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Archive for May, 2009

from-russia-with-love-posterDVD’s are great, the picture and sound quality are outstanding but lets be honest films are best at the cinema on a 30 foot screen (or bigger). For that reason it is always worth going to see an older film at the cinema when you get the chance. That’s why I went to see From Russia with Love today. The film was made in 1963 and has long been regarded (by me) as been the best bond film ever made. As the second film in the series it does not suffer from the baggage of the later films. For that reason it actually works in its own right as a good film not just a good Bond film. Even the next film in the series had started to be overtaken with its own hype with Sean Connery playing the part with a knowing wink (that Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan had from day one on the job!).

from-russia-with-loveOne of the reasons it works so well as it relatively accurate to the novel, the main difference is the use of SPECTRE who replace SMERSH who are the adversary in the novel. This requires a few small tweaks to the plot. The other difference is that Bond is introduced much later in the book after concentrating on the Grant character in the early chapters. There is a nod to this in the fact bond doesn’t actually appear in the pre credit scene. Directed with great confidence by Terence Young in his second of three Bond films, along with Guy Hamilton he was responsible for a lot of the great early Bond films. As is often the case with films of the era and Bond films the dialogue can be a bit clunky and the delivery a bit wooden. The rear projection in the car and boat scenes is also horrendous but again common for the era. All this can easily be overlooked for a film that effectively blends action with a spy story containing plots and counterplots and memorable villains.

From Russia with Love is always worth watching but at the cinema it is a special treat. If it makes it to your local cinema go and see it.

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posterHaving recently seen an old episode of Miami Vice on TV I decided to revisit the 2006 film.  Interestingly the idea for the film came from Jamie Foxx whist filming Ali. The story he tells is of him pitching the idea of a really slick and cool undercover team, he did so describing scenes.  Although Michael Mann has confirmed the idea of making a film based on the 80’s TV show (produced by Mann) came from Foxx his ideas didn’t make it into the final film.  Foxx however did get to play Ricardo Tubbs one of the lead roles.  The other Sonny Crockett is played by Colin Farrell on the recommendation of original Crockett, Don Johnson.  The role of Castillo went to Barry Shabaka Henley after Edward James Olmos who played the part on TV turned it down.

ctWhist working a different case Crockett gets a phone call from an informer they had previously passed on to the FBI.  As this is going on two undercover FBI men are killed in a drugs trade with an Aryan Brotherhood gang.  Realising their department is compromised they bring Crocket and Tubbs in to try and “plug the leak”.  Their way in is to provide transport for a drug cartel from Haiti to Florida.  As they get involved with the Columbian cartel they realise they can take the case further up the chain to the boss Archangel de Jesus Montoya (Luis Tosar).  Obviously things go wrong for dramatic effect leading to a final shootout.  The film has been criticised for a lack of action.  There isn’t even a car chase!  But this isn’t Bad Boys; this is a slick thriller that actually presents are far more realistic impression of undercover police work than the old TV show. 

mojoSo the film does deliver what it set out to with an ultra slick (I keep using that expression, sorry) ultra stylish film just like the main characters.  The original TV series did the same but things have moved on and pandering to fans of the original TV series would have created a parody or a very dated film.  Starsky & Hutch (2004) turned an old TV show into a comedy, it worked for fans of that type of thing but I found it really annoying.  Of course Miami Vice has nods to the original but they are smaller more subtle things; Crocket drives a Ferrari and has an even more ludicrous speed boat than he did in the TV series (A Marine Technology Inc. (MTI) 39 Series offshore catamaran appropriately named Mojo, MTI don’t ferraripublish prices on their website but I did find a second hand one that looks similar for $400,000).  There are quotes that where used in the TV series.  The film also feels like an episode of a TV series (an established one not the beginning) we join a close-knit team on a case.  These aren’t people getting to know each other; they know each others every move and trust each other implicitly.

trudyIt was suggested on its release that the film did not represent Miami, large sections of the film where set outside the city and those that were in the city were often anonymous.  Whilst this is true I don’t feel it detracts from the film.  Again the film avoids the temptation to be nostalgic with the choice of music.  There is no Jan Hammer and although In the Air Tonight that featured prominently in the TV series was used it was a modern cover not the Phil Collins version.  The choice of songs and the score by Organized Noize match the tone of the film pefectly.  My one criticism is that Trudy (Naomie Harris) and Gina (Elizabeth Rodriguez) are under used but then their characters were under used in the original series as well.

ginaThis is a really underrated film, I think due to people’s expectations.  Some people probably went into it expecting a fun nostalgia trip others wanted a high octane all action film.  The people who would appreciate it probably stayed away because they expected these things from it too.  Its problem is finding a comfortable middle ground, it doesn’t have an underlying message to make it a “worthy” Oscar friendly film but it isn’t a dumb mindless action film.  I don’t see there being a sequel to the film, that is a real shame.  As a person who is normally against sequels I really feel this cast has more to give.  The film is a small episode in the lives of the characters an as such there is unlimited scopeli for another film just think of the films like episodes in the TV version.  What I would advise against is a sequel with a new director, that could be a disaster!  My advice is if you haven’t seen Miami Vice rent the DVD and watch it with an open mind.  If you have seen it and didn’t like it give it a second chance.

