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Archive for December, 2019

It’s that time of year again, my top ten movies of the year.  The criteria for selection: All films to have been released in the UK during 2019,  and seen by me in a cinema. 

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – The film I was most concerned about turned out to be my favourite of the year. I didn’t particularly enjoy Quentin Tarantino’s last film, The Hateful Eight, do we really need another movie about Charles Manson, and most significantly, is he capable of the sensitivity needed to tell the story of the horrendous murder of actress Sharon Tate?Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The Irishman – Martin Scorsese’s epic tale of mob hitman Frank Sheeran based on the novel I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt.  This is not Goodfellas part 2, it is more thoughtful and sombre film than Scorsese’s previous entries into the gangster genre.  A masterpiece by a true master of cinema, the three and a half hour runtime is justified! The Irshman

Styx – Unbelievably this is just Wolfgang Fischer second feature, and more than a decade after his debut.  If All Is Lost is an existential crisis, Styx is a commentary on one of the biggest world issues today.  The title tells you all you need to know: In Greek mythology Styx is the river between the land of the living and the land of the dead.  Passengers must pay the ferryman, if they have no money they must remain on the river for 100 years.styx

Midsommar – I visited rural Sweden for midsummer a few years ago, while I’m pleased to report there was no murder or mutilation, it is a really big deal.  If you hated Hereditary, you will really hate Midsommar!  I was mixed on Hereditary but loved Midsommar.  The film looks amazing and is disturbing rather than scary, the near two and a half hour runtime flew by.  Once again Florence Pugh proves she is the most exciting and talented young actor working today.Midsommar

Apollo 11 – The rare inclusion of a documentary on my bets of year list.  Made up of NASA footage shot at the time of the moon landings.  Much of it on 65mm.  With no voiceover and no talking heads, it’s a wonder the film can hold the attention for its 93 minute runtime.  The key word here is wonder, because the film is filled with wonder, it is nothing short of stunning.Apollo 11

Burning – Its best to go into Chang-dong Lee’s Korean thriller with as little background information as possible.  Wonderfully ambiguous that keeps you guessing until the end and ultimately asks a lot more questions than it answers.Burning

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – True story of celebrity biographer Lee Israel based on her own memoir detailing her decent to rock bottom.  Written and directed by Marielle Heller with both flair, and humanity.  Melissa McCarthy’s gives her best performance to date, Richard E. Grant is as brilliant as ever.Can you ever forgivr me

If Beale Street Could Talk – Barry Jenkins adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel.  Brilliantly conveying a novels internal monologue in a way that last years On Chesil Beach failed to do. The acting is first rate throughout,  but the true triumph of the film comes in its direction and construction.If Beale Street Could Talk

The Nightingale – I have been waiting five years Jennifer Kent’s follow up to The Babadook, it was worth the wait.  What has been tagged as a revenge thriller, but it is so much more than that, a damning indictment of colonialism it is brutal but never gratuitous.The Nightingale

Under the Silver Lake – The downside to David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to It Follows is that it has a feel someone trying to emulate David Lynch or the Coen brothers.  The plus side, is that it looks amazing and has some great moments of flair.  It doesn’t always work but it so bold it deserves to be seen.Under the Silver Lake

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I preparation for No Time To Die I have been re-watching the Daniel Craig Bond films. It’s the first time I have watched them all back to back. A few things sprang to mind watching them.Daniel Craig Bond Posters

  • Casino Royale stands alongside From Russia with Love as the best films about Bond, rather than the best Bond Movies, in that they can be appreciated on their own merits away from the franchise and its baggage.
  • Quantum of Solace is the misunderstood and underappreciated masterpiece that I always suspected. A direct sequel to Casino Royale, it takes virtually nothing other than its title from Ian Flemings novels, but in its tone it is probably the closes in style and tone to the source material.
  • Roger Deakins should have won the cinematography Oscar for Skyfall, he was robbed by a CGI spectacular.
  • Spectre is a better film than I gave it credit for, despite the Blofeld reveal that was even worse than I remember.

But, on thing stands out over all of this.  There is a missing film between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.

