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Deutschland 83 East West, Jonas Nay, Maria Schrader, Ulrich Noethen, Sylvester Groth, Sonja Gerhardt, Ludwig Trepte, Alexander Beyer, Lisa Tomaschewsky, Carina Wiese, Jens Albinus, Nikola Kastner

Deutschland 83: an East German foot soldier is sent to the West as an undercover spy to monitor the military, NATO, and carry out bespoke missions. I usually avoid lazy comparisons, but for simplicity, think The Americans or Homeland, with a younger & more naïve lead – and leveled at a younger audience. The show boasts a lot of inter-connected small and larger stories packed in to the 8 episodes, which helps to develop and justify each of the supporting cast members, and gives most of them some time in the spotlight. For the most part the acting is solid, nobody stands out as being rubbish. Set in 1983 (shock!) the period detail is very interesting, and arguably the biggest draw of the show: not just the nostalgic items on-screen or the dominating era-specific pop soundtrack, but differences between the East/West, and other background stuff from like the AIDS epidemic and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. Unfortunately, the ending’s a bit too open-ended for such a dense and small slice of the Cold War; like one of the fat cat producers hoped they’ll be making Deutschland ’85 and ’87 in the near future. The only thing that bugged me was the lack of clarity regarding time: the lead transformed from a rookie footsoldier to a stone-cold, poon-slaying, espionage-master overnight, and some of the stories lurched forward days and weeks with no real indication. Overall, Deutschland ’83 is an impressive high-budget, well-acted, fascinating and entertaining drama; it’s maybe not quite as good as the hype (it’s the most successful foreign TV show in UK history!), but it’s a solid show, and another positive step towards the HBOification of Eurpean TV.

Score: 7/10

Deutschland 83 ARMY BROS, Jonas Nay, Maria Schrader, Ulrich Noethen, Sylvester Groth, Sonja Gerhardt, Ludwig Trepte, Alexander Beyer, Lisa Tomaschewsky, Carina Wiese, Jens Albinus, Nikola Kastner

 

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NEKRomantik 2 The Return of the Loving Dead, Poster Jorg Buttgereit, Monika M., Mark Reeder, Decapitation, Necrophilia,

NEKRomantik 2: The Return of the Loving Dead – follows a Berliner called Monika who’s torn between two boyfriends: a corpse and a porno-dubbing ‘normal’ guy. This is easily the weirdest and most contradictory film I’ve ever seen: it’s a cine-literate, ultra arthouse picture that  contains more explicit gore, shocks and taboo than the top horror and most notorious exploitation films. It’s stylistically directed, with an increasingly surreal tone, some ‘auteurial’ touches like a 4:3 Academy Ratio, long ‘silent movie’ sections, a musical number, outstanding dolly & time lapse shots, and a film-within-a-film ‘My Dinner with Andre’ parody – director Jorg Buttgereit clearly knows what he’s doing. Not all choices are solid however, most scenes linger on longer than they should (fun fair / zoo), and especially towards the end it feels deliberately slowed down and padded out. Then there’s the small matter of gore and taste: from the opening frame – a grotesque suicide and spunk moment – this is an assault on your senses. Do you want to see a hot chick get off straddling the chest of a slimy grey corpse…or intimately dismember and gut said corpse with a hacksaw… or the skinning, butchering and decapitating of a seal? Then look no further than this. The elongated and graphic nature of these scenes test even the most hardened gore fans, and make it feel like more of an endurance test than a film. It’s a movie so notorious that it was the first film since Nazi Germany to be confiscated and outlawed by the police; it’s clearly the blueprint for Human Centipede 2 – and it’s the only film I’ve seen that surpasses it on the crazy gore spectrum. NEKRomantik 2 is explicit, depravedstomach-turning and completely unforgettable – it could well be the pinnacle of notorious shock cinema.

Score: 6/10 
B-Movie Score: 9/10

NEKRomantik 2 The Return of the Loving Dead, Corpse Jorg Buttgereit, Monika M., Mark Reeder, Decapitation, Necrophilia

As with all of their specials, Arrow have given this the ultimate VIP treatment: a director approved pack with Blu Ray, DVD, OST CD, Postcards, a booklet, and a phenomenal stack of bonus material.

