Thursday, 26 September 2013

Nick's Top Ten Bond Films (Part 2)

5. Goldeneye 

Pierce Brosnan’s debut as James Bond definitely reignited the franchise after a longer than expected hiatus. Removing the violence and dark tones of Licence to Kill, the film continued with the action packed direction of Bond with a brilliant tank chase around St Petersburg and the exhilarating finale in Cuba. With a great support cast including the trademark Sean Bean as Alec Trevelyn, Famke Janssen as the femme fatale Xenia Onatopp and Alan “I am invincible” Cummings as Boris, Goldeneye has remained a huge part of my childhood. I also particularly like the chemistry between Q and Bond in this film, with the line “Don’t touch that, that’s my lunch” being a favourite line of mine. All in all Brosnans’ Bond debut was his best.  

4.  Licence to Kill 

With the campiness of the Roger Moore Bond series in the past it was refreshing to see a grittier and serious Bond, as composed in Ian Fleming’s writing. Personally, Timothy Dalton is my favourite Bond of all time and it’s unfortunate that he only appeared in two films. Looking back, I believe he was probably ahead of his time and the mainstream audience didn’t really adapt to the sudden change in tone and persona. But I could easily see him perfectly fit in with the current era of Bond and the modern espionage genre. The film itself typifies the modern gritty nature of Daltons’ Bond with it’s violence and stern demeanour.  Many fans complained about the amount of violence in the film, however as Fleming stated the books weren’t made for schoolchildren but for an adult audience. Along with the dark tone it has some brilliant action scenes, with the final truck scene being the most memorable. It also has a pretty awesome villain in the form of Sanchez played by Robert Davi, and not forgetting a young Benico del Toro. 

3. Living Daylights 

Even before this film was released many fans and critics were writing off Dalton as the new Bond. Yet it had become increasingly evident that the franchise was faulting under it’s general campiness and an ageing Roger Moore. Dalton came in with a new, reinvigorated approach to the icon with Living Daylights, and he nailed it. A truly fantastic debut performance enhanced a well-written film containing another one of my favourite car scenes involving the return of Aston Martin in form of the beautiful Vantage. From the film’s opening in Gibraltar to the brawl on the back of a Hercules plane, Daylights is an intense and highly enjoyable.The film also has another one of the more stand out Bond girls Kara Milovy played by Maryam d’Abo who, like Eva Green and Jane Seymour, has more of a purpose than simply eye candy. My only problem with this film is that the major villains General Koskov and Brad Whittaker are not sinister or threatening enough to really be remembered, they seem rather jokey than serious. 

2. Goldfinger 

Most people you ask would say this is quintessentially the film that made the James Bond series. From the memorable characters of Goldfinger, Pussy Galore and Oddjob to the Aston Martin DB5 and Shirley Basseys’ booming opening, Goldfinger oozed style and character. With Connery at his peak as Bond I don’t think I need to say much more… but it isn’t my number one. 

1. Casino Royale (2006) 

With “Casino Royale” being Fleming’s first Bond novel, it was the perfect platform for Daniel Craig to make his mark as James Bond and to reboot the franchise after the terrible Die Another Day. Daniel Craig revived the serious and grittier side of Bond following on from where Dalton left off, which was the right way to go with the changing nature of the modern “action film”. The film captured the quintessentially notions of a true Bond film; intense action scenes, exotic locations, a memorable villain, a gorgeous Bond girl and the suaveness and style of Bond. Yet the hallmarks of a very modern imagining of the character and franchise are present. A versatile and charming Eva Green managed to reignite the need for a key chemistry between Bond and his lover. This is perfectly handled when the two  are conversing about the mission on the train to Montenegro. Their rapport also produces most of the humorous aspects within the film as well as showing both characters’ vulnerability. The pacing, editing, score and production values have pushed the franchise back into the limelight, and while I hated Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, it’s good to see people getting back into the spirit of “Bond”. 

Friday, 13 September 2013

Give Ryan Gosling Some Lines, Please.

Ryan Gosling’s popularity has exploded ever since the 2004‘s lovey-dubey/schlock-fest The Notebook, yet one thing has become evidently clear; he’s a man of few words. While some may demote his career and popularity to his good looks, I think Gosling is a genuinely talented actor with “good looks”. But after the likes of Drive, The Place Beyond The Pines and Only God Forgives his performances have been summarised by his blank stares and frustrating muteness. I understand that the writers/ directors intend this as an artistic portrayal of character development, but I’m not seeing it 100%. Sure, if you read into the film as an entirety; the supporting characters, story and dialogue (what little there is), you could conclude on the rather stale constructions of his various characters. But a script goes a long way to bring personality and emotional attachment to the individual. 

The Ides of March, Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl and Blue Valentine demonstrate that Gosling understands and is fully capable of giving a decent performance. Lars is a thought provoking film that remains distinctly innocent and endearing even with its rather strange nature. Here he plays a socially awkward yet charming man who develops a romantic relationship with a sex doll. His delicate psychology lead to the local community  accepting “her”, in turn building their own relationships with her. As creepy as that sounds, Gosling’s character is central to the film’s success. In hindsight, his performance is in stark contrast to his recent form and roles. Playing a socially inept individual, he really drives the fragile and timid nature of his character home. The film actually spends a lot of emphasis and time on Lar’s development as an individual within the context of his relationship both with the doll named Bianca, his family and the locals. The struggles of his past, especially with his father, also are reflected in Gosling’s strong performance.  He got nominated for a Golden Globe and for a Screen Actors Guild Award for his role as Lars, yet it’s slightly disheartened to hear that hardly anyone has seen the film. 

In contrast Only God Forgives, Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film, stars Gosling as a Thai boxing coach/ drug dealer caught in the middle of his mother’s violent search for justice. Suffering from being more “style over substance”, Gosling’s role in the film is just frustrating. While Drive teated on the edge between tedium and understanding with the long pauses and awkward stares, the film managed to still created an interesting side to “The Driver”. Only God Forgives on the other hand, fails to do anything remotely engaging as a whole. The basic sense of empathy is there for his situation, but there’s little to talk about in regards to his performance. With the lack of any real dialogue in the film’s first 15 minutes how are we supposed to connect to his character? 

Ryan Gosling’s popularity has stemmed from his confidence on screen and undoubtably his good looks. But seeing him in a more “independent circle”, has shown that he is a capable performer. While he is planning a hiatus from acting to get behind the camera, I still believe he has the capacity to become something more than a attractive dude with a blank stare. So I plead to the film industry, give Mr Gosling some more lines. I don’t even mind if he hasn’t got a shirt on, as long as he’s saying something.