Monday, 31 December 2012

232, Jack Reacher

In my mind - Tom Cruise will always be the best Bond actor that never was.  No matter how long he's been around or how much Hollywood power he commands - the man will NEVER mutter the immortal words of Flemming's now aged spy - so if you cant join 'em, beat 'em! which is what he seems to have tried in the past with done with his characters Ethan Hunt (M.I movies) & Roy Miller (Knight & Day) and I was almost sure that this movie would be yet another attempt at topple bond at its best, Cruise even brings ex-bond girl Rosamund Pike in this latest offering but to my absolute delight - Jack Reacher is something altogether a little different.

Yes, its got Cruise as the (ex) M.P investigator (Military Police) which opens doors for some quite expertly played out fight sequences and yes, its got a few of the chuckles that Bond commands and the  M.I movies lack but as an investigator - this one is a lot more script / plot based rather than an all out 'get the bad guy' in an apocalyptic mass of explosions and O.T.T stunts.

The movie opens with the tragic reality of a sniper shooting in America - five seemingly unassociated victims picked off by a river bank and for our benefit, we get to see the shooter from the off.  This is quickly followed by easily obtained prints, pointing the finger to a suspect who the audience will quickly identify as not being the guilty party and Reacher is called in (by the suspect) to try and prove his innocence. 

With an apparent open and shut case against him - its Reacher's job while working with a lawyer (Pike) who is also the daughter of the prosecuting D.A to seek the truth against a suspect who is ready to be lynched by the entire American public.  Sound interested?  Well - you should be. 

Even at its 2hr duration this movie is as fast paced as anything you would have seen Cruise in of recent times and although the stunts, explosions and glorious locations are not as apparent as Ghost Protocol the plot, story and character recognition of Reacher as an ex-army vet - almost reclusive from the known world whilst able to show the ability to pop up, solve a case and disappear whilst leaving a trail of slight destruction, sexual tension and unanswered questions in his wake was almost as pleasing to watch as the breathtaking abseil from the Burj Khalifa (Dubai) in his last outing. (skipping Rock of Ages, obviously.)

As for the supporting cast, Brits Rosamund Pike (Bond / Die Another Day) & David Oyelowo (Spooks / Planet of the Apes) both show off quite impressive American accents as the Lawyer and Cop assigned to both protect and take down the suspect in custody.  A few more familiar faces pop up too with Richard Jenkins (Stepbrothers / Eat Pray Love) & Robert Duvall (no C.V needed!) both turning in stellar performances.

What you get with this movie is a real crime thriller.  A process of a movie where you are always one step ahead of the characters based on the inside track revealed early on and watching Reacher and Rachel piece it together bit by bit is a pleasure to behold.  Mix that with a bit of humour, some impressive fight scenes & even a few twists and turns thrown in alongside the harsh reality of a horrific initial event that's as present in American history today as its ever been and in my mind - you've got one hell of a captivating movie.

With M.I 5 now announced for 2015 as well as a few more movies inbetween including the impressive looking Oblivion its yet again proof that at the tender age of 50, Mr Thomas Cruise Mapother IV (?) is still able to cut it with the big boys at the top of Hollywood's A-list and shows no sighs of slowing down - at least anytime soon!  



Thursday, 27 December 2012

231, Life of Pi

It wont be a shock to the regular readers that I'm not really a book person so please forgive me in advance if I miss the point of this movie - but here goes anyway!

All I have heard (from almost everyone) is that this book is amazing, the movie is epic, the 3D is stunningly beautiful and when we sat down on Christmas Eve as a family to watch this I was ready for an eagerly anticipated movie - however it sadly fell a little flat as far as we were all concerned and although this may be met with gasps from the crowd - let me explain. 

Life of Pi is the story of a young boy who's the only human survivor of a Shipwreck that happens whilst his family were transporting their Zoo and all their animals away from India.  Pi (the boy) ends up having to share a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger, Orangutan and Zebra of which the latter animals very quickly meet their demise to the Tiger and this is the story of how Pi manages to survive, sharing only a 12 foot boat with a starving feline carnivore.

