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Spectre: as a Bond film it's almost there
Spectre, the latest of Daniel Craig's outings as Bond is certainly the most classic Bond feeling film of Craig's films. Gadgets, chases with expensive cars, a key henchman and globe trekking: it's got them all.
The plot revolves around Bond discovering about an organization called Spectre (a nod to the Connery era films and the origin of Bond overall). At the same time however changes are happening at MI6 with a shift towards NSA/GCHQ style data gathering as opposed to assassins in the field, leaving Bond to be acting on his own accord.
Also unlike most of the previous films, Spectre digs into Bond's past, telling us about his parents and upbringing which is quite a departure from the very impersonal and admittedly two dimensional characters of the pre-Craig era.
As a lifelong Bond fan, I have to admit that I still prefer the films of Connery, Moore, Brosnan, Dalton and yes even Lazenby to those of Craig. However Spectre is definitely getting closer to those films, even if it isn't quite there yet.
Sam Smith's theme song is a largely unmemorable one unfortunately, though it isn't bad either. The only thing about it is that his singing in Falsetto for a Bond theme just feels out of place a bit. The music in the film overall is still feeling a bit generic action thriller-esque with not as much use of the classic chords as I'd like. Not saying that the heavy brass of John Barry's orchestra should constantly be blaring but it could certainly be used more, really adds a lot to the feel of the film.
Overall a pretty decent film. Definitely the most 'Bond' feeling of the Daniel Craig ones.
The Interview (2014)
Not quite up to the hype
Saw this film recently and I must say that it doesn't quite live up to the hype that has been generated by all the talk of hacking into Sony.
The film is essentially a buddy comedy where a talk show host played by James Franco and his producer played by Seth Rogen head to North Korea to interview Kim Il Un. Before they go the CIA however gives them the task of assassinating the leader.
The movie plays on the opposites that are the characters with Franco's being a somewhat dumb, naive and hotheaded character with Rogen's being more level headed.
A lot of the comedy is derived on the interaction and dialog of Rogen and Franco but it is here that I find it doesn't always work. Franco's character is just far too over the top, a bit obnoxious even, and just gets on your nerves quite quickly.
The plot line gets pretty absurd quickly but that is of course to be expected. The film has it's moments and it is funny at times but I find it ends up being just mediocre and you keep wishing that Franco's character wouldn't speak as much.
Passable entertainment but nothing spectacular. 6/10
The Last Valley (1971)
Interesting film about the evils of war and religion
Set in the early 17th century during the 30 years war somewhere in Germany, a weary educated traveler Vogel (Omar Sharif) is escaping the death and disease of the conflict when he finds his way to a secluded idyllic valley village, a garden of Eden of sorts, that has gone untouched. Behind him come a band of soldiers/mercenaries led by The Captain (Michael Caine). They decide to settle there in this land of plenty and ride out the winter, forcing themselves onto the villagers. Vogel becomes a middle man, a somewhat of an enlightened neutral observer not too far on either side between the soldiers and the villagers.
The film I feel is really about pointing out the pointlessness and evils of both war and religion. Its shows how religion makes men do insane and inhumane things that they'd usually never do and hence causes war and that ultimately nobody really wins. In fact I'd say this film makes one of the strongest atheist statements I've ever seen on film.
The acting is top notch by both Michael Caine and Omar SHarif. The filming was done in Austria in Tyrol which provides for stunning scenery which they take full advantage of in the film. John Barry, known much better for his work on the Bond franchise, has done one of his works of all in this film. You can still hear hints of that strong brass section that has become so associated with Bond ripple through the main theme.
Good film, well worth the watch.
Ein Unbekannter rechnet ab (1974)
Weakest of the 'Ten Little Indians' adaptations
This is the third time the Agatha Christie classic "Ten Little Indians" has been brought to the big screen (after 1945 and 1965) and I must say with regret that this is certainly the weakest one.
