Tag Archives: Bond

Cinema Parad-iz-o

IMG_1619The flickering light in the darkness, the giant images, the noise from all around, once it grabs you the power of the cinema never lets you go. It certainly never did for me, first cutting my cinematic going teeth on Spiderman Strikes Back in the late 70s, a time when people could still smoke in the cinema (I used to marvel how it all used to gather and gravitate toward the path of the projector) and time before Um Bongo adverts (they drink it in the Congo don’t you know).

Walking down the dimly lit main corridor before going through the screen doors – it was lit like the corridors in Westworld – I had the same feeling I got building inside when I’m entering for a new Bond film, walked into Universal – it was like the slow mo The Right Stuff moment.

Now it was my daughter’s time to enter into the darkness and light of the cinema screen, her first trip, a defining moment as – like James Spader when he puts his face into the Stargate – she entered into the auditorium and another world, the world of movies.

As we passed through the double doors into the momentary darkness a tracking shot followed Iz until the seemingly inert grey rectangle screen opened to us and revealed the whole cinema. Suitably epic in scope – cinema scope – we entered just as a suite from Lord of the Rings kicked into motion. For a moment it was as if it was only playing in my head. As we took to the climb to our stairs and to our seats, to Gladiator, it couldn’t have been better choreographed by Danny Boyle. We had arrived and Isabelle’s cinema experience had just faded in…

Smash cut to Iz sat happily in her seat and happily mixing the genres of popcorn and Cadbury’s buttons as they nestled melting atop her sweet popcorn sat between Sarah and I. I’d always wanted Isabelle’s first cinematic experience to be one that meant something, one that was deemed a classic film, as I’d foreshadowed in a blog entry before Iz was born as I think these moments can be life-defining. Here is that very entry, With Great Parental Power Comes Great Cinematic Responsibility.

As such, and because we didn’t quite know whether she was ready for the big screen treatment, we took Iz to the Saturday morning kid’s club screening of Finding Nemo at the Empire Cinema at Basildon Festival Leisure Park. Fittingly she even took to a ‘submarine’ before we went into the screen.

 

Needless to say Iz loved the whole experience and she may have got a little restless towards the close of the film but she really loved it and gasped and jumped and laughed at all the right places and it was just great to be able to share that moment with her. I think I was probably watching her and her reactions as much as I was the film.

IMG_1624As with all good films, it came to an end all too quickly. As we returned, bleary eyed, back into the daylight of our world we were greeted by cardboard standees of Mike and Sully advertising Monsters University. Iz happily posed with the pair, already being a big fan of the first film, already sowing the seeds of the sequel to her first cinematic experience.

The Force is with them: Disney buy Lucasfilm and are set to return to the Jedi in 2015

With the news of the Walt Disney Company buying up Lucasfilm and announcing a brand new Star Wars trilogy it would appear that as Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker at the end of the original Star Wars, and in turn us the audience, ‘the force will be with you…always’. How right the old bearded fella was.
 
You’ve got to feel at least a little bit sorry for all those folk who have only just shelled out for Star Wars (yet again) when it was released on bluray.
 
You’d almost be forgiven for thinking that someone was playing some serious Jedi mind tricks when the news was first unleashed. It was more a case of what Disney? rather than Walt Disney when it was announced last night of the sale of Lucasfilm to the house of mouse for 4.5 billion dollars.
 
That’s more than enough money to fill a sarlacc pit. And that’s not all, laugh it up fuzzball, as Disney then went on to announce that it was slating a new Star Wars for 2015 release, followed by two more after that with Lucas on board as Creative Consultant.
 
As Darth Vader might say: whhhhhhaaaaat!!!
 
Unsurprisingly, that news sent much of the internet and social media into something of a spin and attracted more postings and comments quicker than a death star with its tractor beam on full power.
 
So, was the move by Lucas and Disney right?
 
Certainly, if the stock exchange were open I’d love to see the impact on the Disney share price.
 
They have amassed quite an Empire now, if you’ll pardon the pun, with Marvel, the classic Disney back catalogue, Pixar, and not forgetting The Muppets, all now part of their ranks.
 
