Sunday, 17 September 2017

Tomorrow Never Dies


Tommorow Never Dies was Pierce Brosnan's second outing as James Bond. It followed Bond in Vietnam teaming up with Chinese agent Wai Lin to stop media mogul megolomaniac Elliot Carver. Elliot wants to start a war between the UK and China so he can benfit from it by proving global coverage of it media wise. Elliot is also working with General Chang in China who plans to give Elliot exclusive rights to the media coverage when he ends the dispute between the two countries.


Plot wise it's not the best but it's not the worst either and we don't watch Bond films for the realism. Elliot Carver is an obvious parody of Rupert Murdoch and the rumours that the media is actually under one control. Jonathan Pryce hams up a glorious performance as the madman media baron and it is memorable, he's definitely one of the better villains.

Trivia- Anthony Hopkins was initially cast in the role of Elliot Carver but walked away due to scripting problems. He starred in The Mask of Zorro instead directed by Martin Campbell, director of Goldeneye and Casino Royale. Former Bond Sean Connery was initially cast in Anthony Hopkins role before dropping out. Goldeneye Bond girl Izabella Scorupco tested for the lead of Elena but lost out to Catherine Zeta-Jones.

More Trivia- Elliot Carver did receive a lot more development in a deleted scene where his background as the illegitimate son of a lord was revealed. In vengeance against his father he drove him to bankruptcy and suicide. The scene, which you can find on youtube, was deleted because it's quite clunky, filmed while James, M and Robinson are in a car. It's a pity it simply wasn't reshot as it does add to Carver's character.


Trivia- Elliot's henchman Stamper was played by Götz Otto who was cast when asked to introduce himself in twenty seconds he did it in five saying "I'm big, I'm bad, I'm bald, I'm German. Five seconds, keep the rest." His character has the execution of the naval officers filmed, in the novelisation it is revealed he does this because he likes making snuff films. His character also has one brown eye and one blue eye whilst the actor's are both blue.

Bond girl is Wai Lin, Bond's Chinese counterpart following in the footsteps of Anya Amasova, Holly Goodhead, and Pam Bouvier, she's a liberated Bond girl and also a spy. Paris Carver is the classic lamb to the slaughter Bond girl, Bond beds and her she dies following in the footsteps of Jill Masterson, Aki, Plenty O'Toole, Rosie Carver, Andrea Anders and many more. Interestingly Aki and Rosie Carver doubled up as fellow agents as well as lambs to the slaughter, in fact Rosie was a double agent and had a lot more potential for a character than was offered *sigh*.



Wai Lin, portrayed by Michelle Yeoh, kicks ass in this film, she's beautiful and badass although she unfortunately is subjected to a damsel moment at the end when she is dropped under water in chains and has to be rescued by Bond and resusitated leading to their only kiss but hey it is a Bond film after all. This woman scales down walls like it's nothing and has no moments of screaming or shrieking for James, when she's handcuffed to him on a bike she's eager to help.

Wai Lin is better as an ally to Bond than a love interest. Michelle Yeoh and Pierce Brosnan definitely had chemistry together but there isn't a lot of time for it in the movie. Most of the chemistry is between James and Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher). Michelle is a credible actress and she had do her own stunts and gave us one of the best Bond girls yet.

Paris Carver is the other leading lady. The wife of the villain (a familiar role- Jill Masterson was Goldfinger's girlfriend, Domino was Emilio Largo's girlfriend and we would have Solange Dimitros in Casino Royale, wife of villain Alex Dimitros, and Lucia Sciarra in Spectre, widow of villain Marco Sciarra) and a former girlfriend of Bond's. M bluntly suggests Bond pump Paris for information on Elliot. James and Paris have a heated reunion, James admits he had wondered how he would feel upon seeing Paris again and she slaps him and reminds him that his parting words to her were 'I'll be right back'. Despite this she goes to Bond when she suspects Elliot of being up to no good and they end up spending the night together. Her parting words are 'you know this job of yours- eh, it's murder on relationships.'

Trivia- There are rumours that Paris was going to be a character already in the Bond franchise, perhaps Sylvia Trench but this was dropped as they didn't think killing off a familiar character would be well received.


Paris is killed under her husband's orders by an assassin with a penchant for torture but despite the implications of how bad and obsessed villain Dr. Kaufman is implied to be he gives her a clean death as he is meant to kill James also and make it look like a murder-suicide. Naturally, Bond kills him instead.

Paris Carver got lumped with being the villain's wife/second Bond girl/Bond girl victim. When Teri Hatcher played the role she was pregnant which caused mild tension on set and rumour has it Sela Ward and Monica Belluci were both turned down for the role. Neither Teri nor Pierce speak of Teri's role with much fondness. I think it's a pity because Teri smouldered in the role and intentionally or unintentionally she portrayed Paris as tired and bitter, which made sense given her unhappy marriage and her anger towards James. Her chemistry with James is very real and what little we learn about her character I liked. She's has a certain toughness to her but it's lost because she's submitted to her fate as Elliot's wife, she wavers Jame's offers of protection and instead beds him once last time seemingly for memories rather than a bargaining chip for freedom.

Fun trivia- the script for Tomorrow Never Dies was almost completely different from the film we got. It was about an uranium bomb, gold and the handover of Hong Kong to China. The Hong Kong angle was dropped at the urging of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who advised the film would look ridiculous if something did occur during the handover in real life and it would have instantly dated the film (the handover was July 1997, the film was released in November). Instead Carver seeks revenge against China for not giving him broadcasting rights and he targets Beijing.
The villain was Elliot Harmsway instead of Carver (subtle), although he remained a media mogul. His goal was revenge against Hong Kong for driving him out by destroying it with a nuclear bomb.
Q has a successor called Malcolm Saunders but he does put in an appearance. Paris and Bond meet at a masquerade in Venice and it is revealed Paris is the one whose speciality is goodbye, although she is a weak, pleading character who cries and whom James slaps, she also whines a lot for James to say he loves her and is Elliot's third wife, a fact unknown to MI6. Paris is found dead in the water and James is arrested for her murder.
Valentin was in the script, Elliot has henchmen with numbers like Bloefeld, and Jack Wade had a bigger role. The Bond girl is not Wai Lin but salvager Sidney Winch, an ex divorce lawyer who calls Elliot uncle although they're not blood related, he was her father's best friend which does not stop him from trying to kill her when she learns too much.


Apparently the late Desmond Llewleyn had requested a departure scene for the role of Q in the past hence why it is in the script. This would be fulfilled in The World is Not Enough but eerily life would imitiate art and Desmond Llewleyn would die in a car accident just three weeks after TWINE premiered.

Sidney Winch doesn't even come into the script until halfway through. Thank goodness she was scrapped for Wai Lin who puts in a strong ,early appearance in the film and does have Sidney's naivity or greedy personality.

Paris was improved mercifully, changed from a frightened, whiny and lovesick character to a cool, calm and bitter woman who is resigned to her fate and despite giving into James does not sob after him for aid or love.

As a Jack Wade fan I am disappointed that his role was shrunk and that he didn't get anymore appearances. However, it was nice to see Felix Leiter back in Casino Royale even though they greatly shrunk his role too.

Overall, TND has its problems but it's a fun, exciting film to watch. The action scenes are great, Jonathan Pryce puts in a memorable, OTT performance as Elliot Carver, the locations are nice and Wai Lin is one of the best ever Bond girls. Given all the scripting and casting problems this film suffered it's admirable the result they got. There was pressure for this be as big if not bigger than Goldeneye and it was put out only two years after Goldeneye. Maybe if they'd taken their time with it, it could have been better but there's a belief that you have to strike while the iron is hot.


