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Archive for July, 2012

For me (and many movie fans) the highlight of Danny Boyle’s spectacular Olympic opening ceremony was James Bond and the Queen. 

I had never thought about Danny Boyle as a potential director of a Bond movie, but now I think about it, he would probably do a great job. So not for there first time here are a few thoughts on who I would like to see direct the next Bond movie:

Kathryn Bigelow

What would it be like?

A Kathryn Bigelow Bond film would be like every other Kathryn Bigelow, full of action played out by troubled and conflicted characters. This is why she would be perfect as a Bond director, there is already a little bit of Johnny Utah, William James and Lenny Nero in Bond.

Who would play Bond?

Bigelow doesn’t seem to play the Hollywood favouritism game so she would probably go with who ever was incumbent in the role.

Will it happen?

Sadly, probably not.

Christopher Nolan

What would it be like?

As with Batman, I would expect a deeper darker more political Bond, possibly without the existentialism. The action would be big, grand and most importantly real (in camera, not CGI where possible). Like with Bigelow’s take on the character, Bond will be a complicated and conflicted one, but possibly more focussed and driven.

Who would play Bond?

Nolan has a reputation for returning to actors he has used in the past. This makes Christian Bale and Tom Hardy the most likely candidates. I’m not sure I can see either of them in the part, but am willing to give Nolan a chance as he certainly hasn’t let us down yet. I also like the idea of Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard as Bond girls and Memento star Guy Pearce as a villain.

Will it happen?

Given his ability to make profitable movies and his declared interest in the job I think it will happen eventually.

Quentin Tarantino

What would it be like?

I still want to see a 1950’s and/or 60’s set Bond series based on the original Ian Fleming Novels starting with Casino Royale. I can think of no director I would rather see take on (or at least start) such a project. He would make the movies fun without the silliness of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan, the right blend on bonkers and brilliant.

Who would play Bond

I have no idea, when he spoke about his desire to have made Casino Royale (after the 2006 was had been made) he said he would have used Pierce Brosnan not Daniel Craig. Having worked with him on Inglourious Basterds, Michael Fassbender stands has a good chance but all bets are off if you hire Tarantino.

Will it happen?

Extremely unlikely.

Nicolas Winding Refn

What would it be like?

The leftfield choice. The Danish director would make a very different Bond movie. It would certainly be slick stylish and violent but it could also take it back to a smaller more concise story.

Who would play Bond?

Again I would go with Michael Fassbender.

Will it happen?

Probably not commercially viable.

David Fincher

What would it be like?

A darker and more thoughtful Bond with more of an eye to conspiracy and investigation than action but with an underlying brutality. Stylish looking with stunning photography and great acting.

Who would play Bond?

Having worked well together on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, stick with Daniel Craig.

Will it happen?

Stands a chance.

But before that, we have Skyfall set for UK release on 26 October.

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As summer has finally found its way to the UK and millions of families will be “enjoying” burnt or undercooked barbeque food they will be looking for something to drink with it. Three years ago I wrote about the perfect summer drink, the Mojito’s as featured in the movie Miami Vice. I thought I would share it again for anyone who missed it first time around. I also take every available opportunity to reming people about the underrated Miami Vice:

Ever since Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) declared to be a “fiend for Mojito’s” in Miami Vice (2006) they are everywhere. Bacardi have milked it for all it’s worth tailoring their television advertising towards the drink as well as selling them at sporting events and music festivals. You can even buy ready mixed bottles of Mojito, not that I have tried them; the key to a great Mojito is fresh ingredients. The Mojito is Cuban drink mixed and served in a highball glass. It has just five ingredients:

  1. White rum
  2. Sugar Syrup* (traditionally “Guarapo” sugar cane juice)
  3. Lime
  4. Fresh Mint (traditionally spearmint)
  5. Soda Water

To prepare:

Notes: Some people also add Angostura bitters, don’t bother doing this. Castor or icing can be used instead of sugar syrup but syrup is best. Traditionally you should use spearmint but any fresh mint will taste good.

* To make sugar syrup mix equal quantities of white sugar and boiling water. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool. This can then be kept covered in the refrigerator for several weeks.

