Tag Archive: Skyfall

Spectre-1The James Bond franchise, as I’m sure many of those who know me and/or are familiar with this blog, is one that I hold very close to my movie-going heart, easily standing as my favourite film franchise. I would be the first to say that it is probably the most inconsistent of popular film franchises, but that is very much part of its charm. The series hit its biggest success with Skyfall, the first Bond film to make a billion at the box-office (not adjusted for inflation). This, of course, puts a certain amount of pressure on the follow-up, an amount of pressure which can most certainly be felt within Spectre, the 24th official Bond movie, leading to a Bond experience which is undoubtedly a Bond-flick, but an uneven one at that.

After an un-ordered mission in Mexico, James Bond (Daniel Craig) begins to investigate the possible existence of a secret terrorist organisation known as ‘Spectre’. What he doesn’t know is quite how personally this investigation will affect him, as players from his past soon reveal themselves to be involved with the shady and dangerous organisation. Meanwhile, M (Ralph Fiennes) is involved in a power struggle with C (Andrew Scott), head of a new agency merger called Joint Intelligence Service, which seeks to put an end to the 00 program, as well increase surveillance across the globe.

Spectre attempts to set out on a similar path to Skyfall in that it Spectre-2constructs a story which places a personal stake on Bond and reveals more about his past. It is something which has never truly been attempted with Bond before, yet while it felt organic within Skyfall, here it feels a little forced. The association of Bond with villain Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) feels a tad too contrived and not entirely convincing. It allows for Craig’s tenure of Bond to continue its psychoanalytical exploration of the character, but in a much less organic way than that of his previous efforts.

What is largely the problem with Spectre is that the script never feels entirely complete, often pausing whilst the many credited writer’s attempt to figure out where next to move the plot. They largely rely upon tried and tested Bond formula, calling moments from Bond’s past which have worked in the past. It allows the film to feel distinctly like a Bond film, more so than Craig’s first two efforts, but a little too retrograde. It gives the film a certainly pleasant feel, but makes the film a little too representative of Sam Smith’s song that accompanies it; certainly Bondian, but lacking a certain uniqueness and gusto to make it truly soar.

What feels particularly retrograde about this entry is the treatment of the Bond ladies involved. Monica Belluci is tragically underused, but it is the relationship between Bond and Lea Seydoux’s Madeline Swann that struggles the most. It strives to give us another romance on the level of Vesper Lynd, but stumbles through clumsy writing and the fact that the age gap between Craig and Seydoux is quite apparent. There is certainly nothing wrong with the stunning Seydoux’s performance, much of the depth of the character comes from her initial steely gaze, but she quickly descends into an under-written damsel in distress involved in an unconvincing romance.Spectre-3

Right, now to the good stuff. Sam Mendes, coming back to the fold after Skyfall, remains in constant control of the visuals. The opening is a franchise highlight, a long beautifully controlled one shot which follows Bond through a Day of the Dead parade, as he signals out his target and goes in for the kill. Throughout, Mendes and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar, Her) deliver us spectacular vistas, making full use of varied and visually arresting locations, finding hidden corners within many different cities and countries. The film also features incredible practical stunts within its brilliantly executed action scenes. All the set pieces work a treat, and ride on the strength of the reported $300 million budget (although there are some sloppy CG shots which are somewhat unforgivable). Mendes has certainly improved on the action front and delivers some spectacular work here, from a chase down a mountain in Austria, to a From Russia With Love-esque fist fight on-board a train.

The cast are also on particularly fine form, even if their performances are sometimes diminished by the knotted nature of the screenplay. Craig is very confident in this role now, and even though he may be showing his age a tad, he still very much carries off the macho-energy and bravado needed for Bond, whilst maintaining a playful glint in his eye. Waltz is underused but provides enough cheerful menace to brighten up the film whenever he is present, while Andrew Scott fails to make all that much of an impact. Where the cast is particularly strong is in the supporting MI6 cast. Rory Kinnear has become a welcome main stay for the franchise, while Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw truly grow into two valuable members of the team, having a great time with their versions of Moneypenny and Q, who both have refreshingly revised relationships with Bond. The stand-out, though, has to be Ralph Fiennes stepping in to Judi Dench’s shoes as M. He does incredibly well to establish a new dynamic with Bond, possessing a venomous dry wit, whilst also proving capable at stepping up to the action plate should the call arise.Spectre-4

Spectre is undoubtedly enjoyable, if a little testing at two and a half hours. It thrives on the thrills of practical stunt-work and by revisiting classic Bond tropes, such as an ejector seat, a silent henchman, villains shrouded in shadow, but it all feels somewhat by-the-numbers. If this does indeed end up being Craig’s last turn in the role, it is not quite as glorious as Skyfall, or as hard-hitting as Casino Royale, but it does stand over Quantum of Solace, and provides some spectacular action along the way. It is by no means a sour note, more just a film which appears to have had some structural issues through the writing process which are sadly all too apparent. However, it remains a thrill to see a new James Bond film on the screen, proving to be a worthwhile and often very exciting entry for Ian Fleming’s enduring 00-agent.

3/5- Never lacking in spectacle or style, Spectre unfortunately does suffers from a seemingly troubled screenplay, yet manages to provide all the thrills one can expect from Her Majesty’s finest secret agent.


My Top 10 Movies of 2012!

