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Casino Jack: the rise and fall of top Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, after his increasingly flaky attempts at influencing politicians lead to some ugly outcomes. It’s quite an interesting story, that’s part drama and part comedy / political satire. The film’s at it’s best when it’s dramatic: both Spacey and Pepper are red-hot, top-drawer, scene stealingly good. The comedy moments cover everything, from solid gags and witty lines all the way down the scale to unnecessary quirk – most annoyingly, Spacey‘s cinephile character bursts in to (some pretty good) cinematic impressions in every second scene. The direction matches what’s on screen, ranging from sensible handling of the dramatic moments, through to playful snappy quick-cuts and comedy timing. While the tone leaps all over the entire spectrum, there’s enough good performances, and moments of drama / satire to keep this watchable and entertaining. Not least, the film’s good for bringing Jack Abramoff, and his insane life story to your attention.

Score: 6.5/10

Rumble in the Bronx: whilst visiting his uncle in New York, Keong fom Hong Kong finds himself in the crosshairs of several gangs. The premise is basic (like the far East’s rebuttal to Black Rain – the West is full of uncivilized, violent punks!), the plot twists are silly and the acting’s borderline woeful, but this film has Jackie Chan; and an on form Jackie Chan of that! The action set pieces are still among the best you can find today; the shop fight, back alley fight, car park chase, and the superb gang den fight… action doesn’t get any better than this: strength, acrobatic skills, timing, planning, intuitive use of space & objects – it’s almost unbelievable. I could genuinely watch these scenes on loop all day and never get bored. The biggest stunts have a timeless jaw-dropping quality, mostly because they’re real and well-edited: you want to pull down a building? Lets build one to demolish! You want a hovercraft/car chase scene? Lets make it happen on real streets! Jackie Chan jumping a large gap between to 10-storey buildings? CGI boring and waste of money! Above the eye-blasting stuntwork there’s a lot of camera-friendly graffiti, clothes, cars, buildings and other such eye candy. There’s a couple of bizarre slapstick scenes that stick out like sore thumbs, but other than that, it’s all gravy. Sure it will never be on a Criterion or AFI “best films of all time” list, but Rumble in the Bronx is entertainment in one of its most pure and watchable forms, and they just don’t make ’em like this any more.

Score: 8/10

Route Irish: named after the most dangerous road in the world, this film follows a soldier‘s family and friend as they try to establish how he died working at a private security firm in Iraq. It’s one of the most directed films I’ve seen in a while, and has Ken Loach all over it – a micro-drama that feels realistic, with a docu-drama TV aesthetic and an unambiguous socio-political viewpoint (all in a good way !). Being ‘Lochean’ it also means that ‘Fuck‘ is every second word and most people prefer to shout in each other’s faces rather than talk. The story’s very strong, and the last half hour in particular is a total powerhouse, peaking during the most intense interrogation scene I can remember watching. Emotions are heightened throughout with some harsh footage of the focal incident, and some unpleasant, genuine war aftermath footage. The small cast are all watchable, although they’re left in the shadow of Mark Womack – who plays a brilliant self-destructing soldier armed with his smarts and an insatiable appetite for the truth. Being a modern anti-war film, it does well to play through a jaded soldier’s perspective – and it doesn’t have many positive things to say about private contractors. Gritty and believable no-holds-barred look at the effects of Iraq back home.

Score: 7.5/10

Goldfinger: 007 is sent to investigate a gold-smuggling operation, but uncovers a much larger plot involving Fort Knox, a nuclear bomb, lethal gas, and a lot of gold bouillon…

Epidermal Suffocation - debatable, but iconic!

It’s impossible to do justice in such a short review, but Goldfinger is  cinematic gold (!!). It’s crammed end-to-end with iconography, from unforgettable imagery through to the timeless – but slightly cheesy – script. The opening scenes where Bond stealthily snorkels behind enemy lines and blows up a secret base (the first proper pre-credits mini mission) sets the tone for Goldfinger, and from there on in the story thunders through until Bond’s capture, when it slows down until the raid on Fort Knox.

Aston Martin - arguably Bond's true sweetheart

Despite almost every scene being recognisable, some of the highlights are; the Aston Martin debut – packed with gadgets, Golf playoff (should be boring!), / Pussy Galore, scuba gear to white tux, ‘shocking’, Laser Scene “Do you expect me to talk”, ticking nuke, Auric and his Gold fetish, explosive decompression, hundreds of collapsing soldiers, Oddjob and his hat, gold body paint…

Goldfinger - Star of the show

Random Task - Oddjob and his current hat

It’s also the pinnacle of Bond’s unbelievable sexist streak – when he condescendingly explains to his female colleague: ‘run along dear, man talk’ then proceeds to give her a massive slap on the arse. They just don’t make ’em like that these days!

As Felix stares on... wrong on so many levels

Another interesting aspect is that of all the physically dominating, power-hungry, and certifiably insane Bond villains we’ve seen over the years, it’s a small, fat (& dubbed) – and in the end, greedy -German that sits up there with the best of them. Despite the film’s greatness some questions are best left unanswered, like why is there a mass of asian labour in the middle of Kentucky? or how did such rubbish gangsters ever make it big (“What’s this?” “Who’s that!?”).

Perhaps the single still that sums up the franchise

The final product is an unforgettable, and near-perfect blend of the two themes that make Bond films great; mystery-thriller and large-scale action. Fantastic as a stand-alone film, and one of the highlights of the franchise.

Score: 8/10

Pussy Galore - proof that even lesbians digg Bond

TOP TRUMPS

Villain: Auric Goldfinger – Golf, Gold and laser-loving menace. 9
Henchmen: Oddjob – Silent but violent. 9
Bond Girl: Pussy Galore / Masterton Sisters – three’s a crowd. 8
Action: Car chase, opium explosion, golf, long Fort Knox fight. – 7

Still haven't seen a game of golf this tense

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