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Spectre Mask Mexico Festival Street Party Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen,

Spectre [Plot Spoilers]: a posthumous video from ‘old’ M sends 007 into the belly of the beast; going after the head of the global criminal super-organisation SPECTRE: Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.

This starts with a beautifully choreographed long single-take; moving from the sky, down through crows, up an elevator, through some rooms, and over rooftops. The pre-credits mission ends with an overlong and confusing shaky-cam helicopter set piece; the Greengrass-style shaky-cam style of which spoils much of the subsequent action – which is defined by big, loud, turned-up-to eleventy-stupid explosions right, left, and centre.

Spectre Choppah Helicopter Mexico Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen

After the initial setup, the film immediately starts throwing up a lot of overly familiar scenes; fortress on a snow-covered mountain top, Austrian forest chase, train fight with a brutish henchman, inviting Bond in to the secret lair before he escaped and blows the place up, scars, cats, exploding watches, Aston Martin gadgets, London chases… it feels like a rejected script for the 50th Anniversary film; that half-assedly tries to tie the last three movies together and leans on the aforementioned ‘classic Bond’ moments, ‘jumping the shark’, and even doing stuff that’s been parodied in Austin Powers – including drinking and advertising Heineken.

Spectre Meeting Broken Lights Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen

Going back to the old mould of ‘classic Bond’ the film also contains a higher level of silliness than the rest of the post-Casino Royal reboot movies: from out of nowhere Blofeld and Bond grew up together? Even bringing back a campy evil genius like Blofeld (who was in a handful of the early Bond films) feels like a strange villain choice; especially following after Javier Bardem‘s demented Skyfall performance. The dodgy science of drilling in to precise parts of the brain that contain memories / facial recognition / balance also feels ridiculous.

Spectre Widow Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen,

While Craig continues his streak of gritty and remorseful Bond, pretty much everyone else feels under-used: Waltz is only in about 20 mins of the movie, and he doesn’t look remotely interested – I can only imagine it’s because he’ll be in the next few movies too? Monica Bellucci (not even a proper femme fatale) is in two back-to-back scenes, and Dave Bautista (silent but violent – OddJaws) gets a couple of frenetically shot action scenes and one word to say. Bond Girl Léa Seydoux starts off promising; but soon turns into the generic helpless love interest. in On the flipside M and Q get slightly more screen time and even a bit of action in the field.

Spectre Car Chase Astin Martin Jaguar Rome Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen

Of course, not everything about the old movies are bad: there’s more tongue in cheek moments, a better script for quips, one-liners, and wordplay (“I guess we know what C stands for now… Careless“). There’s also more of a throwback vibe of escapism and glamour, which somewhat po faced Casino and Quantum films were missing – every shot looks like Bond and the Bond Girl are straight off a GQ cover. Although this goes a little too far with the cheesy ending, and the fact that there’s very little believable threat to Bond and his breakaway MI6 team.

Spectre Blofeld Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen,

Skyfall and its focus on Bond would always be a tough film to follow; and switching the focus to big names, big story, big locations, big explosions and bigger budget – Spectre doesn’t come close. Being one of the most expensive films ever made (but it’s not that obvious) this had to tick all of the constituent boxes of a ‘classic’ and safe Bond film. Although the surface is presented as the new Post-Bourne reboot Bond (nanotech, drones, cybersecurity) everything under the bonnet is straight outta the 1960s/1970s. Joe Public and those that grew up with the first 15 or so movies will love this because it’s a familiar romp, but I feel that more recent and more hardcore fans of the franchise will be let down by a fairly profunctory and borderline cynical by-the-numbers Bond outing.

Score: 5.5/10

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: Information-hoarding new-age Blofeld. Like Elliot carver after a funectomy – 3
Henchman: Goatee’d Hinx; somewhere between Oddjob and Jaws – 4
Bond Girls: Two-scene widow; and slightly less ridiculous Christmas Jones – 6
Action: Mexican Helicopters / Rome Car Chase / Austrian Forest / Desert Shoot-em-up / London Bombing – 7

Spectre Ring Octopus Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen

Skyfall: James Bond comes back from the dead to help MI6 – and justify his existence – during the agency’s darkest hour. The story is easily one of the strongest in the franchise, split in to three well-defined acts, and even at 2.5 hours it never feels like it over-stays its welcome, as most scenes reveal something about at least one of the central characters.

