Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Film Locker #4: The Coen Brothers and 'No Country for Old Men'

We move from Toronto with Cronenberg in Episode 3 to the boys from Minnesota: The Coen Brothers.

Both Hatter and I are pretty well versed with the films and were keen to discuss the range of topics up for discussion - their influences and style combined with themes that are prevalent in their canon - from Blood Simple to True Grit.

The focus-film is No Country for Old Men starring Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Kelly MacDonald and Woody Harelson.

Make sure you take part in the competition at the end of the show - and, indeed, look forward to the final track which is a personal favourite!

And, as usual, it is already up on itunes and can be found easily on podomatic - so, please do try and write reviews and support us if you can! We have the ol' RSS feed and 2.0 RSS and, if you link in different ways, we also have it on Google and Yahoo

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Thursday, 23 June 2011

From Russia With Love (Terence Young, 1963)

"The first one won't kill you; not the second, not even the third... not till you crawl over here and you KISS MY FOOT!"


The problem with Dr No was the lack of success it earned in the US. In fact, Dr No gained an audience slowly but surely in Europe so producers decided that From Russia with Love would capitalise on the European market it had already established. Additionally, the structure of this 007 adventure is unlike any other 007 film - rather than the crazy action films that became the genre-of-choice for James Bond, From Russia with Love was firmly rooted in the Spy-Espionage genre. Something fascinating about this film is how it is reminiscent of the train-espionage stories such as Murder on the Orient Express (1934) and The Lady Vanishes (1938) but, importantly, is missing Ken Adams as he was working on a little known film with a long title called Dr Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb with Mr Kubrick...

The Sequel to Dr. No...

At the time, this was the only sequel to Dr. No. Nobody knew what was to become of this franchise. People say "the problem with James Bond and his women in the franchise, is how he 'moves on' so quickly". You never see the break-up or any long-term relationships ... well this is simply not true. In fairness to the producers, they attempted to include this element in From Russia with Love through the ongoing relationship Bond has with Miss Sylvia Trench. Who is she you ask? You simply need to skip back to the Dr No and ask who introduced us to 007 in the first place ("Trench, Sylvia Trench - and you are"/"Bond, James Bond"). There is even a mention of a scar James Bond has on his body ... is this a subtle reference to the break-up between Bond and Honey Ryder - the knife-wielding shell-finding hottie. Imagine these subtle hints in 1963, whereby you know Dr No inside and out. Unlike the many Bond film, we even have to wait 17-minutes before we even see James Bond on screen again. We see a fake James Bond in the first 5-minutes, but the actual James Bond is not seen for nearly 20 minutes as the film carefully sets up the film - and indeed sets up the franchise with a bigger reveal of SPECTRE.

Even Dr No himself is referenced as we see the-man-with-the-cat (no name as yet...) introduce Col. Klebb (Lotte Lenya) to Chess-Master Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) to concoct a plan to steal the Lektor and set-up Russia against England. Though setting up the franchise, you know the producers had no idea how big this would be as the 'more-than-the-previous-installment' selling-points are included: "Bond is back, and this time there are More locations, More bad-guys and More Women.

Indeed, if they continued to double-up the amount of women in comparison to the previous film, by now, the 23rd James Bond film would be wall-to-wall women-on-women action with James Bond in the centre holding his ... gun. From Russia with Love shows how the 'bad guy' Red Grant gets a massage by a female masseuse who wears only her underwear (why? that is surely not professional etiquette). The love interest, Tatiana, hops into bed completely naked (Bond still as the voyeur ... remember Dr No when we see, unknown to Honey, Bond observing her emerge from the water...). Kerim Bey's mistress writhing about on the bed, nearly falling out of her dress whilst a gypsy-fight midway through is clearly only there for arousal as it finishes to show the two women, not only content in putting aside their differences for James Bond, but also taking part in some love-making, together, with James Bond.

Setting Up The Future

Through setting up SPECTRE for multiple films planned for the future, unknown to the filmmakers, many other components date back to From Russia with Love. Desmond Llewelyn is on screen for the first time as gadget-master 'Boothroyd' - aka, Q. He would become a part of the series through to The World is not Enough. At this point, he has no problems with Bond - he explains the briefcase, the basic weapons and his scene is complete. The Q laboratory is not seen - but I believe it is clear that the island of SPECTRE, whereby we see the training SPECTRE assassins receive, predates the Q-lab and it appears that, to include it again in Goldfinger, they had to create the same type of lab for the good-guys - turning what was once SPECTRE's "lab" and becoming Q's lab.

But the hugely exotic locations are even more classical and inviting to see - the tunnels underneath Istanbul and the San Sofia Mosque are a few locations which, aesthetically, show a real beauty that the blue-sea and beaches of Dr. No couldn't hold a candle to. But, this was inevitably something that now had to be 'topped' in future films - ensuring that the next Bond film would be almost action-film postcards of exotic locations.

Inevitable Sex, Swinging and the Sixties

But this is still 1963 and no James Bond is good without a good dose of sexism - and we do indeed get this through the banter between Kerim Bey and James Bond. Constantly James Bond laughs about Kerim Bey's multiple children - and wives, whilst Kerim Bey mocks James Bond's job - stating that, regarding the questioning of Tatiana, Kerim states "is that all you want?" and the two laugh. After all - women are only there for sex.