Once again, we have come to the end of another year; a year of Mayan prophecies (good one guys), Jubilee’s, Olympics and of course… movies. This year has been a surprisingly good movie for Hollywood, with plenty of big risk decisions (Avengers Assemble, despite it’s success, could easily have gone the other way) and big event movies that had many an expectation with them due to exceptionally large fan bases (The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). There have also been some crushing disappointments, namely in the form of our respect for Ridley Scott crashing and burning in flames in what should have been one of the best films of the year in the form of Prometheus (I know people whine enough, but it still hurts). I should point out that this list is compiled by an individual who is yet to see what have been deemed to be highlights of the year, namely The Hobbit and Life of Pi. The list that follows are my personal highlights of the year, you may agree, you may disagree, but these are the films that have helped define my 2012 in the world of cinema. So, sit back, read on, and enjoy!

Dredd-3D10. Dredd 3-D (Dir: Pete Travis)

I always find that this position in the countdown is always the hardest. There were a lot of films in the running for this tenth spot, and although this may not necessarily be the ‘best’ among them, it is one of the films that this year wholly met and exceeded my expectations to a satisfying degree. Dredd is a bare-knuckle, gritty, pulpy, unashamedly trashy movie that is truly what the 2000 AD character deserves. It strikes the perfect tone for the iconic Judge of Mega City 1, and does so in a very self-contained and controlled fashion. Sure, it’s tower block shoot-out plot is unfortunately and entirely coincidentally similar to a certain Indonesian martial arts movie that was released this year (perhaps more on that later), but it’s employment of 3-D and the world it inhabits is enough to make the film stand as a very different beast. Speaking of the 3-D, Dredd is one of the finer examples of the use of 3-D that I have seen so far; Travis and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle construct some beautifully visceral shots during scenes that depict the use of the Slo-Mo drug. It also allows for the incredibly graphic and bloody violence to be much more comical and in keeping with its comic-book roots. Karl Urban takes command of the movie and makes for a definitive Judge Dredd, truly wiping the slate clean of the memory of Stallone’s version back in 1995. Unfortunately for this version though, it has proven to be a box office failure, making only $35 million on a $45 million budget, which probably means that we won’t be seeing a sequel, at least for quite some time. Which is a terrible shame, considering that this film feels like it has merely opened the door to a much greater world, one that I would love to return to. A deadpan, brutal, comic-book movie with a satirical bite. Everyone just make sure to buy the DVD, yeah? You know it makes sense. Check out my full review here: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/review-dredd-3-d-judgement-time/

9. Chronicle (Dir: Josh Trank) Chronicle-poster

A real surprise from the earlier half the year (February I think) made enough of an impact on me to stake a place in my Top 10 of the year. Chronicle is a grand mix of genres; a teen/sci-fi/action/comedy/found-footage/ superhero movie that deftly blends all these genres together into a fresh, inventive and very smart employment of the found footage technique. Found footage is a technique that is at risk of becoming stale within the horror genre, yet Chronicle proves that there is life for the technique outside of the realms of horror. Charting the story of three friends; the trouble Andrew, the promising Steven and your average-Joe, Matt, who stumble across a bizarre meteorite and start to develop telekinetic powers. Initially using their powers for fun (as you would do), it is long before the full capibilities of their powers begin to be realized, with Andrew descending into a very dark place indeed. Chronicle is equal parts funny, thrilling and tragic in its Akira-esque character arc of Andrew. First-time director Josh Trank expertly balances these elements and makes incredible use of his modest budget with some rather stunning VFX scenes of the boys flying. The boys themselves are well-cast and are thoroughly engaging, displaying a genuine chemistry, making the outcome of certain events all that more heartbreaking. It is not afraid to go to some dark places, with Max son of John Landis script expressing a sharp film knowledge as well a s a natural sense of character, presenting a ridiculous situation through a grounded and realistic framework. Full review available via this link: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/review-chronicle-a-k-a-superhuman-activity/

The-Grey8. The Grey (Dir: Joe Carnahan)

One of the greatest surprises of the year for me, if not only for just how good it is, but of how terribly marketed this film truly was. Many people were disappointed by the unfulfilled promise of the trailers, which suggested that we were going to see Liam Neeson fight some wolves with glass strapped in-between his fingers. As cool as that may have been, we did not receive that, and thank God we didn’t, as it truly would have undermined the message of this movie. There is something much deeper at play then just Man Vs. Wolf in this film. This is Man Vs. Nature, Man Vs. his fellow Man, Man Vs. Himself. There is a great existential crisis taking place within Neeson’s character John Ottway. For a man who is supposed to be in control and leading this group of scared men towards survival, he is terribly self-conflicted, being introduced to us on the brink of suicide. And Neeson is absolutely incredible. Although he is bound to be ignored this awards season, Neeson’s performance is by far the strongest and most commanding performances I have seen this year, and it is certainly the best Neeson performance thus far. Ironically, it almost acts as a reaction to his new action-man image; he may be resourceful and have a particular set of skills but Ottway is no Bryan Mills. He is a flawed, reluctant anti-hero, who only takes on the responsibility of the group through being the only person willing to accept certain death. Certainly not the cheeriest movie I have seen this year; but it is one of the most powerful, exciting and emotionally affecting movies that I have seen this year.

