Saturday, 22 December 2012

It may be gone off milk but have some respect.

The letter aitch stands strong and powerful above the Periodic Table. It's two thirds of life locked in with an atom of oxygen.  It leads the line all over the http led Internet yet we abandon it daily looking at it with the contempt held for the other consonants that want to be vowels.

I can be a little picky, I'll grant you that but this is no excuse to ignore the gradual dumbing down and Americanisation in the supermarket.

We all go to the supermarket, whether it's for a full tonne's worth of Christmas holiday food or a quick pint of milk and a scratchcard.  They're convenient, they're cheap, they're everywhere.  They can't spell and think grammar is a needless ingredient.  Yes, there was the '10 items or less' debacle at Waitrose but seemingly unnoticed and more insidious is the obliteration of the letter 'H'.

The sometimes silent and often mispronounced consonant that could be a vowel. Aitch should stand centrally in the word 'yoghurt' handily dividing the word into it's syllables.  As long as you're not Sainsbury's, Tesco or even the actual makers of dairy goodness like Muller.  At least Muller have the good grace to avoid using the word altogether and call things Fruit Corners, just don't look at their website, they're having all sorts of problems with things.  They get 'light' right yet can't be bothered to correctly name the fermented milk they peddle.

'Yoghurt' trickled into the English language via the Turkish verb for coagulating according to the all knowing Wiki.  You'd think we'd have picked a sexier word for it but then we are talking about milk with too much bacteria.  Surely, with our preoccupation for their naturally sour variety we'd dig out a sexy Greek word.  Alas, no, so with a trick of translation and awkward pronounciation those chaps in Oxford had 'yoghurt' to play with.

Is it the French or the American's fault, or is it just laziness like the lack of thought that goes into your and you're and the systematic abuse of there, their and they're?  I'm plumping for the quest for global markets and one size fits all consumerism.  What's one little aitch in the quest for market share in the Far East?  So, indirectly it is the Americans fault and their invention of relentless consumerism.  This is the United Kingdom where we cobbled together a language and a dictionary courtesy of French, Latin et al.  How about a little pride in the Queen's English that we cling to in increasingly bizarre circumstances.

Oh, it appears it has
Herbs become 'erbs' yet time is always measured in hours and rhurbarb retains the largely useless extra letter.  Is Newspeak creeping in unnoticed? I wonder if Marks and Spencer, so long the bastion of vertically integrated Englishness, have succumbed?

As excellently, summised by Eddie Izzard in Dress To Kill, it's herbs, not 'erbs....why? because there's a fucking aitch in it.  How do people cope with Hyundai and get along with 'through' without synaptic implosions over the second aitch, leave alone the strangely placed silent letter G.

My silent protest at the supermarkets' lack of aitch based consideration consists of not buying any yoghurts.  I like yoghurts but I'm not one of those people who'll write a complaint letter to Tesco head office.  Or am I?  It's the casual acceptance that grants things all the time that is most offensive.  We do like to moan and complain about things without actually doing anything.  Just look at Twitter's reaction to the daily horrors on Facebook.  Careful though, they'll call you a Grammar Nazi when you point out their flaws and 'fucking illiterate idiot' isn't always an acceptable response.

Oh, and by the way way it's 'aitch' not fucking 'haitch'.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Under Neon Loneliness

Four years we've been waiting for Skyfall as MGM crumbled and continued before finally Bond's 50th gets a 23rd film as celebration.  Unfortunately, it's not exactly Christmas.  I wanted to love Skyfall and have been waiting an age for it's release.  Between the restoration of old traditions and the long, lingering camera shots of watches and sunglasses there's something missing.  Bond's tale of self discovery and resurrection is, at times, painfully slow, always threatening to explode but not quite letting off the fireworks.  Having said that the reinvention of Craig's Bond is now complete and the series is aimed at the future whilst aiming maximum respect at it's past.

Skyfall is a celebration of all that has gone before and nods it's head and homages in ways more subtle and nuanced than the fateful 40th anniversary abomination Die Another Day.  From Craig's novel use of a Komodo Dragon to ape Moore through to the signature gun that would make Dalton jealous, Skyfall treads a familiar path within the Bond canon.

Skyfall is a tale of revenge and salvation yet this time it isn't Bond out for revenge set largely against a backdrop of London which makes the capital look glorious in this Olympic year.  Despite the obligatory globe hopping this is a very, very British Bond film.

We begin in Turkey and Bond stumbles across the loss of a laptop hard drive.  A hard drive full to popping with the list of secret agents undercover in terrorist cells.  All very Mission Impossible.  Accompanied by Eve, Bond is off on a slow burning car chase before ending up on a train.  Yes, another incarnation is about to take a turn for the worse on a train.  It seems that Bond will never learn.

Dead again
M's loyalty to the mission sees Eve put in an impossible position but she takes the shot and, not for the first time, an obituary is typed up for Commander James Bond.  Bond's descent into the watery depths begins a credit sequence that is probably the best in the franchise's history.  Adele's inevitable theme hovers above a hall of mirrors that would have made Scaramanga blush.

Bond's death and the loss of the list of agents is soon lost under a pile of bureaucracy as we are introduced to Mallory: Ralph Fiennes' implausibly trousered Whitehall enforcer.  Skyfall begins to open out, it's not going to be a run of the mill Bond film.  This time it's an M film.  In the face of enforced retirement M watches as her world is blown up around her.  Again Millbank is exploded and you wonder if the Tate avoided the shrapnel.  Thankfully, The Clampers are absent this time.  M and MI6 are being personally targeted by a cyber terrorist who obviously watched Jurassic Park.

The dust settling by the Thames is reported by CNN to a fully alive James Bond who has been contemplating life and apparent betrayal whilst playing stinging drinking games by the beach.  In desperate need of a shave Bond bombs back to Blighty and makes himself comfortable in George Smiley's front room (now resident to M.)  Bond's resurrection is hampered by standard procedure which has set about erasing him from history.  All seemingly very easy to do to an orphan with no next of kin.  Will the tearful restauranteurs and underemployed tailors of Bean's Goldeneye tirade really be all that's left?

M puts Bond back to work, but first he has to prove himself and we see the gruelling rebuilding of the secret agent in the gym.  Something that was painfully missing from Bruce Wayne's resurrection in The Dark Knight Rises.  Bond is put back on field duty and dispatched to Shanghai to find his old train companion.  Before he goes he has an appointment with The Doctor, sorry, the new Q.  I miss Desmond now more than ever.

Hunting Replicants and a massive jellyfish
This is where we see Bond for what he really is.  He's not a spy, he's a government hard man getting his hands dirty so politicians don't have to.  This is best seen in the airport as Bond's crap disguise leads him to follow his target up a skyscraper.  Shanghai has been ripped from the celluloid of Bladerunner as Bond stalks the shadows and reflections of an assassination.  The constant neon jellyfish haunting a fight in a glassy prison.  It's surprising Coca Cola didn't insist on their own little chunk of product placement.

The assassin's cryptic payment is a casino chip and we're off to Macao.  Skyfall has been drawn off a palette saturated with colour and the neon noir of Shangai juxtaposes with the seedy vibrancy of Macao almost perfectly.  No Lazar this time but a very seductive Severine.  She looks like a villain but you know deep down that she can't be as she's not ginger even if she does have very, very, pointy nails.

Camp blonde hair and an awesome island shirt
Through Severine we finally meet our villain.  It's been a slow slow-burner so far but now things are looking up.  The villain has his own island! Hurrah!  The spirit of Blofeld rejoice!  Not as impressive as a hollowed out volcano but still, it's a fucking island.

