Movie Review – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Director Matthew Vaughn returns with another action packed film, but can America and Britain really put aside their egos and come together to save the world from devastation?

⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

When the Kingsman headquarters are destroyed, the two remaining Kingsman, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong), travel to their brother spy organisation in the US. The two elite secret organisations must now band together to defeat a common enemy who is holding the world hostage.

Director Matthew Vaughn delivers another adrenaline-filled adventure, following the success Kingsman: The Secret Service, and his early works, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. The humour remains as crude as ever, and at times you wonder if it’s he’s trying to create some Guinness World Record for the amount of times the word ‘fuck’ is said in a film, but his fight scenes are some of the best in the comic book genre. Well-choreographed and edited to high-tempo music, these scenes get your heart racing, and you’re more than willing to suspend your disbelief to enjoy the spectacle.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is packed with A-list actors, including Colin Firth and Taron Egerton who return to reprise their respective roles. Firth’s Harry “Galahad” Hart lacks the grit and unexpected crudeness of the first film, purely because his character is criminally underutilised in order to make way for a range of newcomers.

Julianne Moore gives a disturbing performance as the seemingly sweet, yet power-hungry villain Poppy, who has no issue with threatening billions of lives to receive recognition for operating the biggest (unknown) drug cartel in the world. Halle Berry plays the US secret service’s version of Merlin, continually saving the agent’s lives with her nanobot technology, yet finds herself constantly undermined by her US co-workers, and Channing Tatum plays hotshot US spy Tequila. While none of them put in award-winning performances, they all seem to be having a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, the film lacked stability for me. Compared to the first Kingsman,which was slick and filled with dry British humour, this one just has far too much going on. Constant flashbacks are needed to help set up the story, plus there’s the introduction of a whole new spy organisation filled with a number of different characters. Add in the clash between American and British humour, and it all ends up a little bit muddled.

While humorous, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is nowhere near as funny as its predecessor. It relies heavily on a large amount of assumed knowledge from The Secret Service, so good luck if you haven’t seen the first film! The ultimate downfall of this film is in taking the story to the US; its British quirks are completely lost, and the tone shifts into typical, American territory.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is available in Australian cinemas from September 21 

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox


Movie Review – Wonder Woman

With Patty Jenkins’ confident handling of Wonder Woman, the DCEU finally gets one right.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

About twenty minutes into Wonder Woman I realised with great satisfaction that this wasn’t going to be another mindless action movie with endless explosions and sickening sidekicks. This is a movie that thinks, feels, and acts the way it should, by allowing its characters to stand up, take notice, and be noticed. While all the Supermans and Iron Mans save the world through some misguided altruistic machismo, Wonder Woman has two of the most vital qualities any hero should have: love and an unwavering sense of justice. She is also tough, compassionate and impossibly charming. Three adjectives not used enough to describe women of the screen.

The movie begins in The Louvre. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) receives from her friend Bruce Wayne a photograph of her from World War I and a card that reads “I hope one day you will tell me your story”. Of course, Wayne is not in the screenplay, so Diana tells the story to us instead. We jump back many years and many leagues, to a paradise island said to have been made by Zeus. On this island live only women, called Amazons, who dress like American Gladiators and fear that one day, Ares, god of war, will return to destroy the world.

Whether or not he does, I will not say. Thankfully, Wonder Woman spends little time dwelling on the possibilities and shifts swiftly to an on-going war story involving an American spy for the British, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who is rescued by Diana after his plane crashes off her island. Yes, it is written in the stars, or in this case the plane crash, that Steve and Diana will forge a romance. But what is not written is how mature they will be at expressing themselves. A scene where Steve steps out of a bath right in front of Diana might have been cheapened by childish overreactions in a lesser film, but director Patty Jenkins, whose fantastic Monster (2003) deftly illustrated the strengths and weaknesses of women, understands that movie romances don’t require innuendos or gratuity, only heartfelt emotion and possibly tragedy.

This is a movie that doesn’t feel like an extended trailer. It’s got pumping action, cute little throwaway lines, thrilling chases and quiet moments of reflection. By the end, our heroes become heroes; the wide-eyed, optimistic Diana grows out of the idyllic cocoon of her youth by learning a nasty truth about the people she’s trying to protect; and the romance reaches fever pitch. Everything unfolds as it should, and Jenkins ensures that nothing gets truly out of hand.

Oh, did I mention the villain? He’s Danny Huston playing a psychotic war-mongering German general with dreams of taking over the world.

Wonder Woman tries to be all things to all people, and just about succeeds. It is an epic superhero fantasy that’s also a rousing war film and an electric love story. It is complete, perfectly content to live within the confines of itself and not be a setup for what’s to come or a cheap rip-off of what’s come before. After all the Marvel movies, this is a refreshing change.