Strike them down and they will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine
 
It’s all a far cry from the late 70s when everyone was attempting to jump onto the Star Wars band wagon, Disney itself adding The Black Hole into the mix, which did just that in terms of box office takings, disappeared into a black hole. Other similar sci-fi and fantasy fare from Disney, such as Dragonslayer, Tron and even the animated The Black Cauldron – all with Star Wars undertones in one way or another – all tanked.
 
Certainly its offerings under the Marvel banner, such as The Avengers, have all struck CP30 coloured gold, as did The Muppets reboot, a franchise harking from the late 70s that had also lost its way.
 
But then we come to Disney’s John Carter from earlier this year. In theme and feel it was very much pitched as a Star Wars adventure for a new generation. The till receipts suggested otherwise and it was last seen heading not to Mars but straight into the mouth of that very same Disney black hole.
 
Disney might have a slippery Hoth glacier to climb with fans expectations, but Lucas himself has left the franchise in something of a state and to be fair the quality control rot had been there since…well, a long time ago. You only have to look as far as the Star Wars Holiday Special, The Battle for Endor and Caravan of Courage and of course multiple elements from the prequels, which, rather fittingly, were a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes as Lucas couldn’t see the woods – or should that be words – for the trees.
 
That was the past, so what of the future?

Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels must be sat somewhere waiting for their phones to ring, and who can blame them.
 
In some way shape or form it would be nice if there was a passing of the baton, or should that be lightsaber, from elements of the old cast to the new one. Perhaps even David Prowse might see a way back of sorts, after he and Lucas had a major falling out.
 
It may all be set a long time ago but the reality is that 2015 is not far, far away which suggests that the studio is already some way down the Episode 7 road.
 
Perhaps it will be direct continuation based on the critically and commercially well-received Timothy Zahn novels with followed the Star Wars children as it were.
 
Who knows, Harrison Ford may even get his wish and have Han Solo killed off, just as he wanted in Return.

The purchase of Lucasfilm also raises a multitude of exciting questions and possibilities.
 
What does this mean for the much mooted Star Wars TV series?
 
Does this purchase also include LucasArts and could that mean a Monkey Island film in the not too distant future?
 
For that matter, with Marvel and Lucasfilm under one mouse eared roof could a Howard the Duck reboot be on the cards. I’m not saying it should, just asking.
 
The Henson and Lucas link could of course mean a belated Labyrinth sequel could be a possibility. It has been a long time since the original but look at Tron Legacy and The Dark Crystal follow up is already in the works.
 
Does the Lucasfilm sale have any impact on that other Lucas series, Indiana Jones?
 
The possibilities for related rides etc will be endless at the already well established global Disney parks. It could even be something that emulates the success of the Harry Potter Tour.
 
One other thing, will filming, like it did for the original trilogy, return to the UK?
 
We won’t even mention Jar Jar.

The Return of the Jedi and other characters

Disney might now well be running the bucket of bolts that is star wars but you can be sure, despite the clunky prequels, that this first new film will be no goofy movie (that was Phantom) and that this new trilogy will make the jump to box office lightspeed on, surely, May 4th 2015.
 
Even if it will be without that Alfred Newman 20th Century Fox fanfare, something which has become as synonymous with the franchise as that word crawl, but then moving studios hasn’t done Bond any harm.

Stars in Their Iz: Quantum of Solace

Okay, so she is minus the high powered automatic weopon and the Saville Row suit but Isabelle still manged to echo the poster for the last Bond flick, Quantum of Solace as she had a whale of a time on Southend beach last Friday.

Admittedly I don’t recall Daniel Craig moments later picking up a hand full of stones and then relish throwing them up in the air or then to try to proceed to eat them.

Independence Day

It’s over an astounding 15 years since giant shadows cascaded across our cinema screens and Independence Day was unleashed upon the world. In that time it’s been easy to deride this sci-fi epic but as alien invasions go they have never looked so stunning. In fact, it’s fair to say that any alien invasion movie since (or before for that matter) cannot fail to be compared.

Essentially it’s very much War of the Worlds meets Irvin Allen-esque menagerie of characters – mostly cardboard – but played by a host of recognisable actors. So far so Earthquake or The Towering Inferno with aliens, and like those films the main leads are oh so engaging, in this case Bill, Will and Jeff (essentially the same character as he played in Jurassic Park). But, to be fair, as witty as we find Mr Smith exclaiming he is going to “whoop ETs ass”, what we’ve really paid our money for is to see the wanton death and destruction.