The guy in the clip reminds us to enjoy responsibly, this goes more for Mojito’s than other drinks as when mixed properly you won’t taste any alcohol.

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The release of The Dark Knight Rises has got me thinking about comic book movies. With that in mind I give you my five favourite comic book based movies released since I started blogging in February 2009.

The Dark Knight Rises: I’m still holding off on an actual review of this movie but here are a few thoughts: it is the best movie I have seen so far this year. I don’t think it is as good or as complete as The Dark Knight but it is a more than fitting conclusion to what is possibly the best trilogy of all time. The use of Bane and Catwoman (never actually referred to as catwoman) is perfectly handled and end is measured thoughtful and fitting.

Watchmen: Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel set in an alternate version of our reality on the verger of nuclear war circa 1985 has a unusual place in comic book movies. It was met with relatively positive reviews and word of mouth but very quickly had a backlash. The film looks amazing and is faithful to the comic book (except the end that achieves the same end with a tweak to the story) but more importantly, more than twenty years after the publication of its source novel it is still relevant. And like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy it deals with flawed and imperfect heroes and complicated villains.

The Avengers: Possibly jumping up the list as I had low expectations of this movie. I liked most of the movies leading up to The Avengers without loving any of them the way I love The Dark Knight. The big problem is how you bring the disparate group together in a movie with just the right blend of action and comedy. The biggest problem is how to utilise Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man (the funniest, most entertaining character and has the best movie behind him) without marginalising the other avengers. Not only has Joss Whedon done the seemingly impossible but he also made the two least significant characters (Black Widow and Hawkeye) the best.

Kick-Ass: What would happen if an ordinary everyday person decided to become a supper hero? Not billionaire Bruce Wayne, but an ordinary kid. Haven’t we seen this one before, it was called Watchmen and it failed to find the audience it deserved. Kick-Ass has a lot in common with Watchmen but is also very different from it, it is these contradictions that make it so good. It isn’t really a superhero movies and it isn’t a spoof of superhero movies either. It isn’t a comedy and but it is extremely funny at times. It is a coming of age drama, a satire on human nature and modern society and a violent bloody action movie.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: On the surface Scott Pilgrim is a similar movie to Kick-Ass but it is very different. Lighter in tone but with a very dark side. Less grounded in reality but more directly concerned with everyday issues. Depending on your point of view it is either the very cool and hip (except cool and hip probably aren’t cool or hip terns to use) or a flimsy, flashy over edited mess that is trying too hard. The casting is spot on and the action brilliantly choreographed, the script is cutting and funny but above all it is great fun.

The other comic book movies I have enjoyed in the last three and half years but didn’t quite make the list are: X-Men First Class, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Amazing Spider-Man. The worst comic book movies of the time are Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Jonah Hex.

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The Dark Knight Rises may turn out to be both the biggest and the best film of the year. Every movie fan with a virtual soapbox to stand on will review it in one way or another, I may do so myself some time in the future, but for now I will not. Instead I have decided to do something different. I am looking at the key players in the movie and picking out my favourite of their movies or performances excluding The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Christopher Nolan: The modern interpretation of the term masterpiece refers a pierce of art (in any medium) that is receives high critical praise and is often considered the pinnacle of the artists career. But the original, true meaning is very different. During the old European guild system, an apprentice wishing to graduate from a guild and become a master craftsman or member of their guild would have to produce a Masterpiece. If successful, the piece would be retained by the master or the guild. Using this theory, Following (1998) is Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece. An ultra low budget mystery, crime, thriller with no star names. This led to him making Memento (2000), a simple revenge, thriller that is elevated to a superior mystery by the ingenious idea of telling the story backwards. Using the same criteria, it could be argued that Following was a practice run and Memento is the true masterpiece. Taken on its own merits Insomnia (2002) is a great movie, it just isn’t as good as the Norwegian original. It is a worthy and justified remake that is sympathetic to the story of the original but has its own individual touches. You know how movies come in two’s, this year there are two Snow White movies, a few years ago there were to giant asteroid movies, 2006 was the year of the Victorian stage magicians. Neil Burger’s The Illusionist was good, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige was much better. Legend has it that after The Dark Knight took a billion dollars Warner Bros let Nolan make any movie he liked. What he came up with was Inception (2010) a little art house movie disguised as a big budget studio blockbuster. Inception may well be his best (non Batman) film, but for introducing me and most of the rest of the world to his work I am declaring Memento to be both his masterpiece and finest hour for Christopher Nolan.

