Bond Begins – The Sequel

I loved the new style Bond, so it was a given that I’d see the current one, at least to see if Daniel Craig could do it again. Luckily, we’d recently re-watched Casino Royale, so it made some modicum of sense…

Quantum of Solace

Fasted paced action flick with an English guy in it

Named after an obscure Ian Fleming short story, this film begins mere minutes after the previous film ends, and drops you right into the action. If you want to follow the plot, it’s best to be familiar with the earlier film, but if you don’t care about plot, then no fear – this film jumps from action sequence to action sequence with minimal explanatory dialogue. You get multiple chase scenes, fight scenes (apparently Daniel Craig got real bruises), beautiful people and sinister villains.

However, it’s not really a spy film. In fact, it hardly follows the James Bond formula at all – for example, there is no trip to the exotic weapons laboratory. Frankly, our Bond couldn’t have managed to fit it in, given all the chasing and fighting that he has to do. I suspect that, with a few tweaks, this could have been a Steven Seagal or Will Smith movie.

But Craig’s bond is more of that ilk than the “snooping around the lair” style hero, and there is plenty of edge-of-the-seat excitement to make it an enjoyable 1:45 hours.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Not much like my schooldays

It’s a bit dull waiting for the baby to arrive now. We’ve watched a lot of DVDs. On the weekend we took a break from the TV to go watch a film.

Son of Rambow

A bit like The Wonder Years crossed with Jackass

Set in Britain in the early 80s, this is a film about kids, and the power of their over-active imaginations. Don’t expect much in the way of special effects, or cloying nostalgia. Just wacky kids. I laughed a lot, but I think I was laughing more than most others in the cinema.

Will is a boy growing up in a fundamentalist religion. Lee is a ne’er-do-well kid of the same age. Both turn out to have a few things in common. Both are well acted. In fact, all the acting is pretty good.

This film might be considered anti-religious. Well, anti-fundamentalist-religion, more precisely. But although that’s there, it isn’t what the film is about.

This film might also be considered anti-French. It was made with the assistance of the French, so perhaps they didn’t know what the film was about ahead of time.

But this film should not be considered a kids film. Sure, they could go see it, with it’s kid-friendly classification, but adults will get much more out of it.

It was the best thing I’ve seen for weeks.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Unexpected, black comedy

I guess it’s our own fault that we weren’t expecting this film to turn out like it did. We saw 10 seconds of a preview for it on TV while channel flicking, and remembered enough of the name to pick it out when buying tickets. It wasn’t a light-hearted comedy about dwarves.

In Bruges

A rather black comedy-drama set in Bruges

If Quentin Tarantino had instead been raised on a diet of European art-house film, then this would have been a film he made. It’s about an odd couple, both hit-men, who have escaped to Belgium after completing a job in London. However, Bruges turns out to be a lot more interesting than either expect.

Outside of the violence that you’d expect from a film involving hit-men, and some laugh-out-loud moments, there are also points where the film ponders philosophies of ethics and honour. And all of the main characters develop in interesting ways as the film progesses.

An amusing game to play during this film is to spot all of the actors who were also in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It seems that casting was done as a job lot.

My rating: 3.0 stars

Another UK Cult Classic?

I’m a bit of a fan of Simon Pegg. The star of Shaun of the Dead is one of the legends of UK cult classics. This was an easy selection from the video store…

Run Fatboy Run

More charming UK rom-com and less cult classic

This is the story of boy meets girl, boy leaves girl knocked-up at the altar, girl hates boy. Actually, that’s just the set-up. But don’t think it’s a gritty, black comedy. Although it’s About A Boy crossed with Rocky, it’s more the former than the latter.

Simon Pegg is both a writer for and the lead actor in this film. However, his co-writer from Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, Edgar Wright, is not a co-writer this time. And it is David Schwimmer’s film directing debut. All of which might explain the lack of edginess.

However, it’s still a lot of fun. Pegg’s character Dennis is a hopeless buffoon and an endearing athlete. The rest of the cast is excellent also. I laughed a lot. And you can’t ask for more than that, really.

My rating: 3.5 stars

The Knights who say

Director Christopher Nolan is a long, long way from Monty Python. There’s hardly a laugh at all (for the audience) in the latest Batman film. And whether you think it’s a metaphor for George W Bush’s war on terror, or a vehicle for delivering the second only post-humous Oscar for an actor, it’s still a film worth seeing.

The Dark Knight

Less epic but more angsty than the previous one.

When Christian Bale burst onto the screen as the latest incarnation of the Batman franchise in Batman Begins, I was impressed. The film was awesome, moody and epic. This sequel, bringing in Heath Ledger as The Joker is actually pretty good, as sequels go.

Probably the most disappointing thing is that it tries to pack too much in. The film is a little long, or could have been two films. It probably should have been, as some scenes felt like they’d been cut a little short, but the film still comes in at 2 1/2 hours long.

Unlike the first film, which was rich in character, this one is rich in philosophy. There are moral quandries, issues of duty, principle, and the greater good. This is the sort of stuff a character like The Joker is brilliant at kicking up, and every opportunity is taken to do so. I enjoyed that, but it was at the expense of a sense of epic-ness that the first film had in spades.