And boy, does it deliver that in spades, especially with perhaps the most iconic shot of 90s cinema, the obliteration of the White House. Of course, shots such as that and the destruction of several other buildings take on a whole new meaning in this post 9/11 world.

ID4 was uber American gung ho. It was a different time with a different President. Post Iraq and post 9/11 it’s a world that, rather ironically, looks completely alien. It’s as if it was a much simpler time ‘back then’. And although some of the dialogue (thank you Mr Smith) was trite in places you can’t deny the power and force of the President’s speech before the final (Star Wars-esque) run at one of the saucers.

Sure, we had seen giant saucers before, most notably in V some 12 years earlier, but never with such foreboding and with such aplomb, what with the giant clouds and those introductory shadows, Emmerich doing for UFOs what Spielberg did for sharks and not showing the audience until he absolutely had to, ramping up that alien fear factor to 11. The music is a bravo score by David Arnold, in his pre Bond days and hot off scoring duties from another Emmerich sci-fi epic, Stargate.

Just like those 70s disaster movies that it so perfectly emulates, the film also has that nice old skool Hollywood feel to it as the special effects were still very much in the early days of digital effects so many of the memorable moments, such as the White House exploding and fire raging through the city were done as practical effects so look real because, well, they were.

Far from a perfect film, with its clichés galore and film lore of dog evading certain death (that leap in the tunnel is great though) it is pretty much the perfect example of a summer blockbuster. It’s dumb, but dumb with style, but plenty of fun. Certainly compared to some of the efforts we’ve seen in recent years it could even be argued it’s not even that dumb.

Some of the characters are weak in places but there are so many of them, or they are snuffed out so soon, that it doesn’t really matter. Some of the jumps in logic defy, well logic, but it all works together, it all gels and above all else it makes you come out of a screening feeling that little bit more alive. No pun intended, but even after all these years, and numerous films filled with digital pokery, the film is still, rather fittingly, a huge visual feast of a blast that provides plenty of bang(s) for your buck.

Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich tried pretty much the same trick with Godzilla a couple of years later, but this time round the lightning in the bottle just couldn’t be recaptured, so it was certainly more than about hurling cash at the screen in the form of impressive special effects.

The marketing campaign was also something of a masterstroke, almost preparing us as if there were an actual alien invasion, with great posters and trailer campaign (with great use of Hans Zimmer’s score from Crimson Tide), complete with the destruction of the White House first being unleashed on an unsuspecting audience during the Super Bowl. Now, that’s how to grab attention!

There’s long been a mooted ID42 and post Iraq, post 9/11, post Transformers and Emmerich’s other disaster epics, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, it would certainly be interesting to see what they did next and if any of the original characters were involved. Certainly it would need a return from Smith, Paxton (as President obviously now retired) and Goldblum.

The sequel might not be invading theatres anytime soon but the 3D version of Independence Day (duck at that fire truck rolling through the air) is scheduled to set the world – along with box office tills – on fire sometime next year. Technically that’s ID43D then!

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour has sets appeal Part 1

In three parts, unlike the eight  films, join us as we experience the Warner Bros Studio Tour London and The Making of Harry Potter…

Friday 13th, unlucky for some and you don’t get much unluckier than Harry Potter whose parents were killed when he was a baby, he then found himself living with the despicable Dursleys and even had his mentor die. The same can’t be said for Daniel Radcliffe of course, whose just been announced to be worth £48 million, lucky chap.

We were lucky though as well, not that lucky, but we did have tickets for the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, only two weeks after its official opening.

The Tour is based at Leavesden Studios, Watford, just off junction 20 on the M25 and is the filmic home of the Harry Potter series, so although Florida may have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this is the place where the magic actually happened, where people actually stood, where the bespeccled boy wizard became a man.

I guess you could call it a pilgrimage of sorts as for me, with tickets bought by my mum and dad for my birthday, it was akin to visiting Universal Studios in LA, and the place just came with a sense of history and following in the footsteps of a multitude of stars. As an added bonus it was also at these studios where Bond was resurrected in the guise of Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye.

