Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Hollywood Costume Exhibition At London's Victoria And Albert Museum

Fans of Hollywood, costumes, exhibitions, London, Victorias, Alberts and museums should be happy as a pig in shit right now, for there is currently a Hollywood costume exhibition at London's Victoria & Albert Museum which is well and truly and quite absolutely worth visiting. I know because I went there about six weeks ago and have only now calmed down enough to write about it, such was its power.
Spread across three enormous (but gloomy) galleries, over 130 iconic movie costumes have been arranged and thoughtfully lit for you to drool over, but not literally because they're quite valuable. Charlie Chaplin's tramp outfit, Brad Pitt's pornographic vest from Fight Club and Indiana Jones' entire costume are just the first three I got away with taking rubbish photos of, and if the exhibition ended there you'd think it was impressive, if a little pricey.
But it doesn't end there. The second room, bigger than the first, gives various costumes, designers and directors a good going over with some of the most innovative displays you've ever seen. If you don't come away from the V&A wanting your own talking Martin Scorsese chair then you're dead to me. This gallery contains your Darth Vader, your Travis Bickle, your Ethan Edwards "and many more", including one of those ping-pong-ball-covered motion capture suits that Andy Serkis is so fond of. Imagine how great it must be for Serkis to just throw that on every day and let someone else worry about what he's going to look like.

If the exhibition ended there, you'd be even more impressed and begin to think it was better value, but it doesn't. The third gallery is the crowd-pleaser, and it's a gathering of clobber that will make you realise just how crushingly dull whatever you're wearing is. Han Solo, James Bond, the Terminator, Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, all those men and lots of women too have left their costumes for you to boggle at in what can only be described as the world's greatest walk-in wardrobe.
Don't forget to look up in this room - the superheroes are bizarrely mounted half a mile in the air, making them easy to miss for any non-giants. John McClane's blood-soaked vest is in there too, although of far more interest are the trousers beneath it: chunky cords! Like what your Dad used to wear! Who knew? And as a special treat for all the kids out there, you can inspect the soles of The Bride's Onitsuka Tigers from Kill Bill: Vol. 1, which are both adorned with the legend "FUCK U".

That's where the exhibition does in fact end, although not before you pass by a fairly spectacular pair of shoes with which you'll be very familiar. It is at this point that you will be both impressed to the maximum level and satisfied with the value for money. It is also the point at which you can spend ages in the gift shop wondering if a replica fedora will make you look in any way like Indiana Jones. Trust me: it won't.

The exhibition is on until January 27th and the words you've just read convey approximately 2% of its awesomeness, so have a click of this and book your slot. It's filling up though so don't fanny about.

Friday, 23 November 2012

BlogalongaBond /
Skyfall And The Wilderness Years


FAIR WARNING: This post is a festival of spoilers. It assumes that you've either seen Skyfall or you don't mind knowing most of its surprises. If neither of those apply to you but you still fancy some Skyfall review action, head this way for completely spoiler-free waffle.

Here we are then. This is the end; hold your breath and count to ten. After nearly two years of incessant Bondwaffle, the world's greatest blogging experiment comes crashing to a climax with the world's greatest twenty-threequel (excluding Carry On Matron), Skyfall. With Quantum Of Solace still stinking out the memories of Bond fans and normal people alike, could Daniel Craig's third Bond film be his Goldfinger, his The Spy Who Loved Me?

Well, not quite. Skyfall is undoubtedly great, but it's no Casino Royale. In fact it's hard to rank it alongside any other Bond films, simply because for half the time it doesn't feel much like a Bond film at all. The familiar half - the bits with the Bond theme, the OTT set-pieces, the tux and so on - goes to enormous lengths to reassure after two films light on the perceived tropes. Direct references to previous entries abound: an opening in which Bond is apparently killed (You Only Live Twice); an Aston Martin with an ejector seat (Goldfinger); an escape via reptile-hopping (Live And Let Die); and a gun which only Bond can operate (Licence To Kill). That's Connery, Moore and Dalton fans taken care of right there; all we need is a beefed-up role for M, as we saw in the Brosnan years, and a Lazenby-era last-minute death of a loved one and everyone's happy.
Well. Almost everyone.

The remainder of Skyfall, though, is so unlike the rest of the canon that it takes every ounce of director Sam Mendes' skill to make the film work. Like master chefs, Mendes and writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan blend old cheese with fresh milk and come out with delicious Skyfall sauce. The film's delicate balancing act is executed flawlessly, never tipping too far into crass comedy or overwrought drama, and its unexpected twists and turns free the series from the shackles of the past, making anything possible in the future.

