Wednesday 27 June 2012

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Jack Reacher?

To: Christopher McQuarrie
From: Barry Bigcheese, Paramount Pictures

Hi Chris,
Just wanted to wish you all the best with the filming of Jack Reacher. Just one thing - we bagged Tom Cruise before we'd read a single word of the books (come on, have you seen how long they are? Fuck that), and it turns out that Reacher's meant to be 6 foot 5 and Cruise is only 5' 7". Awk-ward! Can you do something about that? Hope so, because if not Ratner's outside claiming he can do it for half what you're costing us.

Barry Bigcheese

To: Barry Bigcheese
From: Christopher McQuarrie

Hi Barry,
Thanks for your words of encouragement. Don't worry - I watched the extras on the Lord Of The Rings DVDs and I've got this covered. I'll simply place everything and everyone else in the film way in the distance. That way Tom will look twice as tall as everyone else! Job done.


Monday 25 June 2012

BlogalongaBond / Tomorrow Never Dies:
The Pryce Is Wrong

From Russia With Love, The Man With The Golden Gun, Licence To Kill: all difficult second albums for Pierce Brosnan's predecessors, all improvements on their first efforts. As was by now customary, the actor playing James Bond had relaxed into the role, the writers understood his strengths and weaknesses and audiences knew what to expect. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Right?

Well. Let's be positive: Tomorrow Never Dies undeniably delivers some standout moments. The pre-titles "terrorists' supermarket" sequence is thrilling (although nobody seemed to take advantage of the BOGOF offer on Kalashnikovs and Bond totally failed to redeem his clubcard points on the way out), the set-pieces are fantastic, Brosnan is excellent and there are some mighty fine one-liners, not least of which is Moneypenny's award-winning "You always were a cunning linguist, James".
There are also a couple of relatively interesting Bond girls who are, for once, more than just somewhere for 007 to park his cock. Bond's former squeeze Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher) lends his character rare depth, suggesting an interesting history in a few tender and touching scenes. Most of her lines are razor-sharp critiques of Bond's inability to settle down, and are the kind of things GoldenEye's script should have been saying instead of all that floppy-fringed pouting into the sunset. Meanwhile, Michelle Yeoh's Wai Lin is a formidable ally, amusingly aloof and disinterested in our hero until the inevitable final-scene cock-parking. What's more, both actresses are only about ten years younger than Brosnan, which comes as some relief from the usual borderline kiddy-fiddling that goes on in these films.

Sadly, that's about it for the good stuff. Like You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me, Tomorrow Never Dies races along with typical Bondian gusto, skipping over plot holes and underwritten characters so deftly that it's only when you check your pockets at the end that you realise your wallet's been nicked by an inane story, an embarrassingly weak villain and a director with a CV that includes Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
Despite director Roger Spottiswoode's previous indiscretions, it's hard to blame him for what makes Tomorrow Never Dies such a below average Bond film. Rushed into production by a recently-sold studio desperate to impress Wall Street with boffo Bond box office, the film started shooting before either the bad guy or one of the Bond girls had been cast and with a script that was changing daily.

The biggest casualty of this chaotic production was that everyone forgot to write a decent villain. Media mogul Elliot Carver looks like an ineffectual economics teacher who's accidentally come to work in his jim-jams and spends the entire film titting about his various HQs bashing away at a magic keyboard that can somehow make sense of the nonsense he's randomly hammering into it. He's so useless at villainy that he requires at least three henchmen (also rubbish) to do his various dirty work, and he's so cripplingly dull that it's actually hard to tell who has the most charisma between the character and his "action" figure.
Fully poseable!*
*Only one pose included: "Lacklustre"

Roger Ebert's mantra "Each film is only as good as its villain," applied so dramatically in Licence To Kill, is tragically forgotten here; even the writers acknowledge how ponderously yawnsome Carver is, having 007 continually treat him like the most boring guest at the party. Audience identification with Bond hits a new high when he almost fails to stay awake through one of Carver's rambling monologues, shooting a nearby flunky just to keep everyone (in the scene and the audience) from nodding off.