7. The Cabin In The Woods (Dir: Drew Goddard)Cabin In The Woods- poster

It truly is a testament to the concept and ideas of Drew Goddard’s and Joss Whedon’s script that this film managed to emerge this year, three years after it was made, and still be thoroughly fresh and original within its wonderfully high concept. I shan’t delve too much into what this movie is about, as I would hate to ruin it for anybody who hasn’t seen it yet, but what takes place is something that you’ve never really quiet seen before. Although it may feature certain elements of the aesthetics of the genre, be rest assured, this is not a horror movie. If you go expecting that, then you’re going to be disappointed. This film is designed to take the tried and tired cliches of the horror genre and tear them to shreds, not so much re-writing the rule-book as taking a huge flaming blowtorch to it. Along with satirizing the horror genre, Whedon and Goddard subtlety address the rather concerning occupation that film-going audiences have with cinematic violence. It is still handled with a satirical edge, which may make it hard to read, but the violence in the film is so ridiculously over-the-top that it can only be read as a comment on modern American cinema and the recent slew of gore-fueled horror pictures. You opinion of the film will live or die on how you read and accept the concept, yet it is a film that I will heatedly defend to the end of my days. It is an incredibly rich subversive text that has so many ridiculous layers to it, that are set within a wonderfully designed world; a world in which you can never tell quite what to expect. Check out my review on Shock Radar: http://shockradar.org/2012/09/29/shock-radar-reviews-the-cabin-in-the-woods/

Looper-poster6. Looper (Dir: Rian Johnson)

Although I was not quite taken with this film on first viewing as I was with, say, The Grey, mainly due to the certain critics proclamations of this being this decades The Matrix and what have you. It perhaps had an unfair amount of expectation thrown upon it. I also felt that there was a few pacing issues, but all that changed with my recent second viewing. gone was the hype, and gone was the need to pay attention to the thoroughly thought-provoking concept, and now I could just sit down and enjoy the ride. With my mind more at ease and familiar with the world of the film, the pace felt much brisker and I had a much more fulfilling experience of the film. La belling it with The Matirx doesn’t make too much sense; it is a very different Sci-Fi beast, essentially a Sci-Fi gangster movie, whilst almost featuring an Akira-esque plot thread (the second film on this list to do so). I would also say that this is a much more grounded and character driven Sci-Fi movie than The Matrix, paying as much attention to character as it does to its unique concept of Loopers; too much to explain in this quick over-view, but read my full review for a more detailed explanation. It also features two of the best performances I have seen from two of my favourite actors; Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. JGL wonderfully captures the mannerism and facial ticks of a young Bruce Willis, whilst also forming a fully rounded and emotionally conflicted character. Willis goes to some dark places as well as being very affecting and equally as conflicted as his young counter-part. With a wonderfully realized world and witty script from Johnson, Looper certainly does stand as one of the more impressive and original Sci-Fi movies of the past 20 years. Full review? Oh alright then: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/review-looper-lets-do-the-time-warp-again/

5. The Raid (Dir: Gareth Evans)the-raid-poster

Now we come to that certain Indonesian Martial Arts movie. Directed by a Welshman. The Raid (or The Raid: Redemption as it is known Stateside) is by far the best full-out action of the year. I challenge you to find a more breathlessly paced and brilliantly choreographed piece of action cinema released this year, heck, in the last 10 years. Beating Dredd to the tower-block chaos scenario, The Raid follows a raid (a-durr) conducted by a Special Elite Police Squad to take down and destroy the operations of a drug-lord, who controls the whole building. It’s a fight that is going to have to take them all the way to the top floor. Chaos ensues. That is essentially all the plot that you need to knew. A few twists and turns are thrown in along the way to flesh out the characters somewhat, but you don’t really care about that. You are perfectly happy to accept the thread-bare story because the action is just astounding. The martial art of pencak silat is beyond impressive; it’s quick, endlessly inventive and incredibly physical. The violence in the film also has to be seen to be believed; it’s bloody, bone-crushingly, neck snappingly good. It’s sheer inventiveness is incredibly exhausting, yet there is no film quite like it in terms of pure sheer adrenalin.

Shame-Poster4. Shame (Dir: Steve McQueen)

Another film from very early in the year that has certainly stuck in my mind to earn a very high place in my retrospective look back. A film that deserved to do so much more business during last year’s Awards season, Shame is a provocative, emotionally driven character study that delves into the hidden underworld of both the city of New York and a seemingly normal and successful man. Shame makes you question how well you can truly know someone through the depiction of two deeply troubled siblings, stunningly portrayed  by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. Both are incredibly dedicated to the material, going to rather fully exposed lengths to express the troubled psyche of their individual characters; the sex-addicted Brandon and the bi-polar Sissy. I would hate to see what their childhood was like. McQueen directs with a delicate honesty; depicting rather uncomfortable scenes through a naturalistic and bizarrely beautiful lens. The largely hand-held camerawork and natural lighting present a raw atmosphere very much in keeping with the deeply personal arcs of the characters. This film is intense, hugely thought-provoking and one that very much stays with you, particularly its ambivalent ending that certainly questions the morality of your fellow human being. Check out my full review, you know you want to: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/review-shame-fassbender-bares-all/

3. Argo (Dir: Ben Affleck) Argo-poster

A film that I expect is going to do very well this coming awards season, Ben Affleck’s third directorial effort is his best yet, taking a familiar Hollywood genre (the true life espionage thriller) without feeling the need to reinvent it, just perfecting it through highly superior film-making. Depicting the story of the early 80’s Iranian hostage crisis, Affleck expertly blends a serious human drama infused with raw documentary footage, as well as presenting a very witty Hollywood satire. The balance that the film strikes between its very real and quite serious subject matter and the satire that is portrays of the Hollywood machine is one that a seasoned filmmaker would struggle to achieve, quite how Affleck manages to do it so deftly in his only his third picture is a triumph itself. Already proven to be a confident director with Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Affleck also reminds us of how he can be a dependable leading man. It also helps that he as a great supporting cast including the ever dependable likes of Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Bryan Cranston. As I stated in my review, if you can go into this film with no knowledge of the outcome of the real-life events, it certainly will benefit you in terms of how tense the final moments of the movie are; featuring one of the most nail-biting final acts of the year. With stunning attention to period detail and a ever-brilliant score from Alexandre Desplat, Argo is most certainly one of the more intelligent, well-made pieces of film-making of the year. Oh hey, look, a full review: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/review-argo-ben-affleck-and-the-great-canadian-caper/