Narcos Pablo Escobar Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, Pedro Pascal, Joanna Christie, Maurice Compte, André Mattos, Roberto Urbina, Stephanie Sigman, Luis Guzman, Juan Pablo Raba

Narcos (Season 1): two D.E.A. agents try to take down the world’s most notorious criminal – Pablo Escobar; a humble weed smuggler who became the wealthiest criminal in history. This feels like a mix between a high-production TV series, and a documentary – with dozens of long sections of expositional dialogue, archive footage, and additional information explaining (in great detail) external factors leading to some of the plot points. Even though this wasn’t particularly slavish to the historical facts; the continual reliance on archive footage makes it feel like it’s handicapping the story to non-fiction only. The ‘Original’ stuff is all brilliantly shot and written: and doesn’t shy away from the nasty side of the drug trade and organised crime; there’s plenty of blood, guts, sex, and violence in here for added authenticity. This is matched by a handful of fantastic lead performances from a cast of relatively unknown actors, who set the screen on fire. In fact, my only real gripe with watching Narcos is trying to figure out how long has passed between scenes – at one point a baby becomes a proper kid in the next scene, but Escobar is still running for election! Season 1 (10 Episodes) covers 43 out of 44 years of Escobar’s life in sufficient detail; leaving the worry that season 2 will be padded out or overly dramatised: 10-12 episodes could have made this a great one-off. Narcos is a gangster / crime epic that’s up there with the best of them: it’s is smart, thoroughly engaging, and truly addictive TV; adding another string to Netflix’s bow. Netflix and Chill? More like Narcos and Kill!!1!11!! AMIRITE?!?

Score: 8.5/10

Narcos Murphy and Pena Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, Pedro Pascal, Joanna Christie, Maurice Compte, André Mattos, Roberto Urbina, Stephanie Sigman, Luis Guzman, Juan Pablo Raba,

Danger 5, Isla, Claire, Jackson, Tucker, Pierre, David Ashby, Natasa Ristic, Sean James Murphy, Amanda Simons, Tilman Vogler, Aldo Mignone, Andreas Sobik, Robert Tompkins, Paul Muscat

Danger 5 (Season 1): a team of Allied super-spies are tasked with stopping Hitler’s various advances in a 1960s interpretation of WWII. With a premise like that, you’d expect the show to be a little bit mental… and it is. The plot lines and characters are insane: it’s a show where a jazz improv band of white-suited apes fighting Nazi dinosaurs & reptiles isn’t just normal, but somehow funny. About half of the major characters have massive animal heads, and nobody seems to speak the same language… but you just roll with it. It has a very unique ‘tapey’ aesthetic, with grain, bad dubbing, Gerry Anderson style miniature sets (locations & action set pieces) and a 60s style surf rock soundtrack – it’s 100% kitsch and kampf. On a comedy level it’s very strong, with good loads of one-off belly laughs, and some cracking running gags like cocktail recipes, Hitler jumping through windows, bad food analogies and bizarre product placement. Although the first few episodes are the strongest the show is consistently funny. Danger 5 is what happens when you draw from a bunch of great TV Shows like Archer, Thunderbirds, The Young Ones (and throw in a pinch of Iron Sky). If you’re after a raunchy, risqué, alternative / subversive comedy packed with b-movie gore, sexy damsels, and – most importantly – laughs by the truckload, look no Führer than this. Pure cult TV that will undoubtedly snowball for years to come.

Score: 9/10

Danger 5, Isla, Claire, Jackson, Tucker, Pierre, David Ashby, Natasa Ristic, Sean James Murphy, Amanda Simons, Tilman Vogler, Aldo Mignone, Andreas Sobik, Robert Tompkins, Paul Muscat,2 Danger 5, Isla, Claire, Jackson, Tucker, Pierre, David Ashby, Natasa Ristic, Sean James Murphy, Amanda Simons, Tilman Vogler, Aldo Mignone, Andreas Sobik, Robert Tompkins, Paul Muscat,3

