“Hey Batman! I’m Rubbing My Butt All Over Your Stuff! Gonna Have To Rename This The “Buttmobile”…”
A few years back, the appeal of an animated, feature-length Lego movie did indeed falter at first input into my mind, with the only response to the existence of such being an unashamedly sarcastic giggle, a response which in hindsight was one of undeniable small-mindedness considering the monumental success of The Lego Movie back in 2014 and the irritable notion of walking out the cinema singing “Everything Is Awesome” for the foreseeable future, which in itself resulted in astute looks of bewilderment from those within my singing range. With power however comes great responsibility and more importantly, a sequel, a sequel which this time focuses primarily on the Caped Crusader himself and a sequel which continues the sharp, witty standards set by the original whilst successfully improving upon its’ predecessor by being a much more relatable and comedically astute animated offering. Being a huge fan of Gotham’s most infamous export anyway, The Lego Batman Movie is an undeniable universal success, providing a steady output of eye-boggling animation for the younger viewers as well as a rafter of constant jokes to keep the older audience smiling from beginning to end.
With a lightning-fast string of laugh-out-loud quips, puns and nods to the world of comics throughout its’ more than satisfactory ninety minute runtime, The Lego Batman Movie is a movie which lays to waste most so-called comedies of recent years, relying on a mixture of gold-plated one-liners and animated slapstick amidst a narrative which obviously verges on the edge of absurdity from the get-go, one which features a broken hearted Joker and a selection of infamous villains from a wide range of different universes such as Harry Potter’s Voldemort, Sauron from The Lord of the Rungs, and my personal favourite; the Daleks, all of whom team up against the most egoistic yet unrelentlessly hilarious incarnation of Bruce Wayne yet, one which gives Christian Bale’s portrayal a run for its’ money. Whilst the film does become too fast-paced at times, with the structure so relentless you live in fear of missing certain jokes and particular Easter eggs, The Lego Batman Movie is a superb and mightily entertaining piece of cinema, one which not only adds to the argument of the current golden age of animation but one which will result in you never watching any other Batman movie in the same way ever again. Everything is awesome once again.
Overall Score: 8/10
“Squint Against The Grandeur..!”
When it comes to the Coen Brothers, there is no doubting their ability in the art of film-making even if sometimes their films begin to dwell into the realm of complete mayhem, with films such as Burn After Reading showing their tendency to revel in too much kookiness being on similar wave-lines with cinematic sludges such as their remake of True Grit, a film that can be applauded for its’ cast but yawn inducing nonetheless. On the other hand, films such as No Country For Old Men, Fargo and my own personal favourite Inside Llewyn Davis showcase the brothers’ love for cinema, a love that is no doubt reciprocated within their latest adventure Hail, Caesar! a comedic drama focusing on a day in the life of Capitol Pictures fixer Eddie Mannix, portrayed in a near-perfect fashion by Coen mainstay Josh Brolin supported by a mind-boggling rafter of stars including George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlet Johansson, and Channing Tatum as well as Alden Ehrenreich as the “singing cowboy” Hobie Doyle. Stars galore right? But does the film match the greatness of its’ payroll? Not exactly.
Amongst the damsels in distress, replacement actors, an attempt to get a mother to adopt her own child and contemplating a move to another place of working life, all of which encompass one day in the life of Brolin’s Mannix, the core plot-line amongst the many that are brought to life within the film’s magical air of 1950’s Hollywood is the kidnapping of famous star Baird Whitlock, played in full-on comedic fashion by Clooney, by the mysterious cult calling themselves “The Future”. Although this particular plot-line establishes itself as the core of the movie, aside from the involvement of Clooney, it is strangely the weakest within the film, resulting in a through line that attempts to hold the film together but instead results in a film weaker than the sum of its’ parts. It almost feels like a Coenzian (I’m coining that phrase now) wishlist of stars playing their part in the dreamland of a Hollywood in the mid-20th century of which the brothers wished they were part of, something that on the face of it isn’t bad at all, but for some strange reason, the love I wish I had for it just isn’t there and Hail, Caesar! ultimately feels like something of a let down regarding the talent on display.