Wally Pfister: Cinematographer/Director of Photography Wally Pfister started out as a cameraman for a Washington news service before being given his first break by Robert Altman. He then enrolled in American Film Institute where a film he worked on was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. Like so many great filmmakers, he received his first break as a Cinematographer from Roger Corman. Most of his notable works have been on Christopher Nolan films, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight finally winning for the movie that truly is his finest hour, Inception.

Christian Bale: Where do you start with Christian Bale? A child star in Empire of the Sun who found real fame in his late twenties. Noted for his extreme physical transformations for the movies The Machinist and Rescue Dawn, in I’m Not There, it is a tossup between him and Cate Blanchett as to who is the best “Dylan”. In 3:10 to Yuma, The Prestige, The Fighter, Public Enemies and Terminator Salvation he gives more subtle and low key performances than his co stars, it is therefore a surprise that his finest hour is probably his most showy and over the top performance, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Anne Hathaway: Many people know Anne Hathaway from her film début The Princess Diaries and can’t see beyond that. I first saw her in Havoc or Brokeback Mountain (saw them both around the same time) where despite all the praise going to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal I thought the best performances came her and Michelle Williams. I was impressed enough to go and see The Devil Wears Prada and enjoyed it, but her finest hour is Rachel Getting Married. A family drama about a young woman who is released from rehab to attend her sisters wedding. A truly an amazing performance, her character is ultimately a miserable, selfish, narcissistic bitch but she also comes across as vulnerable, funny and sometimes even likable. 

Tom Hardy: I have seen many movies featuring Hardy and remember a great buzz about him around the time of Star Trek: Nemesis, but to be honest I really didn’t take notice until Bronson. Since then he has been brilliant in everything I have seen him in. as for his finest hour, it could easily be Warrior where his performance is monumental or Inception where he offers some great comic relief within an ensemble, but it has to be Bronson. 

Gary Oldman: How do you pick the finest hour from the thirty year career of an actor as talented as Oldman? Far more varied than you would think Oldman is at his best when he is wild and out of control, look back at Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, Stansfield in Leon and Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. That is why it may come as a surprise that his best performance may well be his most low key and economical performance, George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. 

Michael Caine: Gary Olman’s career may be long but Michael Caine has been around for ever, certainly since before I was born. Many of his most notable performances came in the mid/late 60’s and early 70’s and include: Alfie, Sleuth, Zulu, Get Carter and The Ipcress File. He reinvented himself in more comic roles in the 80’s such as: Educating Rita, Without a Clue and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Outside Christopher Nolan movies, the pick of his 21st century movies are The Quiet American, Children of Men and Harry Brown, but for his finest hour, you need to go back to the 60’s for his iconic performance as Charlie Croker in The Italian Job.

Morgan Freeman: Freeman found fame relatively late in life. In his early fifties and after thirty years in the business, in a two year period he appeared in Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Bonfire of the Vanities. He makes a lot of movies, therefore there is a certain amount of crap in there too, but the highlights are very high, the include: Unforgiven, Se7en and Million Dollar Baby. His finest hour is probably The Shawshank Redemption. 

Marion Cotillard: A captivating actress who has been brilliant in every film I have ever seen her in. For many people she if best known for her Oscar winning portrayal of Edith Piaf in La vie en rose. Others will know her from her English language movies: Public Enemies, A Good Year, Big Fish and Nine. She was also memorable in Midnight in Paris and Inception. Although deep down I know her finest hour was as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose, I still go back to where I first saw her, Lilly, the long suffering but high maintenance girlfriend in Taxi (and its first two sequels).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The former child actor found fame as a teenager in the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun. his most notable movie appearances from this time is probably 10 Things I Hate About You. He went on to appear in: Havoc (along side future Dark Knight Rises co-star Anne Hathaway) and earned acclaim in Mysterious Skin Stop-Loss and The Lookout. In recent years he has impressed in 500 Days of Summer, 50/50 and Inception, but his finest hour is still the high school noir Brick. 

