Film Review: Die Another Day (2001)

Brosnan reaches an ignomious end as Die Another Day buckles under the weight of sponsorship deals, retrospective nods and that invisible car

“So, this is where they keep the old relics, then, eh?”

From opening surfing sequences to invisible cars, Die Another Day really does ask a lot of its audience, not least where Bond himself is concerned. Brosnan is 49 here and against co-leads Halle Berry (35), Toby Stephens (33) and Rosamund Pike (22), you feel it. Throw in an inordinate amount of product placement, random gadgetry and a misguided attempt to go dark in its opening segment, and the struggle is real.

What really hamstrings Lee Tamahori’s film though is the 40th anniversary of it all, the production choosing to acknowledge and explicitly reference the 19 films that went before. This further detracts from establishing any kind of workable, engaging plot or, more significantly, caring a jot about what is happening. My finger was hovering on the fast forward button for a considerable portion of the two hours plus, especially with John Cleese’s Q and his insufferable injokes – I couldn’t possibly recommend rewatching. Continue reading “Film Review: Die Another Day (2001)”

Film Review: The World Is Not Enough (1999)

What a clunker! Garbage’s brilliant theme song deserved so much better than The World Is Not Enough

“What are you doing here in Kazakhstan”

Right from the off, The World Is Not Enough shows us how frustrating it is going to be as it mixes the solid and the silly. The opening speedboat chase which features London so brilliantly and then ridonkulously moves onto land, blowing up MI5 so effectively and then doing nothing with it as a plot device, offering up a beautiful final scene for Desmond Llewelyn’s Q and then introducing John Cleese as new apprentice R… We won’t mention Goldie, nor his X-ray specs that shows women in their underwear but somehow leaves the men fully dressed…

Directed by Michael Apted, the film really suffers from a nonentity of a storyline. There’s good ideas in here – Robert Carlyle’s Renard had real potential as a cold villain with nothing to lose and getting M out in the field is a great way to have more Judi Dench – but nothing memorable is done with them. I’ve just finished watching and I have already forgotten what plot there was, the focus is just on action-based callbacks to previous Bond films whilst never getting anywhere near as good as any of them. A definite disappointment. Continue reading “Film Review: The World Is Not Enough (1999)”

Film Review: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Even if it didn’t follow the big success of Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies would still have disappointed. Bonus point for predicting something of the future though…

“The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success”

Tomorrow Never Dies had the unenviable task of following up the enormous success of the reboot-of-sorts that was Goldeneye, which firmly established Pierce Brosnan as the new Bond and suggested a real place in contemporary cinema for the franchise. And despite a troubled production history due in large part to the rush to capitalise on this and director Roger Spottiswoode not necessarily firing on all cylinders, it ain’t too bad, mainly due to Michelle Yeoh.

Its main antagonist is a Robert Maxwell/Rupert Murdoch-type media mogul, played with relish by Jonathan Pryce who wants…to secure exclusive broadcasting rights in China for 100 years and is willing to start a world war to get them. It’s a strong if ultimately dull concept but Götz Otto gives good classic henchman as his underling Stamper and Brosnan’s gun-toting Bond gets to be more violent than perhaps we’re used to, which is a change if nothing else. Continue reading “Film Review: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)”

Film Review: Goldeneye (1995)

Pierce Brosnan’s debut as Bond goes well in Goldeneye but the real star is Tina Turner’s iconic theme song

“I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War…”

Goldeneye heralds a lot of firsts for the James Bond franchise, as well as being Pierce Brosnan’s first appearance in the lead role. The first to use CGI, the first not to use any Ian Fleming story elements, the first in the post-Cold War era too. And coming after a six-year hiatus, director Martin Campbell had a lot on the line to reintroduce the idea of Bond movies as something more than mindless bank holiday rerun territory. Safe to say, I think he achieved that. 