Wonder Woman is available in Australian cinemas from June 1st 

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films


Movie Review – Allied

Robert Zemeckis returns hastily to the screen with a clunky and often distracting imitation of a World War II classic.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

If By The Sea foreshadowed the end of a real couple, then Allied signals doom for a fictional one. Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt, in all their sumptuous glory, share about as much chemistry as a sack of potatoes and a kid with a mallet. They share the screen but don’t seem to occupy the same space in this laborious World War II movie that often resembles an animatronic diorama.

Pitt plays Max Vatan, a Canadian resistance fighter who parachutes into the desert just outside Casablanca. He meets Marianne Beauséjour (Cotillard), a French resistance fighter and Max’s future partner in a mission to take out a Nazi ambassador. Fearing no one will know of their success should they perish in the aftermath, the two decide to fall in love and have sex in the middle of a blistering sandstorm for no other apparent reason than to have sex in a sandstorm. The mission goes off without a hitch, and our woeful heroes celebrate by eloping in Britain.

The movie then shifts to Hampstead and tries to paint an idyllic romance in the middle of a blitz-ridden London. Cotillard tries her very best to make some of these scenes believable, while Pitt remains in full macho mode, especially after Max receives distressing news that his beautiful wife might in fact be a German spy.

This sounds like it could be the blueprint for a character-driven Hitchcockian suspense drama, but in the habitually kinetic hands of director Robert Zemeckis, it slows down and meanders into a lifeless potboiler. Zemeckis once made the brilliant Back to the Future (1985), a movie filled with boundless energy. Now he makes Allied as if on cruise control, seeming more like a hollow tribute to war movies, with actors who don’t really believe their roles. In a career of many films, some better than others, this is one of his worst.

Some of the action segments sparkle and there are reliably British performances from Jared Harris as Max’s superior in London and Simon McBurney as the stone cold intelligence official who delivers the bad news. But it all seems for naught when the two stars who are meant to carry the film can’t agree to be convincingly in love, and most of the movie plays out like a poorly written love letter between kindergarten kids. I wasn’t completely bored by all this, just unimpressed, and very very upset that Max, in all the time he spent in Casablanca, never dropped by Rick’s Café Américain for a nightcap.

Allied is available in Australian cinemas from Boxing Day 

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures 

Worst Films of 2015

On the last day of 2015 it seems only fitting to look back at the year that was, and call out the absolute shlockers that – unfortunately – graced our screens. We voted on our least favourites to bring you our ten worst films of 2015.

10. Knight of Cups 
If you didn’t like the Tree of Life, then avoid this one – like the plague.

“Like many, big-name auteurs, Malick’s flashy direction overshadows the entire narrative. Jarring techniques such as hushed narration, extreme angles and shaky handheld camerawork dominate the film’s glacial 2 hour run-time.” Read more

9. Spy
I’m sorry, but how the hell did this get nominated for a Golden Globe?

“McCarthy’s transition from meek loner to ass-kicking super sleuth is rather sudden, almost like she steps into a phone booth, spins around, and emerges as a Frankenstein monster of Ripley, Sarah Connor and the Bride combined.” Read more

8. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
It’s time this ghost franchise was exorcised for good!

“So, over-saturation aside, does the film offer anything new or original which warrants its existence? Nope! It’s yet another found footage horror, which was a genuinely scary art form when 1999’s The Blair Witch Project burst onto our screens.” Read more

7. Into The Woods
Again… are the Golden Globes on crack? How did this get a nomination for Best Comedy or Musical earlier this year?

“Shortly after the comical middle section, all of the conflicts that connect the many characters are suddenly resolved, which creates the impression that the film is about to conclude, and that all will live happily ever after… but instead, the film keeps going… and going. At first it gets weird, then it simply becomes a laborious series of message laden ballads.” Read more

6. The Last Witch Hunter
Let’s see how many random, fantastical elements we can boil up in one dodgy cauldron…

“Despite not being based on existing material, originality isn’t something that the screenwriters are overly familiar with; together with the director, they’ve successfully cooked up a film that sponges from other, more compelling work to create a wonky patchwork quilt of borrowed motifs and tropes.” Read more

5. Jupiter Ascending
I’m still shuddering from Eddie Redmayne’s hideous get-up.

“Don’t worry, even the most passionate science fiction enthusiasts will have a difficult time attempting to gain anything from Jupiter Ascending. The film is a visual feast for the eyes, as is expected from any Hollywood blockbuster these days, but it suffers enormously from a hugely problematic script.” Read more

