Saturday, 28 April 2012

Saturday Playlist #33: The Avengers

If you've got any sense knocking about in that tiny brain of yours, you'll be off to the flicks this weekend to watch 2012's best film (and worst title) so far, Marvel Avengers Assemble. When you do, and if you can make it out beneath the sounds of constant explosions and some poor bastard trying to write a bloody amazing script for Justice League Of America, keep your ears peeled for a typically bombastic score by former Saturday Playlistee Alan Silvestri. It sounds like this:

The Avengers Theme

Silvestri also composed the score for Captain America: The First Avenger, which features in this playlist of tracks from the feature-length trailers for Marvel Avengers Assemble. The Incredible Suit recommends you only listen to the playlist and not the full, individual albums, because in all honesty most of them are not all that. Ramin Djawadi's score for Iron Man, for example, is packed with some of the most awful crunching heavy metal guitars this side of your local Battle Of The Bands night.

That said, I've filtered out the crap and left only the good bits for you to wrap your eardrums around. So turn up your speakers, assemble your, um, ears or something, and SAVE THE FLIPPING WORLD as you...


Tuesday, 24 April 2012

BlogalongaBond / Licence To Kill:
The Best James Bond Film Ever Made

The summer of 1989 was a glorious time to be inside a cinema. Batman finally got the movie he deserved, Indiana Jones was back to his whip-cracking best and trailers for Back To The Future Part II and Ghostbusters II were causing damp seats at multiplexes the world over. I spent the entire summer holiday in Telford UCI lapping up everything from Police Academy 6: City Under Siege to The 'Burbs and enjoyed every second of it, but nothing caused as much arousal in my trousers as Licence To Kill. Partly because I was, by then, a confirmed Bond obsessive, but mainly because none of those other films had what Licence To Kill had, which was one of these:
Yes, James Bond was back, and he brought with him two "shit"s, a "bullshit", three "bastard"s, a "piss" and a man's head popping like a jam-filled balloon. It's hardly Cannibal Holocaust, but as far as Bond was concerned the brutality of For Your Eyes Only suddenly looked like an episode of ChuckleVision in comparison.

In 2012 Licence To Kill is fairly mild in terms of violence. The minute or so which was cut in order to prevent the film receiving an 18 certificate has long since been restored and the film released as a 15 rated DVD, and it could easily get away with a 12 when it arrives on Blu-ray in October.* But combined with the bastard-hard Bond of Timothy Dalton, who proves once again that he's the only 007 actor who seems to get what Ian Fleming was writing about, the film's freedom to make Bond's world a genuinely threatening one results in what I like to call:
BOOM. I'll bang on about the individual elements that make Licence To Kill so, so good in a minute (contain yourself), but at its core it's its bold refusal to conform that raises it above the rest of the series. When Bond frees himself from the red tape of MI6 in order to get the job done properly, it's a perfect metaphor for the film itself busting out of the franchise's restrictive mould and ruthlessly and efficiently delivering the goods.

Like On Her Majesty's Secret Service before it and Casino Royale after it, Licence To Kill assumes its position as top quality Bondage by ignoring the Goldfinger formula which created so many average entries in the series. Finally allowing James Bond to function as a human being with fragile emotions and a fierce sense of loyalty to his friends, Licence To Kill only falters when it feels the need to crowbar in the scenes it thinks the fans demand: Q's gadget lesson almost grinds the film to a halt and Bond's first episode of sexytime with Pam Bouvier is completely unjustified and irrelevant to the rest of the plot. That said, Carey Lowell is probably the series' third-best Bond girl, her heart-stopping dress and ability to down a vodka martini in one being just two of her admirable attributes.
Yes, you may marry me.

It's Bond's heartfelt relationship with Felix Leiter (an extension of what could have been with The Living Daylights' Saunders) that drives the film though, and which finally allows Ian Fleming's James Bond - largely absent from his own film series since From Russia With Love - to make a welcome reappearance. While a literal adaptation of any of the books remains as likely a prospect as Justin Bieber playing Bond, Licence To Kill contains the most faithful screen version of the complex character that curses, calculates and kills his way through the pages of Fleming's novels and short stories.

The film's box office may have been crippled by its contemporaries in that amazing, blockbuster-packed summer - it's no coincidence that every Bond movie since has been released in winter - but it proved that Bond was at his best when he remembered his roots, went a little crazy and back-combed his substantial barnet so hard that his forehead nearly snapped off.

