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The Counsellor Tony Ridley Scott Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Rosie Perez, Natalie Dormer, Bruno Ganz, Toby Kebbell, John Leguizamo, Dean Norris,

The Counselor: when a lawyer invests in a drug smuggling operation that goes south, the world around him collapses. This movie essentially comprises of a heap of dragged-out scenes where fine actors deliver lines that probably looked great in a script, but end up coming over as quasi-biblical, pears of faux wisdom “that would sound totally rad in the trailer, man.” Some of the conversations were so vague and non-directional that they felt intentionally cryptic for no reason. The other distracting aspect was the ridiculously over-luxurious, decadent and excessive lifestyle of every protagonist; lavish clothes, jewels, cars, props, and even animals – it feels more like you’re flipping through a high-end fashion magazine. The casting here is crazy-good, and the quality of actors is world-class, there’s even some great flashes of acting – but it’s all crushed under the weight of great expectations. The most fun you can get out of this is playing the “OMG it’s that guy” cameo-spotting game, with the likes of Toby Kebbell, DeanHankNorris, Donna Air, Rosie Perez, Bruno Ganz. And seriously, does Cormac McCarty just sit at home thinking of new ways to kill people all day? In a nutshell, The Counselor is too arthouse-y for it’s own good – and the distracting stars, lifestyles, plot, and “that would be cool in a film” conversations make it all feel like a surreal advert – aimed more at getting punters in the screen, than delivering a decent film. You can’t help but feel disappointed that a cast/director/writer this good have produced something so ordinary and forgettable – when compared to a lesser cast and (arguably lesser) director doing balls-to-the-wall a film like Savages. The Counselor is a ridiculously convoluted (although NOT as hard to follow as people have made out) that lets us know immoral actions may have grave consequences – ahhh duh duh duh duh!

Score: 4/10

New York, I Love You: a collection of short stories all about New York and New Yoykers – loosely labelled under the umbrella ‘romance’. The vignette setup just doesn’t do it for me, far too many characters, and differing themes / tones / styles / storylines – all mashed together, tediously linked through the location. The second problem is the quality control, or lack of – a few of the shorts were really good; prom night, pickpockets, old couple – but the rest were all varyingly pretentious and dull stories featuring varyingly pretentious and dull artisan characters – some of whom are beyond absurd – Ethan Hawke, I’m talking to you. Despite being all about NY, and the ‘love of the city’ there’s not that much iconic scenery; it’s mostly grimy side streets, greasy spoons, apartments, bars, yellow cabs, ect,  which doesn’t really capture the vibes of the big apple – although someone could probably argue that this captures ‘THE REAL NEW YORK, BRO’. Given the massive list of A-list actors (and them some) New York, I Love You is massively disappointing – parts are good, but overall it’s collectively dull. Give City Island a bash instead!

Score: 5/10

Die Another Day: A mission in North Korea is sabotaged, goes tits up, and 007 is captured! After a prisoner exchange, losing his 00 plates, and going dark James Bond is determined to find the traitor, and investigate a newfangled millionaire with a history that’s too good to be true.

Another Day... of pointing guns at things

Die another Day starts fantastically: huge hovercraft action sequence (well handled, superb choreography, definitely cool), Bond gets captured, tortured to shit, ends up looking like The Dude then gets released back to a country that turned its back on him – so he goes off the grid again. M herself says “You’re no use to anyone now”, letting us all know that even James Bond, at the end of the day, is an expendable commodity.

14 months in prison and he comes out looking like Jeff Bridges?!?

I remember that with rumours circulating of another James Bond hitting the screen in the new millennium you were genuinely uncertain as to whether Brosnan’s Bond would make it back from Korea, if he’d live long enough to go on an adventure, or simply be replaced, mid-film for the first time…

A new super-group of villains... or ABBA tribute, I can't remember.

Looking back, a mid-film replacement would have been amazing for several reasons. It would have freshened up the films and their now standardised formula. It could be used to shed some light on the identity of “James Bond”. Most importantly, it would have saved Brosnan from looking pretty awkward for a lot of the movie. As Bond, Brosnan brought a lot of sides to the character, but his key feature was undoubtedly his sophistication, suaveness and confidence no matter what he was doing. Here however, after the opening he can only play it from one angle; dark, tortured, jaded Bond – and being honest, it just doesn’t work. I can’t tell if it was solely the Broz, or the B-movie script he was given but some of the scenes were absolutely shocking – watching him try to seduce Halle at the bar is cringe-inducing. It’s a shame because he has the best actor track record – to date.