Out-camping the combined efforts of Mr Wind and Mr Kidd Javier Bardem's Silva or Rodriguez arrives via a lift to get all touchy feely with 007.  Silva has the hump with M for seemingly selling him out for being too good at his job.  It's a little hard to swallow such an Hispanic former MI6 agent after the diet of Dalton's Gibraltar, Brosnan and Bean et al.  Silva is captured and taken back to London and it's all a bit too easy.  Enshrined like Heath Ledger playing Hannibal Lecter, Silva finally reveals what M did to him and the perils of a cyanide capsule.  I don't know if cyanide has a best before date but judging by Silva's dental work and Blofeld-esque droop I think it might have.

The film has been building now for a while and we're beginning to feel like we're ready for an explosive finale.  In fact, we're beginning to need one.  Will Silva escape and Bond pursue him to a tropical demise?  No, Q's uber geekiness pops the plastic chamber and Bond lays a trap in Scotland after a suspiciously tame rush hour on the District Line and Silva's grasping assassination attempt in Westminster.


Scotland.  Forgive me for being underwhelmed but I've been brought up on mushroom shaped islands in the Far East and buried satellite dishes in Cuba.  Instead we're about to get a back story for Bond and a very sad ending.  At least the DB5 is back, the ejector seat still intact.  Up on the moors is a lonely old house.  A house called Skyfall.  Bond's ancestral home and lurking in the shadows (inexplicably) is Albert Finney with a shotgun.  Silva is being lured to Skyfall and Bond sets about drawing on his memories of seeing Home Alone to even up the playing field.

Our creaking finale is punctuated by dancing on ice and nail bombs before an attempt at salvation.  Mortally wounded and abandoned M is cradled by Silva who has gone full blown Joker and wants them both to die at an attempt at 'freedom.'  A death last reserved for Rosamund Pike paves the way for a tragic goodbye to Judi Dench.

Cradling M in his arms, Bond cries as he says goodbye to his replacement mother.  The affection he shows for his boss is on a par with Bond's (deliberately tearless) goodbye to Tracy and you feel that maybe he is now irretrievably broken.  All goes dark before we see Bond gazing out over the London skyline, isolated against the landmarks of the country he defends.  Bond is joined by Eve before the most obvious twist in a long time.  The running joke that Eve may be more suited to a desk job is cemented as she is formally introduced.  Perched behind her Sony Vaio it's difficult to see Moneypenny hot desking.  Instead she is the guardian of the man behind those leather cushioned doors.  Having proven himself to Bond earlier as more than just another bureaucrat Mallory assumes the initial and tosses a dossier towards Bond.  Top secret and for 007, now that he's shaken off his case of Brosnan's Shoulder, a new mission.

The reboot is complete and all the true Bondian elements have been restored.  So now, perhaps, we shake off the shackles of Jason Bourne and have a little fun?

James Bond will return and I think I want Quantum to return too.

Hopefully this time the gun barrel will be AT THE BEGINNING.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

I remember when Kinder Eggs were great

It was an impulse buy, they were by the till and I was overcome with pleasant childhood memories.  The Kinder Egg made it's way into my hand and with a bleep and an exchange of hard currency became mine.  An ovoid of plastic textured chocolate wrapped in bright tin foil but with the promise of a surprise.  A cheeky little toy hidden inside.  Would it be a little alien? Or a miniature car with cogs and gears for me to assemble?

No.  It was a jigsaw puzzle.  A fucking jigsaw puzzle.  Twenty pieces of printed cardboard crammed into a plastic shell before being inserted into the familiar orange and white wrapping.

I've been cheated.  A jigsaw puzzle for Waybaloo watchers.  I yearned for a minature gladiator that would get dwarfed by a Lego minifig.  Yeah it'd be shit and would get lost or destroyed within a week but that's not the point.  The jigsaw robbed me of opportunity to build a little car that would go round in circles for a few seconds.  The jigsaw went straight in the recycling bin. Germanic Italian bastards.

So what did I do the next day?

Yeah, I bought another one.  Well, another two. Expectations were high again and this time repaid tenfold!

No need for IKEA instructions with this one
I got a little cat with it's own parachute AND a remedial spirograph.  Yeah, a cat which is attached to a vinylette parachute.  It doesn't float that well and serves no real purpose but it's there, it's fun and the cheeky little critter can nestle softly on a spirographed helipad.  It'll keep me amused for a few minutes.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Trump. Sounds a bit like scum

There's no such thing as bad publicity apparently.  I'm not sure I agree with that but bloated self publicist Donald Trump definitely does.

This week's latest Twitter outrage (yes, I'm guilty of jumping on it as well) sees Donald attacking the President of the United States of America.  He alludes to patriotism and some sort of cover up but the fact is that Trump is a racist. A nasty bigot, who, thanks to his vast personal wealth has means to spray his opinion around the world like a nasty norovirus bomb.

Trump had let the Presidential debates pass by before chipping his two cents into the election arena.  Drip feeding the media with promises of a major 'announcement'.  He obviously thought he was the Iron Man 3 trailer.

Turns out his 'announcement' was basically a threat, a lame attempt at emotional extortion as he demands to see Obama's college applications and other records in exchange for a charitable donation of $5 million. Just donate the cash Trump, it's the only way you'll come away from this with some dignity.

Is Trump really stupid enough to not realise that the US media has turned Obama's past inside out looking for something to make him less than American.  He was vetted by his party, he made it to Government, he's been President for four years.

Trump's rant coupled with the remarks of another bonkers Republican Senate candidate about rape should make this a good day for the Democrats.

Trump has done this for the attention. To get a reaction to feed his ego.  I hope that reaction is the ridicule he warrants.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The What? The What of the What What?

I was once asked to describe what Quantum of Solace is about in a tweet.  140 characters isn't enough.  140 words wouldn't be enough.  This is the quantum mechanics of the Bond franchise.  Compared to the Bond by numbers of the Brosnan era and the brutality of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace is confusing.  But not that confusing.  You won't need Professor Brian Cox to do a DVD commentary.

Quantum of Solace is Daniel Craig's tricky second album. 

OK, it's a film and not an album but you know what I mean.  How to follow Casino Royale?  Well, you don't have to follow it, you can continue from it.

'You shits! I've only had this car five minutes'
Quantum of Solace uniquely sees us picking up from where we left him at the end of Casino Royale.  Although he does seem to have changed suits. Mr White is in the boot as Bond rally drives around a well placed quarry before arriving in Siena.  This is a car chase that Roger Moore could only have dreamed of in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Now I'm not quite sure what we're doing in Siena or even Tuscany but we'll go with it.  In what can only be described as a sewer, MI6 set about interrogating Mr White to find out just who he is and who he works for.  We'll soon find that the organisation he works for is Quantum, a 21st century S.P.E.C.T.R.E. but infinitely more insidious and shadowy.  Quite literally, Quantum has people everywhere as displayed by a good old fashioned double agent.  Our double agent, Mitchell, is pursued by Bond across rooftops and over vehicles before an ingenious sequence where the pair cling to scaffolding reminiscent of a Newton's Cradle.  Bond prevails before we are launched into one of the more bizarre Bond themes.

An unlikely duet of Jack White and Alicia Keys belt out our theme song.  It's clunky and unorthodox, a far cry from Dame Shirley but it kind of works.  Once again we've got to the theme song and we haven't seen Craig do an opening gun barrel.  The gun barrel is incorporated into the film's closing credits when Bond has finally gained closure from Vesper and is 'truly' James Bond.

The investigation into Mitchell's double agent status sees M get the hump over her judge of character and some unwanted Christmas presents.  What's more pertinent are the dodgy banknotes he had floating around.  Some fancy computer work takes Bond to Haiti and Dominic Greene.  Bond bumps into Camille in an improbably shiny Ford Ka before we find out who Greene really is.