What's more, Carver's grand plan to instigate World War III by pitting two super-powers against each other has already failed in at least two previous Bond films, and even in these Leveson Inquiry times the idea that a media magnate would commit mass murder in order to sell a few more papers is just stoopid. For him to then alert the authorities by publishing news of said murders before anyone else knows about it is so incompetent you can almost hear the embarrassed facepalms of seventeen previous Bond villains.

Of course the one mistake everyone makes in relation to Carver is his supposed similarity to a real-life insane media baron, who for the purposes of avoiding a lawsuit I shall call "Rooput Merdock". I've carefully investigated these apparent parallels, and while there is definitely some correlation between Carver and "Merdock", differences begin to emerge upon closer inspection:

Is a billionaire international media mogul intent on dominating the world's press both in print and on televisionIs a billionaire international media mogul intent on dominating the world's press both in print and on television
Has close ties to British PM, according to head of MI6Has close ties to British PM, according to everyone
Has an enemy called JamesHas a son called James
Was attacked by a scary Chinese ladyIs married to a scary Chinese lady
Owns 24-hour news channel which tragically went off air on its first nightOwns 24-hour news channel which is tragically still on air
Wears pyjamas to workWears custard pies to Parliamentary committee hearings
Recalls quotes by William Randolph HearstCan't recall anything that happened while in charge of best-selling Sunday newspaper
Disposes of underlings when they've outlived their usefulnessTurns underlings into cyborgs and programmes them to take the fall when they've outlived their usefulness
Engineers war between UK and China in order to sell more newspapersBites the heads off live kittens and drinks their blood in order to remain alive
Is a fictional characterIs Satan

I'm glad I've been able to clear that up harmlessly and without any need for litigation. Moving swiftly on...

The title sequence
I know I mentioned Daniel Kleinman's title sequence last month, but get used to it because he made five fantastic ones and they're all getting their moment in the BlogalongaBond sun. This one is like swimming down a fibre optic cable with a bunch of sexy ladies and some guns and possibly some diamonds too although I'm not sure why. I'm probably also one of only four people on Earth who quite like Sheryl Crow's song; it's no 'Surrender' by kd lang, but on the plus side it's no 'All I Wanna Do' either, and for that we must be grateful.

David Arnold's music
'Hamburg Break Out'

Former interviewee and great friend of The Incredible Suit (great friends in the sense that we had an email conversation once, we don't hang out or chat or really know each other at all in fact) David Arnold's first Bond score is an absolute stonker, livening up the occasionally ropey action no end and enhancing the film exactly as a good score should. It's also ridiculously of its time, all techno and drum loops and phat beats or whatever that stuff's called. Not only that but the aforementioned end credits song 'Surrender', which he co-wrote with David McAlmont and Don Black, is the greatest Bond theme that never was.

The handcuffs
Tomorrow Never Dies was stunt legend Vic Armstrong's first Bond film as second unit director, and the stuff he delivers here is phenomenal. The film's set pieces have to be amazing to wipe out the tedium of the plot, and this one in particular does so with cock-waggling bravado. As close as Bond gets to a Jackie Chan film, the inventiveness of having the leads handcuffed sets up some insane action, and Brosnan does well to keep up with Michelle Yeoh's kung fu skillz.

And finally: Tomorrow Never Dies stars a young Julian Rhind-Tutt as a yeoman on the doomed HMS Devonshire. His character's name?
Unless of course wardrobe just forgot to take the actor's scribbled name tag off his costume.

BlogalongaBond will return with The World Is Not Enough

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

Thanks to The Shiznit, from whom I stole the subtitle for this post. It's OK, everyone steals their stuff. In fact they actively encourage it.

Sunday 24 June 2012

The Incredible Suit Is...