What EVERYONE in Cuba looks like... not just their leader... everyone!

As 007 follows the leads we end up in Cuba, and – as always – the exotic nation is represented accurately and with taste: apparently everyone just samba‘s their way around town, has grey Castro-beards, smokes Cuban cigars and drinks Mojitos… Once Bond’s fucked up a health club in style he heads back to London, and the blades club. The first swordfight of the film is an absolute master-class in action, with loads of nice little innovations, both actors putting their back in to it, and a gradual build up – it really is gripping stuff. So far, this film’s surprisingly fresh, with an intriguing story that we want to see through…

This scene was so good it could have been a grand finalé

Then some problems start appearing in the as soon as we pass the halfway mark because – as we all know – people in the 2000s use to get bored after 60 minutes of good storytelling, so someone in production decided to turn everything up to eleven. The film starts throwing dozens of ridiculous things at the audience… virtual reality, invisible cars, a war suit, a dream machine, switchblade mini planes, a tiny ring that breaks any glass… Then there’s an onslaught of CGI that makes the film look like a low-budget affair; buildings, waves, icebergs, ice and hundreds of explosions!!! That can’t be boring at all, right?!?! Wrong! The film makes two supercars drifting on ice, firing rockets and machine guns at each other boring. It makes two scantily clad chicks having a swordfight to the death boring. It even makes an airplane perilously breaking up and exploding in the air… boring. The aforementioned CGI doesn’t help either – looking like it’s been drawn with crayons – the old-school rear-projection would genuinely look better than this.

Whoa!! Two supercarsszzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Hale Berry’s character Jinx is pretty poor, literally waddling into the film and constantly quacking some of the most generic American lines with absolutely zero tact or timing – yo mama jokes, in a Bond film? Really? What’s the point in even having a US-UK sparring match, it’s 007, we all know he’s the best. Plotline redundant! Gustav Graves is a rubbish character, but sub-standard acting only makes him cheesier. And that’s it… nobody else really of note.

Kinky Jinxy gets stuck in her Bondage Bed - 007 has to bust her out. zzzzzz

Other unhealthy titbits are: ‘saved by the bell’, rubbish theme song (sounds like it was thrown together in an afternoon), credits that are integrated with the story (worked for me), an actual appearance by Madoga, “Sex for dinner, death for breakfast” (So good they say it twice!), and electricity manifesting itself in the form of 1980s blue lines, like it totally does in the real world.

Save christmas trees, lick wall sockets - zzzzzzzz

This film is what the word Bi-Polar was actually created to describe: the first hour is a solid, well-made classical Bond film with modern twists. The second half IS memorable but for all the wrong reasons, worst of which being the terrible CGI – my rule on this; if you can’t do it in-camera with a Bond budget, don’t bother!

Score: 4/10

Too many special effects makes this guy puke... (zzzzzzzz)

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: Bad actor – overly smug, diamond merchant. 4
Henchmem: Diamond-faced Zao – strong, smart, athletic, good match. Fiji guy – laser face. 6
Bond Girl: Hale Berry,  pretty. Fencing chick, ultra hot at the end. 7
Action: Hovercraft. Health Centre blowout, fencing/swordfight, MI6 break-in, Ice car chase, plane fight. 6

What a cool multicoloured face ma-zzzzzzzz

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Luther: Every few years the BBC green lights a show which reaffirms my believe that at least a tiny fraction of my extortive TV licence is being spent wisely. This 6-episode series follows re-instated maverick cop John Luther as he works through several high-profile cases. The show doesn’t bring anything new to the ‘cop/crime drama’ genre, but raises the bar tremendously with its fantastic – and unusually professional – style & feel. The score’s also very complementary, and does a great job of heightening drama and suspense. Every main turns in a decent performance, particularly Idris Elba, who has no easy task playing the on-edge Holmesian officer; if The Wire hadn’t put him on the map, this will. Rising star Ruth Wilson gives a great portrayal of a quirky sociopathic genius. The other villains are just as chilling, and generally realistic: from the gunman and taxi driver to the more outlandish Satanist. The best aspect of Luther is that its genuinely gripping, especially the finale, which is tension on a scale that you rarely see; heart pounding and seat grabbing. My only real complaint was that it was far too short although the cliffhanger ending leaves a second series wide open. Luther is a great fusion of police action and personal drama. Thoroughly compelling and enjoyable TV, a must see.

Score: 8/10