Avengers Assemble poster  2. Avengers Assemble (Dir: Joss Whedon)

Hello again Mr. Whedon! Avengers Assemble, the biggest film of the year, the biggest comic-book movie of all time was very nearly my number one movie of the year. It is an incredibly ambitious movie; grouping together a large amount of characters from various different movies to establish a cinematic universe similar to that of their comic book counter parts. A lot was riding on Avengers Assemble; apart from Iron Man, the rest of the Phase One movies only made a fairly standard $300-$400 million, there was no telling that the Avengers Assemble would go on to become the third most successful movie of all time. Whedon crafts a blockbuster that comes to represent everything that I, and I’m sure everyone else, loves about perfectly crafted Hollywood blockbusters; delicious dialogue (mostly given to the awesome Tom Hiddleston as Loki), fluid and coherent action sequences and the impressive application of special effects to serve the story. It seems so effortless, but many blockbusters fail to strike that perfect chord of popcorn entertainment, just look at this years Battleship for how not to do it! As well as being an example of perfect popcorn entertainment, it’s sheer entertainment value and light-hearted spirit makes this Marvel movie, in my opinion, the ultimate comic-book made so far, with Whedon finally finding the material to give him the huge success that he has been robbed of so far in his career. It is better late than never I suppose, and the future of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is certainly in the most capable and talented hands possible. Bring on Phase Two! Sorry no full review for this one. OR IS THERE!?- https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/review-avengers-assemble-earths-mightiest-heroes-they-got-that-right/

1. Skyfall (Dir: Sam Mendes)Skyfall-poster

There you have it Ladies and Gentleman, my number one movie of the year that was; Skyfall. Which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise should you know my love of James Bond. Having recently become the first Bond movie to make a billion dollars, Skyfall stands as a testament to the enduring nature of the 50 year-old James Bond franchise, proving not only to be the most successful, but one of the best Bond movies amongst the 23 installments of the official EON canon. It perhaps isn’t the most original movie on this list, nor the best made, but in terms of what it means for a Bond fan, the level of satisfaction and pleasure from this cinematic experience was second to none this year. So much so I’m going to see it for the fourth time this week. It got my heart-racing and a put a huge grin on my face, right from its incredible opening to its ultimate fan pleasing ending. This year was an amazing year to be a Bond fan, and Skyfall was the greatest gift for all us loyal fans! It features one of the strongest Bond villains in recent memory in the form of Javier Bardem, Craig finally hits his stride as Bond, and all the knowing winks to the franchises past are handled in a delicate manner, escaping a sense of self-parody whilst also defiantly looking forwards to a new brighter future for Bond. Mendes combines both classical Bond elements with enough freshness to present a new kind of Bond movie. On evidence of this installment, the Bond franchise has the best future in sight that it has ever had in its long history. A stunning piece of franchise film-making that delivered all that I could have hoped for, proving to be my favourite cinematic experience of the year. You know what, you’ve been good, you can have another full review: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/review-skyfall-sometimes-the-old-ways-are-the-best/



All that is left to say is Happy New Year! I wish you all the best for the New Year, and lets hope we have another awesome year of movies ahead of us. Happy watching! Here’s a wonderfully edited tribute to the movies of the year gone by:

James Bond is undoubtedly my favourite film franchise. I’ll be the first to admit that it is one thwart with many a poor entry, partiularly in the latter half of the Moore run. Yet, it is a franchise that has proven to be, above anything, one thing; adaptable. Bond has seen its fair share of actor changes and reboots, all of which have been conducted with arguably huge success, from Goldeneye to Daniel Craig’s first outing in Casino Royale. Skyfall comes to us at a time where the nature of the franchise needs to readdressed after the far too frantic and Bourne-esque Quantum of Solace. My main criticism of that movie, and one of many other individuals I’m sure, is that it simply did not feel like a James Bond movie. This is very much a criticism that the producers took on board as, quite fittingly for the his 50th year on cinema screens, we have a James Bond that takes a respectful look back, while all the while proving that James Bond is still the action franchise to beat.

Ditching the quantum story line from the previous two installments, Skyfall opts for a classic stand-alone story, which begins with Bond seemingly meeting his end whilst trying to acquire a hard-drive that contains information regarding British agents undercover in terrorist organizations across the world. Having failed the mission and being left for dead, 007 hides away from the British Secret Service. That is until he realizes the potential to his country and to M (Judi Dench). It soon becomes clear that something from M’s past has come back to haunt her in the form of former agent/cyber-terrorist Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), the man behind the theft of the hard-drive, and one with a passion for revenge against M. It is up to Bond to put an end to Silva’s schemes before he fulfills his intentions, all the while dealing with his own insecurities and crisis of confidence.