Timothy Dalton, obviously
T-Daltz takes his ice-cold BastardBond from The Living Daylights and cranks the bastardry up a notch, while simultaneously giving us the most believable portrayal of 007 ever seen on screen. It’s one thing to be a ruthless revenge machine but it only works if you believe the motivation, and Dalton effortlessly manages both. I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to suggest that the fact that he only made two Bond films is probably the greatest tragedy mankind has ever suffered.

The bridge escape
I enjoyed the scene in Mission: Impossible III when the recently-captured villain was being transported across a long, picturesque bridge in a prison van, only for his cronies to suddenly turn up and break him out in an improbably hastily-organised but undeniably exciting escape. However I couldn't help but feel that it owed a certain something to the scene in Licence To Kill when the recently-captured villain was being transported across a long, picturesque bridge in a prison van, only for his cronies to suddenly turn up and break him out in an improbably hastily-organised but undeniably exciting escape. Can't quite put my finger on what it is though.

Franz Sanchez
"Each film is only as good as its villain," said critic Roger Ebert. Inconveniently, he was talking about Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, but his theory has never been proven as strongly in a Bond film as in Licence To Kill. Sanchez isn't just dirty, he's terrifying, psychotic and probably mentally unstable: no sane person would wear a shirt like this, after all. His unique way of dealing with disloyal associates makes me genuinely concerned for Bond when he goes undercover in Sanchez' inner circle, and when his cover's blown, it's one of the rare occasions in a Bond film when you're desperate for him to kill the bad guy before he carves 007's lungs out, or something.

Michael Kamen's score

Having done a cracking job on action scores for Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, and with John Barry  unavailable due to illness, Michael Kamen brought his urgent, stabby brass along to accompany Bond’s roaring rampage of revenge. Kamen’s often frantic, always fantastic score is crucial to ramping up the film’s tension and remains woefully served on the soundtrack album. Somebody needs to sort that out STAT.

“He was married once… but it was a long time ago”
Tracy Bond rarely gets a mention post-OHMSS, but when she does it’s always a touching moment, and Dalton makes this one heartbreaking. It's never overtly mentioned, but given that Felix's wife suffers the same wedding day fate as Mrs Bond, it's hard not to see 007's dogged pursuit of her killers as an attempt to alleviate his own guilt and anger over Tracy's murder. As a result Licence To Kill ends up being the film Diamonds Are Forever should have been.

The Incredible Wetsuit
Most of Bond’s outfits in Licence To Kill have been flamed by those in the know, but check out the sexy red piping on this baby. I might get one of these just to lounge about the house in.

This line reading by Benicio
Monserrate Rafael del Toro Sánchez
He’s not being entirely truthful.

Licence revoked
When Barry Norman showed a clip of this scene in a Film ’89 summer preview, I turned to my dad in horror and disbelief. “James Bond RESIGNS? What the actual fuck?”, I didn’t say to my dad because I would have got a clip round the ear. 23 years later the scene is just as powerful: Robert Brown finally gets his teeth into the role of M, Dalton looks like he wants to beat his boss to a bloody pulp and Bond effectively jacks in the only thing that ever meant anything in his life to avenge his friend. When I quit my job it’s going to be exactly like this.

Milton Krest's death
The scene for which the film probably most deserved its 15 rating might just be the series’ best death. As if we weren’t quite sure just how horrible Sanchez is, we get to see him burst his business partner’s head open over a matter of a few measly quid. Not that Krest didn’t deserve it: in one scene he wore SALMON PINK SLACKS.

The end
Once the film has finished blowing up half of South America in its stunning ten-minute tanker chase and Bond has exacted fiery revenge on Sanchez, it brings it all back down to Earth with a touching moment in which we almost see James Bond cry for the first time since his wife was killed. Without a word, Dalton conveys Bond's exhausted relief that it's all over, and when he nearly breaks down at the thought of everything he's been through it's almost too much to take.

And finally: As Timothy Dalton bade Bond farewell, he took with him several other names who performed their final double-0 duties on Licence To Kill, all of whom played a small part in making me the unbearable conversational bore I am today. So thanks to these guys for that:

* For a geekily fascinating analysis of the film's many journeys between the edit suite and the BBFC, check out these Melon Farmers