But the sixties was also a time for swinging - it didn't matter who you are or where you are from, men and men, women and women - it was all ok. So we see a hint of lesbianism in Col. Klebb - a very butch woman in a dominant, masculine military role for the time. She touches Tatiana to hint at how attractive she finds her - and it is abundantly clear that her feelings are more than platonic.

But hey, that's the sixties. Cinematically, the sixties also proved to be the high-point for Alfred Hitchcock as he always gained success at the box-office. Hitchcock noted how he enjoyed the traditional train journey and this is exemplified in films such as Strangers on a Train, The Lady Vanishes and North by Northwest. Hitchcock and James Bond are often intertwined through history and From Russia with Love is the most overtly influenced Hitchcock-James Bond. Not only do we have the train journey but, as soon as he sets foot on the train, the whole narrative becomes 'Hitchcockian'. In the style of the best 'who-done-its', Kerim Bey is murdered and Bond has to find out who has committed the crime. Additionally he begins to realise that he is completely unaware of the true threat - originally assuming it is Russia. He retreats to his cabin and questions Tatiana - the elegant, blonde haired and blue-eyed love interest - a woman who is as beautiful as Grace Kelly and Kim Novak. Getting off the train, it becomes even more obvious as a helicopter swoops down to hit Bond - completely referencing North by Northwest. It would not be until Marnie in 1964, that Connery himself would work with Hitchcock.

But Why, oh Why ...

Some funny problems with the film. As much as I love it - it is not set in Russa. At All. We see Istanbul, Belgrade, Zagreb and Venice. But no Russia. I assume we are talking about Tatiana, who is Russia herself. Or the Lektor, as it is sent from Russia, with love... but, ultimately, we never see Russia and though a great title, I think most people go into the film in the hope of seeing Russia at the centre.

In the finale, Klebb tries to kick him with a poisoned-spike in her shoe (we will see this shoe again in Die Another Day). It is a clever plan and, when used previously, Kronsteen is killed because he doesn't see it coming. Klebb, the fool, reveals the spike early into her fight highlighting what Bond needs to steer clear of. Even if it wasn't poisoned, it would bloody hurt.

Finally, at the very end, as Bond and Tatiana sail on a gondola through Venice, he holds the film-reel that shows the two having sex and Tatiana asks "what is it?" and he replies: "I'll show you and then he kisses her and they move out of screen. Are they going to have sex? In a gondola?? An open-top gondola for everyone in Venice to see??? That is nuts. He clearly won't show her, and is putting her into an uncomfortable position before she wil re-emerge and say "can we go back to the hotel as this is very public".

Still The Best

Despite these concerns, it is my favourite James Bond film. It is not cheap and it shows a style of James Bond that the current producers should try hark back to. The fight at the end alone shows how incredible James Bond is: the deep blues and shadows, a fight that is rough and aggressive, fist on fist, grabbing, and dangerously holding each close to sharp shards of glass from broken windows.

It is a brilliant film and, as a starting point, this shows a the type of James Bond, on-screen, that should have continued. Fact of the matter is that Goldfinger made more money so, Mr. Accountant, you do the Math.

I have recently read Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Franchise by James Chapman and at the same time, I am re-listening to The Hollywood Saloon podcasts, titled Bond Never Dies. I would highly recommend these books and podcasts as many ideas and parts of my research would be credited to both these sources.
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Incredible Soundtrack #14: Toy Story (Newman)

The music attached to a film creates the environment, I believe, moreso than the literal environment depicted through the visuals...

Whenever we think of soundtracks, rarely do we think of bands and music artists. Lately, this has changed: The Chemical brothers and Hanna, Underworld and Sunshine, Nine Inch Nails and The Social Network - even Badly Drawn Boy and About a Boy. Randy Newman was ahead of the game early on. So much so, that for me, Randy Newman is primarily a composer. To another generation, Randy Newman is the artist behind 12 studio albums since 1968. His work with Pixar alone has also earned him much praise - as he composed all three Toy Story scores, but additionally Cars, A Bug's Life and Monsters Inc (and currently penned in for Monsters University). So, it goes without saying that he set a precedent with his soundtrack to Toy Story.

2. Strange Things - For me, this is the song the represents this film. When I was younger I was desperate to her this song because it perfectly encapsulates the playful and creative nature of 'play time'. Though the song is used for a montage showing Andy's lack of interest in Woody - it also shows Andy playing with Buzz - and the other toys - in lots of different ways.

4. Andy's Birthday - In a similar way to Strange Things this shows how varied Newmans style is. He plays with lots of different techniques that show his versatility. 

3. I'll Go Sailing No More - I had to throw this one in too - light, hopeful but very personal. One great thing about this song (and indeed the soundtrack) is how it makes that personal connection between us human viewers and the toy characters we are expected to relate to. Which we do relate to - because of many reasons, but especially the soundtrack.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Monday, 20 June 2011

A-Z #87: Hannah and Her Sisters

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#87 - Hannah and Her Sisters

Why did I buy it?