Let me explain; Casino Royale gives us the Young upstart. Quantum of Solace is a direct sequel pick it up moments after Casino Royale’s epilogue.  A slightly jaded, almost broken man working through the loss and apparent betrayal of Vesper, coming out the other side, moulded rather than healed,   the complete Bond, cold, cruel, detached, but able to appreciate, if not enjoy life.  Something akin to the best of Cornery, Dalton or Brosnan, but more importantly the character seen on the pages of Fleming’s books.

But then Skyfall has an older Bond past his prime, fighting for relevance, we are missing a movie. We need to look at M (Judi Dench) aka Basil Exposition for to explain this.  It was M after all who on her first screen meeting with Bond (Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye) called him “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War“.  In Casino Royale (2006) just after giving Bond his 00 status, his licence to kill, she told him “I knew it was too early to promote you” but just six years later in Skyfall (2012) she said “You know the rules of the game. You’ve been playing it long enough“.  Future M, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) tells Bond “It’s a young man’s game.” Craig’s Bond has always been on his way up, or past his best.

The speculation for No Time to Die is that Bond has retired and his 007 codename has passed to Nomi (Lashana Lynch).  This in itself could be problematic, as I can’t see Bond being retired, by the end of the film this means they have to find a way of giving him back his 007 code.  If Nomi is indeed 007, how will this pas back to Bond?  Kill, demote, or incapacitate her, or even worse something akin to 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean).  Let’s not forget, she is potential not only the first female 00, but the first none white one.  Her fate is far more significant than that of 006, 002, 004 (The Living Daylights), and 009 in (Octopussy). Some of the Fun Bond Movies

I’m getting off track; the Daniel Craig movies are the best Bond movies, and I don’t want to see the character turn into the Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan versions of the character, who had far more misses than hits in terms of the quality of their movies.  However, I would have liked to have seen Craig have a film as an established character, not one on the way up or down, and one where he gets to have a little fun with the part, think: You Only Live Twice (1967), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), or GoldenEye (1995).  Sadly this will not happen, but we may get to see the other thing I want to see, Bond coming out of retirement, sadly it won’t be an older Bond; Timothy Dalton, or Pierce Brosnan but it’s still an idea with real millage.  One thing is certain,

James Bond WILL return!

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The rise of skywalker posterBe careful what you wish for!  There was a small but very vocal group of fans who called for The Last Jedi to be remade, and, or expunged from Star Wars canon.  To a certain extent, The Rise Of Skywalker does that, winding back on some plot points, and conveniently forgetting others.  It is certainly a film that doesn’t seem to like Rian Johnson’s entry into the series.  Chances are if you are reading this you have seen both The Last Jedi, and Rise of Skywalker, if you haven’t be warned there are SPOILERS ahead.  For the record I really like The Last Jedi, it is bold, brave, and my favourite of the three sequels.  The Rise of Skywalker is probably the weakest, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it.  It is largely a fun watch.  To begin, here is a brief synopsis:

An unmentioned time after the events of The Last Jedi, the resistance have regrouped.  Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), now Supreme Leader of The First Order is hunting for Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) who appears to have survived the events of Return of the Jedi.  Rey (Daisy Ridley), breaks off from her Jedi training with Leia (Carrie Fisher) to go on a quest with Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), also to find Palpatine , and save the universe one last time!

Lucasfilm, Like Marvel Studios is now owned by Disney, there is significant difference with the way they are run.  Kevin Feige President and CCO of Marvel Studios oversees all Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.  While each film is written and directed as a standalone film, they all have to fit in with Feige’s overriding vision.  This has resulted in very few missteps, and less militant fans than Star Wars have experienced in recent films.  The whole approach to the Star Wars sequels has been somewhat haphazard.  J. J. Abrams was hired to write and direct The Force awakens, a satisfying if unadventurous start.   Rian Johnson, was then hired to write and direct The Last Jedi, and write a story treatment for the then unnamed Episode IX. Colin Trevorrow was announced as the director, and was also to write a script based on Johnsons treatment.  Then things started to go wrong, it was announced that Johnson wasn’t involved in the writing and Trevorrow had left following “creative differences” to be replaced by J. J. Abrams.  The result of this is a very disjointed trilogy.  To be clear I enjoyed all three movies taken on their own merits, but they don’t work together the way the original trilogy, ore dare I say it, the prequels do.Endgame Portals

