30 August 2010

The Bond retrospective - Number 16

Remember this one?

We're confused too
16. A View To A Kill

Apparently the lowest ranked Bond film on Rotten Tomatoes, I have to say I disagree, while Moore’s final appearance is no classic, it is hardly discernable from any other average Bond film. The plot is fairly straightforward and understandable, if somewhat contrived, the action scenes are decent enough, with campness being kept to a minimum and there’s a decent villain in Christopher Walken. However, it doesn’t get much better than that, it’s quite long and trudges in parts, the plot is paper thin, Moore was already too old in the seventies, and Grace Jones was a terrible, terrible mistake. The long and short of it is, there’s nothing really bad here, on most counts you can find a film that did it worse, for example despite all the criticism of Moore’s age, I found it more of a problem in FYEO, which was four years earlier, it’s just that there’s nothing really good here either, it’s completely unmemorable aside from being ‘the one with Grace Jones and Christopher Walken in’ – hence why I’ve barely mentioned the film itself here, so yes it’s average, forgettable, but if you’re looking for the worst Bond film you would probably overlook this one as it simply slips under the radar.

Christopher Walken is one of the better villains
Duran Duran, anyone?

Nothing to remember fondly
Grace Jones

29 August 2010

Go back?

I'm not going to go on about Glenn Beck's rally, because let's face it, it's crazy

But this stood out

"America today begins to turn back to God"

and the BBC reports

'Some individuals at Mr Beck's rally said honour and morality had diminished in the US because of the separation of government and religion'

Now, people can certainly want the US to be more religious, that's freedom - but surely comments or implications that it should somehow go back to God are just plain misleading, designed to stir the blood of the ignorant

Separation of government and religion was laid out in the constitution, the United States has always been that way - and while we may be more secular now in practice, the US was originally a mirror image of the British model (unelected head of state, established church etc), they were the ones stopping government bodies invoking religion long before we did such things, so now to call for it to go back to God is not only bizarre, but downright offensive to their own constitution, the same one held up by their historical conservative heroes and the basis of their 'patriotism'

28 August 2010


British pupils should give up learning French

If you hadn't noticed, French has gone into massive decline since languages stopped being compulsory at GCSE in 2004, now at nearly half the level it was before

As someone who had to go through the torment of five years of 'teaching' of French, I can only celebrate this and be envious of the lucky youngsters who can actually learn instead

I don't say this as someone who found it 'hard' as the BBC describe - I found it a doddle to get my B, the trouble is I can't actually speak it, or I can a bit, and I'm pretty good at reading it, but I can't work out a thing a Frenchman says

As Paul Noble points out in the article - we aren't taught conversational French, the bit that's actually got  a tangible benefit, sitting in a room with 30 people constantly writing out verb forms is a complete waste of time - the only students who were ever any good at speaking French were those who had a French-speaking background, the teachers all loved them of course, 'why can't you all do this?' they'd ask but no-one else stood a chance of being able to converse

Looking back, it's fairly obvious the teaching system was fatally flawed, mostly because you can't teach dozens a language at once, the small groups in the options of Spanish and German spent most of their time in conversation with assistants (who for some reason, were absent in the much bigger French classes) and seemed to be far more advanced than us. That, and my later experience of my friends teaching themselves languages like Spanish and picking it up within months proved to me that every student in Britain had been wasting 5-odd hours a week for five years of their lives

I don't think students are put of by the difficulty of gaining the GCSE (I certainly didn't perceive difficulty levels at the age of 14) , but the fact that they would've done three years of nonsense, whereas virtually all other subjects provide some sort of benefit - like being able to write or do maths, would put them off - if you could actually speak French at the end maybe they would bother - but if memory serves, not a single non-French speaker came out of my GCSE French class being able to communicate in it, it's a joke subject

Then we get onto the point of doing French - it's great for your holidays to the south of France, but what else? Some niche jobs in business and politics require it, but that's about it - and whilst it has been cemented as a language of diplomacy historically, it's now mostly an excuse for French arrogance that only they get their little language on Eurovision and the Olympics

