Friday, 3 July 2015

Seven films I'll be giving a shit about in

lol j/k (2nd)

I never really cared much for Amy Winehouse or her music, but I am sheep enough to be intrigued by the buzz this has been getting. Also she had a house not far from me so if she hadn't died she might well have popped round for a cup of sugar one day. (3rd)

Apparently this marks the end of Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I for one am glad to see the back of it. Phase Three, with its films about Captain America, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Thor and The Avengers looks loads better. (17th)

Hahahaha, hahahooHOOHOOHOOHAHAHA ah, dear HAHAHAHAHAHAHA oh deary me, this looks HOOHOOOHOOOOOO amazing. (17th)

I haven't done any research but if this is the one with the bees that everyone liked at Cannes then sure, why not. Bees are great. (17th)

I have been waiting DECADES for a movie of The Numskulls from Beezer. Beezer was better than the Beano, you know that, right? And Whizzer & Chips was the king. Sorry, what were we talking about? (24th)

I don't want to be mean or anything but I hope Benji dies in this one. (30th)

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Terminator Genisys

*** WARNING! ***

Terminator Genisys, it turns out, is a lot more fun to write about than it is to watch. Having already squeezed out a review for Virgin Movies and offloaded only a small percentage of my thoughts, I had to come here to dump the rest in order to rid myself of the toxic demons gestating menacingly in my brainholes. It's not that Genisys is irredeemably bad, or even unwatchable, but it is so colossally misguided and poorly executed that one really needs to vent one's spleen about its legion of shortcomings. So here goes.

By now you're probably aware of the film's premise, which involves a retelling of the first part of The Terminator, but with the twist that the T-800 and Kyle Reese somehow find themselves in an alternate 1984 where Sarah Connor has ditched the Davy Crockett hat-hair and has been shacked up with another T-800 for the past ten years. Terminator Genisys' attempts to recreate the 1984 scenes vary from convincing (the young CG Arnie is ace) to upsetting (the replacement of Bill Paxton as one of the young punks is unavoidably awful), but the simple fact that we're in alt '84 at all is baffling. We don't worry too much at this point, because surely an explanation is incoming, right? Well, don't hold your breath. Apparently this new timeline was caused by an event that happens just before Reese goes back in time, but why that happened on this occasion and not in any of the previous Terminator films is never explained.
Clue: it has something to do with Matt Smith's character,
of whom this image is laughably unrepresentative

Also unexplained is the presence of this "guardian" T-800, who seems to come from a future that - as far as I could tell - never happened, never will happen and never has will be going to have happened. You patiently sit and wait for the exposition scenes that clear this kind of thing up, but they never come. They think they do, but in fact they're just strings of made-up words used to escape from nonsensical corners into which the writers have painted themselves: the explanation for Kyle Reese's impossible memories of two separate timelines, for example, involves Arnie babbling on about "Nexus points" in time, whatever they are. "Hahaha", the characters say, "he's off again with his technowaffle, let's just ignore him and pretend he made sense", and off they blunder into the next narrative dead end. This happens a lot.

One of the reasons Terminator Genisys isn't a complete dead loss is that director Alan Taylor, in his only sensible decision throughout the entire process, moves the action on before you have time to worry about the temporal logistics of it all. The problem is that he invariably moves on to the next stupid thing in the script, like the pointless appearance of a T-1000 (whose gloopy VFX are now nearly quarter of a century beyond being impressive), or a bus inexplicably flipping over on the Golden Gate Bridge (because there haven't been enough action scenes set on the Golden Gate Bridge) or, in one of the film's biggest mistakes, the big twist: that John Connor has come back in time too and is now a human / Terminator hybrid made of magic soot who absolutely will not stop until James Cameron's legacy is dead.
In every previous Terminator film, the survival of John Connor has been the one constant that held the nonsense together. Only with him safe could the future war with the machines ever be won, so we invested in him, we rooted for his mother so he could be born and we rooted for him, even when he was played by Nick Stahl. Here, in the blink of an eye, he is virtually killed off and made a villain just for the sake of a plot twist. So thanks guys, everything we cared about in the first three films was for nothing. Also his transformation renders him a bit thick: he spends a lot of time and effort trying to kill his own mother before he's been born, which seems somewhat self-defeating to me. He briefly struggles with the idea that neither he nor she can kill each other, but that seems a little hollow considering he's just tried to flip her bus off the Golden Gate Bridge.