My ongoing interest in Woody Allen. A big task, but it must be completed - by the time I am 30, I would like to think that I have watched all of Woody Allens back-catalogue. This was a must-see due to the success it garnered at the time - and additionally, the fact that Michael Caine won his Best Actor gong for his role.

Why do I still own it?

Because of the huge number of Woody Allen's films, when I buy his films, they regularly becoms sold. I watch, I consider keeping, I keep/sell. Hannah and Her Sisters is one of the  good ones - a great combo of comedy, philosopy and relationships. I won't bore you too much, as Hatter and I covered it already on THE FILM LOCKER in much more detail. But it may interest you which other Woody Allen films which have hit the dust - they include Husbands and Wives (but, I do intend to watch it again at some point to re-evaluate as it stuck with me more than I initially expected), Mighty Aphrodite and Melinda and Melinda.
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Saturday, 18 June 2011

THE FILM LOCKER #3: David Cronenberg and 'The Fly'

So, much love to our new listeners who have entered the competition and the writer-inners (email us!) and with two in the bag - a Woody Allen and a Martin Scorsese episode, we now move onto more obscene and obscure directors with David Cronenberg.

Our choice of film is The Fly. Hatter mentioned how, prior to our Woody Allen show, he had not seen Hannah and her Sisters, and the same is true of The Fly for me. In fact, in preparation I watched three Cronenberg films: The Fly, eXistenZ and Dead Ringers for the first time!

But we have a bunch of posts on a separate blog - - that highlight much deeper insights into the films of the directors we have mentioned and more details about upcoming episodes and the ongoing scoreboard for the listeners!

And, as usual, it is already up on itunes and can be found easily on podomatic - so, please do try and write reviews and support us if you can! We have the ol' RSS feed and 2.0 RSS and, if you link in different ways, we also have it on Google and Yahoo

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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Dr Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)

"We're talking about war, not mass-murder"


This was a tough call. On the one hand you have the folks who believe that this is incredibly funny... but then, I know, it is dated. The whole 'contextual classic' argument is raised here - whereby it is a classic because of when it was made opposed to the timeless nature of the film. Before I continue, it is the former. This is about the fears and concerns of the sixties ... but then again, politics always comes back around again and the idea that a powerful person makes dumb-ass decisions that place the rest of the country at risk is nothing new.

An Unneccessary Fear

In a similar way to the Coens Burn After Reading, I believe that Dr Strangelove uses film to highlight the unneccessary fear that was prevalent in society at the time. The Coen Brothers laughed about the ridiculous nature of surveillance - how if every phone was bugged and every PC tracked, then how on earth could they control anything. The amount of administration to resource such a task - surveillance over every single thing in the world - was simply ridiculous. Hence the comedic nature of the film. Nearly 45 years prior, Stanley Kubrick was making the a film, using comedy, to make the same point.

The whole plot revolves around the rebel General Ripper (Sterling Hayden) - a man who triggers "Plan R". Plan 'R' is a system that bombs Russia using Atomic Bombs. The Joint-Chief of Staff (C. Scott) wants to use the attack as a way of defeating Russian "Commies". The comedy lies in the lack of control and complete absurdity in what 'could' happen. On the one hand, we consider if such an occurence could happen - somebody powerful, going a little nuts, and consequently starting nuclear war and/or desttorying the world. On the other hand, we can assume that there are protocols in place to stop this type of thing from happening. Strangely enough, the German nuclear physicist (Dr Strangelove) has Nazi links so we cannot help but consider how, to some extent, the idea of a 'perfect race' seems ridiculous ... but unfortunately, there was a time, when these thoughts are what began World War II.

The Style of the 60's

One thing which is brilliant about this film is the iconic image of the sixties it portrays. The film is shot entirely in black and white (except for A-bomb videos) giving the film a classical pseudo-importance. The comedy of the time is exemplified in casting Peter Sellers - an actor who, additionally in '63, had starred in iconic 60's film The Pink Panther opposite David Niven and Robert Wagner. Peter Sellers also manages to play multiple roles in the guise of Mandrake (the employee of General Ripper) the President of the United States and playing Dr Strangelove himself. These three roles - the creator (Strangelove), the decider (POTUS) and the everyday man (Mandrake) - present completely differeing opinions and feelings, with positions that are completely opposite to each other.

Additionally, we have sex-references throughout! The opening credits showing the phalic refuelling of the airplane to begin and then, throughout, the use of terms such as 'penetration' constantly remind us of how bombs, war and destruction could be associated with masculine power, dominance and animalistic urges. Even the production-design is by Ken Adams - a designer synomous with the James Bond films having designed the sets for Dr No, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and many others.
Incredible Lines and Quotable Dialogue

Why this film will be forever remember is due to the memorable dialogue and the script written by Stanley Kubrick, Peter George and Terry Southern. Stanley Kubrick, we know, has worked on many scripts having gained screenplay credits for many of his films, including Full Metal Jacket, 2001:A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange. Much like A Clockwork Orange, Dr Strangelove was based on the novel Two Hours to Doom - or alternately titled Red Alert - by Peter George, who is credited as co-writing the script. Terry Southern is third in the mix and, amongst other credits, he is also credited for Easy Rider - Dennis Hopper's profound end-of-an-era film of 1969.