Among the great things in the movie is the introduction to Tatum’s character with an all-singing all-dancing routine which is bound to capture the hearts of most audiences whilst the story of Doyle is particularly captivating, with his confrontation with Fienne’s Laurence Laurentz easily one of the most quotable of the year so far. Hill barely has two words to say and is just completely wasted whilst Frances McDormand continues to cash in on her marital duties and appears ever so briefly in the husky air of the back-end editing room; a very strange scene indeed. Hail, Caesar! has a few laughs, a variety of chuckles and a tendency to bring out a smile on occasion yet the film just isn’t the masterpiece it perhaps could have been. Better than Burn After Reading? God, yes. As good as Inside Llewyn Davis? Not at all. It’s solid from the Coen’s, just not ground-breaking.
Overall Score: 6/10
After the enormous success of Sam Mendes’ Skyfall back in 2012, a film which celebrated Bond’s fiftieth anniversary in rather spectacular fashion which not only gained sumptuous critical plaudits but also managed to become the highest grossing movie in the UK to date, any potential follow up was set to be under a huge amount of pressure from the outset, yet the return of director Sam Mendes and the continuation of Daniel Craig as the world’s greatest secret agent put Skyfall’s successor in rather safe hands, strengthened not only by the return of the titular SPECTRE, the seedy, shadowy criminal organisation last featured in Sean Connery’s Bond swansong Diamonds Are Forever, but by the inclusion of cast members such as Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, and the two-time Oscar winning Christoph Waltz. Although the shadow of Skyfall’s success was inherently creeping up on the newest incarnation of 007, Mendes himself made it clear that Spectre was set to be a very different beast indeed, and within all the explosions, helicopter battles, car chases, and secret lairs, Spectre grabs all the best bits of the Bond canon and ramps them up to produce a highly enjoyable blockbuster, reminiscent more of the camp, gadget-induced Bond of years previous whist nicely tying up the plot threads that have been rife since Craig’s first outing in Casino Royale.
After Bond (Daniel Craig) is sent a cryptic message from the past, he is sent on a journey to discover and unravel the secrets of the seedy organisation SPECTRE, a criminal organisation at the heart of Bond’s past. Whilst M (Ralph Fiennes) battles forces in London with the newly appointed C (Andrew Scott), the head of the newly created Joint Intelligence Service, Bond seeks out the truth behind SPECTRE with the help of Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux), the daughter of an old foe, in an attempt to destroy the organisation’s evil deeds once and for all. If Skyfall came across to the audiences as a much more elegant, character and emotion driven piece of cinema, helped directly by the handy-work of not only the acclaimed Sam Mendes but the long awaited Oscar recipient, Roger Deakins, then Spectre attempts to completely divert away from repeating the trick once more and attempts to go full on 80’s Bond mode, with much more action set pieces including a brilliantly tenses opening scene and a bruising and bloody fight on a sleeper train, nodding back to Bond’s fight with Grant in From Russia With Love. Aside from the abundance of action and wasted ammunition, we witness Bond well and truly stamp his passport with him travelling across the globe from Mexico City to Rome, from Austria to Morocco, all of which are beautifully shot by Interstellar cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, eventually leading back to the capital city of London for the final act.
With Christoph Waltz on the payroll, Spectre was inevitably going to buildup to certain revelations regarding the character of Franz Oberhauser, all of which were done in an overly entertaining and eye-winking manner, something of which as an overtly dedicated Bond fan, I couldn’t resist from laughing at with sheer joy, particularly when we are treated to a shot of a rather fluffy particular breed of household animal. Although Waltz isn’t in the film long enough at all, the camera is completely transfixed with his eerie demeanor each and every time he appears, starting with a completely blacked-out board meeting in which he quietly whispers instructions to his dedicated servants, and resulting in a tense revelation scene within the confines of a 21st century update of a well-established Bond lair, complete with hideously ludicrous torture equipment, and the coincidentally accessible escape vehicle, all of which our favourite super-spy uses without question. Kudos to the film-makers for not choosing to kill off our underused villain, restoring faith in the notion that you can’t have too much of a good thing. See you around Mr Waltz.