BlogalongaBond will return with GoldenEye

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

Friday, 20 April 2012

Marvel Avengers Agglomerate

Iron Man: Bearable. The Incredible Hulk: Brain-thumpingly shit. Iron Man 2: Unbearable. Thor: Great. Captain America: Initially promising, ultimately disappointing. It has to be said, my expectations for The Avengers Movie Formerly Known As The Avengers were not high. Fortunately though - like a massive box of jelly babies or a hip flask full of rum - low expectations are great things to take into a cinema with you, because Marvel Avengers Assemble confounds them all, combining smarts, action and absolute skipfuls of LOLs better than any other superhero movie in history.
The world's supply of kudos must go to Man Of The Movie Moment Joss Whedon: after turning in a deliciously ingenious script for The Cabin In The Woods (yes that was three years ago, just go with it), he's now achieved the not inconsiderable feat of writing and directing a film which assembles the Avengers in a way that doesn't feel remotely forced. Not only that but he also gives each of his leads just the right balance of screen time and allows them to interact exactly as you'd hope they would. On the basis of this film alone, I'm almost prepared to forgive Whedon for Serenity. *ducks*

Marvel Avengers Assemble benefits enormously from its format. It's essentially superhero tapas: bite-sized chunks of each hero are far more palatable than an entire main course of any of them. Tony Stark doesn't get the chance to become exhaustingly irritating, Captain America is never allowed to get too dull and Mark Ruffalo's Hulk is sensibly marginalised, given that the previous 252 minutes of screen time devoted to his character have been such catastrophic cackpats. That's not to say The Ruffles lets the side down: he's by far the most charismatic of all the leads, and his CG alter ego is easily the best screen incarnation of the character yet. Bring an umbrella, because when Hulk eventually gets to smash, there'll be a shower of geekjizz.
Even Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow doesn't get lumbered with the love interest label she might have done: in fact the only arguable sexual tension present in the film unexpectedly features S.H.I.E.L.D.'s chief superhero-botherer Agent Coulson. It would have been great to see his affections returned, but the sad fact is that if they had been, nobody would have talked about anything else when discussing the film.

The biggest surprise about Whedon's script is how ridiculously hilarious it is. Of all the actual "comedies" dumped on audiences lately, none are this ROFLsome, and the film does it without a single swear, cock joke or wacky scene of inadvertent drug use. And Loki's assessment of Black Widow as a "mewling quim" is the most bizarrely brilliant insult I've heard for yonks. Expect it to enter the cultural consciousness very soon.
Obviously it's not perfect. The story isn't as complex as, say, a glass of water; the second act goes all floppy while everyone hits each other or blows shit up, and Hulk conveniently shifts from uncontrollable rage monster to compliant ally with little explanation. And don't expect any further development on the relationships left hanging at the end of Thor and Captain America: there's no time for love when New York's being attacked by a giant armoured flying dragon alien thing.

Nevertheless, Marvel Avengers Assemble is a big bucket of megafunballs, thanks to the ginger-bearded genius of Joss. Big and loud, but never dumb (Whedon even slips in a few un-blockbustery meditations on the nature of war), it's the year's funnest - and funniest - film so far.

Shit title though.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

I Really Want To Read Male Annual #2

But only for "Ian Fleming's fabulous James Bond in The Death Peddler". Not for anything else featured on the cover. No sirree.

(via Illustrated 007)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

How To Fall From A Height And Land Like A Bit Of A Tit 2: Avengers Edition

It's almost a year since The Incredible Suit "examined" Hollywood's insistence on having their heroes perform the elaborate stance which seemed to have become the default position to assume whenever they were required to fall from a height and land heroically.

It now looks like the stance is going to have to be named 'The Avenger', since at least three of Earth's mightiest heroes (if Black Widow counts) are prime exponents of the move, as a cursory glance at the internet proves. Let's take another, even more half-hearted look!

Black Widow

Black Widow executes a faultless 'Avenger' in Iron Man 2 to celebrate beating the bejesus out of Jon Favreau for directing such a piece of shit. The flowing red tresses are an added bonus; in fact they're always welcome round these parts. (fnerk)

Iron Man
Restricted somewhat by his metallic pyjamas, Iron Man himself has a crack in the forthcoming Marvel Avengers Assemble. It's a bit stiff if we're being brutally honest. Can someone pass the WD-40?

Thor's attempt at 'The Avenger' is all the more impressive for landing on a moving aircraft, and the flowing cape is a nice touch. He could do with a belt though, I can almost see his bifröst bridge from here.

Join us again next year, when we all have a good laugh at a 58-year-old John McClane attempting 'The Avenger' in A Good Day To Die Hard and displacing several vertebrae in the process.