Episode Titles

I Danced For Hitler

Lizard Soldiers Of The Third Reich

Kill-Men Of The Rising Sun

Hitler’s Golden Murder Palace

Fresh Meat For Hitler’s Sex Kitchen

Final Victory

Danger 5, Isla, Claire, Jackson, Tucker, Pierre, David Ashby, Natasa Ristic, Sean James Murphy, Amanda Simons, Tilman Vogler, Aldo Mignone, Andreas Sobik, Robert Tompkins, Paul Muscat,4

Searching for Sugarman Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman, Dennis Coffey, Mike Theodore, Dan DiMaggio, Steve Rowland, Willem Möller, Ilse Assmann, Clarence Avant, Rodriguez, Sixto Rodriguez

Searching for Sugarman:  two South African super-fans document their search for information on their illusive musical hero – Rodriguez. As a narrative, the documentary plays it’s hand perfectly – the first half is low-key, indie, explaining (and perhaps slightly exaggerating) the legend: second half is uplifting and fascinating. Rumours of Sugar Man’s on-stage suicide: self-immolation, gunshot, overdose… quite the bizarre list. Naturally, the film is crammed with the music of Rodriguez, which has a timeless quality – no references, all universal themes, feelings and descriptions – also helps that they’re decent tunes. Up until the halfway point I was having some suspicions as it mainly consisted of a few fans and label bigwigs talking about his talent; name-dropping comparisons of popularity and talent with Dylan, Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Elvis etc etc. In the second-half however, you can’t help but smile when you see the footage of his ‘Anvil Moment‘ and realise that he’s a genuine star in S Africa, it’s electrifying. The majority of the footage is well-shot, with some lovely animations and city-scape footage – although there’s several strange shots of him struggling through Detroit weather while the crew film him from a car crawling alongside. Where the film falls down, and prevents it being great (like the aforementioned Anvil) is that it focuses far more on the legend and backstory of Rodriguez, rather than spending quality on-screen time with him. Searching for Sugar Man is a very good documentary: especially as an eye-opening look at the music industry before the digital age, Wikipedia and so forth.

Score: 7.5/10

Searching for Sugar Man Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman, Dennis Coffey, Mike Theodore, Dan DiMaggio, Steve Rowland, Willem Möller, Ilse Assmann, Clarence Avant, Rodriguez, Sixto Rodriguez

Found him, LOL!!!

Blue Valentine: full-circle relationship drama focusing on a young all-American couple. This one’s independent to the core: indie Soundtrack, lo-fi visuals, handheld camcorder / shaky vibe – R-Gos even busts out a ukulele for a serenade at one point, in a scene that’s sweet enough to give you diabetes, or cringe-worthily comparable to dental work – depending on your stance.  If there ever was a film aimed specifically at Noah and the Whale / Modest Mouse fans… this is it. The story itself is uncompromisingly banal, refusing to go anywhere, and with the indie style, it feels more like a fly-on-the-wall than drama in parts. Chronologically shuffled, it bounds between timeframes, making the mood warm and fuzzy, then ice cold, then fuzzy again… Despite a dull, mumbly script Gosling and Williams are the only aspects that kept me watching; they clock in some serious dramatic mileage through the convincing everyman/everywoman relationship scenarios. Overall, this is a tough one to rate: Blue Valentine wants to be rooted in the real world, yet it’s cast two beautiful Hollywood stars; it wants to be crushingly realistic  yet has a rose-tinted cinematic romanticism outlook. Rarely does a film hang so heavily, or rely so much on two people, and in this case, two solid performances couldn’t make this special.