When you first arrive you really get the feeling that you could be in Hollywood as you are greeted by massive images from the Harry Potter films, which really helps set the scene and get you all excited, and that is even before you enter under the WB sign and the familiar Harry Potter insignia

Once inside the lobby giant images of the main characters from Potter look down upon you as you get your bearings, it’s an impressive room with all the hustle and bustle of the Ministry of Magic, with only a Starbucks interrupting the Potterness of it all, I don’t remember those appearing anywhere!

Toilets, initially it wasn’t clear where the baby changing was but we were told at the info desks that it was the far cubicle at the end of both the gents and ladies (bonus), although happy to report that there was no Moaning Myrtle awaiting Sarah and Isabelle

Being a little early, thanks to the lack of traffic and indeed incidents on the road etc, it gave us plenty of time to peruse the shop, which looked impressive to say the least and was home to pretty much everything you could think of, and then some, from the Potterverse. For me, it reminded me of why I missed the Warner Bros stores so much, although I did find it rather odd that there wasn’t one Potter book, audio book, DVD or Bluray in sight.

It was also a surprise to see a distinct lack of mugs, minus those in the shape of Hedwig; I at least expected them with the house crests on. The shop was very expensive (as you would expect you had to pay a little over the odds) but lots of it was high end stuff – such as prints in frames, marauders map in frame (a shame they didn’t do cheaper kid friendly versions as they would have flown off the shelves),  the usual clothes (robes, hats, scarves) and of course broomsticks (nearly £300) and more wands than you could shake a wand shaped stick at (for around £25), which all seemed to be made out of a plastic resin, same with the broomsticks, with the former coming in proper looking wand boxes.

There was a nice assortment of key rings and I did rather like the Prisoner of Azkaban photo frame and we did plumb for an £8.95 box of Bertie Botts every flavour beans, including ear wax, yum!

Of course, Isabelle took a liking to the assortment of cuddly toys and it was a close call between Crookshanks and the three-headed dog, Fluffy, both of which she clung to as long as she could in the store. In the end she went for the moggy, which has hardly left her side since.

Not that the prices put people off, basketsand arms were piled high, and it was no different than if you were visiting Disney or Universal Studios, so people were taking the opportunity whilst they could, especially with many of the items looking to be unique to the Studio Tour.

Queuing for the entrance 30 minutes before our allotted time, as clearly instructed, we slowly shuffled past the cupboard under the stairs where Harry would often find himself shut away during his time at Privet Drive. Finally we found ourselves at the front of the queue…we would be the first people in our group to enter into the world of Harry Potter…

From Secret Agents to Superman: remembering Tom Mankiewicz

He may have lived long in his father’s shadow, Joseph L Mankiewicz, the writer of All About Eve and Cleopatra, but his screenwriting son, Tom Mankiewicz, who has died aged 68, will be forever known to a generation as the man who helped ensure the success of Bond and Superman in the 1970s, not to mention being responsible for bringing Hart to Hart to our screens.

Tom lent his name and talents to three Bond films in total, Diamonds are Forever, the last official entry with Sean Connery, and Roger Moore’s first two stints in the role in both Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun, all in his late 20s!

He was also billed as Creative Consultant on the original Superman and worked extremely closely with Director Richard Donner (the pair give a brilliant dual commentary on both the original film’s DVD and the Director’s cut of Superman 2) on making the mighty tome written by official screenwriter, The Godfather scribe Mario Puzo, into something lighter and filmable. As such he often found himself in high demand as one of those shadowy folk known as script fixers, working miracles, often on set and was an unsung hero on everything from The Spy Who Loved Me, Superman 2 to War Games,  Gremlins and Batman, impressive by anyone’s standards and several hundred million dollars in box office receipts to boot!

Mankiewicz brought a lighter, more comedic edge to his scripts, something which makes perfect sense as you look at his long writing and directing achievements on The Bob Hope Show.  Talking of comedy, his debut as big screen Director was the rather odd ball yet oddly likable film version of Dragnet with Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks, but it will always be writing that Mankiewicz shall forever be associated with and his vision of both Bond and The Man of Steel are still ingrained in the psyche so resolutely that for a whole generation Roger Moore was James Bond and Christopher Reeve was Superman. They may have acted the roles but Mankiewicz fleshed them out in his writing and made them quotable to this day.