The story is the same as it's always been: 10 strangers are invited by a mysterious stranger to a secluded hotel. This time its set in the Iranian desert of all places (this film was made before the fall of the Shah) however this unique geographical location is under exploited.
The cast is a mix of Oliver Reed, Richard Attenborough, two ex-Bond villains Largo and Goldfinger. The rest I must admit were unknown to me.
As said before: the story is very much the same as before, absolutely nothing is added to the story, the atmosphere or execution. In fact I'd say that the film is rather quiet with the dialogue lacking in content. The characters seem almost detached from the mystery unravelling around them, it doesn't seem to interest them. They put very little effort into discussing or trying to resolve the mystery. Somebody gets killed and the characters seem to forget about it almost instantaneously.
The film really fails to get you into that good "whudunit" feeling where you're wondering what happens next or how what just happened may have occurred. Its very underwhelming.
The direction isn't very successful either. The location isn't exploited quite as well as could have been to give you a sense of isolation and hopelessness. The soundtrack decisions are frankly bizarre with the background music often ruining the atmosphere.
Overall a disappointing effort, watch the 1945 or 1965 versions instead.
The ship is heading towards the right course but its still far from home port
I have been a huge Bond fan for as long as I can remember, I have seen all the films multiple times. With the latest one, Skyfall, Bond is starting to make his way back to his roots but only just slightly.
The plot revolves around a stolen list of MI6 agents that the agency is trying to retrieve while at the same time M's dubious past is catching up with her in dangerous ways. Bond goes from London to Turkey to Shanghai to Scotland with a fair bit of chases and action on the way. M takes a very prominent role in this one and James Bond's character, including his flaws and background, are explored much more deeply than ever before.
But is this what we really want from a James Bond film?
The key issue for me as a long time Bond fan is his style, the formula of Bond. Up until Die Another Day (included) the Bond films had a very uniform style of lighthearted escapism with all the little tweaks that make Bond Bond included. However once Daniel Craig took off with Casino Royale (and what continues into Skyfall) is a Jason Bourne/Mission Impossible style relatively generic action-thriller with some Bond elements thrown in. Bond had a formula that worked very well, there was nothing wrong with it. It is supposed to be a little lighthearted, a little shallow, chauvinistic, stylish escapist entertainment. You went to see a Bond film because it was fun, it was so detached from everyday life and every guy wanted to be like Bond. Now however they have gone down the route of making a very "dark" Bond film, here a lot of attention is on the characters and their problems and and the plot line which has usually been of Bond trying to save the world in some way is utterly secondary in Skyfall. However I as a true Bond fan want to see him in a plot driven save-the-world type of mission, I am not interested in a dark character drama that is close to being indistinguishable from any generic thriller.
That is the biggest flaw of this film: it is ignoring a formula that works so well and instead tries to be something new....but that new is just copying Jason Bourne and other similar films. Skyfall, as it is released 50 years after the first Bond film, is rich in references to the older films which are a delight for a Bond fan to watch out for but they really are more a depressing reminder of "the good old days" and stand as a stark contrast to the cold empty shell that Bond has become today. Particularly the female element, such a key aspect of all previous Bond films, is very toned down and it seems that M is more the Bond girl in this film than any other girl.
However to finish on a high note, the film had a very nice ending from the standpoint of a Bond fan, a hint of things to come which seem to be going back closer to what Bond used to be and should always be.
The film itself isn't bad, its a very interesting thriller. Its only that it isn't very strong as a Bond film but from the way things were heading in Skyfall, it seems that the next Bond film should be a bit closer to what Bond should be.
The Black Hole (1979)
Very interesting sci-fi thriller
The Black Hole
A deep space exploration mission (4 men, 1 woman and a helper robot) stumbles upon a long lost spaceship parked next to a black hole. On board they find the solitary eccentric yet brilliant captain Dr. Reinhart with his army of helper robots who is on the verge of a revolutionary discovery regarding black holes. However as the explorers come to discover, there is something a bit off about what is going on aboard this re-discovered ship.
