007 Legends – A Review by Film Nerd

Developer: Eurocom, Activision

Consoles: PS3, 360, Wii U, PS Vita, PC

Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel, Carey Lowell, Toby Stephens

Synopsis: This game was released specifically as a celebration of 50 years of James Bond.   As such, it includes 6 missions, each representing one film of each man to have played Ian Fleming’s super-spy.   Bond and M are played by Craig and Dench respectively throughout.

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Skyfall – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear

Film matched beverage: Silver Balloon Cocktail

Synopsis:   Bond is wounded, presumed dead, whilst pursuing a hard drive featuring the identities of every international secret agent.    He remains undercover, until MI6 itself is attacked, and returns to active service, facing more than one demon at the same time.

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Quantum of Solace – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Marc Forster

Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jesper Christensen, Rory Kinnear, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench

Film matched beverage: Choc-mint martini (for Dominic Greene)

Synopsis: Following directly from the events of Casino Royale, Bond attempts to extract mission from Mr. White on the mysterious organisation Quantum.   As he continues to follow the links in the chain, it is unclear whether his motives are professional, or if they are fueled by his hurt and anger over Vesper’s betrayal.

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Casino Royale – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Martin Campbell

Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Jesper Christensen, Judi Dench

Film matched beverage: Vesper Martini

Synopsis:   Finally, after years of legal wrangling, Eon got to make Casino Royale, the very first Bond novel that Ian Fleming ever wrote.   Being a beginning for Bond in popular culture, they made this film a new beginning for the franchise.   Indeed, they went full reboot mode, and to great effect.   New film, new start, new Bond.   And Daniel Craig made the role his own…. Continue reading

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic

Synopsis: The U.S. version of the popular Swedish novel by Stieg Larrson, Fincher puts his own styling to the mysterious history of the Vanger family and the investigators called in to solve a 40-year-old mystery.   One investigator is disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig), the other a young girl named Lisbeth Salander (Mara) whom is incredibly capable despite being declared a ward of the state.

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Spielberg Double Bill Part 2 – The Adventures of Tintin

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Toby Jones

Synopsis: Herge’s most famous creation is brought to animated life with the latest motion capture techniques.   In this adventure, the simple purchase of a model ship leads Tintin on a mystery for sunken treasure, an adventure which introduces him to long time friend Captain Haddock.   Based on the Tintin graphic novels “The Crab with the Golden Claws” and “The Secret of The Unicorn”.

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30 Day Film Challenge Day 19 – Your Favorite Action Film

Film Nerd’s Choice: Casino Royale

Review:

Director: Martin Campbell

Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Jesper Christensen

Synopsis: Based on the novel by the same name by Ian Fleming, this James Bond film takes the first written novel as an excuse to reboot the series.   In doing so, a harder edge is given to the franchise bringing it closer to Fleming;s source material than ever before, even if it does translocate the action forward into modern times.

 

As a Bond fan, it delights me that the 30 day film challenge has afforded me the opportunity to reflect on what I consider a true highpoint in the franchise after already being in a position to review the low point, that being Moonraker.   I have in many ways been raised on the 007 franchise, and am intimately familiar with his adventures both in text and on-screen.   I have many favourite stories in both formats, the earlier films being more direct adaptations of the novels than the later films became, the mor recent films not being based on Fleming material.   Casino Royale, due to legal issues as the most prominent Bond story never yet brought to the cinema in the official Broccoli 007 franchise.   Thankfully, despite shifting the setting to a modern casino in Montenegro, and changing the game of choice from Baccarat to Texas Hold’Em poker, this is once again a fairly faithful adaptation… just with more action thrown in.

Campbell is a gifted director, once before having creating a dying Bond franchise when he was in the main chair for Brosnan’s first outing Goldeneye.   He managed the same magic trick twice, creating a different Bond film that also retained respect for the franchise.   He portrays Bond here as a man struggling with his new role in the secret service.   Though he is still a man of wit, he finds less humour in his activities than previous Bonds, bearing the scars of previous encounters, both literally and figuratively.   His penchant for alcohol and women is portrayed as less suave and cultured, and more as escapism from the realities of his world.   As such, we have a much more visceral film, that seems more grounded than many previous instalments.

