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Mr. Ja McLaughlin "Tony mac1" (Dunfermline)

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Lord Of The Rings - The Two Towers (Theatrical Version) [Blu-ray]
Lord Of The Rings - The Two Towers (Theatrical Version) [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Elijah Wood
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £8.35

4.0 out of 5 stars Still terrific, but some editing problems, 11 July 2012
Director Peter Jackson wastes no time with prologues or resume's in this breathless, no nonsense, but problematic mid-point to his ground breaking trilogy. Apart from a brief reprise of Gandalf's fate to deliver a rousing opening, its straight on from where the original story left off as the Fellowship, now divided into three clear factions, pursue their individual fates.

Clearly a nightmare to write, film and edit, `Towers' takes a lot of liberties with the original book; transferring many of its key scenes to `The Return of the King' and radically changing some characters and situations. On reflection, the fact that it turns out as well as it does is something of a miracle.

In following different strands and being denied both a beginning and an end, the film is inevitably more episodic than its predecessor and the story is less clearly defined and progressive. New characters are hastily introduced without the time or care afforded in the first film, and many of them disappear with little explanation for long periods. There is evidence throughout (but particularly in the first hour) of hasty editing and the need to inject pace and action to cover up a lack of real narrative drive. Indeed, after three exhausting hours of spectacle it remains pretty obvious that the story has not moved on in any significant way.

Jackson compensates for this by delivering a full-blooded action adventure, more grounded in genuine fantasy than 'Fellowship'. No compromises are made on the more fantastic elements of Tolkien's imagination, such as giant elephants, winged beasts and the tree-like Ents, which might have been by-passed by a less confident director worried about straying into Neverending Story territory. The actors continue to get plenty of opportunity to show their worth, particularly Sean Astin and Viggo Mortensen, whose heroic, leading man status is cemented here. Ian McKellan and Christopher Lee are disappointingly underused this time around and even Elijah Wood becomes more marginalised; but these are all reflections of the book and Tolkien's decision to fragment his story.

The real star of the show, however, is Gollum; CGI created but based on an actual performance by Andy Serkis, who also supplies the rasping, reptilian voice. An entirely convincing character, more multi-faceted and subtly shaded than anyone else in the film, Gollum steals every scene he is in and along with everything else in the picture, represents yet another quantum leap forward in digital technology.

For all its faults, `The Two Towers' remains fascinating entertainment and a true example of film operating at the absolute boundaries of the possible. You just have to admire the work of Jackson himself; ceaselessly inventive, bold, uncompromising, relishing the detail and sheer mad imagination of Tolkien's text, he still manages to deliver a exhilarating spectacle, if not quite as satisfying or emotionally involving a journey as `Fellowship'.

Lord Of The Rings - The Fellowship Of The Ring (Theatrical Version) [Blu-ray] [2001]
Lord Of The Rings - The Fellowship Of The Ring (Theatrical Version) [Blu-ray] [2001]
Dvd ~ Elijah Wood
Offered by Special Interests
Price: £2.74

5.0 out of 5 stars It raised the bar, 11 July 2012
I think the consensus from practically everyone in relation to the largely unknown Peter Jackson's risky epic was `my God, he's actually pulled it off!' It has the `wow' factor - the sheer breadth of imagination and awe that only comes to the cinema once every decade or so. It is also that rare breed of epic; an intelligent, intimate one, carefully crafted and with clear purpose. In an era of brain-dead action movies on CGI overdrive its visuals not only impress in their excellence but also in their restraint. You admire and wonder at them, but they never overwhelm.

Everything about this film just works so well, and from a source novel most people thought was unfilmable. The production detail is remarkable, convincing and clearly a labour of love. The New Zealand landscapes spectacular and agreeably other-worldly. The special effects, delivered by New Zealand based Weta Workshop, not only take on and match the Hollywood big boys but actually exceed them. Imagination and poetry are at work everywhere in this film. Some shots are so beautifully composed that you wish you could apply freeze-frame in the theatre and just gawp at them; yet the film is never self-conscious or seeking to linger on its own beauty - there is too much at stake here, too many reputations to be earned, too much plot to advance - and the pulse of this film is that the story always comes first.