Uproariously entertaining and extremely watchable from the outset, Spectre fundamentally wants to be everything that Skyfall wasn’t, with an abundance more amount of action, brilliant comic timing from the likes of Ben Whishaw as Q and Fiennes as M, with one scene in particular with C bringing the whole audience to a spout of laughter, and a much more laid back temperament, harking back to the gadget strewn Bond era of Moore and Brosnan, with Craig ultimately having fun with the role as the world’s great agent, who this time does get the girl in the form of Leas Seydoux’s Madeline Swann, a rather perfect match for our battle-worn Englishman, who breaks from the reigns of cliched Bond girls and actually comes across as a three-dimensional, intelligent female in the land of Bond. Who would have thought? If this is to be the last round for both Craig and Mendes, it sure is a fine way to call it a day, with Spectre being pretty much everything a Bond fan in the 21st century would want from the opening credits. Farewell Mr Craig and Mr Mendes, it’s been emotional. Unless you do one more. Please. Please do.
Overall Score: 9/10
Bond Is Back! (Couldn’t help myself with that) to finish what was started all that time ago in Casino Royale (2006), which luckily I decided to watch the previous night at 01:00 in preparation, and if I had the time I would have watched Quantum of Solace and Skyfall but I digress. In terms of Spectre therefore, I have to start with that opening. It isn’t a Bond film without a slow song mixed in with silhouette ladies dancing along. I personally loved it with the visuals mixing in well with Sam Smith’s chart-topping single “Writings on the Wall” which felt like it was written directly for the film and is one of the reasons why I am listening to it now non-stop as I write this review. Back to gadgets (*Face palm*) where despite in Skyfall Q saying they had gone past explosive pens and other absurdities, here we are only one film later with explosive watches! A problem with gadgets is that they are always used in obvious situations and act almost like the “get out of jail free card” on a monopoly board, resulting in such tropes feeling as if the film-makers were trying to justify product placement by giving it an actual role, which of course will result in hundreds of people attempting to buy such objects (Yes, I did have a look myself).
Daniel Craig’s Bond this time feels much more refined than he was in Skyfall with Craig being back in top form in both athleticism and wit, therefore being much more comparable to previous Bonds instead of the raw violence seen in his previous outings. Oscar winner Christoph Waltz’s performance as Oberhauser was enjoyable to watch however, I was disappointed with how the character was written. It seems we are back to villains seemingly playing tempestuously with their food (James Bond) who in the meantime share their master plan away whilst giving too many chances for the hero to escape. I mean come on, what was the point of that torture scene, a scene which felt weak in comparison to Casino Royale’s chair and bollocks scene, with Spectre’s particular torture scene having few too many chances where Bond could easily slip his head out from the chair. Throughout the course of the movie, Oberhauser had more than enough chances to put a bullet in him and even had the chance to destroy him once for all in the final act. I mean why not set the bomb for 2 minutes and fly away instead?
The car chase with Mr Hinx (Dave Bautista) was a fairly big disappointment with it being more comical than action based, with the chase itself rife with comical perseverance in which it hardly showed what the cars are capable of. Another example of undermining the action for comedy would be in Mexico City, in which we witness Bond falling through decaying buildings only to land square on a conveniently placed sofa. Yes comical, however incredibly childish. Not all of the action within Spectre was lacklustre however, with the fight scene with Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) in particular being by far one of my favourite scenes of the movie, with the sheer amount of destruction against a towering foe is what I love about Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond. Furthermore, some of the jump-cuts between locations felt unexplained with vital clues seemingly being partially pulled out of a hat, making following some parts of the plot very difficult, to an extent that I would have to re-watch it in order to understand it completely, with the major one for me being linking the previous Bond villains just with single ring. I mean if it was the symbol on the face of the ring couldn’t they have linked all of these previous threats before without the ring? Surely so with one of them actually managing to kill the the previous “M” and blow up MI5.