Ironically though, the future looks oddly familiar - at least if the final scene of Skyfall is anything to go by. The roughly ten-year cycle that Bond films go through from knockabout caper to frowny revenge thriller looks to be heading back to the former, and for once I'm excited about it. I love Serious Bond, but I'm ready for him to relax now, enjoy himself, maybe find Quantum and blow up a volcano or two. Let's leave the brow-furrowing introspection for Fassbender to deal with in 2018.
Of course no Bond film is perfect (not even Licence To Kill), and Skyfall sports two major wrinkles which, while not enough to derail the film, are difficult to ignore for those of us tragic enough to care about what remains of the franchise's Craig-era continuity.

The first is the feeling we're left with at the end, which is uncannily similar to that with which we were left at the end of the previous two Bond films. By Casino Royale's climax, this MI6 noob had gained his licence to kill, his Aston Martin, his theme tune and his excuse for treating women like tissues to jizz into and dispose of immediately, so that when he defiantly pronounces himself "Bond... James Bond" at the end, he's finally ready to serve Queen and country. Hooray! Then, in Quantum Of Solace, it turned out he wasn't quite James Bond yet - he still had to go through a deeply personal mission in order to get a load of emotional baggage out of the way, after which he was finally ready to serve Queen and country. Hooray, again! Now, at the end of Skyfall, after going on another deeply personal mission and getting another load of emotional baggage out of the way, he's *sigh* finally ready to serve Queen and country. Hooray again, again. Can he get on with his job now? Please?

The other problem is Skyfall's portrayal of 007 as a knackered old codger. So recently rebooted and shown in his formative years as a double-0, Bond is a dinosaur just four years later. He must have gone through a hell of a lot after locking up Vesper's double-crossing boyfriend to be so jaded so soon. In its defence, it's the emotional core of the script that requires Bond to be past it: it's imperative that he and M, who's also under attack for age-related incompetence, identify with each other and stick together. The James Bond of Quantum Of Solace could have gone through the same motions as Skyfall's Bond, but he would have been doing it out of duty rather than the friendship and, dare I say it, love that underpins his actions here. As a result, 2012 Bond is a far more human hero; it's just that barring even more indistinct timeline-hopping (don't be surprised if Bond 24 is set between Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace and explains why he changed his suit), Bond can only get even older from here on in.

But like so many niggles (the bizarrely empty tube train; the sudden onset of darkness when Silva attacks Skyfall lodge; the fact that Bond doesn't even loosen his tie or undo his jacket on his 500-mile drive up the A1), this timeline-mangling is just something you have to get over. If you can't get over it though, fear not: Bond's diaries are readily available, and explain everything you need to know about the wilderness years between Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall...

 
2008
Busy year. Lots of it went by in a near-incomprehensible blur. Found out all sorts of stuff about Quantum and managed to not kill the two people associated with it that I wanted to kill the most.
M reckons this is progress.

2009
Quiet year at work. Couldn't find Quantum so stayed in and watched Straw Dogs a lot. I liked the guy defending his isolated home from nutters. I could see myself doing that, only I'm never going home because I hate that place and there's a weird old man who lives there by himself with no supplies of any kind and thinks he's Sean Connery.

Haven't killed anyone for ages, starting to wonder if I've still got it in me. Found my first grey hair too.

2010
Not that I'm having a midlife crisis or anything but I decided to soup up the DB5. Took it into Q Branch where they made it right-hand drive and fitted revolving number plates and machine guns like in a film I saw once, then they stuck in an ejector seat for LOLs. Those guys!


Agent Ronson gave me a new watch for Christmas. It's an Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M. It follows in the footsteps of its illustrious predecessors by sporting a raft of specialist diving features including a rotating diving bezel, a chromium nitride diving scale and water resistance up to 600 metres. Also it goes nicely with these Tom Ford suits. Ronson 
is just the best. I call him 'my new Leiter', LOL! We go to the gym together a lot, although he's much fitter than me. He introduced me to Home Alone, a film about a kid defending his home from nutters with all these crazy traps. As if!

Still haven't found Quantum. Beginning to worry that I'm losing my edge.

2011
I'm definitely getting old: thought I saw Quantum's Mr White in Waitrose so I shot him in the head. Turns out it was M's husband buying her weekly bottle of Macallan Scotch. Awk-ward! Not as awkward as the funeral though: I got drunk with M on Heineken (won't be drinking that shit again unless I'm in a VERY bad way) and slept with her. In a way it brought us much closer. Even moved in with her for a while but she kicked me out for watching Straw Dogs and Home Alone all the time. Still got a key to her flat though, never know when it might come in handy.

Got drunk at the Christmas party and slept with Agent Ronson. Interesting experience. Still, there's got to be a first time for everything. He's taking it all a bit seriously, says he'd die for me, all that stuff. Trying to avoid him by changing gyms and spending all my time there. As a result I'm pretty buff right now, which means that none of my suits fit. Must do something about that.