For me - this seemed to closely mirror Castaway where Tom Hanks spends weeks alone with only a Volleyball called Wilson for company and to its credit, the Tiger is a far more worthy companion that a ball - the scenes on the boat with the Tiger were well put together with some stunning effects but that for me was really all that was good about this film.

The story seemed to take forever and a day to get going, being narrated by Pi himself (as a Man) to a writer who's interested in telling the story, these flashback moments kept interrupting the pace of the movie and also for younger kids (mine was 9) felt a little lost as to what was going on.  Also - the 3D for me didn't really add any value to the experience - Yes - there is a single moment that will make you jump clear out of your seat but other than that - it all seemed very one dimensional.

Don't get me wrong though - the CGI and detail on the events between Pi and the Tiger are sometimes mind blowing and there is an odd section when Pi finds himself landing on a very strange island - inhabited by thousands or Meerkats and they are super sweet however the meaning of this is as confusing as can be and I still don't really get it. (Sorry!)

For me - the only endearing part of this movie is the Tiger - Pi's interaction with him / her / it is sometimes as scary as it was comical and luckily this takes up a large chunk of the movie which stars an almost unrecognisable cast except a brief appearance from Gerard Depardieu.

I am convinced that most of the people who actually go to see this would have already read the book, know what to expect and hopefully for them, Ang Lee will deliver a masterpiece that matches their expectations and answers all the visual questions left by their own imaginations after being captivated by the novel - for me though it was a bit drawn out & dull.  Not very articulate I know but if you like Tigers (which I do) then there may be a redeeming spark that will keep you entertained.

Maybe I missed the whole point of this movie (for which I cant really apologise) so as normal - don't let me put you off seeing this if you really fancy it but if you are like me and my words ring true for you in other reviews - take my word for it, I'm only being honest!

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Update - So, after writing all of the above I had a conversation with some friends today where this movie was the hot topic - it appears I completely missed the plot! (as expected).

For mere mortals like myself I saw this as a movie about a boy stuck on a boat with a Tiger, really - it is much deeper than I ever comtemplated with metaphores all over the place, almost all of which managed to completely passed me by.  For me, I like the idea of the boy and the Tiger being stranded together so I'm happy to stay with that memory but for those who actually got the point of this movie - I'm sure you'll love it!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

230, Rise of the Guardians

Firstly - make no mistake, this is in no way related to the Legend of the Guardians (2010) where a band of warrior Owls battle against dark forces - this kids movie see's Santa (known in this as North), The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy & Sandman face off against arch enemy - the Boogey Man (Pitch Black). 

Our intrepid four heroes lead the way in keeping the kids of the world safe through retaining belief in their existence - North and Bunny with their annual visits and more regular interactions with the Sandman who stops the little kiddiewinks getting nightmares and the Tooth Fairy who, along with her baby fairy's, collect the teeth of the kids which house their very own childhood memoreis - all very cute!  All of this is overseen by The Man in the Moon who's job it is to not only select Guardians - but also help them to find their own inner core's - their reason for being.

So, with the imminetent return of Pitch Black set to destory the kids of the worlds hopes and beliefs, resulting in the dissapearance of our aforementioned heroes its time to enlinst the help of a new Guardian - Jack Frost.  The jovial jester who's role in life is to cause mischief and mayhem when all he secretely wants is to be believed in. 

What a plot!  Definately a Christmas masterpiece in the making, only the problem is - its set at Easter? Which is a bit weird but nethertheless - its got Santa and Snow so its got my vote!

There are loads of quirky little moments in this to keep an eye out for - mainly the Elf's from North's workshop - normally perceived as the brains behind the whole operation of Christmas, in this they are depicted as basically - daft little jokers, no more help than the minions from Despicable Me and just as funny.  So, with that in mind - who is enlisted to help North with his annual miracle?  Well, its the Yeti's.  Big, cumbersome creatures whos 'walrus' style moustaches enlist more emotion and feeling than an entire Chipmunks movie and tell as much about their personality as Gromits eyebrows!  Tie all of that in that in with some slightly 'older' aimed jokes from Hugh Jackman as the Australian Easter Bunny and once more, there shold be something for almost everyone.

