Tag Archives: James Bond

Last Action Heroine

Isabelle’s always loved her films and going to the cinema so I decided to do a ‘Last Action Hero’ and put her in the movie, sort of, with these short videos.

Jurassic Peppa Pig World

With the launch of the hotly anticipated Jurassic World trailer I decided to mash things up a bit and meld the worlds of Peppa Pig and dinosaurs – no not George’s – in this play on the Jurassic World teaser.

Iz View To A Kill

I’ve always loved A View To A Kill (you can close your mouths now), which served as Roger Moore’s swansong in his tenure as James Bond. On holiday Iz took to a firetruck ride and immediately she reminded me of Tanya Roberts taking the wheel of the truck whilst the future Sir Rog swung about San Francisco on the back of a fire ladder. Here’s that scene unwittingly homaged by Isabelle.

Slide Hard

Apart from the title and Ode to Joy this doesn’t really have anything to do with John McClane or Die Hard, although Iz could have been very well wearing a white vest under her t-shirt. Still, I thought it rounded out the piece rather nicely and if I’m being tenuous, which I am, the slide was high up and so was Nakatomi Plaza.

Bond and beyond: Remembering John Barry

For many the composer, John Barry, who died last month aged 77, helped define James Bond on film more than Connery, Moore or Brosnan ever did. What he did was the provide the glue that not only holds the entire Bond franchise all together but also transcended whoever happened to be playing Bond, whether it be for the seventh and final time, with Roger Moore in A View To A kill, or George Lazenby, for his one and only time, with the rarely equalled On Her Majesty’s Secret Service score.

For me he will forever be associated with 007 but through that association I discovered his other work and scores for films that took in everything from Raise the Titanic and The Black Hole to High Road to China and even Howard the Duck, Bruce Lee’s Game of Death and the Hasselhoff Italian Star Wars cash-in, Starcrash.

Barry won five Oscars, including doing the double on Born Free, taking a gold statuette for both best score and best original song. But he not only never won for Bond, he was never even nominated for Bond, criminal when you think of the powerful and memorable scores to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice and Goldfinger.

The latter did have the prestige of knocking The Beatles off the top of the album chart in the US, no mean feat, almost unthinkable when you consider it is a film score. John Lennon may have claimed he was bigger than Jesus, if that’s the case then Barry was the God of film music.

In the first of a two part exclusive interview, Dean Newman talks to John Barry and film score expert, Mike Copping, who is one of the top John Barry collectors in the country, about Barry’s defining movie music moments.

DN:     Barry produced 11 Bond scores, how do you think he felt being so closely associated the series?

MC:     I think he was always grateful to the Bonds and he always thought that they were filmmaking at their highest quality, in terms of technical quality, even if it wasn’t always with the writing in some of the later ones.

DN:     I really love the score to A View To A Kill and think it really raised the quality of a somewhat creaky Roger Moore.

MC:     I’d say that in a good film, most people won’t notice whether the score is bad or not, with a bad film, a good score can actually elevate it, and some films that unfortunately Barry did, the three main science fiction films that he did: Starcrash, The Black Hole and Howard the Duck fall into that category. His musical presence leant a certain class and elegance to the proceedings.

Another film where this was definitely the case was the much maligned Raise the Titantic. The film got universally bad reviews but any review that said anything positive about it more often than not said that one of the pluses was the music. Thematically, elements of the scores to Moonraker (1979), The Black Hole (1979) and Raise the Titanic (1980) are very similar in their tone and feel.

If you listen to the opening bars of Raise the Titanic and listen to the opening frames of the overture from The Black Hole they are very, very or just slightly similar, but so is deep space and the deep ocean as featured in both aforementioned films

DN: What films did Barry win his Oscars for?

MC: With Born Free he won the double, he also took one home for The Lion in Winter, which really foxed everybody as by then everyone pretty much associated him with Bond and didn’t realise that a lot of his training had a lot to do with choral music and big orchestral stuff. And perhaps most famously he won for Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves. (DN: All featuring animals in some way shape or form in their titles or content).

He also received nominations for Mary Queen of Scots and finally Chaplin in 1992.

DN: I find it astounding that he never even received a nomination for any of his work on Bond!

MC: I agree with that very much so, how can you have movie musc that defines a separate genre almost, and is so influential and it doesn’t get a nomination when you get things like For Your Eyes Only (by Rocky composer Bill Conti) and the 70s funked up The Spy Who Loved Me both get nominations.

DN: How can they nominate them but not Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Sectret Service or Diamonds Are Forever?