And yes, it is a little language - the BBC points out that it's spoken by 200 million people, although it's only a first language to about 130 of those, this is roughly double the population of the native country, and the vast majority are in western Africa

It's beyond question that English, Spanish and Mandarin speakers vastly outnumber French speakers, whether first tongue or not, whilst Hindi and Russian are probably spoken by more people, Portuguese is probably a similar number and arguably more important economically

And yet we allow the French language to dominate international bodies simply so a few people in Paris can lean back and smirk as they get a special translation just for them, not bad for a country that lost all its power 200 years ago and left little discernible impact outside parts of Africa and Canada

Why should we help with this French ego stroking? By all means allow kids to learn it, some will need to, but forcing them was making the teaching of it pointless, and keeping out the world's more important languages (which are now soaring in schools) simply because France was near and had a plentiful supply of teachers was foolish economically - even German would be more useful, and it's far easier to learn, sharing a lot of roots with English

27 August 2010

The Bond retrospective - Number 17

  17. Octopussy

Moore should have called it quits at five, but alas, he continued on until we got sick of him and needed Timothy Dalton and a cello. In this instalment we see Bond tackling an Indian jewel smuggler (or something) and a rogue Russian general in a rather convoluted and boring plot. Although in fairness it attempts to be more serious than certain ‘other’ outings, but it is completely ruined by the ever-increasing amount of insanity placed into the film – this is actually a fairly gadget-light spy flick about smuggling but it involves a ridiculous tennis-themed car chase, Bond in a clown and a gorilla suit…and even doing a Tarzan impression. That’s not to mention the fairly poor villains, where the main problem is the division between Kamal Khan and General Orlov, the latter being particularly underdeveloped, yet taking valuable scenes from the main villain. There’s also the seriously disturbing fact that Moore was 56 in this film, and that the eponymous female lead was played by Maud Adams, who was Scaramanga’s mistress, Anders, a few films earlier. All in all, it’s a fairly dull, uninteresting outing that’s not awful, but nobody’s favourite, and that’s its main problem – it’s forgettable, at least you remember the really ridiculous ones.

Some semblance of a real spy flick

Clown suits never make good drama
‘Octopussy’ really isn’t a good name for an actual person…seriously, call someone it

25 August 2010

The Bond retrospective - Number 18

 It's getting hard to determine where to put these now...

Anyway, this may cause contradiction:

Who are you?
18. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

The infamous one, it remains one of the most divisive Bond films of all time, on the one hand you have some really shite acting from Lazenby and some frankly ridiculous scenes, and on the other this is the film where Bond gets married – which means it can never be forgotten, and is seemingly loved by mothers everywhere. Let’s start with the basics – the plot surrounds Bond’s hunt for Blofeld, which leads him to the top of a swiss alp where the main man is brainwashing pretty women (uh-oh!) and chopping off his earlobes so he can become a count for some unexplained reason. Along the way down the mountain Bond develops a relationship with Tracy, one of the better developed of all Bond girls, eventually asking her to marry him. Predictably, she gets captured and he gets his father-in-law (a crime lord..) to launch an attack on the alpine base in a bid to rescue her. Explosions follow and Bond escapes to marry Tracy, and then as he takes the flowers off the car, Blofeld drives past and Tracy takes one in the head, and so we witness the saving grace of the film, and probably the most poignant moment in the Bond series, as Lazenby cradles his dead wife saying ‘we have all the time in the world’. Other than that the film is a combination of dreadful acting, poor writing and stop-motion action scenes, some standout moments are Bond in a ridiculous kilt and cravatte combo, and the cringeworthy seduction where Lazenby repeats the same lines to different women. In short Lazenby is an appalling ‘Bond’, the action, the style, none of it’s there; but in his defence, there’s no way that the playboy Connery version could have pulled off love and marriage, so if you like a good action romp, don’t bother, but if you’re sentimental maybe you’ll like it a bit more than the average Bond fan. Personally, it’s always near the bottom for me, even if the ending is the saving grace.

Diana Rigg as one of the best Bond girls
The ending

Everything else

24 August 2010

The Bond retrospective - Number 19

Do I have to tell you?