Going back to the original Star Warts from 1977, sequels were not a guarantee, the film had to exist on its own merits and have a self contained story.  I remember back in the 1980’s around the time of the release of Return of the Jedi (1983) George Lucas saying he always intended Star Wars to be three trilogies.  By the time of the prequels (1999 – 2005) he hat retconned this and said that it could only ever be two trilogies, the story was complete, and the story was always going to be the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.  Despite this rather fluid attitude to the truth of the matter, Lucas did always have a through narrative, he may not have been sure where he would stop along the way but he seemed to know where the story was going – how it got there was sometimes better than others!  What would the harm of Disney giving one person (possibly Abrams, or Johnson) the job a writing a treatment for the trilogy giving the other writer directors a clear point where their movie needed to start and end to fit with the overarching narrative?return of the jedi

As mentioned, I did enjoy Rise of Skywalker, so let’s begin with the film does get right? The first thing is the characters.  Rey (Daisy Ridley), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), have always been excellent characters.  Finn (John Boyega), was great in The Force Awakens but had outgrown his usefulness by The Last Jedi.  Finn benefits most from keeping the triumvirate together for prolonged sections of the film.  Given the small amounts of unused footage from previous films, Leia (Carrie Fisher) is used well within the narrative.  Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) works well as the big bad following the removal of Snoke (Andy Serkis) from the table in the previous film.  Snoke wasn’t the most animated of characters (pun totally accidental), so is largely interchangeable with the new incarnation of Palpatine.  There is an issue with the cast, there are lots of new faces, and some returning from past movies, many of these are unnecessary, and are wither cheesy fan service, or who hint at stories that are not developed.  The biggest looser is Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) who could be an amazing character, but is given little to do.  While is Jannah (Naomi Ackie) is a strong presence with a couple of good scenes, most her characters part could have been taken by Rose, trimming a little of the runtime in the process.  Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) is also an interesting inclusion,  aside from an excellent silent exchange with Poe, she again has little to do.  She could however make an interesting spinoff character in her own movie/tv show?  All in all, the plot moves at such a breakneck pace that there is no time to develop characters or relationships.  This shouldn’t be a problem, we are in the final act, it’s a little late for character development.  This goes back to the disjointed shift in narrative between the three movies.  Ben Solo/Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), is just a few beets away from being the most interesting character in the Star Wars universe, he along with Rey suffer the least from the narrative inconsistency, as they are torn characters who are drawn, not just to each other, but to the others side of the force.  In the week since the movie came out twitter has been awash with Ben/Ren fans unhappy with his demise.  This for me in lunacy, given his role in mass genocide, his personal sacrifice was the characters only hope of redemption!the rise of skywalker rey fin poe

Back to the positive, the film also looks and sounds amazing.  Both the score (John Williams music has all the pomp you would expect) and the sound design are spectacular.  The look of the film is up with the best Star Wars has to offer.  It is as much about the production design as the effects and photography.  The Lightsaber against the Knights of Ren is a nice counterpoint to the throne room fight in The Last Jedi, and looks almost as good.  The final space battle recaptures the excitement of attacks on the Death Star’s in the first and third movies, but with better effects.  However, they don’t match the tension of the ticking clock of A New Hope, or the potential despair of Return of the Jedi.  The arrival of the rebel fleet looks spectacular, but doesn’t have the emotional heft of the similarly constructed portals scene from Avengers Endgame, simply because it doesn’t earn it!Luke Stywalker

The real issue goes back to what I mentioned before about no overriding narrative for the trilogy.  Not only is it disjointed as a trilogy, but The Rise of Skywalker has enough plot for a trilogy on its own.  The original Star Wars aka A New Hope is a classic example of a Hero’s journey:

  1. Departure – Luke sets out on adventure prompted by the message held within R2D2
  2. Initiation – Initially refusing the call to adventure, he faces loss and adversity (his first step into the unknown, and the start of his transformation to hero).  He rescues Leia, and faces more loss.
  3. Return – He destroys the Death Star completing his journey and returning to his (new) home.