MC: On Her Majesty’s is just phenomenal. Barry said he pulled out all the stops on that one and I think he felt he over egged it a little but he was over compensating because he didn’t think Lazenby was particularily good so he had to ramp up the Bond elements.

We Have all the Time in the World transcends the film.

DN: In fact the same can be said of many of Barry’s scores, that they transcend the film they were initially intended for and I’m talking beyond Bond here with the likes of the John Dunbar theme from Dances With Wolves and his work on the little seen but well-loved Somewhere In Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

MC: That’s right. Somewhere In Time is technically an SF film even though it’s primarily a love story. Trouble is it’s also widely known as a chick flick, a phrase I hate,

Christopher Reeve projects himself back in time to meet Jane Seymour after falling in love with a photograph of her (her character was an actress) in a Hotel museum devoted to a Play House.

Barry supplied a very romantic score which was more popular than the film, and it has been used at weddings and all sorts of special occasions, and is regarded as a classic.

Next time: Dean discusses two of Mike’s favourite John Barry film scores.

A new Doctor in the house

We get our first glimpse proper of the new Doctor (Matt Smith) hanging on for dear life outside an out of control TARDIS, performing deftyfying acts. This is actually a fairly accurate description of how the returning Who is prepared to play a gamble rather than play it safe when it, like the malfunctioning TARDIS, is flying high in the ratings and with critics alike.

Following ‘the greatest Doctor Who…ever’, AKA Sir David of Tennantshire, Smith and new show runner Steven Moffat (taking over the Head Writer and Executive Producer reins from Russell T Davies) have basically reset the TARDIS clock to zero with some dizzying changes and given us a whole new Who for a new era.

Let’s be very clear here. This isn’t just a new Who actor but a whole new Who, period. New Head Writer, new titles, new assistant, new logo, in short a massive reboot of sorts. Even with fan and critic fave, Steven Moffat, as the new head honcho, this is a massive gamble, living on the edge just like our newly introduced timelord, as what had come before had been phenomenally successful.

But if that other 60s British institution, James Bond, can do it then so can the good Doctor. Sticking with the Bond/Who analogy you could almost argue that – with new Who viewed as its second phase – Eccleston’s single season tenure could be seen as akin to that as one shot wonder George Lazenby and that, with his universal acclaim and ingraining in our psyche of what makes a good Doctor, Tennant is the defining Connery of the piece. Only time will tell whether Smith will be more, um Moore, Dalton or indeed Brosnan or Craig.

Certainly after some of the excess that we saw in both the series 4 finale (which felt like Tennant’s swansong in a way) and ‘The End of Time’ two parter, these Davies penned epics could on one hand be seen as pushing  Who to its TV boundaries of believability limits as the likes of Moonraker had with Bond, so, whilst still retaining the fantastical perhaps this ‘first’ season of Who will bring us and the character down to earth a little bit more, and I don’t mean in a U.N.I.T. based episodes Pertwee era kind of way.

When Who returned in 2005, it did in my mind what always made the exploits of the Doctor stand out, it wasn’t just about the time travelling or the myriad of monsters but it was also about taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary, the policebox being the classic example. But what the returning Who did was to take objects we had no fear of and make us, or more specifically the child viewing audience fear them, whether that be people-eating wheelie bins – imagine the trepidation of walking to school the next bin day – gasmasks or statues, the latter in arguably the best new Who episode, Blink, penned, of course, by one Steven Moffat.

I am happy to report that such fixtures are still very much a part of Who series 5, with cracks in the bedroom wall being the latest unexpected new bringer of nightmares, although I feel this element wasn’t fully explored. There were some elements that made this, The Eleventh Hour, a fantastic episode and those that marred it a little for me.

First, those all important positive points. He may have a face that takes a bit of getting used to but Smith looks to have the makings of a damn fine Doctor about him, with great delivery of both comedy and drama. Much of it you could still see as being delivered by Tennant, which is only natural with the time he spent in the role but also as the character of Who will still retain some of his mannerisms and ways of doing things until he finds his feet. His best scenes, and the best scenes of the whole episode, where those spent with Amelia, which were reminiscent of sort of the cinematic Doctor (Peter Cushing) with his granddaughter, Susan, which I felt was a nice touch.

The scene of the ‘mad man in the box’ eating and hating everything from apples to yoghurt was also inspired and very funny genius, with Smith’s handling of the scene reminiscent in part of Johnny Depp as a certain Captain Jack Sparrow.

The premise of Who visiting a little girl, Amelia, and then returns to her 14 years later having dominated her life in-between with hundred of childhood drawings and the idea of the Doctor as her imaginary friend was an inspiration and really gave a timeless feeling to the character and really added to his mythic status. I also loved the fact that she found him at the bottom of her garden, the place where fairies come from and the fantastic happens.