Coming in at 19th (or virtual last) is...

Die Another Day

More exciting than Golden Gun, but it's still the film that nearly killed Bond - Halle Berry given equal billing? Invisible cars? Ice palaces? So much product placement it’s beyond parody, and then there’s the various references to older films – some, like the Union Jack parachute, wheel spikes and the shoe blade are wonderful tips of the hat for Bond fans, but others, like the reference to Diamonds are Forever being to copy half the plot, and the renowned Ursula Andress bikini scene just feel like rip-offs, in fact the whole film just feels like a bloody reference to the other nineteen films padded out with a large amount of explosions. Yet it all starts out so well – a typical Brosnan action scene starts us off and his capture and torture sets it up well, but it all goes downhill after about half an hour as we descend into Halle Berry and a non-existent plot, but it did give us Daniel Craig…

Some enjoyable references

Most of the film
Madonna cameo…

22 August 2010

The Bond retrospective - Number 20

Did I ever mention I am a big Bond fan? Well I am, and as I've recently been watching them I thought I'd rank them, for my own mind as much as anything (it's bloody hard to think of best and worst in your head with 22 films)

I am only doing up to the end of the Brosnan era - I thought it best to let the dust settle on the Craig era, but for what it's worth I think Casino Royale was certainly top five material, and Quantum of Solace was considerably worse

So without further ado...Number 20 (or bottom)

The Man with the Golden Gun

In this instalment Roger Moore’s Bond faces off against one of the world’s best assassins, Francisco Scaramanga, played by Christopher Lee – sounds good, doesn’t it? Unfortunately it falls flat on its face and unlike somewhat ‘marmite’ films like Moonraker, it is consistently seen as one of the worst films simply because it’s so dull – the slow-paced, lacklustre plot about some sort of solar device literally sends me to sleep, and rather than Scaramanga being a sinister assassin he comes over more as a doe-eyed geek in awe of Bond, and that’s even with a decent performance from Lee, and while the ‘funhouse’ ending starts well the finale is completely unfulfilling. Then there’s quite possibly the weakest showing by any Bond girl in the form of Mary Goodnight, played by Britt Ekland, who gets almost no screen time and is seemingly just thrown in at the end, avoid at all costs.

The plot is a typical spy thriller, albeit poorly executed
Christopher Lee

Incredibly slow plot with next to no action, or comedy
That caterwauling by Lulu
Third nipple?

18 August 2010

Bloody oath, mate! (or is that 'Shiela'?)

In a rather bold move by Australia's first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has said Australia should move to become a republic when the queen dies

This is an interesting play on an issue that has largely been quiet for ten years since the last referendum in 1999 - personally I am in agreement with her, and many republicans share the view that the queen, who is immensely popular throughout the Commonwealth, is only going out one way - it will be the installation of her less respected heirs that bear the scrutiny from the modern public

I'm not sure whether this will have more traction here or in Oz, however - Australia has very little to do with the monarchy in real terms, and personally I'd prefer to be in the Australian's situation, who benefit from a ceremonial head of state without the pomp, or the cash, than the British, but whatever my feelings - Republicanism remains much more viable down under than in the Motherland according to most polls

In terms of Ozzie politics, this seems to be another attempt at a dividing line between herself and the staunchly conservative Abbott - it won't surprise you that Labor are the party of Republicans, so if anything this will be an optimistic shot at more liberal (small l - I hate these two party names) swing voters, a gamble that Australia is more republican now than it was under Howard, and yet another reason for the moderate to hate the Catholic, abortion-opposing, gaffe-prone Abbott

If you're interested I quite like Bryant's latest blog about the narrowness of the Australian electoral system - where they are all forced to vote and yet a smaller number of swing votes than ours decide their government, they of course use blooming AV - yet more evidence that constituency based parliaments do not work for their country, might've been a good idea once, but no more

As an aside - does anyone have a real defence of the monarchy post-Queen? It always centres on her - but she's been there since a time when we liked hereditary rule and since before most of us were born, what happens when some tosspot who no-one respects takes over?

We'll probably roll over and take it...as usual