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Does anyone remember Red Sonja (1985)? I had never heard of the movie until I first saw it on TV around 1990. A sword and sorcery fantasy starring Brigitte Nielsen and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Schwarzenegger gets top billing). I wasn’t surprised to learn the character was based on a character (Red Sonya of Rogatino) by Conan creator Robert E. Howard’s. Set in the same fictional prehistoric time the “Hyborian Age” as Conan the Barbarian (1982) and its sequel Conan the Destroyer (1984), My understanding is that it was originally intended to be a spin-off form Conan with Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his role. For some contractual reason the character was renamed (High Lord Kalidor). Sadly the film isn’t very good. Held back by a week script and bad acting it isn’t a patch on Conan the Barbarian and is at best on a par with Conan the Destroyer .

But all this could have changed with a Robert Rodriguez reboot. Announced at Comic-Con in 2008 with Rose McGowan is the title role, the movie never got beyond a poster. It has since been reported that Rodriguez failed to raise the required funds to get the movie off the ground. Future prospects for raising funds for a movie like this probably haven’t been helped by Conan the Barbarian (2011) that “underperformed” at the box-office and received a (deserved) critical mauling. Rodriguez protégé Douglas Aarniokoski was set to direct, he has since gone on to make the eagerly anticipated (by me) The Day. Since things went quiet on the Rodriguez/Aarniokoski/McGowan reboot, the rumour mill has been in overdrive. Last November Empireonline reported that Avi Lerner will produce, Simon West (Con Air) will direct and the want Amber Heard as Sonja after having worked with her on Drive Angry. Megan Fox and Rachel Nichols have also been linked with the part.

A brief history of the character: Red Sonya of Rogatino appeared in Robert E. Howard’s pulp short story “The Shadow of the Vulture” originally published in The Magic Carpet Magazine, January 1934. The story was set in set in the 16th century around Battle of Mohács and the Siege of Vienna. In 1973 Roy Thomas and Barry Smith re-imagined the character and transposed her to into the Hyborian Age introducing her in the Marvel Comics Conan the Barbarian #23. She has gone on to feature in her own Marval comic book as well as several novels written by David C. Smith and Richard L. Tierney. Her only other screen appearance was on the short lived Conan TV series (1997-1998) played by Angelica Bridges.

The Game of Thrones TV show and The Lord of the Rings movies have proved that it is possible to make quality fantasy movies/TV. I look forward to seeing what can be done with Red Sonja.

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Matthew McConaughey is a second-rate actor who appears in crappy rom-com’s with posters that feature him leaning against his co-star a stupid grin on his face. It would be easy to believe this based on some of the terrible movies he has appeared in, but look a little deeper and you will se some great performances in interesting movies.

As with many people he first came to my attention in 1993’s Dazed and Confused. Looking back now Richard Linklater’s ensemble cast looks impressive, however, the truly impressive thing is that they were unknowns at the time. The funniest and most charismatic of these, despite his reprehensible attitude towards high school girls was McConaughey’s David Wooderson. A Time to Kill is still my favourite movie based on a John Grisham novel, it is even more impressive when you consider it was directed by Joel Schumacher around the same time as he was fucking up the Batman franchise. McConaughey is perfectly cast as Jake Brigance, an easygoing but honourable southern lawyer who more than holds his own against an impressive cast including: Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Brenda Fricker, Donald Sutherland and Patrick McGoohan.

He followed this up with impressive performances in Lone Star (1996), Amistad (1997), Contact (1997) and a reunion with Richard Linklater in the true story of The Newton Boys (1998). Edtv (1999) was a sublime satire that is remarkably prophetic given the rise of reality TV in the decade that followed its release. It was sadly overshadowed by the previous years The Truman Show. Like his character Ed Pekurny in the show he stars in McConaughey’s is the reason to watch the movie, he is as perfect for the part as Jim Carrey was for Truman.

