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Misfits (Season 2): 7 episodes: our favourite gang of reprobates are back to carry out more community service and save the day using their bizarre set of superpowers. Compared to season one, the biggest difference is that this is far darker, grittier, and a helluva lot sexier! Most importantly, it’s still quite fresh, the episodes are interesting and there’s some legs left in the story – a credit to the writers. It’s more emotionally drawing, because we know the characters better, and a 6th staple (Craig Parkinson) is added as the new probation worker. The overall tone remains youthful and contemporary (drugs, raves, slang etc). Each episode plays well on its own, with a few longer story arcs and it ends on such a cliffhanger that they couldn’t – and didn’t – pass up the chance at a third season. The soundtrack’s still massive indie/dance rock tunes, and production reaches new heights and it looks fantastic. The only weird thing is that as the body count reaches double figures the kids remain unphased! Not much else to say on this other than they kept the winning formula of season one but added even more crazy the stuff that keeps you tuning in. More great British TV programming.

Score: 8/10

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...

 

District 13: It’s the near future and entire urban areas of an unstable Paris are walled off to contain the scum! From the very first frame, this film’s an insane mix of athleticism, action, martial arts and physical prowess. The jaw-dropping breakneck action is complemented spectacularly with ultra-slick editing (that show’s every single jump clearly from start to finish) and pounding Euro techno/grime music. While the action’s totally nuts, it ends up being used quite sparsely and never really surpasses the opening chase scene. Much of the run-time is beefed up with huge sections of socio-political story, clearly rooted in modern France, which makes the story pretty believable. Despite there being no ‘real’ actors everyone’s good to watch and the two main guys in particular are solid – the theory Vs reality angle makes for some great back-and-forth. The style and feel are 100% gritty, urban, French and in-yer-face. Everything’s aimed at the guys, from the uber macho gangsters right down to the grotesque super sports cars. With the Taken director behind the camera and Luc Besson as producer you’re in good hands here, and although this goes down in most people’s books as ‘that parkour film’ it shouldn’t be overlooked, as District 13 winds up being a very enjoyable, solid action flick with remarkable stunts and a worthy & interesting story to match.

Score: 7/10