Although this is a Disney film, do not let that fool you. Though there are some light-hearted moments of comic relief, this is overall a very dark and spooky space thriller. There is a sense of mystery as clues to what is going on are revealed one by one and this keeps you at the edge of your seat.
The real stars of this film are the visuals. Made at a hefty cost of 20 million $ it was one of the most expensive films of its time and fortunately that money was well spent. The special effects are excellent (even by today's standards) and the sets are grand and well built. The film is a real feast for the eyes. This is all supported by a score from James Bond composer John Barry who's tunes, often reminiscent of 007, make a great addition to the film.
Overall pretty interesting story and great visuals.
The Last Voyage (1960)
Very good maritime disaster film
I must say this is one of the best maritime disaster films I've seen.
The film is about an aging cruise ship on an ocean voyage. A fire in her engine room sets in motion a disastrous series of events that puts the ship in ever increasing danger of sinking. The officers and crew do their best to keep the ship afloat while a desperate husband tries to rescue his wife who's been trapped in her cabin before the ship goes down.
The film is a story of people acting under pressure and about how people go out of their way to help others who they've never met before. What I liked about The Last Voyage was that it was quite a realistic film with minimal melodrama, tension that just kept on building until it just glued me to the screen and a good selection of characters.
One of the film's biggest assets was the fact that an actual ship was rented for use in this film and partially sunk. All the sets are actually on a real ship and this greatly added to the realism, something that even the best soundstages, CGI and miniatures can't beat.
A good watch.
It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)
When I read the plot outline I felt that this was going to be another cheesy B monster flick but I was wrong, this film wasn't bad at all.
The premise starts with a US navy submarine coming into contact with an unknown creature during a routine patrol. A couple of scientists are brought in to help find out what they're dealing with and ultimately how to destroy it.
What I like about the film is that the plot is quite methodological, it shows the steps that the navy and scientists take in identifying, locating and in trying to fight the undersea creature. Everything is given a "scientific" explanation and unlike what you'd expect to see in a modern film of a similar topic, there's nobody championing peace or trying to "understand" this creature. Everybody is on the same side and that is the side of blowing this thing up.
It seems that the makers got quite a bit of help from the navy as there's plenty of footage of real navy ships and this really added to the film. Of course the centerpiece is the create created by Ray Harryhausen and various other special effects. Though by today's standards some of the effects can be considered a bit flimsy, this doesn't take away much from the film and it is overall a fun 80 minutes of monster fantasy.
Bombers B-52 (1957)
Pretty decent Air Force drama
I didn't really know what to expect when I started watching this but I am glad I made the decision to do that.
Karl Maiden plays an experienced Air Force crew chief who's job it is to keep the planes flying. He has spent some 20 years in the air force when he gets an offer to work for a company for multiple times his current salary. His late teens/early 20s daughter is very vocal about him taking up this offer and his wife is leaning towards that as well. So he decides to put in his resignation papers with the Air Force but they take some time to go through.
At the same time major changes are taking place on the base he is stationed at. An old acquaintance, a man who Maiden's character is not too fond of due to past events, becomes a senior officer at this base and the unit is chosen to become the first one in the US Air Force to take delivery of the new B-52 bombers which they must now get to know. Everybody wishes for him to stay and help out with the new planes and he decides to do that until his resignation papers are processed. During this time, quite a few things happen, both in his personal/family life as well as some adventures with the new planes.
What I liked about this film is that the drama isn't forced or too overbearing. It is more down to earth, if even to say realistic and something one can relate to. Another huge bonus is that the film had the full cooperation of the Air Force so there are no miniatures or painted backdrops. All the planes are real (quite surprising that they'd feature America's latest achievement in aerial weaponry in a film as much as this) and the sets are actual air bases. Its a pleasure to watch all this big hardware moving around.