Greene is an environmentalist on the surface.  We take a deep breath and hope this doesn't take us towards Die Another Day territory.  It's OK though as we find that Greene is a member of Quantum and has some dodgy dealings with big chinned Bolivian General Medrano.  Greene and Quantum have taken steps to restore the General to despotic power in Bolivia in exchange for a patch of desert.  This is Bolivia so there must be some marching powder about?  No,  Medrano assumes Greene is after oil and laughingly lets him have the plot of land convinced it's worthless.  In an act of revenge Greene gives Camille to the General and diverts his attention elsewhere.  Cue some maritime fun.  The opening car chase and now this boat chase are at breakneck speed, in fact, the whole film is.  Quite a contrast to the slow building tension of Casino Royale.

Medrano isn't the only one that assumes Greene is after Bolivian oil as we see the CIA do a deal with him, much to the annoyance of Felix Leiter.  A CIA director with a 'tache bigger than his brain tries to play hardball (that's what the Americans call it, yeah?) with Greene before striking a deal to turn a blind eye to Greene's plans in exchange for a drop of the black stuff. This all takes place mid air before Greene pops down to Austria to enjoy a spot of culture.

Bond gets his phone mixed up with Snake's Codec
Our night at the opera is a glorious sequence.  Bond actually does a bit of spying before acquiring a goody bag in the gents.  This goody bag means he can listen in on and identify many of Quantum's members as Tosca rages on stage.  He hasn't cracked the scheme yet but he sets about putting some names to faces.  This is quite an achievement as most of the faces look like stills from Metal Gear Solid.  Let's hope Bond doesn't turn out to be a genetic experiment or bump into Revolver Ocelot.  Bond's extraction from the meeting he has gatecrashed is problematic and ends up with the death of a member of Special Branch.  Bond doesn't actually kill him but still ends up having his privileges revoked.  Bond has gone renegade. Again.

Bond needs to get to La Paz but doesn't have a passport or any cash.  He also doesn't have any allies at hand so turns to Rene Mathis.  The last time we saw Mathis he was being tasered and carried away for 'debriefing' having been identified as a crony of Le Chiffre.  It appears he's actually innocent.  Bond appeals to Mathis' warrior instinct and ropes him into a trip to Bolivia via a swanky aeroplane bar and several (6) Vesper martinis.  Mathis is a walking pharmacy but Bond sticks to gin and a twist.

Upon landing in La Paz we encounter Agent Strawberry Fields (groan).  The delicious Gemma Arterton is connecting Craig's Bond to his predecessors, especially Connery.  The chemistry between Craig and Arterton is great.  It's a shame she doesn't last too long.

The reintroduction of Camille comes before a final farewell to Mathis and the uncovering of Greene's real plan.  Bond is identified as a threat to Greene and dear old Dominic uses his General in high places to frame Bond.  This time for the apparent murder of Mathis.  The final scenes with Bond and Mathis are touching as Bond realises that to be a spy he has to be alone and will, ultimately, have to sacrifice himself.  Mathis' unceremonious disposal by Bond sees Bond put his armour back on.  He won't allow others to get too close again.

With Camille in tow we head to the air again to take in a survey of the land Greene has acquired.  Handily, Camille is Bolivian Secret Service and has some orienteering skills.  Our sky bound jaunt is shortlived as Bond is shot down and has an almost Moonraker-esque parachute moment before crashing into a cave.  The true extent of Greene's scheme is revealed as the local water supply has been dammed off.  Greene fooled everyone into thinking he was after oil when, in reality, he plans to hold the country to ransom over utilities.  Eon and nPower better be kept an eye on.

I'm glad I'm not cleaning those sheets
Bond returns to La Paz to find M in his hotel room.  Now we know that whenever M goes into the field something bad happens and true to form we find that Agent Fields has been killed.  Greene has had Agent Fields killed in an oily homage to Goldfinger.  We've shed the 60's sensibility that saw a strategic cushion protect Shirley Eaton's modesty and are shown Arterton's full curvy death.  M orders Bond arrested and is concerned he is fuelled only by revenge.  All too easily Bond escapes but not before adding a touch of class by insisting Agent Fields' is recognised for her bravery.

Quantum of Solace has negotiated itself into a cul de sac before the timely reappearance of Felix Leiter.  It's Leiter's information that leads us to the film's conclusion.  In the middle of nowhere Greene is meeting General Medrano to dot the 'is' and cross the 'ts' on his reclamation of power.  Naturally the meeting takes place in a hotel.  Not an ordinary hotel but a hotel powered by hydrogen.  Yep, liquid hydrogen.  Even Scaramanga would've steered clear of that.  Greene reveals just how screwed Medrano is before our old fashioned Bondian climax.  Plenty of explosions, broken glass and axes don't divert from Camille exacting her revenge whilst Bond extracts the information he needs from Greene.

Greene is abandoned in the desert by Bond.  Both men know he will die in the desert, either by his own hands or by Quantum's as they assume he's told Bond everything.  Bond tosses Greene a can of oil in bitter memory of Agent Fields.  It would appear Greene did spill some of Quantum's beans as Bond travels to Russia and confronts Vesper's 'boyfriend' Yusef.  Yusef is apparently on Quantum's payroll and uses his charms to extract secrets from well placed ladies.  This time she's Canadian.  Bond shows restraint by letting M arrest Yusef.  M softens and officially gives Bond his job back.  We all know that he never left.  By dropping Vesper's necklace in the snow we see Bond gain closure.  This chapter of his life is over.

Overall Quantum of Solace doesn't quite live up to Casino Royale.  That's not to say it's a bad film, it's just it's not very 'Bond'.  The reboot has evolved and it's straying a little far from the apple tree for my liking.  We've had Bond's love story and his tragic revenge but now Bond needs his Aston Martin back and he needs to have a flirt with Moneypenny.  The rumours are that these elements will return and we already know Q gets a new face for Bond 23.  And it's not before time.

James Bond will return in Skyfall.  And I can't bloody wait.  That gun barrel better be at the start as well.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Bourne Again Bond

From the ridiculous to the sublime.  After the debacle of Die Another Day came a substantial wait for new Bond film with a new Bond.  And there was so much scepticism when Daniel Craig was cast.  I remember seeing him bouncing down the Thames in a dinghy and a lifejacket.  Shaking my head at his blue eyes and blond hair, still we knew that realistically Brosnan couldn't carry on.  We also knew deep down that Bond had to change and it was the beginning of another new franchise that kickstarted the reboot.  That's a bit harsh. It wasn't just The Bourne Identity that required Bond to have a radical rethink.  The early 21st Century saw changes.  9/11 was a game changer in the action movie arena so much so that The Bourne Identity was given a different ending after a test screening.  There was a new reluctance to simply fill films full of exaggerated explosions whilst having to reconcile a new face of evil.  The Bond franchise had been struggling since the 80s to replace the Russki or communist threat and so we'd had yuppies and drug barons as main villains.  Now terrorism is the new vogue for a villain.

One of the most surprising things is that the writers of Die Another Day were given the chance to adapt Fleming's first novel.  They pulled it off.  Casino Royale is excellent because it is so different to what came before.  From the black and white Sin City stylised pre credit sequence to the fact that Daniel Craig isn't truly James Bond until he delivers the film's last line we can see that everything has been shaken up.  The appalling CGI has largely been abandoned, gadgets are relegated and Bond has to make do with what he's got, and to begin with, that's not a lot.  That's not to say that Casino Royale alienates it's predecessors. Sure, there's no Moneypenny, there's no Q but we're given a SPECTRE for the 21st century, represented by Mr White.  We're dropped off in Miami, harking back to Connery's glory days in Goldfinger and all the while we see a rough and ready newbie James Bond develop and become the double 'O' agent we all know.