Adopting a more serious tone to address its plot of international terrorist networks and rogue agents, Brosnan’s slightly reserved interpretation works well to reset the playboy nature which preceded (and which is soon to return…) and against Sean Bean’s excellent Trevelyan, has a real tussle with real stakes on his hands. For all the talk of Phoebe Waller-Bridge coming into to retool scripts for No Time To Die, there’s work here that scratches intriguingly at Bond’s psychology, even if only briefly from both M and 006. Continue reading “Film Review: Goldeneye (1995)”

News: musicals coming to the screen soon

In The Heights

Due to arrive on 25th June, Jon M Chu’s film of In The Heights, based on Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’s vibrant musical, tells the story of a Hispanic-American community threatened by gentrification. The film stars, among others, Anthony Ramos, Leslie Grace, Dascha Polanco, Stephanie Beatriz, Corey Hawkins, Melissa Barrera and Lin-Manuel Miranda predictably makes an appearance, though as Piragüero not Usnavi. Continue reading “News: musicals coming to the screen soon”

Album Reviews: Singing You Home / Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / Vanara the Musical

This trio of album reviews covers Singing You Home: Children’s Songs for Family Reunification, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018 Film Soundtrack) and Vanara the Musical

“Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores”

Regardless of your politics, Singing You Home: Children’s Songs for Family Reunification is a really rather lovely album of bilingual children’s songs. But in this day and age nothing is not political and the current US administration’s policy of child separation is a genuine atrocity that it is hard to know how to respond. Laura Benanti had the nous to conceive this project though and produced it with Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Lynn Pinto, and a whole host of the great and good of the American musical theatre. Thus this is more than just your usual set of lullabies – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mandy Gonzalez crooning on the Mexican song ‘Cielito Lindo’, Audra McDonald shining on Jason Robert Brown’s ‘Singing You Home’, Kristin Chenoweth’s ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, well worth the investment for this uniquely exceptional cause. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Singing You Home / Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / Vanara the Musical”

Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

On the two viewings I’ve managed so far, I’m pretty sure Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the epoch-defining film that we don’t deserve but which we sorely need

“When you’re gone
How can I even try to go on?”

I was lucky enough to see an early screening of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again last week and I thought it was fricking fantastic. But as the occasion fuelled by an afternoon tea that was heavy on the bubbles and the raucous atmosphere of a stagey audience and not quite bold enough to stick by the courage of my convictions, I opted to wait until seeing the film a second time before officially declaring my opinion.

And I have to say I really do think this is a superb film. The sequel that no-one really knew they wanted, whipped together in under 12 months once the green light had been given, that somehow manages to do everything you expect it to, and but better, and infinitely more moving than it has any right to be. I knew I’d shed a tear or three of joy but there was more than one moment where I was just sobbing, so rich is the emotion here. And that’s only fitting considering the bittersweet melancholy that is ABBA’s true calling card, rather than the cheesiness they are famed for. Continue reading “Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)”

Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair

This trio of album reviews covers Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project, Mamma Mia! The Movie Soundtrack and Il Divo – A Musical Affair

“You know I’ve got
So much that I wanna do”

Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project has an amazing list of performers, composers, and musicians behind it, all coming together to create a 2-CD set and 48-page children’s book to benefit breast cancer research, support and education. And rather wonderfully, it is an utterly gorgeous record. Brilliant jazz musicians accompany writers like Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Gwon and Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez in indulging their gentler side to create the prettiest tunes. And then a cast of dreams sing them – just listen to Raúl Esparza’s aching tenderness on ‘This Little World’, or Donna Murphy’s crystal clear ‘Lucky’ (by Stephen  Schwartz) – we should all be so lucky to be lulled to sleep this way. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair”

DVD Review: Mamma Mia! (2008)

All hail Mamma Mia! As we tentatively await the sequel, I revisit a film I can’t ever imagine not loving

“I won’t be muscled out by an ejaculation”

With Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just about to hit cinemas, I thought I’d revisit the original Mamma Mia! film to remind myself of its pleasures, Pierce Brosnan’s singing and all. Released in 2008, it managed that trick of defying a lukewarm critical reception to garnering huge popularity, something repeated by The Greatest Showman (it’s almost as if film critics can’t quite imagine audiences wanting to see a harmlessly fun musical…). 

And that’s what this is in the end, lots of fun and silly with it. Based on the iconic jukebox musical of the same name, it’s a whole load of ABBA songs strung together on a gossamer-light plot of romantic comedy gold. Where it succeeds, as with the musical, is in taking the job at hand most seriously, whilst never taking itself too seriously at all. Songs are in the right places, serving as motors in the narrative, and there’s an integrity to the whole thing, even when its daft as a brush.

Continue reading “DVD Review: Mamma Mia! (2008)”