Final Trivia- Gerard Butler has an early role in this film on the HMS Devonshire. Hugh Bonneville and Brendan Coyle of Downton Abbey fame are on the HMS Bedford. Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes plays the Defence Minister. Incidentally Samantha Bond who plays Moneypenny to Pierce's Bond played Lady Rosamund on Downton Abbey.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Goldfinger or, The CIA's Trip To KFC


Goldfinger, widely considered the best James Bond film and the one that established the James Bond formula- theme song, first girl gets killed (and the second in this case), over the top villain, unrelated opening scene, gadgets, exotic locations (Kentucky is exotic to some of us) etc.

I've recently re-watched it and blogged about it previously. I know everyone else has blogged about it too so I'm going to give only a brief summary and focus instead on random trivia and rating Felix Leiter and other characters.

Note- Felix Leiter is my favourite character in the James Bond novels. He's Bond's CIA counterpart in the novels and films and easily one of the most hard done by of the characters (sacrifical lamb Bond women excluded). He is maimed in the second novel Live and Let Die and in fact Ian Fleming actually intended to kill him off he valued his character that much, instead he loses an arm, a leg and his CIA job becoming a private detective with CIA connections instead. On screen he doesn't fare better, he's been portrayed by 7 different actors (8 unoffocially) and only two have ever played him more than once. David Hedison in Live and Let Die and then again sixteen years later in Licence to Kill. Ironically in Licence to Kill Felix gets maimed by sharks exactly like he did in the Live and Let Die novel, David Hedison just wasn't escaping that fate. In Licence to Kill he randomly joined the DEA. Jeffrey Wright then took up the role in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, it ended with his promotion and we haven't seen him since.

Enough about that I'll discuss Felix in depth another time, back to Goldfinger!


Directed by Guy Hamilton who turned down Dr. No and went on to direct Dimaonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Man With the Golden Gun. Amongst other movies he also directed The Mirror Crack'd in 1980, which was the film debut of Pierce Brosnan. Terence Young did come back to direct Thunderball. Incidentally he directed Bond villain Christopher Lee in his film debut Corridor of Mirrors in 1948. (Seriously it's six degrees of separation or six degrees of Kevin Bacon, whichever you prefer).

Goldfinger gave us several blonde Bond girls in keeping with the theme that Goldfinger loves GOOOOLLLLDDDD, first was Dink who had nothing to do with Goldfinger but had to be there for the opening scene but it isn't James Bond if he isn't with a girl. Dink got the privilege of saying hi and bye to Felix Leiter's second incarnation before being dismissed for 'man talk' with a spank. Given this is the Bond film where no means yes to win over an ambiguous lesbian Dink got off lightly. Dink was portrayed by Margaret Nolan who was also the golden girl in the opening credits.

Felix Leiter is played by Canadian actor Cec Linder who, according to trivia, switched roles at the last minute with Austin Willis who took the lesser role of Mr. Simmons, the man Goldfinger is cheating out of money via card games at Miami.

Here is the Felix we could have had

Cec Linder gets a bad rap for this film for looking too old and more like "uncle Felix" compared to Jack Lord's suave, stylish Felix Leiter in Dr. No. Linder was actually a year younger than Lord, he was 43 when he took on the role, Jack Lord was 42 when he played Felix. Lord was offered the role in Goldfinger but he turned it down wanting a bigger role and more money (Lord was apparently offered the role of James T Kirk as well but he asked for 50% ownership of the show so William Shatner got the role but it's okay because Lord went on to successfully arrest people many times in Hawaii.)

I'll admit it, it looks like there's more than a year.

Cec Linder did have a more distinguished wardrobe too which didn't help, he swapped the ridiculous sunglasses for the trilby hat (is it a trilby? I just don't know my hats) and he let his hair go natural. Honestly, it doesn't bother me I'd run off with Cec Linder's Felix Leiter just as fast as Jack Lord's, maybe faster because Cec Linder's likes KFC. Trivia- Cec Linder is the only one who was actually on site in Miami (seriously, extra bonus points for Cec Linder).

Actually that seagull might be dead...

Anyway, Goldfinger opens with the now iconic, non-plot related scene that involves Bond destroying a drug lab in South America (something to do with bananas and heroin, this ship(ment) is bananas B-AN-AN-AS!). Bond enters via the clever disguise of a snoozing seagull, he gets out of the ocean in a wet suit, plants a bomb in the drugs lab and then strips off to a white dinner jacket suit and heads into the local. This actually happened in real life.

Bond then lights up a cigarette as the bomb goes off and does a wonderful surprised face before receiving intel that he shouldn't return to his room. Being Bond he goes after a woman instead, the bar dancer Bonita. It turns out to be a trap foiled by Bond spotting an assailant in Bonita's eyes (no really, the magic of eye reflection), puts Bonita in his path and then shocks him in a bath. Not gonna lie I laughed when he concluded it with 'shocking. Positively shocking.' He says it so deadpan and with such sincere disgust it's wonderful. Trivia- Bonita was played by Nadja Regin who played Kerim Bey's mistress in From Russia With Love.
There's then some mention of Bond going to Miami and it's Shirley Bassey's first James Bond number. Honestly, this song is so good.

This is deceitful, no one was in Miami save for Felix Leiter
It opens up with Miami and green screening because only Cec Linder phoned in for the Miami sequence, everyone else was busy or maybe only Cec Linder had the sense to get a free trip to Miami. In fact most of the film was actually filmed on set in England. That's the magic/deceit of Hollywood for you.


Felix arrives and we meet Bond with Dink and an inappropriate, forever to be ridiculed scene is born. Poor Dink. I'm including it because seriously, watch Felix's face, he tries so damn hard to look disapproving and fails miserably, that smile just slips out and he makes sure he sees Dink go. I'm going to give 10 bonus points to Felix for the facial expressions but minus 5 for being a blantant ass gawker.

Watch him pulling his lip down, he knows he shouldn't be laughing
Felix then gives Bond then intel on our villain Auric Goldfinger and explains how he keeps beating a Mr. Simmons at cards and has currently won $10,000 off him.I'm not even really sure why James is receiving instructions from M via Felix, when did Felix become M's messenger? He goes from this to effectively heading the army near the end of the film.
Being a spy and all Felix doesn't do anything so obviously as literally point out Goldfinger to James. Oh no wait he does exactly that. God damn it Felix you're the only one at a pool party wearing a suit this is not good undercover work!

Subtle espionage going on here

You'd think I'd minus points for this but I won't, he's so damn adorable looking doing it. Plus 5 points.

Felix is so remarkable this woman sat up to pay attention

Goldfinger is unsurprisingly wearing gold/mustard coloured clothing. Goldfinger is even more subtle than Felix about his interests. His parents called him Auric Goldfinger mind so I suppose he didn't have a choice. Apparently he's British but doesn't sound like it. Why? No explanation is given. Since actor Gert Forbe was dubbed they could have made him sound British but nope.

Bond figures out in two seconds what Simmons couldn't, that Goldfinger's earpierce isn't a hearing aid, he's getting help. Bond breaks into Goldfinger's room with difficulty, a lockpick and some great spy technique. Nope just kidding, he nabs a random maid in the corridor, pulls her up it by the keys at her waist, opens the door and dismisses her as 'very sweet'. She then departs without a care. This film does wonders for women.

Next we meet Jill Masterson who gives up her name and a whole lot more to James with no difficulty. He catches her helping Goldfinger cheat by watching Simmons' cards from a spyglass and reporting them via a radio to the earpiece. Bond intervenes and blackmails Goldfinger into losing otherwise he'll report him to the Miami police. Jill isn't the least bit angry about this or even slightly worried of repercussions. In fact she laughs about it. She admits she helps Goldfinger cheat and poses as his girlfriend but that's it. James invites her for the best meal in town and guess what it's in his hotel suite.