Then there is the cast itself - you'd easily be forgiven for not instantly recognising Alec Baldwin as the Russian Santa (its a brilliant accent) although in contrast Hugh Jackman (Bunny), Chris Pine (Frost), Isla fisher (Tooth) and Jude Law (Pitch) are all instantly recognisable.

Being a Christmas kids film its not going to take a rocket scientist to work out who's going to come out on top but whats nice about this is that it ticks off each of our childhood memories and dreams which is something not really covered on-mass before.  Yes, we've had Santa movies thrown at us since cinema began and recent incarnations of The Tooth Fairy & Hop have seen Easter also boxed away so having the Sandman and Jack Frost thrown in for good measure just ads even more depth to what is actually - a great kids movie.

I only saw this in 2D and I think its fair to say, the animation is mind-blowing but I've said this time and time again, with the technology out there - it needs to be!  However there are times when you just know the 3D element would have leapt out at you so if you've still not seen this yet - I would recommend the full blown version if you can.  Hopefully thats it now for me and Christmas movies - I dont think two is that bad? and with The Hobbit & Jack Reacher just around the corner its time to get back to some good old fashioned Blockbuster action - as quickly as possible.
 
 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

229, Alex Cross

Prepare yourself for a few of these over the coming months - Movies merely titled after the leading role which will see Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher (2012) & Chris Pine as Jack Ryan in Jack Ryan (2013) (All about Jack it seems) and if you think the name Alex Cross is somehow strangely familiar to you but you cant put your finger quite on it - let me enlighten you. 

Alex Cross is the Morgan Freeman character from Along Came A Spider (2001) & Kiss the Girls (1997).  "Oh Yeah!" I hear you all cry.  Well, As Ben Affleck played a young Harrison Ford in The Sum of all Fears (2002), its relative new comer to the big screen Tyler Perry who has the fortune of landing the starring role in this prequel that sees Dr Cross take his last case as a Detroit Cop and newly qualified profiler before taking the FBI job in Washington where the pre mentioned 1997 & 2001 movies take place with Freeman at the helm.

As with Along Came A Spider - we are almost instantly introduced to our bad guy - a twisted psychotic serial killer, dubbed Picasso and played by the almost unrecognisable Matthew Fox (Dr Jack Shepherd from Lost) in what can only be described as a weight loss programme rivalled only by Christian Bale's awesome portrayal as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter.  What gets played out is a dangerous Cat and Mouse game between the two which leads to a devastating climax mid movie and an ending that sets hearts a pounding.

Have I built it up enough?  Well, I hope so as this move is actually really quite impressive.  The supporting case of Cross's partner Tommy (Edward Burns) and the brilliant John C. McGinley as Chief of Police Brookwell are well cast as is one of my favourite Frenchmen (albeit a few pounds heavier than normal) Jean Reno.

The story is really quite simple - 'Cops chase Killer' but there are a few twists and turns along the way including a very daring assassination attempt outside a courthouse in full sight of the whole of Detroit which definitely takes some sincere planning. 

If I did have any low points it would be the actual casting of Perry that if anything (for me) lets the side down ever so slightly.  Maybe I was comparing him too much to the smoothness and elegance shown by the seasoned Freeman however if I was asked to cast a replacement I can only think of maybe one or two possibles including a younger Chris Rock or even Chris Tucker but their comedic edges may spoil the performance. 

Perry just seems too bulky for the role but that is again, basing him on a younger Morgan Freeman, not a younger Alex Cross and maybe that's the point - showing a tougher side to the FBI profiler, a darker more sincere role and if that was the case - then maybe Quinton Jackson (The A-Team) would have been a better fit and certainly one with more credentials.

