strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
Another little blast of these ahead of the new Sherlock at 8:30.

13. Jane Eyre (1943), dir. Robert Stevenson
Seen with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan at the National Media Museum in Bradford. It has fantastic sets, plenty of nice Gothic bleakness, some lovely frocks, and Orson Welles doing an excellent line in demonstrating exactly why Mr. Rochester is a complete and utter twat.

14. City of the Dead aka Horror Hotel (1960), dir. John Llewellyn Moxey
Also seen with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan, round at her place I believe. I've seen it before, and indeed own the DVD, but had not watched it for at least 10 years, probably a fair bit more. It features Christopher Lee and a folk-horrorish plot involving a small American town with a history of witch-craft that turns out to be not so very confined to the past as the young female protagonist might hope. In fact, now I come to think about it, there is a lot here in common with The Curse of the Crimson Altar, watched not long before this and reviewed here. For a while, it looks like it might be quite committed to female emancipation, as Nan Barlow (the main character) sets out on an original academic research project despite her boyfriend and brother advising against it, but of course she then dies as a result, so it is just good old-fashioned Stay In The Kitchen after all.

15. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), dir. Guy Hamilton
Watched because it was on TV and I needed distraction. I think I may still have been on bereavement leave at this point, or else technically out of it but still treating myself very gently as much as possible. Anyway, obviously again the main attraction was Christopher Lee and he delivers in very fine form in this one! Scaramanga's combination of malevolence, sexual potency, superficial charm and brute violence suit him very, very well indeed. It is a very episodic film, which could almost have worked nicely as a TV mini-series, with distinct events taking place on Scaramanga's island, in Beirut, Macau, Hong Kong, and Bangkok and finally back on the island again. I suppose most Bond stories are to some degree, but this more than most, I think.

16. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), dir. Peter Jackson
I started 2016 with the first of these films, and later followed up with the second, even though this time Christopher Lee is not featured. I enjoyed the elf-orc battle as Bilbo and his friends escaped in wine-barrels down the river, the icy goings-on in Laketown, and the confrontation between Bilbo and Smaug inside the latter's enormous treasure-trove. I have the final film on DVD from Lovefilm, but seem to be taking a while to get round to actually watching it.

17. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016), dir. Mandie Fletcher
Seen with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan at the Cottage Road cinema. It was good fun and kept us entertained throughout, although I'm afraid I probably only recognised about half of the cameo roles which I was obviously supposed to recognise. Joanna Lumley's body-language as Patsy is just splendid, and she was definitely the highlight of the film for me.

18. Ghostbusters (2016), dir. Paul Feig
Also seen with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan (I think?), probably at the Cottage too. Splendid fun, and great to see both an all-female lead cast and lots of slashy potential between almost all of the main characters. The one thing I could have wished to make it better was that Erin Gilbert (the academic one played by Kristen Wiig) had been fully self-confident in her job at the beginning, and actually delivering a huge and important lecture to a crowded room, rather than practising for doing so, when she is approached by the guy with a copy of her unwittingly-published book about ghosts. That would have made her a full-on identification character for me, as well as giving her a much stronger character narrative for the movie - the woman who was not only a fully-functioning successful academic but also a believer in the paranormal. But no.

Here we get to films 19-23, which I already wrote up as part of my review of the Starburst Film Festival, which is frankly pretty good going. I still have an hour before Sherlock starts as well! Let's see how many more I can do...

24. Beat Girl (1960), dir. Edmond T. Gréville
Taped off the telly and watched chez moi for the usual reason - viz, it has Christopher Lee in it. I've seen it before, but years ago, and never reviewed it here. It's a youth culture film, but rather unsure about whether youth culture is something to be celebrated and glorified or indulged in moral panic over - primarily the latter, though. The main character, Jennifer, is resentful of her father's new not-much-older-than-her wife, and pruriently fascinated when she discovers the wife's past as a stripper. Soon, looking for teenage rebellious kicks, she begins flirting with the world of shady underground strip clubs herself - and Christopher Lee is the sleazy strip-club manager who is there to greet her when she does. It's not a particularly great film on the whole, and the teen characters' dialogue is seriously cringe-worthy, but I do love the music in the climactic scene when Jennifer strips at a house-party. No need to worry about what you might see if you click on that link, BTW - it's from the early '60s, so she doesn't get any further than a cast-iron bra and some knickers your gran would probably think were a bit frumpy.

25. Madhouse (1974), dir. Jim Clark
Seen with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan round at her place, this is an absolutely cracking Vincent Price film which I can hardly believe I hadn't seen before. As in Theatre of Death, he is basically playing himself ('Dr. Death', a type-cast film-star), to the extent that clips from his character's supposed past performances were taken from footage of the real Vincent Price performing in Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe films. Around the story of his declining stardom, a murder-mystery unfolds, featuring Peter Cushing, lots of lovely Seventies clothes, and even some charming Seventies children. Just marvellous, and I will gladly watch it again any time.