Skyfall‘s script is a deftly balanced mix of action and emotion; suspense and humor, and most importantly a mix of both the old and the new. Through bringing back certain elements from previous Bond movies, Skyfall knowingly and respectfully winks back to its cinematic past whilst also having a well-developed story to keep the focus on the narrative and not the fact that this is a 50th Anniversary Bond movie (something Die Another Day failed to do on the franchises’ 4oth). The action is suitably globe-trotting, from the streets of Istanbul to the glamour of Shanghai, before refreshingly returning to a more local level for a chase through London and a final act set in the Highlands of Scotland. But what truly makes the story wholly satisfying are the more classical Bond elements. The fights remain suitably edgy, and certain character developments are rather dark, but the humour and sense of character has not been this well expressed in a Bond movie since the Connery days. The humour is certainly better applied, Bond’s dry sarcastic wit feel much more like a means to dissimulate himself from the darkness of  his profession. It is a side of the character that Craig certainly has fun playing up. As was the same with Connery and Goldfinger, it is in his third outing that Craig has truly found his footing with Bond, namely because the script allows him to lay back a lot more and just have a bit of fun, whilst also maintaining the psychological depth of Casino Royale.

It is not only through Bond himself that the film feels like a refreshing combination of both old and new elements, it is also within its ensemble of characters. The film boasts quite the cast, from Judi Dench returning as M, turning in her most pivotal and memorable performances within in the franchise. Ralph Fiennes adds sophistication and class as Government official Mallory, while Albert Finney makes an entertaining appearance in the final act. Ben Whishaw makes for a surprising new Q; twisting the age dynamic between the pair for a unique take on a relationship we all thought we knew through and through. In terms of the Bond girls, there is a less definitive female character to occupy the role, what with Naomie Harris’s Eve playing support and Berenice Marlohe acting more as a device to plot the from point A to point B; the real Bond girl of the piece is in fact Dench’s M. Where the film truly shines within its supporting cast is in its villain. Javier Bardem is as you’d expect; skin-crawlingly creepy. He is a villain with a clear agenda, yet also an unpredictable temper and attitude. His ambivalent nature crossed with his bizarre charisma (and a classic Bond villain disfigurement) marks his Silva as one of the more memorable Bond villains of the franchises colourful gallery.

Sam Mendes, marking the first time an Oscar-Winning director has tackled a Bond movie, brings with him his visual gravitas and understanding of character to the Bond template. His work with cinematographer Roger Deakins marks out Skyfall as the most visually striking Bond movie and perhaps one of the most visual stunning films that I have seen all year. The bright palette of colours present the glamorous locations in all their glory, whilst also lending themselves to some very atmospheric shots when the shadows engulf the screen (particularly in the final act). Medes assured hand concerning image and drama do thankfully cross over into the action set pieces. While certainly not as confident as his visual flair and understanding of character, the action scenes (aside from some ropey CGI) impress, excite and are laced with humour, allowing for character to remain the focus point of the action. Mendes is a director who certainly seems to understand the Bond charm, and is surprisingly the first director that has indeed mixed these qualities to produce a very nostalgic, yet still highly original addition to the Bond canon.

James Bond is a franchise consisting of 23 movies that span over the course of 50 years. Therefore, it is a testament to the franchise that they can still produce films of this quality; making the franchise relevant and proving that if a fantastic creative mind is put at the helm, then there is no shortage of possibilities. Bond is a franchise I hold close to my heart; I have grown up with it since I was 5 years-old, watched every film at least 3 times (minus this one, but give me time) so it simply fills me with joy to have a new installment that is both fresh and encapsulating on all I love about Bond; the stylish action, the quips, the cars, the villains, the music (excellent work by both Thomas Newman and Adele), the girls, the villains, the list goes on. Skyfall epitomizes these elements to generate a dark, humorous and exciting spy action movie that more than atones for the short-comings of Quantum, while giving another fresh new lease of life into a franchise that I believe still has many years left to give. James Bond will return.

5/5- A new kind of Bond movie; Skyfall is a visually stunning, classic yet edgy Bond movie that is the perfect way to commemorate 007’s 50th Birthday. The best Bond yet? Time will tell, but one thing’s for certain, the future is bright for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The San Diego Comic-Con took place over the course of this weekend, and of course, like every year, it was rich for film news! Comic-Con has become an important marketing event for big Hollywood movies, not only catering for Comic-Book movies, but any major Hollywood picture on the horizon. this year was no different, featuring the first footage from the likes of next year’s Man of Steel and the upcoming The Expendables 2. Rather than report on every little detail, I thought I would take a blog post to focus on some of the highlights of the Convention this year, which does pretty much cover every major aspect and highlights seen this year. One day, I hope to be reporting live to you from San Diego, as the Comic-Con is definitely on my lift of things to do before I die. Some people have ‘visit the Great Wall of China’, I have the Comic-Con. Well, it makes sense to me. So, without further ado, what news is there from the land of San Diego (a Whale’s Vagina to some)?