With all that said - during this time of festive joy its good to throw a few thrillers in among the mix of Kiddie movies and Blockbusters coming our way - for me, it was a welcome break between the great Nativity 2 and the Rise of the Guardians which although will both be good - split up the cute factor somewhat.  Alex Cross is in the mix with Seven Psychopaths and and Jack Reacher as a few must see's before the Hobbit takes over our lives and before you know it you're into January, Oscars are presented and the whole thing starts again!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

228, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger

Although I saw this movie last week I could not bear to write anything 'Christmassy' until at least December, hence the delay in getting this blog out there - but now the silly season has well and truly began, my own decorations are up and I'm already counting down the doors on my advent calender what better way to kick of the festive season with what could possible be the best Christmas kids movie..................EVER!

Okay, so its a sequel - harping right back to Nativity! (Blog 9 - 2009) where Martin Freeman (Hobbit) planned on getting a Hollywood studio in on his annual School Nativity play with the fantastic Mr Poppy offering childlike support and capturing the total essence of Christmas, as well as every laugh in the script.  Well, Freeman has gone and in his place - replacement teacher Mr Peterson (David Tennant) who's sullen take on teaching is somewhat thwarted by the over eager antics of the still hilarious Mr Poppy (Mark Wootton) who's back (thankfully) and this time is eager to enter his class into A Song for Christmas

A Christmas Number 1 beckons as does potential fame and fortune and with quite a catchy little number up his sleeve, and against the permission of the Headmistress manages to make off to the Welsh countryside with a herd of excitable albeit kidnapped kiddies and a baby!

Pam Ferris returns as the Headmistress and Tennant's wife, played Joanna Page both add great elements of sanity to the script which is completely and brilliantly ruled by Mr Poppy.  I challenge the most straight laced of you to watch this without cracking a smile or indeed - full blown guffaw to his antics that see everything from a London Duck Tour Bus ride through the Welsh valleys to the most unbelievable abseiling scene ever captured on film!

The most heartwarming feature in this though is the kids.  With recognisable faces from TV adverts and a few returning (I think) from part 1 these natural comedic talents really make the movie.  From the sublime to the ridiculous you will laugh along to shoddy auditions, bad dancing and even feel terrible laughing at the slightly chubby kid who keeps doing back spins but none of that matters - together they are a collection of lovable rogues - specifically chosen to make the movie a real pleasure to watch.

As the film unravels we get to meet once again - competitive music teacher Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) who as in part 1, is intent on walking away with the prize in one of the most ambitious song sketches ever carried out by school kids but this time, as well as Poppy's ensemble of slightly less professional students (although the X-factor style auditions will have you belly laughing in the isles) he has Mr Peterson's over achieving twin brother Roderick to contend with (also played by Tennant of course!) and it becomes a three way battle, not only of the songs but of the brothers own prowess to see who walks away with the crown.

The Nativity plot comes spattered throughout with the pregnancy of Mr Peterson's wife and a resulting stable birth, complete with shining star and Donkey that is set up brilliantly throughout the entire movie and as it pieces itself together it doesn't take long to realise whats unfolding in front of you.

If I had one criticism its that the other songs, played out at the end as we await the arrival of Poppy's troop did seem to go on a bit too long with every perceivable genre of music being acted out and after 4 or 5, did become tedious but that aside - I loved every minute of it.

You cant really go wrong with this - in a world overtaken by kids animation its fun to see real actors in a kids film and being Christmas - this could possibly be the best one out in 2012.  Yes, there is the visually brilliant Rise of the Guardians and the kiddies favourite Tinkerbell movies alongside and for the rest of us, December is really all about the release of Peter Jackson's first part of The Hobbit but before then, make sure you don't miss out on this comedy masterpiece that's as inspiring as it is silly and I dare you now to walk away wishing Mr Poppy was YOUR teacher when you were 6!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

227, End of Watch

I want you to think back to the last really great American cop movie you saw - not anything jokey like 21 Jump Street or The Other Guys but a really, gritty cop movie.  I've looked back over nearly 200 movie reviews and the only ones of real note that stand out are Safehouse or even the disappointing Brooklyn's Finest but in reality - there hasn't been a really capturing street cop movie since Training Day.

That's why End of Watch is so brilliant - its taken Training Day and just made it better.  There are obvious differences - in this, we have two of L.A's finest uniformed street Cops, both against corruption and as honest as the day is long but with the movie almost entirely shot from a POV camera, carried by Taylor (Gyllenhaal) as he documents the trials of life as a Street Cop we are by far, more along for the ride in this movie than any other you can care to think about.