Score: 4.5/10

The Front Line (a.k.a. Battle of Highlands): a lieutenant is sent to the front line to investigate potential betrayal and espionage among the South Korean army. The main plot point is as compelling as you could ask for in a War film: North and South Korea sacrificing over 50,000 soldiers to continually fight over one ‘strategic’ hill that would shape the border when the country is divided – control of the hill flipped between North/South over 30 times during the Korean War, it’s unbelievable. Interestingly, it’s politically neutral – there’s no ‘bad guys’ as both sides are painted as simply following the mad orders from above. The battle scenes are scarily realistic and intense, peaking in a brutal, heartbreaking, final 25 minutes, as the story takes one last turn. The performances are solid, soldiers come across as realistic & human, and are developed enough that you care about them – there’s more emotion than most war movies, although there are points where it’s tipped into manipulative melodrama. This also helps the impact of the toll of war on these guys; shell shock / injuries / senseless violence / limb-loss. The side-story about the box used to swap supplies is also a nice touch. There’s not much colour in the movie, grey, greens and white snow are about as bright as it gets, and there’s a hammy song repeated several times, but they’re minor complaints.The Front Line delivers everything required of a war picture, and can easily stand up there alongside Assembly as the best Asian War films I’ve seen.

Score: 7.5/10

44 Inch Chest [Blu Ray]: a man is left shattered when his wife walks out on him, so he and some unsavory friends kidnap Casanova and figure out how to best resolve the situation. Instantly obvious is the unimaginable level of crass language and nasty homophobic terms oozing from your speakers for the duration… it’s almost too much, yet it provides a strangely soothing and lyrical/rhythmic effect when intertwined with the cockney rhyming slang script. It also somehow feels genuine and integral to the situation and characters. With a strong play-like feel (long scenes, one main setting, and dips in and out of pretentiousness) it’s very much an ‘actor’s film’, and each cast member gets your undivided attention to shine at some point. The breakdown of the main character means you’re never really sure what’s real and what’s not, which is also a bit surreal. I’ve never really rated Ray Winstone as more than a typecast, but this absolutely ripped my heart out – his eyes and the speech about love being a hard graft are as good as it gets. McShane easily has the best character, best flashback and most room for fun; which he clearly laps up. There’s some lovely black comedy, and great usage of cinematic tropes – particularly music to manipulate. The BD picture and sound are average, although the content’s not really HD worthy. More than anything else, 44 Inch Chest the tale of a broken hard man being challenged by several stereotypes of stock British gangster characters – which keeps it interesting for the duration. Because of the off kilter tone and excessive offensive language you can’t safely recommend this, although it could well be one of the best sleeper hits you’ll ever see… I guess time will tell.

Score: 7/10

The North Face: follows several climbing teams in a 1936 race to tackle the The Eiger’s deadliest ascent (literally nicknamed “murder wall” in German). Even on a TV shots of the Eiger render you speechless – when you see the sheer, menacing vertical monster of a cliff face, and picture anyone trying to climb it, it’s nothing short of madness. The historic setting is done well, and packs an additional punch when you see the basic clothing and equipment climbers used back in the day. With this setting and a ‘proper’ orchestrated soundtrack (+ cabaret piano songs!) it’s got a sorely missed ‘classic film’ vibe that you rarely see these days. The film takes about one hour of average backstory to properly get going, but once the ascent has begun the second hour is nothing short of nail-biting superbity. It would have done well to focus solely on the climbing, and leave the journalism side-story out of the picture – the leading female seems happy to risk two life-long best friends for a minor career advancement… just gives that story a silly vibe. Despite being a tad on the long side, The North Face is a great watch, and a fascinating / unbelievable true story.

Score: 7/10

Matador: a struggling salesman and troubled hitman meet in a bar… no it’s not a joke! First thing’s first, Brosnan absolutely owns this film as an alcoholic, borderline psychopathic, burn-out, jaded, lonely, vulgar assassin with homosexual undertones, including a wicked tache and fashion sense. He is nothing short of pure entertainment, with great comedy timing and black comedy vibe, effortlessly creating an unforgettable character. Greg Kinnear’s also rock solid, and plays the straight-laced guy perfectly – because there’s only two mains they’re both fleshed out well. There’s a great off-kilter tone throughout and it harks back to the classic screwballs – which keeps the film interesting. Visually, it’s delightful with lots of bright colours, tourist-friendly cinematography and some unique direction. There’s a few great songs masterfully inserted too. Of all the decent things that Broz has ever done, this is the one film that put him up for a Golden Globe – make sure you see why! Bottom line, it’s a well-made, very funny, black screwball comedy with two great characters at the centre.