After getting his required statistics to become a double 'O' Bond is sent to Madagascar to find  a terrorist.  Meanwhile, Le Chiffre, is being introduced and he's a bit of a gambler with a penchant for shorting stocks.  What ties this together is he's guaranteeing the stock price's crash by using the bombmaker being chased by Bond.

Good job it's not a Blackberry
Bond is a blunt tool at the moment.  He has his target and will go through anything to get to it.  Bond's lack of subtlety and finesse is perfectly shown by his Hulk smash through plasterboard as the free running bombmaker bounces away like a gazelle.  Bond eventually gets his man and makes a right mess of an embassy before revealing that he's quite nifty with a smartphone and a laptop.  On the strength of a cryptic text message Bond hops off to the Bahamas.  It's actually believable and real, unlike some of Roger's leaps of faith.

The Bahamas are what you'd imagine except they seem to be exclusively populated by Ford cars.  Getting hold of an Aston Martin looks like a fool's errand.  But Bond has found his next 'slimy bugger' to track and sets about kicking his arse at poker acquiring, not only, said Aston Martin, the bad guy's missus but a couple of bars of Monty Norman's Bond theme as well.  A gentle nod that the Bond jigsaw is being put together.  Bond is still lacking finesse as his idea of foreplay is basically an interrogation of Dimitrios' missus.  By luck it works and Bond is off to Miami to save a massive jumbo jet from being messed up by Le Chiffre's scheme.

Look, I'm creepy and I can count, so don't mess
Bond is shown as a smirking killer who likes running, lots of running, as Le Chiffre's plan fails to go up in a petrol driven mess.  Even Connery wasn't shown as this much of a bastard.  The Miami police and airport security really aren't very bright as they happily shoot away at a petrol tanker whilst Bond displays some handy driving skills. The Number shows his maths skills by working out exactly how much money he has lost ($101,260,000).  Never fear, he's got a plan B.  The eponymous Casino Royale will be home to a $100 million poker game which Le Chiffre reckons he has a good chance of winning although it just so happens that Bond is the best player around.  So, our villain is a compulsive gambling asthmatic who leaks blood.  Not exactly Mr Big.  In fact, Le Chiffre is a bit rubbish.  So who is the real baddie?

Best worry about that later as despite a new Bond we have the same old mistakes.  Bond gets on a train.  AGAIN.  This time he gets away with it as there aren't any freaks hiding in the wardrobe, just an introduction to Vesper Lynd.  She's 'the money', 'every penny of it' and sets about starting some glorious word sparring with Bond.  The flirting and one upmanship is hundreds of times better than Roger smarming over Triple X.  Lynd's barbs result in Craig's Bond making a series of unusual faces, the best one makes him look like he's been startled whilst passing solids.  So, now we have also done away with the traditional Bond girl that had been so caricatured by Jinx and have something entirely new.  Lynd is an integral part of the story, essential to Bond's progress and is closer to Lady Macbeth than we're probably comfortable with.

More use than Mathis
Lynd and Bond meet Mathis who serves as nothing but an infodump at various points in the film.  Until his apparent betrayal  Mathis is largely irrelevant and only serves to tell silly Americans how poker works.  Imagine if the producers had stuck to Bond tradition and had him playing Baccarat.  Mathis would probably have had to talk directly to the camera like Garth in Wayne's World.  The poker game rumbles on and is punctuated by some scenes that are quite violent for a Bond film.  The film's pacing is corrected by Bond's tumble down the stairwell in a fight scene that is pure Bourne and yet after this we see Bond at his most compassionate and vulnerable.  The shower scene with Lynd isn't what you'd expect but now we have an emotionally vulnerable Bond and he's falling in love.

Now Bond is angry and this leads to him making mistakes.  The security is lax enough in the hotel but Bond is oblivious to the fact that he's about to be poisoned.  Rohypnol must be rife in this hotel.  Our rebooted Bond show's a resourcefulness that would make Moore's head spin as he grabs a salt shaker.  It's only when he staggers back to his car for a conference call and a defibrillator that things get a tiny bit silly.

Angry, but not Rain Man
With the help of a very quiet Felix Leiter Bond defeats Le Chiffre and then things get a little confusing.  In the roll of a car, Le Chiffre is taken by the CIA, but not, Lynd is 'kidnapped', Mathis becomes a traitor and Bond is tied to a chair.  Out of nowhere the story has exploded and it won't be until the end that we'll be able to put the debris together properly.

The torture of Bond is probably the most graphic that a Bond film has ever been.  The violence and claustrophobia perfectly balanced by Bond's ball scratching quip.  It's a bleak situation before deus ex machina in the form of Mr White.  He's back and we still don't know who he is.

Bond is whisked away for hospitalisation and some r and r.  I'm still not entirely sure what Lynd was expecting him to be capable of with his bashed up meat and two veg, but I suppose they're in love.  Now we know from previous experience that Bond isn't allowed to fall in love and so it transpires.  Another doublecross and a well placed text message sees Lynd expire and Bond come back to the fold.  His half hearted escape from MI6 comes to an end in Venice and praise be to God that there's no sign of that fucking pigeon. The Venice sequence presents us with a few questions that niggle long after the film.  If you're going to be a double agent like Vesper surely you'd put a password lock on your phone?  Or if you're that guilty about it all let a few things slip to the bloke sleeping next to you or maybe he was to involved with that Sony Vaio?  Who are 'the Organisation'? Oh, and who the bloody Hell was the bloke with the eyepatch?

Apparently Daniel Craig got the role of Bond due largely to his turn in Layer Cake.  If this is true than the end of Casino Royale is a cheeky homage to this.  Standing over Mr White on the hotel steps Craig delivers his first 'Bond, James Bond' line and now we see him truly become Bond and the full theme kicks in.

Now he's Bond and he's a fucker with a mobile

James Bond will not return. He will continue in Quantum of Solace and hopefully the title song will be a bit better.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Man on the Moon

Throughout history Man has always stared at the night skies and watched the stars.  Before I was born a man became the first to actually touch another world.

Usually deaths of celebrities and the famous don't really register with me.  You mourn the loss of talent and remember the bodies of work of comedians, musicians, actors and the like but it's an intangible thing.  You never knew them so have little real reason to grieve other than empathy and compassion.

To me this situation has changed with the passing of Neil Armstrong.  Not because I knew him or had any personal connection but because of the idea of him, the ideas and sheer goodness of mankind that he represented.  The Moon landings were the culmination of the 1960s' Space Race.  Of course it was a political and military driven stunt but it still remains the most glorious achievement of Man.  In his short life he stepped on another world and touched the stars.

When Eagle touched down on the Moon and Armstrong first stepped on lunar soil it was the culmination of unbridled ambition and determination.  It showed what we, as a species, could truly be capable of.  JFK promised a man on the Moon by the end of his decade and despite him not seeing it his promise was realised.  What could happen now if Obama promised to cure cancer within ten years with the same amount of drive and ambition?  There are many serious problems here on Earth; climate change, overpopulation and dwindling resources, who's to say that the solutions for these can't be found 'out there'?  It's been forty years since Man last set foot on the Moon and now we make do with buggies and robots sometimes landing on Mars.  We should reach further, push ourselves to discover.  Perhaps putting a man on Mars or even back on the Moon will help us solve some of our Earthly problems.

Armstrong passing makes us all feel our mortality.  Whether he liked it or not, he was a hero for people all over the world, an inspiration for all the children of the 60s and afterwards.  Do you really think that no one who saw the Moon landings in fuzzy black and white didn't come away wanting to change the world?  Armstrong seems to me as an unassuming man who worked hard for his country and despite all  the craziness concentrated on what he knew; aviation and engineering.  He began working for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), a pre NASA body, in the 1950s.  The 1950s when half the world was recovering from World War Two and Armstrong is looking to Space.