1. The Return to Oz with Sam Raimi looks to be a colourful affair…

One of the first panels at the Con was for Sam Raimi’s much-anticipated prequel to the 1939 classic, The Wizard Of Oz, which is entitled Oz: The Great and Powerful. The upcoming Spring release has been rather scarce in terms of promotional material, with the Poster having been released a week ago, and the trailer (more on that in a sec) being unveiled at the Con. But, truthfully, there isn’t a much better place in which to kick-off your film’s marketing than the San Diego Comic-Con. Raimi was reportedly in high spirits, enthusiastically talking about his next Blockbuster project. Points he stressed were that this is not a prequel in the traditional sense(mostly due to the fact that Disney do not have the rights to certain specific imagery from the 1939 original), it instead draws most of it inspiration from the original series of books by L. Frank Baum, a series that is still rich in un-mined imagery and imagination. Raimi simply stressed how this is very much a self-contained story, with elements that will be recognizable, as we follow James Franco’s Oscar Diggs, a small-town Magician, who wishes for something more. After a certain incident involving a tornado, Oscar finds himself in the magical land of Oz. There he embarks on an epic, Technicolor adventure in which he finally finds a chance to prove himself. Raimi then treated the convention patrons to the first footage from the movie, in the form of its first trailer, which you may have seen over the weekend (if not, you can find it below, aren’t I good to you?). It looks as you might come to expect, a bit too similar to the production design of Alice In Wonderland (granted, they share the same production designer), but thankfully it does seem to have much more vibrancy and visual flair, more than likely due to the fact that it is Raimi in the director’s chair. And a film with Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis in it can’t be too bad to look at. Raimi also confirmed that his regular collaborator Bruce Campbell shall indeed have a trademark cameo, as will his famous recognizable car, although not in the way that you might expect. And now, as promised, here is that trailer once again:

2. We can expect some more politically infused Sci-Fi from Neill Blomkamp with Elysium… 

Neill Blomkamp, the man behind the fantastic Sci-Fi action drama District 9, has been busy at work on his follow-up picture, Elysium, and aside from this image of a gun-wielding bald Matt Damon, we have seen or know next to nothing about the promising director’s next directorial effort. Well, if you were at Comic-Con, you certainly will have seen a lot more now. Blomkamp, along with his cast members, Damon, Jodie Foster and District 9‘s Sharlto Copley, screened some exclusive footage. The film is set in a dystopian future (is there any other kind?) in which Earth is a wasteland, and the rich and the wealthy live on board a giant luxurious space-station, where all medical concerns are a thing of the past, including cancer. Damon plays Max, a working man who is one of the many less-privileged folk who continue to live on Earth. However, Max’s depressing life becomes even worse after he is exposed to radiation poisoning following an incident at work. With five days to live, Max must do all he can to make it to Elysium in order to cure himself of his poisoning. Although, that is a task which is easier said then done. The crowds were reportedly very impressed with the footage, which demonstrated the world and style of Blomkamp’s film. Not a stone throw away from District 9, the film is said to gritty, tough and featuring some quite literal bone-crunching violence, all infused with another political allegory, in this case representing the struggle of the 99-ers; albeit in a ultra-violent sci-fi action fashion.  I am a huge fan of District 9, and I simply cannot wait to see someone of this footage, as the prospect of Blomkamp working with a big budget and a big star is a very tantalizing prospect. Here’s hoping we’ll see a trailer sometime in the near future.

3. Dredd impressed

Preview screenings are not a rare occurance at Comic-Con, but you are never too sure what movies shall grace the fans with their advance screening presence. This year, it was the reboot of the 2000Ad character, Dredd. Judge Dredd was last seen on-screen in the 1995 Sly Stallone picture, and that film was not very well received. Panned by critics, despised by fans, Danny Cannon’s adaptation may have had the style, but it certainly did not have the story, and it was not the Dredd that fans of the British comics had grown to love (mainly because Stallone took the helmet off). It was a complete waste of promising potential, and now screenwriter Alex Garland and director Pete Travis are having a shot. And from the sounds of it, they have fully delivered. The buzz around Dredd has been pleasingly positive and everything that I had hoped. It has been described as an inventive, gritty, insanely violent and highly stylish affair with a commanding lead performance from Karl Urban. I did read somewhere (for the life of me I cannot remember where) that it evoked the spirit of a hardcore 80’s action-er, and that fills me with fan-boy joy. Dredd is mean. Brutal and unforgiving. And so is the world of Mega-City. A film of this world should be violent and nasty, and from the sounds of it, Travis and Garland have not skimped out on the ultra-violent goodness (as a clip below shall demonstrate). Concerns with the film have been aimed towards the premise, which has some rather unfortunate similarities to this year’s The Raid, and there have been some grumblings concerning the scale of the picture, although that can easily be attributed to its rather small independently funded budget. But the buzz coming out from this film is certainly enough to get me excited, and it certainly pleased the 2000AD fan’s who were present at Comic-Con. Now, feast your eye’s on this glorious violent clip:

4. Iron Man’s got a new foe, and a new suit in which to face him with… 

Marvel made their presence known well and truly at the Con this year, as they do every year really, with Iron Man 3 representing merely the tip of the iceberg concerning what Marvel had to announce this year. But that is a bloody big tip. The Shane Black written and directed movie has only been filming for a good month, but that didn’t stop Marvel from presenting a few sequences from the movie, involving some banter between Robert Downey Jnr.’s Tony Stark and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan. But the real money shots came from seeing the destruction of Stark’s Malibu home and the reveal of the main villain of the movie. And after months of internet rumors, I can happily announce that Ben Kingsley shall indeed be playing The Mandarin; arguably Iron Man’s most famous and formidable foe. Marvel’s Phase 2 has certainly begun. The prospect of The Mandarin is something incredibly promising. He is a villain with great intelligence to match his highly tuned martial arts skills, and the power of his 10 mysterious rings. I’m sure they will try to ground The Mandarin much more in reality, but the threat he possesses should take Stark down a peg or two and give one hell of a reality check. The next big piece of Iron Man related news was the reveal of his new suit for the movie, as pictured. Ditching the Red and Gold combo, this suit is much more in keeping with the Extremis design of the suit, the Extremis being  recent arc in the comic books that saw Stark developing the means of having the suit appear out of his skin (there is a lot more to this arc, it is very complicated, I recommend researching it if you’re interested). It has been rumored that the Extremis arc would be featured in this sequel, however I would not take this suit as confirmation, as I will only believe it when I see it, as I think the Extremis arc would be far too hard to develop in the course of one film. I guess we shall discover soon enough, come May of next year!

