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Posts Tagged ‘james bond’

A New What?

1977 was a significant year in the world of movies. For cinema-goers, there was a change that became a lasting legacy, one that is still talked about. For one film franchise, a benchmark was set that’s never been matched since.

Some of you are ahead of me on this. Your encyclopaedic knowledge of this franchise is matched only by Trekkies.

But I also know some of you are already straying down the wrong path. Because, while 1977 saw the very first Star Wars movie hit our screens, it also saw the release of The Spy Who Loved Me.

For those of you who were already playing John Williams’ iconic theme in your heads and have just heard the needle scrape to an abrupt halt, this may have come as something of a shock. But bear with me. (more…)

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We’ve all been there.  The trailer looks brilliant and, drawn in by it, we rush to see the movie.  And things don’t seem quite so great.

SPECTRE was like that.  Though as well as the brilliant trailers it had lots of other promotional stuff going on to big it up.  The concept made sense. Reintroduce a classic enemy so you can bring back elements of the Connery Bonds, while keeping it up to date with the times.  To this day, I can only assume the marketing budget is what made it the box office smash it was.  Because it was the worst Bond movie to date.

I could come up with a whole post about why it was so bad, but after months of therapy I’ve come to terms with it and want to put it behind me.

And to help me move on I try to go to the cinema every week.

There are some great movies out there, and there are some crap ones, and there are some that are okay.  The problem is, until you’ve actually seen them, you can’t make that judgement.  And any judgement based on the trailers is usually misguided.

So it was with The Nice Guys.  I should just add here that it’s not a crap film.  I enjoyed it, just not as much as I expected to.  Strangely enough, a girl on the back row seemed to be enjoying it a lot more – at least, I hope that’s what all the noise was about (she was laughing a lot.  Laughing. That’s all).

A large part of the problem was expectation, and I’ve got to say that some of the expectation was created in my mind rather than by the trailer.

What was clear from the outset was that this was going to be a “buddy” movie.  You know the kind of thing I mean.  Two guys meet. They don’t like each other, but they’re forced to work together and gradually become friends prepared to die for each other.

Examples of this include 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon and Tango and Cash (I didn’t say they were art house classics, did I?).  For me the best incarnation of this genre wasn’t actually a movie, but a TV series: The Persuaders.

In large part, it ticks the boxes because of the pairing of Tony Curtis and Roger Moore.  The contrast between the actors and the characters – an American who survived the mean streets of the Bronx to become a successful (if rough and ready) businessman, and an English lord who is part of the Establishment – meant that there would be sparks.

Made in 1971, it has inevitably dated, though not as much as you might think, and is worth watching just for the banter between Danny Wilde (Curtis) and Brett Sinclair (Moore).  It’s an education in writing dialogue.

Being set in the ‘70s was another factor that made me think The Nice Guys would be entertaining.  That was the decade I became a teenager, so it was a period I could really relate to.  What a combination, I thought.  The ‘70s and a buddy movie.  The soundtrack was bound to be good (it was), the fashion would be questionable (strangely, they didn’t overplay the fashion, so it seemed almost reasonable), and, based on the trailer, it might well include some features ‘70s movies were well known for.

An example of this is the clip with a car flying off a cliff and crashing through a house.  With my ‘70s references, I’m immediately thinking we’re going into Smokey and the Bandit territory.  As it turned out, in the film the scene has a completely different context.

So what am I really saying about The Nice Guys?  It’s very funny in places, but it misses a few tricks in terms of characterisation.  The buddy element is there, but the potential humour from having polar opposite characters isn’t played up enough.  There are plot holes, but not big enough to dwell on.  There’s a reliance on coincidence, but then they aren’t claiming art house status either.

Ultimately, the disappointment comes down to expectation.  Unlike SPECTRE, though, not all of that expectation was down to the way it was promoted.  In this case, I created my own expectations based on my own preferences.  Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling did a good enough job, but they weren’t Curtis and Moore.  They weren’t even Gibson and Glover.  It was unrealistic of me to expect them to be.

I’ve got to remember that I live in the 21st Century now.

 

 

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Having gone off at a tangent about volunteering, it’s probably appropriate to tell you how that philosophy took me in a slightly different direction at the sailing club.

As I’m on the Speakers Club committee, I’ve made it clear that I won’t join the Sailing Club’s. But there are other ways of helping.

A lot of the duties at a sailing club involve maintenance – boats, equipment, stores – but I’m not good at practical things. In fact, I’m bloody dangerous, so never hand me a power tool or ask me to try and fix something.  I can turn a very simple job into a major problem.

I can rig a sailing dinghy, though. True, I can’t claim to do a brilliant job, but so far I haven’t forgotten to put the bungs in, so no boat I’ve launched has immediately filled with water.  I can de-rig too, although I need help getting the mast down – they’re long, heavy and unwieldy, and I’m not noted for my upper body strength.  Nevertheless, I’m often there late helping to take the boats out of the water and put them away.