Moore than meets the eye: Remembering The Man Who Haunted Himself

Roger Moore was in London last weekend, attending a conference that celebrated all things film, and especially Bond. It may be Moore’s most famous role but Dean Newman sheds light on perhaps his finest acting role, made a full three years before he took ownership of his trusty Walther PPK. The name’s Pelham…Harold Pelham.

Roger Moore. James Bond, The Saint, that raised eyebrow. But between his time as Simon Templar and Her Majesty’s finest Sir Roger gave us one of his finest performance – it is in fact his favourite film featuring himself – in the early 70s thriller chiller, The Man Who Haunted Himself.

With its early 70s London setting I often see it as a companion piece of sorts to what I regard as Hitchcock’s last hurrah, Frenzy, also set in the Capital. interestingly enough a version of The Man Who Haunted Himself made it onto Alfred Hitchcock Presents in under the title of The Case of Mr Pelham, the title of the book on which the film is based.

Things start of cheery enough with typical shots of a untypically moustached Moore driving round the sites of London with some really rather upbeat music. Then, almost without warning it is the turn of the strange as Pelham (Moore) takes his belt off and races down the M4 with maniacal grin and scant regard for those all around him.

He then has the mother of all crashes and finds himself in an operating theatre as they fight to save his life. At one point two heartbeats appear on the heart rate monitor as the surgeons battle to save him thus unwittingly unleashing a second Mr Pelham on the world, a devilish, charismatic, womanising version, yet both men seem to inhabit the same world and interact with the same people, including work colleagues and lovers.

Whilst the original Pelham is mild and your Mr Average, the new version is, just like his sports car, souped up and souper charged. Ironically at one point Pelham discusses a merger, but he see it as a takeover, which is exactly the battle that rages within Roger Moore, is it a merger or a takeover?

I suppose in a way you could see it as a 70s version of Face Off, minus the slow mo action and doves of course. Although highly stylised in that early 70s manner – cue jaunty camera angles, crash zooms and dubious rear screen projection but it adds to the whole atmosphere of the piece.

For those who thought Moore was just adept at punning whilst saving the world they will be pleasantly surprised at his dark side, and whilst we saw flashes of that in Bond, such as the harder edged Bond in For Your Eyes Only kicking a car off a cliff and flicking a man from his tie to his death in The Spy Who Loved Me.

We share the original Pelham’s panic when a whole host of people claim he has been in one place when he has been in other, inviting friends round when he hadn’t, all of which creates some excellent pacing as the actual Pelham begins to question his sanity when an increasing amount of people have seen ‘him’ when it is actually his doppelgänger.

At certain points the audience even begins to question which is which and the pace of the film never really lets up as we eventually head onto a collision course with two Pelham’s finally meeting, giving a whole new meaning to double 0 heaven. It is an excellent tension raiser as we really feel the hysteria that Moore brings to the role and makes us ask ourselves, what would we do if it happened to us?

Bursting into his Gentlemen’s club, looking for the imposter personating him, Moore’s brow becomes more sweaty – we, like Moore are never really sure if it is an imposter or not. Gradually, the awful truth becomes clear. When he died on the operating table and had to be resuscitated, a doppelgänger (or “alter ego”) was released…. and now the real Pelham and his sinister double are locked in a life-and-death struggle against each other.

The role(s) of Pelham ranks as a career best role for Moore who really makes us believe that he is two people, just as Sam Rockwell did in Moon.

Dated, of course, but there is no denying that this film has a certain vibe about it that is sure to see it remade in the near future. One can only hope it is someone like Christopher Nolan in the Director’s chair, who covered similar ground in both Memento and The Prestige.

A supernatural tale with a sting in its tale the film had one more dark surprise to unleash, Basil Dearden, the director, died shortly after completing filming, dying in a car crash in a place that was in the ‘exact’ same location that a major character dies in the film. An incredible coincidence and a sad loss, but Dearden’s legacy was this film that deserves to be discovered and seen by a wider audience, even though part of me is pleased that it is still something of a hidden gem.