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Casino Royale (2006)
Excellent prequel to the series
Though it doesn't care too much about the series' continuity (it's supposed to be Bond's first mission as a 00 agent, but it takes place after the Cold war and Judi Dench is already M), "Casino Royale" is a great re-creation of the series. Cool action, great thrills and a more humane Bond more than make up for the purported lack of gadgets. Daniel Craig plays Bond as a rough secret who only gradually acquires the class and cold demeanor we all know and love. He makes mistakes in the course of his mission, but that makes him even more of a hero. Although I found it hard at first to cope with Craig's looks, he is more than suitable as the character. Bond is portrayed as a man with flaws and weaknesses, which makes him look even stronger. The story is not your usual Bond plot and relies more on classical thrills than technology, though the action is extremely hard-boiled. Kudos to the creepy Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre and Eva Green as Vesper Lynd for creating remarkably believable characters. A definite must-see for Bond fans : it should reconcile at last Ian Fleming aficionados and fans of the film series !
Quelques jours en septembre (2006)
Pretentious euro-pudding pseudo-spy movie
Other than good performances from Juliette Binoche, Sara Forestier and the likable newcomer Tom Riley, this movie doesn't have much to recommend it. Aiming to be a "metaphoric" spy movie about the evils of secrecy and the wounds of childhood, the film fails for having plot devices instead of characters and a sloppy, unconvincing direction, resulting in an overall bore. We are also treated with highly annoying anti-American propaganda. Nick Nolte pops up in the last ten minutes like a poor man's Colonel Kurtz but his appearance comes too late to wake up the movie. For works playing successfully playing with the thriller genre, try some of Paul Austers'books or Wim Wenders'earlier films instead. Skip this one.
Haute tension (2003)
At last, a good french horror film!
With a few happy exceptions ("Eyes without a face" being one), french filmmakers have had little flair for horror films, let alone slasher flicks. Though it has some flaws, "High tension" is a thoroughly enjoyable and nasty piece of works, with fine acting (kudos to Philippe Nahon as the slimy killer), good direction and a great, sick twist ending. Although many people dislike the ending, and the fact that it belies several scenes, I just loved it : must be my sadistic side :). I read on IMDb about the inane American dubbing : quite a pity that such a fine film would be treated with such disrespect.
Cécile de France (a Belgian actress, actually, despite her -real- name) proves herself to be one of the most promising actresses in french cinema. She's definitely a performer to watch for, though Maïwenn Le Besco also gives an excellent performance despite being mute and gagged during most of the film.
Unabashed fun !
Mazinkaiser vs the Great general of darkness is a basic retelling of the "Great Mazinger" series's story : our heroes battle the evil forces of the subterranean Mikene empire, bent on destroying mankind and all things sacred. One hour of total mayhem ensues, with fights from start to finish. While being rather simple, the plot still manages to be suspenseful, and is actually better than the already great "Mazinkaiser" mini-series. Less broad humor, and more action, with a story moving at a frantic pace. The villains are just plain hideous and suitably vicious. Parents beware, the movie is rather violent and some of you may not find it suitable for younger children (although there is much, much worse on the market).
Highly recommended if you enjoy fine Japanese animation and if you're a nostalgic of the old "Mazinger" series. Not exactly food for thought, but certainly a heart-warming occasion to see your old heroes kicking again !
Beauty and Warrior (2002)
I am just speechless : this inane and ultra-obscure Asian cartoon (apparently an adaptation of some Indonesian legend, though I'm not positive about it) holds the distinction of being extremely short and totally confusing. A princess is exiled from the realm of the gods for marrying a human being. Her sister follows her, not wanting to be separated from her, then they immediately split (hu?) and only one is heard of again (the sister, I assume). Then she becomes queen of some underworld realm populated by a remarkable population of five monsters. Two twins then arrive to find some magic sword of sorts. Who they are and why they do it is never quite explained. Much confusion ensues, as, thanks to an inept English dubbing, characters keep saying one thing, then doing the opposite. For example, the princess greets the warrior in her realm, then sends her monsters against him for no particular reason. What the hell? The "movie" (can we call it like that as it's only 41 minutes long???) ends at mid-action. Completely bewildering cartoon, with extremely low production values : it looks like it was done in a sweat shop by a bunch of underpaid slaves. For extremely curious masochists only.