4. By The Sea
Some people just shouldn’t write. Ever.

“By The Sea
is about as enchanting as watching paint dry, except the paint has already dried, and the only question left to ask is why the wall still needs someone to watch it. This is a painful experience, one that suggests Angelina Jolie might make a good director given the right crew and a dedicated cast, but when it comes to writing… even if Hemingway himself rose from the grave and possessed her mind – she still wouldn’t be any good.” Read more

3. Pan
This is what happens when you try to tamper with a classic.

“Ever wondered how Peter Pan and Captain Hook became mortal enemies? Well, prepare to continue wondering as Joe Wright’s Pan completely misses the point and dumps a steaming pile of unoriginal crap onto our laps.” Read More

2. Fifty Shades Of Grey
Fifty Shades of Zzzz… the awkward moment when a kinky book turns into a film that inspires nothing more than a yawn…

“Even more disappointing is the complete lack of chemistry between Johnson and Dornan. It’s like watching a soggy bowl of oatmeal profess its undying love for the shriveled chunks of dried fruit you often get in those microwavable, “just add milk” porridge packs.”
Read more

1. Fantastic Four
The, uh… not so fantastic, Fantastic Four…

“While these types of action-adventure blockbusters have previously succeeded in providing momentary escapism, audiences have now become desensitised, and the light of wonderment has been snuffed out. Seeing ordinary folk transform into super-human Earth-defenders has become a well-worn premise with the only glaring difference from film to film being the quirky superpower assigned to each protagonist.” Read more

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures, Roadshow Films, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures & Paramount Pictures 

Movie Review – Spectre

We, as a collective audience, are very lucky that after the impressive success of Skyfall, Sam Mendes decided to live and let die, and direct a second Bond film. Unlike 007’s famous vodka martini, Spectre left me both shaken AND stirred!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Kit Morris

It is difficult to say too much about Spectre without giving it all away, so like a good secret agent I shall be cryptic! Everything in this film feels like the end of Daniel Craig’s tenure as Ian Fleming’s suave MI6 hero, although this has yet to be officially confirmed or denied by Sony and EON Productions. His latest appearance as 007 in Spectre works brilliantly as a culmination of plot points from the three previous outings, weaving every film from Casino Royale onwards into a neat package.

After receiving a message from beyond the grave, our favourite secret agent tries to uncover an organisation that appears to be the puppet master behind many recent world events. At the same time, M (Lord Voldemort himself: Ralph Fiennes) is trying to swat away a power struggle with the head of the Joint Intelligence Service (Andrew Scott) who wants to close down the “00” section of the organisation as he considers field work outdated in the age of cyber warfare – a thought provoking storyline in the post-Snowden world we now live in.

In the opening act, Spectre feels very much like Skyfall’s sequel; threading together plot strands that were seeded in the second half of the 2012 blockbuster. While Spectre does not ignore its predecessor, it does move away from familiar territory to stand up as a strong entry in its own right. The breathtaking opening sequence is a perfect example of this; set during Mexico’s day of the dead festival, it features only two lines of dialogue, beautiful carnival costumes and rich location work. As a result, Spectre boasts perhaps one of the most mesmerising introductions to a Bond film in decades, with a high-octane helicopter fight that will leave you on the edge of you seat.

From Mexico, to England, to Rome, to Austria, to Morocco and then finally back to England again; Spectre darts all over the world. I would love to know what mode of transport Bond is using that allows him to zip from country to country so quickly, but at least the constant location changes are not too disorienting for those used to the rapid-fire pacing of 21st century Bond.

This is clearly Craig’s best work as Bond to date, and if it is indeed his curtain call, I hope he goes down in history as the most original incarnation since Sean Connery. Additionally, hats off to Ben Whishaw, a revelation in this film as the witty Q, and of course, I cannot end my review without mentioning the tour de force that is Christoph Waltz in his poignant performance as our newest Bond villain Franz Obenhauser.

It is difficult not to fall in love with this film: I appoint it a worthy 4½ stars out of five.

Spectre is available in Australian cinemas from November 12th

Images courtesy of Sony Pictures

Top 5 Bond Villains 

As we come to the end of our Bond series in the lead up to the release of Spectre, it seems only fitting to go out with a bang by shining a radioactive light on the most dangerously diabolical, and magnificently malevolent Bond villains.