If you like films about the air force with a bit of personal drama thrown in, this is quite good.
The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989)
A lesser known Vietnam film
The Siege of Firebase Gloria is not a very well known Vietnam war film. In fact it hardly gets a mention at all and is overshadowed by films such as Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and others.
The premise is as follows: a Marine patrol led by sergeant Hafner (the great R. Lee Ermey) ends up in a remote US Army outpost deep in the jungles of Vietnam right at the start of the Tet offensive. Hafner takes command and must fend off waves of attacks by the Vietcong and NVA.
The story is quite interesting of how these men, outnumbered and almost forsaken must defend themselves against all odds. Although Ermey's role isn't too big (the film focuses on a few key soldiers), he is great in every frame he is in. Having been an actual Marine, he reprises his role as a tough commander with a witty tongue. The film in general find a nice balance between the main story while at the same time showing how war takes its toll on men. Interestingly enough the North Vietnamese commanders are also portrayed and fortunately not as cartoonish enemies but competent leaders.
The production values are quite good, there are lots of real helicopters, the sets and location are grand and well built and the action scenes quite vast in their scale.
However the film doesn't reach the levels achieved by Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket. Despite that, its still worth a watch.
Action in the North Atlantic (1943)
Action in the North Atlantic
Action in the North Atlantic is an interesting film about the US merchant marine during World War II.
It chronicles the adventures of a Liberty cargo ship delivering war supplies from the US to Murmansk in the Soviet Union while evading German U-boats. Humphrey Bogart plays the second in command on the ship, the rest of the cast is made up mainly of a few fellow officers and the crew who are there for some comic relief.
The production values are pretty decent with some good model work and a full size mock up of a Liberty ship as the backdrop. The tension is constant as the men face an uncertain fate on their journey across the ocean.
Given this was made in 1943, the film is packed full of patriotism and propaganda but it is simply a product of its times. An interesting watch.
Up Periscope (1959)
One of the best WWII naval films
This film is a hidden gem. When one talks of WWII submarine films, movies such as Das Boot and Run Silent Run Deep come up but Up Periscope rarely gets a mention.
The plot, to sum it up, is about a US navy submarine in the early days of the war with Japan. It has been given a task to deliver a commando (James Garner) to a remote Japanese outpost in the Pacific to do some reconnaissance work. Along the way many perils face both him and the boat.
Its a great film because it doesn't get too dramatic and the subplots are there in just the right amount, not overpowering the main story. The captain of the ship is a good yet slightly flawed man and the characters in general aren't one dimensional. The tension is genuine and the film keeps you at the edge of your seat. Visuals are great too, thanks to the cooperation of the Navy and some very well done miniature scenes.
If you like war films, navy films, WWII films or just a good thriller, watch this.
The Big Red One (1980)
Just didn't do it for me
Perhaps I am an exception but this film really did nothing for me.
The premise is simple: the experiences of a US infantry squad led by Lee Marvin fighting in Europe and North Africa during WW II. It was supposed to be about the experiences of the men who fought but I didn't feel the film delivered that: none of the characters were really explored or given much depth, even the great Lee Marvin seemed distant and cold. There isn't too much dialogue, in fact there isn't too much of anything in this film. Its just there but it doesn't really give you much, it just leaves you cold. The plot is occasionally just plain weird and confusing, not the good kind of quirky type of weird but just strange for no apparent reason and with no charm to it.
The action scenes are average, nothing special but enough for their purpose. What annoyed me was that so many different locations were so obviously filmed in the same sandy country (Israel) and it just didn't come off as very convincing. I didn't believe that what I was being shown was really the place it was supposed to be. Its also a quiet film, with very minimal music which in itself isn't bad but just gave the whole thing a somewhat sleepy atmosphere. I wouldn't go so far as to say the film was boring, it wasn't but it just wasn't that attention grabbing either.
Its a film that is there but it did absolutely nothing for me. Others however might enjoy it.