Jill was portrayed by English actress Shirley Eaton but voiced by German actress Nikki van der Zyl who could apparently do a better English actress. Nikki voiced many other women of the Bond franchise but apparently Shirley Eaton kept this downplayed.

 
Convenient cushion is convenient
James is knocked out fetching champagne leaving unseen henchman to kill Jill. Bond awakens to find Jill dead and covered in gold paint and confirms she was asphyxiated via the paint. At the time there were even rumours that Shirley Eaton died this way, turns out it's not true. Here's the kicker, how the hell did this happen? Did Oddjob just point his hat at her and order her to stay still as he slowly painted her to death? Did he presumably knock her out and do it? Look at how neat that is, those bedsheets are crisp? How long did this take? How is it that Oddjob is not just good at boomerang hat and taking a gold bar to the chest but he's an expert bodypainter too? Well I suppose henchmen are real people, they have hobbies too.

This iconic image made Jill and Shirley Eaton more infamous the badly pun named Bond girl Pussy Galore who was the main Bond girl despite shopping up over halfway into the flick. Time has proven Pussy to be the lasting Bond girl.

After this we get to M and Q branch. M chides Bond for taking off with Goldfinger's girlfriend before sending him to battle Goldfinger at golf because this is how MI6 works. I love Bond, he goes to golf with Goldfinger to not only piss him off more but to pretend like Goldfinger can't know who he is despite his henchman knocking him out and getting a good look at him.

Oh look what colours Goldfinger is wearing...

Goldfinger cheats at the golf, Bond plays with his balls and wins the round. Oddjob then beheads a statue to demostrate how serious he is. In case Bond doesn't get it he also crushes a golfball but it's all okay because Goldfinger owns the club. James then puts a tracking device in Goldfinger's boot and gets to spying.

While following Goldfinger round the mountains of Switzerland James is almost wiped out by a bad shot from a woman later revealed to be Jill's sister Tilly Masterson. Tilly tries to shoot at Goldfinger who stops for strawberries at a stall (hey villains are people too and they can have cravings). She then tries to run Bond off the road to follow Goldfinger because she's as subtle as Goldfinger and Felix. Bond is having none of her shit and he pretends to allow her to pass so he can use spikes on the side of his car to tear up both her tyres and then paintwork.

Is the sloppy wearing of this cardigan why her shooting and driving is so bad?

After nearly killing Tilly with his road rage he offers her a lift claiming she suffered a blowout. A blowout that causes a great big chunk of metal on the car to be torn out...right. She accepts the lift and brings her gun case with her. It's initialled T. M but she claims her name is Tilly Soames because she is a terrible liar and that she is carrying ice-skates to skate somewhere where there is no snow or ice.

Tilly gets dropped off at a garage only to be seen later tripping an alarm when trying to get to Goldfinger. This just after Bond overheard some information about an "Operation Grandslam", evesdropping that saves Bond's balls later (literally). She explains who she is to Bond and they flee together. Their escape is thwarted by a granny with a gun. Trivia- Alfred Hitchcock was meant to have called this his favourite scene.

Just glorious
After they attempt to flee on foot through dark woods the blonde currently leading lady Tilly is killed reminising every horror movie ever. She is boomeranged down by Oddjob's deadly bowler hat. Trivia- Tilly was played by Helen Mirren's cousin, model Tania Mallet. It was her only on screen role as modelling paid better.

Bond is captured and wakes up tied down and ready to be castrated by a lazer created from gold. Goldfinger really loves gold you know. In a drawn out, well known scene where Goldfinger expects Mr. Bond to die he agrees that he can't take a chance that Bond's organisation knows all about Operation Grandslam and will only send someone else to replace Bond if they think something is amiss. Bond gets to keep his balls and life in the first of many mistakes by Goldfinger to simply shoot Bond and get on with his life.

Bond is knocked out and wakes up in a plane. Cue the Bond girl 'I'm Pussy Galore'. Apparently the reply was going to be 'I know but what's your name?' Wasted opportunity that the censors weren't allowing. It's well known they weren't even allowing Pussy at one point and had suggested Kitty Galore instead because that name is the most offensive thing to women in this film, right? Pussy tells Bond to turn off the charm because she's immune at least until she gets tossed in hay a few times.


I'll be honest, I love Pussy Galore as a character in the film, she takes no shit, she's deadpan, tough, holds her own, knows judo and is it in for the money and she has enough of a conscience that whilst she'll rob people she won't needlessly kill them with nerve gas. Frankly, it's Pussy's change of conscience that saves everyone, without her Bond was toast.

In the novel she was a lesbian who was abused by her uncle but decided that when Bond came along she'd only been a lesbian because she thought all men were bad. (No really, it's that sexist. Fleming was also fairly racist too, Live and Let Die toned it down believe it or not.) Pussy is one of the few Bond girls not to have a bikini moment (though one poster gives her one anyway) and she was one of the few to be older than the actor playing Bond. Played by Honor Blackman she started the tradition of Avengers playing Bond girls, this was followed by Diana Rigg as the leading Bond girl Countess Theresa 'Tracy' di Vicenzo/Bond and Joanna Lumley as one of Blofeld's Angels of Death in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Pussy leads a group of all female pilots for Goldfinger known as the Champagne Squadron, their plan is to use knockout gas at Fort Knox so Goldfinger and his minions can plant a dirty Chinese bomb in their to turn the gold bullion bars radioactive for years thus plunging the West into crisis and putting up the value of his gold. Pussy is doing this to get enough money to go get a quiet island in the Bahamas.

Bond is locked up underground in Goldfinger's estate with only guard watching him. He escapes to spy on Goldfinger talking to several groups of gangsters who have all given him 1 million dollars. Goldfinger has them all gathered together in his fancy horse themed rumpus room which converts into a villain's lair with secret maps, a model of Fort Knox and shutters to seal naughty gangsters in to gas them as we later see. Goldfinger waffles on about plans to steal gold from Fort Knox from the gangsters and Bond listens in.
This is a grown ass man having the time of his life getting pushed by a friend on what is essentially a rocking horse
Only one of the gangsters is named, Mr. Solo who goes off solo because he doesn't like Goldfinger's plan (get it?). Bond meets him briefly after being caught spying by Pussy and he passes his tracking device on to him. Sadly Mr. Solo is going on a one way trip with Oddjob. He gets shot, crushed into a cube in his car and then brought back to Goldfinger so the gold he had on can be extracted. Why didn't Oddjob just lift the gold off his corpse? Why did he bring the car back? Why the hell wasn't Solo just gassed with the other gangsters? Because that's what happens to them, they get sealed up in the rumpus/secret villain's lair and gassed to death. Why the hell Goldfinger even wasted his time coming in and talking to them with lies about stealing gold instead of just gassing them then and there is unclear. Maybe just so we could see gangsters in all their stereotyped glory and this wonderful, wonderful extra enjoying a horse ride.


Horseplay...too obvious

Actually I'm going to forgive the inexpliable pointless of this drawn out scene and Mr. Solo's death for two reasons- one it turns out the some of the other gangster leaders are Mr. Midnight and Mr. Strap, these names are awesome, in the novel it's Jack Strap and there's no way you're convincing that's not a jock strap pun and Jed Midnight *best name ever* and two, the gangster minion's joyous peals on that horse complete me, he is my favourite extra of all time.

Gangsters looking like...gangsters. Seriously, they didn't even try.