**WARNING: spoilers ahead**

Corey’s Pick: Auric Goldfinger, Goldfinger (1964)

“He’s the man with the Midas Touch… a spider’s touch!” so crooned Shirley Bassey of the first truly memorable Bond nemesis; Auric Goldfinger, a  prosperous businessman with a penchant for golf and, of course, a psychotic obsession with gold. Played by the late German actor Gert Fröbe (though dubbed by the British Michael Collins due to Fröbe’s poor English), Goldfinger remains a truly iconic adversary for his sadistic, yet undeniably imaginative methods of murder- such as suffocating his rogue seductress Jill Masterson by covering her in gold paint. With almost equally unprecedented henchmen – Pussy Galore and Oddjob – and an extraordinarily diabolical scheme involving chemical and nuclear warfare, Goldfinger shall forever be one of Bond’s – and cinema’s – greatest villains.

“No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die” –

Rhys’ Pick: Raoul Silva, Skyfall (2012)

Batman and the Joker, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader; the best villains have the capacity to mirror an aspect of the hero, and for James Bond (Daniel Craig) in Skyfall, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) represents his complicated relationship with, and his potentially misplaced trust in M (Judi Dench).

Silva, a past MI6 operative himself, is a victim of M’s uncompromising, take-no-prisoners attitude; the very same attitude which sees Bond shot through the chest, and left for dead at the very start of the film. Whilst Bond was able to put M’s questionable decision behind him, Silva was left disfigured and determinately disgruntled with his former handler. Driven by this personal vendetta, Silva’s plan involves disgracing MI6, dispatching Bond and, finally, exacting his revenge by assassinating M.

“Look upon your work, mother”

Zachary’s Pick: Le Chiffre, Casino Royale (2005)

Among a great many surprises, Casino Royale treats us to one of James Bond’s most human villains; a man who makes some poor financial choices, and compensates by putting up a stoic front to try and redeem himself.

Le Chiffre is suave, deadly, deceitful, and a master of high-stakes poker, but weakness is ever-ready to gnaw away at his resolve. He’s not above sacrificing his girlfriend’s arm to African warlords, yet when deadlines close in, and debts have to be paid, he is impatient. Afraid, even. And Mads Mikkelsen hides a steely peril behind his cold, bleeding eyes. You know at once that this isn’t a man to be trifled with.

Le Chiffre’s not a larger-than-life organisation like SPECTRE, neither is he a megalomaniacal tech fiend like Max Zorin. He is very flawed. Very real. Very human. Not to mention he pummels Bond’s dangly bits with unabashed glee.

Le Chiffre wins –

Tom’s Pick: Dr. No, Dr. No (1962)

1962’s Dr. No successfully kicked off the ever-lasting 007 franchise with a hearty concoction of Sean Connery, gorgeous settings, and that white bikini. However, unlike most Bond villains, its titular antagonist is a dangerous, well-defined character. Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman), part of super-villain super-group SPECTRE, fits the mad scientist trope. His thirst for radioactive materials, costing him his hands, drives his thirst for mass destruction and power. No’s plan, disrupting multiple rocket launches in superpowers including the USA and Soviet Union, resonates effectively. Sporting bionic metal paws and an elaborate island lair, the character, physically and psychologically, resembles the archetypal Bond foe. Bond, lured to No’s abode in Jamaica, is threatened by multiple attacks on No’s behalf. Capturing Bond and Honey Rider, No’s confronting persona and mercilessness make for a worthwhile obstacle throughout the climax. As the lair self-destructs, however, No is foiled by his physical deformities. Unable to grasp onto anything, he falls to his destructive demise into boiling coolant.

SPECTRE revealed –

Rhys’ 2nd Pick: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, From Russia With Love (1963), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), For Your Eyes Only (1981).

James Bond has faced dozens of foes over the years, but none have been quite as fearsome and iconic as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, head honcho of international terrorist group SPECTRE. The villain against which all others are measured, Blofeld has recurred more times than any other antagonist, and in many ways has transcended the series to influence cinema as a whole.

Concerned with only one thing – total world domination – Blofeld has orchestrated potential nuclear war between Russia and the United States, threatened to sterilise the world’s food supply and, perhaps most tragically, assisted in killing Tracy Bond (Diana Rigg) mere minutes after her wedding to James.

Although numerous actors have played him, perhaps his most iconic appearance was in You Only Live Twice when Donald Pleasance was cast in the role. With a pale and scarred visage, and gently stroking a white cat on his lap, Blofeld is also a villain who has been parodied a thousands times over, from Mike Myers’ hilarious Dr Evil in the Austin Powers series to the outlandish volcanic lair used by Hank Scorpio in my personal favourite Simpsons episode of all time.