It's hard to comprehend that in 1962 he was given astronaut status and four years later commanded Gemini 8 as it nearly disastrously docked with a glorified missile in Space.  Three years after that, in 1969, and he's on the Moon looking down on all of us.

I've read and heard the stories and memories of bleary eyed kids being sat in front on tiny TVs to watch Armstrong's moment of history unfold.  I'll admit it. I'm jealous.  I might have another 50 years left and I know that I'll never witness anything that will come close to that.  The Twin Towers or the Lost finale don't compare.

It was 50/50 whether or not Apollo 11 would actually succeed and see it's Eagle module touch down and we should all be glad it did.  Whilst the promise of the Moon landings has largely evaporated over the last forty years they still stand as testament to what Mankind is capable of, especially the 'a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer' that Armstrong saw himself as.  It proves that we should all look to future, avoid the short term and dare to chase our dreams.

The next time I see the Moon I will 'think of Neil and give him a wink' like the Armstrong family suggests.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

It's better than Never Say Never Again

Unlucky thirteen for Roger as Octopussy sees all the good work done by For Your Eyes Only wiped out by an ineffectual baddie and a dodgy Tarzan impression.  Still, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few Faberge eggs.

For Your Eyes Only was a stripped back reboot of the Bond franchise made necessary by the outlandish MoonrakerOctopussy sees a return to slapstick and nonsense, it's complete reversal only avoided by Jaws and that fucking pigeon being absent.  The circus involved is more than just a setting.  At the heart of Octopussy is a reasonably good story, a renegade Russian general wants to storm Europe with the aid of a nuclear accident.  Unfortunately, the story is a Christmas tree and the writers and producers just kept adding tacky baubles and bits of tinsel.

Octopussy doesn't actually start of all that bad.  Disregarding the pre credit sequence which really is a load of Toro the film proper begins with 009.  Oh, yes, another '00'.  He doesn't get to do much as he's dispensed with the Ferrero Rocher and ruined the ambassador's patio doors before a cunning deployment of a Faberge egg.  A fake Faberge egg as we soon find out.  The fake egg seems to be of more concern to M and (bloody Hell, yet again) the Minister of Defence, than 009's demise so Bond is sent to Sotheby's to find out what's going on.  Meanwhile General Orlov is having a right ding dong with General Gogol.  He only wins as he seems to be in charge of a revolving table.  A Pyrrhic victory as his comrades basically tell him to shut up.  Watching Steven Berkoff sulk is brilliant.

I will defeat Bond with smarm
Back at Sotheby's Bond deploys some poor sleight of hand and raises his eyebrows higher than the auction bids.  The auction is eventually won by mysterious Afghan Kamal Khan.  Naturally this is Bond's cue for a plane ride.  Destination India this time.  We now see Khan in his natural habitat.  A massive nod to Goldfinger sees Khan fleece a Fawlty Towers-esque major at the backgammon table.  Bond intervenes and takes a ridiculous pile of cash of Khan.  Trousering enough bank notes to make Zimbabwe's inflation rate look minuscule Bond annoys Khan's henchman and goes on a tuk-tuk ride downtown.  Now it's time for a random chase following in the footsteps of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.  Villains are everywhere and pour out of the crowd to chase Bond across hot coals and a bed of nails.  It's all very tiresome, especially when they needn't have bothered.  To get anything out of Moore's 70s/80s Bond all you have to do is appeal to Little Roger.  Khan's interestingly accented associate Magda has a turn between the sheets and recovers Khan's treasure before falling off the balcony.  The only intriguing part of Magda is her tattoo.  Her tattoo loses all mystery when we later hear of the women-only island.

Things are getting muddled.  We now have a bonkers Russian general passing on jewels to Khan to forge who then uses Octopussy to smuggle them around.  Octopussy has a squad of fearless fighting women but owns a circus.  She's got the hump with James Bond.  But how does any of this help Orlov make his tank divisions go east to west?  What's the point of Octopussy other than to get Bond and Andrea Anders in the same room again?  And who the bloody Hell is Rita Coolidge?

Octopussy is a mess of a film wrapped up in a game of 'That's not Roger' as myriad stunt doubles hurtle around the jungle and hold onto planes.  Real Roger pops up ebery now and then to tell a tiger to 'sit' (I know) or bugger up the planting of a listening device.  Khan smarms his way through scenes rather than offering any menace and Q is unleashed into the Subcontinent only to hold on to a native ally as he expires and fly a hot air balloon.  None of it makes any sense or makes you care about anything.  You could see why Moore really wanted to call it a day before the cameras rolled.

 Somehow we establish that Orlov has planted a nuclear bomb in Octopussy's circus and is in the process of double crossing Khan and Octopussy by running off with the valuables.  For a bloke Hell bent on world domination he is very involved in petty theft.  The Western world's hopes lie with Bond, so what does he do?  He gets on a train.  No good can come of this and, true enough, a fight with a spot welding twin kicks off.  At least Bond got out of the gorilla suit.  By now Orlov is dead, his character completely redundant and yet his bomb still counts down.  Berkoff was completely wasted as Orlov was relegated to the sidelines.  The film would have benefited from him taking over from Khan as the main villain of the piece.

What do you mean this bomb has no Waldorfs?
I'm serious
Anyway, about that bomb.  It's in the big top of course but Bond is stuck outside a phonebox in a stereotypical German town.  Bratwurst flies as he steals a car and makes his way to the US Air Force base where the circus is performing.  Whilst being hunted by base security Bond manages to apply perfect clown make up and head inside.  Not a smudge of the chalk face as Roger heads towards the base commander.  The base commander has relented on his search for a Waldorf salad and is lapping up the circus shenanigans.  You can almost see the bomb timer counting down as eventually Bond convinces people he's not part of the circus.  With predictable ease the bomb is disarmed with seconds to go.  Europe is saved!
How Roger's clown make up should have looked
Alas, a debrief on the biggest crisis since Cuba has to wait as Bond and Octopussy return to India for a dust up with Khan.  Invoking the same light aircraft which featured at the beginning of Moonraker Bond is up over the mountains.  This whole sequence only serves as a dry run for the end of The Living Daylights as Khan gets his comeuppance leaving Bond to convalesce on board Octopussy's private yacht.

Apart from the fact that Octopussy is a turgid lump in the Bond canon it's notable for one reason.  It was produced at the same time as, and went up against, Never Say Never Again and the return of Connery. It's good that Octopussy pulled in more dollars than Never... and hopefully now that MGM have the rights to Never... we'll never see it again.

Octopussy jumped up and down on For Your Eyes Only's goodwill and was a step too far for dear old Roger.  It should have been an omen that most of the crew had Delhi belly on location.  There's one more to come from Roger.  Hopefully he'll go out with a bang rather than a whimper.

James Bond will return and this time he'll be accompanied by another Avenger.

No, not one of those Avengers

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Fiddler In The Monastery

After the over the top and frankly horrendous Moonraker Bond is returned to his roots.  This is almost a reboot as Bond is stripped bare and we have a film actually driven by plot rather than stunts and gadgets.  For Your Eyes Only is a reinvention, we have new music for the gun barrel and Roger seems to be buying into it.  He doesn't look as tired and disinterested as in Moonraker.  The next Bond reboot, Casino Royale, bears a few similiarities to For Your Eyes Only, both are stories of double cross with hints of revenge.  However, For Your Eyes Only doesn't start too well.