But enough about the script; let's move on to what we might generously describe as the actors. Arnold Schwarzenegger (clinging desperately on to this role in an attempt to forget every other film he's done since Terminator 3) shows up, puts on the metallic make up and pulls some funny faces. "I'm old, not obsolete", the T-800 keeps repeating like a forgetful grandparent. Negative. There is nothing fun about Terminators any more and they're certainly no longer scary; if one barged into your bedroom in the middle of the night you'd take a selfie with it and go back to sleep. You probably wouldn't even get round to uploading the photo to Facebook.

Emilia Clarke plays a one-note Sarah Connor as well as the character is written, which is not very. She is a wiser Sarah but skews younger, as if nobody ever told her the toll the events of the films took on the character. At one point she delivers a kiss-off line so unbelievably awful and nonsensical that you can actually hear Arnold Schwarzenegger cringing. Her namesake Jason Clarke, as John Connor, is as dull here as he was in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. There are scenes where he attempts Heath-Ledger-as-the-Joker levels of villainy, and it is embarrassing to watch. Please stop putting him in huge blockbusters, he seems startled by the explosions and effects.

But the absolute nadir of talent on display in Terminator Genisys is the black hole that is Jai Courtney, a charisma vacuum with all the emotional reach of a potato, who has been ruining films with his echo chamber of skills for too long now. Courtney's Kyle Reese is a cruel joke on Michael Biehn: he is as buff as the first T-800 when the character is supposed to be starving and desperate, and lacks the basic ability to evoke sympathy or empathy in the audience with either his entirely forgettable face or his monotonous voice. He could easily have been cast as an emotionless robot from the future except that he's not charming enough. Watch him scream "BECAUSE HE'S A KILLER!!" somewhere in the middle of this film and see if you can resist the urge to travel back in time yourself and persuade a younger Courtney not to take up acting and perhaps utilise his natural abilities in the world of living statues.
Not sure if this is him or his action figure

What's tragic about this cast is that their characters could have enjoyed the kind of fascinating dysfunctional surrogate family dynamic - this time featuring girlfriend, boyfriend, disapproving father and wayward son - that the first two films handled perfectly, but any potential is lost in the spaghetti of plot and the murky greyness of the film's colour palette. Only JK Simmons escapes with his reputation intact, generating a few laughs and providing the odd basic plot function before being unceremoniously dumped once he's served his purpose.

Genisys is, apparently, the first of three more Terminator films, much as Salvation was six years ago. That film did not turn out to be any kind of (*winces*) salvation for the series, and we must hope that this one is not the (ugh) genisys (sorry) of a new trilogy either. It has its moments - perhaps two that I can think of - but it represents everything wrong with Hollywood's refusal to let old franchises die. Let's just erase it from our timeline and, for once, not worry about starting again. It's old and obsolete, and, like me right now, can't even come up with a clever ending.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

BlogalongaStarWars: Episode 1:
Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

I remember it so clearly: it was the summer of 1982. Or possibly 1983. I don't actually remember it that clearly. My dad took me on a surprise trip to see a double bill of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back at the aptly-named Empire cinema in Shrewsbury which, like a tiny Alderaan, would eventually be destroyed and (unlike Alderaan, as far as I'm aware) replaced with a Pizza Express. It would be my first viewing of both films; I'd read and played the book-and-tape of Star Wars until the pages fell out, but was unprepared for Empire, which was why I cried my face off when Han Solo was frozen in carbonite. But more on that next month.