“Allow me to introduce myself”

Images courtesy of United International Pictures, Chapel Distribution & Sony Pictures

Top 5 Bond Theme Songs

Swirling graphics. Crisp silhouettes. A screen drenched in blood… every 007 romp opens the same way: an intricate opening credit sequence backed by a killer song that boasts a powerful voice. From all-time legends (Paul McCartney), to eighties icons (Duran Duran) through to today’s megastars (Sam Smith), only the best of the best are fit to carry Bond’s theme songs, and below you will find our top 5 picks for the greatest of the great.

Zachary’s Pick: Tina Turner – Goldeneye (1995)

A Bond song has to sound like a Bond song. What’s the name of his game? Seduction. Espionage. Violence. Cheek. There have been a fair few theme songs over the years to wittingly capture the essence of 007, notably classics sung by Garbage, Adele, and perennially, Shirley Bassey (you can wipe all the love ballads of the ‘70s and ‘80s from your memory). While Bassey’s Goldfinger will forever remain the cornerstone of the Bond musical canon, none encapsulates all that the franchise is more succinctly and proudly than Tina Turner’s Goldeneye.

From the second it begins, Goldeneye hints at something clandestine, almost taboo; dark secrets not yet revealed. Then Turner sweeps in, singing as if she too is concealing deadly secrets, and is happy about it. The song has a masterful ebb and flow of power and restraint, much like Bond himself. Apart from Goldfinger, no other song in the Bond universe tells you everything you need to know about this character and the dangerous world he inhabits.

Tina Turner sings Goldeneye –

Tom’s Pick: Adele – Skyfall (2012)

Like Skyfall itself, the titular song eclipses everything that has come before it. Building upon the already immense success of British pop singer/songwriter Adele, this theme song elevated her career into Golden Globe and Oscar glory.

Hitting its stride immediately, the song’s orchestral riffs and straight-edged tone establish the film’s dark, gritty aura. Like the accompanying credits sequence, Adele’s sombre, hushed style firmly emphasises the film’s refreshing rebirth angle.

The singer’s graceful harmonies pay tribute to the Shirley Bassey era whilst ushering in the new-and-improved Bond universe. From the piano-key lead-in to the ear-shattering crescendo, Skyfall delivers an array of memorable, heart-pounding touches. Eclipsing recent entries including You Know My Name and Another Way to Die, the track is one of very few themes to successfully accompany, and elevate, the film and franchise.

Adele’s Skyfall music video

Rhys’ Pick: Paul McCartney & Wings – Live and Let Die (1973)

Despite racking up the most appearances as the iconic super spy, Roger Moore’s era is lumbered with a divisive reputation; however, you can’t deny that the titular track on 1973’s Live and Let Die didn’t get things off to a rip-roaring start.

Written by Paul and Linda McCartney, and performed by Paul’s band WingsLive and Let Die was a departure from the series norm of grandiose horns and operatic themes. It’s a much stranger beast as McCartney kicks things off with a gentle piano intro before diving into racy guitar snarls, hammering drums and some spacey, fever dream weirdness in the middle.

It’s a fitting companion to the film also; Live and Let Die concerns itself with drug trafficking in New Orleans, Blaxploitation and voodoo rather than maniacal supervillains in Alpine bases or volcanic lairs, and marks the first time that 007 cosies up with an African-American character (Rosie Carver played by Gloria Hendry). Simply put, it’s a vastly different song for a vastly different Bond.

Live and Let Die opening titles sequence –

Corey’s Pick: A-ha –The Living Daylights (1987)

The two Timothy Dalton-starring Bond films – The Living Daylights and License to Kill – seem to divide 007 aficionados; some welcoming a darker, more realistic side to their favourite spy, others criticising Dalton’s sombre, humourless hero. Their theme songs, on the other hand, were decidedly upbeat; particularly the former. Performed by Norwegian synthpop rock band A-ha (yes, the guys who did Take On Me) The Living Daylights is among the catchiest of the many Bond theme songs, despite not ranking among the most well-recognised. After the commercial success of Duran Duran’s A View to a Kill, the producers sought after another popular band, first asking Pet Shop Boys (who declined) before opting for A-ha. A clash with the film’s composer John Barry led to the existence of two versions of the song; Barry’s string arrangement that wound up in the credits, and A-ha’s synth-heavy reworking for their own album – though both are deliciously 80’s and perfectly capture the essence of Bond’s style with cryptic lyrics. An underrated gem.

The Living Daylights opening titles:

Kit’s Pick: Shirley Bassey – Goldfinger (1964)

Performed by the mightily lunged Shirley Bassey, the opening theme to 1964’s Goldfinger is not only not only synonymous with James Bond; it’s also one of the most recognisable theme songs in film history. The searing vocals, catchy lyrics and bold brass section marry together to create something truly special.

