Tag Archives: Daniel Craig

50 years of Bond, James Bond: Just the same old story? | Film | This Is Entertainment

With half a century and 23 films (or so) under his belt, some might say the world’s most famous secret agent has had his day.

So if MGM were to turn their back on what is arguably the most profitable film franchise in history, which is rather unlikely what with the records being smashed by the day by latest outing Skyfall, then what would James Bond leave behind?

It all begins with creator Ian Fleming’s books, written at a very different time from the touchscreen-enabled, information rich world we live in today. To watch through the Bond flicks in sequence (as, in fact, I have been doing) is something of a lesson in social history, conveying the tone and nuances of each passing decade.

The Sean Connery years begin with Dr. No, and a very literary figure of Bond. The racial undertones of the 60s themselves show through here with the occasional comment such as when Bond says “Fetch my shoes” so local CIA contact, and African American, Quarrel (John Kitzmiller).

By From Russia With Love the themes are far more beneath the surface, but it’s interesting how suddenly aware the series becomes, only to go a completely different direction in a few films time.

Connery is quintessentially British in the role (despite being Scottish) and this sets the blueprint against which all other screen Bonds are tested.It’s unlikely the camp 70s era owned by Roger Moore would have got away with having Bond dress up as a Japanese man, complete with wig and eye prosthetics, in what could be the least convincing disguise of Bond’s career.

Bond is best when hiding in plain sight, and this is where the classic Bonds differ from his latest incarnation, played by Daniel Craig. Though the character always loves to say his signature line, by Craig’s era, the world is small and a simple background check can be done with a handy smartphone.

When the likes of Moore and Connery played the spy game they had the benefit of audience’s willingness to buy in. By the time Bond’s car became invisible in 2002’s Die Another Day, the secret agent bubble burst, and Pierce Brosnan’s Bond was hastily retired.

While the re-boot in 2006 with Casino Royale may have claimed to go back to the source material, the film-makers couldn’t resist the odd one-liner or cheeky moment. Bond is undoubtedly resilient, any character would have to be to last half a century on the big screen, but his character has gained and lost more traits than he’s had vodka Martinis.

At the character’s core is a balance of ruthlessness and love.

For Connery some of his best moments come from the juxtaposition of the two, such as electrocuting a goon with a heat lamp just seconds after being distracted by a woman, finally remarking: “Shocking, positively shocking.”

It’s sometimes a struggle to take Moore seriously (hovercraft gondolas and double-take pigeons don’t help), but look again and you’ll see him almost breaking a woman’s arm for a name, kicking an unarmed man off a cliff in a car and ejecting a supervillain into space.

Timothy Dalton, often overlooked due to his short stretch (though not as much as Lazenby, who fails to make any impression), represents the first attempt at taking Bond to the gritty edge, as he sees long-term ally Felix Lighter killed by a shark. By the end of the film his love for the only friend who truly understands him, leads him to possibly the most ruthless murder of a Bond villain – lighting petrol-soaked Franz Sanchez (Robert Duval) on fire with Felix’s wedding gift, a lighter.

For Brosnan his most personal story is also his first, pitted against the sublime Sean Bean as former double ‘O’ Alec Trevalyan. This hits home as he lets him fall to his death not because it’s his job, but for revenge.

In this way, Craig has hit the mark in all three of his films so far, with a strong connection to first Vespa and then M (Judy Dench), interspersed with less casual violence, more determined eliminations than random killings.

For Bond to continue to be relevant for the next 50 years, there will – no doubt – need to be changes, but the base set up at the end of Skyfall sets the scene with the best of both worlds, the romantic past and the realistic present, all Bond needs now is an adversary who has a very real chance of taking him down.

James Michael Parry

Escapism vs Realism: What is Entertainment? | Film and Gaming | This Is Entertainment

Some people might insist that entertainment as an entity exists as a ‘way out’ from the stresses and hardships of everyday life, but why then do games and films so often strive to be ‘realistic’?

Surely if we just wanted to escape from reality (without turning to hallucinogenic substances), then the most attractive prospect would be to jump into something completely different from our everyday lives.

Take Super Mario for example. One of the quintessential platformers, there aren’t many of us who navigate pits of lava, turtles throwing hammers and flatten grumpy-looking, mushroom-shaped creatures on a daily basis.

Later Mario titles have arguably become even more unrealistic, adding talking fire extinguishers and intergalactic flight, and the titles sell in the hundreds of thousands. Perhaps this argument is a foregone conclusion then?

Not quite so simple in 2012. According to vgchartz.com, role-playing epic Diablo III takes the top spot, a clear point for the escapism camp, and three different Mario titles are in the top ten. On the other hand Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 remains at sixth and eighth on the multi-format global sales chart after a massive 39 weeks on sale.

MW3 is a game which seeks to immerse you into a world of guns, shooting and slow-motion breaching (before more shooting). While this isn’t the sort of thing the average person would get up to on a day to basis (we hope), it is presented in a highly detailed and ‘realistic’ way. From here it’s easy to begin to appreciate how blurred the lines between escapism and realism are.