Sheena the Gozerian
Bond visits Tracy, the only reference made to Mrs Bond during Roger's reign, before being interrupted by a soon to be remote controlled helicopter.  It seems Blofeld is back, crippled and soon to be dead once and for all (or not Kevin McClory).  Moore's Bond has never faced Blofeld before and this is a timely, if a little flippant, nod to past glories.  As Blofeld falls away to nothing the warble of Sheena Easton takes over.  The most notable thing about Easton's involvement is her boat race plastered all over the opening titles.

Back to the film proper and we soon find we have an understated, almost subtle Cold War thriller on our hands.  Secrets and Russians abound as we have a naval ship, the St Georges, disguised as a trawler doing a bit of actual spying.  There are no killer freighters hungry for the Royal Navy but an almost humble World War Two mine to provide Great Britain with problems.

This is where we need M, not the bleeding Minister Of Defence.  A mark of respect to the late Bernard Lee but a memo would have been better than Fredrick Gray.  The extent of Gray's conversation seems to be 'Hmmmm'.  It's like his prostate is falring up.  Thank God for good ol' General Gogol.  It's Gogol who lets us know what the Navy were looking after, an ATAC which turns out to be some kind of nuclear submarine walkie talkie.  Quite an important bit of kit and now the Russkis are after it.  Cue Bond.

Or not.  We're off to the Greek Islands first where some posh bit with too much hair is going home to daddy.  It doesn't end well and a long and lazy close up let's us know she's out for revenge.  But will she bleach her upper lip first?  Now it comes together as Bond is tasked with finding a Cuban hitman, shame it's in that bloody Lotus.  It seems the daddy of posh bit (Melina) was a British agent.  This doesn't explain the quite bizarre difference in accents.  Anyway, Bond goes off to find Tony Montana.

There's a Viagra joke in here somewhere
Cunningly dressed as a middle aged man trying to recreate his youth Bond bumps into Melina and her crossbow and loses the Lotus. YES!  This is the first time we've seen Moore's Bond have to think on his feet as in between umbrellas and a very resilient Citroen 2CV he escapes some goons.  A quick lecture for Melina on the perils of vengeance before Bond is headed back off to Blighty.

Seeing that Q pretty much invented LCD TV amongst other things it's a bit odd he still uses a Charles Babbage original.  Despite this, the interplay between Bond and Q this time around is up there with the best and helps Bond identify a bloke from a Tron storyboard as a bad guy.  Target acquired.  And he's Belgian.

Sporting some more dubious leisurewear Bond encounters Ferrara (reprised as Casino Royale's Mathis?) and Kristatos.  Now I don't trust Kristatos.  Anyone spending that much time watching teenage ice skaters is a bit dodgy.  Even if he is sponsoring her.  And he's got a Russian bird in his employ.  Alarm bells should ring loud but Bond is happy to make friends and let Kristatos lay the blame with Colombo.  Thank God Bond didn't make friends with Bibi.  Perhaps Roger put his foot down over the age difference.  Despite later thinking that Bond is from the British Narcotics Board(?) Kristatos sells Bond his story.

Colombo is 'The Dove', a semi legit businessman who munches pistachios and doesn't have a trenchcoat.  The chase for Colombo is manipulated by Kristatos via a biathlon and a needless turn in ice hockey gear before a very awkward dinner with ex Mrs Brosnan.  There was nowhere near enough soft focus and vaseline going on to make her attractive and how she thinks that's a Liverpudlian accent is beyond me.  Our newly promoted director John Glen again reaches back to On Her Majesty's Secret Service as Mrs Brosnan is dispatched rather brutally on the beach.  We've already seen a cosy ride in the snow, a ski chase and a bobsleigh.  Nice to reference your first Bond film every now and then.

My wings may be a shield of steel but they're no match for Topol's hair
 Bond is kidnapped and dragged before a very Drago like Colombo.  It's now that the Fiddler on the Roof tells Bond the truth.  Bond really is getting gullible in his old age, he's buying stories of any Topol, Kristatos and Harry.  Dr Hans Zarkov proves that he is a good guy by taking Bond on a jolly to a drugs factory in Albania.  It seems that Kristatos is, indeed, a KGB'd up bad guy.  Especially when he appears to have a stash of mines like the one that blew up the St Georges.  It's amazing what Topol can do with some nutshells, his improbable hair and a penchant for dressing like a bin man.  He makes Neville Southall look dapper.

Coveted by Bond villains everywhere
The tension (remember that?) builds underwater as Bond goes after the elusive ATAC only to find the bastard Kristatos waiting for him on the surface, it's only dispelled as Moore talks to himself while cutting the ATAC free like a pensioner trying to get a Sky+ box to work.  Don't worry, the bad guys still have their obligatory yellow submarine.  A spot of keel-hauling from the novel of Live And Let Die and a chat with a parrot leads Bond to cracking Kristatos plan.  Yes, that said 'parrot'.  Just be grateful the fucking pigeon hasn't come back.  The tension is ramped up some more as Bond ascends to a remote monastery as Kristatos prepares for victory.  A sequence which Sylvester Stallone managed to turn into an entire film.

For Your Eyes Only sees Bond as gritty and realistic.  Devoid of gadgets Bond becomes the cold killer that we've been missing for ten years.  This is best shown as he says goodbye to the Belgian Lucque with a kick and an acceptable quip.  Bond is proven to be resourceful as the ATAC is lost to both sides.  Detente indeed.

Not only has Bond saved the western world but he's had a good go at rescuing United Artists too.  After their humbling with Heaven's Gate and Kris Kristofferson For Your Eyes Only provided some much needed box office dollar.  Despite this United Artists was swallowed up by MGM and Bond will be represented by a roaring lion from now on.  For Your Eyes Only shows that Bond can be realistic and successful.  Just don't mention Maggie Thatcher.  Hopefully the producers will keep this in mind for the next film.  Oh, wait, Octopussy's up next.

James Bond will return but he'll be doing an impression of Dr Dolittle.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Bond, Greek mythology and Madonna. Best not mixed.

Forty years and now twenty films and this one does it's best to kill the Bond franchise like clubbing a baby seal.  Die Another Day is Bond20 and apparently an homage to all the Bond films that have come before it.  Is Die Another Day, like Icarus, punished for it's ambition?  No.  In reality, Die Another Day is a horror show, an elongated car commercial with awful CGI and a script so clunky Brosnan almost chokes on the words.  You can't blame this all on hubris.  The director, Lee Tamahori, was well known for making commercials so was obviously right at home with $100 million worth of product placement (he has another 'George Michael' type claim to fame now).  Spotting the references to the previous Bond films is the most entertaining thing you can do and still watch Die Another Day, such is the appalling nature of the dialogue and set pieces.

Although the film drove Bond and Brosnan into a cul de sac that there was seemingly no escape from, perversely Die Another Day made an absolute fortune at the box office.  Even Roger Moore had a pop at it saying 'it just went too far'.  This really did feel like the end of Bond especially as The Bourne Identity had been released six months prior.  Maybe that's a bit harsh as Die Another Day only really falls apart when Bond gets back from Cuba.

If I curl my lip a bit they'll KNOW I'm angry
The Bond films are at their best when they have an impressive villain, see Red Grant, Goldfinger, Scaramanga, Blofeld, unfortunately, Rupert Graves is a poor mans' Stromberg equipped with some electricity.  It's when Graves becomes central to the 'plot' that Die Another Day crumbles.  It looks as though a Bond film was too big for Toby Stephens and his acting range seems to be a change in the severity of his sneer.