If you ever wanted to know the dangers and truths behind a White Cop in South Central L.A then this is the movie for you.  Drive-by's, gang warfare and horrific murders are all witnessed and this movie is a real eye opener to what could go on after dark in places that many of us wouldn't dare to enter but for these regular unassuming heroic officers - it just makes up part of their day to day career choice.

One thing you wont expect is the amount of swearing - its non-stop and just not from the gangs, our boys in blue are as foul mouthed as the rest of them in a script that sits 6th in a list of movies using the most F* words - a total of 326 which broken down is approximately x3 per minute.   If that's not your thing then it will be hard to take this movie on board without noticing it but somehow it works - the language fits with the setting and makes these guys far more real in their roles than any actors seen of recent times.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are fantastic to the point of award winning in both their parts and the limited support cast including Twilight's Anna Kendrick along with a few others, although brilliant - easily play second fiddle to the lead roles.  Their brutal take of street life is mirrored by the rest of the department with a 'Do or Die' attitude to policing the streets and even after the jokes and jibes around the precinct subside - its apparent that this team have each others backs, whatever the circumstance.

There is no sub plot of betrayal of corruptness which means you don't have to keep guessing whats coming next although you start to wonder early on where the movie will end up and as I managed to guess - it goes down a path that will bring a tear to your eye but its received and honoured respectively and just makes the whole movie far more real. 

You don't have to worry about the movie just ambling on with no real direction, its not just call out after call out but when our two officers stumble across a human trafficking ring its the bad guys south of the border who call time on the two cops and with a price on their head - its only a matter of time until the gangs catch up with them.

Other movies that have taken this POV approach (Blair Witch etc) have been jerky and sometimes tricky to watch and keep up with and although this has some of that - there is also a 3rd party perspective that keeps the running of the movie fluid and seamless.  

Although this movie certainly wont appeal to all audiences, it appealed to me and if you like your Cop movies full of action and suspense - then this is definitely one to watch.

226, Gambit

Sadly, I cant claim to be a Coen Brothers fan, although I enjoyed True Grit, other movies like Burn After Reading, No Country for Old Men, O Brother, Where Art Thou? & The Big Lebowski managed to pass me by with relative ease.  I suppose they're like Marmite - The Coen's have their extremely passionate fan base and the stories of each movie seem to plod along amicably with a definitive start, middle and end but there is something that rings throughout all of them that just doesn't push any buttons for me. 

That said, Gambit offered a potential little escape that in my mind put the movie up there as a comedy on par with Brit classics such as Bridget Jones or Love Actually but I'm sure this was almost purely down to the Colin Firth element of stiff upper 'Britishness' that is evident in the trailers.

Gambit starts simply enough - we are immediately introduced to bullied and undervalued Harry Deane (Firth), an art curator working exclusively for garish billionaire boss Lionel Shahbandar (Alan Rickman) and a plan to dupe him onto the purchase of a (forged) £11Mil lost Monet painting, Haystacks at Dusk by including the assistance of PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz) - a cattle rustler and great Granddaughter to an ex WWII soldier who was known to be in the same room as the original painting when the Nazi's were taken down and the painting went into obscurity.  Shahbandar, already in receipt of the sister painting (Haystacks at Dawn) would be easily tempted and Firth would make away with the millions.

A perfect plan - and in the first opening 15 minutes of the movie we see the whole plot play out perfectly in his own mind however the remainder of the movie shows us what actually happened, and its in no way straight forward.

Firth, Rickman and Diaz all play their parts well, the sexy & sassy cowgirl in hot pants and cowboy boots is a persona often seen from Diaz and Firth as always, plays the bumbling Brit better than anybody.  But its Rickmans portrayal of Shahbandar (after being almost exclusively seen as Professor Snape for the past 10 years) that's a real eye opener and re-affirms him as a great British talent, harping back to the days of Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves or Dogma.