There would’ve been a time when I’d have found this a chore. I can drive my car, but have no desire to understand how it works.  I feel the same about another tool I use regularly – my laptop (why, what were you thinking?).  But, with boats, I feel setting them up and taking them down again is part of the experience.

The first boat on the water (and the last off) is always the safety boat, a powerboat that can quickly reach a capsize or sailor in distress. To man this, you have to be qualified.

The sailing club already had a number of qualified members, but their availability was hit and miss, leaving the role filled more often than not by the same few people. So, with limited practical skills to offer, I decided I’d get myself qualified.

When you’re starting from scratch, it takes longer than you might expect. First of all, you need a powerboat qualification, then you need to demonstrate enough experience of using it before you can do the safety boat course.

The two safety boats at the club are ideal for that location: squat and broad, you can easily haul people in from the water, or transfer them from another boat; the outboard engines are powerful enough to cover relatively short distances quickly, and not so noisy that they disturb the otherwise tranquil environment. But when you go on a powerboat course, you train on RIBs.

They’re bigger boats, with more powerful engines, and your training ground is somewhat larger than a glorified pond. I’ve never felt a real connection with Jeremy Clarkson, but my guess is that, if he switched from roads to water, he’d be pretty happy with this for a pastime.  When the throttle’s open and wind’s whipping round your head, you’d have to be part-machine if you didn’t experience a thrill.  If you’re not sure what a RIB is, click here and look out for the two boats chasing Daniel Craig (this isn’t an RYA approved training video.)

The only disappointment on the course was the man-overboard drill. For that, while travelling at high speed (great fun), a kind of floating barrel would be thrown out of the boat, leaving the helmsman to demonstrate their ability to react quickly and safely, getting back to the person/barrel and drawing alongside to retrieve them from the water.  Control is key here, as you need to bring the boat to a virtual standstill at the right moment – and when you’ve got wind and currents against you, that’s harder than it sounds.

Of course, the disappointing bit was that we used barrels instead of people, because I was hoping for a chance to go in. Sadly, this was one occasion where, apart from spray, I didn’t get wet.

Still, at the end of two days, I was qualified to use a powerboat, and that meant I could begin to do a bit more at the sailing club.  I might not be able to perform rescues on my own, but I could with experienced crew.  I was also able to help out when schools visited and some of the kids wanted a ride in a more stable boat.

From a purely selfish point of view, it also gave me more options for getting out on the water.  All I had to do then was build up enough experience to be allowed to take the Safety Boat course.  And that was even more fun.

 

 

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On Monday, I went to a funeral. It’s not the greatest start to a week, to be honest, but it put me in a reflective mood.  I’ve talked about funerals before, so that wasn’t on my mind. Instead, I was thinking about the individual who’d died and the period he came into my life.

The chances are I’m misremembering some of this, but I seem to recall my mum sending me round to a strange house – strange to me anyway (I don’t mean bats were flying around towers and eerie moans drifting up from cellars).  I was eleven, so this would have been a year or so after my parents separated.  At the time I had no idea why I was sent there and, to this day, no one’s ever explained it.  My best guess now is that, as I was living with my mum and three sisters, there were concerns about the lack of male role models in my life.

Anyway, when I arrived, I met Alan, who took me under his wing and introduced me to the workshop he’d set up in his garage.  My practical skills were (and still are) very limited, but I remember spending many evenings in this workshop getting to know Alan, his wife, Jo, and their son, Richard.

More than forty years later, the details of our acquaintance have misted over. Obviously, there were the evenings in that garage, though what we made escapes me.  I do have a strong memory of an evening at their house when Dr No premiered on TV (hard to believe now, but there was a time when James Bond hadn’t been seen on the telly).  This was a significant event in itself and I’ll write more about that soon.

In those days, money was very tight for us and we rented our TV (who remembers those days?), but my mum could only afford black and white. Alan and Jo had a colour TV, and it was big – in 1970s terms anyway.  So they invited us all round and, with drinks and food laid on, made it very special for us.

As time passed, I drifted on to other things and Alan and Jo became peripheral to my life. More often than not, the only references I had to them were through comments my mum made, so I was aware of them and conscious they were still a strong part of her life.

With my recent reflections, though, I’ve realised much more happened back then. There were days out with Alan and Richard.  I couldn’t tell you where we went, but during those journeys I discovered it was possible to have fun competing to see who saw the most cars of their chosen colour (who needs computer games?).

At some point, Alan built an extension and I vaguely recall helping, though I’m pretty confident my “help” should be interpreted very loosely.  Then there was another occasion when we walked alongside a river – a memory I still can’t quite piece together but must have had some significance because it came so readily when I started thinking.