Gurêto Majingâ (1974)
Great follow-up to "Mazinger Z"
"Great Mazinger" is a direct sequel to "Mazinger Z", since Mazinger Z's last episode is also Great Mazinger's first. To battle a new, more powerful menace, an improved version of Mazinger, with a new pilot, is introduced. The new hero, Tetsuya, proves to be a bit of a hothead and in the end he'll need the help of Koji (the hero of Mazinger Z) so he can defeat the forces of evil. I have great childhood memories of this show : the art was inventive and the villains rather scary, at least more than in "Mazinger Z". The Mikene empire, set at the center of the earth, was populated with grotesque half-beast creatures who kept sending one grotesque threat after another. Definitely a great show, with a darker, grittier tone than "Mazinger Z".
UFO robo: Gurendaizâ (1975)
Great childhood memories
OK, the animation may be stiff and the characters cardboard, but this show carries great memories for thousands of people around the world. Mildly successful in Japan, "Grendizer" aka "Goldorak" or "Goldrake" was one of the first Japanese cartoons to achieve such great success and retain a cult following for such a long time. Even today, the struggle of the hero Actarus (aka Duke Fleed) against the evil hordes of "Great Strateguerre" Vega give me shivers down my spine! BTW, among the corny aspects of the show, which add to its appeal : why the heck does Vega keep sending his giant robots ONE BY ONE (gettings their asses kicked by Grendizer episode after episode) instead of sending them all in one big assault? Beats me. Talk about a lousy galactic overlord! Seeing a Grendizer episode is like a fountain of youth to me ! I just can't get enough of its cheesy charm!
No Dead Heroes (1986)
Highly recommended for a good laugh!
Totally brain-dead actioner made in the Philippines. This belongs to the mode of Filipino movies which tried to pass themselves as American films on the international market. After a rather dull beginning, the movie takes off and never disappoints again. It is actually a rip-off of the worst movies Chuck Norris ever made : an American prisoner in Vietnam is brainwashed by the soviets who implant a microchip in his brain so he is programmed to kill the Pope, then the President of the USA. One of his old buddies (played by B-movie stalwart Max Thayer) is sent to stop him. Utterly ridiculous action scenes, putrid acting (Nick Nicholson's performance as the evil soviet commander is a must-see!)and implausible plot make up for one of the cheesiest action pictures ever bestowed in the general public.
SWAT: Warhead One (2004)
Hilarious, if you're in the right mood
This atrociously atrocious atrocity is a showcase for the producing company Cine Excel's staggering lack of talent and decent budget. Laughable special effects, ineptly staged fights and a fair number of action scenes all taking place in the same couple of empty stairs make up for a delightfully pathetic excuse for entertainment.
The best thing about this mess is the reporter's character, played by Cine Excel regular Mel Novak : this guy obviously serves the purpose to explain the plot for the audience. But not only that : since Cine Excel lacks the budget to film any decent action or plot development, Novak's bizarrely omniscient character will indulge in over-complicated explanations, so the audience will (hopefully) believe that they are seeing a movie with a real plot. As a result, the whole movie is rendered nearly incomprehensible. Quite a feat. This is a definite must-see for fans of the "so-bad-it's-good" genre.
La grande maffia... (1971)
Like a trip on acid
This french comedy from the 1970s is so incredibly idiotic that it looks as if everyone was on glue on the set. Surrealistic gags, inane dialog, wildly over-the-top performances by generally excellent actors make for a rather unforgettable experiment. Scene after scene, one keeps wondering what they were thinking of making this movie. It looks very much as if it was improvised on the set day by day. Top-notch performances from Francis Blanche, Sim and Sidney Chaplin (Charlie's son...I kid you not!) more than compensate for the absence of any logic and good taste. This was the third movie directed by Philippe Clair, and it is arguably one of his best ones, mostly thanks to the performers. Aldo Maccione and his two partners (the trio then known as "Les Tontos") ham it up so much that they make the Three stooges look like wax figures! Recommended for fans of stupid french comedies and lovers of the so-bad-it's-good genre.