The lead three aside - there are great cameos from Stanley Tucci as another art curator, poised to take the reigns from Deane as representative to Shahbandar and for me, the best jokes in the whole movie are innocently acted out by the unknowing Savoy Reception staff who with an heir of complete professionalism, allow Deane's pursuits to go almost unquestioned in his 'room to room' jaunt (in pants) throughout London's most exclusive hotel.

There is enough humour in this to get most of you through it and die-hard Coen fans will see this themselves as a little step in a different direction from the brothers but nethertheless it will be a firm favourite for some, and a passable chuckle along for others.  The story does drag out a little bit but that just allows room for a beautifully crafted script, a few slapstick moments and a great little unexpected twist at the end.

After the recent Blockbuster fest of Bond & Twilight, a change in direction was needed and a rush of pre-Christmas movies now adorn the multiplexes this week so if you've seen the aforementioned 'must' see movies - this brings you down to earth - albeit with a little bump.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

225, Twilight - Breaking Dawn, Part 2

If like me you have a teenage daughter - you will be hard pressed not to know a little but about Twilight.  Breaking Dawn, Part 2 sees the 5th and final instalment of this saga of which the last 4 movies have all made the Blog. 

I had to back track to make sure I didn't contradict myself and I was quoted as saying "I'll have to wait 1yr to find out how it ends" (as I don't really do books).  Well, albeit 2 days earlier than expected I sat down to watch this closing episode and my hopes were extremely high that finally - we were going to drop some of the love guff that took up most of the preliminaries and get a proper old fashioned Vamp fest with Blood, Guts & Gore but in this episode - although the aforementioned teenage Daughter would lynch me for saying - there was no blood - a bit of a rumble in the snow but as with the preceding four movies - this is still way more love story than Action movie.

As the movies carry on immediately from each other and the last 2 movies are an adaptation of the 4th book I had to go back and see how I finished Blog No. 158;

"The Final Harry Potter movie was the far the best one they did and by the looks of the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is all geared up to be a non stop blood fest where I may finally get the all out action Vamp frenzy I have been waiting for. Be under no illusions though, this move (as with the last) is a love story - Action fanatics stay away. Let the Mrs go on her own!"

Well, looking back now I was slightly wrong - the lack of blood not present as with a Vamp on Vamp battle - seeing as none of them have any blood it was hard to spill any, but as with Harry Potter I did feel that this instalment was the best of the bunch.

It starts almost instantly after the last one ends and the story completely circles around the Volturi (Vamp Government) believing Bella and Edward are raising an Immortal child (there's a whole secton on this so dont panic if you dont know what one of these is) - something totally against Vamp law - as little Renesmee is actually of human decent, conceived by a human prior to her mothers 'turning' the Cullens have to recruit a significant number of "witnesses" to stand with them to convince the Volturi they have done nothing wrong and if deemed necessary - stand and fight!.

And that's about it really.  That said, there is one HUGE twist at the end - not in the book, to keep all those Twihards guessing, ensuring at least that everyone who goes to see it for the first time still has that 'gasp' moment towards the end and I for one don't want to spoil that but I have to say - for someone who took this movie on face value and doesn't have the besotted adoration for the plot and stories as many others around me - I too appreciated the unexpected ending and hold these 5 movies in high regard as a pretty good job well done.

The computer generated baby at the beginning is actually extremely cute with great facial expressions and a real maturity at only 2 days old which had to be animated due to the growth rate of the child but even the kids that play the part throughout  (and in total, including the main one, Mackenzie Foy there 10 of them) and the brief glimpse of an 'adult' Renesmee towards the end, the actress changes were all seamless and covered this part of the story really well.

As the the other characters - Bella finally looked great! all the colour back in her cheeks (oddly as now shes got no blood in her?) but it just showed the prowess and beauty of the Vampires.  Edward, Alice and the rest of the Vamps were their normal self's and there are a few comic moments spattered in this again, first seen  between Edward & Jacob in the last outing but now even more frequent and well received.  The 'new' Vamps were also great - each from different parts of the worlds and all with new powers - the best being the Amazon Vampires.