The ending, which also tied back into showing these crayon drawings, was also very powerful, as was the tying in of Smith with the other incarnations and foes that had come before him, really helping stamp his arrival as a continuation of the character. As ever, the music, by Murray Gold, was exhilarating as ever, especially in the climax, which really made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, even if it was a little bombastic.

Sticking with music, the reimagining of the title music will no doubt grow on me, for now it feels a little too different still though, as will the lightning effects that bounce round the TARDIS, although I’m still less sure of the new marketing-machine friendly DW titles which look more like something that a Blue Peter competition winner designed. For me this is more New Coke to the old logo, so I live in hope of a return of what has come before, still the titles seem to go through more changes than we’ve had Doctors. At least there was no winking a la McCoy.

I also loved the fleeting appearance of Patrick ‘Games master’ Moore, perhaps it’s only a matter of time before that other great astronomer, Brian May, gets his Who call up, wouldn’t that be great: Doctor Who by way of Flash Gordon and Highlander with some electric guitar shaped weapon device – yes please!

But in the end it was only the bookends of this episode that I thought were great, the rest I felt was a bit all over the place and disjointed, for want of a better description the middle was a bit of a muddle in an oddly Avengers/The Village-esque chocolate box locale. For me it was trying to do a little bit too many things and not really being successful at any of them. In short, a strong opening and ending with a rather saggy middle filled by lots of running, at times it even felt a little bit Sarah Jane Adventures.

I have to say though it does look as if some of the best is yet to come if the rest of the series teaser is fulfilled, taking in everything in from Stonehenge to vampires, the Daleks and those pesky statues again. Here’s to an exhilarating 12 weeks!

With great parental power comes great cinematic responsibility

Now it’s a good six months or so until our baby is born and already you get thinking about the far flung future things such as what school will it end up going to…and what will be its first film?

Okay, so it’s not massive in the big scheme of things, at first glance anyway. But if you think about it you always remember the first film that that you went to see at the pictures and those first few screenings can help shape your tastes and even the person you become, so therefore – as a bonafide filmbuff – I think there is great responsibility in choosing those first few cinematic dalliances for your children.

When I was growing up we lived about 9 miles for our nearest ABC Cinema, as it was then, so going to the cinema was a real treat. My dad took me to my first film on a Saturday morning and was Spiderman Strikes Back – basically a couple episodes of the 70s TV series slotted together for us Brits. True it’s not going to cause James Cameron any worries in story or special effects terms but was great to as a child and so, like Peter Parker, I was bitten by the radioactive film bug and my lifelong love of cinema was born.

Talking of Cameron, I was speaking to a friend earlier today and he recently took his six year old son to go and see Avatar after much research if it was suitable for a child his age. Now obviously it’s a film full of lots of childlike wonder and discovery, not to mentions lots of explosions and blue men and woman flying giant dinosaurs. To be fair it’s a pretty simplistic story as well. But this is not the point. The point is that this is one of that child’s first cinematic experiences and it is a seminal piece of work, one he’ll remember visuals from for the rest of his life, one which will gain him kudos in the playground when he’s older when the other kids find out he saw it on the big screen, glasses and all, rather than at home on Bluray or DVD.

And, of course, when he’s all grown up he’ll have that strong and fond memories of it that it will sit nestling on his shelf or computer, or whatever system there will be then, simply due to the fact that it had such a lasting impression of him when he was little and reminds him of the time his dad took him to the pictures.

Such films act in the same way as certain songs, they remind us of a certain time, a certain person or even a certain feeling. As you enter that darkened cave of the cinema and those light go down and those curtains part it’s not just a cinematic experience, it’s a rite of passage.

So that’s why our first child’s film won’t just be some Martin Lawrence film, it will be something that means something, something that will both wow and excite, not just for that screening but for a lifetime and is then passed down through the generations just like stories of old.

Likewise my first run ins with the likes of James Bond (Octopussy and every Bond since on the big screen) and a whole host of films that have never left my consciousness, step up Young Sherlock Holmes and The NeverEnding Story, which have all helped shape who I am and the people I have become friends with.

For me it’s right up there with the first film you bunked off school for (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), the first 15 certificate that you ever saw, underage of course (The Naked Gun) and your first 18 certificate, Ditto (Silence of the Lambs, would have been Misery but I bottled it).

I of course write this looking at our crammed DVD shelves, which include a battered VHS copy of Spiderman Strikes Back (found in Cash Converters in Luton no less) and Young Sherlock Holmes and The NeverEnding Story on DVD.