Character is the film's key to greatness. For all the wonderful images and breathless action sequences, it is the people and story who are unswervingly given centre stage. You get to know them quickly but thoroughly, thanks to excellent writing and a brave 3-hour running time. And for all the fantasy setting, strange creatures and weird magic going on, these characters seem real and believable; the whole middle-earth milieu entirely grounded. Casting is crucial to this - everyone seems absolutely right for the part they are playing. You wonder for a while whether Sean Bean and Viggo Mortensen might have swapped roles but then eventually become won over by Mortensen's subtle charisma and magnetism - he is Aragorn.

Jackson's direction never puts a foot wrong; the film has flair and meticulous technique throughout. Characters are kept to the forefront, never just dropped in on scenes designed to show off sets or special effects (George Lucas take note). The story progresses confidently and smoothly, helped by the fact that this was always the most linear and cohesive of Tolkien's three volumes; something the other films will have to overcome. Action sequences are spectacular yet have a strangely intimate feel - not the giant battles expected of future instalments.

The only quibble is that the pace falters a little after Gandalf's departure. In a uniformly fine cast Ian McKellen still stands out and the film is inevitably the poorer without him, but this is a minor point. You leave the theatre knowing you have seen a modern masterpiece, a film which raises the bar of film making and lifts the fantasy genre to an entirely new level.

Heat [DVD] [1995]
Heat [DVD] [1995]
Dvd ~ Al Pacino
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific, intelligent thriller, 22 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Heat [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
A Master cop and master criminal play cat and mouse through a series of robberies and pursuits in downtown Los Angeles.

Michael Mann is the antithesis of landscape directors like Terrence Mallick or John Ford. Even his outdoor epic `Last of the Mohicans' seems determined to treat its forests like urban back alleys. Is there another director around who paints the functional steel and glass landscapes of Los Angeles so vividly? Can anyone else make cold grey suits on two short, middle-aged actors look so stylish? Can anyone else make neon nightscapes in one of the world's ugliest cities so seductive and beguiling?

There is a night scene mid-way though this film where Robert De Niro's character and his girlfriend lean on a balcony and talk quietly while gazing out over the tungsten-splashed sea of LA. It is one of the most beautifully photographed scenes I have ever watched, forever forcing me to pause the DVD to take it all in. And yet it is so simple; a two-camera shot involving no pyrotechnics, just the recording of an extraordinary artificial landscape, functional and smog-filled by day, mysterious and elusive by night. Through Dante Spinotti's lens you could happily stay on this balcony forever, transfixed by these lights which appear to float in neat, geometric grids as far as the eye can see. It makes you think about stories of old whalers fascinated by tricks of the light on the dark seas.

That's the thing about Mann; he makes hard-boiled thrillers involving dangerous characters indulging in serious mayhem, but he has an ability to make his movies shine in the most industrial and soulless of settings. The beauty may not be gritty and may not even be realistic - but its still beauty.

Anyway enough of the lyrical stuff. `Heat' is a cop thriller that manages to be vaguely derivative yet entirely original at the same time. It is a remake of a TV movie Mann made some years earlier about a steadily evolving confrontation between two driven, highly professional men. One is a master thief who leads a crack, disciplined team on a round of violent, clinical robberies. The other is the cop tracking him down, a workaholic social misfit forever throwing himself into failing marriages he doesn't have the strength to properly commit to. Though on different sides of the law these men are essentially the same; loners married to their jobs to the exclusion of everything else. Al Pacino, as the cop, cannot stay home nights, despite the pleas of a prozac-sustained third wife and emotionally fraught step-daughter. De Niro barely has a home to go to at all - an empty shell by the ocean with no furniture from which he has never bothered to unpack. His life is deliberately spartan so that he can walk away from it in seconds should the law come calling. Their eventual showdown comes as a direct result of two ironies; De Niro allows someone to get close to him, thereby breaking his own cardinal rule, while Pacino's stubborn resistance to domesticity means he will always be on the streets ready for the pay-off when it comes.

Heat is superb for three basic reasons. First, the script takes its time - characters are carefully established and developed, relationships are complex and shifting, the plot is focused and clearly structured. Second, the action is believable, expertly staged and purposeful; not just chucked in for the sake of it. Third, top-notch stars and character actors are allowed to develop multi-faceted personalities whose natures and motivations are gradually revealed as the film develops, keeping them fresh and surprising.

Of the two mega-stars on show De Niro takes the honours. This is one of the best, and probably most controlled performances he has ever given; his stillness, discipline, economy of words and methodical habits barely concealing a violent rage which occasionally and electrifyingly bursts out. Pacino is equally good most of the time but sometimes lapses into the histrionics which have tainted some of his later performances. He's supposed to be the good guy, but we end up caring more for De Niro. Significantly, in their one big scene together, he underplays just as much as De Niro, and holds his own as a consequence.