5. Thor 2 and Captain America 2 have new titles…

Another piece of Marvel news (there are still two more to go) concerned other elements of Marvel’s Phase 2, namely the follow-ups to Thor and Captain America. Unlike the Iron Man franchise, these two heroes are dropping the numerical label, and are instead given subtitles. Not only does it create a much better sense of a continuing world, filled with episodes (much like a comic book universe), it also offers some intriguing speculation as to what these certain sequels may focus on. First up is the sequel to Thor, out on November 8th 2013, which is now titled Thor: The Dark World. Now this seems to have confirmed the early notions that the Thor sequel shall explore the darker under-belly of the pristine Asgard. Which would also seem to suggest a rather drastic change of tone from the first movie. Kenneth Branagh’s first installment was a grand and highly daft affair; fun, slightly camp, an all out romp. Branagh is not directing this installment, that role is now being filled by Alan Taylor, a regular director on the rather dark fantasy series, Game of Thrones. His employment alone suggest a much darker take on the character, and this title certainly confirms that we are going to see a much darker take on the God of Thunder. Now onto the Star-Spangled Man with a plan. Captain America 2, out on April 4th 2014, shall now be called Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And if you’re familiar with the comic-books, then that title needs no elaboration. But if you aren’t well versed in the Marvel Universe, allow me to enlighten you. The Winter Soldier was the name given to Cap’s supposedly dead best friend Bucky, who in the comics, returned as a Brainwashed Russian Assassin, out to kill Captain America. First things first, yes, Bucky did appear to die, however, we never saw a body, and as soon as his death occurred, I for one certainly thought that we could easily see Bucky return in future installments. And that certainly seems to be the case. Yet, the idea of a Russian Assassin  is certainly out-dated, so it remains to be seen if the directing pair of the Russo Brothers will develop the Winter Soldier in any way. Either way, it is a title which has certainly got me excited.

6. It’s time to meet the Guardians Of The Galaxy…  

Possibly the worst kept secret concerning a Marvel movie, as internet rumors have been around for quite some time concerning their ‘mysterious’ August 2014 release. The Guardians Of The Galaxy is not a well-known Marvel title, in fact it was cancelled after 25-issues. It is a huge risk in terms of both money investment and in further expanding the Marvel Universe. I do believe that this is not in the same Universe as The Avengers (don’t quote me on that) as last I heard the intention was to produce this as an animated movie. It would make, considering the characters that make up the Guardians Of The Galaxy; a powerful alien by the name of Drax The Destroyer, a super-smart living plant named Groot, a space Raccoon called Rocket Raccoon and Star Lord who is a Galactic Super Cop. Yeah. Rather diverse characters. The concept art of the characters is certainly interesting and the scope of the film could be something that we have never seen before in a comic-book movie. There is still no director attached, but I shall keep a curious eye on this movie, as the choice of director should say a lot in terms of what the tone of the movie shall turn out to be. Now, here’s that concept art for you to gaze upon. Pretty bad-ass Raccoon, right?

7. Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man may finally happen…

The last bit of Marvel related goodness from the Con comes in the form of news concerning Edgar Wright’s long-gestating movie of Ant-Man, the superhero who can change his size at will. Ant-Man was one of the original members of The Avengers, yet Marvel decided to focus on the more popular heroes for the first big-screen outing of the assembled team, and rightly so. But now that Phase One was so successful, Marvel are prepared to take more risks, and an Ant-Man movie could be such a way of doing so. It must be said that this film is still not yet officially confirmed, but this is an indication that things are happening to see an Ant-Man movie. Edgar Wright, the maestro behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, surprised everyone in San Diego when he turned up to present the test-footage that he shot about two weeks ago. The footage was not finished at all, and the man playing the title character was merely a stuntman, but in terms of showcasing what Wright intends to do in terms of the action, it apparently did not disappoint. What the fans were treated to was trademark Wright; zippy, brilliantly paced and inventive action with a great sense of humor to boot as Ant-Man used his powers to take out a couple of guards guarding an elevator. And the costume is supposedly very much in keeping with the look of the Kirby artwork. Which is bound to please fans. So, still no release date, but I’m sure we can expect Ant-Man to become a reality in the very near future.

8. We can expect to see a very different kind of Superman…

Probably one of the most anticipated movies at the Con this year, Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman movie Man Of Steel certainly has provoked intrigue following a screening of a teaser trailer at this years convention, a teaser trailer said to be in front of The Dark Knight Rises come Friday. Warner Bros. certainly has a lot riding on this movie, considering Batman shall be done and dusted, at least for now, come the end of the summer, and I’d imagine that they were rather happy with how the footage was received. The footage firmly established this Superman as a much more dramatic, somber and of course darker origins tale, with Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent finding it somewhat hard to find his place in the modern world. A shot that got many people talking was of Super being escorted down a corridor by a league of armed guards. Do the Earthlings not take too kindly to the last son of Krypton? The audience was also pleased to see that Man of Steel may feature a more reserved and mature film-making style from Snyder, following his adolescent, video-game of a movie Sucker Punch. I’m all for a more mature approach from Snyder, but I do hope Supes isn’t all gloomy drama, he needs to have a sense of glee and good-will spirit that the Superman image embodies. Either way, I am more than excited for a new Superman movie, being a big fan of the character’s cinematic past. Man of Steel hits cinemas on June 14th, but be sure to track down the trailer when The Dark Knight Rises is released on Friday.