According to Wikipedia, the correct development of a three-year-old includes the following:

  • Slightly knock-kneed
  • Needs minimal assistance eating
  • Pedals a small tricycle
  • Shows improved control of crayons or markers
  • Can turn pages of a book one at a time
  • Speech is understandable most of the time
  • Produces expanded noun phrases: "big, brown dog"
  • Usually achieves complete bladder control during this time

I suppose seven out of eight isn't bad.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

George Leech 1921-2012

George Leech in For Your Eyes Only

Stuntman George Leech died on Sunday at the not-too-shabby age of 91. He finds himself mentioned on a small and insignificant movie blog thanks to his key role as a shaper of many of the action scenes which have fed my love of James Bond films since before I knew what Pussy Galore meant.

Leech performed stunts in eleven Bond films between 1962 and 1985, doubling for George Lazenby and Roger Moore, and frequently finding himself on the wrong end of Sean Connery's fist or cast as doomed minions like "Henchman Shark Victim" in For Your Eyes Only. He was also the first in a long line of Q-Branch boffins to be a guineapig for a new gadget, demonstrating a bullet-proof vest (and a magnificent moustache) in Goldfinger. For me, though, his career high will always be as stunt arranger on On Her Majesty's Secret Service, in which he orchestrated some of the most convincing and thrilling fight scenes in Bond's history.

So rest in peace George, and thank you. BlogalongaBond is partly your fault.
"I think the key to the Bond pictures' success is superb action, good characters, good writing. And it is the action which has to be realistic, and genuine." - George Leech

Monday 18 June 2012

A Poster For The Shiznit's Swingers Screening (Detail)

Click here for the full monty

That's right viewers, it's my second London-centric post in a row! If you're anywhere near the "delightful" area of Stratford, east London (as opposed to Stratford-upon-Avon, from whence London's Stratford steals confused tourists) on the evening of Thursday 28th June, why not pop over to the lovely Picturehouse cinema where, for a small fee yet to be determined, I will mix you a possibly drinkable cocktail using the bar skills I will have acquired during the preceding ten minutes.

If, following that, you haven't gone blind and can still walk, you can then wander into an auditorium and watch Doug Liman's 1996 film Swingers presented by's Ali Gray and his team of unpaid slave children. Further details are over at their site, if further details are the kind of things you weirdos go in for.

There isn't much more to say, except that Martinis are very simple to make so if everyone could only ask for them I might come out of this with my integrity intact.

Friday 15 June 2012

The BFI: Not Just Pints Of Sausage Rolls

With an hour to kill on London's occasionally bearable South Bank yesterday, I did the only decent thing and popped in to the BFI to cast an itchy eye (fucking plane trees) over their brand new Hitchcock exhibition, two words which steadfastly refuse to be easily conflated into anything better than "Hitchibition".

If you fancy a look yourself, by all means do - it's on until September 2nd - but be warned, it won't take you all day.
The exhibition, such as it is, is located on the BFI's Mezzanine, which is Italian for "disappointingly small exhibition space". I spent a pleasant twenty minutes there (and I took my time) looking at a few cases of fascinating titbits from The Master's career, and at the end I felt like I'd had a delicious starter and was bang-up ready for a main course which never arrived.

Still, what's there is great: there's a letter written in Hitch's own handwriting; original scripts from Rebecca and The Man Who Knew Too Much (the '55 vintage, when it was still called Into Thin Air); a fascinating handwritten "Statement of Production Costs" from 1926's The Lodger which shows the wardrobe person as pretty much the lowest-paid on the film; a 1929 tie-in novelisation from Blackmail and a call sheet from Frenzy which gleefully reveals that Jon Finch's stunt double was called Mike Hunt. Hitchcock probably hired him just so he could order a lowly female production runner to ask everyone on set if they'd seen him.

As I gathered up my mild disappointment and straightened my spine after reading the insanely-placed information sheets (three feet off the ground, BFI? Really?), I noticed the new library on the ground floor. That, I thought, is worth a look. And, as usual, I was right.
The library, which only opened on Tuesday, is an incredible collection of material spanning the entire history of cinema. I thought what I saw in there was amazing but it turns out that's just a third of it: the rest is as closed to the public as Sandra Hebron's boots. But, like Sandra Hebron's boots, if you ask nicely someone will let you see what's inside. I literally don't know what I mean by that.