However, this entry is for favourite action film, and as such I should spend some of the discussion on this element of the film.   There is much more action in the film than in the novel, yet none of it is superfluous.   Each action sequence does something to advance the plot, while also being an edge of your seat, nail-biting thrill-ride.   The pace is frenetic, yet everything is filmed in such a way that things are not lost in a flurry of activity that is impossible to follow (take note, Michael Bay).   From the free-running opening that redefines chase sequences, to the chase to prevent an explosion at Miami airport, to the final sequences in Venice, Craig is painted as a Bond to be reckoned with, ever resourceful without any reliance on special gadgets.   I would also argue that the poker game itself is an action sequence.   There is no running or bullets flying, but it manages to make a sequence of twelve people around a baize table holding cards consistently exciting, and it does so while occupying a large part of the film at the same time.

I could go on for much longer, discussing individual performances, especially focussing on the cracking chemistry established between Green’s Vesper and Craig’s Bond.   The simple fact is, I can write a pages long essay on this film, though I fear my level of interest may deter readers from even starting this post.   So I will leave it here with just a simple recommendation.   If you like your action fast and loud with enough character development to keep it interesting, well, this is the minimum of what Casino Royale achieves and what is not only a superior Bond film, but a superior film outright.

5 stars out of 5

 

Casino Royale on IMDB

Casino Royale on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fl5WHj0bZ2Q]

30 Day Film Challenge Day 16 – A Film You Used to Love, But Now Hate

Film Nerd’s Choice: Moonraker

Review:

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Cast: Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell

Synopsis: This was not originally intended to be the film to follow the successful Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, the original plan being to release For Your Eyes Only.   However, the release and success of Star Wars changed all that, so they jumped to the story Ian Fleming novel Moonraker, entirely rewriting a cold war missile drama to be a space epic.   About the only similarity that the film has with the novel is the names of the characters.

 

I have selected this film as representative of the entire Roger Moore run of James Bond films.    As a child, my favourite James Bond was by far my favourite.   He was not only the Bond I was growing up with at the time, he was one that was overall just fun, outrageous, and over the top.   The more absurd the gadget or story, the more fun I had watching it.   So when you have a film with him running around in space shooting lasers while being chased by popular villain Jaws (Kiel), it was an absolute dream.

Not anymore however.   What has changed for me is that I have become a true student and aficionado of Ian Fleming’s Bond, having read all the original novels, and with time come to appreciate the true glory that peaks with Connery’s original portrayal and Craig’s current hard-edged approach.   In this style of Bond, Lazenby and Dalton were also quite adept, whereas Brosnan was the perfect meld of every interpretation of Bond up until that point.   Moore, however, was a comedian first and a man of action second.   His fight scenes have no real power or pace.  He is over-reliant on Q gadgets.    He also played the role for too long, so by A View To A Kill, he was certainly less convincing as the seductive secret agent type.

For Moonraker, he had not yet aged so poorly, but if there was a Bond film that jumped the shark, this was it.   Stretching reality to include space battles aside, the supporting players were also just not convincing.   Lonsdale’s Drax was little more than a passable villain, with none of the delightful swagger of a Blofeld, Carver, or Le Chiffre.   Lois Chiles’ performance as lead Bond girl left a lot to be desired, and it seems they were trying too hard for a double entendre for her name, opting for Holly Goodhead.   Even Kiel, whose performance itself was just as strong as it was in The Spy Who Loved Me, was let down, with a love story introduced that destroyed any menace the character once had.

To this day, I often marathon James Bond films from Dr. No through to now.   The Moore period however is often skipped over.

2 stars out of 5.

 

Moonraker on IMDB

Moonraker on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMTK5LHOMy8]

 

Upcoming Genre Films for 2011 Part Deux – A Preview by Film Nerd

First of all thanks to Urban Fantasist for that awesome post.   Consider my appetite whetted.   As you referred to yourself though, there are certain tastes of mine that were not catered to, so here is a preview of 2011 from the perspective of someone who collected comics in high school.