Felix, who was getting his priorities in order at KFC is told by his nameless co-worker that James is on the move so they attempt to tail him. 30 points for KFC Felix! The signal, like Mr Solo, goes dead and they are forced to go back to the racetrack to look for Bond. Felix and his co-worker demonstrate some more of that infamous subtly by spying peeping Tom style over the bushes. Goldfinger spots them and debates whether they are people trying to spy on the race horses for a tip or people looking for Bond. Fearing the latter he had Pussy change and Bond brought up so it looks like Bond has things in hand with a woman. The ruse works as Felix concludes that, 'that's my James'. Extra 10 points for knowing James so well Felix.

Blending in again
This follows with a yes means no rough tumble in the hay with Pussy and Bond. It's amazing that everything actually rests on Bond winning over Pussy. It's easy to say it's Bond's irresistible sex appeal that wins Pussy over but most likely it's the fact that Goldfinger is clearly a madman who sees people, even allies as disposable and is pretty damn likely to kill Pussy as soon as she's no longer useful to him.


Speaking of Goldfinger I like him a lot as villain. He's marvellously OTT his rumpus room has so many gimicks and gadgets, the pool table flips over to a mini model of Fort Knox, there's a hidden map, the floor moves, metal shutters for the windows and death gas, he's has a jail underground, he's very clear about his passion for gold. You know he sticks with what he likes, he wears gold, he makes his female minions wear it, all his women are blonde, he kills people by painting them in it, he uses lazers out of it, his entire goal is based around it, his plane is decorated with it, his gun is made of it (using a gold gun before Scaramanga made it cool), this man is dedicated to his interests. He also has loyalty to no one, he has Jill killed with paint, he gases the gangsters and he shoots his Chinese bomb helper Mr. Ling fairly quickly in Fort Knox. He also comes prepared as if expecting failure with an army costume underneath so he can escape. Also he totally guns some soldiers in the back with a machine gun. He also has a pretty memorable henchman in Oddjob who likes to kill little girls like Pussy in James' word by painting them or breaking their necks with his metal plated bowler hat.

Bond kills Oddjob by throwing his hat into a fence knowing Oddjob will retrieve it enabling Bond to use a live wire Oddjob earlier created with said hat to shock Oddjob to death. Trivia- the actor who played Oddjob, Harold Sakata, was shocked for real but like a badass he stayed in character. Bond goes to disable the bomb and is about to pull out the wires when some nameless CIA agent flips the switch (I have no idea why this crucial and hilarious role went to a random, surely Felix could have done this) and it stops at exactly 007, oh the irony.

James is advised that the president is now waiting for him (no really) so he has to go fly to the White House even though Goldfinger is still out there and Pussy's whereabouts are unclear but to hell with it president is waiting. James says it was nothing really and Felix answers with 'I know that, but he doesn't', God I'm actually a little in love with this Felix. He also adds that he told the stewardess liquor for three (foreshadowing) and James queries who the other two are and Felix answers 'Oh, there are no other two.' He has such a sense of humour. Plus 10 points.

Look at that smile and wave goodbye, he's so adorably happy

So guess who's onboard the plane? Goldfinger! Felix and the others catch on too late that the real pilots are tied up elsewhere. Pussy is piloting the plane naturally. James and Goldfinger wrestle over the gun and shoot out the window (foreshadowed earlier between Pussy and James) and Goldfinger follows out the window but then Pussy rights the plane and James is able to reach her in the cockpit because screw logic. They parachute out and the film ends with Felix searching for them and James refusing to let Pussy get help because 'this is no time to be rescued'.

I am officially in love with this man

Conclusion- 60 points for Felix but I've just realised how much I love him so an extra 20 for entertaining me more than anyone else (except for random horse riding gangster). Grand total- 80 points.
May Goldfinger always be remembered as the Bond film with character development- we learned Felix liked KFC, Goldfinger loves gold no but really he loves it and he enjoys stall bought strawberries, Oddjob has a skill for bodypainting and hat throwing, a granny is gun happy, a gangster loves being pushed on a rocking horse, James had a knowledge for whiskey, M did not, and Pussy Galore wanted a private island in the Bahamas.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Monster Movies- Kong: Skull Island

Monster movies are a favourite of mine and whilst there are plenty of them about finding a good one is tricky. At the moment it seems to be flavour of the season, everything's getting rebooted from the human based monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and The Mummy) to the beasts (Godzilla, King Kong).


Kong Skull Island is the third King Kong remake, the first film was released in 1933 followed by a remake in 1976 and a second remake in 2005. Of course this could be considered more a reboot than remake as it drops the story of Kong being charmed by an actress/sacrifice and taken back to the human world as an exhibit. This Kong would probably be a little too big for that, his height varied in the 1933 version and the 1976 version, between 40-60ft in point, given as 50ft officially for the original. I the 2005 version he was much smaller, 25ft and the last of his kind, fictional species Megaprimatus kong evolved from the Gigantopithecus. Of the four versions the 2005 gives us a Kong most like a gorilla, the 1933, 1976 and 2017 version give us an upright Kong who frequently moves on two feet.

The Kong of Kong: Skull Island is a whopping 100 feet tall. It looks and sounds impressive but given this Kong is meant to battle Godzilla one day he's still not big enough given the latest Godzilla is an insane 350 feet tall. However, this Kong exists in the 70s, that Godzilla is in 2014 and it is mentioned that Kong is still growing, although one wonders at exactly what point will he be considered to be a pensioner? And how big can Kong grow? Like 2005's version this Kong is also the last of its species probably just as well as one wonders how an island could sustain such large beasts for so long especially since judging from what Kong eats in this movie, they're carnivorous.

Kong: Skull Island drops the eighth wonder of the world, Hollywood attraction gimmick and instead follows the familiar island adventurers mystery crossed with 70s Vietnam films. It's a similar plot to The Lost World, Jurassic Park: The Lost World and The Land That People Forgot in that we have adventurers stumbling into an ancient world where they don't belong and getting picked off one by one. In the vein of the previous Kong films and The Lost World and The Land That People Forgot there is also a tribal presence on the island that frankly doesn't add much to the plot.

The tribe on this island still worship Kong as a protector and a god but they thankfully aren't sterotyped into seeking to sacrifice the only noticeably present female to this deity.


Brie Larson plays anti-war photographer Mason Weaver who joins the crew in the hopes of exposing their operation as a corrupt military one and not the simple island mapping one they claim it to be. She's shoehorned into a 'yes I'm a woman' moment but mercifully its brief and passed quickly for laughs with one man stating 'Mason Weaver is a woman'. She then makes her stance on the war very clear to Samuel L Jackson's Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard and yet nothing is said in opposition to her. We are then treated to scenes of the soldiers goofing off on the ship and posing quite happily for this photojournalist who openly states her opposition to the war several times. Whilst there is one other female in the film, biologist San Lin played by rising star Jing Tian who's about to become a monster movie veteran with The Wall already under her belt and the Pacific Rim sequel Uprising soon to follow, Mason Weaver is the clear female lead.

Unfortunately, Mason doesn't offer us much and spends most of the movie taking photographs, posing or staring in awe at Kong (same thing sometimes) and demonstrating that mucky adventurers involving running for your life from monsters through lakes and sulphuric pits and explosions won't affect your hair or makeup or dampen your clothes for long (sigh).