Javier Bardem‘s villain perfectly mangles the theatricality and campiness of the Bond classic villains (Scaramanga / Blofeld) with a dark, maniacal and twisted persona that’s among the best modern cinematic antagonists (The Joker / Detective Stansfield). It’s also a testament to Daniel Craig that he never gets out-performed – some previous Bond’s would have struggled. As for the under-discussed Bond Girls Sévérine perfectly plays the vulnerable and dangerous seductress; on the other hand, Bond’s field agent colleague Eve was pretty rubbish, lacking any believability, conviction or presence – she looked like she was on daytime TV.

The film’s well-paced, directed, and looks fantastic, with plenty full-frame/wide shot of landscapes & sets and – as you expect from the travelogue element of every Bond film – there’s a ton of stunning locations to take in; Turkey, Shanghai, the abandoned Hashima Island, Glencoe, and an eerily beautiful shot of a misty Glen Etive.

This film also continues to keep Daniel Craig’s outings firmly rooted in the ‘reality’ of the post-Bourne action film, steering well clear of the fantasy / ridiculous / gadgetry elements. Although this is the current style of most action movies, it would be good to see some gadgets and stunts that brought a bit of the classic Bond magic, although the line between magic and cheese is very grey.

The most interesting aspect of Skyfall is that it focuses on James Bond more than any other outing: not just through questioning his relevance in the modern world, or whether he’s still physically / mentally capable, but it also goes back to his pre-spy roots, fleshing out his childhood & backstory, giving the audience an insight into how he became the fearless, suave and dangerous 007.

You couldn’t ask for much more in a 50th Anniversary Bond film; most of the classic elements are there, even if they’re hinted at, or – like the famous ‘gun barrel sequence’ – simply tagged on to the end again. The story, characters and direction are all well above the average for a Bond film; however, more mentions of the previous 22 movies would have been the cherry on the cake, and added a truly celebratory vibe to the longest-running cinema franchise in history.

Score: 8.5/10

TOP TRUMPS

Villain: Raoul Silva – camp, cunning, crazy, deformed… just not in enough screen time 9
Henchmen: Patrice, the capable and silent assassin, + a few dozen mercenaries. 6
Babes: 50% classic beautiful siren, 50% awkward and rubbish. 7
Action: Opening mission / MI6 Bombing / Shanghai / Casino / Underground / Skyfall Shootout. 8

For reviews of every other James Bond film, click HERE

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: essentially an English language, scene for scene, character for character and detail for detail re-make of the Swedish original film adaptation. The over-stylised James Bond-esque opening credits paired with NIN industrial techno Led Zep remix are fantastic, and promise something fresh/new; unfortunately the rest of the film fails to deliver as it copies almost everything from the original. Most annoyingly, it’s still set in Sweden and full of Europeans talking in ‘svee-deesh’ – it’s like watching a professional dubbing of the original. Character-wise, Daniel Craig is good, but Nyqvist has the edge as the flawed idealist journalist; Rooney Mara is very watchable as Lisbeth Salander, but it feels like a good imitation of Rapace’s portrayal. In all honesty, both pairs of boots were almost impossible to fill. The rest of the cast deliver, but again, have very little room to put any new stamp on the characters. As a stand-alone film, it is good (although it would have been hard to mess up sticking to the original). All is not lost though, as the 2nd/3rd Swedish films weren’t perfect, and have far more room for improvement. As someone who saw and loved the original, this lacks any of the impact that the modern twist on the classic murder mystery had – this just feels redundant and unimaginative. Expected a something better from a director of David Fincher‘s calibre.

Score: 7/10

Review of the original

Quantum Of Solace: we join Bond about ten minutes after Casino Royale, trying to bring his main lead – Mr White – to M for questioning. After the culprit is busted out of custody by double agents in MI6, 007 has to find out how deep the terrorist group Quantum has compromised their operations. Back to back viewings definitely aids QoS as it’s definitely not a stand-alone film.

... and here's the government worrying about texting and driving!

The movie expands and reinforces what we previously learned about 007. As before, he remains a violent (yet arguably successful) instrument, with no self constraint or controllability, and a tendency to leave a trail of destruction wherever he goes – killing off almost every potential lead. Sadly, because 007’s riding solo for much of the story, and his Russian pal is a lady of few words we don’t get much new information, other than an emphasis on his insatiable desire to avenge Vespa. Revenge hasn’t looked this good since Bittersweet Life – Bond looks very sharp; wearing stylish suits, jackets and the very best of London high-fashion!

Making sure hit kills go out with style!

The action set-pieces in this film are shockingly handed. The cuts are so short, editing so rapid, and camera movement so shaky that trying to establish what’s happening and where the people are in relation to each other – and their surroundings – is impossible. Definitely the most poorly constructed action of all the movies.

Someone's falling? Running? Rooftop? Behind the other guy? In front? WTF?!?!

The single biggest thing that Quantum of Solace has going for it is the story, carrying on from the previous film, it follows Bond’s quest for revenge, coupled with his Carmille’s similar story. These stories are tied in with the great, and scarily realistic, idea of a secret society – similar to SPECTRE but with more humble, profit-driven plans – that permeates every institution from the British secret service to the CIA and some rotten dictatorships in Latin America. Not content with slating the easy political targets, it also casts a cynical eye over the UK and US governments for the first time – with both countries stating that they’ll work with anyone that has oil, or any other desirable resources.

Corrupt businessman and corrupt politician... I miss the megalomaniacs

As with the past few movies this one harks back to some of the older adventures, although I’m not sure if these are smug and subtle self-referencial nods, or just a side-effect of the franchise having to recycle old ideas because after 22 films, there ain’t a whole lot left to work with. QoS has the classic suffocation scene from Goldfinger re-done with oil, two people one parachute and the good ol Citroen – among others.

Strawberry Fields - Bond's wondering if the carpet matches the curtains...

The lack of gadgets is also starting to get pretty uncool. I realise that the re-boot is firmly rooted in reality – and we definitely don’t need another battle suit or invisible car – but it doesn’t have to be this boring. The only remotely technological things are a normal phone and a few Minority Report style computers.

"Folks, how do we compensate for no gadgets? Ah, explosions"

Other reasons this film stands out: sandy credits (that stuff goes everywhere!), gunbarrel sequence appearing at the very end (insane!), and someone in photography having a hard-on for contemporary architecture with the Opera house, Bolivian Hotel and Desert Hotel given lots of attention. Most insulting, is the ridiculous collection of stereotypical fonts used to represent different countries. Serious London font. Stylish Italian font. Quirky Latin American fonts. ЯúSSIдN font! How dumb do they think new-age Bond fans are?!?!


As the follow up to Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace is just not handled near as well, and while it’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, it would be somewhat unfortunate to end a 22-film legacy with this. It it’s well photographed, has a villain, some Bond girls, a henchman and a nasty plot, but they’re all just so boring.

Score: 6/10

Felix looking like a mean-ass mo-fo!!

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: European, cool, short, hunched and limping, no talents. Booo! 3
Henchmen: Elvis – literally a secretary with a gun. Booo! 2
Babe: Sunburnt Russian girl. Ms Fields – a tasty toff. 7
Action: Car chase / Footchase / Boat chase / Aerial dogfight / Hotel fight at end (+ lift fight / bar escape). 5

With Bond 23 being kicked in to production James Bond January has done its job!

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Note: this was the very first ‘film review‘ I posted back in summer ’09!

Casino Royale: a novice spy, James Bond, seeks out the head of a global terrorist investment group, then tries to bankrupt him in a high-stakes game of poker in the world famous Casino Royale.

He may be the new Bond on the block, but boy can he pull off the Tux!

This installment bursts out the blocks with a B&W Noir film vibe of a 30s film, aspects of which continue to the end of the movie (jaunty camera angles, classic lighting, shadows etc). We join a rookie James Bond here, in the run-up to his second kill – a prerequisite for ’00’ status. There’s flashback to Bonds first kill in a toilet that shows us a sloppy agent, scrambling around in a rough fight, resorting to brutality killing his first target. No previous Bond would have done this, or even be capable of it. Make no mistake, this new Bond is a brute, a thug, firsts are his weapon, brains aren’t there.

Bond: clubbing some dude to death in a toilet...

