Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Synopsis: When the dark past catches up with M, Bond is driven to new extremes to ensure both the safety of his boss - and the security of MI6.

No country for Blond men...

007 Movies are pretty much, without doubt, a very successful franchise formula that has worked fantastically for the most part over their life-span to date. Sometimes a director may want to 'mix things up', but when the recipe is right, you don't want to change it too much - or the consumers will look elsewhere (I'm looking at you - Jason Bourne!). The boxes need to be ticked. Exhilarating opening scene, Stunning title sequence, hot Bond babes (preferrably with minimal clothing. Seems to make a difference... ) cool gadgets, inventive chase scenes, memorable baddies, and above all else, a Bond who appeals to both sexes with equal measure. Check all these boxes - and the foundation is laid for a successful movie.

Increasingly though, in this current climate, all those requisite specifics will come to nought if you don't have a compelling storyline that makes you believe. Without this, the resounding hollowness can be spotted from a mile away. Like any franchise, the opportunity to go one better for the next entry in the series is invariably an attraction that many a Bond director has felt compelled to include when filming. A case of well, we did this last time, so... And if they fall into that trap - then the audiences are smart enough to see it for what it is. More cheap action stunts - just for the sake of the movie - that are not adding anything substantially different to preceeding entries before this latest outing. Wisely, this new Bond director (Sam Mendes - "American Beauty" "Road to Perdition" "Jarhead") is cut from a cloth of intelligent, thought provoking cinema that never forgets the key aspect of any film - a great story. If the story isn't attention grabbing, then no amount of meaningless action scenes will change the fundamental outlook of the film going publics opinion that its a crap movie. Once word of mouth gets out, sayonnara to any meaningful returns for the studio on their investment. Of course in saying this, Bond has been on an upward trajectory since Daniel Craig's arrival as the most current version of the iconic spy. Quantum of Solace aside, the new Bond has got the right tone, attitude, and conviction with its approach as to how he is perceived in this day and age. Why is this?  Because they're telling the right kind of story! The new angle with Skyfall is that we now (for the very first time incredibly!) get to see a back story to James. Where did he come from? And crucially, what events shaped his destiny to end up where he is today? It's this refreshing change that invigorates Skyfall convincingly - and factor in M's past indiscretions - together they add up to one of the best stories ever presented in the name of Bond.

One other key factor in the relative success or failure in a Bond movie is the absolute need for a villain who is distinctly memorable, someone who has screen presence, and that all ellusive 'X-factor' that is both a movie cliche - but firmly rooted in film lore. Vader, Lecter, Bates are but a few names that need no further explanation to flim fans who revere these evil iconic characters. So into the fray steps Jarvier Bardem, with another haircut which is just as distinctive as his one in No Country for Old Men. He invests his role with an undercurrent of melancholy which is quite disarming initially. Till he reveals his true colours in due course, when he morphs into the traditional psycho-nasty villain role that is customary in these fraught situations with his nemesis - Bond.

Dame Judi Dench is once again, commanding in her role as M. She realises that her life will never be the same again when the consequences of her past transgressions stop biting at her heels - and threaten to consume her with unequivocal finality. Ralph Fiennes makes a memorable entrance to the world of Bond, I suspect we'll see a lot more of him in the next few outings. Q meanwhile, has reversed in age, now his face is that of Ben Whishaw. Again, he could be in for the long haul. A very worthy incarnation of this popular character.

50 Years is a long time in anyones lifetime, so it's well worth celebrating the major milestone that this achievement merits with the latest - and very possibly - one of the best Bond movies ever made.

Jamies rating?

J for... Jewel

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Robot & Frank

Synopsis: When Frank, a retired burglar starts to display signs of forgetfulness, his son decides help is needed. In the form of a robot. Naturally Frank doesn't want a bar of it, but when his sidekick shows a bit of initiative, Frank thinks there might be other uses for the hired hand more suited to his liking...

The robot figures he's got the upper hand when it comes to not blinking first...

