BlogalongaBond 1: ‘Dr. No’

As the creaking sound of a bandwagon being jumped on, the rumble of a herd being followed, or other metaphors for my screaming lack of originality bellow loudly, I have decided, at the behest of the genuinely incredible The Incredible Suit, to ‘BlogalongaBond‘ – retrospectively reviewing all 22 Bond films in the 22 months leading up to Sam Raimi’s forthcoming effort.

What, though, can be said about Dr No, this classic slice of British cinema, that hasn’t already been said?  Other bloggers in the BlogalongaBond army have probably already summed it up, and most likely far better than I ever could (this douche summed it up brilliantly), and that’s not even acknowledging the ocean of opinion written in the nearly sixty year interim since the first Bond film was released.

Plus, I’ve left it a bit late. Since we’re supposed to move on to From Russia With Love in February, and with February less than an hour away, and since I’ve already spent nearly two hundred words talking about what to write, and since it’s nearly half eleven and I want to go to bed, and since, as I’ve already mentioned, everyone has written something about it, and since if you are sentient a human of any decency you will have already seen it (and loved it) already and don’t really need persuading,  my ‘review’ is as follows:Dr. No is really great.  Not as good as From Russia With Love.  Or possibly Goldfinger.  But it’s really, really good.  Like, seriously.

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Today in insane action nonsense

This is a scene from an Indian film called ‘Endhiran’ which appears to be a Bollywood take on the Terminator, via Jason Statham and the Wachowskis.  I look forward to the day when I can add it to my Lovefilm list.  But seriously, what the flippin’ heckins?

Review: ‘No Strings Attached’

Before we begin, it’s important for you to know that I approached No Strings Attached, the new romantic comedy starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, with a consciously open mind. Knowing that I, as gender stereotypes dictate, would not be in the target audience, I nonetheless wanted to watch this film as objectively as I could.  I’ll go further: I wanted to like it.  I didn’t want to be the same old sneering, cynical critic.  I wanted No Strings Attached to be the romcom that turned the genre around, the one that explained the infinite trail of bland repetitive mediocrity behind it, the one that suddenly made sense of the ugly, cheesy, cringey history of cinematic romantic comedy, like the Lost finale you wished they’d made.

I genuinely wanted to love it, I promise you, but they made it very bloody hard for me.  I was hopeful, too – in the director’s chair was one Ivan Reitman, of Ghostbusters acclaim (sure, he hasn’t made a decent movie in twenty years, and son Jason has largely eclipsed his achievements, but still…).  Reitman is correctly hailed as a directing and producing legend.  But it would seem his comic sensibilities have failed him in his old age.  How else to explain this quite astonishing work of banality, predictability and spine-crushing vacuum of comedy?

Quite simply, it’s rubbish.  Just rubbish.  Reitman is slavishly faithful to the romcom handbook, a blueprint which reasons, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!  Or, even if it is broke, don’t bother improving it!  The twist here is that our two heroes, after a one-off teenage encounter, meet again years later and decide to have a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship, a mutual arrangement of regular casual sex.  They agree to not let things get serious.  But then…oh, come on, you know what happens.

Boy meets, loses and subsequently gets girl in an oh-so-unsurprising turn of events.  Portman and Kushter are fine, and easy on the eye, but their characters are zero-dimensional and you suspect we’re only supposed to be rooting for them because they’re pretty. Slightly better are the quirky, marginally less attractive friends always found in these films, whose slim offerings prop up the film and invariably hog the best dialogue.  I’d much prefer to see a film with Greta Gerwig and Kevin Kline as the leads than the one I had to sit through.

The supporting cast ensures this film scrapes a low two-star rating rather than a one, and there are a tiny handful of moments that might make you smile – I chuckled at the period mix CD Kutcher made for when Portman and her gal pals were on their cycle.  But they then quickly ruin it with terrible jokes about dating, pet dogs and promiscuous fathers, and Reitman shows no capacity for dealing with any kind of distinctive characterisation.  A concluding line of dialogue rivals the infamous “is it raining? I hadn’t noticed” line in Four Weddings for nauseating sentimentality.