Dead End (2003)
A surprising find
Dead end is not a very well known film which is why I stumbled upon it by accident.
The plot is simple: a family made up of both teens and mature people is driving to a Christmas party. The father decides to take a shortcut through the woods which turns out to be a big mistake.
At first it might seem that this is another one of those "hillbillies killing city people in the woods" type films but that really is not what this is. There is a lot more mystery and atmosphere in this one and there is no clear enemy. Anyway as they progress along this strange road through the forest, things quickly start going wrong. There is no lengthy build-up to things, instead the film gets to the point right away and keeps the viewer engaged all the way to the end.
Although it is a bloody film, the gore effects are used in moderation here. A lot of the worst gore is actually kept out of frame but that doesn't lower the quality of the film one bit. The biggest scare factor in my opinion was however the atmosphere and I haven't been scared by a film like this for some time.
Not the greatest piece of cinema out there but an enjoyable 80 minutes.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Bond is back but the 007 is weak in this one
James Bond returns wearing camouflage, and perhaps a little too much of it.
The story continues from where Casino Royale left off. Bond is out to get revenge on those who brought about the death of love. At the same time he uncovers a secret organization and its sinister plans and all of these things are tied together.
Unlike previous films, this one heavily emphasizes Bond as a person, his feelings and emotions. No longer is he a word traveling, womanizing superhero but someone more down to earth, someone who feels. Although this is good from certain point of view, giving the character a bit more depth and making him somewhat more realistic, it isn't quite the classic Bond we have grown to love and admire over the years. Bond has also seemingly misplaced his sense of humor. Where did it go? Unlike most of the previous films, Bond's mission in this one isn't as clear as it used to be. There is no concrete checklist of things he has to accomplish. Instead things are much more vague and ambiguous. The opening scene, although nicely reminiscent of The Living Daylights at times, seems to come completely out of the blue giving little explanation as to why those things are going on. The classic "bad guy's scheme" is very classic-Bond and an extremely interesting one, combining modern issues with the best of what makes Bond what he is. Yet this detail seems to be underplayed and very little attention is given to it. It is treated as if it were little more than some minor side element.
On the technical side, the influence of films like the Bourne series is strong. Which isn't surprising because the two series now share the same second unit director (the guy who shoots the action scenes). The camera has been brought much closer to the action, a lot more use is made of hand-held or just generally shaky cameras and the editing is something out of a Jerry Bruckheimer production. Luckily on this film this style isn't as over the top annoying as it is in the Bourne ones but yet again, this is not representative of the Bond films I grew to love over the years. Same goes for the music- it is an excellent soundtrack, some really nice tunes in there, but it just isn't Bond. In fact the classic full orchestra Bond theme can't even be heard once during the entire film. All of these things by themselves aren't bad at all but the series has just gotten a little too far from its roots.
A good film definitely but it just doesn't feel quite what a Bond film should feel like.
The Rogues' Tavern (1936)
The Rogues Tavern
A nice film for a dark and stormy night. If of course you are willing to squeeze and eye or two shut regarding some shortcomings.
The premises is simple- a young couple about to get married arrive at an isolated hotel. There they find various other people who for some reason or another have also gotten there just recently. One by one however people start getting killed and an almost wed detective takes up the case to solve the mystery before he too becomes a victim.
This is a classic mystery well suited for a dark and stormy evening or another similar occasion. There is mystery, there is horror and there are thrills and the concept of the film is excellent. However it is the dated execution that hinders this film from reaching the heights it could have reached. The acting is quite wooden and things that are supposed to be said secretly and discreetly are presented loud and with excellent articulation as if in a theater. The plot could have been a little better developed and have played more on the "whodunit" angle.
However if you are willing to overlook these shortcomings, then this is still a rather enjoyable film.
État de siège (1972)
Costa Gavras does it again
In what could be considered a follow up to his classic Z, Costa Gavras yet again tackles the political thriller genre with great mastery.
