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Retro Review:Casino Royale

Taking over from the naturally charming Pearce Brosnan who had become regarded by many as possibly the best Bond after Sean Connery was always going to be a challenge. Daniel Craig was also for many at the time an unknown quantity with parts in movies like Tomb Raider, Munich and Layer Cake when he was cast as the world’s most famous spy.  Plan’s for a rebut made some fans nervous and only added to the building uncertainty as film makers had flagged their intention to follow the more physical and realistic style laid out by the Bourne series. In this climate it was announced that Daniel Craig’s first movie as 007 would be an adoption of Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale which didn’t fail to get people excited. Ultimately these decisions help lead to a successful debut and possible the best Bond film ever made.

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The switch to a more physical approach worked perfectly for the introduction of the athletic Daniel Craig. This new look is obvious from the film’s opening sequence as the planned clean kill turns into a desperate struggle for survival. It isn’t until after Chris Connell’s theme that Craig’s physical approach to 007 really comes into focus through the parkour chase sequence in a construction site. While this opening scene may have been the height of Bonds physicality it remains visible throughout the rest of the film either in several hand to hand fight sequences or Bonds torture. This change allowed the film to distinguish Craig’s Bond from the earlier versions but isn’t the main reason for the film’s success.

Instead it is the focus on character development and creating a more emotionally complex storyline that makes Casino Royale standout. The central plot based on the capture of La Chiffre makes for an interesting backdrop to develop Bond’s character. The nearly promoted 007 spends most of the film coming to terms with his new position in the secret service as he is driven by a need to prove himself to those around him. This play’s out in the suspense of the poker game where Bond matches wits with La Chiffre and tries to impress the hard to catch Vesper Lynd. Unlike other movies where everything runs to plan the poker game forces Bond to face his own failure before he is given the chance to learn from his mistakes. His success is short lived as he must learn yet another cruel lesson when those closest to Bond ultimately betray him leaving him damaged and enlighten to the dangers of failing to remain detached.

This focus on character development would not be possible without a strong supporting cast. Dame Judi Dench remains reprising her role as M, ably fulfilling a duel maternal role, part guardian and part disciplinarian.  Mal Mikkelsen gives a calculating performance as La Chiffre providing a reserved counter to Bond’s charisma. It is the rare occasions when he loses his cool that Mikkelsen makes the role work as he gives a real intensity that represents the desperation of La Chiffre position. Possibly the greatest choice made by the production team however is Eva Green as Vesper Lynda. Not only is she captivating on screen but her ability to deliver witty comebacks with believable sarcasm makes the banter with Bond work. Like the other characters in Casino Royale, Vesper drops the prickly demeanour which Bond highlights at their first meaning and Green is able to effectively communicate her character’s emotional turmoil as their relationship develops. These strong performances help make Casino Royale more believable and contribute to Bond’s own development but what I notice the most is the film’s return to Fleming’s original body of work.

Reading my first Bond novel years ago ‘Dr No’ the thing that struck me as a fan of the films is Bond’s fragility as a man of flesh and blood as he spends a large section of the book either in pain or recovering. This same element is present in Casino Royale as unlike other Bond movies every battle leaves him with new scares that he must carry, the best example is after the fight in the hotel staircase as later when he is using the defibrillator the bandage from this earlier sequence is visible. Like Fleming’s Bond the representation in Casino Royale doesn’t get everything right and this leads to his capture and torture. This scene which makes every man in a cinema wince has Bond stripped of any hope or chance of escape and he relies ultimately on Mr White’s intervention for his survival.

The film ends with the classic James Bond calling card but Casino Royale is far from the simplistic story of its 20 predecessors with clear layers of development. However, importantly for fans it does not do away with the traditional elements of the classics as the silencer, car and witty one liners are all balanced with new style of Bond movie.

9/10

Jono

Lets get Mad on the Fury Road

I know it’s a bit late to review Mad Max: Fury Road but now I’m on holidays I have finally got a chance to start catching up with some serious viewing, so here goes…

I don’t know about the rest of you but when I first heard about Mad Max 4 I was very apprehensive thanks to the disappointment that came out of Beyond Thunderdome. However, after keeping track of the films development and hearing some feedback from a few reliable sources I started to get a bit more excited. As an Australian I have long considered Mad Max and it’s sequel The Road Warrior to be two of the best examples of our unique brand of gritty film making also present in Wolf Creek and Animal Kingdom. Its a quality that can often be lost in the big budget Hollywood productions which have a tendency to make action to heavily processed and ridiculously unbelievable with the added insult of simplistic noble stereotypes. Thankfully … Mad Max Fury Road is faithful to it’s origins and delivers a high octane hit of adrenaline in a flawlessly depicted version of a post – apocalyptic world.

Returning to the helm after 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome George Miller is able to deliver the world he envisioned in 1981 after the remains of a decaying society seen in the original Mad Max are swept away. To the stark and harsh desert of the apocalypse Fury Road brings a depth to this vision that was missing form the earlier films through variation. During the film as Max and his companions journey across the land they are faced with different environmental obstacles which are as bleak and desolate in their own way as the all to familiar desert. It is this variation that makes the world of Fury Road more realistic and even brings a sense of adventure to the film.

It is the action sequences were Fury Road really stands out as despite the $150 million budget it resists the urge to give into the Hollywood tendency for bigger is better. The film blends individual action sequences into one nearly two-hour car chase filled with V8 engines, gun fire, explosions and customary gritty violence. Surprisingly, based on this description the films actions sequences seem more realistic and avoid the far-fetched cliché’s of other movies such as the prevalence of martial arts training or the ability to survive multiple gunshot wounds. One of the elements most noticeable are the periods of silence that follows each confrontation where the characters actually have to reflect on the cost of their actions or the losses they have suffered. In these instances a few words, the growl of the engine and a series of small subtle expressions are all that are required to allow the audience to believe that the characters belong in this vision of the future.