All that's left are the Wolves - Mr Lautner is back (much to the adoration of my daughter) and as expected, there is the gratuitous strip scene but rather than in front of Bella or another accepting female - the laughs come when its with Charlie (Bella's dad), proving one of the funniest and most awkward moments in the movie.

Personally - the movies dont do for me what they seem to do for others - even my own wife was like a kid in a sweet shop but don't get me wrong - They are a good saga of films but you have to be a fan and take more out of them than I did to really enjoy them and if this is your kind of thing then I'm confident you wouldn't find a bad word to say about them - EVER!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

224, Skyfall

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I have been a James Bond fan since as far back as I can remember. Before DVD and easily marketable VCR's I remember willing it be a Bank Holiday with the guarantee of some form of Bond movie gracing our families brown box TV and each time it was always an event. It didn't matter which movie either, I have seen all of them dozens of times each, totalling hundreds of viewings over the best part of 30 odd years and although I instantly recognise each movie, scene, actor, villain & love interest to me, they haven't aged become dull or predictable or indeed, any less appealing than the first time I watched any of then.
Due to age restrictions - remarkably my first cinematic Bond experience came with what could have been Roger Moore's last outing, A View to a Kill (although you would have to check that by my Mum). Being aged 9 at the time, this was the last PG Bond movie thanks to Timothy Dalton taking the reigns in 1987 with The Living Daylights (Cert 15). Being only 11 at the time, there was no way my parents would have smuggled me into this one but in 1989 and a return to a PG rating for Dalton's 2nd movie, Licence to Kill chances are I went back to see that one on the silver screen. Luckily, that's the end of vague memories and thanks to a 6yr gap between releases & now aged 19 years of age I clearly recall finishing work one evening and heading to Bluewater Shopping Centre where I witnessed Pierce Brosnan take over in Goldeneye and from then on (the next 17 years in fact) each Bond release has got me more excited with anticipation than any other movie I can think of and the new Skyfall is no exception.
Celebrating its 50th year - James Bond has continued to captivate audiences world wide. Everyone has their favourites. Connery set the benchmark with his early run of releases (5) before On Her Majesty's Secret Service saw George Lazenby take over in what some people say is the best Bond movie - albeit with the worst Bond actor. With only one outing, Connery returned for number 6 (Diamonds are Forever) before Roger Moore took on a more comical approach with a record 7 appearances. Dalton did 2, Brosnan, 4 and in 2006, Daniel Craig took up the reigns after brilliant performances in movies like Layer Cake & Munich and to my knowledge, beating Clive Owen (although don't quote me) to the part.
Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were very different Bond Films. Although Dame Judy Dench continued on as 'M' there was no Moneypenny, no Q-Branch and a far tougher, rougher Bond - far more reminiscent of Dalton or Connery. Skyfall needed to bring Bond back to its roots. We want the recognisable characters, the cars and the gadgets and I felt the last outing for Daniel had moved too far away from this and needed reeling in. In addition, 50 years needed something 'special' and as with Die Another Day (2002), Bond celebrated its 40th anniversary by having Bond (Brosnan) a Q (Llewelyn) in an old gadget storeroom with the keen eyed noticing there were gadgets and gizmo's from every single one of the preceding Bond movies, dating back to Rosa Kleb's dagger shoe and Thunderballs jet pack - Brilliant!
So - Skyfall. What a movie! Not only do we get a brand new Q played by Ben Wishaw (another Layer Cake participant) we get Daniel Craig back on top form and an opening sequence fit to be the climatic scenes in any other action movie to grace our screens.  I don't want to give too much away as I know some still won’t have seen it but there are too many fab moments to ignore. To celebrate 50 years we get the very best of the new Bond, paired with the very very best of the old one and easily the stand out performance (apart from Q) is the Aston Martin DB5. Tucked away in a private garage, Bond uses it to escort 'M' to his childhood home of Skyfall - the mansion in Scotland where he spent his younger days before the death of his parents and there is even an ejector seat quip that should get the whole audience chuckling along.