The song set a high bar and generated a long-standing influence that can be seen in later themes that copied its formula. Bassey would return to record two more efforts for the franchise for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever and 1979’s Moonraker, making her the only artist to record multiple Bond themes. The song, along with an iconic opening title sequence (featuring sexy female silhouettes painted gold) capture the film’s tone perfectly.

Goldfinger title sequence:

Images courtesy of United International Pictures, Chapel Distribution & Sony Pictures

Top 5 Bond Gadgets

Go-go-gadget: where would our suave spy be without his modest collection of exploding devices, souped-up cars and various deadly weapons disguised as innocuous objects? Like Tony Stark with his Iron Man suit, or Bruce Wayne and his Batmobile, Bond often relies heavily on innovative – or at least, imaginative – technology to see him through each near-death situation he faces. From the early sixties’ instalments, through to the contraption-shunning Daniel Craig era, we have scoured the Bond canon to bring you our top picks for the most ingenious 007 gadgets.

Rhys’ Pick: Watch Laser, Goldeneye (1995)

Have you ever been stuck in a bomb-rigged train carriage, with all the doors and windows locked, and wondered how you’re going to get out? Well, James Bond has, and luckily, he had his cool laser watch on hand (well, wrist) to help him out. With just the press of a button, this otherwise unassuming timepiece emits a high-powered laser that can cut through metal in an instant – and you thought it was just for telling the time (pah!)

Featured in Pierce Brosnan’s 007 debut Goldeneye, this gadget doesn’t just help James and current squeeze Natalia (Izabella Scorupco) out of the aforementioned tight spot, it also looks really swish – with the Omega logo emblazoned on the face, it’s an example of movie product placement at its finest! After that scene, you know you want one. I mean, c’mon – who doesn’t want to look stylish whilst simultaneously saving the world?

90’s Omega Watch Commercial –

Zachary’s Pick: Lotus Esprit, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The gadgets assigned to the various incarnations of James Bond have always tinkered with the parameters of fantasy, reality and science-fiction. In The Spy Who Loved Me, the world of Bond electronics finally plunged headfirst into the realm of science-fiction, producing the Lotus Esprit; a car that could also transform into an operational submarine. The transformation was so sublime the entire vehicle served as one massive gadget, whisking Bond ( and Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) away from danger in the most absurd fashion.

The car was such an oddity, such a marvel in the Bond canon, that BBC show Top Gear recreated it, and literally dunked it into a lake with critic Richard Hammond at the wheel. Of course, the replica didn’t survive nearly as gracefully as its original, but the science was there. The Lotus Esprit, while not small enough to fit in Bond’s grip, certainly propelled the world of 007 into the future.

Can You Swim?

Corey’s Pick: The Dagger Shoe, From Russia With Love (1963)

Not actually an MI6 invention used by 007, but instead a lethal weapon concealed by agents of SPECTRE in From Russia with Love; the dagger shoe – a boot with a retractable, poison-tipped blade hidden within its cap – is among the franchise’s most ingenious gadgets, manufactured to cause death within seven seconds of stabbing. This fatal footwear is sported by Morenzy – head of SPECTRE’s training grounds, and Rosa Klebb – the No. 3 ranking operative of the ominous organisation; the latter attempting to spike Bond whilst disguised as a maid. Though the films do not specify the toxin utilised, Ian Fleming’s original Dr. No novel notes that it is tertodotoxin, known to cause paralysis of the diaphragm, preventing breathing. These loafers proved so iconic that they were paid tribute in the “greatest hits” Bond outing Die Another Day, and have become something of a clichéd weapon in cinema, appearing in The Dark Knight, Wild Wild West, The Punisher, Salt, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Kingsmen: The Secret Service and many more.

Death of Kronsteen –

Tom’s Pick: Radio Transmitter, Skyfall (2012)

Released in 2012, Skyfall reinvigorated the once-ailing Bond franchise thanks to Sam Mendes’ efficient direction, and Roger Deakins’ exquisite cinematography. The film capped off Bond’s 50th year in style – honouring 007’s past, present, and future. Among many titbits and gags, the film acknowledged the lack of gadgets in the Daniel Craig-led instalments. Q (Ben Whishaw) gives him one particular device – a radio transmitter. Though clunky, the device was needed in the right place at the right time. Bond, cornering cyber-terrorist Silva (Javier Bardem), uses the device to send back-up and imprison him. However, Silva, manipulating Bond and M (Judi Dench) into revealing MI6’s new location, uses the device to entrap 007 in London’s subway network. The device, effective on both occasions, illustrates Bond and Silva’s two-sides-of-the-same-coin dynamic. Though unaware of each other’s moves, both characters use similar strategies to outwit their opponents. The old-school device proved exploding pens and invisible cars aren’t necessary in today’s surveillance-driven world.