Do we all have these aspects of our lives, that have been significant and full, but have blended into the background? Or is it just me?

It strikes me that, in spite of the faded memories, those events have helped to shape me as a person. Perhaps they were things I just took for granted.  I really don’t know, and it’s a shame that it takes someone dying to bring them to the forefront of your mind.  But I’m glad I’ve had the wake-up call, the reminder that this particular family had an impact on my life.

Looking back on it now, I know there have been other people over the years that came into my life, often for short periods, and gave me help, support and kindness that I didn’t fully appreciate. It would be lovely to think I could go and say thank you to them all, but the reality is that it won’t be practical in most cases.  So maybe the best thing I can do is make sure I follow the examples those good people have set for me and try to help others where I can.

I’m not making any promises, though…

 

 

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Roger Moore turned 88 this week. “So what?” you ask.  “Why’s this relevant?”  Well, because it’s a wake-up call for me.

I know it seems strange, but he’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. His Simon Templar (arguably the definitive Saint) was a constant in my childhood, before he teamed up with Tony Curtis in The Persuaders , then became James Bond.

You hear a lot of debate about who was the best Doctor.  For a lot of people, it’s usually the one they first saw, and the same’s true about Bond.

Clearly, I was a Moore fan anyway but, aged 10, I saw my first Bond movie.  And what was there not to like?  Planes, trains and automobiles; snakes, crocodiles and sharks; voodoo, jazz funerals, hang-gliding; a magnetic watch, a double-decker bus meeting a low bridge, a villain with a hook for a hand.  And, no, I haven’t forgotten that boat chase.

What a way to be introduced to the world’s favourite spy. I was hooked, and there was Roger again.

I’ve seen him interviewed many times. He never takes himself seriously, and it’s hard not to like someone like that.   On one occasion the subject of stunt work came up and he told the interviewer he did all his own stunts.  After a beat he added: “I tell all my own lies as well.”

People complain he’s not a great actor. Honestly, I really don’t know, but he’s a great entertainer.  And, frankly, when I go to the movies or watch TV I want to be entertained more than anything else.  It’s what I aspire to when I write.

So why’s this relevant? And why’s his birthday a wake-up call?  Because he’s always been around, and while I want him around for a long time to come, the reality is that he won’t be.  His films and TV series are still there to watch, and will be long after he’s gone.  But they act as a reminder of the ageing process.

To be fair, he’s aged well. He doesn’t look 88 now and, while he didn’t look youthful in View to a Kill, he didn’t look 57.  Looking back at Live and Let Die, it’s hard to believe he was 45.  But that’s not the point.  What makes me stop and think is, when I recall seeing his films for the first time, it seems like only a short time ago.  And then I realise I’m the same age he was when he made Moonraker – when I was only 16.

Where have the years gone? Because if it doesn’t seem that long ago since I first watched that breathtaking pre-title sequence then, in the blink of an eye, I could be looking back on this period of my life and seeing that in the same light.

Having an older person in our lives can do that to us at times. Looking ahead, as we get older, that age gap between us seems to narrow.  We see their frailties materialise and start contemplating our own mortality and the deterioration we may suffer in what increasingly looks like such a short time ahead.

Those older people are usually parents, uncles and aunts, or old family friends. But, for my generation, brought up when TV was starting to become an increasing part of our lives, there are other familiar faces too.  Watching their younger selves whenever we want on DVD or YouTube only helps to reinforce the effects of the passage of time.

I don’t mean to suggest that I morbidly dwell on this topic. It’s just every now and then you get those reminders, like Roger Moore’s birthday.  I wish him a belated Many Happy Returns, but I also see it as an opportunity to remind myself that I haven’t got forever.  There are things I want to do, and I need to get on with them before it’s too late.

What about you?

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After seeing the news this morning that Louis Jourdan had died, I was amused shortly after to read a Facebook friend referencing his passing by quoting from Octopussy.  Of course, this fine actor was a brilliant Bond villain but, when I heard the news, rather than Kamal Khan, I immediately recalled his portrayal of Dracula in a BBC adaptation from the late 70s.

And yet, those memories for both me and my FB friend were clearly reflections of our stages in life, because I’m just as sure that for others their first thought would have been of Gigi – a film I’m aware of but haven’t watched.   Then again, it was a musical from the 50s.  Not that I’m particularly averse to older films, but there is a tendency to be drawn to movies released during our formative years.  More importantly, as a teenager in the 70s, musicals weren’t really my thing.