The beauty of it is that you could break the original trilogy up the same way

  1. Departure – A New Hope – Luke (and friends) rescue the princess and win a battle against a feared enemy .
  2. Initiation – Empire Strikes Back – The group are divided, they face loss and adversity.
  3. Return – Return of the Jedi – The group reunite to fight a final battle before returning home victorious.

Try and fit this film, or this trilogy to that structure, you will be jumping backwards and forwards all over the place, it simply doesn’t fit.  You may be asking why it should?  The reason is simple, that is what Star Wars is, was, and should be.  The origin of the idea goes back to George Lucas wanting to make an epic space adventure like the Saturday Matinees he used to watch as a kit.  He wanted to make Flash Gordon, or Buck Rogers.  Fortunately the rights weren’t available so he had to come up with a new adventure.  Whether intentional or not this classical structure made the story work, it grounded the  fantastical and made it something everyone could understand and more importantly love.  Never underestimate the power of simplicity.

So where does that leave us?  In truth I’m not sure!  The final outcome of the movie is about where you would expect it to be, and probably where it needed to be following the events of The Force Awakens, but could its journey to this end have been better? Almost certainly!  To put it another way, I enjoyed the film and the trilogy, but with reservations.  It could have been better, but the thing I can’t reconcile, does the fact I can see where it should have been better mitigate or enhance the issues?  I just don’t know.  Unlike the Skywalker Saga, this question is:

To Be Continued!

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Three years ago I started writing an article about all the great movies that have come from EU countries, most of them co-productions of two or more countries.  It was to be posted on Friday 24th June 2016, the day after the referendum, when the UK announced that it was staying in the EU.  Sadly, we didn’t vote to remain and that article never got finished.  I decided to finish it and post it on 31st October 2019, the new date set for us to leave.  Despite prime minster Boris Johnson’s insistence that he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than agree to extend Brexit, Brexit was extended.  As I read my words about European movies, they seemed somewhat inadequate, I have therefore deleted them and replaced them with this, a slideshow of movie images.  One image per EU member (some are co-productions attributed to more than one nation), all produced since the founding of the EU, most from this century.  I am setting this to auto-publish on the morning of the general election, the most important election in my lifetime.

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As I’m sure you have heard, since the launch of Disney+ all Marvel TV shows on other networks are coming to an end.  This seems like a good time to have a quick look back at the TV shows based in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).  It is worth noting that none of these shows had any impact on the MCU; Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Agent Carter has featured characters from the movies, but to the best of my knowledge, aside from a small appearance from James D’Arcy in Endgame (that has no impact on the plot), nobody has gone the other way.  Something that I understand is set to change.  In an interview with Bloomberg Marvel chief Kevin Feige said: “If you want to understand everything in future Marvel movies, he says, you’ll probably need a Disney+ subscription, because events from the new shows will factor into forthcoming films such as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” I was always disappointed that none of the key characters from the TV shows made it into the movies, but am not sure this isn’t a step too far.  Below is a quick synopsis of the shows and what I thought of the ones I watched:

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2013 – 2020) – S.H.I.E.L.D recruit new agents, have personal problems, and save the world numerous times, all under the watch of Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) resurrected from the dead following the events of The Avengers. I watched this from the start.  The events of Captain America, The Winter Soldier threw them a real curveball that derailed the plot.  Surprisingly they recovered from this and the series improved.  They have also had some memorable antagonists; Kyle MacLachlan, Powers Boothe, and Bill Paxton.  It was also the first time I had seen the amazing Ruth Negga.  I gave up early in the sixth season.  I understand there will be a seventh and final season next year. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Agent Carter (2015-2016) – After the end of WWII, British Agent  Peggy Carter is working in America for Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), a forerunner to S.H.I.E.L.D.  She is mostly relegated to secretarial duties while the men in the office haplessly blunder around.  This series took forever to make it to the UK, I eventually saw it on Amazon, after it had been cancelled.  I watched both series, the pacing is a little up and down, but the period setting looks great and Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy make likeable leads. Agent Carter

Daredevil (2015 -2018) – The first of the MCU shows made by Netflix.  Charlie Cox stars as Matt Murdock a blind lawyer who uses his superhuman senses to moonlight as the crime fighting masked vigilante Daredevil.  The first season was excellent, but lost its way in the second before returning for a fantastic third and final season.  I binged all three seasons as soon as they came out. Daredevil