Heat is a long but compelling thriller which will surely take its place as a classic film noir for the 90s. Just give it time and let its characters grab you.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2 Disc Edition) [2004] [DVD]
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2 Disc Edition) [2004] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniel Radcliffe
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.98

3.0 out of 5 stars stylish, but still problematic, 22 Jun. 2012
I've never read any of the Harry Potter books and like a lot of adults my only real knowledge of the phenomenon is through the movie adaptations. These, I'm told, are pretty faithful to the books, something which appears to have pleased fans given the success of the series but not certain movie critics who lament the lack of a real cinematic re-imagining of the books. Given that the films are aimed mostly at youngsters who want to see an unambiguous translation from book to screen, I personally have no problems with the faithful approach. Anyway, it's a no-win situation - stray too far from the literary source and you doubtless end up with the same wags moaning about the horrendous liberties taken with the cherished original.

Azkaban, the third Potter film is, I'm also told, the first to develop an original cinematic style distinctive from the books. I cannot comment on whether it takes any liberties with the plot or not, but it certainly has a more radically stylised look than its predecessors thanks to director Alfonso Cuaron's distinctive visual style. Cuaron is definitely a production designer and cinematographer's dream, filming constantly with wide-angle lenses and in long shot to place the environment, with all its creative wonders, firmly at the forefront of things. In many ways this purely cinematic style reminds me of Peter Greenaway's in that it is designed specifically for the big screen, favouring the master shot over close ups and flashy editing. This technique looks ravishing in the cinema but can suffer on the small screen where, like it or not, most films spend the majority of their shelf-life.

Given the core youthful audience and the relative complexity of JK Rowling's novels, this technique has its narrative failings. Previous director Chris Columbus may have been little more than a competent hack, but he certainly knew how to keep the story coherent and in focus. Given the levels of exposition in Rowling's plots, its sometimes more effective for a director to swallow a little artistic pride and stage the more story-loaded scenes in a conventional style to properly introduce the many characters and keep the story elements clear. Cuaron, however, hates character-specific shots, working almost exclusively by cranes, tracking shots and hand-helds, working in and out of lengthy scenes like a tentative guest and mostly preferring to get in no closer than medium shot. While this often works very well you can't help but wish he'd pause a bit more often just to make sure the audience catches an important piece of dialogue or better observes the introduction of the characters, who too often get swallowed up by the overwhelming sets, landscapes, effects and make-up. Nuanced acting is virtually impossible, the narrative is sometimes confused and the audience not quite sure who is doing what or why.

This failing is never more apparent than in the long-delayed introduction of the titular `prisoner', Sirius Black. Despite being played by the usually magnetic Gary Oldman - an actor well used to impressing himself on visually striking backdrops - the character is instantly swamped by a succession of plot twists, special effects, production design and competing characters that render him virtually redundant before he has even been properly introduced. Julie Christie is another one who suffers in a cameo as a village innkeeper. Photographed almost entirely in long shot and through gauze, you can barely make out who she is or what significance her character has. Now I'm all for directors not `introducing' stars with big flattering `look-at-me' close-ups; but in a film like this, where most actors are under heavy make-up and playing genuine `characters', it does serve a useful purpose.

These faults aside, there is no doubt that `Azkaban' is a striking movie and one that takes the series into a darker and more adult world than before. By now, Harry and his friends have reached 13, and Cuaron, who directed the erotic road movie `Y Tu Mama Tambien' about adolescent awakenings, knows a thing or too about teenage turbulence. The film fairly boils over with images of pubescent emotion, anxiety and uncertainty. Just about everything in it is dark, stormy and skewed, indicating the uncertainties of adolescence and the changing perceptions of a previously more benign world. The actors too, particularly Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, have more to get their teeth into, and for the first time you rather appreciate the naturalism of their performances ahead of the mugging of the adult performers.

All in all, Azkaban is a rather giddily indulgent directors movie, pleasing for adults and film buffs but likely to be a little confusing and even frustrating for children.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2007]
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Daniel Radcliffe
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.73

3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult book, solidly done, 22 Jun. 2012
Order of the Phoenix is the most difficult of all the Potter novels and certainly presents the most severe filmic challenges. Ridiculously overlong, the book is largely Rowling's lambast against increasing centralist control of schools by bureaucrats and a study of the teenage rage and isolation in Harry himself. As such, not a lot actually happens and the film-makers must have pondered long and hard on how to best adapt it.