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Night Train

ntrainA film version of Martin Amis’ 1997 Novel Night train is listed as being in Pre-Production.  An interesting book, at only 150 pages relatively short and written in a direct to the point style described as “US police procedural”.  It makes for a style that readers tend to either love or hate.  The film is set to be directed by Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now & Walkabout) and to star Sigourney Weaver.  Little information about the film has been released but IMDB have given a brief synopsis:

 

“A female Kansas City Police Officer is assigned the task of investigating the brutal killing of the daughter of the Chief of Police.”

 

It is not clear from this how faithful to the book the film will be but the focus of the book is so acute that a tiny change could completely change the theme of the story.  For those who haven’t read the book here is a synopsis:

 

Mike Hoolihan is a female detective and recovering alcoholic.  Set in an unnamed American city the main subject of the book is the Investigation into an apparent and unexpected suicide of Jennifer.  A beautiful young woman with a seemingly perfect life se had no reason to kill herself.  She was also the daughter of Mikes friend, mentor and former boss Tom Rockwell.  No one can accept that Jennifer has killed herself, the obvious answer is that it must have been murder.  The main suspect Jennifer’s lover Trader Faulkner.  As Mike investigates she discovers a train of evidence that isn’t all it seems. 

 

Other casting is only rumours at the moment but include Michael Madson and Nick Nolte.  The title of the book refers to a rhythm and blues instrumental from the1950’s that is mentioned in the book; it will be interesting to see if it features in the film.  This could be a film to look out for towards the end of the year (or early next year here in the UK) not to be confused with the film of the same name by first time director Brian King (writer of the excellent Cypher) also due out later this year. 

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With the release of Terminator Salvation imminent it makes sense to cash in with a spin-off TV series but it appears that isn’t going to happen as it appear Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will not be back for a third series.  So where did it go wrong?

 Warning plot spoilers below.

sarahSeason one started well with Sarah Conner (Lena Headey) is still on the run with her son John (Thomas Dekker) following the events of Terminator 2.  A terminator (Garret Dillahunt) who becomes known as Cromartie acting as a substitute teacher at jobs school and attempts to kill John.  John is saved by school friend Cameron (Summer Glau) who turns out to be a reprogrammed terminator sent back from the future by John to protect his younger self. 

 

johnCameron explains that what the did altered but not prevented judgment day and they can more effectively fight against it in the future.  They use a time machine in a bank volt to move forward to 2008.  The cynic in me thinks this device is used to move the action to present day to make the production more simple and the program more appealing to younger viewers.  This also means we have gone beyond the events of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and the two exist separately and independently of each other.  This means the series could not tie in, in any way with the new film Salvation.

cameronWith Cameron posing as John’s sister they lead a duel life trying to blend in while preventing the computers that started the war from being built.  Along the way the hook up with Derek Reese, Johns uncle.  The series was cut to a short nine episodes because of the writers strike.  Season two started with a new addition to the cast Shirley Manson from the band Garbage playing a T-1000 who is impersonating Catherine Weaver a woman who runs a computer company who has her own mysterious agenda.

catherineThen after twenty-two episodes in series two it could all be over with a real cliff-hanger of an episode.  John has travelled forward in time with Catherine Weaver who then disappears leaving him to be confronted by his father Kyle, Uncle Derek and Cameron none of whom have ever hear of John.  One assumes that if he jumped forward in time he didn’t exist in those years and therefore did not become the great leader.  Or possibly that he needed to jump forward to become the leader.  Who knows?  There is a line towards the end of the first film where Sarah says something like “a person could go crazy thinking about these things”.  How true!

derekThere was always a real problem with the series.  Probably in an attempt to appeal to younger viewers Sarah Conner is not the star of the program, John and Cameron take over and have the best stories.  The reason this is a problem is that they failed to get this audience and are alienating fans of the original film who want to see Sarah Connor not the kids.  The payoff for this is Summer Glau is brilliant as Cameron a terminator learning to be more human.  With 31 hours to play with this can be explored far more effectively than Arnold Schwarzenegger could in T2.  Glau brings a lot of the oddities to her performance that we saw in Firefly but with a smaller main cast in this we see more of her. 

So if this is the end of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles it is both a fitting way to end but a shame as the series was getting into its stride and had just opened a world of plot possibilities up.

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