Jessica Jones (2015 – 2019) – The second Netfix show: Following a short stint as a superhero, with a tragic ending, Jessica Jones reinvents herself as a New York private detective with a drink problem.  Running for just 39 episodes over three seasons, this was my favourite  Marvel TV show.  Krysten Ritter was perfectly cast as the snarky, sarcastic lead, the supporting cast was also great.  The stories, particularly season one were amongst the strongest too.  As with Daredevil, I binged them all!Jessica Jones

Luke Cage 2016 – 2018 – Having already been introduced in Jessica Jones, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) gets his own show.  Reluctant hero Cage is a former convict with superhuman strength and unbreakable skin.  Set in Harlem with a largely African American cast, the series made a refreshing change to the usual super hero shows and movies.  The villains are excellent, particularly Alfre Woodard, and a pre Oscar Mahershala Ali.  The supporting cast includes the always excellent Rosario Dawson, reprising her role from Daredevil.  It ran for 26 episodes over two seasons, I watched them all and largely enjoyed it.  The first season started really well but lost its way, the second season was up and down.  Luke Cage

Marvels Inhumans (2017) – I understand the plot goes something like this: After a military coup, the Inhuman Royal Family escape their home on the dark side of the moon, to Hawaii.  They must put aside personal differences to save the world!  The first two episodes were shot in IMAX and screened in cinemas.  I didn’t get around to seeing them, but understand they are terrible.  I didn’t bother with the series, and it seems no one else did either, it bombed and was swiftly cancelled, the eight completed episodes were retiled a mini-seriesMarvels Inhumans

Iron Fist (2017 – 2018) – The weakest of the Netflix shows.  Finn Jones plays Danny Rand, A young man who returns to New York after being presumed dead for fifteen years following a plane crash. Rand has heightened martial arts abilities, and the ability to call upon the mystical power of the Iron Fist.  The character isn’t very well written, and the plots are less engaging than those  in the other series.  It is helped by a strong supporting cast most notably Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing.  I watched all 23 episodes (across two seasons) but took longer over it than any other Netfix/MCU show.  As a side note Danny Rand appears as a supporting character in a few episodes of Luke Cake, and works better as a supporting character. Iron Fist

The Defenders 2017 –  Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, join forces to fight a common enemy, the Hand.  It was been suggested that it was the least-viewed Marvel Netflix following mixed reviews and word of mouth.  I enjoyed it and watched all eight episodes in quick succession. the defenders

The Punisher (2017 – 2019) – The final MCU/Netflix show.  Probably the most consistently excellent MCU show, and at its best it is as good as Jessica Jones, and Daredevil.   Jon Bernthal plays Frank Castle a former cop turned vigilante “the Punisher”, after the loss of his family.  First introduced in Daredevil, the first season goes back to tell the well trodden origin of the character.  The second season is actually better.  Another show that deserves more than the 26 episodes it got. The Punisher

Marvel’s Runaways (2017 – 2020) The plot (copied from wikipedia):  “Six teenagers from different backgrounds unite against a common enemy – their criminal parents” sounds interesting.  There are twenty episodes to date, with a final season of ten due out later this month.  I haven’t seen any of them yet, but may get around to it. Radio On

Cloak & Dagger (2018 – 2019) The unsung hero of the MCU TV.  Two very different teenagers  with seemingly unconnected powers find they are more effective when working together.  An excellent show that combines all the tropes of a teen romance, with a superhero show.  Sadly cancelled in the Disney+ cull of competing Marvel properties, it deserves a third and final season.  It has been rumoured that stars, Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph are reprising their characters in the supporting cast of the final season of Runaways, another reason to catch up with it.AUBREY JOSEPH, OLIVIA HOLT

So what does Disney+ have planned for us to replace everything that has been cancelled?  The following shows have all been slated and are at various stages of production.