In Uruguay, an American with a somewhat vague and mysterious background but who is held in high esteem by the ruling powers is kidnapped. The kidnappers start interrogating him and through this backdrop, we are introduced to the struggles between leftist rebels and a right wing government in the Latin American country.
As I said before, the film is very similar to one of director Gavras's earlier efforts, Z. Like that film, this too depicts the struggle between two powers, one represented by a US-backed right wing government, the other a slightly leftist liberal resistance movement. Although the government is shown in a bad light here, neither side is overly demonized or depicted heroically. Instead, both have their motives which are ultimately quite noble so the viewer can identify with both. It is this tendency to show both sides of the story that makes Gavras a great storyteller and why both this and Z succeed so well.
Like in Z, Gavras likes to keep the camera at a distance giving us a good overview of events like for example riots in the street and how the police deal with them. The film also keeps away from unnecessary subplots and instead focuses on the story, just the way I like it. Music is used minimally and when it is used, it is effective, instead of having a constant background jingle.
If you liked Z, you will like this and if you like this, you will like Z. Or if you just like a good intelligent political thriller, this is the film for you.
Modern day Hitchcock
Vertigo meets the 21st century.
In what is essentially a remake of Hitchcock's classic, a high school teenager (Shia LeBeouf) is sentenced to house arrest and has a tracking device placed on him, thereby making him unable to leave his home. After a while he starts spying on his neighbors, most notably a pretty young girl who moved in next door. But all is not well in suburbia as one of the neighbors is up to some pretty strange things. With the help of a classmate and his new found love interest, LeBeouf sets off to discover what is really going on.
As I have mentioned before, this is Vertigo in the 21st century- a man unable to leave his house thinks one of his neighbors is a murderer and then with the help of his friends, starts playing detective. Although casting someone like LeBeouf in the lead and including the whole teenage angle might make this seem like another run on the mill teen slasher, this is not it. The youth element is treated very effectively in the sense that it is there but it is not overplayed and is in fact kept to a relative minimum. There is some humor but the main focus is instead on the story and this is where the film's strength lies.
LeBeouf, despite his youth, is an excellent actor and I look forward to seeing him in more films. He manages to find that excellent balance between providing some comedic relief while at the same time still staying serious. DJ Caruso does a pretty good job of directing this film. There is of course quite a bit of modern style camera shaking and fast cutting (when compared to Hitchcock's version) but fortunately this too is kept in check and isn't overdone like it is in so many other films.
A nice film to keep you thrilled for an evening.
Le trou (1960)
This is what an escape film should be like
This is an excellent example of what a prison escape film (and it can be applied to almost any genre) should be like.
The plot is simple- a sympathetic young man is moved around to a new cell within a prison due to repair works. There he meets four men who after getting to know and trust him, introduce him to their plan- escape.
What I like most about this film is that there is no "bs". Instead, everything is very down to earth and always relating to the escape. There are no useless and annoying subplots, there is no dramatization (no music in the entire film), the characters don't get unrealistically emotional and instead everybody works rationally towards a common goal. The details of the escape are shown in full with no details of it being left on the editing room floor. Being able to see every detail of the escape made the film very realistic in my opinion and thereby a pleasure to watch.
This film is about a prison escape, not drama or emotions. If only more films were like this.
One of the best political thrillers
This has got to be one of the best political thrillers ever, a true gem worthy of recommendation.
The plot revolves around the somewhat unplanned killing of a slightly left wing anti-war party head at a political rally by thugs. Some say it was just an accident, others are convinced that it was a wide reaching conspiracy set in place to remove a person uncomfortable for the ruling regime. The film follows the investigation and the unraveling of the events that led up to this event.