Here are a few lines from the film:

"Well, I've been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that's the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones"
"He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians."
"That's right, sir, you are the only person authorized to do so. And although I, uh, hate to judge before all the facts are in, it's beginning to look like, uh, General Ripper exceeded his authority"
"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room."
These are endlessly quotable and insightful - the complete contradictions of the anture of war summarised through a satire on the cold-war simply shows the genius of Kubrick, George and Southern
I think it's Funny ...
Problem is for me is that I didn't laugh as much as I thought I would. With only one-watch under my belt, I feel that I must take some time to reflect and then rewatch the film to 'get it' more. At any rate, the flawless script and the iconic look of the film alone puts this up there with the 'best' Kubrick films. In time, I will appreciate it more. It summarises many feelings about the Cold War and the fear that many at the time may have felt - but, above that, it laughs about it and relaxes you into seeing the completely ridiculous nature of some of the assumptions people had at the time.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Incredible Soundtrack #13: Gone with the Wind (Steiner)

The music attached to a film creates the environment, I believe, moreso than the literal environment depicted through the visuals...

I have been meaning to crack open a classic soundtrack and Max Steiners score for Gone with the Wind, I think is epic and grand enough to continue the soundtrack series with. It was tough to choose the soundtrack because nothing matches the iconic theme tune - but, I did manage to find a couple of tracks that seemed to have some interesting points for discussion.

[I have just found out that the tracks are not available on YouTube! But still ...]

Highlights from the Soundtrack available on itunes:

12. I'll Never Be Hungry Again - small hints of the theme litter this track until the final thirty seconds whereby the strings take second-place to the brass belting out the Main Theme from Gone with the Wind.

10. Escape from Atlanta - Only a short track - 2mins 48secs, but the stringed beginning has a incredible fast pace and a strange similarity to the scores Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard completed for Nolan's Batman films. Until it becomes very 'epic' and dated ...

1. Main Title - the only one I could find on YouTube...

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A-Z #86: Grease

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#86 - Grease

Why did I buy it?

It was that time when, to some extent, DVD collections were limited and only a few films had been released. This film had gone down to £5 - at the time a bargain - and I bought it alongside The Italian Job, which was the same price.

Why do I still own it?

I haven't seen this for years. Years and years and years. But I love the hand-jive. Not to mention seeing young-Travolta dance his funky stuff. Back when I acted as a teenager, I always wished I could've been in Grease but, alas, it never happened. My blonde hair would mean I would could only be Travolta's friend Kenickie ... because no one would ever accept a blonde Danny Zuko. At least, by owning this film, I can watch and rewatch and think about what could've been ...
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Quantum of Solace (Marc Forster, 2008)

"This man and I have some unfinished business."


This is a little unconventional, I appreciate that, but I think it will be a case of fillng in the blanks over the years. I have recently watched all the James Bond films and, with Quantum of Solace, I have now finished. I have written a post on Dr No - which you should really check out.

After Casino Royale, I was so excited about the film until the bad reviews arrived and then I heard the scathing attack from Mark Kermode. Before I sat down, the initial reaction was exceptionally negative and I do recall reviews even giving the film 1*. To say this upset me is putting it mildly because, for better or worse, the film does have problems and there is no point in pretending this isn't true.

The Continuation of Casino Royale

I always found it difficult to stomach the 'love' James Bond had for Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale - at least the film had amazing action sequences and incredibly tense poker matches. In Quantum of Solace this weak aspect to the story (M constantly reminding Bond about the tragedy - "It'd be a pretty cold bastard who didn't want revenge for the death of someone he loved") whereby Vesper's betrayal and 'importance' ultimately rings untrue. If it wasn't Bond's motivation, then it would be a better film - and, for better or worse, did it even have to be a motivation at all? For Gods sake - it's his job! Another problem with Quantum of Solace is the repetition of Bond 'going rogue' (another facet which provides much comedy on The Hollywood Saloon podcast) - he does this in Casino Royale, Licence to Kill and Die Another Day - 4 out of 7 films, Bond rebels against M and MI-6 and, suprisingly, is accepted back. I swear, if Bond goes rogue again, M should have him killed.

