’s friend since ‘Thunderball’ – and Bond is out for revenge. M16 feel this is a CIA matter and refuse Bond’s request to pursue Sanchez. Bond resigns and heads off to South America where it won’t be a jet pack, invisible car or exploding pen that will save him – he’s going to have to rely on his wits.

In an age of Jason Bourne Licence to Kill seems more like a template than a radical departure – but audiences were left stunned by this offering. Licence to Kill is harrowing in its violence. People have been fed to sharks (and piranha) in plenty of Bond films – but we have never seen it quite so graphically. Licence to Kill features a guys heart being cut out, another guy being exploded and a henchman dragged through a mincer – as blood sprays across the walls. So violent, it was only in the last 2 years it was released unedited. This isn’t ‘Bond’ violence either – it’s intense, graphic and designed to be as unsettling as possible. We’ve seen violence against women before in a Bond film – after all, Bond’s own wife is killed in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ – but here Sanchez brutally whips his own girlfriend after she tries to escape him. The entire film has an air of menace a Bond film wouldn’t see again. At one point Bond ends up rescued by Sanchez, who is yet to realise who Bond is. We know Bond is in a ridiculous degree of danger and with absolutely no back up – and these scenes boil with tension, for god’s sake man – get out of there! In attempting to reboot Bond audiences decided director John Glen had gone too far.

John Glen was certainly no novice when it came to Bond – this would be his 5th consecutive offering (and in this authors opinion, the second best Bond director after Martin Campell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale). Glen is determined to keep Bond’s feet on the ground, while we do get the spectacular we don’t get the Moore era absurdity or campy humour. While Glen had demonstrated his skill with set pieces in 1983’s ‘For Your Eyes Only’, Licence to Kill would feature less grandiose action. That’s not to say this isn’t a film heavy on action or great sequences. At one point Bond is discovered infiltrating Sanchez crime buddy Milton Crest’s yacht and has to escape – pursued by divers he harpoons a plane, skis behind before climbing aboard and hurling the pilots to their deaths. Licence to Kill’s greatest sequences is reserved for the end – Sanchez attempts to escape with close to a 100 tonnes of cocaine hidden inside oil tankers. As these tankers hurtle down dusty roads Bond fights off drivers, gun men and gravity with explosions galore. It’s probably my favourite sequence in the Bond series. Incidentally watch for similarities with a sequence in Jason Statham’s ‘The Transporter’.

The cast is simply excellent. Timothy Dalton is perfect as the ruthless and vengeful Bond and it’s a tragedy he never got to reprise Bond a third time. Timothy Dalton’s Bond doesn’t do the humour or womanising as well as Sean Connery – but then that isn’t the attempt. This is a more introverted Bond, that’s not to say that many young ladies pass him by. Robert Davi is the most evil villain in Bond history; his ruthless and worryingly plausible portrayal was perfect for this film. Anthony Zerbe and Benicio Del Torro play Sanchez henchmen – Del Torro is perhaps even more sinister than Robert Davi’s character.

No Bond film would be complete with Bond girls. Talisa Sota plays Sanchez girlfriend Lupe, who wants Bond to kill her keeper. Lupe is stunningly beautiful but also dangerous – the kind of woman that gets men in trouble. Carey Lowell plays Pam Bouvier, tough and resourceful she has her own reasons for wanting Sanchez dead. One of a new breed of Bond girls she can take care of herself and actually saves Bond at one point. We had seen Bond girls with brains before – Barbara Bach’s Soviet agent in The Spy who Loved Me for instance, but Licence to Kill continued a trend that has continued to this day.  

Licence to Kill is intense and violent and shares little in common with the Roger Moore era. Audiences weren’t ready for a film ahead of its time and its summer release alongside a series of blockbusters meant its one of the least remembered Bond films. Interestingly, the stripped down and violent formula of Licence to Kill was back with Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace where it was meant with almost hysterical praise. Licence to Kill was 15 years too early and I hope modern audiences will be able to see it for what it is – a stunning film and if its not the best Bond film that’s only because of the huge budgets subsequent entries had. Licence to Kill is my third favourite Bond film after GoldenEye and Casino Royale and is easily one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen.

Violent, unconventional and daring, Licence to Kill will shock and amaze for 2 hours. Nobody does it better – 9/10

Review: Repo Men

April 18, 2010

Can a film be so bad it’s good? I think we all have come across a film that clicked with us – even though we see just how bad it is. ‘Repo Men’ is so very close to being one of those. If you want unintentionally hilarious cinema you could find some chic flick – or you could watch Repo Men.

Jude Law plays a debt collector in some future time. A debt collector for organs bought on credit. You don’t pay – these organs get repossessed…

…in the street, with a kitchen knife. Think about that.