9. Might we be seeing THREE Hobbit movies?

Peter Jackson is somewhat royalty at Comic-Con, and he certainly didn’t disappoint his many fans this year, bringing with him plenty of footage from his upcoming Lord of The Rings prequels The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and There and Back Again. The footage he displayed showed a very humorous scene at Bag-End during Bilbo’s first encounter with the Dwarves, Gandalf being attacked by some feral looking creature, Gollum playing riddles with Bilbo as part of the Riddles in the Dark sequence, along with some snippets of Evangeline Lilly kicking some Goblin ass, and Legolas preparing to fire his bow at an unseen antagonist.  But what perhaps got people talking was Jackson’s speculation at the possibility of a third Hobbit movie. Jackson has said how much material they could still mine, in light of the appendices that Tolkien wrote, filling in certain plot points and bridging the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings; “There’s the novel, but then we also have the rights to use the 125 pages of additional notes where Tolkien expanded the world of The Hobbit. I’ve been talking to the studio about other things that we haven’t been able to shoot and seeing if we could possibly persuade them to do a few more weeks of shooting.” Personally, I think that The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings are very different books, they tell very different stories, therefore the films should reflect that as well, rather than squeeze everything that they can out of the material available to them. Not that any more time spent in Middle Earth is a bad thing, it is just I would rather see a focused adaptation rather than a sprawling trilogy trying to make more of a connection with LOTR. That’s not what I want, and I’m sure fans don’t necessarily want to see an over-loaded trilogy expanded far too much for its own good. Two films are more than enough P.J.

10. Skyfall looks to be a classic, kick-ass Bond movie…

Bond made an appearance at the Con this year, not something a Bond movie usually does, but I’m sure the fans didn’t complain. The Bond Brigade charged at the Con with a brand new exclusive I-MAX trailer, displaying how this Bond is going to be bigger than the rest, quite literally. The trailer also filled in more details as to what the plot may be. It seems that Judi Dench’s M loses possession of a data drive, which contains the identities of every British Intelligence Agent – and soon enough they begin to get assassinated one by one. Therefore, Bond must act fast, to stay one step ahead and find out who is killing the Country’s spies. It sounds similar to the ‘Smert Spionam’ (Death to Spies) plot of The Living Daylights, but much more personal as Bond’s loyalties to M are truly tested. Fans cheered at the inclusion of Craig uttering ‘Bond, James Bond’ and they were also treated to the world’s first look at Ben Whishaw’s Q, a casting decision that I think is truly excellent. Hopefully we’ll all set our eyes upon this new I-MAX trailer in the near future, as a new Bond movie is always something to get excited about. Now, here is that first image of Whishaw looking all geeky, and Q-like.

11. Guillermo Del Toro aim to inspire awe with Pacific Rim…  

Del Toro hasn’t made movie since Hellboy 2 way back in 2008, so it is about time that he should be getting back behind the camera’s to present us with his unique vision once again. Pacific Rim marks his return as a director after producing many a mediocre horror (here’s looking at you Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark) but the reaction he got from the footage screened at Comic-Con certainly seems to suggest that has been worth the wait. The basic premise of Pacific Rim is fairly simple. Set in the distant future, Earth has been over-run by Giant Monsters who have awoken from a rift within the Pacific Rim (so, that’s why it’s called that). This prompts the human race to build giant Robots, known as Jaegers, to battle these destructive Beasties who are laying waste to mankind. These Jaegers are piloted human operators, who bond telepathically with their respective Robot, to face monsters head on in battle. The footage screened aimed to give an impression of the scale of the movie, and one word seems to describe it rather fittingly; epic. The Robots and Monsters are on a huge scale, with impressive FX works and practical effects. It’s as high concept as you can get, and Del Toro’s visual flair and creativity should be fantastic in this kind of arena. And it has Idris Elba screaming such lines as “Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse!” Epic indeed. Pacific Rim hits cinemas on July 15th 2013, but Del Toro has said a trailer won’t hit for at least 6 months. The tease.

12. Godzilla shall rampage once again…

My last highlight from the con comes in the form of another Monster movie, this time it is Legendary Pictures new take on the iconic Giant Lizard, Godzilla. It has been a while since we heard any news come out concerning this movie, Gareth Edwards (behind the small indie pic Monsters) was announced as director quite a while ago, and after that it went rather quiet. But now, the big fiery beast has let his presence be known, with a new poster and some teaser footage, screened exclusively in San Diego. The teaser stunned unsuspecting audiences, with no one knowing what it was that was being screened, as the camera panned over a brutally destroyed city, smoke bellowing among-st the destruction. As the camera continues along, the audience catches a glimpse of a monster, a dead monster, but not Mr. Zilla. All of a sudden the iconic roar is heard and the title graces the screen. But that’s not all. They were then given the big hero shot, as Godzilla himself turning side on and roaring in all his glory. He reportedly matched the classic look, albeit with a modern makeover. Supposedly nothing like the Roland Emmerich version from 1998. Reports called it intense, spine-tingling and incredibly convincing. Still no release date, but I think we can expect to see this version of Godzilla around 2014.