I remember when Casino Royale was released, James Bond fans were concerned that with a  reboot of the franchise, it would lead to remakes of the original James Bond films. Luckily, this does not happen - though in a similar way to From Russia with Love, whereby SPECTRE is introduced, Quantum of Solace provides a new 'group' that is undetected on MI6's radar: QUANTUM.
Bond Girl
One of the stronger aspects to Quantum of Solace is the casting of Olga Kurylenko as the girl-who-wants-revenge. Borrowing a theme we have seen before - The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only - she is much stronger than many characters. So strong, in fact, she does not even sleep with 007. Now that is strong - who can resist his charm. Funnily enough, having read a few books on the franchise, we have already seen this before. Timothy Dalton's James Bond was much more serious and, in The Living Daylights, he only manages to have sex with one girl - at the end. At the time, Bond fans found this a little strange - but now we can see that, as I have mentioned before, Dalton was ahead of his time. In fact, the one girl he has sex with in Quantum of Solace died in a similar manner to Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) in Goldfinger - rather than covered in gold, Gemma Arterton's 'Strawberry Fields' is covered in oil and found later by MI-6. This begs the question that, upon reading the script, it was clear that Bond did not seem to get the ladies and so this sexual activity was squeezed in to ensure Bond did not remain celibate for one film.
One thing I laughed alot at was a use of the script mentioned on 'The Hollywood Saloon' podcast, whereby Olga's 'Camille' seems to appear multiple times, in a car, and state "Get in.". I recall listening to the podcast and hearing her say this time and time again - but upon watching the film, it is clear that this is a little 'feature' of Camille - she turns up int he car the first time "Get in.", Bond says some witty remark and she simply repeats her instruction "Get in". This happens twice - the second time to remind us of that special first meeting. So, though incredibly funny when hearing it used on The Hollywood Saloon, it is not as alien and out of place Andy and Jon imply. But Camille remains strong - with a motive that is never undermined by 007.


With these flaws, we beg the question why. Is it the script? No. I don't think Purvis, Wade and Haggis did a bad job - I'm sure it could be improved, but the story itself works. Though it wasn't neccessary, I see the purpose in continuing the story from Casino Royale. This leads to the actors who, again, were brilliant. As I mentioned Kurylenko was great whilst Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene was suitably sinister, with a realistic edge. Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright, reprising their roles from Casino Royale, were suitably strong and, especially Leiter, I love his cynical edge. Wright gives the impression that he knows he is on the strong 'super-power' side - and that he will probably 'win' if he wanted to - but he is held back by superiors who can't do their job. This cynicism complements Judi Dench's M, who we trust and believe in as 007's superior.

Behind the scenes though, we are missing some people. Marc Forster chooses a different production designer - Peter Lamont who has been involved with the franchise since Goldfinger, leading the production department since For Your Eyes Only is replaced by Dennis Gassner. Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson are on editing duties (Pearson having worked on The Bourne Supremacy with editing duties shared with Christopher Rouse), new to the franchise, whilst the second-unit director had been changed again (Alexander Witt on Casino Royale, Vic Armstrong the three films prior) to Dan Bradley, the second unit director on The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. It was clear now, if there was any doubt with Casino Royale, that the Bourne Franchise was the style 007 was aiming for... but it simply doesn't deliver.

I think the buck stops with Forster. His choice to have multiple sequences edited together in a way that confuses and cuts too fast is constantly a source of frustration. The opening sequence as cars chase Bond, rather than dwell on the vast space and skill of the stunt drivers, seems to cut every 2-seconds to another image from a different angle. Further to this, we have Mr White's escape juxtaposed with a horse-race for no clear reason. One sequence, that starts off effectively, suddenly drops in quality when Forster tries to make it more grandoise. Bond realises who QUANTUM are, as they all try and leave the opera they are in attendance for and, following a nervous face-off against Greene, Bond is chased out and we see an incredible gun fight. I say 'see an gun fight' because you don't hear a thing. Now we have the Opera music over the action sequence, rather than the rat-a-tat-tat of guns firing whilst we cut back and forth between the action and the opera. Thanks Forster - you mistake me for someone who cares about Opera and Horse-Racing - I watch 007 for the action and the stunts.

Finale and Fitting in the Canon

I used to despise this film, but after a second watch, I simply think it is an exceptionally weak James Bond film. Forster tried something that completely didn't work and, now it is done, Broccoli and Wilson can learn from their mistakes and hire someone who can direct action ... like Sam Mendes (wait-a-sec ... Sam Mendes? As in the director of American Beauty and Revolutionary Road ... not exactly action...). The end of Casino Royale gave the impression that Bond was back - and we could watch the next film without the 'love' and just enjoy the action. What we got was constant references to his 'love' in the previous film and action sequences that are not memorable. The biggest concern is that nothing is memorable at all - Casino Royale had the free-running, the poker-match, the macchete-fight in the stairwell to remind us of great action. This balanced out the love side to things. Quantum of Solace has all that love-stuff - "I was sorry to hear about Vesper. I think she loved you." - but action sequences I canot vividly recall because how badly they were edited - nothing flowed. Can I remember a single stunt? Not really because it was so unclear. I remember the bit when Bond fell down and swung round - with foot attached to rope - killing 'Mitchell', but I just wish it was much clearer.
At the very least, by mentioning 'Quantum' at the end of the film shows that, in fact, there is much more to reveal. For example, we saw many, many members of QUANTUM at the Opera and, I would like to think, this is an opportunity for many missions in the future... lets just hope that with all the many extra months of prepatory time for Bond 23, they can right-the-wrongs of Quantum of Solace...
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Saturday, 11 June 2011

THE FILM LOCKER #2: Woody Allen ...

Only recently, amongst the much-appreciated feedback (email us!) we received for our Martin Scorsese episode, fellow blogger and podcaster Dylan noted that the music could be a tad overbearing ... well, luckily, with Woody Allen we have his brilliant Jazz and Classical music to set under our voices discussing his work.

