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Archive for April, 2012

Carina Round

I am taking one of my occasional breaks from rambling about movies to talk about one of my other great passion music. For just over a decade my favourite singer has been Carina Round. Not as well know as she should be, Carina is a truly talented singer songwriter to restore your fair in music in this X Factor/Pop Ideal celebrity obsessed age. Click HERE to see her new video on the Rolling Stone website

Her new album Tigermending is out tomorrow, you can hear it HERE via AOL album stream. If you aren’t already familiar with her music it is also worth checking out her previous releases, most notably her 2001 debut The First Blood Mystery. As good as her albums are, she really comes into her own playing live, whether on her own with an acoustic guitar or backed by a full band Carina always gives a memorable performance. This is a live version of my favourite of her songs:

For more information and tour dates check out her official website.

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There are many mysteries in Hollywood, one of them is why isn’t Guy Pearce one of the biggest movie stars in the world? He has flirted with the A list in movies like L.A. Confidential but the real classics like The Proposition and Memento have come out of leftfield as has Lockout.

Captured by the secret service and wrongly accused of treason, Snow (Guy Pearce) is convicted without a trial. Meanwhile liberal do-gooder President’s daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace) is taken hostage while visiting a prison orbiting in space. Snow is sent in to rescue her, what follows is basically Die Hard meets Escape from New York, in space.

The CGI effects in the early scenes are cheep and really bad, but the action in the rest of the movie is good without the use of shaky cameras, ultra close-ups and over editing that has become the norm. The real success of the movie is the Snow, or more precisely Pearce playing him. Wisecracking and kicking ass like John McClane and Snake Plissken Peace absolutely relishes the role. To help things even further Peace has genuine chemistry with the surprisingly good Maggie Grace. We actually care about these underwritten and undeveloped characters. Of the supporting cast, the most notable performance comes from Joseph Gilgun who you may recognise from This Is England and his TV work.

Based on an “original idea” by Luc Besson (I’m not sure there is an original idea in the whole movie). I have kind of mixed feelings about Besson, I like most of the movies he has directed and really love a couple of them, but the conveyor belt of his original ideas is a mixed bag ranging form great to utter shit. I am pleased to report this is one of the better ones. Ultimately the movie is irrelevant, disposable and unoriginal fluff but is also fun, funny, exciting and immensely watchable. Helmed by first time feature directors James Mather, Stephen St. Leger, without Besson’s name attached it would have found its way to DVD without troubling the inside of a cinema/theatre, this would have been a shame. Not wanting to outstay its welcome it clocks in at 95 minutes, this is about right.

There is enough going on to turn this into a low budget franchise with two or three sequels, this would probably be a mistake. Left on its own it will age well (other than the effects) and be remembered as a B movie classic. It isn’t a great film this doesn’t stop it being enjoyable, and that’s why I love it.

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The Spy Who Loved Me from yesterday was a repost from three years ago. When I originally posted the treatment for a movie based on the un-filmed Bond novel (the film of the same name is not based on Ian Fleming’s novel) I promised a similar idea based on Moonraker. Better late than never here it is after three years.

So you think you know Moonraker? As the great Ross McG from Ross v Ross once said, ‘Oh, Star Wars is huge! Lets put Bond in space with Moonraker!’ That’s not far off the mark. But back in 1955, just ten years after World War II and during the Cold War Ian Flemings’s third Bond novel was very different. The only way this would work as a movie would be to reboot the series and set the movie in the 1950’s, something I have wanted to see for a long time.

M asks Bond to join him at his club, Blades to sit in a game of bridge. Millionaire businessman Sir Hugo Drax has been winning a lot of money, M suspects him of cheating and wants to know why. Bond confirms M’s suspicions and turns the tables by cheating himself winning a large sum of money.