This is one of those movies that isn't anything like what you presume it would be. In some ways, it defys an easy categorization, which bodes well for future repeat viewings. It is though, an amusing tale of friendship, trust, acceptance & kleptomania!

Frank Langella plays Frank, a retired cat burglar who still has the urge every now and then to reappropriate items to his liking, much to the chagrin of his offspring who are naturally concerned of the wider implications these misdeeds seem to hint at. He also is forgetting things with alarming regularity, which concerns them greatly. His son has the bright idea to get some home help, so it being the near future, he gets the most suitable thing possible - a robot. It will do what its told - when its told. Frank is not wildly enthusiastic about this idea, but after the toys have been thrown out of the cot, he reluctantly accepts the new situation. Begrudgingly, after many a room has been cleaned and a dish washed, Frank starts to warm to his new companions constant presence. Then when Frank spots an opportunity to reconnect with his past via his new pals curiosity with engaging in less than honourable deeds, the stage is set for adventures of the dubious kind.

Looking behind the obvious buddy/odd couple story though, is the real reason for this movies existence. Less a relationship tale, more a story about the most frightening prospect for many a person towards the end of their life on this planet. The loss of independence - and of your dignity along with it. For many of us, this is a very bitter pill to swallow. So... you might as well have a little fun on the way! You've seen that Betty White programme right? Old people - don't trust 'em. They're up to no good!

Jamie's Rating...

J for... Joy!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Sessions

Synopsis: Life affirming story about Mark O'Brien, a writer confined to his bed after contracting polio as a kid, who had one wish before dying - to have sex with a woman. He employs Cheryl Greene, a sympathetic sex surrogate - who helps him realize this long desired goal.

Sometimes when we touch, the honesty's too much...

To sell this movie to you may initially seem like a challenge. Its premise - a story about a paraplegic wanting to have sex before he dies - is not a concept that will have a mass of the film going public lining up feverishly in anticipation. If you can overcome your first thoughts in that respect, then you will be rewarded with one of the best films you'll see this year. It is a movie that does that increasingly rare thing these days. It moves you.
And, its riotously funny as well! 

Anchored by two of the best actors working today, John Hawkes ("Deadwood", "Martha Marcy May Marlene") & Helen Hunt ("Mad About You", "What Women Want", "As Good As It Gets"), this touching story of a persons need to physically connect to another is a universal theme that we can all relate to. The magic of this movie is that it feels very real, emotional, tender, respectful, but above all else, extremely positive in displaying what can happen when two people share something special between themselves. The dynamics of this unique relationship are not in any way fabricated to elicit your stereotypical response of the usual onscreen fashion in which these things usually play out. The sex scenes are not by any stretch titillating. They are conveyed with a very sensitive empathy for the situations involved between Mark & Cheryl. In the hands of a lesser director, the sex scenes would have been false, but director Ben Lewin (Also, like the real Mark O'Brien, he too, was afflicted by polio as a child) exercises tremendous restraint in allowing what we do (and don't) see. The master touch is to make the scenes as real as possible - given the limitations of what Marks illness will allow. So, you get to view Helen Hunt, in arguably, her finest role to date, absolutely naked, but beautifully radiant as the person doing all she can to help Mark realise his long held dream. It is a measure of her courageous performance, that we don't see Cheryl as an unemotional sex therapist, but a person increasingly willing to bare her soul to make his request as dignified as possible. But not without some extremely funny moments in between the serious parts! Adding to the fun is William H Macy as Father Frank, the Catholic priest doing his bit to guide Mark (In real life, O'Brien was a devout Catholic) as best he can. Macy plays Frank as you would expect - slightly befuddled, awkward, resigned, but able to set aside his reservations to allow Mark to go and, err, make his mark - as it were.

When Oscar comes calling, it would be a travesty if neither John Hawkes or Helen Hunt get recognized by the academy for their utterly fearless performances in this brilliant film. Both worthy not only of a nomination, but of winning the best actor/actress awards as well.

This warm and tender movie is one that is, for me, unquestionably, one of the best films I've seen all year.

My rating is thus fairly predictable...

Jamie's rating?

J for... Jewel