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A Christmas Song (2012)
Inoffensive, light and (Christmas) fun
Natasha Henstridge plays Miss Thiessen and Gabriel Hogan plays Mr Stoddard, two High School Music teachers who are in competition for one job following a merger of a girls' and a boys' school. The competition boils down to a competition over who has directed the best Christmas carol performance.
Filmed in Ontario, and directed by Timothy Bond, production values are good. To remind us it's Christmas, every scene features garlands and Christmas lights in the background with plenty of fake snow everywhere, and snow-covered fake bushes.
Look, it's inoffensive, light and fun. Henstridge is very easy on the eye and Hogan has clearly done lots of this stuff before. Of course the plot is predictable and the dialogue bland. But for a Sunday afternoon pre-Christmas with kids and grandparents this is well pitched
Today You Die (2005)
Today you diet. Better than most recent offerings.
Seagal is back! Overweight, mumbling, dyed hair, immobile. I love this stuff. Please note, if it moves, it's the stunt double. However, although Seagal (Harlan Banks here) can't act, some of the support is OK.
Mari Morrow plays his girlfriend Jada. She's pretty and handles her part well. Although this wasn't the smartest career move, she stands out. Sarah Buxton, less so. Is she full of botox, or just have no facial expression? Robert Mianpo, Nick Mancuso, Kevin Tighe (Max) all do OK. Which, in a Seagal film, is praise.
The plot seems better than usual. He's a thief trying to go straight, and gets set up as a getaway driver. In fact the getaway scene is the best in the movie. But it all goes downhill from there.
Seagal goes to jail. We're in prison, in a desert area. But one of the guards appears to be standing in front of a wood and we keep seeing trees everywhere.
He escapes with Treach ridiculously easily, gets armed and looks for Max. Now we have a scene with an old Jaguar with blacked out windows. Except, when Seagal's inside, it's some sort of American sedan with clear glass! I came to this film ready to criticise but there are signs that old Seagal is beginning to realise the joke. This is better than most recent offerings. It's actually quite watchable.
A View to a Kill (1985)
A View to a Kill is the most questionable Bond so far in the series. For example, Why persevere with Roger Moore at the age of 57 when the main love interest is 29? Why cast Tanya Roberts anyway when she was fresh from a Razzie nomination for Sheena, Queen of the Jungle? She repaid the producers by getting one for this film too! Why set the opening scene in the gorgeous setting of Iceland, then use the Beach Boys' California girls as the music? Talking of music, who authorised Duran Duran to sing the title track? This dirge has dated worse than any other Bond theme song.
Am I right in thinking that the only high-tech gadget here is a pair of Polarizing sunglasses? Is the first love interest before the title sequence played by Alison Doody? She was 19 at the time. Moore could have been her grandad. Of all the women Bond beds in this film, Ivanova (Fiona Fullerton) seems the most convincing.
I'm not against using older actors appropriately. For instance, Patrick Macnee works well with Moore as Sir Godfrey Tibbett. Makes you wonder why he wasn't considered earlier.
Grace Jones (May Day) is just bizarre in every scene, though her jump from the Eiffel Tower is spectacular, as is Bond's driving, or rather the stunt-double-who-looks-nothing-like-Bond's driving.
Christopher Walkden is oddly restrained, and who told Alison Doody and Patrick Bauchau to deliver their lines in a nasal monotone? Tanya Roberts delivers her lines as if she is unfamiliar with the meaning of any word of more than two syllables, and we're supposed to believe she is the State Geologist, which is totally ridiculous.
All in all, this is a mess.
Roger Moore's penultimate Bond movie - pretty good
Familiar formula for Roger Moore's penultimate Bond movie aged 55, Pre-title sequence is good, but the theme song sung by Rita Coolidge is not. Not even lyrics by Tim Rice could save it.
There's a new M (Robert Brown) but the same Moneypenny and Q.
There is a proper spy story here, concerning a Faberge egg, which Bond bids for at an auction, switching it for a fake in the process. The buyer is Kamal (Louis Jourdan). Bond tracks him to India.
Why is Vijay Armitraj in this film, trying to act, and to get laughs with tennis references? Octopussy island is where we get to see Maud Adams again. I still don't think she's great and I prefer her henchmen, played by Pan's People fave Cherry Gillespie and 6-footer Suzanne Jerome, who died a few years after this film was made.
I did feel we were back to the pace being ponderous but the later scenes on the train were good, even if they were reminiscent of the Great St Trinians Train Robbery.
Overall, pretty good.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
For Your Eyes Only opens with Bond triumphing over Blofeld. Cartoon villain dispatched, we get Sheena Easton appearing herself while singing the Theme, one of the best in the series. It's a good start.
What follows is a well crafted story involving the murder of Melina Havelock's (Caroline Bouquet) parents and Bond teaming up with her to try to locate the ATAC device. There's a great car chase involving a Citroen 2CV. I like Bouquet but it's a shame that she had to be dubbed..
Following the death of Bernard Lee (M), Desmond Llewelyn's Q gets an enhanced role here and Locque (Michael Gothard) is identified as the man they want to find.
In the Italian Alps there is a slightly disturbing scene where the 16-year old Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson) attempts to seduce Bond, being played by 54 year old Roger Moore. It's not essential to the plot. And lies somewhere between unbelievable and creepy.