Star Wars for real - i.e. without R2-D2 irritatingly bleeping every time I had to turn the page - was a predictably thrilling experience for my tiny self, and thirty-three (possibly thirty-two) years and fourteen million viewings later, nothing has changed. It's still as magically exciting, beguiling and brilliant as ever, only now that I'm old and boring I can strip away the fun and dispassionately pick apart why it's so great. Obviously nostalgia is a massive variable in the Star Wars Amazingness Formula - that's why so many discussions around it begin with a tedious retelling of a first viewing - but let's be honest, EVERYTHING works here. George Lucas gets it so right it's hard to believe he could ever get anything wrong. But again, more on that later.
That beginning, man. I do enjoy a film that begins in medias res (cf. every Bond film), and this particular medias is so loaded with excitement they're making a whole film just about the first paragraph of that opening crawl. The collective jaw-droppage caused by the Star Destroyer has been written about so much that it's now taken entirely for granted, but that scene alone is the perfect argument for the most extravagant home cinema setup you can lay your hands on: Ben Burtt's sound work in that scene works best when it can be heard by all of your neighbouring postcodes. I always find movies' first scenes fascinating when you know the whole story, and Star Wars' is a classic in that regard - it's a David vs Goliath battle in space, with groundbreaking effects, a majestic score and spectacle coming out of its ass: the entire saga in microcosm.

And Darth Vader's introduction needs no introduction: representative of every major character's first scene in the film, it tells you everything you need to know about him in seconds. Still not sure why he kills the ship's captain before he gets an answer to his interrogation though; that, and the decision not to destroy the escape pod just because it contains no lifeforms, are early indicators that the Empire is beset by an overcomplicated hierarchy containing so many layers of middle-management that everyone is too afraid to make a judgement, and therefore deserves everything coming to it.
"Could you guys not have killed quite so many rebels?
The paperwork on this is going to take, like, FOREVER"

Lucas' exhaustive studies of storytelling pay off in spades in Star Wars. Eschewing backstory and trusting in the audience to just go with it (a lesson to which painfully few modern blockbusters - including the Star Wars prequels - pay any attention), he instead leaves us with no alternative but to be swept along on the journey as each character connects to the next with effortless efficiency: R2 and 3PO take us to Luke, Luke takes us to Ben, Ben takes us to Han, Han takes us to Leia. It's worth noting that at no point during this process do we stop for a fifteen-minute landspeeder race in which we learn that Luke is a genius pilot. The setup is textbook and the mid-section flawless, and before we know it we're escaping from the Death Star and biting our nails as the rebels try to destroy it before it destroys them. Lucas' writing failed him in the script's final act, but he savvily recognised the genius in editor Richard Chew's idea to introduce the threat of the Empire aiming at the rebel base, and to crosscut between that and the simultaneous attack on the Death Star - hence why nobody on Yavin IV talks about how they're all about to die; their story is told entirely in graphics sequences and spare shots of them gawping at screens.

En route we've seen some of the most on-point matching of actors to characters, not least of which is Han Solo, saved from being the unbridled selfish twat he is on paper by a relentlessly charming Harrison Ford: his antagonism with just about everybody is perfectly pitched, and his arc across the original trilogy a joy to watch unfold. Similarly, Mark Hamill shrugs off Luke's initial whiny brattishness in a way Hayden Christensen never could, and the inspired casting of Alec Guinness gifts Obi-Wan Kenobi the precise balance of wisdom and playfulness that stops him falling into cliché. And Lucas writes all their relationships honestly and believably; the only missing link is a dynamic between Luke and Vader, but that's only because they never even meet - a fact easily overlooked amid the excitement of it all.

Like most children of the late twentieth century, Star Wars ruled my life for years. Its presence waned over time as the (barely) more grown-up adventures of James Bond took prominence, but like a comfort blanket made of lovely soft Ewok fur it remains, propping up my love of films since that fateful day at the Shrewsbury Empire. The prequels allowed me to be all cynical and arch about the series, but it was a smug, superficial detachment; watching the trailers for The Force Awakens have indeed awakened something deep down, and it all started with that Star Destroyer back in 1982. Or 1983. Whatever: it was a long time ago, in a galaxy (*record scratch*)

There is so much going on in the background
I love that there are so many random droids and aliens that pop up for one shot or bimble by in the background in scenes like the cantina and the sandcrawler interior. Some poor buggers spent forever working on some of these and they were rewarded with a mere handful of frames showing off their creations (admittedly because some of them are a bit shit), but it totally sells the universe as a multicultural melting pot of beasts and weirdos, like Dalston Kingsland station on a Saturday night.