Seen Equilibrium? Minority Report? Judge Dread? Robocop 3? Guy works for the system – becomes disillusioned, fights back. Well, your getting that all over again. Yes, this is sci fi clichés 101 and it’s embarrassing. Jude Law fights the machine and ultimately gets his ass handed to him. Lesson to learn there kids. I’d love to go on, but plot wise this film never gets beyond a premise.

Director Miguel Sapochnik thinks he’s delivering some metaphysical tale of what it means to be alive, or dead, I’m not sure. The evil corporation, ‘’The Union’’, are some sort of metaphor for the American healthcare industry – if you want health it comes at a terrible price. A billion dollar company operates like a used car dealer – handful of staff and a single manager. Seems everyone needs organs (for some reason) and though you have no money this company is happy for you to pay on credit (paying how?).

How does the company make money here?

Repo Men is the stupidest film I have seen at the cinema in years. It’s also trying to be the goriest. Over 2 hours we see every part of the human body cut open so the precious organs can be retrieved. No need for a hospital – just beat the guy over the head and cut the organ out. Hygenic, clean, quick. It’s beyond absurd that this futuristic society would have debt collectors murder people in the street and then just leave the body where it falls.

The film is gorey, but in the same way watching a BBC documentary about heart surgery is – there is no real emotional impact because you care nothing for this film.

It’s not often the soundtrack of a film causes me to comment. The score appears to have been assembled at random – it’s not just that things distract from the scene, at times the tone is flipped – some upbeat tune accompanies a guy’s heart being removed, while he’s still alive.

Repo Men is the sort of film that goes straight to DVD. That’s absolutely where it belongs. Bafflingly absurd, hilariously dreadful, I want to reposes 2 hours from Cineworld.

3/10

The Top 5 Most Disappointing Comic Book Films

April 9, 2010

Will Iron Man 2 be quite as absurd as I think it will? As the trailer plays revealing dancers gyrating in Iron Man costumes, car parks exploding and more robots than a Nissan factory I’m taken back to all those other comic book sequels that blew a promising start…welcome to the top 5 most disappointing comic book films:

Number 5: The Fantastic Four

4 scientists – and what I’m guessing is their janitor/mechanic (ideas?) – get blasted by ‘plot device’, sorry I mean ‘cosmic radiation’, giving them the most disappointing powers since Family Guy’s Meg and her ‘nail power’. When one goes rogue the rest must help bring him down.

What it did well

Jesscia Alba needs to strip to turn invisible – which is either seriously kool or a total tease (she’s naked, but I can’t see her?!). Film explores society’s reaction to its super powered citizens and Julian McMahon’s Victor Von Doom is suitably evil/impressive.

Why it’s so disappointing

Seems the golden rule was ‘keep this PG’. Story seems deliberately stifled to keep the film as inoffensive as possible. What we have left is a bland and forgettable film that always seems to have the ingredients for success but is terrified of using them. Stretch-Armstrong is just a stupid power anyway.

Number 4: X Men 3

Bret Ratner (The Usual Suspects) takes the helm as the X Men’s struggle against society takes a turn for the worst when ‘a cure’ is developed and weaponised prompting Magneto to launch an all out assault

What is did well

The film explores the implications of a ‘cure’; the social dynamic mutation is causing and the underlying civil rights – the cornerstone of the comics. Finally the X Men get to use some super powers and Magento literally lifts the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s an all star cast with excellent performances from Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellan and Kelsey Grammar as ‘Beast’.

Why it’s so disappointing

Bret Ratner cares nothing for the characters or the audience (it goes from day to night in a single scene). Key characters are exterminated at an alarming rate without furthering the story in any way. New characters are introduced and then forgotten/killed wasting their potential. Characters actions are illogical/poorly explained – people join Magento’s team without knowing who he is or what his objectives are only to charge, unarmed, at soldiers.

Number 3: Spiderman 3

Spiderman must contend with a super-bitch girlfriend, an insane best friend, an escaped sand-based criminal and intergalactic slime in between struggling to pay rent.

What it did well

Honestly – not much. Film teases with an alluring darker tone and we finally get to see Venom. There are some good exchanges between Peter Parker and Harry Osborne. JK Simmons steals the show once again as J Jonah Jameson.

Why it’s so disappointing

Total clusterfrak. 3 villains and probably 3 times as many story arch’s crammed into 2 hours. Nothing is developed as the film simply hurtles elsewhere – it’s the ADHD kid on a sugar rush. Venom is dead within 15 mins of appearing – and one seriously has to question why you would kill a significant villain anyway. Sony decided to do the effects in-house – they saved money and made the effects look awful with one decision. Did we really need Peter Parker dancing? Oh, and sand can fly. Apparently.