I will be using the same list as Urban Fantasist from io9, but I will extend from there a little bit from a post by blastr featuring the top 55 trailers for films coming out in 2011.   I will of course avoid overlap between these lists.

The Green Hornet (io9, blastr)     January 14

A remake of the series that first captured hearts on radio serials then on television, featuring a rich guy turned vigilante.   The character was created by the guy who brought us The Lone Ranger, and at one point in the radio series it was indicated that the Hornet is descendant of the Ranger.   Directed by Michael Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, it could prove interesting.

I Am Number Four (io9, blastr)     February 18

A group of nine aliens hiding out as teenagers on Earth are hunted down for extermination by the government.   With three down, this film follows the story of the fourth to be targeted.    Based on a novel of the same name.

The Adjustment Bureau (io9, blastr)     March 4

Matt Damon plays a congressman destined for big things, before he meets and falls for Emily Blunt’s ballerina.   He was supposed to never meet her again, but somehow does, and falls in love with her.   The mysterious agency of the title steps in to prevent the relationship, and put our heroes life back on the set path.   Escaping, running, and hiding ensues….

Battle: Los Angeles (io9, blastr)     March 11

Gritty war film with hand-held camera work with visceral closeups, etc.   Oh yeah, and humans are fighting aliens.   Sounds like a great big B-movie, but with a cast headlined by Aaron Eckhart, may prove a hidden gem.

Red Riding Hood (io9, blastr)     March 11

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman star in this retelling of the classic tale, with the wolf recast as a werewolf connected the past of she with the hood.   Don’t know how Urban Fantasist missed that one, sounds like her cup of tea!!

Paul (io9, blastr)     March 18

Comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as two mates on an American road trip that meet foul mouth alien Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen.   Some of the gags on the trailer are foul, but delightfully so!!

Sucker Punch (io9, blastr)     March 25

A film by Zack Snyder, who previously brought us 300 and Watchmen.   He does have a talent for absolute visual splendour on-screen, and the trailers indicate this will be no different.   It is hard to get a grasp on what it is about, but seems to be the story of five girls attempting to escape the clutches of evil authority in a mental asylum…or is it a war zone???   Or a bordello??

Super (io9, blastr)     April 1

Okay, so the concept of this sounds very similar to Kick-Ass… average bloke dons a costume to fight crime.   So lacking in originality on that count perhaps.   Just watch the clip posted on blastr though and I dare you not to show some interest!!

Hanna (blastr only) April 8

Eric Bana’s ex-CIA agent trains daughter Saoirse Ronin to be the perfect assassin, with the goal to target Cate Blanchett.    A lot of talent there in that sentence, and a pretty cool concept to boot.    The trailer also kicks butt!!

Your Highness (io9, blastr) April 8

Danny McBride and James Franco reteam with the director of Pineapple Express to star as royal brothers on a rescue mission… a comedy that drags Natalie Portman and my favourite Zooey Deschanel along for the ride.   I am still giggling at the trailer… “What a coincidence, I was just about to finish thinking of you!!”   Hehe.

Thor (io9, blastr)     May 6

The Norse god is exiled to Earth, as reimagined by Marvel Comics.   Mjolnir was spotted after the credits to Iron Man 2, resulting in my second Nerdgasm for that film.   Those that don’t know that this is part of building towards Joss Whedon’s The Avengers should be stripped of their geek badge immediately!!

X-Men: First Class (io9 only)     June 3

The second Marvel movie for 2011.   With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and January Jones on board, and Kick-Ass’ Michael Vaughn directing, can we put the travesty of X-Men: The Last Stand behind us???

Green Lantern (io9, bkastr)     June 17

A film based on a DC universe second tier hero.   Ryan Reynolds is good casting, but the CGI costume is still a little off-putting for me.   However, has the potential to be the next Iron Man, whom was one of Marvel’s second tier heroes.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two (io9, blastr)     July 15

You really want a synopsis for this one?