At the same time, as well as showing an unhealthy interest in James Bond (I’d devoured all the books by the time I was fourteen), and being well on my way through the collective works of Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley and Wilbur Smith, I’d also begun to delve into horror.  Having seen the Hammer versions of Dracula and been suitably spooked, I’d approached the novel with a combination of curiosity and apprehension.  The curiosity probably speaks for itself, but the apprehension stemmed from my knowledge that the book was old.  For a lad just entering his teen years, there was a fear that the language might be too difficult.

I needn’t have worried.  In fact, Dracula is one of the few books I’ve read more than once.  I’d be lying if I said it read like a contemporary novel, but it’s very accessible and the style of the narrative – primarily using letters and journal entries – is engaging from the start.

Bearing in mind that my first experience of the Count had been watching Christopher Lee’s incarnation, I was probably a little surprised at the differences between book and film versions.  Having said that, discovering Ian Fleming’s version of Live and Let Die had no speedboat chase or crocodiles had already given me an indication that movies don’t always follow the source material.

Then I saw Count Dracula, the BBC’s interpretation.  To this day, it sticks more closely to Bram Stoker’s novel than any version I’ve seen.  And it’s creepy, very creepy.  The scene with Dracula making his way down the outside wall of the castle sent ice trickling down my spine.

Sadly, the production hasn’t stood the test of time.  I watched it again a few years ago and was disappointed.  Even the BBC’s special effects have come a long way since 1977.  Nevertheless, for its time, it was powerful enough to have had an impact on me.

To be fair, it didn’t prompt me to search out the rest of Louis Jourdan’s catalogue of work.  I was in thrall to the production, not the cast.  But, whenever I did stumble across him (and, yes, of course I watched Octopussy), it would always trigger that memory of his Dracula.

So, like many of us, when we hear of someone who’s touched our lives, I did feel something when I saw the news this morning.  But, just as I reflected on vampires and others remembered Kamal Khan’s attempts to kill James Bond, I’m sure still more recalled Gaston Lachaille (yes, I looked it up) singing Gigi.   We all experience life and the people who come into it differently.  And that’s just how it should be.

Any other memories been triggered?

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I was out on Saturday evening, so had to wait until Sunday to watch Death in Heaven, the series finale of Doctor Who. Strange, isn’t it? I’m a 51 year old man who watches Doctor Who. What’s even stranger is that I know I’m not alone. And I suspect I’m also not the only non-geek or -Whovian (I believe there’s a difference, but you have to look closely) who watches it.

Clearly there is an attraction for viewers who didn’t see the Doctor in his pre-nineties incarnations. And, yes, I am ignoring Paul McGann’s brief visit, but that’s only because he wasn’t around long enough for us to really buy into his character. Like many other series (TV or movie), part of its success is that, at one level or another, the viewer identifies with the characters. But, and here’s the point I wanted to make, there are an awful lot of older people like me who tune into a programme that is essentially a kids show.

Now, before the dedicated Whovians throw their sonic screwdrivers out of their prams, do hear me out. I know I’m being somewhat cavalier with your feelings here, and appear to be dismissive about your chosen allegiances. Please don’t take it personally – it’s only banter (and I will talk more about “geeks” and “anoraks” in a separate post that’s coming soon). Instead, let’s focus on the serious point I want to make.

I watch Doctor Who as a means of recapturing something from my youth: a sense of excitement and expectation; the sense of wonder I felt when turning the TV on, knowing creative minds would take me to worlds I’d never experience in reality.

The big irony here is that I didn’t actually watch Who much when I was a kid. So it’s more the association with my youth than actually replaying it. And yet, if you watched the finale and you are a certain age, you’d have experienced several moments of nostalgia that were nothing to do with the Doctor.

The reference to Cloudbase will have struck a chord with Gerry Anderson fans, many of whom would have been shouting at the screen to correct the idiot who seemed to think it featured in Thunderbirds. Of course, that was just the writers playing with us, getting us involved. Clever writers.

Then there was the sequence where the plane was breached and characters were sucked out of it. Cross-reference Goldfinger, shortly followed by the pre-title sequence from Moonraker as the Doctor freefalls to the TARDIS. (Did I mention there were spoilers in this post?)

And talking of pre-title sequences, didn’t this one grab your attention? Just like they’re supposed to, like they did in the days of The Avengers, and Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. When Clara told the Cyberman she was the Doctor and the camera closed in on her face, you just knew it was time for the theme music to start.

So, although I refer to Doctor Who as a kids show, I know it’s more than that. It’s a show that appeals to anyone who enjoys escapism, action, adventure, strategically placed humour and clever writing (did I mention that last one already?). And, of course, people like me who remember their formative TV years as being filled with more of that creativity than the “reality” dross that requires limited imagination and presumably even more limited budgets.

I’d be lying if I said I thought Doctor Who was perfect. It doesn’t always work for me, but it works more often than not, which is good enough to keep me watching when it returns. In the mean time, I’ll look elsewhere for my nostalgia fix.

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