Die Another Day opens with a surfing skit in what is apparently North Korea.  Can you even surf in North Korea?  At least we've got a level of self awareness as there is no sign of The Beach Boys breaching the soundtrack.  Standard operating procedure resumes as Brosnan steals some sunglasses with a cheeky smile before he goes and blows some stuff up.  The twist comes after Bond drops a model hovercraft over a waterfall and delivers a half baked one liner.  He's captured and imprisoned, the story continuing over the opening credits and beneath Madonna's lame, schizoid theme tune.  Marvel at Bond's waterboarding and Kleinman's CGI fire and ice ladies.  Keep them in mind as they're the best special effects you're going to see in this film.

I'm going to hold my gut in til Ravi Shankar gets here
In between scorpion stings and beatings Bond becomes George Harrison before being traded by the Americans for the terrorist Zao.  Zao now has a shiny and probably very expensive face after the pre credits run in with Bond.  Things look promising as Michael Madsen makes his appearance.  Don't get too carried away though, Madsen agreed to do Celebrity Big Brother after all.  After Bond's return to Western hands he's informed by M that he's a liability.  A washed up excuse for an agent.  Brosnan admirably sucks his stomach in before escaping from the high tech hospital before taking a little swim to what is supposed to be Hong Kong.  This is all a ruse so Bond can have a shave before going renegade again.  Brosnan's playing the Dalton card in seek of revenge against the person who set him up in Korea or something.  It's hard to pay attention as Halle Berry's Jinx appears Andress like from
Figs. Better than Bond in bed
the sea.  This is the only homage to previous Bond films that actually works.  It's subtle compared to Graves' parachute and the scene with the new Q that just shouts 'OCTOPUSSY', 'FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE' at you.  Three minutes of hard flirting and Bond has got Jinx into bed although he seems to be losing his touch as she stops mid-coitus for a fruity snack.

A run around Scaramaga's updated funhouse is peppered with choreographed fights that would put Michael Flatley out of business and we work out that Jinx has to be CIA at least before she jumps in an atrocious CGI stunt from the top of the complex.  Bond is left behind with some diamonds that bring him back to London accompanied by The Clash.  Quite how Joe Strummer was convinced to let this happen is beyond me.  He must be spinning as British Airways have done it all over again recently.  Graves is introduced and you begin to wonder what exactly he has to do with Zao and the Koreans from earlier.  You don't wonder for too long as you are distracted by his appalling characterisation which is only overshadowed by his stealing of Blofeld's satellite idea.  What's more impressive is the scale of his Icelandic affair.  The Ice Palace is the biggest thing Bond has had to run around in since The Spy Who Loved Me.

Bond fannies around Iceland in a few scenes which are only set so that Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) can show off her body and kill time before the inevitable car chase.  Bond's 'Vanish' (I know) vs Zao's horrifically green Jaguar convertible.  Inexplicably Zao's Jag is armed to the teeth and the ice based chase looks like it was nicked from The Fast and the Furious.  Zao is dispatched in improbable circumstances yet all I can see in my mind's eye are computer generated ice bergs and Pierce Brosnan ageing before my eyes.

Brosnan; ageing and turning into McCartney
With Zao gone it's time for the removal of Graves.  By now we know that Graves isn't actually Graves and his father is none too pleased about what he's done with his face.  Graves does his Iron Man impression and removes his father from the equation.  The end of Goldfinger is rehashed and extended as Bond and Jinx battle Graves and Frost before Graves has a chance to destroy South Korea.  Graves is reduced to bird soup melange before a ridiculous escape by Bond and Jinx as the film draws to a close,  Forty years of legacy has been pissed on as the Brosnan era comes to an end.  Die Another Day creaks under the weight of an atrocious script, music video tricks and around twenty companies worth of priduct placement. I can't even be bothered to look at the laboured allusions to Madonna's character being a lesbian or the invisible car such is how cheap the shots are.

It's hard to see how Bond can recover from Die Another Day.  Although the last time there was such a ridiculous Bond film the producers came back with a serious effort in the form of For Your Eyes OnlyDie Another Day is undoubtedly Brosnan's Moonraker and he's contracted for one more.  Brosnan will officially stay as Bond until 2005 with Tarantino sniffing around to cast him in a black and white Casino Royale.  It won't happen though. All the promise of GoldenEye now seems such a long time ago as Brosnan's fall from grace is complete.

James Bond will return, this time he'll be blond and look a bit like Jason Bourne.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


The 70s are nearly over but there's still time for one more jolly with Roger.  This time we're all set for outer space.  The producers have gone zeitgeist shopping again and this time I blame George Lucas.  Star Wars has come along and changed films.  For the better? Well, Moonraker became the biggest grossing Bond film to date in 1979 and wasn't beaten until GoldenEye.  So there's that.

It's 1979 and unfortunate that the other space based film doing the rounds is Ridley Scott's Alien.  A tense and brooding thriller set in the used future.  Alien is dark and magnificent.  Moonraker is not.  That's a bit harsh on Moonraker perhaps but Roger's space race is a film of two parts.  Drax's nuclear missile of the novel is replaced by a space shuttle and as Bond investigates it's supposed crash and destruction it's actually quite good.  It's as if Eon saw The Spy Who Loved Me as a little too cheesy and tried to make Moonraker a little more serious.  But then we go globetrotting on a bizarre scale and Jaws comes back.

We begin with the RAF ferrying a US shuttle home for bed.  Yes, the RAF have replaced the Royal Navy of The Spy Who Loved Me and they're making such frightfully good time that they forgot to check the kitchen cupboards for two lurkers in black leather jackets.  Such is the movie shorthand that we instantly know that black leather jackets = bad guys. But why the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon walk?  The Moonraker shuttle is hijacked and assumed to have crashed much to the embarrassment of the British authorities.  As a result M recalls Bond from another mission.  This mission seems to be sleazing on a young girl aboard a small plane but the pilot has other ideas.  Jaws, quite literally, appears from nowhere and Bond is flying.  Parachuteless.  Mid air shenanigans follow before good ol' Shirley belts out another theme tune and Jaws ruins a circus.

M is driven into an almost fluster by the increasingly annoying and irrelvant Minister of Defence and so dispatches Bond to find out what happened to the Moonraker shuttle.  Where else to begin but California and the Drax estate.  We learn a couple of things from the Drax estate.  The main one is that only ladies fly helicopters in Moore's world.  At least this time she isn't removed by a Lotus-to-air missile.  It's also pretty obvious that Drax has some cash.  Well, quite a lot of cash.

Conservatory, pond, moonbase, garage.  All good homes need one
Drax seems to own Moonbase Alpha from Space 1999 and, of course, the Eiffel Tower.  However, Drax is definitely a bad guy as he's vaguely European and plays the piano like Hannibal Lecter plays the clavier. And he paraphrases Oscar Wilde. Dodgy.  He's also a little less than original as we soon find out he's basically stolen Stromberg's idea to create a new civilisation.  Little clues are dotted around, mainly in the form of Drax's odd habit of surrounding himself by pairs of pretty young ladies with various European titles.  Like the time when Mrs Noah went on her holidays.

Bond's investigation essentially involves a guided tour but when someone called Goodhead offers, you don't refuse.  We soon accompany Bond to a massive centrifuge.  'It's a trap!' we all cry yet Bond hops in eagerly.

Roger doing an impression of Harry Redknapp
A 70 year old can take 3 Gs according to Dr Goodhead. Moore (too busy trying to flirt) neglects to mention his advancing years and waits for some subliminal Q action to save himself from turning into Droopy.  Drax's evil henchman scurries away to change his pyjamas.  Sufficiently recovered from his ordeal Bond puts phase two of Moore espionage into operation.  Phase Two is 'shag the secretary' and doesn't it work well?  Bond learns he must now go to Venice.  The secretary isn't so lucky.  Corinne Dufour's death is very well done and all the more horrific for it.  Chased through the woods we know there will only be one outcome.  So far Moonraker hasn't been that bad.  Yes we've had some cheesy moments but there's been some genuine tension too.