The mysterious Drax was a British soldier who made his fortune in the aerospace industry after being injured and suffering amnesia during World War II. A national hero because of his backing for the Moonraker project, Britain’s first nuclear missile intended as a nuclear deterrent during the cold war. (Britain’s first nuclear missile the Blue Streak was actually announced around the time the novel was published). Bond is sent to Drax’s factory near Dover to replace security officer working on the project who was shot dead. While there he meets Gala Brand, a beautiful (isn’t everyone in the Bond world) Special Branch agent working undercover as Drax’s personal assistant. It appears Bonds predecessor was killed to stop him revealing a sighting of a submarine off the coast. Bond also makes the surprising discovery (remember this is only ten years after the war) that all the scientists working on the Moonraker project are German. Meanwhile, Gala discovers the truth about the Moonraker, its first test flight will be aimed at the heart of London fitted with a Soviet nuclear warhead. She is captured and imprisoned in the building containing a beacon the missile will be aimed at.

Bond’s attempt to rescue Gala fails resulting in his capture and the destruction of his beloved Bentley. It is then that Drax, in true megalomaniac villain style reveals is back-story and his plans: he was not a British soldier and did not have amnesia. He was the leader of the commando unit (dressed in British uniform) that caused the explosion he was injured in. The amnesia, a cover story while he recovered in a British hospital. After the war he took up a new identity as cover but retained his Nazi beliefs and conceived the Moonraker to destroy London in revenge. In the process he also intends to make a killing on the stock market. To destroy all evidence Brand and Bond are moved to the area under the Moonraker’s engines just before it is fired. They promptly escape and with the help of Soviet Intelligence change the coordinates to redirect the Moonraker safely into the sea. Drax is killed attempting to escape in a Russian submarine. Bond meets up with Gala but is snubbed in favour of he fiancé.

So how have I come up with such a great story? Put simply I haven’t, this is not a treatment for a movie this is an overview of the plot lifted straight from the novel. So who would make it? Director Quentin Tarantino has often mentioned his interest in directing a Bond film. If anyone can make the 50’s setting work it is him. And to reboot the series again we need a new bond. Already a contender for the next James Bond, Michael Fassbender cemented his period credentials in X-Men: First Class and Inglourious Basterds. Gala Brand needs to be played by a talented and attractive British actress with Hollywood credibility, it has to be Emily Blunt. I’m not sure on who should play Sir Hugo Drax, maybe I am getting hung up on the red hair described in the Novel, but I am thinking Damian Lewis.

Financially rebooting the series to a 50’s or 60’s setting would be a huge risk that I can not see the studio taking. But artistically the franchise has already done all it can and said all it has to say, a new direction will give it new direction and new life. And if you are wondering the poster at the top is from a 2004 Internet hoax that claiming to have found 40 minutes of footage from an unfinished 1956 version of Moonraker directed by Orson Welles staring Dirk Bogarde as Bond, Welles as Drax.

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With the latest Bond Film, Skyfall just six months away I am already thinking of where the franchise goes next.  While I’m working on a post to suggest a few alternatives I thought I would share an on post from three years ago.    It will never be made so this is  little more than a bit of fun but if it does get made tell everyone you read about it here first.

The idea is go back to original source material.  Having used little more than the title for the films Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me represent the largest un-filmed Ian Fleming stories remaining.  The Spy Who Loved could make a great Die Hard style film.  It was the tenth novel and fits in between Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service although it stands alone without any baggage from the other books, it acts as an interlude in what has become known as the “Blofeld Trilogy”.  Bond isn’t really the main character in the book.  It is told in the first person by a young woman called Vivienne Michel rather than the usual third-person narrative concentrating on Bond.  Fleming didn’t want the film to be made and only sold the rites to the title but far worse things have been produced in Flemming and Bonds names.  A film like this would divide opinions of Bond fans but could be a real chance to make a completely different film.  For those who haven’t read the books below is a breakdown of The Spy Who Loved Me and how it could be made into a film:

The book is split into three parts “Me”, “Them”, and “Him”.  Me deals with Vivienne’s back story and can be dropped for a film version. The second part of the book “Them” would be truncated.  Vivian is working in a motel as she travels through America.  At the end of the season the manager leaves her in charge for the night until the owner comes to shut up for the winter.  Instead a pair of thugs arrive on behalf of the owner.  Their plan; to burn the motel down placing the blame on Vivienne who will die in the fire allowing the owner to claim on the insurance.