U-571 (2000) is a routine action, adventure, thriller, it has its issues but is largely enjoyable and gives us a first look at McConaughey in a more action orientated movie. Two films that best exemplify his action credentials are: the man v dragon movie Reign of Fire (2002) where he makes the future Batman and King Leonidas (Christian Bale and Gerard Butler) look like average Joe’s. It isn’t a great movie, but it is great fun. The same can be said for the underrated Sahara (2005). Based on a Clive Cussler novel, and featuring the character Dirk Pitt in his second movie outing (the first was played by Richard Jordan in the rubbish Raise the Titanic, 1980). A fun action adventure that is as close as anyone has ever come to emulating Indiana Jones. McConaughey has the right blend of hero and comedian and has great chemistry with co-stars Penélope Cruz and Steve Zahn. Sadly the film “underperformed” at the box-office and was beset with legal issues mainly involving author Clive Cussler making a sequel unlikely.

After a slew of the aforementioned crappy rom-com’s last year saw a return to form with an adaptation of the Michael Connelly novel The Lincoln Lawyer. Mick Haller is a sleazy defence attorney, radically different from the honourable boy scout Jake Brigance in A Time to Kill but no less charismatic. This year sees McConaughey take on three radically different roles: A cop with a sideline in murder for hire in William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, a male stripper in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike and a journalist trying to exonerate a man on death row in The Paperboy.

So next time you see a picture of Matthew McConaughey leaning against his co-star on a movie poster of a film like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past or The Wedding Planner, give the guy a break and remind yourself that he has made some more interesting movies.

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What is the greatest movie ever made?

What is the stupidest question I have been asked this week?

I’m not sure the first question has an answer, but do believe the first question is the answer to the second question! There are those who will tell you Citizen Kane is the greatest film ever made, others will suggest it is The Godfather, but is The Godfather as good as its own sequel? The Shawshank Redemption has been the top rated film on IMDB for as long as I can remember, as good as it is, I’m not convinced it is the best film from 1994 let alone the greatest of all time. Number nine on the same list is currently The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, it isn’t even my favourite movie in the trilogy. I am not saying the people who have voted for these movies are wrong, but the concept of ranking is wrong. We all have our opinions, but we are all different, it isn’t even a matter of personal favourites, a film can be better or worse depending on personal prospective. Like music, movies are more readily available than ever before and than any other art form, and like music there is some strange human desire to rank them.

So what is the obsession with ranking? It works in some things, if you are putting together a sporting team or squad, you only have an set number of places so you want the best. The same could be said for a job or a university entrance but art and media, what sense does that make. Take the idea further, or more accurately look at a small part of it under a microscope. The Oscars pick “the best…” in a selection of categories each year, but who ever agrees with the result. Award ceremonies are the worst offenders when it comes to ranking and they encourage discussion on the subject, but it isn’t even a simple matter of good, to win an award you have to be worthy and within the current zeitgeist. There are no universally accepted rules that conclude in a film being described as great or the greatest. Some are financial successes others are flops. There is a school of thought that suggests it is an artistic statement to declare something great when it can not be qualified or quantified. There is even merit in the idea that if you could quantify it, it would detract from the brilliance.

I have another idea on the subject, it goes back to something from the most list-centric book/movie High Fidelity: “It’s what you like; not what you ARE Like, that really matters”. just like showing off a physical attribute or sporting prowess a list is a message to anyone who is interested in listening or reading, a message the cuts to the heart of not just what we like, but what we are like. We have all done it, formed or changed an opinion of an individual based on there taste. But this is drifting away from topic. This in itself creates a question, how many people have to think something before it becomes true? Personally I prescribe to the theory that numbers don’t matter and it is all just opinion. Every year I produce a top ten movies of the year and a ranking of the hundred or so movies I watch at the cinema in the year. These are my favourite movies of the year, MY top ten, MY favourite, not THE best movies. It is easy to fall into the collective view and justify something’s greatness because it is in the IMDb Top 250 or Empire magazine’s 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time. With this in mind it is refreshing to think there is someone out there who believes Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the greatest movie of all time. I reserve the right to believe that, that person is an idiot with no taste but I also believe their opinion is no less valid than people who love Citizen Kane or The Shawshank Redemption. Look at it this way, Michael Bay’s movie has better action, better robots and better CGI than Kane and Shawshank, and if you judge a movie by those criteria you may have a point.

Next time someone asks you what is the greatest movie ever made? Don’t answer the question, just think how dumb the question is.

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