One consolation is that whilst Mason's outfit is certainly flattering it does border on the side of practical rather than existing for shameless eye candy, it's a stepup for female leads but not much. Mason channels Ann Darrow/Dwan slightly with a few connecting moments with Kong. He sees her try to save a giant water buffalo creatue by vainly trying to lift the chopper its stuck under before Kong intervenes, then they make eye contact beneath the Northern Lights with Tom Hiddleston's James Conrad observing and finally Kong saves her after inadvertantly causing her to fly off a hill and fall unconscious into the lake. These moments whilst sweet seem a little forced too as if to appease the crowds familiar with the Darrow Kong relationship.

Mason is no fragile innocent like Darrow still hoping for the silver lining Hollywood lifestyle, she's meant to be hardened from her experiences with war, she's come to expose the darkness of the military not to bond with nature.

Tom Hiddleston's leads the cast as James Conrad a former SAS captain who is hired by John Goodman's William Randa to be a tracker although Randa doesn't make it clear what exactly Conrad is meant to be tracking. Unashamedly named for Heart of Darkness author Joseph Conrad, James Conrad is presented to us as a neutral presence, a man who risks the dangers of the island for money. His motivation doesn't make much sense given he seems a lot smarter than that and he doesn't hint at any plans for the money. Randa's major red flag to Conrad is needing a tracker for an unexplored terrain and yet Conrad sees it as an opportunity for more cash rather than considering the possibility that Randa knows more than he's saying.

Maybe Conrad simply doesn't care what Randa knows or he has nothing else to occupy his attention. He didn't go home after the war and maybe there's a reason for that. I like Tom Hiddleston as an actor but the role of Conrad really should have went to someone older, I know soldiers were young and a war like the Vietnam war can age and make someone jaded very quickly but I wasn't buying it with Conrad I feel his cynicism and experience belonged to someone older. Also, when facing off against Samuel L Jackson's Colonel Conrad's youth really showed and though he diffused a potentially dangerous situation it was by surrendering and backing off.

Conrad and Mason show one of two potential love stories in the film, the second is between Jing Tiang's San Lin and Corey Hawkins' Houston Brooks. Neither romance gets much development or a realisation, with the former it's some 'I'm as tough as you' facing off and with the latter it's light flirtation that is never quite realised. Mason can't be a damsel so Conrad can't be her knight and that's good and modern but hell they're not anything else either.

Kong: Skull Island's greatest asset is Kong and its greatest weakness is its human characters. Most are cannon fodder and even those that aren't it honestly wouldn't matter if they were missing. If Mason or Conrad had bit the dust I don't think too many people would have cared. The only standout roles are Samuel L Jackson's version of Captain Ahab, Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard who can't escape the warzone even when swapping Vietnam for Skull Island and views Kong as an enemy to be eliminated, John C Reilly's show stealing Hank Marlow (named for Heart of Darkness protagonist Marlow), and Shea Whigham's Captain Earl Cole who spends the adventure largely unfazed, pragmatic and oddly practical.

Preston Packard is the mighty hunter who heads the Sky Devils and tries to lead them to victory on the island. He sees Kong as a villain, he can't accept him as a simple beast nor can he accept that he and his men are the ones who trespassed in Kong's land and offered violence first. Like Robert Shaw's Quint in Jaws he personifies his enemy and makes the fight personal which leads to a violent end. It's an unsubtle allegory of the war effort as well, how do you justify the violence when you are the invader? Samuel L Jackson plays the role in a memorable OTT fashion channelling a little of Bible quoting Jules from Pulp Fiction. His time on the island drives him to madness, for him there is no escape, that's the same as desertion and abandoning a cause, he wants to finish what he started with Kong because he couldn't finish Vietnam.

Hank Marlow is the guide to the island, a convenient character to explain the nature of Kong, the underground lizard monsters and the mute natives. Trapped on the island since the 40s when he and a Japanese pilot crashlanded there and put aside their differences for survival. He formed a friendship with the Japanese pilot, Gunpei Ikari and talks of his loss of his 'brother' to the lizard creatures sorrowfully. He uses Gunpei's sword and brings it home with him showing how friendship and brotherhood can surpass race and cultural hatred when one takes the war away. John C Reilly plays his character as crazy from solitude for laughs, it's pitiful and horrifying thinking of all that he missed stuck on the island, alone after Gunpei's death save for the silent natives and there are touches of genuine sorrow when he talks of his wife and son but Kong avoids the darkness of that sorrow by dressing it up humorously in a mad, comical package. Marlow is easily the most interesting character in this film and he brings much of the needed comic relief.

Captain Earl Cole brings the rest of the comic relief as a deadpan dry humoured captain who is perhaps a little uneducated. He plays off against Jason Mitchell's warrant officer Glenn Mills. They trade off insults but there's a believable friendship there. Cole has a different view of the world to everyone else and seems oblivious to the horror of the island. After the bloody battle between Kong and the helicopters Cole is the only one left with an appetite. He also humorously doesn't get the story of the mouse, the lion and the thorn, having been told by his mother that the mouse used the thorn to kill the lion. It sums up Cole in a nutshell, he has his own belief of how the world works and he's content with it and frankly it serves him better than his friends. Cole lasts right until the end when he tries and fails to make a stand against the 'big one', the biggest lizard monster on the island which is hinted at from the moment we meet Marlow. Cole tries to blow himself up with the monster but it uses its tail to bat Cole away causing him to detonate vainly against a mountain instead. His character was probably worthier of a better death but in a way it did make sense, Cole never quite got anything right throughout the film so why should he get his sacrifice right either. He's another statistic and another member of the Sky Devils who dies in a war on the island that they can't possibly win.

The Sky Devils never really left Vietnam, they seemed to escape the violence and death only to find it on Skull Island. Of the devils only Glenn Mills and Reg Slivko, the youngest two, make it off alive.


Kong is heavy of the metaphors and symbolism. It's set during the 70s, some of the leads are soldiers from the Vietnam War,  Skull island is much like Vietnam, an unfamilar jungle terrain where the natives outnumber you and you don't know your enemy. It's very critical of the war effort, the soldiers who survive are the youngest, ones who can yet change their ways and learn from their mistakes, the woman who is against the war, the former captain who played netural between the soldiers and civilians, and the scientists who whilst being partially responsible for leading the soldiers onto the island without all the information, are presented as civilians neutral to the war effort.

Even Randa must be sacrificed because whilst he's not a part of the war he part of the government, the same establishment that initially endorsed the war. Also, he led the group to the island knowing what could be on it, he deceived everyone and demanded the explosions that awoke Kong and the lizards and caused the chaos. Randa may not have been part of the Vietnam War but he started the Skull Island War.

As a monster movie it delivers, you don't have to wait to see Kong in this film, there is plenty of Kong and he is glorious. The CGI is almost to perfection. The other island creatures are a mismash of tributes to the 1933's monster foes for Kong and Studio Ghibli beasts,  we have pterosaur like creatures, giant spiders with bamboo legs, a log beast, a giant water buffalo and skull headed lizards called Skullcrawlers led by an alpha nicknamed Ramarak or 'the big one'. The film continously hints at Kong's faceoff againsnt Ramarak and finally delivers near the end where Kong unsurprisingly defeats the giant lizard thus liberating the natives from their ancient foe and proving that he is evolving out of childhood and is worthy of a greater foe.

It's hard to imagine how this is going to lead to a Kong Versus Godzilla. As established Kong is going to be quite old when he faces Godzilla and unless he grows 200 feet in those 40 odd years then he's going to be quite small too. Also, Godzilla and Kong both seem to be established as heroic beasts, Godzilla saved the people from the Mutos and Kong saved them from the lizard people so why should they be enemies? Is it because Kong fights lizards? Does the mysterious Monarch branch of the government pull them together or is it another foe? The secret ending of Kong hinted at Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah? Do we even need another Kong Versus Godzilla? Maybe because it's the most attended Godzilla film to date people are sensing there's money in it.