The third section starts with Bond’s arrival it time to prevent the thugs from raping Vivienne.  In typical Bond style he kills the bad guys and sleeps with the girl.  This part of the film would be extended to form the majority of the film.  Probably sixty minutes in a ninety-five minute film.  I would suggest a larger number of the thugs/gangsters would be needed for the idea to work. If more material is needed a final act could be tagged on where Mr. Sanguinetti the gangster owner of the motel tries to get revenge on Bond.  A note of trivia one of the thugs is called Sol “Horror” Horowitz and was the basis for Jaws who was one of the few elements to make it into the 1977 film of the same name.  It may need an extra act such as the Bahamas scenes in Casino Royale to make it work as a film.  For this to work it would need to fit around the original text and within the context of a Bond film, in other words, how Bond got the motel rather than how Vivian got there. 

A nice touch would also be to use an un-filmed short story as the pre-credit sequence the way they did in The Living Daylights (the opening sequence is based on a short story of the same name).  The one I would suggest is “From a View to a Kill” in which Bond investigates the murder of a motorcycle dispatch and the theft of his top-secret documents.  To do this he takes the place of a dispatch-rider, kills a would be assassin and tracks down their HQ.  This could be broken down to just the motorcycle action involving Bond and the Assassin.

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25 Movie Twists

  1. It’s a sledge
  2. He’s dead
  3. They are all dead
  4. He’s the spy
  5. I’m your farther
  6. She’s a bloke
  7. They are the same person
  8. Its only a game
  9. He’s the villain
  10. It’s earth in the future
  11. His friends only exist in his head
  12. The killer is his mom
  13. It’s people
  14. He has an identical twin brother
  15. Everyone is alive it was just a prank
  16. Everyone is alive it was just a prank
  17. It’s modern day
  18. He’s the virgin sacrifice, not the missing girl
  19. He isn’t rescued it was just a delusion
  20. It’s the bloke on the floor who you thought was dead
  21. It’s just him in drag
  22. They are actually people he killed
  23. She is his daughter
  24. She is his daughter
  25. It’s his own death he saw

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I finally got around to reading Carte Blanche, the new James Bond novel written by Jeffery Deaver and published last May, under commission from Ian Fleming Publications. Put simply, it is a really good novel but I’m not sure is a good Bond novel. A little context to begin with; I read all the Ian Fleming Bond novels a long time ago. More recently I read Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis (written under the pseudonym Robert Markham). I have also read Devil May Care, written by Sebastian Faulks in the style of Ian Fleming and published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fleming’s birth. I haven’t read any of the other Bond novels.

What I didn’t realise until I started reading was that Carte Blanche is actually that most fashionable of things, a reboot. This isn’t the first time Bond has undergone the reboot treatment, but it is the first reboot of the novel series. The most recent and significant reboot of the film series was the 2006 movie Casino Royale. Based on the first novel that had not been filmed before within the official series, it lent itself very well to a reboot. The only distraction was Judi Dench’s M. Having watched her for over ten years in the Pierce Brosnan movies she didn’t quite fit. The reason I mention this as it is the same problem that Carte Blanche suffers from, the story is filled characters from previous books (M, Moneypenny, Felix Leiter, Q, Mary Goodnight, May (Bonds housekeeper), René Mathis, Bill Tanner) that have been re-imagined for the new story. The use of too many existing but rewritten characters breaks the rhythm of the story and has a distracting/alienating effect preventing the reader from getting lost in the narrative if they have prior knowledge of the earlier stories.

The basic plot revolves around Bonds attempts to avert a terrorist attack on England. The trail takes him to Serbia, Dubai and Cape Town, these are perfect locations for the rebooted Bond. They are suitably exotic and more importantly (off the top of my head) new destinations for Bond. The most successful aspect of the reboot is making Bond relevant in the modern world, the character was a cold war character with origins in the Second World War dreamt up by Ian Fleming during his time with British Naval Intelligence. With 9-11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a backdrop it is possibly easier than ever to reinvent a character like Bond.