Stormtroopers really are quite thick
  • While hunting for droids that could bring down their entire army, Stormtroopers come across a locked door. "This one's locked", they say, and move on, reasoning that if someone were trying to hide they would never possibly contemplate locking themselves inside a building.
  • Having located the droids on the Death Star, the troopers have a quick chat then leave them be, apparently unaware of their significance. Where are the lines of communication in this organisation?
  • Meanwhile, in another part of the Death Star, two troopers exchange idle conversation. "Do you know what's going on?" says one. JESUS CHRIST MAN YOU ARE FACING THE THREAT OF TOTAL ANNIHILATION DO YOU NOT CHECK YOUR PIGEON HOLE ONCE IN A WHILE
Lightsabres are fucking amazing
What a genius idea, executed perfectly: a sci-fi sword that makes a noise easily replicated in the playground. Teased in Ben's home, flashed in the cantina and given a full outing in the duel with Vader, it perfectly represents the idea of updating classic tropes for a new generation of moviegoers.

Princess Leia is a bit reckless
"They let us go, it's the only reason for the ease of our escape [...] they're tracking us", says the figurehead of the rebellion before doing precisely fuck all about it and leading the Empire straight to the rebel base. Yeah thanks for that sister.

The production design
It's as un-incisive to comment on as everything else I've mentioned above, but the worn-in look and feel of the Star Wars universe really is a joy to behold, again selling it as a place with life and history. The fact that none of the X-Wing pilots' helmets match is a detail I hadn't spotted until this viewing, simultaneously bringing me a small twinge of pleasure and an equal amount of embarrassment for not clocking it sooner.

What is the point of all this? I'll tell you. (short answer: no point)

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

David Arnold: The Qs and the As

Unless you're blind or have just been ignoring me (understandably), you'll have seen me wanging on about doing a Q&A with five-time James Bond film score composer David Arnold at London's Prince Charles cinema last week. The evening came and went without any major disasters (although I wore a waistcoat in an attempt to smarten myself up and promptly spilled olive oil down it just before the interview, and that shit does not budge) and Mr Arnold was in fine fettle, spilling a small amount of beans regarding his work on Casino Royale - a screening of which followed the Q&A - and other films.

If you weren't among the many millions of people who crowded into the 285-seat auditorium that evening, I've handily reproduced most of what Mr Arnold had to say below; I had to edit out all the bits where he went on at length about how much he loves The Incredible Suit because it got embarrassing.

Your score for Casino Royale is a lot more organic and less electronic than previous Bond scores…

That's correct.

So how did that decision come about? Was that you, or the producers or the director?

It was me. I think with Die Another Day, someone said that some of the music was a bit over the top, and I was thinking, 'would that be for the scene where the guy who was a DNA-changed villain who became Korean – no, he became western, he was Korean – tried to kill James Bond with a space laser operated by a remote controlled arm-device while they were escaping from a melting ice palace?' That film had levels of extremity of all sorts of things in it, and the music has to react to what we're seeing.
Really can't see why people found this silly

When I read the Casino Royale script we hadn't cast Daniel, so it was really interesting reading the script and thinking 'I've got no idea who James Bond is going to be'. With Pierce, you kind of knew the inflections, you knew his mannerisms and the style and you could kind of picture the way it would be. I was on set while they were filming Casino Royale, and [my music] was largely informed by the way Daniel moved. He's a very physical, alpha male James Bond, not as eloquent and educated – you know, the idea of knowing which wine would go with what sort of fish – slightly less of that, more that you believe that if he hit you it would really hurt. And he wasn't James Bond yet: obviously he had the name but he hadn't become the character, so it was really doing away with the comic aspect of it and trying to make it a bit more muscular, as he was, and to make it a little more aggressive, but organic, because the refinements didn't come till later in the film.