First-time director David Yates's choice is pretty bold - he makes a book that is four-times longer than the early adventures into the shortest film of the series so far, coming in at just over two-hours before the final credits. Order of the Phoenix is consequently a very serious film - all forward momentum and in a very definite hurry.

This approach has distinct strengths and weaknesses. On the plus side, much of the peripheral flab and repetition of the book is stripped away to present a relatively fast-moving and coherent narrative. But in Yates's obsession to prune the film to the bone, a strong element of character, emotion and suspense has been lost. There is little real interaction between the kids anymore, they just seem to hurry from scene to scene with nothing but business in mind. Even more alarmingly, most of the expensively assembled supporting cast of adult actors - whose job in the past has been to give these films a strong degree of colour and gravitas - are mostly reduced to blink-and-you'll-miss them background dressing. The sole exceptions are Imelda Staunton, giving an impish yet sinister turn as the Ministry bureaucrat intent on taking over Hogwarts and Michael Gambon's vigorous Dumbledore. Otherwise, stalwarts like Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman barely get a look in, while newcomer Helena Bonham Carter, debuting as Voldemort's chief henchwoman, hardly registers in an over-edited finale.

This reduction of the Potter universe is most noticeable in the use of Gary Oldman as Harry's godfather, Sirius Black. The development of his relationship with Harry should be central to the emotional power of the film's climax, but the pair are only given fleeting moments together and as a result the eventual sundering of their relationship is curiously muted and uninvolving.

All in all, Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldenberg have probably made the right decisions in turning a yawn of a book into something reasonably watchable. But it's a rather impersonal movie that never properly engages with its audience in the way its predecessors have managed to do. You feel that the film would actually have welcomed an extra 10-15 minutes to develop its central relationships and give its finale a greater degree of suspense, excitement and tragedy.

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince [DVD]
Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniel Radcliffe
Price: £3.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid, 22 Jun. 2012
The film of the penultimate Potter book is a pretty mixed bag. It has a great start with nasty wizards launching random attacks on hapless Muggles in London and a powerful ending as Harry and Dumbledore have to fight for their lives in an eerie underground lake and even within the not-so-safe walls of Hogwarts itself. There's also a welcome return to some of the humour and lightness of earlier episodes and a less rushed feel than that of its immediate predecessor Order of the Phoenix.

Unfortunately, the often rather sedate pace does lead to the film's momentum grinding to a halt on more than one occasion. Puppy love and the first buds of commitment are very much in the air for our teenage heroes, and although this does lead to some merriment and emotional connection, there's a degree of repetition that leaves the nagging suspicion of deliberate padding. Occasionally you have to remind yourself what the main story is actually supposed to be about, and at 153 minutes, you do feel that the film could benefit from a 10-minute pruning.

Nonetheless, this is a film with far more positives than negatives. Prime among them is the work of director David Yates, who did a solid but uninspired job on Order but is in much more confident and creative form here. His direction, and indeed the look of the whole film, is clearly influenced by Alfonso Cuaron's work on Prisoner of Azkaban. Like Cuaron, Yates is happy to let his establishing camera do most of the work, avoiding unnecessary close ups and excessive cross-cutting and allowing Stuart Craig's exemplary production design to come to the fore throughout. This, along with Bruno Delbonnel's sepia-toned photography, lends the film a distinct style of its own and establishes a believable sense of other-worldliness that's missing from some earlier episodes of the Potter cannon.

The acting is pretty good too. The book was always Dumbledore's show and Michael Gambon grabs his abundant meaty moments with both hands. Applause too for Tom Felton's Draco Malfoy, mostly sidelined in recent films but here rising to his more featured role. Jim Broadbent is another welcome addition as a returning potions teacher with a dark secret of his own. Broadbent looks so much at home in the quasi-Dickensian world of Potter that you wonder why a role wasn't found for him earlier in the series. The producers also make the correct decision to feature Helena Bonham Carter's scene-stealing Bellatrix Lestrange much more than was the case in the book.

The three leads are, as usual, more solid than inspired, though Emma Watson seems a bit more confident here than in her last outing and there's a welcome refocus on Ron as a vehicle to lighten the mood, which was basically his role in the early movies.

