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My 12 for ’12: Skyfall & Balancing Bonds…

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #11

The wonderful thing about a pop culture commodity like James Bond is the flexibility that the character affords those looking to tell stories using the iconic character. Want to tell a story about high-stakes gambling? We can do that. What about averting a war between China and Great Britain? We’ve got it covered. Want to knock off Star Wars? Why not? How about pitching the character against Fu Manchu? We’re way ahead of you. Bond is flexible, and it’s one of the strengths of the character. Don’t like Roger Moore’s interpretation? Here’s Timothy Dalton. Tiring of Pierce Brosnan? Daniel Craig will be along to kick things into action.

While this makes for a fascinating study of the flexibility and adaptability of a cultural touchstone, it does create a bit of a dilemma when trying to celebrate his fiftieth anniversary. Given that Bond is so many things to so many people, can he be everything at once? Skyfall does an impressive job balancing the old and new, while managing to focus on the character at the heart of one of the most enduring cinematic franchises.

skyfall15

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The Six Faces of 007: Daniel Craig

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

The Daniel Craig iteration of James Bond is the first time that a change of actor has been explicitly confirmed as a new character, rather than a continuation of the same character. (Unless you count Lazenby’s ad-libbed “this never happened to the other fella” bit.) Going back to the first of Fleming’s novels for his first film, Casino Royale, there was a conscious effort to bring the character back to basics, but also an effort to humanise him considerably. The result has been somewhat contentious, but I think Craig has managed to put his own stamp on the role and to define it in his own terms that are respectful to his five predecessors, but also define the character as his own.

All-time high?

Note: As a look at Daniel Craig’s take on the iconic character, this article contains spoilers for Skyfall. Consider yourself warned.

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The Sky is Falling: Skyfall & The Return of a Distinctly British Bond…

Country?

England.

– first lines of the trailer

I actually really liked the first trailer for Skyfall, released on-line last week. There were a lot of reasons for that: the fact it looks more stately than Quantum of Solace; the abundance of shots of Bond in a tux; the promise of incredible action paired with genuine character development. However, the most appealing facet of the trailer was the suggestion that this was a Bond who wasn’t ashamed to be British. Bond is a British icon, arguably a relic left over from the last days of the British Empire, but it seems like the past few films have been increasingly uncomfortable with that.

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James Bond Skyfall Teaser Released…

I’m a big Bond fan, so any bit of news about Skyfall is going to be of interest. Sony have released the teaser, which seems like the one that debuted at Cinema Con a little while back. I have to admit, I like the look of it. It looks to retain the same psychological complexity of the better recent Bond films (Casino Royale or GoldenEye) but with sacrificing any of the class or sophistication (like Quantum of Solace did, arguably). Featuring a stunning cast, an amazing director and released to celebrate the franchise’s fiftieth birthday, this is definitely one to watch. Check out the teaser below. It looks beautiful, featuring wonderful saturation in places – almost like one of the sixties films but with the character work from more modern instalments.

Non-Review Review: Quantum of Solace

Note: I have another review of the film here, but this was written as part of “James Bond January”, after watching all 22 films in quick succession. This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

Quantum of Solace is a strange film. In many ways, it feels more like a return to the Bond formula than its direct predecessor, and yet it feels like less of a Bond film. It isn’t a case that film takes the franchise in a new direction while retaining its core identity (as Licence to Kill did, for example), but the feeling that there’s been a fundamental shift in the series, occurring under the radar. It feels as if, though the movie can talk the talk, there’s something different in the step – it can’t quite walk the walk, unfortunately.

Don’t leave us dangling…

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Non-Review Review: Casino Royale

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

Casino Royale was breath of fresh air for the Bond franchise. The twenty-first film in the series, it represented something akin to a “back to basics” philosophy, pulling back from the camp excesses of Die Another Day to offer us a version of Bond which was a thriller rather than an action comedy. It’s a familiar pattern for low-key entries to follow over-the-top instalments (after all, the producers followed Moonraker with For Your Eyes Only), but arguably not to the same extent. While other movies made the pretense of operating within the same continuity (with numerous references, for example, to Bond’s marriage from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), Casino Royale was an attempt to completely start from scratch, with a new actor playing a James Bond who was new to his 00-agent status.

What’s on the cards for Bond?

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Let Bond Be Bond: What We Want from Bond 23

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

The 23rd Bond movie had its release date confirmed as 9th November 2012, putting an end to the perpetual development hell that it seemed trapped in. With Oscar-winner Sam Mendes in the director’s chair, there would seem to be very little to worry about, but I thought – nonetheless – I’d collect some thoughts on what I’d like to see in the 23rd instalment of the long-running film series.

Shaken... but not stirred...

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Non-Review Review: You Only Live Twice

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

You Only Live Twice was my favourite when I was younger. It was energetic, witty, bright, colourful and adventurous. The stakes were ridiculously high – no less than the Third World War. Bond’s trip to Japan painted the country as an exotic wonderland to a mind as young as my own. The script was smart and the action was fast-paced – the movie still breezes along even today. The cost of the speed is that the movie is ultimately fairly light – it doesn’t carry anything particularly heavy or thought-provoking. This means that it ends up feeling relatively light-weight when measured against some of Sean Connery’s earlier outings like From Russia With Love or Goldfinger, which worked at least as much with suspense as with action.

Is Bond turning Japanese?

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Non-Review Review: Dr. No

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

Sure, there’s an opening scene involving the murder of a British agent stationed in the Caribbean, but the start of the movie that everybody remembers takes place in a late-night British casino over a game of card. A beautiful young woman is losing to the suave cigarette-smoking stranger on the opposite side of the table. “I admire your luck, Mister…?” she remarks, locking eyes with the figure. He coyly lights a cigarette.

“Bond,” he introduces himself. “James Bond.”

The rest is cinematic history.

You know the name… You know the number…

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Non-Review Review: Quantum of Solace

It seems that the cast and crew took the entirely wrong message out of the hugely successful (commercially and critically) Casino Royale. A brilliant combination of fancy stunts and grittiness that called to mind the series’ recent challengers in the Bourne series, Royale reinvented Bond for the naughties, in much the same way as GoldenEye did for the nineties. Unfortunately, Quantum of Solace seems to be based around the assumption that the reaction to Casino Royale was based solely around the modern aspects of the film, rather than the fusion of the old with new, so Solace ends up being Royale without the knowing grin. And it’s a shame, because the knowing grin is part of what makes Bond Bond (perhaps moreso than gadgets, gizmos and world domination plots). Don’t get me wrong, the action in the sequel is nothing short of fantastic (possibly surpassing even its progenitor in the action sweepsteaks) and the movie is well put together, but it just lacks the firm sense of identity which defines the best of the Bond movies.

Bond admits he might be getting a bit old for these crazy college nights out...

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