Overall it's a good movie, the CGI is top notch, it's a good length, you don't feel the time pass and the action is nonstop. It's a good tribute to King Kong who was the first of the monsters in monster movies and it's a nice reboot. I liked the time period and the idea of soldiers taken from the Vietnam War to go to Skull island. A mysterious monster island adventure is my favourite kind of genre and it did deliver on that. I'll admit I still favour Peter Jackson's version for that but I'll agree it's much too long and unnecessarily so, it's hard to find the will to rewatch it knowing that.

The 2005 version had much more fleshed out characters and more monsters and because the characters were fleshed out they were much more likeable and it's easier to empathise with innocent sailors and wannabe Hollywood stars than hardened soldiers who pick violence over reasoning. Also, for me, Jack Black's Carl Denham describing the island at the start of the film and building the potential and mystery was far more gripping than John Goodman's William Randa's attempts at it. Naomi Watts' Ann Darrow might have be presented as a damsel in distress but she was preferrable to Mason Weaver. Ann's bond with Kong with stronger, her sympathy and empathy for Kong was always felt and believable and her sweet and innocent outlook on life was always played as an asset not a weakness. Ann might not have been to warzones but she still toughed it out on an island full of monsters and came out the other side stronger for it.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Red Riding Hood

I decided to rewatch 2011's reviled Red Riding Hood and give it another chance. After all, despite her endearing popularity, Red rarely gets to have onscreen treatment in which she is the leading lady.

Red Riding Hood reminds me of three other movies- 1984's The Company of Wolves, 2001's Brotherhood of the Wolf, and 2008's Twilight. All for obvious reasons, The Company of Wolves is an adaptation of the Red Riding Hood fairytale based on Angela Carter's short stories in The Bloody Chamber and it features the heroine trying to get over the loss of her sister. Brotherhood of the Wolf features a medieval setting in which innocent folk are plagued by a mysterious beast that has a human foe at its centre and mixes religion with its terror factor, and Twilight, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer features a love triangle, and a supernatural element as well as director Catherine Hardwicke and actor Billy Burke. The Company of Wolves and Brotherhood of the Wolf also play with that wonderful imagery of snow, wolves and horror.


2011's Red Riding Hood stars Amanda Seyfried as the heroine Valerie, Shiloh Fernandez as her love interest Peter, Max Irons as his rival Henry, Virgina Madsen as Valerie's mother Suzette, Billy Burke as Valerie's father Cesaire, Julie Christie as Grandmother (Cesaire's nameless mother) and Gary Oldman as the villainous Father Solomon.

This film's problem is it doesn't know what it wants to be and limits itself by trying and failing to capture the Twilight fanbase with a tired plot concerning a love triangle peppered with the supernatural. Fearing the loss of a younger audience it shied away from any rear element of horror or gore and the attack scenes by the werewolf were tame and ruined by poor CGI.

It tries to offer a plot of whodunit or rather who is it used in 1974's The Beast Must Die which gave a much more interesting format of the guess who the werewolf is plot by borrowing from Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. 2011's Red Riding Hood is essentially the same, Father Solomon comes to the village, summoned by a desperate Father Auguste, and informs them that the werewolf has to be one of them. Father Solomon then seals off the village for good measure ensuring that no one can get out.

The interest of the werewolf lies with Valerie as it communicates with her and only her narrowing the potential suspects from a small list down even further. The voice sounds male but Valerie goes so far as to suspect her own Grandmother as well as the too obvious suspects of Henry and Peter. Hell Valerie even stabs Peter at one point when he follows her into the woods she's that afraid of them, a wound which he recovers from quite quickly.

The revelation is that the werewolf is in fact Valerie's father Cesaire who spoke to Valerie because he intended to turn her and leave the village with her. He had intended to turn her sister first but realised when she could not understand him in wolf form that she couldn't be his daughter. He was right she was in fact Henry's half-sister and died oblivious to this and in love with Henry (ugh).


Cons- The love triangle is unnecessary, the leads all lack development, there was next to no development with any of the supporting cast, not enough suspects, not enough horror, terrible CGI, Father Solomon was pointless and ridiculously over the top and the movie is full of cliches.

Pros- Visually the movie is a treat, the plot had potential but sadly it just never got there, Julie Christie does a good job as the Grandmother, Henry also showed potential and it is entertaining.

I like that when Henry sees Valerie with Peter he doesn't try and compete with it (i.e Jacob and Edward) he accepts it, breaks off his engagement and says he only wants Valerie to be happy and he goes so far as to help Peter help free Valerie. Frankly, to me, Henry is the better catch, he's sweet to Valerie and seems genuinely in love with her. Peter goes dancing with her friend the moment he tries to end things with her for her benefit, dances publicly and suggestively in full view of everyone, nice guy.

I liked that it was hinted that Valerie killed the white rabbit at the start of the film, not that I'm advocating killing animals for fur, definitely not, but the implication that she has a darkness in her is interesting sadly it doesn't aspire to anything. Valerie doesn't join with the wolf even after realising it's her father, she helps Peter kill him instead because she will never be like that. Hey she's alright living alone in the woods with Peter the werewolf instead.

To be honest Valerie becoming a werewolf and going to the city to hunt with her father would have been a much better ending and a lot less cliched.

I think if the movie had played this straight as a dark horror it might have won more fans. The whodunit plot is done almost to death but if done right it can still entertain. Also, make your audience care about your characters, when they're just cannon fodder for the killer it gets boring, even more so if the kills aren't interesting and it's worse when your leads are boring. We learn next to nothing about Valerie, Peter and Henry. The affair between Valerie and Henry's parents leading to their shared half-sister was a lot more interesting than the virtually non-existent triangle between Valerie, Peter and Henry.


It doesn't help that the moment the wolf starts communicating with Valerie the list of suspects drops hard. The movie tries to play it that it must be Henry or Peter and then throws Grandmother out of a late suspect. It's trying to hard to keep you from thinking it's Cesaire just to keep you from thinking it's Cesaire. Valerie jumps from suspect to suspect to the point of you thinking she can't possibly know any of these people she's meant to be so close with. It makes Valerie seem fickle, a poor judge of character, stupid and reckless and honestly when she stabs Peter it's ridiculous, how can they be soulmates after that? One thinks she stays with him out of guilt and a hatred for her village, they did try to make wolf bait out of her after all.

Even Valerie's friends seem more interesting than Valerie. Rose who secretly hates her for being too perfect and tries to seduce Peter the moment he ditches Valerie, and Roxanne who betrays Valerie to Father Solomon to save her brother Claude, killed for being a magician when he was just different, an act of treachery that Roxanne strongly regrets.

It had a lot of potential but sadly Red Riding Hood ended up being a miss.


Friday, 16 September 2016

King of New York- Spoilers



King of New York was initially an ill-received gangster flick. Released in 1990, it was criticised for glamourising drugs and violence. It was directed by Abel Ferrara (China Girl, The Addiction, The Funeral, Bad Lieutenant) and stars Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne (credited as Larry), David Caruso, Victor Argo, Wesley Snipes an,d Janet Julian with a brief cameo from Steve Buscemi.


The plot is centred around Frank White (Christopher Walken), a gangster recently released from jail who is intent on helping the poor of the city. Frank intends to do this by utilising his former gang to wipe out his rivals and use the profits he gains from drugs to benefit the city such as the hospital. His charity and numerous public appearances lead to his rising popularity in the city and the police sarcastically dubbing him the King of New York.