What I really like about this film is the realism and relative neutrality. Unlike so many Hollywood films, this does not depict either side as overly heroic or evil or in fact over dramatize everything. Things are shown from an observational standpoint, rather than an emotional one. Even though it is evident which side the filmmakers are on, I really liked how the motives for the other side were explained as well and not in a slapdash manner but quite honestly. The plot line is not something as far fetched as something from most Hollywood films but very down to earth and realistic.
The actors do their jobs well, playing their parts realistically and what I like most- not overacting or over dramatizing their roles. The film follows several joined plot lines and thereby there are quite a few characters to follow.
Costa Gavras's direction is very good. I like how he keeps the camera at a distance, allowing you to see the whole thing and get a good overview of the events that are happening (instead of trying to make it "realistic" and "shocking" by shaking the camera). The musical score by Mikis Theodorakis is very nice and quite subtle, instead of going for the full-orchestra approach. It doesn't show up too often but when its there, it serves its purpose well.
An overall great film, really worth watching.
The Intruder (1962)
An overlooked gem
I don't know how I stumbled upon this film but I'm sure glad I did.
It talks about a young man, a missionary of sorts, who comes to a small Souther Town representing what is basically a racist organization. He and most of the townspeople are against the desegregation of schools.
The film is an excellent portrayal of racism in the South, showing how people felt. It has an extremely realistic feel to it, sometimes an almost documentary feel.
The most surprising thing is that this was directed by the king of low budget horror, Roger Corman. However if you look at this film, it will remind you nothing of his previous work, but instead shows a more serious side of him.
A hidden gem, see it.
Battle of Britain (1969)
They don't make em' like this anymore
I'm amazed at how this film has been ignored when war film classics are mentioned. It stands in the same league as The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far and Saving Private Ryan.
The film focuses on the battles between the RAF and the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War when Germany was preparing for an invasion of the British Isles. There is a wide array of characters (among them Michael Caine for example and Edward Fox who would go on to play in The Day of the Jackal), most of them British. The film occasionally also depicts the German side and I'm glad to see that they weren't shown as an evil bunch but simply as the opposing side. There is no real storyline to follow but instead the whole Battle of Britain is summed up in a little over 2 hours.
What I liked the most were the the effects or rather the fact that so much was done for real. With CGI you can do some really sleek camera swooshes between the planes in battle but nothing can match doing it for real. As one can read from the IMDb trivia section, the filmmakers went to great lengths to get as many authentic planes as possible and it really adds a lot to the film. Another thing that added a lot was the grandness of the sets. There were several scenes of attacks on British airfields and you could really see how the sets were humongous and not just miniatures. Its too bad this type of film-making is becoming more and more a thing of the past.
Director Guy Hamilton who has directed several Bond films, does a terrific job of depicting the entire ordeal and has filmed some of the best aerial battle scenes ever. He keeps the film realistic and the melodrama at a minimum.
Excellent film, a must see for war film buffs or if you're just interested.
The Day of the Jackal (1973)
Now this is what a thriller should be like
The Jackal (Edward Fox) is a professional hit-man who has been hired by a French terrorists/resistance (depending on your point of view) group to kill Charles De Gaulle. For a tidy sum of money The Jackal accepts the job.
This film has all the elements of what a good thriller should be like. The film is tense and the tension never goes away but that doesn't mean that things are rushed. I wouldn't call the film heart pounding but it certainly does hold your attention. The characters don't make any stupid or illogical decisions but everybody (both the Jackal and the police who are trying to get him) act professionally with every move having been calculated beforehand. We see how the killer prepares for his job, the intricate technical details of what go into such a thing. A very interesting thing to see instead of simply rushing past those things to focus mainly on action scenes.
Edward Fox makes for a great Jackal. He is a focused professional who always knows what he is doing. The French police somehow find out that an attempt will be made on De Gaulle's life so they begin a desperate search for the culprit.
Director Fred Zimmerman is the man who brings all these elements together and weaves them into a solid film that holds up to this day. This film is far superior to the 1997 remake with Bruce Willis.
Recommended if you want a good escapist thriller with which to escape from the world for a few hours.