26. The Wicker Tree (2011), dir. Robin Hardy
This is the film version of Hardy's novel, Cowboys for Christ, which I read and reviewed some years ago. Having read the novel, I had very low expectations for the film, with the result that I actually quite enjoyed it. It is pretty straightforwardly the same story, but probably a better film than the novel is a book - unsurprisingly, really, since that was how Hardy always intended it, and the novel was only what he did to get the story out while attempting to secure backing for the film. Christopher Lee appears, but only fairly briefly in a flashback, and that's probably for the best. Not as awful as it could have been, but a very poor shadow indeed of The Wicker Man. It's unwise to even think of the two as being in any way connected, really.

OK, just six more reviews to do in order to get up to date now - on films at least! But I think that's enough for one evening. Time to tag, format and heat up the last portion of the Christmas pudding ready for tonight's televisual treat...

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strange_complex: (Wicker Man sunset)
I watched this on the plane on the way to New York, which was nice as I missed it in the cinema. Presumably, I saw a slightly censored version, as the cinema release was a 12A, and as far as I understand all films available on in-flight entertainment systems have to be a PG or below. But basically I've seen it.

Overall verdict - jolly good. I've enjoyed the Judi Dench 'era' of Bond, but I guess nothing can last for ever, and she certainly had a very compelling exit. Playing Bond's character off against a bitter former agent made for some good opportunities to explore the personal cost of serving as a double-0 agent, especially when triangulated against the new Eve Moneypenny's ultimate decision not to go into the field herself. Speaking of Naomie Harris, I have always completely loved her in 28 Days Later, so was very pleased to come across her here again. And it is cool to have a new, minimalist techy Q on board as well. I've only seen the actor who plays him, Ben Whishaw, in Brideshead Revisited (2008), where I was distinctly underwhelmed with his petulant teenage Sebastian, but he seemed to work much better in this role.

The action sequences and dry humour that we all basically watch these films for were well in place, as were some fantastic locations. I especially enjoyed the Scottish highland setting for Skyfall itself, having been to very similar country so recently myself, and also Raoul Silva's abandoned industrial island complex. The best line of the film was easily Kincade's response to Bond asking him whether he was ready to face off their attackers at Skyfall: "I was ready before you were born, son" (the line really being made, of course, by a well-timed re-loading of his shotgun).

On the down-side, the stuff about Bond's parents dying when he was a child, and the link between that and his Freudian relationship with M as his substitute-'mother' sometimes came across as a bit cod-psychological. The return to the old-school set-up of a male M in an oak-panelled office and Miss Moneypenny in the ante-room outside could offer fresh opportunities for re-invention and subversion, but it also risks a return to the more misogynistic scripts which originally came with it (not that this one was exactly a feminist triumph - ask Sévérine, the trafficked sex-slave who ended up as a toy, broken in a fight between two men). And Raoul Silva was blatantly an Evil Gay, which I could really have done without.

Still, it was gripping, entertaining and fairly substantial for a Bond film, and I certainly enjoyed its company on a long-haul flight. I will be looking forward to more Naomie Harris in particular in the next instalment.

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strange_complex: (Penny Gadget)
I know I am several years late to the party on this one. I did actually try to see this film when it first came out, but hadn't booked ahead and couldn't manage to get into a showing. So, what with one thing and another, this is the first I've seen of Daniel Craig's Bond.

It's definitely quite a change in direction. I liked how the chase straight after the opening sequence was on foot - it signalled the 'back to basics' approach, but also still made me gasp with awe at the clever use of gymnastics and props. And I like the way some of the old paradigms were inverted - like seeing Daniel Craig emerge dripping from the sea in his bathing trunks, in place of the classic old-school image of Ursula Andress in Dr. No.

I can't say I followed the plot terribly well, despite having read the novel as a teenager, mainly because I actually watched this film in two halves with several months in between them (all to do with a cock-up in setting the recorder for it in the first place). But it didn't really matter - I don't ask for Bond films to be anything much more than a series of impossibly-exotic characters floating through a succession of spectacular set-pieces anyway. And the set-pieces certainly delivered - particular the destruction of the Venetian palazzo at the end of the film, which was absolutely breath-taking.

I did find the portrayal of Le Chiffre's asthma slightly annoying - it's often mis-portrayed in film and TV, and I do wish actors and producers would bother investing five minutes in learning how inhalers are actually meant to be used before trying to portray it on screen. Still, then again, I don't suppose many people really go around bleeding continually from their left eye or re-joining poker games minutes after experiencing cardiac arrest either, so maybe I shouldn't be too picky.

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