Our choice of film is Hannah and Her Sisters. Purposefully, not his most well known, but definately representative of Woody Allen's two sides - his comedic film  and his philosophical style.

All posts attached to THE FILM LOCKER is based at a separate blog address:

And, as usual, it is already up on itunes and can be found easily on podomatic - so, please do try and write reviews and support us if you can! We have the ol' RSS feed and 2.0 RSS and, if you link in different ways, we also have it on Google and Yahoo

Again - amazing art work by Hatter!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, 10 June 2011

Jeff Goldblum Impersonations

Just got a little side-tracked and found some great impersonations of Jeff Goldblum...

And some, not-so good...

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, 1937)

"Fifty years go by pretty fast."


Only yesterday I was sent my next rental from LOVEfilm (the UK's Netflix) and it was An Affair to Remember. It is a remake of Leo McCarey's 1939 film Love Affair. The funny thing is, both Sarah and I were unsure how An Affair to Remember got on the list at all and I think that this film - Make Way for Tomorrow - is the reason why. And that it was on the "1001 Movies to See Before You Die" List... as this film is too. The beauty of Make Way For Tomorrow  is something that makes it so special and that's why I look forward to Leo McCarey's other efforts, including An Affair to Remember...

Old-Aged and Beautiful

This film presents a fascinating insight into old age and the awareness of losing your loved ones. The two actors who play the old-age couple, strangely enough, were not that old when the film was made - relying on make-up to make them look old. Following from last weeks Touch of Evil review, it is interesting to note that Orson Welles stated that this film "would make a stone cry" whilst Ozu used this film as inspiration for his masterpiece Tokyo Story.

I vaguely recall a quote from Madonna whereby she mentioned how you always hear songs about people getting together and people splitting up - but never songs about staying together. This film shows that such a thing can be done. The older parents rely on their own middle-aged children to look after them and it is this juxtaposition between the arrogance of thier children combined with the parents simple expectations to be together. The narrative begins as the older parents reveal to their children that they need to move out of the family home because they can't afford it anymore - and this is relevant as the "Great" Depression had only just passed. The children are expected to look after their parents and, selfishly, they choose to split the parents up and placing the father in a different house to his wife rather than take on the 'hardship' of looking after the parents together. To make matters worse, the parents are split up across the whole of America - the parents moved to the east and west coast.

Young-Aged and Selfish

We watch parents who miss each incredibly whilst their children are incredibly selfish. Anita, daughter #1, decides not assist at all, one Son keeps schtum and doesn’t help at all. Daughter #2, Cora, looks after the father but is incredibly insulting to her fathers friends and she gives her Father no credibility whilst the final son, George, who looks after Mother, is the most likeable -  but his wife has a problem and does not assist with his Mother at all. In one instance she becomes incredibly uncomfortable as she holds a Bridge game which her MOther-in-Law interrupts. Her lowest point, I believe, is when she confronts her Mother-in-Law as she hides a, potentially unimportant, secret of her daughters.

I think we all know how selfish we can be sometimes - especially if we reflect to our attitudes and selfishness in our teenage years. I think, without being a Father myself, when I have a family, it will be difficult to sacrifice my own families comfortable-ness for the sake of my parents - especially when I can pass the buck easily enough to my own Brothers and Sisters and demand that they take responsibilty. But this film is not about the kids, its about the parents - and how, sometimes, the kids are not as important.

True Love

What is brilliant about this film is how it captures the beauty of a long-term relationship - something that you don't see on film that often. As a meal with the kids fast-approaches, the parents decide to bail completely and spend one final night together in New York. They visit restaurants and enjoy walks across the big apple reminiscing about how lucky they are to have each other. Its a beautiful sequence as the parents know they are dying and that time will pass.

This is compounded by sequences that precede the New York trip - especially one phonecall, whereby Mother and Father speak over the phone and it is clear that they are both unsure of how long they will live – will they die before seeing each other? These thoughts I cannot even comprehend as a twenty-something, but it is a thought that we should think about more often. Are we telling our partner how much we love them? Are we telling our family and children how much we love them? It seems, as you watch this film, there is never enough time. Every moment matters and yet we see the children who are clearly so self-centered - these touching moments are not considered by the children and, more importantly, the children have no idea how much their parents have sacrificed for the family (As an example, the parents have never been alone together for a holiday since honeymoon!)

What is the Point?

Having noted all these touching moments and the glimpses of beauty and tenderness between Ma n' Pa it raises other questions - Is it important for children to realise what they should do for their parents? Or should older parents dwell on these issues and reminisce and consider death? What about the view on family and marriage? This is where a striking problem lies - because though we see such beauty and happiness... we also see a little, how should I put it, regret. Because it seems to imply that, post-honeymoon, your life is pretty–much over…

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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A-Z #85: Gone with the Wind

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#85 - Gone with the Wind 

Why did I buy it?

Because, in the same way as a bunch of the ones I have bought "How can I call myself a film fan when I haven't seen Gone with the Wind". Well, now I have bought it and I have watched it. So there. Shut your face.