First Blood (1982)
John Rambo is a Vietnam war veteran (a former Green Beret) who arrives at a small picturesque mountain town to find an old friend but then gets into trouble with the local sheriff's department. The situation escalates and Rambo escapes into the nearby wilderness to start a one man war against them.
Although many people may think of Rambo as some guy who walks around with a machine gun and blasting away everything in sight, this film is certainly not that. It is a tale of a mentally unstable man pushed to the limits and unfortunately for his enemies, killing is what he does best. What is great about the conflict between Rambo and the police is that you can't really point a finger at someone who you can easily blame. Both helped escalate the situation into what it turned into and the film isn't a black and white good versus bad story but both sides have their reasons for doing what they do. Its also a very realistic film with no over dramatization and it is also very brutal.
The film, directed by Ted Koetscheff is quite well directed. Good use is made of the beautiful scenery. The action isn't over the top but very in your face and brutal. Fortunately this was the time before the 'shake the camera and use very fast cuts' style of film-making came into widespread use so you can actually see what is going on. And of course, there is an excellent soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith.
An good film. 8/10
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
The fourth part of the Die Hard franchise brings up mixed feelings in a longtime fan. In short it can be summed up in the words that this is a pretty good action film but not a very good Die Hard film.
The plot revolves around a group of terrorists (or whatever you want to call them) taking down the computer infrastructure of the United States. A well chosen plot line, considering how much is run by computers these days. The attack starts off small but grows exponentially in its destructive power as the story flows along. Its a good premise but I don't think it was executed to the maximum of its potential. The sense of danger and Armageddon that such a thing would cause isn't reflected too much in the film. This would have added a lot to the film and from Die Hard 3, one can see that a strong plot and storyline carry a film very well.
All the classic Die Hard characters are there but it isn't McClane who stands out the most. Justin Long plays a hacker who by coincidence happens to be with McClane when the attack happens and he stands out. His witty lines even rival those of the main character himself and overall it is a joy to see him on screen. McClane however is only a shadow of his former self which we saw in the first three films. The PG-13 rating (instead of an R like the first three) has really watered down McClane's vocabulary and if you're a fan of the franchise, you'll know exactly what I mean. He does have some occasional witty dialog but nothing like what it was in the first three. It seems like its just thrown in there to make this film more of a Die Hard film but unfortunately it doesn't work well. Bruce Willis doesn't feel like McClane at all anymore. The villain, played by Timothy Olyphant is exceptionally weak. The Gruber brothers are on a whole different level and even the somewhat lackluster main bad guy of part 2 towers over this guy. He doesn't come off as menacing or threatening at all. He is given some witty dialog but it just falls flat. The police chief, the guy who helps McClane all the time, is rather forgettable, something I can't say for the guys who played the corresponding character in the first three films.
The film is directed by Len Wiseman of Underworld fame. He also has a background in TV commercial and music video production and it really shows here. Heavy color correction with the addition of heavy blue hues and the dimming out of colors gives the film a somewhat alienating look while as the first three kept things simple and thereby made you feel as if you were there. The camera-work, accompanied by the editing, is the usual quick cut, constantly move the camera type that has become so common these days. Not that it looks bad- its quite sleek looking actually, but its simply not Die Hard. Due to this and the slightly overly fast pacing, the film never manages to make good use of the surrounding settings, a very key part to the first three films. The pacing is like in too many modern films- things for some reason need to happen fast and be rushed.
The action is OK I suppose. Although the previous films also had some pretty over the top stuff, this film takes it even further, all the way to the point where it just isn't that fun anymore since too much suspension of disbelief is required. But aside from that, I found the action quite enjoyable. The special effects were of course top notch and I was glad to see that many things were done for real and not just via CGI. And the score, by Marco Beltrami, was also excellent with some great tunes very fitting for an old school action film.
Overall, not a bad action film but it pales in comparison to the first three.