James Bond January: “Dr. No”

Director: Terence Young (From Russia with Love, Thunderball)
Novel: Ian Fleming
Screenplay: Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather
Producers: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman
Starring: Sean Connery, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, John Kitzmiller, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 110 min.


This is the first in a series of reviews that are part of the James Bond January blog-a-thon started at paragraphfilmreviews. Each day throughout the month a new review of each of the films in the 007 franchise by various bloggers, fans and critics. Enjoy!

As a child of the 80’s and 90’s I’m much more familiar with the more gadget driven Bond, popularized by Roger Moore and later more gimmickily and outlandishly from Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Dr. No on the other hand, the first in the Bond empire and a first time watch for me, is much simpler; leaning dangerously close to simple detective story rather than a cloak and dagger, spy picture. Sure there’s some international intrigue and some exciting action moments, but more than half of the film is searching for clues, interviewing suspects and gathering information from the (almost bumbling) local law enforecment. Of course in retrospect, I suppose that all of the Bond films do this in some respects, but with Dr. No it feels much more straight forward and simplistic. I better understand now why Daniel Craig’s Bond (specifically Casino Royale) was touted as returning to the roots of the 007 franchsie.

Now that is not to say the Bond conventions are not present. Quite on the contrary. The femme fatales with inuendo names (Honey Ryder), the menacing henchmen, the not so surprising traitor and of course the mysterious evil genius with a unique character trait (in this case, super-human, robotic hands). Many of the things we expect 007 to say and do are all present here and with all of the ensuing entries in the franchise, they almost feel like cliche caricature traits at this point. Of course this isn’t a bad thing. This is what makes Bond one of the most beloved characters in cinematic history. Being the first film in the series, this is the picture that sets the tone and general style of the adventures and the tenets of the character for years to come.

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Review: The King’s Speech


Director: Tom Hooper (The Damned United)
Screenplay: David Seidler
Producers: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin, Geoffrey Rush
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pierce, Michael Gambon
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 111 minutes


In 1924, the new invention of radio gives King George V his first opportunity to address his people all around the world. For the monarch and his subjects, it is a great and historic moment; for his second son, Prince Albert Duke of York, it is a nightmare. Albert, or “Bertie” as he is referred to by his family, suffers from a crippling stammer, one that makes his duties at court difficult, and the task of public speaking nearly impossible. In desperation, his wife Duchess Elizabeth reaches out to Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist living in London, whose unorthodox methods may be the future king’s final hope. The subject matter may seem low-key, and the stakes likewise rather miniscule, but director Tom Hooper, with the considerable help of his first rate cast, turns this seemingly unremarkable real life tale of a stuttering king into a film filled with emotion and gentle humour, and one that is an absolute pleasure to watch.

Although The King’s Speech is set in the world of royalty, the heart of the film deals with far less grandiose, far more human themes. Early sequences introduce us to the Prince and his loving wife and young daughters, while the eventual friendship between the stammering monarch and his quirky doctor forms the backbone of the plot. Amusing and often very touching, scenes like these are also lent an intimate feel thanks to the films warm cinematography and production design; by contrast, low angles and elaborate formal costumes dominate scenes of regality, making it easy to understand why Bertie feels so intimidated and overwhelmed. In every scene, Hooper is able to capture, with sometimes just a single shot, the tone of the setting. Likewise, Alexandre Desplat beautiful score imbues the film with a charm and grace in some moments, majesty and circumstance in others.

The acting in The King’s Speech is uniformly superb. Obvious difficulties of affecting a speech impediment aside, Firth’s work as the stammering King is spectacularly moving, sympathetic and filled with relatable frustration. Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter are almost as impressive – the former is endlessly likeable Lionel Logue, while Carter plays her role as Bertie’s wife the Duchess of York with the perfect combination of love, restraint and the slightest of superiority. Beyond these leading three, Guy Pierce and Michael Gambon are both believable and intensely unpleasant as the sniveling Prince of Wales and the domineering George V, and the rest of the cast is filled out nicely by veteran British character actors including Derek Jacobi and Timothy Spall.

The King’s Speech has already been labeled by some as typical awards-bait; the kind of formulaic dramatic picture that Academy members can safely vote for over more energetic or perhaps interesting films. Admitedly, there are one or two lines of dialogue that felt a little overly inspirational, and a few character decisions that seem to serve drama rather than common sense (including a rather glaring plot flaw that, had any characters acknowledged it, would have rendered the tension in the climax non-existent). However, these moments are few and far between, and although the film may prove the easy choice come Oscar night, that seems an unfair criticism to level against the men and woman who strived to make this film such a good one. And as a tale of friendship, family and the beauty and importance of language, The King’s Speech is certainly that.

  

Criterion’s 2011 Releases… maybe.

Woke up this morning and can’t think of a much better New Year present than what Criterion left in my Facebook inbox this morning. You can click the image for a little bit larger one if you’d like.

It’s a bit cryptic. Thought I saw some Wild Strawberries in there and possibly Where the Wild Things Are? Heading over to Blu-ray.com I found some people with some ideas as to what Criterion may have in store for us over the next 12 months. Forum member ccfixx writes:

Cul-de-sac = person tied to boat
Wild Strawberries = strawberries
Solaris = space station
Kiss Me Deadly = briefcase
Sunday Bloody Sunday = calendar
Carlos = man with gun
Kuroneko = ghost cat
Insignificance = Albert Einstein / Marilyn Monroe
Y Tu Mama Tambien = sign in Spanish
Les Diaboliques = head in water
Zero For Conduct = kid with pillow
The Great Dictator = globe
White Material = knife in coffee beans

As for me, I couldn’t be more excited for a Polanski Criterion Blu-ray(!)