Then there's Venice and the pigeon.  The fucking pigeon. We were doing so well until we got to Venice.  Then Bond hopped into his gondola.  Inexplicable Hammer horror extras chase Bond down the canals and all the good work is beginning to come undone.  A touch of Close Encounters of The Third Kind and Bond has found a secret lab, bumped into Dr Goodhead again and embarrassed his boss.  Nevermind all that we're off to Rio.

It's licorice, deal with it
Moore's wannabe Junkanoo skit sees Jaws reappear and a bimble up Sugarloaf Mountain.  The film is falling apart faster than that cable car control room and we're back into the realms of random villains appearing just to provide a chase scene.  The only punctuation is a casual British base in Brazil as we find out that Drax is going to kill everyone with flowers.  He may as well have given out maps as these flowers only grow in one place.  Now where could Drax be, I wonder?  This 'comedic' infodump is bookended by another chase.  This time down the Amazon.  Words fail me it's that bad.

Wait thirty seconds and Bond finds Drax's secret and very plastic base.  The polystyrene wobbles as Bond has a roll around with a snake (not like that, although that was probably in the script for a while).  For some reason this is all watched over by girls in togas.  The Grigori angels are less than please when Bond defeats the snake, however, Bond is soon captured and listening to Drax explain everything about his evil plan.

So that's where Petr Cech got it from
We're off to Drax's space station to see if Bond can stop the eugenics. And stop it he does, naturally.  With some cod psychology and a battery of Marines that the world just happened to have standing by.  The end battle of Moonraker is a rehash of The Spy Who Loved Me's rehash of You Only Live Twice.  Except this time they've borrowed some sound effects rejected by the Cylons.

Bond successfully manages to complete re-entry, which is getting more and more impressive as Roger gets older , and Bond's lost decade is almost over.  Moore's Bond started so well but began to peter out quickly.  The franchise has become almost happy to spoof itself.  Hopefully this trend will change in the 80s.

James Bond will return but will Roger?

Monday, 23 July 2012

Glang, glang-a-lang-a-lang, glang-a-lang

The most jingoistic titles ever?
Roger's third jaunt is Bond's tenth big screen outing. Except this isn't really a Bond film.  Having flirted with blaxploitation and kung fu in his past two outings Moore is now fully exposed to Carry On.... treatment.  At times this is a nonsensical sequence of set pieces loosely brought together by a tedious game of one upmanship between Moore and Mrs Ringo.  Looking back there's a horrible feeling that Bond is about to get left behind as summer blockbusters really take over.  We've already had Spielberg and Jaws and Lucas is about to spew out part one (four) of the Star Wars saga.

Alan Partridge might extol the virtues of The Spy Who Loved Me but to me it's the turning point for Moore's Bond.  And it's a turn for the worse.

The Spy Who Loved Me is a lighthearted faff around the desert and Europe which is in no ways taxing as Bond pursues the villains who have stolen a submarine tracking system.  If you close your eyes the pre credit sequence is practically a copy of You Only Live Twice. Have Eon and Cubby got so lazy, so quickly?  This, of course, comes before that parachute jump.  Hurtling towards the edge of the cliff you genuinely wonder what Bond will pull out of the bag.  The huge jump is breathtaking but, as now seems customary,  the tension is diffused with a tongue planted firmly in cheek as a massive Union Flag unfurls.  We'll let them off though as Carly Simon belts out a bloody great theme tune.

Right stop listening to Carly, one of our submarines is missing!  So Bond pops on his commanders' uniform and heads for M.  With the help of a roll of cling film, Inspector Wexford and the soon to be exceptionally annoying Minister of Defence, it's established that someone has mastered a way to track nuclear submarines.  Quelle surprise the indications are that the system will be sold to the highest bidder. But what's this? The Russians have lost a nuclear sub as well? Bummer.  Up steps Triple X.  The Russian equivalent of Bond is a lady and it just so happens we've already seen Bond dispatch her uber hairy lover.  It's not long before our competing heroes cross one another's path as they seek out the buyer.  After a run in with Jaws and a sleepy cigarette the two are put on a joint mission.

This is where Bond makes one of his classic mistakes.  He takes the train.  AGAIN.  Will he ever learn?  After From Russia With Love, after Live And Let Die here he is again on a choo choo.  I give it five minutes before it kicks off.  Oh look, Jaws was in the wardrobe (somehow he fit.)  The toothy bastard has hands bigger than Moore's head and yet still ends up out the window.  Nothing like a train based dust up to help Bond do away with foreplay.

We arrive in Sardinia as the pair target Stromberg and meet Q.  Or is it Q?  He's in the field and yet not wearing one of his ludicrous shirts and what's this? A Lotus Esprit?  It had better be decent or I'm going to petition for the Aston Martin.  Now we get into silly season.  The helicopter.  The massive War of the Worlds Martian base Stromberg lives in.  The inexplicable and endless supply of goons appearing from nowhere to chase Bond.  All completely devoid of tension.  Curt Jurgens tries to be menacing and a little sinister as Stromberg but it's hard to look passed the fact he just sits around a lot pressing the odd button.  It's as if he was cast for his voice more than anything else.

Goons submarines have to be yellow. Them's the rules
Turns out the Lotus can swim.  This can mean only one thing.  Baddies in yellow submersibles and a slow motion underwater fight!  Hurrah!  The updating of Thunderball, punctuated by Moore's bizarre 'brace yourself', is all a little tiresome.  Cue amusing drive up the beach.Punter checks his bottle of vino and kids queue up for a fish.  No sign of Mr Whippy just yet.

Mind you, we haven't had the fucking pigeon yet so count your blessings.

In all the splashing about you'd forget there was some espionage going on.  A buxom reminder is delivered as we find out that Stromberg's massive tanker has never put into port.  This can only mean one thing.  That big ship is eating submarines.  Is that being a little presumptuous?  No, I've seen You Only Live Twice so I know how this works.  If only there was a way for Bond to get aboard that tanker.  Why not drop in on an American submarine and see if it gets eaten?  Everyone needs a hobby.  Now we just need to storm the volcano lair.  Cunningly disguised as Stromberg's massive tanker the volcano lair is everything you'd expect. Chock full of random barrels of oil, fully equipped with an armoury to supply any and all imprisoned sailors or soldiers and including an impenetrable control room.  THERE'S EVEN A MONORAIL.  Many henchmen in Star Trek red are dispatched as Bond sets about foiling Stromberg's dastardly plan.  His plan to wipe out the world in nuclear holocaust and live beneath the sea is a little deluded.  Surely most of the nuclear fallout will end up poisoning the seas and making his new civilisation a prison?  Obviously details like this aren't high on a megalomaniacs agenda.

Bond has time for a quick game of Operation! before he rescues Triple X via jet ski.  Stromberg's demise is almost as pointless as the rest of his performance thus far, the last battle being left for Jaws.  Being mindful of his surroundings sees Bond triumph and Jaws plunge into a shark pool.  It's not quite a pressurised air pellet but then Jaws isn't dead.  Sarcasm dictates that I can't wait to see hm again.  I miss the days when the Russians and S.P.E.C.T.R.E. were the baddies.

Triple X is a woman. Do you get that now?

The Spy Who Loved Me has set the stall for the foreseeable future.  Bond films must now be full of gadgets and breathtaking, if implausible stunts. God forbid a story will help the franchise compete with Hollywood's cheesiest summer blockbusters.  Moore has definitely peaked already as Bond and the slide into torpor continues.  The 1970s really are becoming Bond's lost decade and they're not over yet.

James Bond will return, and it's ALL George Lucas' fault.