So you couldn't write the same kind of music for Daniel as you did for Pierce?

Well you sort of can in a way because he's still James Bond. This is part of the problem with coming back to the series again and again, it's the same character in very similar situations: there's conflict that he has to resolve, you know there are going to be chases, you know there are going to be fights, you know there's going to be action and even though you have to believe he's in jeopardy, you know that at the end of the film he's not gonna die. So it's a matter of trying to take what people know and expect of the character, moving it on a little bit and introducing other aspects of it, as the films do.

The Bond theme is hinted at throughout Casino Royale but doesn't appear in full until the end credits. Was it hard to resist sticking the Bond theme in?

I've always said that a James Bond film without the James Bond theme is just an action movie; there's something you're missing at the heart of the character. With Casino Royale, Sony were quite worried about not having the Bond theme in the score because they were worried it'd be like watching Star Wars without the theme: there's an expectation that you want to hear it. But my argument was that he wasn't James Bond yet, so if you play any of that music when he's doing any of the things he's doing – you know, he makes a lot of mistakes in this film – then he becomes the Bond that we know, but he hasn't done that yet so you can't get ahead of the audience. So there were a few sequences in Casino Royale that tried to create a balance we thought would work: every time he acquires something of the Bond canon that we knew and recognised, I put in a hint of the Bond theme to start sowing the seeds of it as we go through. So when he wins the Aston Martin DB5 in the game of cards you hear it for the first time; when he tries on the tuxedo in the hotel room and we see him adjusting himself in the mirror, that's the second time, and so on until you get the iconic phrase right at the end of the movie. By that time you're so ready to hear it at full pelt, that's when we cut to black and shabam, it seems incredibly exciting.

In terms of the theme songs, how much say would you or any composer have in the choice of song or singer?

Ideally the composer of the film would be involved in the composition of the song, because I think the DNA of the score should be in the song and vice versa. That's not always possible though; there might be an artist that says "I've always wanted to do this, I've written a song and this is what it's going to be," and that happens more often than not. But they let me have a crack at a couple of them. The decision about who does the song is made between the producers, the director and the studio but the composer does get involved. It's a bit like casting: I think you should cast the singer as you would cast the character, so it always felt like if we had people who could almost be in the movie it would work. In trying to find someone for Daniel's James Bond, I was thinking about male singers: was there a contemporary Rod Stewart, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Plant? Singers with bollocks really, people like Paul Rogers, who sound the way that Daniel was, that James Bond is in Casino Royale. Chris Cornell has a very masculine voice but also an incredible gift for melody and words, so it was a really easy choice to make. Also writing the song with him was really easy and quick; we sort of wrote half a song each. We met up and talked about it and I'd got some ideas and he'd got some ideas so we sketched our ideas out, and two or three weeks later we played each other our ideas and kind of went from one to the other. It sort of became the song without having to do much else. It's quite odd; we'd both written one half of the same song.

Would you consider doing another Shaken And Stirred album? Because there are plenty more Bond songs that could be covered there.

Well there was a bunch of songs that I ended up not doing: I did Goldfinger with Skunk Anansie and I started talking to Debbie Harry about doing it as well, and I did You Only Live Twice with Björk but didn't use it because she wasn't happy with it, she didn’t think it was better than the original. There are a whole bunch more songs - I mean there's been another six since that album came out - but I think that's a record perhaps someone else should make, because I feel like I've done it.

You must have written a load of potential themes that never saw the light of day – you started a song called I Will Return for Die Another Day

Sometimes you don't always know if you're going to get the gig actually writing the song, but I always start off by writing a song, because I like to have some sort of thematic material to base the score on. Sometimes if another artist is writing the song, like in Die Another Day, I didn't hear it until I'd almost finished writing the score, so you've really got no way of incorporating it. I thought what would be interesting is that at the end of every James Bond film it says "James Bond Will Return", so I thought, well, how about calling the song I Will Return, basically saying that exact same thing.

How far did that song get?

It got a verse and a chorus written. The melody of it is in the [Die Another Day] score, the verse melody, and the bridge melody is in [a cue called] Peaceful Fountains Of Desire.

[Audience question] Do you think your music has influenced current action scores like John Barry's music influenced you?

Well this isn't false modesty, but I think whenever music appears in a James Bond film it ends up appearing in other films because they're so popular and the music is still a big part of it. The thing I hear more often than not is the electronic aspect alongside orchestral stuff. What's interesting with the sound of John's scores is because they were recorded in smaller spaces, and they were generally just stereo, not surround, there's much less competition for earspace in those earlier films. If I go to a dubbing theatre where Bond films are dubbed now, there are 15 or 16 ProTools stations: that one's doing dialogue A, that's doing effects 1, effects 2 – there might be hundreds and hundreds of tracks. It's incredibly easy to make a film loud, and there is an awful lot of loud in a Bond movie, whether it's cars or gunshots or punches or helicopters or building sites. So the competition for actual aural space is quite high, and John's exist in a place where there wasn't as much sound and they just allowed the music to play more out front. The tendency to do that has changed now, and music is sometimes required to perhaps energise the scene more than it was in the older films. I've listened to some contemporary scores and obviously you can hear bits of John's work and now bits of mine, but I'm really interested to see what Tom [Newman]'s gonna do with Spectre. I'm fascinated with that, as I am with the film. I've always been a fan of them and it's really nice now to be able to sit back and watch one and not worry about, you know, 'why did I do that?'

[Audience question] To what extent are you constrained by the 1960s style of the Bond theme?

Well the Bond theme, I think, has endured dozens of interpretations: Marvin Hamlisch's disco version, Bill Conti's and Michael Kamen's, Éric Serra did it just on timps, so it's obviously a very sturdy piece of music. There's something about that recording that John Barry did with quite a small orchestra which is so swamped with atmosphere, there's something about the energy of it and the essential ferocity of it which is impossible to match. It would be weird to think you were constrained by it, I've never wanted it to sound like it was from the sixties. I don't think my scores sound like John's scores; I mean obviously there are stylistic nods, combinations of instruments that evoke the character. It's what John created, it's the blueprint of it. It was the same when I did Shaft: Isaac Hayes created a blueprint for that character and I didn't want to ignore it, but you just sort of move it on a little bit, so I was really happy to take advantage of the brilliance of that and add to it and move along. You don't want to feel like you're treading water stylistically, so sometimes that means people really don't like it and some people really do like it, but… just keep moving.

Éric Serra's score for GoldenEye is, let’s say, quite unusual – do you ever watch the film and wish you'd done it?

I wish I'd done all of them to be honest! But not that one in particular, no. I thought that was the boldest move that's ever been made in a Bond movie and I don't think you can criticise him for that. You can not like it, that's fine; I do like it, I think some of that stuff was electrifying, and I know the reaction to it was mixed. Being selfish I was quite pleased, because if he'd have carried on I wouldn't have got a look in!

It's really not that bad.

[Audience question] Did you change the music for the increased violence of the newer Bonds?

The thing with Bonds is that you never see blood in bullet holes or anything, so even though it's violent you won't see bullets going in or out or blood splattering from people due to the violence because they want to keep it a 12 certificate. So perception of what's violent and what's shown are actually slightly different things. I think the job of a film score is to kind of hold your hand and take you through the experience and hopefully explain and help to guide the film as we would like you to perceive it. The sequence where Le Chiffre has his knotted rope and, er, works James Bond's - you know - that's very violent, but a lot of that was cut, and in fact the sound of contact, the 'thwack', was turned down by about half because when we screened it for the first time it was excruciating. In fact the censors wouldn't let us have it, they said we had to turn that down because it sounds horrific. There's no score in that sequence, so the sound of James Bond's bollocks being battered was turned down because we didn't want to offend anyone's sensibilities in that respect.

OK, I've got a round of quick-fire questions to finish with. They're based largely on your own tweets, so I'll warn you now, you've only got yourself to blame.