Number 2: Transformers 2 – Revenge of the Fallen

 

While the Autobots murder apparently dangerous (but seemingly dormant) Decepticons, Shia Le Beouf’s character has managed to miss his girlfriend is a slamming hottie and decides to go to Uni instead of studying her.

What is did well

Megan Fox and Isabel Lucas pleasantly distract for 2 hours. We have a bucket load of new transformers and plenty of explosions. Starscream gets some dialogue and Megatron comes back from the dead.

Why it’s so disappointing

Michael Bay just wants something to explode. Dialogue? Cut! Story? Well, enough to explain the explosion. Characterisation? Bah, those characters are just gonna get shot anyway! You can’t describe this film without calling it ‘preposterously dumb’ – whether it’s the writers slim grasp of geography (Smithsonian is in Arizona?!) or slim grasp of reality (world’s fastest plane teleports instead) this film is painfully stupid. Things would have been saved if action scenes weren’t edited so poorly – the camera shakes, dips and dives so much you’re left wondering what exactly just blew up before concluding it probably didn’t matter.

Number 1: Robocop 3

Following on from Robocop 2, OCP is building Delta City and causing mischief as it goes and its up to Robocop to turn on his own creators. Though Robocop did not originate in a comic book the Robocop film has spawned a seris of comic book with key contributions from none less than Frank Miller himself.

What it did well

Absolutely nothing. There really is no compelling reason for this film to exist

Why it’s so disappointing

Robocop was a social commentary taking in capitalism, drug abuse, violence in popular culture and the media in general. It was ironic, self aware and absurdly violent. Evidently no one involved had seen the previous films and the attempt to make a child friendly romp is positively bizarre and totally missed what had appealed about the first two. Among the worst sequels ever made.

Review: Clash of the Titans

April 6, 2010

Titans is a film almost impervious to criticism. This film is the blockbuster in its purest form – acting, plot, tension – it’s all been chemically distilled to just leave effects. How, therefore, do you tackle such a beast? When a film is designed to have no plot then surely the lack of it is merely the film achieving its dubious aim? Suffice to say humans have turned on their awful gods who decide that to win the love back they’ll be even more awful.  Zeus son, Perseus must travel through the underworld to get a weapon to stop them.  I would love to tell you that within lies a commentary on modern man turning his back on established religion but that’s pretty much it.

Director Louis Leterrier gave us an equally shallow experience with 2008’s Hulk, but here he’s assisted by Liam Neeson (The Phantom Menance) and Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation). The first thing you will want to know in an effects heavy film – ‘how are the effects?’ Under whelming – in parts they are simply dreadful (Medusa) while in others they are far too blurry to make whatever temple, monster or city on display have any real gravitas. The director’s style does not help us here. The visual palette throughout is remarkably bland, like a drive during the twilight hours – details seem to just merge together. No doubt an attempt to hide budget limitations its gives the film a blandness which came as some surprise for a pure effects epic. Perhaps the rapid editing was also there to cover some dodgy CGI. In promising set pieces the director cuts back and forth to the extent that we can never fully appreciate whatever mythical creature our hero is slaying next. In the same way Michael Bay proved with Transformers 2, fast cuts and a poor colour palette just results in banality.  

Speaking of the banal, everyone’s favourite actor Sam Worthington could have been replaced by a cardboard cut out and the audience probably wouldn’t have realised for at least an hour. He has little to work with – but manages to convey nothing approaching an emotion in nearly 2 hrs. Happily, Liam Neeson’s troubled Zeus lifts any scene he graces and Gemma Arteton’s Io illuminates her scenes with her striking beauty (in a film this basic it makes all the difference). Oddly in such a formulaic film there isn’t even the token love scene – greek men have more important quests it seems!

Bland, blurry, banal – there isn’t any inspiration anywhere in this film. Tension, excitement – that’s missing too. Evil witches declare our hero will perish in his quest – a somewhat desperate attempt to stir something within the film. Ultimately we know the good guys will win, but we probably wouldn’t have cared if they didn’t. Sam Worthington is accompanied by a gang of presumably elite soldiers who largely exist to be munched or turned to stone. I suppose they should come across as brave souls risking all for their homeland – however the film presents their quest as another day at the office – giant scorpions and even Hades himself doesn’t seem to surprise them much. When their own mortality seems to be of secondary concern the audience is never likely to develop much of an emotional connection.

A coy attempt to get money during a quiet spell in film, Titans is also a pure fantasy film – taking you away to a realm where your criticisms are deflected as harmlessly as a hapless Greek guard’s arrow. The director just wants your money; he doesn’t want your praise. This isn’t a film trying to be clever, profound or even memorable and its so banal I can literally think of nothing further to add – but if you want to pass 2 hours I’ve seen worse films,

5/10.