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2 Disc Edition) [DVD] [2005]
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2 Disc Edition) [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Timothy Spall
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasing entry with a rousing finish, 22 Jun. 2012
Given their usual labyrinthine plots, this Potter instalment seems relatively story-light for much of its duration. It jogs along pleasantly enough, with some big set pieces like the Quidditch World Cup and the first two challenges of the Tri-Wizard tournament providing the usual effects-heavy action, but you do find yourself wondering where it is all going and just how many adolescent growing pains you can take over two and a half hours. There's also the nagging feeling that the whole concept of the tournament simply doesn't make sense, even in a fantasy film. I mean can we really swallow the idea of schools so willingly putting the lives of their pupils in mortal danger for the sake of a competition? Wouldn't the parents have something to say about this - not to mention the law? Who on earth would sanction such behaviour? It reminds me of one of the chief mysteries of the whole Potter movie franchise - it's yet to be explained what the role of wizards in the world actually is. Where did they come from? What, if any, wider global purpose do they have? What is their relationship with the `muggle' world?

Anyway, while mulling all this over, the film - with about 45 minutes still to go - rather unexpectedly lifts into another gear and becomes startling, even compelling stuff. Much of the reason for this is that director Mike Newell effectively turns the last third into a full-blown horror film, with few compromises given to youthful audiences or age restrictions. A truly scary third challenge in a creepy, living maze then morphs into a graveyard confrontation with the evil Lord Voldemort - now back in physical form and helped no end by the brilliant casting of Ralph Fiennes. The usual round of intrigues, betrayals and secret agendas quickly follow and the first major death of the series heralds that a line has been crossed into more adult fare.

The acting is a big help in this movie. The kids still have their limitations though Daniel Radcliffe's Harry now seems to have the range and confidence to cope with the more serious stuff; but it's the supporting cast of character actors who come off best here. Michael Gambon's Dumbledore, quietly introduced in the previous film, gets his first real chance to shine. His gruff, physical, business-like performance is quite different from Richard Harris's more benign approach - but it gradually impresses. Brendan Gleason chews the scenery very amusingly as Mad-Eyed Moody and Fiennes' belated but spectacular turn as the dark lord pitches the whole franchises into previously uncharted areas of pure evil and real, adult danger.

Overall, Goblet takes its time to really get going and you could argue that a lack of consistent focus is its one serious failing, but it pays off in the end and suggests even better will follow in the future.

Diamonds Are Forever [DVD] [1971]
Diamonds Are Forever [DVD] [1971]
Dvd ~ Sean Connery
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.97

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor, tired, complacent, 22 Jun. 2012
James Bond tracks down a diamond smuggling ring and comes back into contact with his nemesis Blofeld, bent on his usual extortion practices.

After the edgy excellence but box office disappointment of On Her Majesty's Secret Service this was a return to safer, more formulaic and much less ambitious fare, with a firm nod towards the double-entendre of the upcoming Roger Moore years. The 1970s wasn't a particularly kind era for Bond purists, and this entry set a very low bar for the rest of the decade.

Much is made of Connery's return, but he looks as bored as he had in his previous outing You Only Live Twice, and he seems worryingly tired, overweight and saggy for a man who was still under 40 when he began filming. He actually looked younger and fitter 12 years later when he made his independent Bond effort Never Say Never Again with Kevin McClory, the man who spent an entire career living off his rights to Thunderball.

The whole film has a threadbare look to it, as if so much of the budget was spent on Connery's salary (which he donated to charity) that little was left for anything else. Indeed, there seems to be such all-round relief and complacency at the great man's return that nobody appears to have given much thought to provide him with a decent vehicle to flex his old skills upon. Odd, given that the film had every opportunity to set itself up as a revenge thriller, after Blofeld's unceremonious elimination of Bond's new wife at the end of OHMSS. Instead, it simply ignores this rather glaring fact and every meeting between Bond and the ridiculously campy Charles Gray as Blofeld has all the menace and tension of a primary school panto.

The plot is dull and derivative (diamond smuggling quickly gives way to yet another weapon-in-space made of wobbly plastic), the supporting cast poor, the action mechanical and robotic, the Las Vegas setting garish, the continuity sloppy and the wardrobe department on permanent malfunction (some of Connery's clothes combinations have to be seen to be believed).

Pass it by and ignore those who think that Connery's comeback is sufficient enough reason to watch this - Sir Sean is strictly on autopilot throughout and the film seldom rises above the level of TV-movie special.