Is it based on my Twitter feed or is this when you asked people to send questions in on Twitter? Because someone said "What’s the circumference of a cat?", but they spelled "the" wrong so I'm not going to answer that. [Yep]

No, I've had to cut all those for time. So here we go: an OBE or a lifetime's supply of Skips?

[Long, thoughtful pause] Skips.

Drums or a drum machine?


Benedict Cumberbatch or Martin Freeman?

That's cruel. I think Martin's the heart and Benedict's the brains of that combination, I think without either of them that show wouldn't work. Martin is the way into Sherlock and I think the audience wouldn't find their way in without him; I think he brings so much humanity to that, it's absolutely extraordinary. The pair of them are rock stars now, it's amazing. So I plead the fifth: both of them. They're both brilliant.

CD or vinyl?


Shaken or stirred?

[Thoughtfully] Stirred. Apparently you’re not supposed to shake it.

No, you're not, that would be terrible. Biscuits with chocolate content or biscuits encased in chocolate?

Encased. There’s a whole VAT issue around that that's very frustrating.

Jaffa cakes: cakes or biscuits?

Oh, they're cakes. The clue's in the title.
That's that settled then

Éric Serra or Thomas Newman?

Oh, that's rotten! That's professionally rotten. I love the pair of them.

The slide whistle in The Man With The Golden Gun: genius or madness?

Madness! Along with the double-taking pigeon.

And finally: are you doing Independence Day 2?

I haven't been asked, is the honest answer. But would I if they asked me? I'd really like to see the script, firstly.

Would you not just say yes, if they phoned you up and said there's no script but will you do it?

[Pause] Yeah. But they would have to phone me up and ask me, and as yet that hasn't happened.

Well I'll tell them you'll do it. David Arnold, thank you very much!

Thanks to Oliver Holden-Rea for the top photo.

Monday, 22 June 2015

The second-greatest series of the greatest TV show ever made is out on Blu-ray today

Hopefully by now you took my advice and have bought and watched the greatest series of the greatest TV show ever made on Blu-ray; if not I will feel like I wasted my time banging on about it, almost as if nobody listens to a word I say. If you did, though, then good news! The diabolical (but very sexiful) masterminds at Studiocanal have just released the only-slightly-less-amazing follow-up to The Avengers Series 4: the sensibly-titled The Avengers Series 5 is now available in 1080 lines of gorgeous 1960s televisual magic.

Originally broadcast in two chunks between January-May and September-November 1967, Series 5 of The Avengers brought us the adventures of John Steed and Emma Peel in full colour - which is undeniably well-used throughout, but brings the series a step closer to reality, where it doesn't really belong. To compensate, the stories got a little weirder (mind-swapping, time travel, miniaturisation and UFOs all get a look in), and the result is some of the most imaginative television of the 20th century.

As with Series 4, a cheeky tease was shot to promote the new adventures of our immaculately-attired heroes, and it's another perfect example of what to expect:

Highlights of Series 5 include, but are not limited to:
  • Guest appearances from the likes of Peter Bowles, Jon Pertwee, Roy Kinnear, Patrick Cargill, Julian Glover, Ronnie Barker, Peter Wyngarde, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee; one episode - The Superlative Seven - boasts Brian Blessed, Donald Sutherland and an unfathomably beautiful Charlotte Rampling IN THE SAME STORY
  • Death's Door, an episode which rivals Hitchcock's Spellbound for surreally atmospheric psychoanalysis and giant props
  • Murdersville, perhaps the quintessential episode of The Avengers, which is set in a village - Little Storping In The Swuff - where every single resident is involved in the business of hired killing
  • More of Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee being unbearably delightful in incredible costumes
  • And more tremendous music by Laurie Johnson, including this perky theme from Dead Man's Treasure
Also, obviously, there are buckets of extras that make this an essential purchase for completists and noobs alike. It all looks utterly stunning in HD and while the hit rate of episodes is less successful than Series 4, it is never not fun watching Steed and Mrs Peel bimbling about the countryside foiling insane plots and drinking gallons of champagne. You owe it to your eyes to see this.