Why do I still own it?

Well I wrote a huge analysis on this post about a year ago so, if you want depth, go there. But ultimately, it is a good film. Brilliant, epic story with two lead characters in Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh that represent an almost flawless time in American Cinema. The soundtrack by Max Steiner is brilliant and the length of the film, though it could be a problem, in fact can be seen as a Part I and a Part II because it is a very clear interval which can separate the film over two nights. As good as people say - and therefore worth the purchase. Alongside all the huge amount of special features on the 4-disc boxset!
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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A-Z #84: Gladiator

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#84 - Gladiator

Why did I buy it?
I didn't see it at the cinema. I know, I know, it's one of those films you must have seen at the cinema, but alas, I did not. But as an employee of Woolworths, on the Entertainment counter, I saw a huge bunch of people buy this on its release. I was a little shocked that I was not more aware of it and bought it, without having seen it... and boy was it good.

Why do I still own it?

Sarah loves it and I do think its great. The sheer scale of the film is incredible - especially my favourite gladiatoral match with the tigers. I didn't even know who Russell Crowe was at the time - though, in fairness, when I finished watching the film, it was Joaquin Phoenix that I remembered vividly. The thing is, I have had this film for a long time, in the hope that it'd be worth buying the Director's Cut but - as you have seen from my post on Donnie Darko - sometimes the directors cut simply ain't no good! Has anyone seen it? Which one is better? It's an incredible film and to think that Ridley Scott also made Blade Runner and Alien simply shows how talented the man is.
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Sunday, 5 June 2011

Incredible Soundtrack #12: The Ghost Writer (Desplat)

The music attached to a film creates the environment, I believe, moreso than the literal environment depicted through the visuals...

One of the most important film composers recently is Alexandre Desplat. Not only has he won multiple awards - including a BAFTA for The King's Speech, a BMI Film Music Award for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and a Silver Berlin Bear for The Beat That My Heart Skipped but he has also been nominated for many, many more. As you can see, I have chosen an underlooked gem from the last year - indeed his score for The Ghost Writer - or called The Ghost to us folk in the UK.

1. The Ghost Writer - I have never heard such a great sound, and use of, clarinets and oboes (At any rate, surely a wind instrument). The huge, demanding thump of the percussion, forces you to watch and listen...

3. Travel to the Island - Beginning with a strong use of strings (again, I think the spy-like nature of the film, inevitably lends itself well to a Herrman-esque use of strings) it sets up an almost sinister element to the mix before retreating to the well known theme of the film -but this time more expansive and all-encompassing. With small hints of a childish twinkle that, I believe, is for Ewan McGregor's nameless and naive character.

12. The Predescessor - An almost dreamlike state is created with an under current of horror-like un-even strings. The chords slowly hint at the main theme without becoming too defined.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Saturday, 4 June 2011


The big day is here! Hatter and I have planned for many months this 12-episode series. Dylan from Man, I Love Films mentioned "Why only 12?" and, yeah, thats a good question!

For me, the primary purpose of blogging and podcasting is to learn and to improve on my film interest through writing, reflecting and discussing cinema with a broad range of like-minded people. The 'dream' of joining film journalism in a professional sense is something that I do intend to work towards and, moreso, to even break in Film Academia by writing about cinema.

These 12-episodes are part of one series focussing exclusively on directors - choosing one film to extrapolate (love that word) from. In some cases, these are directors that I know through and through, in other cases they are directors I have had to research - and this podcast is a great outlet to relay the knowledge I have learnt.

It's a big job and takes a while to prepare, record and edit - but so far, it has been worth it. By keeping it as a limited run, we can reflect and improve if we decide to continue...

It is already up on itunes and can be found easily on podomatic - so, please do try and write reviews and support us if you can! We have the ol' RSS feed and 2.0 RSS and, if you link in different ways, we also have it on Google and Yahoo

Here we go:

Series 1: Episode 1 - Martin Scorsese and 'Goodfellas'

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A-Z #83: Gandhi

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#83 - Gandhi

Why did I buy it?

Twas a Best Picture I have not seen. In an attempt to watch all the Best Picture winners, I believed that Gandhi was the film that stalled me for its win in 1982. Turns out, this is inaccurate. I have all the winners from 2011 and all the way back to ... 1987 ... and The Last Emperor. At any rate, I bought Gandhi and I watched it and ... if I'm honest, it might be sold off...

Why do I still own it?

Because it is a good film with a strong moral centre-point... based on a true-story with an incredible performance from Ben Kingsley. My problem is whether I will watch it again. As good as it is, I will struggle to view it a second time because its over 3-hours long and, until I make my epic film with thousands of extras ... I doubt I will need to watch it. Having said that, I could argue the same point as Lawrence of Arabia. If I was to sell Gandhi ... then I should additionally sell Lawrence of Arabia ... 

Should it stay or should it go?
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, 3 June 2011

A-Z #82: Four Lions

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#82 - Four Lions 

Why did I buy it?

I didn't. Second half of a Christmas present from Bangor Rep/Bruvva Graham. It really is a great film and I thoroughly loved it when I first watched it and, to rewatch it again, I believe it will get better and - most importantly for a comedy film - it will get quotable. 