Goldeneye [DVD] [1995]
Goldeneye [DVD] [1995]
Dvd ~ Pierce Brosnan
Price: £2.69

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good new start for Bond, 22 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Goldeneye [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
James Bond is sent to post-communist Russia to investigate the aftermath of a mysterious nuclear explosion in Siberia. While there he discovers a massive plot to de-stabilise the world's financial institutions.

Goldeneye is one of the crunch movies in the whole Bond cannon; not only introducing a new Bond in Pierce Brosnan, but relaunching the whole franchise after a six-year hiatus caused by litigation.

The pressure on everyone involved must have been enormous. After the failure of `Licence to Kill' in 1989 many people thought Ian Fleming's super-spy was a spent force; tired, dated and blown away by the high-tech action extravaganzas tailored for Schwarzenegger and Willis.

Central to getting the show back on the road was the casting of Bond himself. To be honest, it was probably never a problem; Brosnan was the obvious choice, head and shoulders above anyone else around. Still, there was a certain anxiety among some Bond devotees, many of whom thought - given his Remington Steele background - that he might be little more than a throwback to the Roger Moore school of lightweight fluff. Indeed, in the early sequences this comes perilously close to being the case, as both the actor and the film-makers are clearly feeling their way.

After an excellent but slightly enigmatic pre-credit appearance, we don't get properly introduced to Brosnan until a car-chase sequence in Monte-Carlo, where he is being `assessed' by a beautiful redhead. With his silk cravat, double-entendre's, glib smile and rampant lack of political correctness we are, undoubtedly, back in Roger Moore territory and you do wonder if the producers have learned anything over the last six years or are intent on committing career suicide. Indeed, its not until the introduction of Judi Dench's M that the film suddenly sparks into life and assures us that it has, after all, got modernising ambitions.

This first scene between Bond and his new female boss is one of the best written and acted in the entire series. In its own way, it crackles with the same tension as the Connery-Shaw confrontation in `From Russia with Love' many years earlier. M's crack at Bond being a cold-war dinosaur is a clear goodbye to the attitudes of old, and Brosnan's cold, steely response finally shows us that his Bond will have authority and toughness underneath the polish.

From here on the film hardly puts a foot wrong. Martin Campbell's action sequences are superbly staged, with the deft camera work and incisive editing the series has badly needed for many years; the tank chase through St Petersburg is a modern action classic as good as anything done in Hollywood. The stunts and effects work are cranked up a notch from the stale explosions and somersaulting bodies that had weakened the series for some years, and the whole enterprise has a welcome feel of expenditure and ambition. At last, Bond movies aren't just going through formulaic motions; they realise that they need to win audiences over again, not just take them for granted.

The supporting cast is superb, charismatic and credible. Sean Bean's renegade double-00 agent could have been a believable Bond himself (the casting is actually a huge vote of confidence in Brosnan), and Izabella Scorupco's leading lady - all shabby cardigans and wild hair - is light years away from the powderpuff clothes horses of past adventures. Best of all is Famke Jansen's psychotic Russian hit-woman. She may be a comic-book character of the old Bond school but she does it with such panache that it is no surprise that she has gone on to such a fine A-list career post-Bond.

Also a word for the much-maligned electronic score by Eric Serra. Most Bond purists hate it and the series quickly returned to Barry-esque tributes, but I personally think it is excellent, atmospheric and a welcome change from the usual orchestral bombast.

Goldeneye was an immediate hit with audiences and an absolute assurance that the Bond formula could still work provided it shook itself out of its in-house lethargy and delivered the goods. And in Brosnan it introduces the best and most intriguing Bond since Connery.

Dr No
Dr No
by Ian Fleming
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Still fascinating despite the dodgy bits, 21 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Dr No (Paperback)
The very first Bond book I ever read, as well as the first movie. Decades since I've read it and fascinated as to how it stands up. Not surprisingly, it's the racial element that now seems most controversial and attracts the most comment.

Personally I don't think the book is racist, but it is deeply colonial and patronising, reflecting Fleming's generation and class, who held condescending viewpoints of others without ever thinking themselves as actually racist. It all comes from an assumed superiority based on decades of Empire, and I'm old enough myself to have seen the last vestages of it. It has to be seen as of it's time and historically fascinating in that regard. Times change, sometimes for the better - so be glad about that and move on.

As for the book itself it still stands up well as a robust thriller. There's much to enjoy in Fleming's crisp style, no frills yet often highly evocative. And the man's outrageous imagination is sheer fun!

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