Anyway, we soon have some great ski/motorbike chases though it was during one of these that a stuntman was killed. A small gripe is that the score is often annoying.
This is a proper film, only reverting to the old jokiness right at the end where we see John Wells and Janet Brown as Dennis and Margaret Thatcher.
Space age Bond
The last Bond of the 70s, and Roger Moore's fourth. He has settled nicely into the role but maybe is starting to look a bit old at 52 to be lusting after 20-year-olds.
The pre-title sequence is again spectacular and involves a parachute (well it worked last time) However the theme music is not so memorable despite Shirley Bassey getting the job again and vocally as good as 15 years earlier.
Richard Kiel gets the henchman role again as Jaws but plays it more for laughs. Michael Lonsdale is good as megabaddy Drax. M, Q, Moneypenny all present and correct, though this is Bernard Lee's last appearance as M, the actor dying before the next one could be completed.
Eye candy is provided by Corinne Clery (as Corinne Dufour) and Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead. But acting is poor, Corinne is clearly dubbed, Chiles delivers every line in a monotone and I didn't find either of them as hot as Jaws' girlfriend played by Blanche Ravalec.
How lovely it is to see Alfie Bass in a 5-second cameo. But what a waste.
The close encounters notes must have seemed funny at the time but its humour wears off after a bit.
So how many 7-up product placements did you spot?
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
A better Bond
Aaah James, I cannot find the words. Well let me try to enlarge your vocabulary.
And we're back. Much better opening this time. Spectacular skiing/parachuting sequence. And Carly Simon's vocals on the theme song are top quality.
It's now 1977 and we're in Cold War territory. M and Q (Lee and Llewelyn) are back on form. The brown suits are less in evidence.
Jaws (Richard Kiel) is the new henchman. He's big and nasty and has sharp teeth. Doesn't move too well though.
Barbara Bach as Anya Amasova is beautiful but her voice appears clearly overdubbed and as for acting ability...Caroline Munro is also beautiful but, if anything, worse. However, this is Roger Moore's best acting performance in a Bond film up to this point.
The Leyland Sherpa Van also deserves a mention. I remember fondly my University had one between 1976-1979. And Valerie Leon makes the most gorgeous hotel receptionist ever in a brief appearance. What a waste.
All in all a much better film than the last outing even though the formula is already looking a bit tired.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
The opening scene of this one is slow, like the rest of it. NickNack (Herve Villechaize) is not a good actor and 52-year old Christopher Lee (Scaramanga) is clearly using a body double for the action bits. I don't think Lulu's theme song has weathered the years as well as she has done though she certainly belts it out.
Bond's opening scene is more traditional this time with M (Bernard Lee) and Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), though Desmond Llewelyn's Q eclipses James Cossins as Colthorpe.
We're still in the 1970s with its brown suits, brown cars and product placement Brut aftershave.
Bond still has his one-liners (I've lost my charm! Not from where I'm standing) but they are weak.
Maud Adams never was a great actress and yet Britt Ekland is handed the doormat role of Mary Goodnight. Scenes with Lee and Adams are unconvincing due to the age difference. Clifton James reprises his mouthy cop from Live and Let Die and in the process hurts the film more than he helps it.
The car chase is good, though.
Live and Let Die (1973)
Loved this one. Great theme song by Paul McCartney at the height of his Wings period. Best looking Bond babe ever Madeline Smith. And was Roger Moore the best Bond ever? I kinda think so.
There's a 70s flavour to everything (reel-to-reel tape, brown suits) and the film is none the worse for that. I actually wasn't so keen on Jane Seymour in her role as Solitaire too posh, too detached. Gloria Hendry seems to struggle a bit too as Rosie Carver.
Yaphet Kotto makes a good bad guy. Julius Harris is good as Tee Hee and Clifton James adds some comedy value as J.W. Pepper. David Hedison is this film's Felix Leiter and he is also good.
Some great chase scenes. Great one-liners. Good cinematography by Ted Moore. Well directed by Guy Hamilton.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Not a return to the glory days unfortunately
In the 90s "The Simpsons" was the funniest, most original cartoon ever. It was always going to be difficult for "The Movie" to recapture the glory days and it doesn't do that. It seems like nothing more than an extended TV episode of latter day "Simpsons".
"The Simpsons Movie" was apparently edited heavily, and Kelsey Grammar, Minnie Driver, Isla Fisher and Erin Brockovich all had their scenes cut out. But it is still ponderous.
Some inhabitants of Springfield have only very brief cameos if at all (Mr Burns, Moe, Sideshow Bob, Principal Skinner, Skinner's mother, Apu, Groundskeeper Willie, Millhouse's parents). The new characters like the Irish kid Colin, are irritating.
The plot is facile, concerning a giant dome put on Springfield to hold in the pollution and the government intending to blow up the city to get rid of it. And the whole Alaska section was weak. What made the Simpsons great was its subtle satire. The movie is like a parody of itself, the same kind of stupid sitcom it once made fun of. Replacing Alf Clausen's usual score with Hans Zimmer is also a mistake. The straightforward orchestral treatment for the show is very distracting.
Having said all that there are some good lines (Bart: It's the worst day of my life. Homer: It's the worst day of your life so far) and some good visuals (nude skateboarding). But you'd get more fun, and save a lot of time, by watching any episode from the first eight series.