In the first days of console gaming there was no chance of you mistaking Pac-Man for a real person just wandering down dark alleys looking for pills and trying to avoid his dealers – the poor guy was made up of about 12 pixels and didn’t have any legs – but now with the level of detail capable my modern technology you can very nearly almost be lured into thinking there really is such a thing as dragons from the likes of Skyrim.

In film too the harsh realities of the past decade or so have bled through into Hollywood’s presentation of much-loved characters. Batman successfully shed its campish past for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005. British institution James Bond followed suit and underwent a gritty reboot the following year with Casino Royale. Spiderman too returned to his more ‘real’ comic book roots for Andrew Garfield’s turn as the webslinger only this year.

Clearly escapism for escapism’s sake still exists, exemplified by the mere existence of The Expendables 2, but the new normal seems to be geared towards giving consumers a dose of reality.

There is a flaw in this plan though – people don’t like it when things get too real.

There has been a lot of fan backlash from the reboot or Devil May Cry: DMC. Undoubtedly the ‘new look’ Dante is grounded in a much more ‘real’ universe, albeit with crazy demonic stuff going on. Many fans of the original games took objection to the re-imagining of the character of someone more grounded and supposedly relatable, while others were just averse to change in the first place.

Tomb Raider too has his the ‘realism’ button pretty hard and there has been plenty of discussion whether it is necessary or appropriate to tackle the issue of rape – even in the context of the development of the character.

Undeniably though, horrible things do happen, and for gaming and films to be taken seriously as artistic mediums, they have to tackle sensitive issues. Film has a clear head start, having delivered countless classics over the years revered as taboo-breakers and genre-definers.

With games, it’s more of an uphill struggle, since the medium already has a long way to go to be respected by fellow industries as more than just ‘something kids and teenagers do’, let alone by the public in general.

Could tackling ‘real’ issues help? Perhaps, but it’s only worth doing if that’s what gamers actually want, which brings us back to the debate in question.

Reality is huge, but imagination is limitless, so with nothing but technical stumbling blocks to hold developers and directors back, entertainment should be striving to push the boundaries and show us things we have never seen or experienced before.

Whether that is something relatable, intimate and personal or off-the-wall, crazy and just good fun is up to us. If we as the people enjoying these products don’t give things which are a bit different a chance, then there will be less chances taken by the big studios, and we’ll miss out on things like Inception on the big screen and Bulletstorm on the small.

In the end, escapism and realism aren’t as much at odds as you might assume from first glance, and there is certainly place for both in the entertainment world – it all depends on what you feel like.

James Michael Parry
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Believing the Hype – Part 1: Most Antipated Films of 2012 | This Is Entertainment

With the excitement of New Year over and done with and the daily grind of work and school already kicking in, it’s time to think about what’s worth getting excited about in 2012. Sure there’s some sort of Olympics and a European football tournament, and even the end of the world (perhaps), but the really interesting stuff comes in the form of our daily distractions of film, music and computer games.

So, in order to kick the hype machine into gear, This Is Entertainment presents a series of articles highlighting the top five most anticipated from the world of film, music and Xbox games, beginning with the silverscreen:

made by Ryan LuckooThe Dark Knight Rises 20 July

Christian Bale returns (slightly higher than before) for the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. This time around it’s a very Inception-inspired affair with Tom Hardy taking the role of big bad terrorist Bane and Joseph Gordon-Levitt joining the team as Batman’s new helper beat cop John Blake. The exciting thing about the premise is that the film is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, when the Caped Crusader took the fall for Harvey Dent’s killing spree. With Nolan at the helm, and several blockbusters under his belt, there’s little chance of the team dropping the ball, and with promise of antics from Catwoman, courtesy of Anne Hathaway, this is a serious contender for big hit of the summer.

The Avengers27 April

Another entry in the ‘Year of the superhero’, and this is certainly the big one in terms of numbers of heroes involved. Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow and of course the top man Captain America all thrown together in one action-packed adrenaline ride – sound appealing? The balance of personalities will be key, especially with Robert Downey Jr. threatening to steal the show as king of swagger Tony Stark. Writing duties come from Zak Penn (X-men 2, X-men 3 and The Incredible Hulk) and Joss Whedon (Firefly, Serenity and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), undoubtedly an impressive pedigree, and with Whedon taking directing duties as well he’ll be sure their story gets realised with all the style and humour it deserves.

made by RNK Fan ArtSkyfall26 October

Bond is finally back. After a four year absence Daniel Craig picks up the Walther PPK again to protect the people of Britain, and this time it’s in a story with the least links to the Fleming-verse, since Skyfall is a the first film not to be in any way based on one of the Bond creator’s stories. Judy Dench is back as M, and Naomi Harris is on Bond girl duty, in a story which delves into M’s past as it “comes back to haunt her”. With long-running relationships to be tested, it could prove to be the most personal story since 1994’s Goldeneye. As ever the story is being kept fairly under wraps, but don’t expect to see a return of the ‘Quantum’ organisation, although the style is unlikely to stray far from the ‘new’ Bond formula.