It’s Called Radio –

Kit’s Pick: Palm-Print Reader Gun, Skyfall (2012)

As Tom has mentioned, Skyfall was mostly void of high-tech gadgetry; however, Daniel Craig‘s 007 was armed with a Walther semi-automatic pistol with a difference in this most recent entry. Wishaw’s Q equips our favourite spy with this new weapon, which is encrypted with an in-built palm reader, guaranteeing that only Bond can fire the gun. In a tense scene, a thuggish bodyguard grapples Bond in a Komodo dragon pit, and attempts to shoot him with his own weapon to no avail. Walther firearms have been a long-standing fixture in the franchise, featuring in the original literary series, and debuting in the film series’ first entry.

Komodo Dragon Fight Scene

Images courtesy of United International Pictures, Chapel Distribution & Sony Pictures

Top 5 Bond Girls

Super sexy and delectably dangerous; the Bond girls rep the femme fatale archetype unlike any other seductress of the silver screen. Along with dry martinis, Aston Martins and psychotic villains, no Bond movie would be complete without them, and often they are far more intriguing than the men behind 007 himself (#sorrynotsorry George Lazenby). So, to celebrate the upcoming release of Spectre, we decided to reminisce over our favourite female roles of the past 23 Bond films.

**WARNING: spoilers ahead**

Zachary’s pick: Lupe Lamora, License To Kill  (1989)

In the only film where two leading Bond girls simultaneously vie for 007’s heart (and share copious amounts of screen time together), Lupe Lamora has to be my pick for the best Bond girl. Not only is she not white, she’s also feisty, strong and stunningly beautiful.

Played by Talisa Soto, who’d later go on to mentor Robin Shou in the video game adaptation Mortal Kombat (1995), Lupe manages to outsmart her abusive druglord boyfriend, withstand the lecherous advances of some of his henchmen, and seduce James, only to have her love spurned in favour of the easier, whiter choice (Carey Lowell) by the end of the film.

Licence To Kill stood out for me because it gave Bond a heart. Here were two immaculate women before him, and he loved them both. No longer were the women in these movies purely for sex and death; they were breathing, feeling counterparts, and Lupe is perhaps the greatest lover Bond never had.

The Whipping Scene –

Tom’s Pick: Xenia Onatopp, Goldeneye (1995)

1995’s Goldeneye is an entertaining balance between classic Bond canon and inventive ideas. Indeed, Pierce Brosnan’s first stint as 007 far surpasses most of the franchise’s adventures. Along with Brosnan’s Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) and Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) became formidable, and memorable, characters.

Onatopp, matching her amusing surname, establishes swift, irrefutable dominance over her targets. Bond and Onatopp’s car chase sequence pits both characters’ fearlessness against one another. In addition, their first conversation sparks a witty, unique dynamic. Labelled a “Georgian lust murderer”, the former Soviet Air Force pilot’s tenaciousness combines Bond-girl beauty with Oddjob-level intimidation. Among many talents, her trademark thigh-grip unleashes an anaconda-style grip. Like many Bond foes, Onatopp reaches a tough, painful demise. Despite matching Bond blow-for-blow, she, ironically, is painfully suffocated. 007 perfectly sums it up: “She always did enjoy a good squeeze”.

Bond and Onatopp’s banter gets the ball rolling –

Rhys’ Pick: Vesper Lynd, Casino Royale (2006)

Would Casino Royale, 007’s gritty 2006 reboot, worked even half as well without the striking presence of Vesper Lynd? Doubtful. Played by sultry French actress Eva Green, Vesper ranks among the best Bond girls to date not because she rigidly conforms to the archetype, but because she so fiercely rejects it.

Think about it; she’s intelligent, self-made, resilient and oozing with sarcastic wit. She more than holds her own in that now infamous introductory scene aboard the train to Montenegro, exchanging quip after quip with the sassy young spy she detests from the get-go; “So as charming as you are, Mr. Bond, I will be keeping my eye on our government’s money – and off your perfectly-formed arse.”

That’s not to say she’s a heartless robot – her vulnerability starts to show after aiding Bond in a brutal stairwell fistfight, and the eventual love that blossoms between them is made even more gut-wrenching when we discover she was working to undermine Bond’s mission the whole time, an emotional twist that turns Bond from naïve rookie into the hardened killer he is today.

Plus, she has a pretty rocking drink named after her too.