This is were the cast led by Tom Hardy as Max and Charlize Theron as Furiosa make the film work as the characters communicate volumes with limited dialogue. Theron provides a gripping portrayal of a women of action and gritty determination while carrying the scares of her past, trying desperately to hold on to some form of hope. In contrast Hardy has even less dialogue to bring depth to his portrayal of Max yet, he is able to create a loner hunted by the events of the original Mad Max who develops through the relationships and experience he shares with Furiosa. They are ably supported by a well chosen cast who also manage to communicate through looks and gestures just as much as dialogue. A special mention must go to Hugh Keays-Bryne who played the Toecutter in the original Mad Max for returning as the principal villain Immortan Joe.

One of the things I liked must about Fury Road is it emphasised these links to the original films and didn’t try to reboot the series. The continued references to the lose of Max’s child although with some slight differences brings back memories of Mad Max and his V8 interceptor still makes a cameo. However, the film is more reminiscent of the 1981 sequel The Road Warrior since it takes the final car chase and extends it over the course of the 2-hours. Thankfully, Fury Road does avoid following the mistakes of Beyond Thunderdome by including a logical plot.

Mad Max: Fury Road is possibly the best action movie I have seen in years and is definitely a cut above most of the so called blockbusters released this year. This is a must watch of any action movie buff or any fans of the originals as it clearly delivers, I’m even looking forward to the next instalment, Mad Max: The Wasteland

Action: 10/10

Storyline: 7/10

Cast: 8/10

Cinematography: 9/10

 Overall: 9/10

If your interested in checking out a few more reviews head over to the movie guys

Jono

The way to Ryse

Since Ryse: Son of Rome has been on the Xbox One from day one this is not going to be a full review rather a few observations which could have taken the game to the next level. Don’t get me wrong Ryse has excellent graphics and decent game play with a well thought  model for combat, however despite the best efforts to keep this varied it does get repetitive. Even so it is well worth getting especially for the $29 I picked it up from JB Hi Fi for in January as it is engaging and easy to  jump straight in.

My major criticism of the game is the blatant and unforgivable historical inaccuracies starting with the inclusion of the Colosseum despite the games setting during the reign of Nero. The Flavian Amphitheater as it is called was commissioned under Nero’s success Vespasian and completed by his sons during what is called the Flavian dynasty.  It was an obvious attempt to work to the average persons preconception of Ancient Rome, however the success of HBO’s ROME demonstrates that this isn’t necessary.  Other inaccuracies include the over simplification of military structure where a Centurion who commands 80 men out of 5000 would have direct and regular access to the legion commander, not to mention the idea that a general’s son would every be a traditional legionary.

These are just a couple of examples but perhaps something slightly more relevant would be the story line.  Considering the richness of Roman history it is amazing that the developers tried to create some fanciful notion of a British threat to the heart of the Empire when they could have just tapped into real events. Endless civil wars and large scale conflicts with Carthage would have made a good place to start.

Ryse could have been a great opportunity to immerse gamers into the world of Ancient Rome and perhaps would have worked better as an action RPG. Imagine the possibilities of playing through the civil war as Marcus Agrippa and experiencing the end of the Republic from next to Augustus as the Imperial era began.

6.5/10

Skyfall

The latest addition to the James Bond franchise is a return to form and thankfully dispels the bitter taste left after “Quantum of Solace”. Daniel Craig reprises his role as the famous MI6 operative who returns from the wilderness when the secret service itself comes under attack. Bond must overcome his own personal demons to hunt down the threat and protect the core of MI6.

“Quantum of Solace” the previous film moved away from the traditional formula in an effort to modernise the series. This brave approach did not receive a positive response from the ‘die-hard’ Bond fans who have well developed expectations for the franchise. Fans reaction to this film demonstrated the need to return to the traditions that has built one of cinema’s greatest series. The result is a Bond movie that combines high-paced action sequences with the return of the classic 007 whity one liners and shows an appropriate respect for tradition while avoiding tokenism.

The DB5 Returns

Skyfall’s success is largely due to the development of a harrowing villain portrayed by Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) who presents the perfect onscreen contrast to Craig’s physical Bond. Expertly supported by Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney the cast breathes new life into a 50 year old institution. The icing on the cake, Adele’s Academy Award winning theme just cements ‘Skyfall’ as one of the best Bond films yet.

8.5/10

Avengers Assemble

The Avengers written and directed by Joss Whedon strikes a blow against the poor adaptation of celebrated comic book heroes to the big screen. Through his unique source of comedy familiar to fans of the TV shows Buffy and Firefly, Whedon adds a little bit of depth to an adrenaline filled action movie that pays more than a passing reference to the beloved comic books.

When the world is threatened by the an alien invasion by the evil Loki and his army Nick Fury portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson in listed the aid of earths greatest Heroes led by Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America to help save the plant. The first part of the film focuses on creating this dysfunctional team of Avengers and their conflicts with each other. Building towards the 40 minute pay off high-octane action which makes up the films climax.

The special effects clearly standout as a high point for any action junkie but it is the interplay between the different characters which makes the Avengers more than your average comic book movie. Often using a host of pop culture references the confrontations between Downey Jr. and Evans as the two principle leads are especially entertaining.

Rating 8/10