As far as the casting of Craig is concerned, I think he was superb at showing us an unpolished, rough-and-tumble agent. Sure he’s strong, gets up after every punch and even seems to enjoy a bit of pain, but after one fight we see him genuinely hurt and confused, standing over a sink and scrubbing up like anyone else would (Although he does look like a million dollars in every next scene!). This new 007 isn’t really in to his post-dispatch quips, and the only funny moment comes in the middle of a torture scene where Bond goads the torturer by acting aroused – it’s genuinely laugh-out-loud, but totally bizarre. Still, we see Bonds wildly romantic streak when he and Vespa throw everything away. Top this all off with a chiseled body and as many gratuitious topless/skin-tight scenes as you can justify, and you’ve got yourself a new-age, emotional macho man that’s perfect for the 2000s.

New Bond: Open minded. He will suck your fingers for love!!

The line “I hear 00’s have a short life expectancy” is interesting because it means one of two things. A) this could be THE original James Bond, right back at the start of his adventures, or B) Every actor (and possibly film) before were all different agents using the 007 persona as a cover. Either way, this shit just got interesting!

WTF - James Bond, DOUBLE-O-7, drives a Ford? I feel sorry for him.

What’s more is that it’s not only the character and timeline that’s been re-booted… but someone’s meddled with the age old formula! It doesn’t open with the gun barrel sequence, there are no women in the titles (outrage!), there’s no gadgets (other than a sim card reader – zzzzz), he drives a reasonably priced car, has a normal phone, Felix has turned into a Brother, no Q, and no Monneypenny. Personally, some of it was refreshing, but they overdid the ‘next gen’ elements, shunning a lot of things that made the old Bond films… Bond films.

The 7th person to play Felix, and Leiter's got attitude here!

Yet there are still individual elements and themes lifted from the previous Bond legacy: the key characters have the same names, M is still Judy Dench, it’s as much a travel piece as any previous movie, he pumps numerous women, there’s some huge action set-pieces, we see a fat German with a gold car (!), and when 007 says “I Love You”, you’re still completely fucked. I feel that this film only carried on with the bare minimum required to pass this off as a genuine part of the franchise.

Why doesn't roadkill look like this in Scotland?!?!?

The action’s second to none and makes every previous fight, chase, and budget-blowing stunt look like amateur hour. The parkour/free running chase lasts around 10 minutes and never gets boring, the airport action is as tense as they get, hand-to-hand staircase fight is raw and superb, the car crash – although basic – is jaw dropping and Venice… that’s just off the hook. When the actual gambling begins, Casino Royale slows to a crawl, with very little tension for those that don’t gamble, however the film is literally revived, which also counts like action. There’s not a lot of the big scenes here, but they’re outstanding and well-placed to keep the film moving.

Cracking chase sequence

Other than being a Sony-sponsored assault on your retinas, 007 spending most of his time running between places (or after things), and Bond walking through Venice square – not in a shitty hover-gondola there aren’t any other aspects that stick out for being lame. Story wise, you couldn’t ask for a better one, and although it’s not dumbed down, it’s quite simple and straight-forward considering it involves the British secret service, British treasury, several one-man terrorist contractors, local police, a main villian, an african rebel army, the villain’s boss, a bunch of henchmen, and a couple of double-crosses…

Le Chiffre: couldn't have picked a meaner-looking Blodeldian bad guy!

Special kudos to director Martin Campbell saved the franchise once before with GoldenEye (ensuring Bond’s success post cold-war) and completely re-invented it with this installment – making him as crucial as any actor in the 007 seat. After the excess that most remember from Die Another Day it was the perfect time for a clean slate, and this is the perfect re-boot, shaking off the theatrics and putting the focus back on a tense spy thriller.

One of the many iconic images 'round a poker table in this film

It’s not a great ‘Bond film’ in the classical sense, in fact, you could barely even call it a ‘Bond’ film, however, this is the kick up the arse that the franchise needed to bring it in-line with modern attitudes & modern cinema, and in that sense, this is a brilliant 2000s action film, that happens to have James Bond at the centre.

Score: 8/10

Vesper showcasing her fantastic lungs!

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: Scar eyed man – maths genius, blood crying, gambling and weak. 5
Henchman: Wet airport guy – kind of henchman. Parkour guy – kind of. Bald guy – kind of. 2
Bond Girls: Horse-riding exotica HOT!. Vespa – HOT!!!!. Blonde Baddie… HOT. 9
Action: Footchase in building site & consulate / airport / staircase fight / revival / Venice – 7

It's usually medievil guys that ride on horseback, but I guess she'll have to do...

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Looks. Sharp clothes. Style. Machine Gun. Sony Phone. Everything a spy needs...