Frank is assisted along the way by his right hand man Jimmy Jumps (Laurence Fishburne) and one of his counsellors and also a girlfriend, Jennifer (Janet Julian). Though there is a certain comparison to Robin Hood Frank isn't good and he's not seeking redemption. This man will stop at nothing to create his vision of a better city. Before Frank is even released from jail, Jimmy has the gang members ruthlessly wipe out rival gang leaders and before Frank even joins them the job of cleaning up the city is already half done.

Frank attempts to deal with a drug supplier but when he doesn't get what he wants he tortures and kills the dealer and takes the drugs for himself. When a gang rival insults him he confronts him face to face and guns him down. Frank is an antihero at best, he's not afraid to use drugs, violence and murder to get the coin he needs to help a hospital.


Frank is thwarted along the way by the cops led by Roy Bishop (Victor Argo) who is determined to be patient and play by the book with Frank, leading to a dramatic, sad and violent showdown. Fellow cops Dennis Gilley (David Caruso) and Thomas Flanigan (Wesley Snipes) have had enough however and quickly lose patience with Frank and his associates continually escaping punishment and worse, being glorified in the public eye.

After several failed arrests of Frank and his associates, who are eternally let out on bail and have the charges dropped against them due to witnesses getting killed, Gilley finally cracks and concocts a plan to level the playing field by making it look like Frank and his gang are killed by a rival gang. Sinking to Frank's level the renegade cops use an inside man to sneak into a party Frank is at. Entering masked and armed they fire undiscriminately at people in the building, leading to the death of one of Frank's girls- Melanie. This fight continues to the streets with a violent car chase in which a recently married cop is killed. It ends with a shootout between Jimmy and Flanigan with Flanigan being killed by Jimmy. Jimmy is then gunned down by Gilley.

A remorseful Gilley attends the funeral of his friends but is too guilty to remain throughout the service. He departs to his car, which won't start and is ruthlessly killed in a driveby shooting carried out personally by Frank.

The film reaches its bloody conclusion with Frank confronting Bishop in his home. Frank tries to justify the murders of his rivals to the cop by stating they were dealing in human trafficking and child prostitution. Frank seems blinded to the fact that just because he has standards does not make him good or his actions justifiable. He has Bishop at his mercy but fails to kill him, leaving him handcuffed to his seat. Bishop frees himself and pursues Frank to the subway where Frank takes a hostage on the train. The film ends with Frank killing Bishop before being surrounded in his car by cops. He then realises that Bishop has shot him too and he is doomed.

All the perfomances in this film are strong, Christopher Walken is, as always, an excellent lead portraying Frank as a complicated character who truly feels he can do good through evil. Victor Argo matches him with a serious and quiet cop who is determined to remain on the right side of the law even if the law seems to fail him. He is everything Frank is not and will never be and unlike Frank and Gilley he never lets the line between good and evil blur and does not ever think that an evil act can lead to the greater good. He is an aged cop presumably waiting for retirement, he doesn't want trouble and even as his force crumbles around him and Frank beats the cops at every turn he still stands by his morals. Ultimately, it does him no good as when he is the last man standing he finally submits to an act of bravery in persuing Frank rather than remaining at home in safety and it leads to his death. He has victory over Frank but it is a grave cost and it is a victory he dies without ever seeing.

Laurence Fishburne chews the scenery as Frank's right hand man Jimmy Jumps, he plays it straight as Frank's loyal second and only briefly is there a suggestion that he could be a rival for power when Frank asks why he didn't ever visit him jail and Jimmy just dismisses the notion by saying no one wanted to see him like that, behind bars. I feel there was a missed opportunity here in developing Jimmy's character or exploring the role he played while Frank was in jail or why Frank is so trusting of him despite him assuming power in Frank's absence and never visiting him.


David Caruso plays a cop, a role that seems to have suited him well in life, this cop, Dennis Gilley, is one with mixed morals. Not a dirty cop but rather a frustrated one who, like Frank, seems to think a criminal act could be for the greater good. Gilley misses the irony of this similarity between himself and Frank. He offers more of a presence than Bishop and easily manipulates the other cops into a suicide mission against Frank. He persuades his fellow officers that disguising themselves as gang members and attempting a hit on Frank and his cronies is the only way to truly defeat him after the system fails them. Gilley also resorts to carrying the body of one of Frank's rivals in the trunk of his car and effectively kidnapping Frank and taking him to the outskirts of the city to confront him with it as a method of intimidation to get Frank into confessing to the murder. He does this all under Bishop's supervision without much protest from Bishop. When this fails they are forced to abandon Frank. He later arrests Jimmy Jumps for another murder and when Jimmy is freed he spits in his face in disgust.

Gilley shows great loyalty to his friends and is seen as the best man at one cop's wedding. He also demonstrates a great sorrow when his partner Flanigan is fatally shot by Jimmy Jumps. He shoots Jimmy and leaves him writhing in pain while he attempts to save his friend. When Flanigan dies, he is noticeably grief stricken and gives him a kiss farewell on the forehead before coldly shooting Jimmy dead.

Later, at the funeral of his friends, he is overcome with emotion and guilt and departs mid service. He heads to his car to vent out his rage and guilt and finds his car won't start. It is here that he is gunned down by Frank.

I liked Gilley's character best because I found it interesting to see a cop not being a standard good cop but equally not being a cliche bad cop either. Gilley's not in bed with the criminals but he is not as far from them as he would like to believe either. His partnership with Flanigan is sweet and he shows a humorous side at the wedding, even though some of it is at the groom's expense. Sadly, he lets his temper get the better of him and is ultimately responsible for his friends' and co-workers' demise, for whilst they made the decision to join him the idea was his and he went against his superior to carry it out. Whilst his death is cruel it wouldn't be fair for him to escape unscathed whilst everyone else perished.


Jennifer is the film's only real female lead. She is one of Frank's two lawyers, the other being Joey Dalesio (Paul Calderon) and is one of three of Frank's girlfriends, the other two being Melanie (Carrie Nygren) and Raye (Theresa Randle). Whilst Frank is frequently seen with Melanie and Raye clad in lingere he shares a memorable moment in the subway with Jennifer. Their heated moment of passion is interrupted by young would be robbers. Frank difuses the situation by offering the kids notes but also suggesting they come to the Plaza Hotel if they want a job with him.

As a character Jennifer has little development, the police query her morals and she is cold in her response to them. She seems to have no guilt over being in bed with Frank and it is unclear what her motivation in the film is. Her attraction to Frank seems little more than lust and it's unclear if she is aware of his other girlfriends or bothered by them and if either she or Frank sees a future in their relationship.

Initially a film that slipped under the radar it became a cult film to the point of being popular enough to garner a blu-ray release. It now stands out as one of Christopher Walken's best performances and a popular gangster film. Though it perhaps seems just as noticeable as being a launching pad for David Caruso, Laurence Fishburne, and Wesley Snipes. Apparently David Caruso and Wesley Snipes were friends at the time of filming and it was Caruso who persuaded Ferrara to cast Snipes.

Whilst it's not at the standards of The Godfather or Martin Scorsese's many memorable gangster flicks (Casino, Goodfellas, The Departed) it's still a film worth seeing. The performances are all solid and memorable, the setting is suitably dark with contrasts of the poor impoverished streets and hospital to Frank's pad with its chandeliers and large rooms and the dialogue is memorable, particularly Christopher Walken's. And yes, Christopher Walken does manage to sneak in a brief dance performance as well. It's low budget and for most of the cast an early performance, both of which are noticeable and it's script is flawed, Frank's motivations seem murky at best, all the characters could do with more development and the plot is almost too simple but I still recommend giving it at least one watch.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Belated Happy Halloween

So Halloween became a rushed affair in my household due to guests dropping out due to work and the fact that I got a new job offer so I've had to do a ridiculous number of hours in my current job before I go. In the end I went for a mismash of themes, Nightmare Before Christmas because I wanted to try making my own Zero and I wanted some of my teddies on display, Murder Mystery because we were initially going to have a Murder Mystery party, and a little hint of Snow White because I wanted to make some Snow White poisonous apples.