2012
Got a bit depressed about the M situation this year so went to the cinema a lot to try and forget. Watched The Dark Knight Rises eight times. Batman sure knows how to pick himself up from a crippling incident that nearly killed him and defeat a formidable ally despite being a bit out of shape! Inspiring stuff.

Saw M in Waitrose and patched things up. While we were chatting some guy nicked her laptop out of her handbag and neither of us noticed till we got to the office. We're definitely both losing it. Now I've got to go to bloody Turkey with Agent Ronson to try and find it. Hope he stops banging on about dying for me, it's embarrassing. Also some bimbo's coming with us but for some ridiculous reason she won't tell me her name. Says she's 'waiting for the right moment'. Not sure I trust her: I watched her at the shooting range the other day and she couldn't hit the broad side of a barn if she was in it. Not to worry, I'm sure she can't do too much harm.
 

So I leave for Istanbul tomorrow. Left a note in the kitchen for May, my elderly Scottish housekeeper: "Pls cancel milk. Oh and don't let those MI6 bastards sell the flat. James Bond will return."


The cuff adjustment
In moments of extreme Bondiness, Pierce Brosnan straightened his tie. Daniel Craig prefers to ensure that his cuffs are protruding exactly the right length from his sleeves. This is the first sign that Skyfall isn't taking itself too seriously, and it's perfectly judged.

The Shanghai fight
The zenith of Roger Deakins' cinematography in Skyfall comes in this incredible scrap between Bond and Patrice. Shot in one take, entirely in silhouette, with humungous neon jellyfish floating across the background, it's the artiest fight Bond's ever had. It's also a triumph of choreography; every crunching kick and punch looks brutally convincing.

Silva's introduction
The lengthy, one-take monologue about rats is one thing, but the following banter between Bond and Silva is absolute gold. Craig wisely lets Bardem provide the pantomime, so that when he deadpans "what makes you think this is my first time?" it deflates Silva and slays the audience. It would be great to think that Bond has had to go mano y mano in the past to get the job done, although if Ian Fleming were alive he'd have an absolute dickie fit, the massive homophobe.

Tennyson
Skyfall drops a devastating slice of near-arthouse cinema on us in this tremendous scene which further encapsulates all that is Bond. Reciting Tennyson's Ulysses in voiceover while 007 legs it up Whitehall to her rescue, M reminds both her inquisitors and the audience that although the British Empire may be a distant memory and secret agents may be a relic of the Cold War, the world still needs heroes. And most of all, it still needs James Bond.

M's death
It was a long time coming (as great as DJD is, her presence in the post-Brosnan films has always stopped me sleeping at night), but when M finally resigns for good in Bond's arms, orphaning him again, I don't mind saying I wept for the first time in a Bond film since Roger Moore snowboarded to the Beach Boys. She may have been a continuity-buggering irritant but I'll miss her potty mouth.


And finally: Hopefully New Bond won't be forgetting Little James in the future:

EVE is apologising to BOND for shooting him in the chest, thereby ruining the mission and injuring him so badly that he almost died.

BOND
It was only four ribs. Some of the less vital organs...
(he leans closer to EVE and whispers)
nothing... major.

BlogalongaBond will return with Spectre

What the hell is BlogalongaBond? I'll tell you.
Further BlogalongaBondareading here

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Kevin Bacon: Contractually Obliged To Be Referred To As "And Kevin Bacon" Since 1997

Picture Perfect (1997)

 My Dog Skip (2000)

Trapped (2002)

 Cavedweller (2004)

My One And Only (2009)

 
X-Men: First Class (2011)

Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

Thursday, 8 November 2012

This Week's Recommended Blu-ray: Groundhog Day

Andie Macdowell and Bill Murray star in this week's best Blu-ray re-release, Groundhog Day. Directed by Murray's Ghostbusters co-star Harold Ramis, it's a simultaneously sweet and wicked comedy about a man mysteriously stuck in a 24 hour time loop. Add it to your collection immediately.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Groundhog Day Released On Blu-ray This Week

If you're wondering which new Blu-ray to buy this week, you could do a lot worse than choose Groundhog Day, the fantastic 1993 comedy directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray, Andie Macdowell and Stephen Tobolowsky.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Groundhog Day: Out Now On Blu-ray

Bill Murray stars as an irascible weatherman forced to live the same day over and over again in Harold Ramis' clever, charming and quite brilliant comedy Groundhog Day, released on Blu-ray this week. Go and buy it!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Out Now On Blu-Ray: Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day, Harold Ramis' delightful, ingenious and utterly fantastic comedy starring Bill Murray as a grumpychops weatherman trapped in time, is released on Blu-ray this week. You should buy it.