The villain Silva, played Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men / Eat Pray Love) is one of the most dislikeable baddies to grace a Bond story line in may a year. An Ex Agent, one of M's best now feeling betrayed and cheated by MI6. He sets out to expose every Agent undercover and take down the lady in charge but with an almost alluring attraction to Bond himself (that's right readers - the leg stroking scene is brilliant) we get a real feel of betrayal and an almost understanding with him to his pain and despair, soon righted though by a no nonsense Bond. You don’t feel sorry for him for very long!
The girls - well, Eve & Severine (played by Naomie Harris & Berenice Marlohe) mix both brains and beauty seamlessly and make up this movies love interests. The twist with Naomie's character at the end is fantastic and the introduction of Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) as a new Head of Operations of some sort just set this movie up to be one of Bond's all time greats and open up all sorts of excitement for movies in this franchise yet to come.
 

 
In my mind, there is no bad point in this movie - I loved it so much I've already seen it twice in the space of 1 week and given the chance - would go again. The introduction for the first time to Bond's childhood open up the character much more than we have ever seen and there is definitely some emotion from the hardened spy towards the very end of the movie when events take a sorry turn for the worse.
 
 
Finally (and believe me, I could write for hours) I just wanted to highlight two essential items not seen in a while. It’s no surprise that Moneypenny and Q have been missed but that's not what I'm talking about. Yes, we get some familiar characters back for what I hope will be the next two confirmed Daniel Craig’s outings (Bond movie's 24 & 25) but the brown leather studied door to M's office and the hat stand, situated to the left of Moneypenny's office are both back! I know - nerdy but true.
It'll warm you inside when you see them back and paired that with that original soundtrack AND the movie finishing with Craig staring down the barrel of the now infamous gun, panning from left to right its proof that Bond is well and truly back and most definitely on top!
 
 

223, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

In amongst the usual spat of Halloween horror movies allowed to fill our screen over this ghoulishly dark and devilish time of year even the kids are getting their fair share of thrills and spills with movies such as Frankenweener and Hotel Transylvania but luckily - my kids don't really go in for all that and instead we got to see the third instalment of the next best animation to Toy Story seen in recent times, Madagascar 3.

This time out, our band of intrepid beasts are trying to get back from Africa to New York and manage to get as far as Paris before they run into animal catcher, Captain Chantel DuBois who attempts to hunt and kill Marty, Gloria, Alex and Melman.  Only after managing to bundle on board a circus train, heading to NY via London do our band of brothers (and sister) have to blend in with the circus animals and ensure a successful London show takes place, allowing a big time promoter the chance to take them back to their beloved NY city - the question is - after travelling the globe, meeting long-lost family and making new friends along the way, will the seclusion of their beloved Zoo be a welcome return or a merely too much of a limited and caged existence?

As before - the entire cast returns with the usual suspects taking the lead roles.  With each now completely settled into their animalistic alter-ego's we are well used to the now prominent relationship between Melman & Gloria as well as the competitive and lovable buddy buddy lines fed to us by Alex and Marty.  As before - the Chimps offer the brains and the penguins, the balls! Our intrepid band of heroes have to all work together to escape the brilliantly scary DuBois and along with their new found circus friends including a knife wielding tiger (Vitaly), a deliciously cute Jaguar (Gia) and a laughable jester like Sea lion (Stefano) they have to prove to their new friends as well as themselves they can cut it as circus performers.

Of the three movies to date - this was my favourite.  The annoyingly catchy Circus Afro song will stick in your head for hours and the combination of music and effects on the circus scene is actually extremely impressive.  Pair this with quite a punchy story line and a length that literally is done and dusted in about 90 minutes and there is no actual place where this movie is allowed to slow down at all!

As with most animations of the day, its hard to pick holes in vocal talents, graphics or indeed story as all are aimed at kids and the presentations just build and build every time, thanks to the multi billion dollar animation industry Hollywood has created.

That said, this movie has three key features that no other movies have.  They are King Julien, Maurice and Mort.  The Lemurs.   

I cant help but find this fabulous trio the highlight of any Madagascar movie.  Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer & Andy Richter get all the best one-liners, certainly get the most laughs and seem to be the benchmark for the adult hidden humour required nowadays to make being dragged along to the most recent animated movie slightly bearable for us doting parents.  Love those guys!