Anyway if you want to have a look at some articles from 1896 editions of the New York Times Encyclopaedia of Film discussing the evils of the moving picture and whether or not this bonkers new craze will ever take the place of the play, or see what was rocking Sight & Sound's plus fours in 1932, or catch up on almost any film periodical from Cahiers du Cinéma to Fangoria, then this is the place for you, my friends. To sate my appetite for Hitchcock I buried myself in 'Hitchcock/Truffaut', which I shamefully don't own, but I had a choice of around two hundred books on the chubby genius to pick from.

So if you're near the South Bank and you're not all that into looking at silver-painted men standing still for long periods of time, I can heartily recommend a visit to movie Mecca, especially now it's got two more amazing things going on in it. Or you could even watch a film, they have them too.

Friday 1 June 2012


In space no one can hear you pretending to be Steps

Nearly three years ago, when this blog was still crawling around the floor shitting in its nappy and vomiting on the carpet, I wrote a thing about Ridley Scott's announcement to make a prequel to Alien. Have a read if you like, but basically it's an embarrassing cowpat of idiocy in which I claimed the film "would require the complete absence of humans to remain plausible" (because if there's one thing sci-fi should be, it's plausible).

I'm not sure, but I think my point was that the relationship between the aliens and the "space jockey", which Prometheus would hopefully involve, was surely one which had absolutely nowt to do with homo sapiens. It would just be too unlikely and coincidental that we got ourselves into all that business as well as having John Hurt stumble upon them however many years down the line. Well, it's a good job I'm not a sci-fi writer, because I clearly wasn't thinking big enough. Not even nearly big enough. Because Scott, along with writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, has traced the roots of his tiny haunted-house-in-space horror back to just about the biggest ideas science fiction could muster, and human beings are absolutely central to it. For that, all three of them are to be saluted.
To be fair, it's Lindelof's fingerprints that are all over Prometheus. There was a lot of talk about it "sharing the same DNA as Alien", but in terms of going back and telling an origin story, it's got more in common with Lost and Star Trek; two other Lindelofferings that turn an idea so far inside out that you end up wearing your brain as a crash helmet. It's exactly what science fiction should do: take the most fundamental questions that have plagued mankind since the dawn of time, apply some otherworldly framing to make it fun and avoid upsetting creationists and/or evolutionists and suggest the most insane answers, while simultaneously finding new and grotesque ways of killing annoying characters.

Like much of Lindelof's CV, though, the execution of these ideas leaves a little to be desired. Ridley Scott has shot Prometheus beautifully, with some achingly gorgeous compositions for fans of alien landscapes, HR Giger's iconic designs and Charlize Theron's face, but it occasionally feels like a distraction for some of the nonsense within. There are at least a couple of characters and plot threads too many, some excruciating dialogue from Kate Dickie's Basil Exposition and, considering it proposes to answer some big questions about life, the universe and everything, it still doesn't answer some of the most burning questions posed by Alien - or, indeed, by itself. Whether or not any sequels are planned, internet forums are going to go into overdrive attempting to fill in some of the gaps.

It's to Scott's credit that Prometheus is consistently entertaining, because there's actually very little in the way of the kind of threat, conflict or focus that drove its predecessors. A great deal of what holds the attention is waiting to see how it will tie in to Alien, but it also has to stand alone as a self-contained adventure. By and large it does, but whether or not it stands up to repeated viewings once you know how it ends remains to be seen.

For now, it's one of the most ambitious science fiction films of recent years, and while serious flaws might show up after a lengthy post-screening discussion, it's still the best Alien film we've seen since 1986. And as a bonus it features the most hilarious running-away-from-an-object-that-can-only-travel-in-a-straight-line-while-in-the-middle-of-a-wide-open-space scene for a long, long time.