Friday, 13 April 2012

The Cabin In The Woods

If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise. Specifically, five horror film clichés in a van heading for a horror film cliché to partake in a series of horror film clichés, passing a horror film cliché on the way, only to wind up in the most unexpected non-horror film non-cliché you can think of. And chances are you won't have thought of this.
If you've looked at the internet recently you'll have been battered to a bloody pulp by warnings to watch this film without reading anything about it first (as if that doesn't apply to every film ever made), but if you've read this far you may as well carry on. I won't spoil anything about the plot because I'm not Peter Bradshaw.

Self-reflexivity is hardly something with which horror fans are unfamiliar: it's sixteen years since Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven tore the genre a new throat-hole with their painfully post-modern Scream. But while that film seemed like the last word in knowingly arch filmmaking, The Cabin In The Woods turns horror so far inside out that its guts are orbiting its skin at a distance of several million miles.

It's a blood-soaked bag of severed funballs, but The Cabin In The Woods also has plenty to say about contemporary horror films - no mean feat considering it was made three years ago - and it'll be interesting to see how the genre adapts from here on in. Horror is about to feel like it's been caught copying someone else's homework, and with any luck writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have ensured that in the future, all horror films will be judged as either pre- or post-Cabin. If they're the former and rubbish, they might just be forgiven, but anything that plays by the old rules from now on is going to meet a gory end.
Genuinely funny, consistently entertaining and balls-out bonkers in its (albeit long time coming) final act, The Cabin In The Woods is the horror film that non-horror fans like me can enjoy without the usual recourse to hiding under the seat with all the squashed popcorn and sticky patches of dried Coke that accompanies such chickenshittery. See it soon before someone ruins it for you.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Well These Are Nice

I must have been a good boy yesterday because Uncle Internet came round in the evening and dumped a bunch of new, official and rather gorgeous stills from Skyfall in my laptop, and unlike most of my uncles I didn't have to do any special favours by way of thanks.

I'm not usually one to just present new movie stills without at least a half-hearted attempt at a few smartarse captions, but these are so lovely that I think I'll just leave them here as they are and stare at them all day long. Feel free to have a little stare with me if you like. It's not weird, honest.
I should probably say that "Uncle Internet" is the secret name I have to give to Empire Online. They say it makes them sound more cuddly but if you ask me it just sounds creepy.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

James Cameron To Shoot, Edit And Distribute Avatar Sequels Exclusively At Bottom Of Mariana Trench

Avatar director James Cameron has announced plans to not only produce the sequels to his undeservedly successful film in a single location - at the bottom of the Mariana Trench - but also to only allow them to be screened there, according to completely fictional reports.

The once-genius, now-deluded mentalist made the decision after a recent trip to the deepest point on Earth, which he visited because he hadn't been in the news for a while and it helped publicise the 3D re-release of his massive-human-tragedy-turned-popcorn-flogging-cash-cow Titanic.

Cameron's decision to make two multi-million-dollar films 36,000 feet underwater will come as little surprise to anyone who has followed the raving nincompoop's recent escapades, but his plan to only allow the films to be shown in the same location has baffled everyone in the world, even Fox executives, who are notoriously tolerant of the crackpot megalomaniac's harebrained schemes. "We're not entirely sure Jim is legally sane any more," Avatar producer Jon Landau didn't say, "but where he goes, we follow. And we're all going down."

"It's a natural progression for cinema," Cameron might have said if any of this were true, "and the simple novelty factor of shooting and exhibiting Avatar 2 and 3 eleven kilometres below sea level means that every idiot and his wife will come and see the films regardless of the absence of any originality in the screenplay."
An idiot and his wife, yesterday

The move is expected to cost somewhere in the region of ten billion dollars and will involve the construction of waterproof sound stages and a cinema capable of withstanding the 16,000 psi pressure experienced at the bottom of the trench. But Cameron has a plan to guarantee his films will make a profit.

"We'll be charging $15 million per ticket, which includes transport to the theater," the dictatorial fruitcake probably but not definitely said, "plus a buck fifty for the hire of the 3D glasses. Those pussies at Fox were hesitant about charging for the specs but there was no way I was about to leave any money on the table. By my reckoning Avatar 2 alone will be the most successful film in history after its first screening."
The bottom of the Mariana Trench, yesterday

Critics of the project are concerned about a lack of foresight on the director's part. "I'm not sure Cameron's packing a full suitcase on this trip," said Brian Critic of some made-up outlet or other. "The logistics of something this insane mean that it's going to take somewhere in the region of sixty-odd years to successfully achieve, by which time he'll be about 120 years old. How does he expect to live to see the box office returns? What is he, a vampire?"

In possibly related and equally untruthful news, Cameron was recently seen drinking the blood of a virgin at a party held by Adam Sandler.