  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Filming – due: late 2020)
  • WandaVision (Filming -Due: early 2021)
  • Loki (Pre Production – Due 2021)
  • What If…? (In Production (animated) – Due: 2021)
  • Hawkeye (Ordered – Due: 2021/2022)
  • Ms. Marvel (Ordered – Due: TBA)
  • Moon Knight (Ordered – Due: TBA)
  • She-Hulk (Ordered – Due: TBA)

The interesting thing, the first three are only set to have six episode first seasons.  Is this because they are so expensive, or are Disney spreading their properties too thinly?  Are they a toe in the water before a longer full season is ordered, or are has this just been misreported? Given the level of the MCU movies, I expect the new shows to be top quality.  I’m just not convinced cancelling excellent shows that still have millage in them the best way to do it.  Maybe there is truth to the rumour of a Disney+ reprieve for Jessica Jones and Daredevil! 

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james bond no time to dieAs the promotion of next spring’s No Time To Die, the 25 James Bond movie gets underway, the merry go round of who will replace Daniel Craig as 007.  The first thing I would say is that I am only talking about male actors, Bond is a man,  and as M (Judi Dench) says in GoldenEye “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War”.  There have been many suggestions that Ian Fleming’s character was actually a closeted or repressed homosexual.  This isn’t as outlandish as it sounds.  The books were written at a time when it was illegal to be gay.  A gay friend, who knows a lot more than me on the subject once told me that the secret services actively recruited gay men at this time.  Putting all this aside, the character would change too much if a woman were cast.  That’s not to say there isn’t room for a female 00 agent.  I would love to see a different film within the same universe.  That said, EON Productions are making a rare departure from Bond with The Rhythm Section due for release early next year, before No Time To Die.  Based on Mark Burnell novel of the same name the film promises to be a more gritty and realistic take on the genre.  Blake Lively stars as Stephanie Patrick an accidental/reluctant spy.  The film has an estimated $50 million budget, as a new property, this is considered a big risk, Bond 25 however cost five times that and will be expecting to smash $1billion in ticket sales.  I hope the film does well for two reasons, the second book is the best in the series, I would love it to see it adapted.  Secondly it would help the idea of a female 00. mark burnell the rhythm section

Back to Bond:  I understand Tom Hiddleston is still favourite, and for my money a good choice.  Tom Hardy, never seems far from the conversation; great actor but I don’t see him as Bond.  Sam Heughan seems to have come out of nowhere, and is the favourite of some bookies.  I didn’t know who he was and had to look him up.  This is often a good thing when it comes to Bond, an A list actor has never been cast in the role.  This also bodes well for lesser know actors: James Norton, and Jack Lowden, as well as TV stars Aidan Turner and Richard Madden.  It isn’t so great for big names: Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, and Chris Hemsworth.  Of the three my pick would be Fassbender who would make a great brooding Bond in the vein of Timothy Dalton.  Elba would have been a good choice, but I feel the ship has sailed.  At 47, he would be in his 50’s by the time his first movie came out, and his 60’s by the third or fourth.  Hemsworth, I would discount for two reasons: I personally would prefer to see a British or Irish actor in the part, and I would rather see him in more comedic roles.bond

Other actors getting odds of 10/1 or better include Jamie Bell, Cillian Murphy, Henry Cavill, Damian Lewis.  Bell, I don’t see as Bond, I can’t explain why.  Cavill, I think that ship has sailed.  Murphy, I would never have considered, but think he would be an interesting choice (even better if he used his Peaky Blinders accent!).  I’m warming to the idea of Lewis, just as he seems to be dropping out of contention.  The two others who seem to have dropped out of contention are Benedict Cumberbatch and Henry Golding.  Cumberbatch probably comes with too much baggage, If you mention the name of any of the actors who have played Bond: Connery, Lazenby, Morre, Dalton, Brosnan, Craig; Bond is the first think you think of. Cumberbatch is already Doctor Strange and Sherlock Holmes.  As for Golding, he has dropped out the race as quickly as he entered it.  From what little I have seen of him, he seems to have the looks and the charm, but I haven’t seen anything to convince me he is a very good actor.bond2