Score: 8.5/10

A Single Man: [Blu Ray] – Follows an over-educated, depressed homosexual suicidal lecturer! The role could have been totally melodramatic Oscar Bait, but was played realistically by Firth. Stunning performance, well-earned gongs. He’s simply great to watch, and is the intense focus of every scene. The colouring / sound mix playfully tweaks with what you see and hear for around the first hour, but by the end it’s overused with some ridiculous gray = sad / colour = happy scenes. For being such an intense story, it’s very slow burning – with a few dramatic peaks to keep staleness at bay – I feel the drama could have been milked a little more. It’s undoubtedly well directed; every shot is stylish and looks cinematic, even scenes like a man on the toilet! The Blu Ray isn’t very watchable: much of the film has a stylistic (read as: shitty) diffusion / grain to the picture to set the era and tone. Overall, it’s quite a plain non-eventful story, boosted by a brilliant central performance.

Score: 6.5/10


Amores Perros: three separate stories brought together through a nasty car crash, with love being the common theme. Gritty doesn’t come close to describing this; with dog fighting, robbery, murder, abortion, and crazy hobbos all brought up in the first 20 minutes… definitely not for kids. The three stories of a wayward youth, fashion model and homeless guy are all fantastic, and the acting couldn’t be any better. Even though he’s the hardest to like, the hobbo‘s story is still my favourite as it’s nothing short of a dramatic roller coaster.  The filming style further intensifies each story making it even more raw, and visceral. Although dogs play a large role in all three stories this definitely not a film for dog-lovers… particularly in the last act, heartbreaking. What Amores Perros boils down to is simply pure storytelling with no tricks, low blows or grand budget. Inarritu creates an extraordinary set of circumstances woven through a cast of fleshed out, realistic characters. Dramatic, moving, powerhouse.

Score: 9/10

JSA: Joint Security Area: focuses on the investigation after a fatal shooting at the highly sensitive North/South Korean border. The police-procedural investigation element is done very well, and as the story unfolds you’re drying to find out what really happened. It also does a good job of explaining the tensions between North & South Korea and most interestingly – shows a neutral account from both sides. The two main solders are outstanding Byung-Hun / Kang-ho; I couldn’t recommend both their filmographies enough. From Park Chan Wook, this is a sensational international debut, well-shot, showing a master craftsman in the youth of his career. The final shot is phenomenal, smart and pretty unforgettable. I’m glad this was made with ‘global’ in mind, aiding its travel and success – some English dialogue and title cards etc. The sleeping on the job / army bromance goes a little too far, but other than that, the film is a great drama piece, with characters that you fully invest in. Perhaps it’s that we only get the best released in the UK, but I genuinely believe that South Korea has some of the best talent in the film industry both in front of – and behind – the camera, and this is a great example.

Score: 7.5/10

Mad Men (Season 1): Follows Don Draper, an advertising manager in New York circa 1960s. This is critically acclaimed beyond belief, universally loved, and is currently in its fifth season… To me however, this is less of a TV Drama and more of a banal, prolonged observation on the changes in attitudes, taboo, what was acceptable, and foolish ‘it will never take off’ hindsight comments: including but not limited to –

  • Male chauvinism / alpha male
  • Racism
  • Debunking psychology and technology
  • Smoking 100 cigarettes a day, wherever you want
  • The crazy mind of women – lol!!!
  • Drinking at work
  • Rampant adultery
  • Ignorance
  • Drink driving
  • Smoking / drinking while pregnant
  • Smacking (other people’s) kids – and general bad parenting
  • Houswifery

The main character is Don Draper; a distant man who seems to be living the American nightmare in picturesque suburbia, which he makes up for by putting his tongue and dick in anything he can. He’s an asshole of a colleague, as sexist as they come and appears to have suicidal thoughts. I also seem to be the only person in the world that thinks Hamm can’t act… For being 13 episodes long nothing really happened; I could find more drama in walking to the shops and back than there was in 585 minutes of season 1. Every time something interesting or remotely dramatic occurred it was diffused and mellowed out within 2 minutes. It didn’t help that there was zero non-diegetic / atmospheric music. It’s technically proficient, a good insight into marketing, and the heavy focus on values is interesting to a point. Maybe married people can sympathise with Draper’s situation more? Maybe it’s got the nostalgia factor for those that grew up in the 60s/70s? But for whatever reason, I can genuinely say that Mad Men was one of the worst TV show’s I’ve watched.