Friday, 2 November 2012

When The Incredible Suit Met James Bond: Episode Three In An Improbably Frequent Series Of Six

Typical. You wait decades to meet a James Bond, then three turn up in the space of a month. My quest to make meaningful contact with each of the six actors to play 007 only came into being after I came across Pierce Brosnan (not literally, although it was a close thing) in a cafĂ© in September, but in less time than it takes to complete a single menstrual cycle I’ve managed to rack up 50% of all the world’s known Bonds. If I’d known it would be this easy I’d have started years ago, before it looked like some of them might cark it before I got to them.
The latest notch on my Bondpost came in the form of none other than Sir Roger Moore, whose tenure beneath the tux was varied to say the least. Still, as much as A View To A Kill still causes me to break out in hives, the chance to meet such a legend could not possibly be passed up. And let's be honest, The Spy Who Loved Me is fabulous. So when I was contacted by Empire Magazine and asked if I'd like to appear on their podcast with RoMo, I bit their hand off, right up to the armpit.

And so it was that, just two days after meeting Daniel Craig, I found myself at Empire HQ, nervously waiting in a recording booth alone while News Editor Chris Hewitt and Reviews Editor Nick de Semlyen waited in reception for Sir Rodge, occasionally texting me with rubbish gags about him being stuck at Chiswick roundabout.

I was concerned that Roger might be a frail shadow of his former self - he had, after all, turned 85 just over a week before. But when he arrived, dressed as impeccably as always in a double-breasted suit, I wasn't disappointed. Sure, he moved a little slowly, but on spotting me he was lightning-fast in offering his hand to shake, which was as firm as that of a man half his age.

"Hi Sir Roger", I squeaked, even though I'm no fan of honorifics. All James Bonds are Sirs in my book, it's just that for some mad reason Her Madge has only seen fit to make it official for two of them.

"You can drop the Sir," came his casual reply. "Call me Roger. In fact call me Charlie if you like." I decided to go with Roger because I had literally no idea why he might want to be called Charlie. As we settled into our podseats, he enquired: "Is this live or pre-recorded?" Pre-recorded, we told him. "Oh good, then I can say fuck or shit." I could tell I was going to like Sir Roger Moore very much.

And so the podcast recording began. It would be a titanic waste of everyone's time for me to transcribe it here when you can listen to it in full on the Empire website, so go and do that as soon as you've finished reading this. Most of the conversation was about Rodge's new book, Bond On Bond, in which he discusses his thoughts on all the Bond films. I haven't read it but if our chat was anything to go by, it's got even more man-love for Daniel Craig in it than the average post on The Incredible Suit.
As much as I loved chatting Bond with him, I was desperate to ask about my all-time favourite non-Bond Roger Moore film, the astonishingly crackers 1970 curio The Man Who Haunted Himself. If you haven't seen it, rectify that situation immediately: it's amazing. Rodge's eyes lit up when I mentioned the film, as if the chance to discuss something other than James Bond only came along once every five years or so. This may also explain the enthusiasm with which he described his method of cooking the perfect Brussels sprout, although when I attempted to combine Bond and cookery with a knowing comment about him cooking a quiche in A View To A Kill, I was met with a stony stare which suggested that either he didn't remember the quiche incident or it was strictly off-limits. It turned out to be the former.

As is apparently customary whenever I meet a Bond, I must at least once allow my mouth to operate well in advance of my brain, and so it was when I asked him for his recollections of working on The Man Who Haunted Himself. "Well I'm glad you asked," he said, with a single magnificent eyebrow aloft to herald the impending arrival of a LOL, "because that's the only film in which I was allowed to act."

"Yeah!" I chuckled (slightly over-enthusiastically in retrospect), in an attempt to laugh with him rather than at him. It failed.

"You don't have to say it like that, like you agree with me," said Roger in mock indignation, and although I knew he was kidding I felt like a complete tool. I spun out some feeble excuse for basically insulting a legendary 85-year-old Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and he graciously moved on before I said anything else stupid.

And that's Sir Roger Moore in a nutshell: gracious. He's charming, smooth and has the same twinkle in his eyes that he's had since he effortlessly inserted himself into popular culture in ITC's The Saint in 1962. He insisted on opening the door for his young female publicist at every opportunity, and did it in a respectful gentleman kind of way rather than a sleazy secret agent kind of way, which made me realise just how much he was actually acting in all those films.

And he may be a senior citizen, but he's still as sharp as one of his Bond-era Cyril Castle suits. Thousands of anecdotes are filed away in his mind, and every one of them is solid gold. They take a bit longer to be retrieved from the filing system these days, but they're worth the wait. And it's great to know that there's a Bond out there who actually enjoys talking about Bond, when certain others seem like they'd rather have it off with Grace Jones. What's more, he passed the ultimate test: he was perfectly happy to be in the same photograph as me. TAKE NOTE PIERCE BROSNAN:
And so I look forward to my next Bond, whoever that may be. But if you're reading, Sir Sean, the clock's ticking, know what I mean?