 

From Our Netflix Queue

With the growing popularity of Netflix instant streaming in the U.S. and its most recent arrival into Canada, we at Row Three would like to highlight some of the great choices available at the press of a button.

 


 

The Secret of Kells (Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey)

The surprise Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature last year, The Secret of Kells pretty much flew under everyone’s radar, including mine. I missed its one-week run in Los Angeles, but finally caught up with it on Instant Watch recently and was really glad I did. The story is a fairly straightforward affair – Brendan is a young boy in an Irish monastary who wants to master the art of illuminating manuscripts, but his uncle (the Abbot) is more concerned with fortifying the village against Viking invasion. But with the help of an aging monk and a forest sprite, Brendan instead works to illustrate a book which will give the monks and villagers hope in their darkest hour. Much of the actual religious context (and content) of the Book of Kells is lost here, mixed in with Celtic mythology and general spirituality, but if you’re watching this for the story, you’re doing it wrong anyway. This is quite simply one of the most gorgeously animated films I’ve seen recently, evoking the style of illuminated manuscripts while still keeping lively and coherent. And even though the style stays consistently medieval throughout, my jaw kept dropping as new sections brought even greater levels of stylization – the Viking attack is all sharp angles and high contrasts that would put Soviet propaganda to shame. If more mainstream animated films would make bold art choices like this, I’d be a very happy filmgoer.
-JANDY
 

it! (US)

 


 

Deliver Us From Evil (Amy J Berg)

On the surface, a pedophile priest is, sadly, not as shocking a subject for a documentary as it probably should be, check a headline on any day of the week and somewhere, someone frocked has been exposed as a predator-in-waiting. But this is different. Father Oliver O’Grady, said pedophile (better known as evil incarnate) is a willing participant of the film, something rarely seen, and the candid interviews with him are unnerving to say the least. This documentary hurt me in a way I didn’t even know I was vulnerable (I am not even Christian, and for the most part am a jaded realist about most things). O’Grady has become a symbol of recognition for me of the kind of dissociative evil that lurks in the world, individual and corporate.
-MIKE
 

it! (USA & Canada)

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Tyler Stout’s Star Wars Posters [finally]

From The Thing to Big Lebowski to Robocop to The Warriors and everything in between, Tyler Stout has become kind of a big deal in the pop culture, poster world. Even if you’re not a fan of the aesthetics, you gotta appreciate the meticulous attention to detail and sheer amount of work that must go into these things. Just do a Google image search with the guy’s name for countless examples. I suppose it was only a matter of time before Stout tackled The Trilogy. Some might say they’re surprised it’s taken this long. At any rate, here they are. One for each chapter in the trilogy plus three variants.

The main editions are 24″ x 36″ screenprints, have editions of 850, and will cost $50 each. The variants have editions of 250 and will cost $100. They go up Friday, December 31st at a random time over at Mondotees.com. Thanks to OMG Posters for the tip.

You can click any of the images for larger versions and the variants are under the seats. Wow that Empire poster would look sweet in my movie room!

 
check out the others below…
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Weekend of Trash IV

TrashVHS

I trekked over to meet up with ‘the guys’ last weekend for another one of our movie marathons (previous write-ups can be found here – 1, 2 and 3) and this session certainly didn’t disappoint. Easily our most purely exploitative lineup, this time round we watched no modern or respected cult genre offerings, we stuck solely to long forgotten titles from 70’s and 80’s, unearthing a few trashy classics along the way.

As ever, and especially with a list of films like these, the scores relate more to the enjoyment factor rather than their quality so read on with an open mind…
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The Other Woman: Natalie Portman

Portman’s other film at TIFF last fall didn’t play to critics and fans as well as her current, Oscar contending project, Black Swan received. In fact apparently it was received rather negatively. “Love And Other Impossible Pursuits,” now being released to North American audiences as The Other Woman will already be upon us within the next few days. Personally, I hadn’t even heard of the film – maybe overshadowed by its Aronofsky directed older brother – but now it looks like the studio plans to latch on to the popularity of Black Swan and get this thing in theaters now while the buzz is still blazing.

Directed by Don Roos (”The Opposite Of Sex,” “Happy Endings”), the film revolves around Portman’s character who steals a man from his wife and then must bond with her new stepson while dealing with the loss of her own child. It looks like pretty heavy handed melo-drama but in this camp that isn’t always a deal breaker. In fact it’s quite often a selling point. It looks clear (from the trailer below) that Portman will continue her streak of awesome performances; co-starring with Lisa Kudrow, Lauren Ambrose and Scott Cohen.

We’re getting the film via on demand next week (Jan. 1) and then a theatrical distribution begins on February 4th. I don’t know, Portman alone is enough to get me to watch and I tend to enjoy gawking at others’ misery. So I may get my trusty ol’ PS3 downloading this asap. Is this your kind of thing? Will critics warm to it? Check out the trailer under the seats and sound off…

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