“I’m the money”

Kit’s Pick: Strawberry Fields, Quantum of Solace (2008)

My favourite Bond lady is unlikely to rank alongside Ursula Andress, Diana Rigg or Honor Blackman in a popularity contest. She featured (with very little screen time) in a film which was panned by critics as one of the worst in the Bond canon. However, Agent Strawberry Fields, played by the stunning Gemma Arterton, shone opposite Daniel Craig in 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Fields harkens back to the stereotypical glamour girls of the Connery and Moore eras who would aid Bond in a particular location, as opposed to the entire movie. She met her sticky end in a hotel room; a direct parallel to an iconic scene in 1963’s Goldfinger where another Bond Girl was killed in a similar fashion using gold paint. An accomplished theatre actress, Arterton gives it her all in the role; presenting us with a plucky character who didn’t easily submit to Bond’s art of seduction.

My Name Is Fields –

Corey’s Pick: M, Goldeneye (1995) – Skyfall (2012)

Bond girls come and go with each adventure, succumbing to betrayal, death, or simply disinterest, but one woman (at least since GoldenEye) has remained consistent in 007’s life – Dame Judi Dench’s M, the head of MI6 and watchful eye over every dangerous mission undertaken by her agents.

Based on an actual female Director General of British Intelligence, M initially holds Bond (originally Pierce Brosnan) in disdain, but, like most, is won over by Bond’s famous charm and pure efficiency. Proving so endearing she survived the series’ retcon, and evolved into something of a maternal figure for Daniel Craig’s rendition; particularly in Skyfall, where her past actions involving a former MI6 operative make her integral to Bond’s mission, and lead to her untimely death.

As an orphan, the matriarchal M was the closest thing to a mother 007 ever had; he did indeed care deeply for her, as evidenced by his breakdown into tears clutching her lifeless body – an atypically emotional moment for the franchise, and perhaps the most human Bond has ever behaved. She will be sorely missed.

Bond pays M a visit in Skyfall –

Images courtesy of United International Pictures, Chapel Distribution & Sony Pictures

Movie Review – Bridge of Spies

After talking his way out of getting shot by Somali pirates, Tom Hanks now tackles the Russian and United States governments in Bridge of Spies.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

In Bridge Of Spies, Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Tom Hanks plays James Donovan, an insurance lawyer empowered by the United States constitution, with a very healthy moral compass. The year is 1957. The period is the Cold War. The word around the streets is paranoia. The United States and the Soviet Union have engaged in a battle of silent attrition in a manner that would have made Hitchcock drool with anticipation.

In the midst of all this, a Russian spy is captured by the FBI, and thrust into Donovan’s care for a fair trial. Why Donovan? We are not so sure. It has something to do with Donovan being very good at what he does, which seems to mainly involve debating with hard-nosed CIA agents about the value of human life – he does very little lawyering in this movie, and indeed, the reason for his appointment is never explicitly clarified. Nevertheless, Donovan suggests using the spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), as leverage, in case an American should require rescuing from across the Atlantic.

And that’s where I leave the plot, for it appears simple and straightforward. If I were to explain any further, you’d find yourself gradually sinking into a quagmire of unwanted subplots and haphazardly strewn-together character developments.

Spielberg has a way of turning human tragedy into miraculous triumph. He paints very broad heroes on narrow, focused canvases. Schindler’s List (1993) carefully marked the lowest point for the Nazi empire, but gave birth to one of its greatest crusaders. His A.I. (2001) chartered the human desires of an android as it journeyed slowly towards love and understanding. His Munich (2005) questioned what it meant to be a nationalist, and what the cost was of seeking bloody revenge. This makes it all the more unusual that Bridge Of Spies seems to lose all sense of humanity, despite concentrating much effort on its humans.

This has a lot to do with the screenplay; written by Matt Charman and the Coen brothers, it comes across as though three historians have been bound at the wrists and ankles by the Historical Accuracy In Film Adaptations committee. They almost seem obliged to include the most trivial details in order to keep their story on a path straight and true.

There are also strange tonal shifts. The first third plays out with the dramatic tension of To Kill A Mockingbird (1962). Then it descends into espionage and danger. There is a standalone CGI showcase as a spy plane spirals down through the clouds to its death, and then the rest of the movie unfolds over smoky hotel rooms and interminable table conferences, with a hackneyed conclusion.

Yes, I understand that true events must be revered, but sometimes it takes less to tell more. There is still a lot to appreciate about Bridge Of Spies; it’s a powerful parable of American resilience. Hanks is also sturdy and reliable as the driven lawyer, but the film seems bloated with a few too many heavy scenes. With a trim here and a snip there, Spielberg, who usually masters material like this, would have had something great.

Bridge of Spies is available in Australian cinemas from October 22nd

Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox