Spectre Review: Christoph Waltz Excels In Latest Bond Flick

Bond

Director: Sam Mendes

Staring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz,  Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista

Rating: 12A

Running Time: 2hours 30mins

Release Date: October 26th 2015

Sam Mendes has taken on the Bond franchise with full force and back in 2012 he gave us SKYFALL, arguably one of the very best Bond films ever to grace the silver screen. With the well deserved praise comes the high expectations as Mendes and Daniel Craig return for Spectre, their second Bond film together. So much happened when we last saw Bond and the aftermath of the Skyfall destruction still weighs heavily on everybody’s minds. With M finding himself conflicted with the pressures of the politics of the secret service, Bond finds himself falling under the radar to delve into secrets on modern terrorism that quickly mix with those from his past.

Sending himself on a physical and mental mission of discovery, Bond must route through the dark corners of his past and connect the dots between what he’s done, what’s happened to him and how they all connect with the devastating mystery that surrounds the Spectre organisation.

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The opening sequence, set during Mexico’s Day Of The Dead, is without a doubt one of the very best in Bond history, and a new personal favorite. The entire scene is so wonderfully busy, deliciously Gothic and crammed with spectacular costume, makeup and props. It’s an ideal introduction to Craig’s next Bond chapter as he makes his way through the crowds of incredibly dressed, beautiful people. The cinematography in this scene alone is outstanding, with Bond stealthily snaking his way along the narrow roof tops of Mexico City; with a score from Thomas Newman marrying so beautifully with the stunning aesthetic.

There’s no denying that all the car chases, explosions and actions sequences makes for a high-octane Bond flick but it simply doesn’t make up for the weak, if not predictable, center narrative. It wasn’t difficult to clock the twist behind Bond and Blofeld’s past relationship early on within the narrative and therefore it didn’t pack the kind of hard hitting punch it had intended. It also felt a little weak in imagination, safe and even a little cliche; not something expected from such an outstanding writing team including John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth.

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The high-light of the film has to be the utterly enigmatic yet completely chilling performance from Christoph Waltz. There’s such measured madness to his character and it makes him utterly terrifying. Here we have such a calculated, patient and twisted villain to get to grips with and it’s truly fantastic to watch. We’re introduced to Blofeld with immediate intimidation in mind, his dark figure haunting the screen in silhouette fashion as a room full of important people cower at his presence. He’s a brilliant character and it’s disappointing that he doesn’t get more screen time, even if the time he does have is a joy to watch. Waltz really does play this character so brilliantly and is really the only thing that saves the narrative from being a complete mess.

Also getting screen time is our two new Bond girls, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux. There’s still much to be desired from the representation of women in Bond films, even if Moneypenny’s Naomie Harris gave a boost in strong female characters in SKYFALL. Monica Bellucci gets minuscule screen time, much of it involving being seduced by Bond, and her character leaves little to be desired; making her presence feel totally wasted.

Léa Seydoux gives a wonderful performance with what she’s provided with, her presence both delicate yet feisty and she actually becomes a great match for Bond; even if she can’t quite resist his charms. While the relationship development between them does feel a little rushed and therefore perhaps over dramatic by the end, our love for Bond and desperate want for his happiness allows for the forgiveness for such flaws.

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Our faithful gang of behind the scene spies, Moneypenny, Q (Ben Whishaw) and M (Ralph Fiennes), get their own separate, interweaving narrative as they come up against Andrew Scott‘s C, as he attempts to dismantle their organisation all together. These scenes are pleasant enough as Whishaw in particular delivers some wonderful comedic relief throughout much of the narrative, giving a little boost to the otherwise often clunky dialogue.

It was always going to be a difficult job for Mendes to match the incredibly high standards he delivered with SKYFALL and there’s no denying that he’s created a brilliantly entertaining film in SPECTRE. However, it lacks the emotional intelligence and influence that SKYFALL conjured up and it the main narrative feels a little sloppy, weak and gives way for more action and cool stunts. Depending on the viewing, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it still makes for a tense, thrilling watch but for those wanting the sophistication of Mendes’ previous Bond’s, SPECTRE just doesn’t quite cut it.

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Brooklyn Review: A Beautifully Told & Tender Love Story

Brooklyn

Director: John Crowley

Staring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhall Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent

Running Time: 1 hour 52 mins

Rating: 12A

Release Date: 6th November 2015

It’s not often that a love story is able to cast the perfect spell of both romantic enchantment, emotionally intelligent narrative and the stabbing pain of desperate heartache. All too often are we presented with either a cliche ridden romantic comedy or an all too melancholy message of love’s cruel sting; both leading to a lackluster testament to that thing we call love.

It’s with huge pleasure then, that John Crowley‘s latest feature BROOKLYN shines as a stunning example of romance done exquisitely right. Set in the 1950’s, naive Irish beauty Eilis, played by Saoirse Ronan,  leaves the comfort of her small home town, her stable part time job and the constant support from her older sister to start a new life in Brooklyn. After bouts of heartbreaking homesickness, Eilis soon finds her place in this big city as she begins to fall for sweet natured Italian American plumber Tony, played by Emory Cohen.

As Eilis finally begins to plan a life with Tony, disaster sends her back home and the comforts she’d long forgotten begin to creep back into her life; leaving Tony feeling like a distant dream. As she spends time at home she finds friendship in local boy Jim Farrell (Domhall Gleeson) and as their feelings grow, she becomes more and more conflicted with which life she intends on living.

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Adapted by Nick Hornby from Colm Tóibín‘s novel of the same name, BROOKLYN has the effortless feel of romantic glamour as the dialogue prevails in feeling absolutely genuine and escapes the trap of overly-saturated, sickly sweet, clunky dialogue that can plague a film of this genre. The script marries beautifully with Crowley’s aesthetic, as each scene is dripping with stunning mise-en-scene. From the misty morning’s of the Ireland setting, the glamorous gold of Eilis’ work place to the glowing streets of summer on the streets of Brooklyn; the entire film feels like flicking through the most treasured of photo albums, a sense of romantic nostalgia washing over each scene.

The 1950’s setting only adds to the wistful nature of the films aesthetic and the costume department excels in making Eilis’ wardrobe a narrative drive of it’s own, with her dress sense so subtly developing as her character does. Married with many close-up’s of sweet Eilis, it doesn’t take long for audiences to trust completely in her innocent nature.

Saoirse Ronan is utterly mesmerizing as the conflicted Eilis, as she plays her with sheer sincerity, engaging vulnerability and subtle humor. With Ronan’s talent of for immense emotive performance practically spilling from the screen, the film runs with a desperate sadness that feels not only wholly devastating but sometimes even affirming; as if the sadness itself is an additional character, one that must be played out, experience in it’s entirety; despite its painful effect.

Along side her, Emory Cohen plays Tony with such charm and playfulness that it is near impossible not to smirk at the screen with sheer delight as he attempts to woo our Irish girl. Capturing the ecstasy of love’s first crushing blow, Cohen gives audiences a reason to urge Eilis to fight for her life in Brooklyn and without his magnificent performance and their truly fantastic chemistry, the film would not pack as much of a devastating emotional punch.

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What is so impressive and enjoyable about Crowley’s BROOKLYN is that it’s told with such refreshing emotional intelligence. The narrative doesn’t have to fall back on anything too over dramatic because both the writing and performances are so outstanding. There’s no real villain or hero to this film, no disastrous betrayal or salacious damning of love; it’s the very personal and realistic story of the complexities of love and how life never truly plans out as you’d imagined.

While indeed this film is a romantic story, there’s such realism in it’s characters and narrative that it exceeds expectations of the genre and becomes a subtle epic; one that settles in the heart and intend on staying there. With beautiful imagery, outstanding performances and a tender, wonderful script BROOKLYN is an superb example of class love stories.

This is England: A History of Film & Television

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Are you guys as excited as I am for the new series of This is England ’90 airing tomorrow night on Channel 4? The film and television series’ mean the absolute world to me and Shane Meadows has been a hero of mine since the tender age of 15 so getting another installment of the This is England family has got me jumping for joy.

In preparation for the series I’ve written a feature for Film & TV Now, looking back at the amazing work Meadow’s has done on the series. Take a look.

Catch Up

Hello readers! I have been a terrible blogger recently but you have my word that it’s all been because I’ve been very busy with my Film & Entertainment Journalism. If you haven’t had the chance to be following my bits, you can visit my Facebook page to keep up to date. There you’ll find news stories, reviews, feature posts and a couple of editorial posts from various sites.

Also, this week I’ll be headed into central London to work at a BANG Showbiz to get some in-house experience because at the moment I’ve only had experience working from home as a freelance writer. I’m seriously looking forward to it because I’m actively looking for a permanent place somewhere.

In the mean time, I’ve been watching/reading some brilliant stuff that you seriously need to get in to! I’m currently reading The Farm by Rob Smith and I have to say, it’s absolutely thrilling! I’d seriously recommended. I’ll make sure I get a review up here as soon as I’m done.

In the mean time, remember to keep visiting for all my past posts as well as all those on my own site; here.

Thanks, guys!

T

Since You’ve Been Gone- Morgan Matson Review: A Juvenile Yet Strangely Endearing Adventure

Before Sloan, there was Emily. Then there was Sloan and Emily and that meant everything. After a bizarre chance meeting, Emily and Sloan became closer friends than one couple have thought possible. To Emily, Sloan was an exotic creature that was so completely cool, Emily was cool by association and to just be around her was all the friendship she needed. Then Sloan dissapears and Emily is back to being herself before Sloan. The quite, resigned girl that stayed at home, wishing her life away. No phone call, no letters- just a list. That is all Emily has left of her best friend; a ‘to-do’ list. Skinny Dipping, Stealing Something, Penelope, Ride A Horse – all these strange tasks that Emily must complete if she stands a chance in finding what happened to Sloan.

Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone won’t be blowing anyone’s mind with a captivating, theoretical analysis on friendship and self exploration, but then again; who says it has to? What you will find is an initially tedious example of one sided friendship that quickly becomes a heart warming story of confidence and adventure. This being the first book of Matson’s I’ve devoured, it’s difficult to say what I was expecting. Yes, perhaps something a little darker and more deep rooted then just girls drifting in and our of each others lives, but while finding just that, I allowed myself to sink back into my seventeen year old self and encourage the wave of nostalgia to wash over me, making the entire reading experience more pleasurable that initially expected.

The general feel of Since You’ve Been Gone can often feel juvenile and I can imagine this will be the case for any reader over the age of twenty. At the very start of the novel, Emily is so overly, completely besotted with her best friend Sloan that it comes across as irritating. One may find themselves asking what could be so great about Sloan? Still, readers may soon realise that the image of of this mysterious girl is not all it seems. However, due to the continuous praise of a girl that has just disappeared, I found myself really disliking Sloan. Indeed, this enabled me to sympathies more with Emily, pitying her but a sense of frustration comes with that also and remains there for the entire book.

Still, as the narrative continues, so does Emily’s personality, perseverance and bravery, something I found highly enjoyable, at times a little cringey, yet strangely familiar. Any middle school wall flower will notice themselves in her character, that natural change in your own nature when your own grove as well as finding others you truly belong with. I believe nostalgia is the key to the book reaching an audience older than that of young teens, I found myself reading and observing like a concerning sister, rather than finding myself out rightly in Emily’s position. This is neither a positive nor negative, it simply resides within the age and maturity of the reader.

While this sens of old times lost in comforting, enjoyable and relaxed there was one aspect to Matson’s story that I found immensely disappointing. With narratives like these, I understand that a love interest is often key to story drive and reader interest but for me, Emily’s relationship with Frank felt slightly rushed and forced towards the end. It seems Emily had finally outgrown her dependany to Sloan and simply off-loaded it to Frank instead. While Matson tried hard to ensure the reader that Emily has indeed grown into a self sufficiant woman, there’s a slight feel that she has just swapped her friendship for a relationship, without too much bother.

While You Were Gone has no doubt found an appropriate audience within the young teen market, that quite easily spills out towards an older reader, feeling nostalgic for the past. It’s easily to see why our first friendships are those that shape us the most and Since You’ve Been Gone is a easy going, no fuss example of that.

Amy Poehler’s Yes Please: Humbling To A Fault

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Amy Poehler is one of today’s growing group of female role models that promote self worth, comedy and confidence. In her company are the likes of Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham. I love these women, I find them truly inspiring and as soon as I heard Poehler’s book was available in the UK I ran to my local book store to annoy the sales assistant by making them grab be a copy “way out the back”. Despite my hatred for hardbacks (I like a book you can roll up- sue me), this quickly became my book of worship and I truly struggled to put it down.

Yes Please works completely different to your traditional book, there’s no begin, middle or end, it works more as a sophisticated scrap book that beholds a bundle of memories, advice, warnings and anecdotes that will please Poehler’s die-hard fans while intriguing to those perhaps unfamiliar to her work. Told in three seperate section entitled “Say Whatever You Want”, “Do Whatever You Want” and “Be Whoever You Want”, Yes Please gives readers a glimpse of, not only Poehler’s professional journey from comedy fan to comedy genius but also allows us to get a personal yet respectful insight into the inner working of her childhood, adolescence and relationships.

Certain chapters are going to stick out to individual readers more than others will, there were definitely moments within the book where my eyes skimmed over thinking “this doesn’t really apply to me”, while others hit the mark completely. Still, within those chapters where I felt a little like I was listening to the grown ups talk, the comedy was bang on which allowed for enjoyment none the less.

For me, what was the cement of entertainment within Yes Please was the inspiration, frank and honest way Poehler speaks of “the biz” and how hard work pays off. How success has many different levels and how you won’t know until you try. I find the writings of successful women very inspiring and when women like Poehler tackle said subject matter with wit, honesty and an infectious determination, it becomes undeniably readable to me.

While all this is completely thrilling to read and informative while entertaining, my main issue with Yes Please is the lack of real heart within the book as a whole. Yes, Poehler opens up about the more personal sides of her life and yes, it’s clear to see just how passionate she is about her work and life but she shoots herself in the foot from page one by continuously complaining about just how hard writing a book is. As a reader, I don’t want to hear that and as a fan, I want to believe that she approached this task with as much gusto as she does her other projects. Alas, her constant ramblings on how she “has no business writing a book”, is humbling to a fault.

This isn’t to say that everybody that is a great actor or comedian that writes a book has to be amazing from the beginning but if they don’t believe in their own story, the reader wont either. While I was a little disappointing by this, being a Poehler fan before reading, I still found her witty anecdotes and sweet nature charming, while finding myself that little more more motivated with my own work after reading.

Dawn O’Porter’s Paper Aeroplanes & Goose: Two Coming-Of-Age Triumph’s

dawnoporter-690x248With her television career, presenting gig’s, vintage clothes design and young-adult novels, Dawn O’Porter is a lady with real talent and bags on potential. Her recent success includes her coming-of-age novels Paper Aeroplanes, published in 2013 and it’s sequel, Goose, published in April of this year. Her ability to weave charming stories that flow with ease and enjoyment seems natural to O’Porter and the effort put in certainly oozes from each paragraph and page.

Paper Aeroplanes introduces readers to school girls Flo and  Renée, two impossibly different girls with intensely similar emotions. After the early death of her beloved mother, Renée lives with her Nana and Pop on the island of Guernsey. Her Nana is quiet, her Pop is immensely abrasive and her sister, Nell, is fighting her own grief and a rapidly increasing eating disorder. Renée is a ballsy kid, loud and proud with a tenancy to run her mouth but beneath all that is a sensitive and fragile girl, who’s haunted by her longing for her mum.

Flo also lives on the small island with her cold mother, distant brother, Julian and younger sister, Abi. Her Father is the only one that seems to understand Flo’s quiet nature and he lives away from the family, a shell of his former self since his divorce from Flo’s mum. School should be a safe place for a girl like Flo but with a hideous best friend like Sally, she doesn’t get much peace. Sally spends all her energy making Flo feels smaller than she thought she could and manipulates her sweet nature.

Paper Aeroplanes’ narrative follows the story of how the girls become the closest of friends and rely on each other as they tackle the regular issues of adolescence. Hormones, periods, boys- you name  it, they cover it. However, what is so appealing about O’Porter’s story is the depth and seriousness of these girls issues and how they’re dealt with in a subtle yet honest way. Both girls suffer hideous grief in their lives and this issue is explored in a way that shows real bravery on O’Porter’s part. She allows the girls to be very frank about their feelings on death. Readers are privileged to get a glimpse of these young girls’ emotions.

O’Porter captures the true essence of being a kid at this age, the increasing, adult situations that creep into young peoples lives goes fairly unnoticed but O’Porter tackles them with honesty and understanding. She bravely tackles the issue of sexual-power and the misuse of that. Something that young people are being introduced to in a hideously casual way. O’Porter faces these issues head on with the novel and leads the girls to understanding their own power and learning their own worth.

Along side this, she also captures the fun and often cringe-worthy nature of being a young adult in the 90’s. Young readers will be amused at the comedic way in which O’Porter weaves her embarrassing and amusing anecdotes from the girls and older readers will find themselves covering their blushing face as memories of teenage parties and hopeful crushes comes flooding back.

Paper-Aeroplanes-and-GooseAs readers move on to the first book’s sequel, Goose, they quickly fall back into the girls deepened friendship as they stumble through their last year of their A-Levels. The situations the girls find themselves in are, albeit heightened and more intense, fairly similar to the first book. This could have felt slightly repetitive if O’Porter didn’t write with such wit and honesty. Her ballsy way of writing is refreshing and a particular favorite line has to be; “IT WAS MY VAGINA, NOT MY BUM”. Well done O’Porter, well done.

What is so fantastic about Goose though is the brilliantly varied and celebrated, different types of female characters. It really is a celebration of woman, both positive and negative. She opens readers up to a range of multi-dimensional range of female characters, something difficult to find in contemporary literature. The girls and their supporting, female characters are never categorized into heroes and villains. O’Porter allows them to be human and embrace the negative and positives sides of their personalities. For once, a young adult novel doesn’t focus on the male characters that come in and save the young, impressionable girls. They save themselves, or at least try. Too often are young readers disillusioned about how their lives should be playing out, according to the novels they read but O’Porter’s stories are genuinely true to life and she doesn’t shy away from all the very real issues these girls go through.

Generally, Paper Aeroplanes & Goose are two easily read, easily enjoyed novels that brilliantly capture the lives of two teenage girls. Readers of similar age will feel reassured about some of the more embarrassing moments adolescence and older readers will enjoy knowing they got through that time, with just as much grace as Flo and Renée-meaning very little.