Robert Wade

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Skyfall Review


Good
Things get very personal for 007 in this high-quality thriller, which keeps us gripped even if it never gets our pulses racing. This shouldn't be surprising, since the director is Sam Mendes, known for more dramatic movies like American Beauty and Revolutionary Road. And he gives the film a deep gravitas that we're not used to in the Bond franchise, as well as coaxing the cast to darkly introspective performances.

That's not to say the action is lacklustre. The opening sequence in Istanbul is a riotous chase through the city streets, across the rooftops and onto a train rocketing through a mountainous landscape. At the end of this, Bond (Craig) is presumed dead while the baddie gets away with a list of Western spies. As he starts releasing names publicly, things get difficult for MI6 boss M (Dench), who is pressured to resign by a government minister (Fiennes). So when Bond returns, M puts him on the case, sending him to Shanghai, where he stalks a mysterious woman (Marlohe) to Macau and meets the camp villain Silva (Bardem). Back in Britain, Silva leads Bond and M on a nasty cat-and-mouse chase that ends up at Skyfall, Bond's ancestral home in the Highlands.

Unlike the usual Bond baddie, Silva isn't remotely interested in global domination or incredible wealth: he has a very personal score to settle, which means that there's no ticking time-bomb underneath the action. In other words, Bond is fighting to save his life, not the planet. Which makes the film feel oddly smaller than we expect. On the other hand, this also allows the filmmakers and actors to develop the relationships more intriguingly than usual. Most notable is the close connection between Bond and M, played with with edgy subtlety by Craig and Dench while Bardem steals every scene with his witty innuendo.

Other characters are strong as well, including Harris as Bond's spy colleague, Whishaw as the clever gadget-geek Q, and an almost unrecognisable Finney as Bond's oldest friend. And Marlohe stirs in the only hint of sex and mystery. Each adds life and energy to the film, as does a continual stream of references to 50 years of Bond movies. Some of these are subtle (a 1962 Scotch) while others get a laugh (that iconic Aston Martin DB5). And along the way, Mendes laces the personal drama with political intrigue and some spectacularly staged action scenes. It's consistently entertaining, even if it's dark and thoughtful rather than exhilarating and fun.

Rich Cline

100% Rating: Is Skyfall The Best Bond Movie Ever?


Sam Mendes Daniel Craig Helen McCrory Ralph Fiennes Javier Bardem Judi Dench Neal Purvis Robert Wade John Logan

Sam Mendes must be feeling pretty smug right now. The director of Skyfall, the latest James Bond movie, has scored an impeccable 100% on the Rotten Tomatoes reviews site.

This will make excellent Monday morning news for Mendes, as well as the movie’s stars. The cast list includes Daniel Craig, of course, who plays the lead role, as well as Helen McCrory, Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem and Dame Judi Dench.

Skyfall has received a resounding round of applause from critics across the board; even the most cynical of movie reviewers seems to have struggled to find any cracks in this latest offering from the Bond franchise. Writing for the Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy wrote that Skyfall “Feels more seriously connected to real-world concerns than any previous entry, despite the usual outlandish action scenes, glittering settings and larger-than-life characters,” making the movie a credit both to its scriptwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan. Equally, Variety’s Peter Debruge remarked that Skyfall puts the “’intelligence’ in MI6. Skyfall reps a smart, savvy and incredibly satisfying addition to the 007 oeuvre.”

Continue reading: 100% Rating: Is Skyfall The Best Bond Movie Ever?

The Flaw Review


Good
The title of this America-centric documentary refers to the flawed belief that markets can increase in value indefinitely. Besides violating the laws of nature, this is so clearly fiction that we hardly need a movie to tell us. Even so, it's a lucid, gripping doc.

At a Congressional financial hearing, Alan Greenspan admitted that there was a defect in his theory that markets would function better if unregulated, because people turned out to be untrustworthy. And also because the hypothesis that the market determines fair value has actually resulted in unfair competition. The film traces various bubbles, including the build-up to the crash of 1929, the stock market in the 90s and the events of 2007, noting that property booms (like in the 20s and 00s) are far more dangerous, because they involve so much debt.

Continue reading: The Flaw Review

Quantum of Solace Review


Weak
When Daniel Craig was announced as the next 007, the collective groan from the Ian Fleming faithful was almost loud enough to drown out the uniform shrug of the post-modern moviegoer. Where once he was the mightiest of Cold War icons, Britain's own James Bond has been marginalized by a combination of contemporary moviemaking and PC social posturing. Every few years, producers retrofit the franchise to match the perceived interest level of the ever-shrinking demo. After the excellent reboot in Casino Royale, Craig's second stint as the celebrated secret agent, Quantum of Solace, is as confusing as its title.