The result wasn't bad, I couldn't decide on my costume and was originally going to do CSI but then when we decided to host a Murder Mystery and opted for a 1920s theme I decided to get a Sherlock Holmes styled costume. When the Murder Mystery was cancelled I stuck with my costume and my fiance was my Dr. Watson. All in all a good night and a costume already bought for when the Murder Mystery does happen :-)/




My Zero, I used this tutorial to make him, with a few alterations.

For the Murder Mystery theme I had a crime scene and crime tape with some suggestive blood prints on the windows :-) Additionally, I had my usual Halloween decorations on display.


The crime scene tape and blood handprints came from ebay, the axe and gel blood stickers came from a pound shop and I used brown tape to make a body outline and then made the number cards out of carboard and paint, simple.

Finally, my costume Female Private Eye:


My fiance took the pipe and magnifying glass for his Dr. Watson costume complete with a bowler hat, shirt and waistcoat. I had my own magnifying glass courtsey of TK Maxx. All in all another successful Halloween.



The Mummy

So Halloween is coming again (yay) and I've started with the horror movie watching (amongst Castle and CSI, and of course OUAT now that it's back) and I ended up starting with 1999's The Mummy. Honestly, it happened because I was watching an episode of Castle that featured a Mayan mummy with a curse that for a moment seemed to be carrying out its own curse, and of course that reminded of the mummy and I saw a trailer for the new Jungle Book film which reminded me of the old live action version in 1994 directed by Stephen Sommers, director of The Mummy! So it was meant to be plus my fiance bought the Mummy trilogy for me on blu-ray and it was long overdue.

A loose remake of the 1932 Universal horror film starring Boris Karloff it led to three films, three spin-off films featuring the character of the Scorpion King, a short lived cartoon, and novelisations and is now due for another reboot. Although the planned reboot might be more closely linked to the 1939 film as its all part of Universal's attempt to bring back the old monsters, which started with Dracula Untold.


The 1932 features priest Imhotep being found by an expedition, mummified alive for the crime of trying to resurrect his lover the princess Ankh-es-en-amon. When the scroll of Thoth is accidentally read aloud Imhotep arises, takes the scroll and goes on a hunt for Ankhesenamon.

10 years later Imhotep is now masquerading as a human, Ardath Bey, who has found Ankhesenamon's tomb and guides some archaelogists to it. He also finds Helen Grosvenor who looks like Ankhesnamon and has a plan to kill her and resurrect her as his princess. Helen, remembering her past life, is saved by a prayer to Isis who destroys the scroll of Thoth, which renders Imhotep into dust.

The Mummy came along just 10 years after Howard Carter's infamous discovery of Tutankhamun in November 1922. Supposedly there was a curse on the tomb (not true) and indeed several members of the team involved in the discovery of the tomb suffered death shortly after. Howard himself was not a victim, dying in 1939 a full seventeen years after the discovery of Hodgkin's disease, of course some will still attribute this to the curse. The most infamous of the deaths was Lord Carnarvon, a funder of the expedition who was present at its opening he died in April 1923, the cause was a mosquito bite he nicked whilst shaving causing it to become infected.




 The Mummy 1999 is more faithful to the original that its given credit for, the basic forbidden love story between Imhotep and Ankhesenamon remains, the foolish reading of a spell causing the mummy to arise is there, as is the obssession with a modern day woman (Evie) who Imhotep desires to kill to bring back Ankhesnamon.

Linking to Howard Carter, the film's hero, Rick O'Connell enters in 1923 just one year after Carter's discovery. He is in the fabled City of the Dead Hamunaptra with the French Foreign National Legion fighting Tuareg nomads. O'Connell's army is whittled down to two, himself and Hungarian thief Beni, who abandons O'Connell. He faces certain doom when the desert seems to whip up around him and the Taregs flee. Watched on by the Medjai, they decide to let the desert kill O'Connell and he departs.

Three years later we meet siblings Jonathan and Evelyn Carnahan. Evelyn is a librarian and Egyptologist working in the Museum of Antiquities who can't get taken seriously as a scholar due to her lack of field work. Jonathan presents her with a box he claims to have found in Thebes, which Evelyn discovers contains a map to the supposedly mythical city Hamunaptra. When the museum curator "accidentally" burns the map Jonathan reveals he actually stole it from an American who is now in prison. After making a deal with the jail warden, which involves allowing him a share of treasure from Hamunaptra the adventure begins.

Jonathan and Evelyn's surname Carnahan isn't a coincidence as initially they were going to be the children of the cursed Lord Carnarvon, an interesting idea that was sadly dropped.


This is why I love The Mummy it is chiefly an adventure story full of action with limited horror and whilst not scary, especially by today's standards, it's still an engaging story. I initially saw The Mummy Returns first and for a while I preferred it but after rewatching the two the first film is definitely my favourite. The film, whilst highly inaccurate, offers a film of mystery, horror, action, adventure and romance with the beauty of Egypt ever present. It is one of the few more recent films set in Egypt and offering up a healthy slice of Ancient Egypt it also falls into my favourite subgenre of Action/Adventure- tomb raiding. Its up there with Indian Jones and Tomb Raider and made all the better for having an empowered female lead who doesn't need weapons to be tough and of course, mummies and curses!

It's an easy formula, two groups racing to be the first to discover wealth and fame in the mysteries of the Egyptian desert only to fall victim to an ancient curse, which they accidentally bring upon themselves, somewhat emphasising an idea of karma or justice- punishment for grave robbing and the theft and desecration of one culture by foreigners.

It's hard to decide who the real villains are in this story, Imhoptep and Anck-su-Namun are an easy choice, they committed regicide but they did it out of love and whilst this certainly doesn't justify it and ultimately it was a foolish decision as it did not lead to them being together. The fact is, Anck-su-Namun considered herself Pharaoh's property and desperate to escape him and, in a way, punish him for owning her and preventing her from being with Imhoptep she murders him and then commits suicide, pleading with Imhoptep to flee because only he can resurrect her. Considering the punishment Imhoptep then suffered, live mummification with flesh eating scarabs, one could say he was duly punished.

The Americans and their Egypytologist suffer because they opened the box that contained the book, ignoring the warning and took the funerary jars that contained Anck-su-Namun's organs. Imhoptep hunted them down one by one and drained them dry, thus restoring himself. Did they deserve this? Not really, yes they ignored the warning and robbed the place anyway but it was Evelyn who actually read from the book and activated the curse yet as the heroine she gets to live, albeit it was a close call.

It's another reason to love this film, it offers more depth than one initially notices and its characters come in shades of grey- Jonathan and Rick are both thieves and even Evelyn becomes one, stealing the book from Dr. Chamberlain. Pride, ignorance, a desire for recognition, egos, and greed seems to be the downfall of the Americans and Dr. Chamberlain and yet, despite displaying these vices our heroes survive the adventure. That's not to say our heroes are suddenly unlikeable, rather by not being perfect they are even more likeable, Rick is handsome, humorous, tough and smart not with his knowledge of Egyptology but rather his good sense that what they are doing is dangerous, Jonathan is the comical relief and doesn't try to hide what he is, even telling his sister she should expect him to lie to her because he is her brother, and Evelyn herself is cute, intelligent, funny and quite capable of standing up to the men besting them with her wits and intelligence rather than strength.