Why do I still own it?

Not only is it a great film to think about and discuss - indeed Chris Morris researched the nature of terrorist cells and, actually, how stupid they truly are (a boat carrying too many people and bomb equipment sank...) but it is endlessly rewatchable. If someone comes round my flat and tells me they haven't seen it ... then, we will be watching the film that evening.
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)

"This isn't the real Mexico. You know that. All border towns bring out the worst in a country"


Film Noir is always touted as one of film-lovers favourite genres. The deep shadows and sharp light beams that litter the screen provide a moody and classy atmosphere. Ironically, having written a post recently about having an anti-genre preference, here I will be discussing a 'staple' of the Film Noir film genre. Initially, I watched the film travelling between Birmingham and London - and fell asleep. I blame the night before and not Orson Welles.

The Set-Up

The film begins with a flawless 3-minute sequence as an anonymous bomber plans to destroy a car as it crosses the border from Mexico into American territory. We see Charlton Heston playing a Mexican, with his wife cross-by and walk between the car and the sidewalk for three-minutes and, as someone who had not seen this film before, I found it very difficult to not get twisted in knots. The fact that Heston is almost unrecognizable - looking like Clark Gable - in comparison with the epic roles he has played in Planet of the Apes and Ben-Hur. Put it this way, I didn't recognise him and thought the bomb was meant for him. When we are presented with the catastrophy - this sets up the investigation. Both Vargas (Heston), a Mexican Detective, and Quinlan (Welles), the US detective, both try and find out who the bomber is. This is no simple who-done-it as Quinlan has his own methods of finding the bomber ... and Vargas slowly realises that Quinlan's form of 'justice' isn't the same as his...

Corrupt Justice

Vargas is Mexican cop and Quinlan (Welles) is US detective - and the murder is unclear which 'district' it falls within and so both cops follow the case - until Vargas realises that the primary suspect has had evidence placed on him. By Quinlan. Syd Field wrote about how films are broken into three different parts - broken up by 'plot points' and this film clearly depicts this theory. In the opening act we are watching to see who is responsible for the bomb, but after realising everything is not what it seems, the who-placed-the-bomb question is irrelevant. The question is How-Corrupt-is-Quinlan? He is a racist cop - he clearly has a problem with Mexicans - referring to them to as 'half-breeds'. Vargas is a moral cop and he attempts to find out how bad Quinlan actually is. The rub is whether he will find this out - Quinlan has allies in drug-dealers who equally want to take down Vargas. It shows how, sometimes, you are more on your own when you have strong principles and morals.

Tough To Be Good

In fact, this is exactly the story. If we reflect on Vargas through this story we realise that - not only is he often on his own - but it is his wife who is attacked and his success in taking down a drug-dealer elsewhere has a knock-on effect and is part of the reason he is despised on this case. It is only in the last act that we see Quinlan get his comeuppance... and even then, Quinlan placed the evidence on the right guy as we hear how the suspected bomber admits to his crime.
When reviewing 'classic' films, it is worth considering why they are deemed 'classic' at all. The finale especially is iconic as it shows how expressionistic Welles can be. We know from Citizen Kane that angled camera-shots and sharp lighting are all part of the cinematic experience - and it is no different in Touch of Evil. We see the treacherous landscape Vargas has to stand upon to pick up signal. The world is broken and twisted and this reflects the broken and twisted nature of justice - and the power that can be abused by the police. Firther to this, the corrupt world is reflecting in the outcomes as even the double-cross of 'Pete' (he who always found the planted evidence without realising it was planted) on Quinlan ends in his death - he's a good cop and he is the only reason Quinlan is proved a fraud by Vargas - but he dies for his moral actions.

It is a seedy world, portraying strip clubs, brothels, drug-dens, and a shocking scene as Grandi's 'boys' hint at rape when attacking Vargas' wife. The small line " you get her legs" provides an exceptionally sinister undercurrent to the world portrayed. Small touches add to the envronment - especially in the guise of a 'night' guy within the Mitador Motel - he twitches and looks around wide-eyed. Ironically, this is not the only time Janet Leigh comes across a strange motel character/owner as, only two years later, she would be staying at the Bates Motel in Psycho.

Timeless Talking Points

This is clearly an important and iconic film - noticably in the casting of Charlton Heston and Orson Welles, but additionally in the use of camera and style of filmmaking. What raises this to 'classic' is through a timeless narrative that forces you to consider what is justice and what is not. Quinlan is bad, that is clear, but he seems to be accurate, through years of policework, to highlight the 'type' of person a criminal is as his planting-of-evidence is accurate. My parents tell me how, during the 80's, if they spoke in their thick Irish accents when crossing between England and Ireland, it was almost guaranteed that they would be seached due to the conflicts. They accepted this racial-stereotyping, but we continue to see this as Muslims are searched and checked on a regular basis following 9/11 and 7/7. Quinland planted the evidence, and this is clearly wrong and corrupt - but, his 'feeling' was right and you are expected to question where his ethics come from because he clearly believes in his morals as Vargas believes in his.
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