While still on the hunt for the people responsible for the death of his gal pal Vesper (this installment picks up mere minutes after the end of Royale), James Bond (Craig) discovers a plot by energy tycoon Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) to corner the market on the world's most precious natural resource. It is part of a much bigger scheme by Quantum, a notorious criminal syndicate, to influence events in the world. They include the overthrow of the current Bolivian government, the installation of former military dictator General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio) there, and a continued stranglehold on world intelligence. Under the suspicious eye of MI6 director M (Judi Dench), Bond sets out to uncover the plot, determine the purpose of Quantum, and get revenge. He is helped by a young Russian girl named Camille (Olga Kurylenko). She has her own personal motives for getting even with these villainous bad men.

Continue reading: Quantum of Solace Review

Casino Royale (2006) Review


Excellent
After four decades, 20 feature films and five actors in the leading role, the James Bond franchise finally gets... an origin story?

You'd think it unnecessary, as 007's trademarks by this point have been burned into our memory. We know the trained assassin's drink of choice, his preferred mode of transportation, and his willingness to invoke the hard-earned license to kill when dangerous situations arise.

Continue reading: Casino Royale (2006) Review

Casino Royale (2006) Review


Excellent
After four decades, 20 feature films and five actors in the leading role, the James Bond franchise finally gets... an origin story?

You'd think it unnecessary, as 007's trademarks by this point have been burned into our memory. We know the trained assassin's drink of choice, his preferred mode of transportation, and his willingness to invoke the hard-earned license to kill when dangerous situations arise.

Continue reading: Casino Royale (2006) Review

Stoned Review


OK
The Rolling Stones' founder Brian Jones' drowning death in 1969 is another check mark in that long list of rock 'n' roll artists who died early and in their prime. His legacy as a musical genius aside, Jones is also remembered for his sartorial flamboyance and for his quintessential rocker's lifestyle of drugs, booze, and sex, all in big gulps.

It's at the shit end of excess that we find Jones (Leo Gregory) in Stephen Woolley's directorial debut, Stoned, which explores the rocker's final days, after he's alienated himself from his band, leading up to his mysterious drowning in the swimming pool of his country estate. Officially, the death was ruled an accident, but loose ends linger off the record, particularly with regard to Jones's relationship with Stones' manager, Tom Keylock (David Morrissey), and Frank Thorogood (Paddy Considine), a builder contracted to remodel Jones's estate. Woolley's movie runs on the notion that Thorogood was no mere working-class lackey, but a mole of sorts, employed by the Stones organization to keep daily tabs on Jones's erratic behavior.

Continue reading: Stoned Review

Let Him Have It Review


Weak
Is it odd that every film about British justice is truly about its miscarriage? Let Him Have It is unfortunately a tepid entry into Britain's genre of choice. Alongside films like In the Name of the Father it pales in comparison. Christopher Eccleston (with the aid of his entire family, it seems) plays amicably well the role of a "slow-witted" man condemned to execution for his part in the murder of a cop (the film revolves around the titular phrase: Was it meant literally (surrender the gun) or figuratively (shoot the bastard)?). But this movie is so slow and artless that its message -- that, you know, we shouldn't hang retarded kids -- isn't given much power.

Plunkett & Macleane Review


OK
In 18th century Britain, they sure did have a lot of fireworks and loud rock 'n' roll music...

Continue reading: Plunkett & Macleane Review

Johnny English Review


Terrible
Rowan Atkinson is a very funny man. Unfortunately, though his British television shows Mr. Bean and Black Adder have drawn cult audiences the world over, he just can't seem to translate this magic to the silver screen.

Johnny English (Atkinson) is a third-string spy working for British intelligence. When his uncontrollable bungling blows up all of England's first- and second-string spies, English is the only hope to save the precious crown jewels (and his country) from the plot of evil French mastermind Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich). Along the way, fellow spy Lorna Campbell (Natalie Imbruglia -- okay, so English isn't really the last spy in Britain, which raises questions best left unanswered) steps in to give English and his less moronic assistant, Bough (Ben Miller), a hand.

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The World Is Not Enough Review


Grim
I'll preface this review with the disclaimer that I am indeed aware that James Bond thrillers do not bear any semblance to real-life scenarios. I'll also say that since I was a kid I've been a huge Bond fan.

And I'll also say that The World Is Not Enough is one of the worst Bond films to come along in years.

Continue reading: The World Is Not Enough Review

Die Another Day Review


Weak
Here we go again.

The James Bond franchise - Hollywood's thinnest excuse to stage elaborate set pieces, photograph scantily-clad women and decimate fleets of sexy cars - returns for its twentieth installment, the fourth with current star Pierce Brosnan.

Continue reading: Die Another Day Review

Robert Wade

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