Despite my best efforts, I could not enjoy No Strings Attached, a film awash with weary predictability, bland characters impossible to empathise with, and unabashed unoriginality (the forthcoming Justin Timberlake-starring romantic comedy Friends With Benefits will bear no resemblance whatsoever to this plot, I’m sure).  2011 is not yet a month in, and we must unfortunately add this film to the growing list of contenders for our bottom 10 of the year. On this basis, Ghostbusters 3 doesn’t look promising.

A version of this article originally appeared on ObsessedWithFilm.com

Because there haven’t been enough lists lately: My top 10 films of 2010

10. Lebanon

This one never really got a look-in outside the arthouse world, partly because it’s mostly in Hebrew, and partly because – like Buried – it spends its entire screentime trapped inside an enclosed space, in this case, a tank. The word ‘claustrophobic’ doesn’t do it justice.

9. Another Year

Nestled amongst the whizz-bang releases of Hollywood was the latest from Brit legend Mike Leigh, doing what he really does do best – make an honest film about ordinary people in which not a great deal of drama or conflict takes place, but you leave the cinema feeling like you have seem something true and real.

8. A Prophet

A taut French thriller in the greatest tradition, A Prophet is terrifically well put-together drama, portraying prison thugs with confidence, ease, and often excruciating detail.  A gripping and convincing portrait of a complex criminal underworld.

7. Four Lions

Chris Morris is simultaneously loved by fans of British comedy and reviled by the tabloids, who once heralded him “Britain’s most hated man”.  Never one to shirk controversy, his first film is a comedy about suicide bombing, which balances masterfully between sweet, charming humour and brutal, disturbing satire.

6. Kick-Ass

A flop which should have been a hit, Kick-Ass was never going to win the love of the mainstream with a thirteen-year-old girl violently murdering criminals she calls “cunts”.  But this detail overshadows what is easily the best non-Canadian comicbook movie of the year.  The sequel will be a treat.

5. Exit Through The Gift Shop

Banksy’s debut film never got a wide release, but it’s worth a look. It manages to be a fascinating mini-history of street art, and a devastating portrait of a bizarre, eccentric Frenchman who fancies himself as the next Andy Warhol.  Just don’t ask if it’s fake or not.

5. Toy Story 3

The world waits for when Pixar will make a bad film, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Toy Story 3 is the eleventh critical and commercial success in a row (out of eleven), and this was their biggest one yet, with over a billion at the box office.  It’s also one of their best, and a fitting end to an extraordinary trilogy.

4. The Social Network

A one-two punch success in David Fincher’s directing and Aaron Sorkin’s writing, this was a perfect formula, and it delivered.  Even though it documented recent, well known history, it still managed to be surprising, fascinating and gripping.

3. Buried

Never quite achieving the mainstream success it could have had, perhaps because the studio didn’t know how the hell to market it – a guy is stuck in a box for an hour and a half? And that’s thrilling, is it?  – but Buried managed to be more thrilling than most ‘thrillers’ released this year, thanks to its perfect combo of a great script, a great director, and a great leading man in the form of Ryan Reynolds, who gives the performance of his life.

2. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

When the teaser trailer for Edgar Wright’s third film hit the interwebs, a black hole of hype threatened to envelop the comic adaptation.  And, like Kick-Ass before it, the hype did not translate into a box-office success.  This is unfortunate and hopefully will not preclude the cult status this film deserves, for this is a dazzling, inventive, barmy wild ride of a movie, a lesson in caffeine-fuelled pace and energy, and an impressive showcase for Wright’s directorial box of tricks. Like most films on this list, best seen on a big screen, too.

1. Inception

It hardly need to be explained to you why Christopher Nolan’s epic, intelligent blockbuster has made it to the top of this list.  You need only look at the myriad of other top 10 lists who have prominently featured it to get a sense of the extraordinary impact it has left on cinema in 2010.  In fact, you needn’t look any further than this very website, which has championed the film from the start, and quite accurately named it Nolan’s “magnum opus” in our review.  So there is no need to explain why Inception is the film of 2010 – either you know this for yourself, or you’ve yet to see it.

A version of this article originally appeared on ObsessedWithFilm.com

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