Score: 2.5/10


City Island: Centers ’round a prison guard correctional officer that secretly wants to become an actor, and many other secrets within his dysfunctional family. Despite being a family-based ‘comedy of errors’ (which should be boring by now) this totally works, mostly because of its brilliant little story, that remains interesting, and never loses the pace. It’s also funnier than a lot of all-out ‘comedies’, with a whole heap of scenes and jokes that range from observational to the absurd, to the cringey – peaking in a fantastic audition, and final 15 minutes. Although you usually watch actors trying play inexperienced actors through your fingers Garcia plays a total blinder here, going the full range and nailing every scene. Everyone else in the film is also great, nobody lets the side down. The only minor downer is the convenient-yet-convoluted plot – although the film needs it, and it does work itself out in the end. There’s also a bizarre feeder/BBW side story that isn’t 100% utilised or wrapped up. City Island will no doubt prove to be a sleeper DVD hit, as it’s an absolute stunner of an indie gem, that strikes a great balance between natural comedy and emotive moments.

Score: 8/10

Licence to Kill: on his wedding day Felix Leiter’s runs into some trouble. When the CIA or MI6 don’t want to pursue the case, Bond goes dark and has to infiltrate a drug cartel to avenge his long-time friend and partner, who’s bailed 007 out over the years more than he’s ever given credit for!

I'll take your feeble car-wheelie and raise you, Moore!

It’s quite unfortunate that the next film was delayed for so long, rendering this Dalton’s last appearance by default. He gets a hard time for only having two films, but given that he turned down the first offer some 20 years prior to The Living Daylights and got shafted by a rights war at the other end, he’s definitely the unluckiest actor to play Bond. As mentioned before I think he’s great, and this film has my favourite Dalton moment, when he shouts at the Bond girl “Ya bloody luckey ta be alyve!!” Fantastic accent lapse! The also has a toughness lapse at the end when he turns all gooey and gets the girl.

"Are you sanchez? No? Are you sanchez? No!? But I... I am Sanchez!"

There’s two great bad guys at the table here; Sanchez (Davi) and his right-hand runt man Dario (Del Toro) – and being honest, even if these guys were to glide around the scenes in bright pink suits they’d still be absolute badasses. Unlike previous villains these guys don’t just look the like nasty pieces of work; they carry out of the most brutal and often senseless murders of all the movies. True to the 1980s, their story is essentially America’s ‘War on Drugs’ put on the big screen – spookily foretelling a similar story to real criminals like Pablo Escobar.

Toilets are over there gringo

The bottom line in Licence to Kill is that when you pit the darkest James Bond against two of the most ruthless villains, it can only mean one thing – a bloody corpsemageddon!!

Even though he helps terrorists, this guy could smile his way to safety

There’s not a lot of balls-to-the-wall action, but when it rolls round it’s handled expertly and stylishly done; particularly the barfight (even though it’s a little Airplane! there’s some cool bits) and the final 20 minutes – peaking with the coolest multiple uses of 18-wheelers known to man – are absolutely fantastic to watch; just stunt after stunt after stunt punctuated with massive (real) explosions.

KABOOM!!! Looks a lot better than CGI explosions

This is the first film that’s fully an out-and-out revenge-driven story, and that’s why it’s one of the better plots. There’s very little backup, and Bond has to rely more on his smarts than anything else. He gets into some pretty hairy situations too, and watching him escape or get bailed out is just a little edgier knowing that the cavalry isn’t just around the corner.

Q's supposed to be on holiday... yet still has Bond's back. What a guy!

Other delightful portions of Licence to Kill are: the plane fishin’ scene at the start, manta ray disguise, cutting edge computers that made ‘CD-ROMs’ look tiny, everyone smoking furiously, and Felix himself being scarily calm considering that he’d just lost is better half (and lower half).

Felix getting a bum deal in the shark pen

This is easily one of the better Bond films and one with the most clout, not just because it’s dark and violent, but because it’s the most grounded Bond picture to date. The mix of a gripping story, believable characters and well-made action is a truly explosive combo. Finally, there’s Dalton, who’s not just a great Bond in his own right, but reiterated the darker side of the worlds best spy, a side that Brosnan and Craig would both use to their advantage. Criminally underrated film.

Score: 7.5/10

Knife to the head... not the best first date 007's ever had. Nor the worst...

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: Sanchez – ruthless escobarian guy. Soft spot for ‘loyalty’ though. 8
Henchmen: Switchblade Dario – pretty nasty smile / Killfer (bent cop) / Milton (sailor moustace). 7
Action: shootout and ‘plane fishin’ / underwater fight / Barfight / Grinder / Tankers. 8
Babes: Ginger toy boy exec secretary – boys haircut / Sanchez’s deceitful girlfriend – eyebrows. 7

Bond daydreaming... probably about shooting someone in the face. Let's hope Dalton one day gets proper recognition for his time with the PPK

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Dr. No: Britain’s best spy James Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of another agent, when he uncovers a more sinister plot. The first thing we see is Bond’s silhouette crossing the screen then going for ‘the gun barrel shot’, followed by the unmistakable Bond credits.

The now famous gun barrel shot, which opens up every movie

Opening credit silhouette - another hallmark of the films - no nudity in this one

I always wonder if anyone could have known how iconic these scenes would become. As the first film in the series Dr. No does a superb job of delivering a rock solid spy story, while simultaneously setting up the franchise potential by introducing the main people, themes & concepts: Bond, Double O’s, M, Moneypenny, SPECTRE, PPK, exotic locations, universal exports, quips, action, car chases, licence to kill, fights, exploding cars, theme song, Spectre, alcoholism, espionage and boner-inducing bond girls. Bond himself bursts on to screen embodying suaveness, ingenuity, Britishness, intellect, sex appeal, and – of course – sexism!

Bond's entrance, the epitome of cool

We also quickly come to realise that only in a Bond film would you find great and believable gadgets/technology, but the most lenient use of scientific principals like gravity and radiation! There’s a few glaring continuity errors, but that’s another aspect of the films that we’ve all grown to love. Given that this was made in 1962 the film still stands up well today as a touchstone for the genre. While it’s primarily a detective story backed up by a little action, it’s still a great way to open up the series, and the idea of a ‘secret agent’ film.

Score: 7/10

Honey Rider's entrance - still to be topped

TOP TRUMPS

Villain: Dr No – Crushing metal hands & general megalomaniac – solid, archetypal villain. 8
Henchmen: Asian secretary Spy and the Marine Biologist – weak line up. 3
Bond Girl: Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) with the most iconic entrance of any character in the series – Hubba Hubba – 10
Action: Car Chase, several attempted murders, fake dragon, villains base destroyed – more would be gratuitous. 5

Dr. No - the first of many megalomaniacs

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Nathalie…: A woman suspects her husband is having an affair so she pays a prostitute to seduce him and tell her everything… yes, that’s how the French do it! You’ve probably noticed the biggest flaw already; why would you persevere so hard with a serial-cheater husband? At times it starts to feel like an audio-descriptive porno, and when it’s not being racy there’s plenty trivial footage of the characters with no real character development. Fade to blacks are inexplicably overused. There was one good joke, but I doubt it was intentional: Fanny Ardant plays a gynecologist. It’s been re-made by Hollywood as “Chloe” with some big names behind it – Reitman, Neeson and Julianne Moore – although why anyone wanted to re-make it is beyond me. It’s pretty boring, banal and hard to get your head around. Married people: do they all do stuff like that?

Score: 2/10

Charlie Bartlet: Misunderstood and peculiar rich kid gets expelled from private school and has to fit in at a public school; 0 points for originality. Then come the cast, and eclectic cross-section of pupils: suicidal goth, slutty cheerleader, bonehead bully… again 0 points for originality. Bartlett himself is quite corny, his love interest (Kat Dennings) is appears to be incapable of conveying any emotion but Downy Jr is good to watch and unexpectedly calm – until he gets the typical ‘crazy man’ scene. My biggest problem was that this tried to cover too many themes: depression, rebellion, love, parents, popularity, growing up and all the rest but instead of being neatly wound together they were separated and covered 5 minutes at a time. It’s also got one of the most gratuitous boob-shots in history. Nowhere near the same league as the  School/Teen movies: Napoleon Dynamite, American Pie, Ferris Bueller, Fast Times, Mean Girls, Superbad, Rushmore… Reasonably forgettable MTV movie-type affair.

Score: 4/10

The Hurt Locker: (Blu Ray) Disappointing. First off, despite being 130 minutes long no characters develop beyond superficial stock figures: ‘badass old-timer’, ‘young suicidal kid’ and the ‘hot-shot maverick that will get everyone killed’ – it’s also hard to feel anything, let alone sympathy, for someone so reckless and that goes AWOL as often as Will James. The plot’s essentially 5 near-identical bomb situations separated by limp character-building that never really covers new ground. On the other hand, it is well-shot throughout and the tension of each action / bomb-scare does come through in parts; the sniper battle was done well, definitely the highlight of the film. The acting’s also pretty good given how flat the characters were, but it was definitely amplified by the documentary feel. The picture’s alright, but the sound is phenomenal, creating a war-like chaos with the constant background noises – brilliant when coupled with the visual style – worth the upgrade. Overall it was too melodramatic and full of pro-American and pro-army tones for me to begin enjoying it: rock ‘n’ roll loving party-hard soldier turns his back on his family to keep saving the day in Iraq… really? It’s clearly a bit edgy (intimate & gruesome bomb scenes), contemporary (Iraq) and overcomes adversity (female director), hence it’s scooping awards, but for me, it just doesn’t cut the mustard. Look out for Guy Pearce and Ralph Feinnes before they get blown to bits. Is it the ‘best war film in years’? Probably, but with competition like jarhead and The Kingdom it that really saying something?

Score: 5/10

Looking for Eric: ‘realistic’ – aka depressing – tale of a postman and his family as they struggle through a rough patch. Once again the depiction of us ‘regular’ Britons involves a concoction of drugs, booze, cigarettes and guns topped up with a thousand swear words. From a dramatic point of view the film has it’s fair share, but everything else was lacking. The characters were hard to relate to and the mix of swearing & shouting was headache-inducing. It showed how not to handle problems and wasn’t exactly an advert for adoption. Nobody even mentions the possibility that the main guy could be 100% mental. Eric Cantona and his clips on the pitch were the only enjoyable things about the film, and it’s pretty tragic when an ex-footballer out-acts the cast of a feature-length. The relatively happy ending raises the score slightly, but it’s too little too late. Clever marketing is the only thing has made this a commercial success. Fails to hit the back of the net.

Score: 3/10

The Take: based on a Martina Cole novel, this was a 4 part mini-series following the two Gangsters as they rise through the London criminal underworld. From the outset (Kassabian theme song, stock gangster names, and violence accompanied by lame gags) you know it’s not going to be high-brow entertainment. It’s full of over-acting, terrible cockney accents and generic geezers that you’d associate with Danny Dyer / Guy Ritchie films. It started in the early 1980s and ended mid-90’s, leapfrogging months or years at a time, sometimes with little indication. Despite this it was shot well, the original music was great, had moments of drama and although it was fairly predictable, the story does keep you watching. The settings and props were also spot-on. They tried to make it smarter as smart as they could, but it still turned out to be a middle-of-the-road, sensationalised crime tale.

Score: 5/10

Persepolis: animation following an Iranian girl growing up in Teheran and Austria. Although the obvious attraction to this film is its amazing aesthetics – and from the start to finish it’s nothing but amazing – it’s easy to forget that the actual story is so remarkable. Above this the film is quite informative, giving a good background of the modern history of Iran, yet there are so many funny bits to balance out the tragedies and shocks. I’ve not seen anything like this, and was mesmerised for the full 90 minutes. I’d suggest watching this with the French audio and subtitles (unless you won’t be affected by Sean Penn and Iggy Pop doing the English audio… WTF?!?!?) Would recommend this to most people.

Score: 8/10