Captain America: The First Avenger (io9 only)     July 22

The source of my first Nerdgasm in Iron Man 2 was spotting Captain America’s shield partially constructed in Tony Stark’s work room.   Like Thor, this is building to Whedon’s The Avengers, and has Chris Evans donning the tights in what can only be called great casting!

Cowboys and Aliens (io9, blastr)     July 29

James Bond and Indiana Jones!!   The old west!!   Aliens!!    Daniel Craig waits from unconsciousness with a strange device on his arm.   Harrison Ford plays the villain of the piece, that teams with Craig when the bigger threat arrives.   Why didn’t they think of this earlier???

The Thing (io9 only)     October 14

Prequel to John Carpenter’s iconic original.   Stars Joel Edgerton, and personal favourite Mary Elizabeth Winstead, last seen in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Sherlock Holmes 2 (io9, blastr)     December 16

Downey Jr. and Law return to 221B Baker Street, this time to face the infamous Professor Moriarty.   Be warned, blastr screwed up, the trailer from the first film, not the first trailer for the second!!

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (io9 only) December 23

Steven Spielberg directs his first fully motion capture film.   Peter Jackson produces.   They will be swapping roles for the sequel!!   Stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.   Some writing was even done by Doctor Who‘s Steven Moffatt!! Add that element of retro charm and I am sold!

Man, that is a lot of movies…. I hope Bride of Film Nerd doesn’t kill me when we need a second mortgage!!

 

Defiance (2008)

Director: Edward Zwick

Cast: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos, Mia Wasikowska

Synopsis: During World War II, Belarussian Jews are hunted down by German patrols.   A group of brothers, the Bielskis, hide in the forest, protecting a large band of their Jewish kin from 1941 until the war’s end.   This film depicts their true story.

A review by Film Nerd.

Upon the realisation that there are still untold stories like this from World War II, it almost seems ridiculous that fictional films are still being made about the period.   That is not to deny the power and impact of many of these fictional WWII films, however with true stories like this left in oblivion, it is a crime they are not being told.

What these men achieved is beyond belief.   Tuvia (Craig), Zus (Schreiber) and Asael Bielski (Bell) never set out to be heroes, their only goal was survival.   The fact that they managed to do so under the circumstances they were in is incredible enough.   Hidden in the forest, food scarce, and constantly being hunted, they somehow managed to remain ahead of their pursuers.   But they also were unwilling to see fellow Jews suffer, and so they led a band of 1200 Jewish men women and children.   They made camps, established defences, and survived.

Once again, the parallels with Glory, The Last Samurai, and Blood Diamond are obvious, tracking the fate of a marginalised people in a war-torn nation.   However, it remains different to all of these films.   Even though there is yet another scene depicting training in fire-arms, it remains fresh in comparison to those Zwick has directed before.   The general tone of the film is different too.   These people were not trained to fight, they were no soldiers, separating it from both Glory and Samurai.   It also lacks the darkness of Blood Diamond, the take home message being one of inspiration and hope as opposed to shame and despair.

The performances are each and every one of them brilliant.    Craig has alway been a true chameleon long before his association with 007, and that talent is once again on show here.   Schreiber I have rarely seen give anything less than a top performance, also being one of the better elements of X-men Origins: Wolverine, which was released the same year.   Jamie Bell in the past I have found hit and miss, but here he convincingly traverses a character arc from naiveté through to a silent but undeniable strength.

If the film does have a flaw, it is in pacing.    Sometimes scenes of building camp and debating the next course of action can get a little tedious.   Also, when some of these decisions are made, they do not sit comfortably with the viewer.   That said, it is entirely feasible that each of these moments would genuinely portray the hardships being experienced by these survivors.   So, though it may detract from the point of view of narrative at times, it does lend a realism to the setting.

This however is the type of film I keep returning to Zwick to see more of.   It had a limited release in Australia at cinemas, so it would not be surprising if much of the Australian public missed out on this one.   Hunt it down on DVD though, you will be glad you did.

4 stars (out of a possible 5)

Defiance on IMDB

Defiance on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYZ2oYDSKHA]