 

As a kid, I was one of the millions that grew up watching the James Bond films in total amazement – over and over on VHS and on the TV every Christmas. In the UK, James Bond is arguably the single biggest institution – everyone from your young cousins to grandparents has watched most of the films and has an opinion on their favourite Bond, film, Bond Girl, villain, poster… Globally, Bond is nothing short of a phenomenon, proving himself to be one of the UK’s biggest exports.

First Bond collection, bought film by film

Starting in 1962 the Bond films are the longest-running franchise in cinema history, and hold the 2nd best all-time non-adjusted box office for a film series after Harry Potter (beating Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Batman, Star Trek…) To pinpoint the one thing that makes Bond so successful would be impossible, but I suspect that it has something to do with 007 having a dream job, dream girls, dream gadgets, dream cars all topped off with a dangerous lifestyle.

At the risk of ruining all of my fond childhood memories, I’m going to watch every single Bond with a critical eye over the next month to find out how Fleming and Broccoli managed to mould a single spy into one of the most cultural, global & timeless icons of all time. Everyone’s welcome to join in. There’s a schedule below this post and more info here and here.


From memory, Bond is a modern day cowboy who’s swapped his six-shooter for a PPK and horse for horse-power. He does little thinking, and lives for danger, jumping foot first into the action. He’s well dressed, and has exquisite tastes in everything from food & drink though to clothes and women. Most importantly for the movies, Bond has blind loyalty to his country and will do absolutely anything to progress the mission – naturally, this always gets him into perilous situations, which is the lifeblood of each movie. Despite spanning almost 50 years it seems like the Bond films have stuck to the same formula for

Hero + Villains + Babes + Danger + Action = Great cinema!

Over the course of January we’ll see how that formula holds up!

Cheers,

Paul
Paragraph Film Reviews

3rd Jan – Dr No
4th Jan – From Russia With Love
5th Jan – Goldfinger
6th Jan – Thunderball
7th Jan – You Only Live twice

10th Jan – On Her Majesties Secret Service
11th Jan – Diamonds Are Forever
12th Jan – Live and let Die
13th Jan – Man with the Golden Gun
14th Jan – The Spy Who Loved Me
15th Jan – Moonraker

17th Jan – For Your Eyes Only
18th Jan – Octopussy
19th Jan – A View To A Kill
20th Jan – The Living Daylights
21st Jan – Licence to Kill

24th Jan – GoldenEye
25th Jan – Tomorrow Never Dies
26th Jan – The World is Not Enough
27th Jan – Die Another Day
28th Jan – Casino Royale
29th Jan – Quantum of Solace

Quick follow-up from my last post about James Bond January – more details here. It’s still not too late to sign up; from today there’s over seven weeks – or 54 days – until the Quantum of Solace posts get published. That’s a Bond flick every 2 1/2 days, so still totally achievable if you wanted to do every film!

Content wise, the posts don’t have to be limited to reviews, they can be memories, features, lists, observations, pictures, critiques or even anti-Bond posts! Anything that will generate discussion on the franchise is cool by me.

A final clarification – you can do one film, all twenty-two films, or any number in between. Just be sure that they match the schedule in this post and are all tagged “James Bond January” so everyone can follow this.

Here’s a list of the current participants, I’ll keep this as up to date as I can.

Aiden (Cut The Crap Movie Reviews)
Darren M (The M0vie Blog)
Marc (Go See Talk)
Heather (Movie Mobsters)
Caz (Lets Go To The Movies)
Andrew (Andrew at the Cinema)
Andy – (Fandango Groovers)
Clara (Via-51)
Mikey (The Reviewer)
Nicola (Average Film Reviews)
Andrew (Row Three)
Clarabela (Just Chick Flicks)
Sledge (Battle Royale with Cheese)
Erik (Film Jabber)
Klaus (Ming)
Jason (The Athletic Nerd)
Sarah (She Likes to Watch)
Joem (Does Writing Excuse Watching?)
Stu – (Undy a Hundy)
The Peoples Movies Blog
Susannah -(Not Really Working)
Java – (Java’s Journey)
Steve – (Watching the Detectives)

If you fancy spreading the word by re-blogging / linking / e-mailing / tweeting some info on your blogs – or to individuals that may be interested in this – it would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,

Paul,
Paragraph Film Reviews.