The book is well written and well thought-out but I can’t help thinking Deaver doesn’t quite get it. For example my old Pan paperback edition of Casino Royale contains just 158 pages (the original hardback had 213), but Carte Blanche checks in at over 400. It contains all the elements of an investigation into a mystery that you would expect of a bond novel but lacks the simplicity and snappy pace of the original stories. Bond certainly hasn’t gone soft or Metrosexual but at a time when his onscreen presence is at its most rugged he does seem to have lost his edge. Changing from his (Italian) suit to outdoor clothing before going to snoop around an old building may be practical but is it Bond?

Great emphasis is placed on Bonds car, in this new version he drives the new Bentley Continental GT. It just doesn’t fit the character. True, Bond is a Bentley man, Casino Royale describes “Bond’s car was his only personal hobby. One of the last of the 4 1/2-litre Bentleys with a supercharger by Amherst Villiers, he had bought it almost new in 1933 and kept it in careful storage through the war”. When this car is destroyed in Moonraker he uses the proceeds of a card game to buy a 195”3 Mark VI” with an “open touring body”. Later in Thunderball we are told of: “Bond had the most selfish car in England. It was a Mark II Continental Bentley that some rich idiot had married to a telegraph pole on the Great West Road”. it goes on to describe how Bond purchased the bits had the chassis straitened and commissioned a new coach-built body. Does this sound like the man who would buy a flash car more associated with footballers than car enthusiasts. He would be more at home in an Aston Martin as driven by his cinematic incarnation. I would even have rather seen Bond driving a the Volkswagen Phaeton that the Bentley is based on, it would also give the opportunity to remove the device that electronically limit’s the top speed, this would be a very Bond thing to do! Another (more exotic) alterative would be a Bristol Fighter, the price tag may be an issue but a “rich idiot” story like the one from Thunderball would be a nice reboot touch.

There is an age old trick of telling a story then backtracking to explain how it isn’t exactly as we first thought. Imagine a cliff-hanger at the end of an episode of a serial: Someone is locked in the boot of a car, the car goes over a cliff, to be continued….. Then the next week we see the same thing except crucially the person escaped fro the boot before the car and its other passengers plunged to their doom. You get the idea, so did Jeffery Deaver, and he does it a lot. After the first couple of occasions I found myself thinking ahead as to how the situation would play out. It became a little tedious at times.

At this point a more talented reviewer would give a witty verdict, but I kind of said it all at the top, it’s a really good novel but I’m not sure is a good Bond novel. I think I just like my Bond in the 50’s and 60’s and still want to see a reboot of the movie series set in the 50’s. Having said that, I do think there is some mileage in the series and would be interested to see where it could be taken. One thread I would like to see followed up involves a subplot of Carte Blanche, without giving anything away there are references to Bonds mother, Monique Delacroix Bond. A prequel novel featuring her could be interesting. The future of the reboot series is unsure, it was recently announced that novelist and screenwriter William Boyd will write the next Bond novel, due for release next year. The publisher, Random House say on their website: “ While the details and title of the next 007 adventure naturally remain secret, the author has revealed that next year’s publication will mark a return to ‘classic Bond’ and will be set in the late 1960s”.

James Bond Will Return, we just aren’t sure where or when in history!

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Levon Helm 1940 - 2012

Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm who died today was a talented multi-instrumentalists but will always be remembered as drummer and founder member of The Band. I stumbled across The Band in the mid 80’s when I caught Martin Scorsese’s concert documentary The Last Waltz (1978) on TV. The clip below is from that film and is probably their most famous song “The Weight,” its certainly my favourite

Also an actor, Helm made notable appearances in the Loretta Lynn Biography, Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) and the epic story of the birth of the space program, The Right Stuff (1983).  His last appearance was in the Tommy Lee Jones (who was also in Coal Miner’s Daughter) film In the Electric Mist (2009). 

His passing was announced earlier today on his twitter account:

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