Spectre seems to be returning Bond to its’ organic roots, with more wit than destructive violence, and with gadgets popping up Bond’s sleeve and into his car, something of which the old Bond fan in me loves, however it isn’t the Bond film I was expecting with Daniel Craig. Yes, you could argue that such tropes and traits is the result of his character growing into the older Bond we know, however his violent side was what we loved about him in the 21st century. Although the plot does seem to jump around quite heavily and it features some poor 1940’s villain writing, Spectre was highly enjoyable but I hope that’s that with Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond, with Spectre being a good note to leave Bond behind, particularly with Craig’s recent outbursts about regretting being Bond in the first place.
Overall Score: 7/10
As Dan has so elegantly described, Spectre harks back to its origins with its classic villains, witty banter and excessive action scenes. It was a very enjoyable film and sits as a very good blockbuster but personally, its sits outside of Daniel Craig’s Bond. When Craig first appeared on the scene, audiences were skeptical. A blonde hair, blue eyed Bond was very much out of the ordinary but he turned that around with Casino Royale and reinvigorated the series with a sense of realism and darkness that we’d never seen before in this particular universe. In Skyfall we actually get a far grittier and darker tale. Javier Bardem is his usual fantastic self, creating an extreme threat that even worries Bond and puts him through hell. Christoph Waltz in Spectre is the apparent mastermind behind the operation and Bond’s cruel luck that has seen him dragged through hell, but in reality, he isn’t scary. His background story is so cringe worthy, it seemingly fell from the latest teen flick, full of teen angst and jealousy of another child. Josh also speaks volumes for the progression of the story. It often felt that we moved too quickly. Links were being established and any sort of reasoning behind it was ignored. A simple ring linked to every villain Bond has faced so far through a somewhat over complicated scanning device and being the longest one so far, you’d suspect that it wouldn’t have been such an issue.
The classic Bond element didn’t hit me. After Skyfall, a lot could have been done and I feel that choosing to stray from the metric was a really poor idea. Daniel Craig has also been very vocal about not wanting to play the character any more as he hates him. It seems as if this is the straw that broke the camels back. The dramatic shift from a character torn apart by loss and the realities of his job only to be swept under the rug and made jolly with a lot of sarcasm and a new women. As a Bond movie, it was great. For a Daniel Craig Bond flick, it was alright. Visually the film is stunning and the action scenes were fantastic. The Aston Martin DB10 should have got a little more show time for the press it received but what little of it we saw was great fun. Some points with the awful taste in music of 009 and the empty ammo canisters screamed fond memories of Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English and classic bond humour. The opening’s explosive Day of the Dead scene with the aero-acrobatics of a helicopter over the heavily populated area was amazing. Its not something we see very often and will probably sit with me for quite some time as one of the best stunt scenes of recent years. Although these are the guys who received the world record for most rolls of a car in a single take from Casino Royale so its fairly understandable that they could pull something like this off.
However, Spectre did have its cheesy moments, the final scene on the bridge in particular shunned the Bond of the past for Rom-com Bond. For me, I sit right on the wall. The run up and the hype was all well and good but I expected a darker, more emotional tale with a villain that was truly genius and mad as can be. What I got was a throwback to the classics that was fun but didn’t bowl me over. Visually and musically the whole spectacle was awesome and Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” is an amazing theme song, albeit not as powerful as Adele’s “Skyfall” or Chris Cornell’s ” You Know My Name” but it captured the essence of what I really wanted from this.