My rating: 4.0 stars

Ev’rybody was Kung-fu fighting…

China is everywhere at the moment. Resources boom in the newspapers; Olympic games teasters on the TV; and Chinese animal martial arts films at the movies.

Kung Fu Panda

A light-hearted, animated film about violent animals

Jack Black plays an animated panda that practices martial arts. What more do I need to say? It’s a little bit frightening.

But it’s mostly good fun. Think of a mix between Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master and Disney’s Mulan – it belongs to the tradition of martial arts films where the hero has a great weakness that becomes a martial arts technique. However all the characters are animated animals.

And the animation is well done. In particular the fight sequences are great to watch and the Chinese landscapes are amazing.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Another trip to Narnia

It was time to see a movie again. And the last movie I’d seen was on a plane, so it didn’t count. Friday night had arrived, and we were after something light-hearted, so what better than the latest childrens’ fantasy blockbuster?

Prince Caspian

Like “Lord of the Rings” but without the elvish

It’s really a bit unfair. If only Weta Workshop hadn’t gone and done Lord of the Rings first, then C S Lewis’ childrens’ epic wouldn’t look quite so derivative. It’s a bit like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court crossed with Fellowship of the Ring. British schoolkids transported into a land where there are dwarves and they must complete a quest to save Narnia, the country within Lewis’ fantasy land.

Unlike Tolkien’s fantasy land, this one has strong Anglican overtones, and English is the language everyone knows. It’s actually quite fun to spot the Christian references through the plot, but the whole work is done with such class that you can easily suspend disbelief and get caught up in the tale. The child actors from the previous Narnia film are back, and the whole cast is excellent. Peter Dinklage is particularly good.

If you’re a fan of fantasy, and the Narnia books in particular, this should be an enjoyable film. There is a fair amount of violence (like Lord of the Rings) so don’t expect a happy, Disney, bunny-rabbit of a film. But, it’s not very challenging, which is why is was the perfect choice for us that evening.

My rating: 3.0 stars

Oils Aint Oils

I hadn’t heard much about this film prior to seeing it. It sounded like it might give me an insight into the American oil boom and the life of wildcatters. Yes, I got that much, but I think I would’ve been better off reading about it in a book.

There Will Be Blood

Promises blood and delivers malevolence.

This film is beautiful. This film is well acted. It is a piece of art, but one I couldn’t manage to enjoy. Although I wanted to, as it had an interesting topic (the early days of the American oil boom and how prospectors built their empires), interesting themes (such as asking what is the price of ambition, and how do commerce and faith work together), and good actors (Daniel Day-Lewis was particularly brilliant).

However, there wasn’t a single important character that I could like, the sound track was mostly irritating, and the film seemed unnecessarily long. In fact, the film could have stopped around 20 minutes earlier and been a better work, I think.

So, I was clearly disappointed. The malevolent character Daniel Plainview, played by Day-Lewis, was so nasty and brutal that it is difficult to believe such a person would have existed and been so successful, casting doubt on the otherwise amazing historical authenticity of the movie. Just not the film for me, I guess.

My rating: 2.0 stars

Too cute for words. Almost.

Every year, the book club I’m in takes a month out to watch a movie instead. Last year we went to see Babel, also known as the most bleak movie ever made. So, this year we wanted to see something a little more perky. Wish granted!


A very cute coming-of-age movie.

Canadian director Jason Reitman made the great mockumentary Thank You for Smoking, and has followed it up with this cute Canadian tale of a sassy teenager who is dealing with a personal issue. Ok, it’s not telling you anything you don’t find out within seconds of the credits finishing, but the personal issue is that she’s pregnant.

Fellow Canadian Ellen Philpotts-Page plays the eponymous heroine, part of a stellar cast who can do no wrong. They take Juno’s situation and spin it into a cute and quirky tale that explores the question of who makes a good parent. It is sensitive and witty, and the dialogue sparkles.

And did I mention it was cute?

My rating: 3.5 stars

Quite enchanted

To get out of the oppressive heat, the other night Kate and I went to the movies. At the flip of a coin, we chose to see this film (the other option was National Treasure, if you really must know). Afterwards, I would’ve been happy to go back in, and see it again, and not just because of the air conditioning!

Ironic Fairy-tale romance with a dash of New York humour

It is a little tricky to describe this movie as it twists the genres a bit. Perhaps I can say it is like The Princess Bride crossed with Stuart Little. Or maybe I can say it’s like King Kong crossed with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I’m going to fail either way.

Well, I will say that never since Julie Andrews played a singing nun in The Sound of Music have I seen a character as joyful and naive beyond all reason as the heroine of this film, Giselle. And the fact that Julie Andrews lends her voice to this film as the narrator is just poetry. Giselle is not quite singing as the Nazis invade, but her singing is also catchy and yet clueless.

I suspect that a fair few audience members were not there to see Giselle but the character played by Patrick Dempsey of Grey’s Anatomy fame. Their loss – he is perfect with the stunned and tortured expressions he made famous in Grey’s, but he doesn’t have a taxing role here.

The contrast of fairy-tale plot logic with real-world New York grit is simply fabulous. It shows up quite how much disbelief we suspend when watching the typical Disney cartoon. However, it’s a Disney film regardless, and I had to love it. And left the cinema singing the songs.

My rating: 4.0 stars