So who will be the seventh James Bond?  Probably either nobody from this list, or one of the lesser know actors.  But as strange as it sounds, it doesn’t matter that much.  George Lazenby aside (50 years ago), they have never chosen a poor actor.  How good or bad the films are rests with the script and direction.  I have always maintained that Timothy Dalton is the best Bond, he plays the character closest to the one in Ian Fleming’s novels, but he didn’t make the best films.  With GoldenEye (1995) Pierce Brosnan made one of the best Bond films, but his subsequent films ranged from poor to terrible.  This was purely down to the scripts, and nothing to do with the actor.

bond3

The interesting thing will be the setup.  Will Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw return?  From one point of view, I would like to see them back as they are all great, on the other hand, a clean reboot with a new whole cast would be interesting too.  I like the idea of doing something different, either, going back to the books and making a 1950/60’s set period spy movie.  Or a modern day version, but going back to the start, Bond Year One!  A movie about a younger Bond being recruited.  I have also for a long time advocated bringing back Timothy Dalton, or even Pierce Brosnan to play an older retired Bond.

Given the timescales these movies work to, I would expect to see Bond 26 in 2024/25. 

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Nine trips to the cinema this month, including one I didn’t think I would get to see on the big screen, the Netflix release, The Irishman.  I enjoyed all but one of them, but there is a clear winner for Movie of the Month. 

The Aeronauts – Reteaming of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.  Loosely and vaguely inspired by an almost true story of a meteorologist’s attempt to make break the world record for the highest balloon flight in order to record data, and prove a theory.  Jones is on great form and the film looks spectacular.  There are some real moments of excitement and tension, but ultimate let down by a plot as thin as the air at 37,000 feet.The Aeronauts

Le Mans ’66 –  Based on the true story of Ford’s attempt to beat Ferrari at Le Mans with the help of Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) Director  James Mangold is on top form making the two and a half hours fly by. Damon and Bale are both excellent as are the entire supporting cast. Le Mans 66

Sorry We Missed You – Exploration of the perils of the “gig economy” and the vicious circle of financial.  Whatever Ken Loach next would be compared to his previous film the excellent I, Daniel Blake.  His latest offering is very good, and hard hitting as you would expect, but not amongst the best of the directors work. Sorry We Missed You

Doctor Sleep – Sequel to The Shining with Ewan McGregor as an now adult Danny Torrance.  Taken on its own merit, it is a really good movie, but the recreations of Stanley Kubrick’s movie seen in flashback is jarring.  The highlight of the movie is Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat, the movies villain, I would have happily seen a movie about her, and her group.   Doctor Sleep

The Irshman – Martin Scorsese’s epic tale of mob hitman Frank Sheeran based on the novel I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt.  This is not Goodfellas par 2, it is more thoughtful and sombre film than Scorsese’s previous entries into the gangster genre.  A masterpiece by a true master of cinema, the three and a half hour runtime is justified!The Irshman

Blue Story – Story of divided loyalties between two school friends against the backdrop of warring London gangs.  Strong performances are let down by a terrible script that is unoriginal and poorly plotted.  Musical/rap interludes are an interesting idea, but don’t work.  To its credit it condemns gang violence and never glorifies it. Blue Story

Charlie’s Angels – Soft reboot of the franchise that pitches itself as a sequel to all other incarnations of the Angels.  The plot is paper thin, with twists that are well telegraphed, but that doesn’t matter, as the film is so much fun.  The standout performance comes from Kristen Stewart, but the real star is the script and direction from Elizabeth Banks that provides the right balance of action and comedy.  It’s a shame it appears to have bombed at the US box-office, as I would have liked to see more of them. Charlies Angels

21 Bridges – After a heist goes wrong, two NYPD detectives (Chadwick Boseman and Sienna Miller) have a short period of time to catch a pair of cop killers.  The kind of old fashioned thriller that we don’t often see made these days.  Not an all time classic, but a well made and compelling thriller that is elevated above its predicable plot and ripe dialogue by stylish direction and excellent performances. 21 Bridges

Harriet – The true, and extraordinary story of Harriet Tubman, a woman whose escaped slavery was only the beginning of her amazing story.  The direction and narrative is vey by the numbers and doesn’t offer anything new or original, but Cynthia Erivo is sensational as ever. Harriet

Le Mans ’66 was excellent, and could have been Movie of the Month had it come out earlier in the year, but in November, it misses out to the clear winner:The Irshman poster

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