The Hobbit14 December

Before the story told in arguably the most successful trilogy of the 00s, there was Bilbo Baggins, dwarves and a very large dragon. In print a more child-friendly tale than The Lord of the Rings, but on screen Peter Jackson is creating a story on his usual epic scale. Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, and was so wanted by Jackson that he scheduled in a break in shooting for Freeman to reprise his role as Watson in the Stephen Moffat’s sublime Sherlock. Sir Ian McKellen leads the band of dwarves, filled with well-known names in its own right, on their quest, as they are re-united with plenty of other familiar faces from the proceeding films (which are actually set afterwards, just to be confusing). For those with a thirst for fantasy will have no better journey than this in 2012.

The Amazing Spider-Man4 July

In the other side of the big superhero face-off, the return of Spider-Man sees us going back to the beginning (again) with The Social Network star Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. This reboot, now a groan-inducingly familiar term, focuses on Peter Parker’s high school years, so no Daily Bugle or sideline in pizza delivery. Marc Webb is the aptly named director of the flick, known previously for (500) Days of Summer, has a background in music videos. Webb put together numerous micro-films in the past decade for the likes of Green Day, Good Charlotte, AFI, My Chemical Romance, 3 Doors Down, Maroon 5 and Yellowcard, which might result in a particularly poignant use of music for Spidey. The supporting cast includes Emma Stone, as love interest Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as Doctor Curt Connors, the unfortunate scientist who, after an inevitable accident, becomes Spider-Man’s nemesis The Lizard. It may be a story we’ve seen before in Sam Raimi’s 2002 film, and certainly there is a lot to live up to for Garfield in Tobey McGuire’s performance, but Webb has everything to prove with what is only his second feature length picture – plus there isn’t a goblin in sight.

Plus: Under the Radar – Keep an eye on Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s sort-of Alien prequel set in the same universe, expect the same chill-factor as you get from watching the original alone in the dark and a massively ambitious project all round.

Check back soon for the next instalment looking at the most anticipated albums of the year.

James Michael Parry

Film: Review – Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn

Adventure is an easy thing to get excited about, but it’s the characters you follow through a story which make it truly unforgettable. Of all the hand-drawn creations which have come to life in newspapers over the years, Hergé’s Tintin is one of the most iconic; sporting his signature trench coat and blue jumper, with a tuft of ginger hair, The Adventures of Tintin, and trusty Terrier side-kick, Snowy, are known around the world.

This film though, is, technologically at least, as far from Hergé’s original sketches as you can imagine, with incredibly detailed landscapes, immersive weather effects, and the most natural motion-capture committed to film since Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, and the illusion is taken a step further with 3D.

The ultimate adventure journalist, Tintin is brought to life by Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as he and Snowy try to uncover the secrets behind the model of a ship called ‘The Unicorn’.

Along the way he meets blundering, but lovable, alcoholic Captain Haddock, played to perfection by Andy Serkis (with all his alliterative catchphrases intact), who is a descendent of the sunken Unicorn’s captain.

From the moment John William’s vibrant score introduces a sublime Hergé-styled intro sequence, you can’t help but warm immediately to the characters. Bell plays a hero which you get behind instinctively from the first sign of trouble, and Serkis’ Haddock brings a lightness to proceedings, even through the Captain’s rich Scottish accent.

The influences of director Steven Spielberg’s earlier films are clear throughout, not least globe-trotting adventurer Indiana Jones. But though the two heroes share an era of history and a taste for a mystery, Tintin has none of the recklessness of Dr. Jones, always running rather than fighting, but don’t mistake this ginger journo for a pushover, as Tintin finds himself in a fistfight on more than one occasion.

The film’s pace drives the action at an almost non-stop pace, with a recollection from Haddock in the desert providing the most visually stunning moments of the film, making daring use of animation tricks to merge the present and the past together.

No hero’s tale is complete without a villain however, and the man determined to get to the sunken Unicorn and its treasure first is grim-faced model-collector Ivanovitch Sakharine.

Ivanovitch is given his gravelly tones by Bond Daniel Craig, and cuts through every line with venom, appearing more evil the longer he appears on screen.

The story, based on a few of Herge’s original works, was brought together by a three-pronged attack from Doctor Who king Stephen Moffat, Shawn of the Dead writer/director Edgar Wright and Adam and Joe Show creator Joe Cornish. The variety of talent has come together to create a genuine, fun and family-friendly film, shying away from the current Hollywood trend of making things darker and more moody to deliver a refreshingly positive and classic cinematic experience.

The film is enjoyable whether you’ve never heard of the young Belgian journalist who never submits his copy before, or whether you spend your Sunday nights leafing through Explorers on The Moon. A blockbuster in every sense of the word, this film commands the attention of all ages and afterwards you’re guaranteed to come out filled with optimism and a thirst for adventure.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry