Saturday, 20 August 2011

BlogalongaBond: Live And Let Die

Way back in 2011, my favourite film critic The Incredible Suit figured out there were exactly the same amount of months preceding the release of Skyfall as there were Bond films. And thus BlogalongaBond was born, in which international film critics from around the world (hence the international bit) reviewed one Bond film a month until Skyfall dropped.

Being the top bloke that I am, I convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to take part in BlogalongaBond with me, seeing as how she hadn't seen a Bond film before, or couldn't remember having done so.

Her: I dug it.

Me: Really?

Her: Yep, best one so far. Hands down.

Me: I enjoyed it too and think it's one of the better Bond films, but I'm intrigued as to why you liked it so much.

Her: It's just great. All the characters are great, the plot makes sense, the action sequences are strong and Roger Moore is an excellent Bond.

Me: You like Moore?

Her: Absolutely. I mean, Sean's hotter, but Roger's perfect in this. He slots in perfectly.

Me: True. From that very first scene, you just accept him as Bond. He seems so comfortable in the role - he has that right blend of suave coolness and physicality that 007 needs.

"Bond. James motherfucking Bond."

Her: Absolutely. When we watched the one with George in it (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) you had to get use to him, but think I just went 'oh yeah, he's Bond' within a matter of minutes of Live And Let Die opening. In fact, I don't think I even thought about it.

Me: He does get a few too many goofy puns though, but that's not his fault and he delivers them pretty well.

Her: Oh yeah, there's still a bit of cheesiness there. But I like Moore already.

Me: Well, just so you know, he's responsible for some of the most poorly regarded Bond films.

Her: Don't tell me that! You're ruining the surprise! La la la, I can't her you!

Me: Sorry. But I did really enjoy Moore's work and I'd rate Live And Let Die as one of the best so far - up there with Goldfinger and Thunderball, maybe just ahead of You Only Live Twice.

Her: I think it's my favourite. But why do you think it's so good?

Me: Well, for starters: Best. Bond theme. Ever.

Her: Is that your sad love of Paul McCartney shining through there?

Me: No. What are you talking about?

Her: Nothing... Paul lover.

Me: Shut up. Look, Paul gets a bad rap for his post-Beatles work, which is totally unfair... I mean, look at Baby, I'm Amazed or Band On The Run... just because he wasn't as edgy as Lennon, but....

Her: Ok, ok, yes, we've all heard your "stop hating on Paul McCartney" speech.

Me: Sorry. But it is the best Bond theme ever. That's a fact.

Her: Whatever. What else do you like about the movie?

Me: I thought the plot was good. Just a bit of good, old-fashioned heroin smuggling. And the film moved along nicely. The boat chase through the bayou perhaps went on for too long - I swear that lasted 20 minutes - but even then it was still enjoyable. Some of those stunts involving the boats sliding across roads and lawns and back into the river were outstanding. But the best stunt has to be Bond running across the crocodiles.

Her: Yeah, that was incredibly cool. Do you think they were all real crocodiles?

Me: The last one was definitely real. I suppose you could fake the other ones, but either way it was very cool.

Her: What about the Bond girls?

Me: I think that in Solitaire and Rosie Carter we have two of the best Bond girls to date. I mean, Jane Seymour's acting was probably a bit sub-par, but both characters were actually interesting and given a bit more to do than just be a bit of tail for 007. Rosie gets a few good lines and funny moments and Solitaire is a really intriguing character who adds more depth to the voodoo side of the film and Kananga's character, while being well fleshed out herself.

Her: Well fleshed out, eh? Wink wink, nudge nudge. Wait a minute, what was wrong with Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman's acting?

"I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war."

Me: I dunno - she just didn't cut it for me. Her delivery, her emotional display... I didn't buy it sometimes. Still - great character.

Her: I thought all the characters and performances were good. Actually, that's probably a contributing factor as to why I liked it so much. I didn't cringe as often... or at all. I thought Felix Leiter was quite good.

Me: And the villians. So many great iconic villians - Kananga, Baron Samedi, Tee Hee, even Whisper. They were all unique and had a sense of danger too them... except Whisper. Although it was pretty damned funny when they blew up his couch.

Her: Ha, yeah! That was great.

Me: So, overall, best Bond film so far?

Her: Undoubtedly! Bring on the next one - I can't wait!

Me: Ah, yeah, about that....

Her: La la la, I can't hear you!

BlogalongaBond will return in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

(M) ★★★★

Director: Rupert Wyatt.

Cast: Andy Serkis, James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton.

"James, we need to talk about your unhealthy passion for Seth Rogen."

AFTER Tim Burton's mis-fired "re-imagining" of the classic Planet Of The Apes in 2001, no one was really clamouring for someone to try again at restarting the saga of a world where primates are superior to humans.

But here we are with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, an unwanted but surprisingly awesome film that either serves as a new origin story or a prequel to the Charlton Heston-starring original, depending how you look at it (or how they screw it all up with a sequel).

Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist working on an Alzheimer's cure by testing it on chimps in the hopes to save his dad's deteriorating mind.

When one of the test subjects goes, ahem, ape droppings, the experiment is closed down and Will makes some rash decisions - he takes home a baby chimp rather than put it down, and begins testing the cure on his father.

If you're wondering how a set-up like this could lead to a chimp-fuelled overthrow of humanity, that's part of the beauty of Rise....

The slow downward spiral of the film from this intriguing starting point is engrossing, especially the way it suddenly flips on you and you realise you're barracking for the apes, not the humans.

For a blockbuster spectacle, it's surprisingly sharp and subtle in places, even if some plot points unravel the more you think about it, particularly the idea that a chimp in a scientific test could be pregnant and give birth without any of the scientists/handlers knowing about it.

But Rise...'s flaws can be largely forgiven because it's hugely entertaining, reasonably intelligent in its story-telling and offers some magical, beautiful and horrifying moments along the way.

The lead ape, Caesar, is a great character, brought to life wonderfully by Serkis and a team of motion-capture boffins, who imbue him with a level of humanity and nobility. The effects, for the most part, are pretty good - as is to be expected in this day and age - and the final rampage of primates versus the police has some undoubtedly cool moments.

Rise... doesn't slavishly reference the previously made Apes movies, getting by with a handful of references, but it does offer one zinger; a "holy crap!" moment revolving around the original film's "get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape" line.

This won't be a classic like the 1968 one but the "wow" feeling that it leaves you with as you exit the cinema makes it well worth the price of admission.