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Yeh, I definitely think you'll like it a lot. You should ask me to share my detailed opinions more often
I definitely should. Your review topic is way too empty for your writing skills and your always interesting opinions on films.
Cobpyth's Movie Log ~ 2019

I definitely should. Your review topic is way too empty for your writing skills and your always interesting opinions on films.
Thanks, I'm too busy watching films to actually write about them! I might try and do more this year actually, maybe review a few of the Oscar contenders and then whatever new releases I see this year.

Dr. No

Terence Young, 1962

I grew up watching the James Bond series, so whenever I get the chance to revisit one of the ‘classics’, it is very rare that I will pass up the opportunity. So when ITV Movies announced a classic James Bond season, starting from the very beginning with Dr. No, it was a very welcome opportunity to revisit a film that I had not watched properly in a long while.

Nowadays each new James Bond film seems to be trying to outdo the last in terms of extravagance, slick cinematography, elaborate set pieces and an array of modern gadgets are what we have come to expect from the series, but part of the beauty of the film that started it all is the simplicity of it. The plot is as simple as you like, when a British agent goes missing in Jamaica; James Bond looks to seek answers by travelling to Crab Key Island, the home of the mysterious Dr. No.

Whilst I have always enjoyed Roger Moore a lot more than some Bond fans, I think there is no denying that Sean Connery is James Bond. He introduces the confident and charming spy that we now know so well. Then there is the supporting cast with beautiful Ursula Andress as the first (and one of the best) ever Bond girl, and Joseph Wiseman as the ruthless villain.

The simple spy tale unfolds in a suspenseful manner, with much of the film slowly building up to Bond’s eventual arrival on Crab Key Island. Once there, we get the trademark action scenes, complete with futuristic sets that help evoke the Cold War, a similar theme throughout early Bond films as he tackles deadly world organisations.

Whilst I do not believe that Dr No is the greatest Bond, with the two great films that followed arguably more suited for that title, it is an undoubtedly very good film with everything you love about ‘classic Bond’, just a little bit lacking in ambition - understandable with it being the first entry of the now franchise.

Whilst I find myself enjoying Daniel Craig as the new face of Bond, I know a lot of people who complain about the spirit of the franchise being lost with the modern evolution of the series, and film itself. And watching this film again, it is clear that half a century has resulted in significant changes to the style of film and character of Bond himself, for better or worse? That will depend on what you are looking for.


You already know that I'm a great admirer of old Bond films. Well, Dr. No is my second favorite of them all (behind Goldfinger).

I'm very critical of the new films, because indeed, they seem to have forgotten the true spirit of the Bond series. To me, Bond was always about style and much less about action and fast paced plot developments. What I enjoyed so much about Connery's films were Bond's stylish mannerisms and his delightful alpha male behaviors! Today, they've practically reduced him to a full blood action hero with merely a few sparks of who Bond truly used to be and what he truly used to mean as a character.

I don't want action setpiece after action setpiece. They don't make me respect Bond's character, because they're mostly way too unrealistic and therefore don't have any true effect on me. In my opinion, you don't create a badass character by just making him do all sorts of incredible stunts (you can do a few of them of course, but it can't be the focus of the film) or unbelievable stuff. No, you have to make him do small, clever stuff.

One of my favorite scenes from Dr. No for instance:

We just see Connery setting up a simple trap for his enemy. He wins our respect because he does it in such a slick, casual and cool manner. The way he outsmarts one of the villains of the film with that classic line is just PERFECT. For me, this is 10 times more effective than that Home Alone-style scene from Skyfall (which was still an OK modern Bond film, by the way).

I don't want James Bond to be overcooked. He just needs to be a smart, cool, witty and womanizing detective for MI6. I want less overblown action scenes, less over the top plot turns and more stylishness and atmosphere in much more down-to-earth Bond movies (like in the old days)! I have no problem with it going over the top at the end (like in Dr. No or Goldfinder) and I don't mind a few action climaxes, but it's more important that the film contains the spirit of the original Bond character.

I'm also not a great fan of Craig as Bond, by the way. I don't think he's fit for the role. Connery will probably never be matched, but they should aim for someone like him.
The modern audiences seem to like Craig, though, so it seems like he'll at least do one more film...

I like Craig in his role, but I agree that he's not really 'Bond' in the same way as Connery. If it was a seperate Spy film/series, I think he'd be great, and he definitely is when you don't compare them to the old ones. If they existed on their own I would very much enjoy them, I'm a big fan of Casino Royale and Skyfall. I would like to see them cast an old fashioned 'gentleman', but there is not really many of them around these days, if I had a time machine I'd cast a young Cary Grant is Bond.

The only modern actor who really has the look, off the top of my head, is perhaps Jon Hamm, and even he isn't perfect. I've always said I'd love for them to do another film with Jaws and have Michael Shannon play the character, he'd be perfect

Another British 'classic'.

Brighton Rock

John Boulting, 1947

The film opens with onscreen text that gives us our setting for the film, the British seaside town of Brighton, and sets the tone of what to come, letting us know that it will be focusing on the dark side of the British criminal world that lies beneath the sunny little town. This is followed by a snippet from the newspaper; a local criminal boss has died.

This important piece of information sets in motion the events that change the film. The film takes place at a time of changing landscape of the criminal world, with a seventeen year old assuming leadership and finding him up against a much older, better organised ‘businessman’ operating from a luxury hotel. And whilst in a way it the events are very important the film is not purely focused on the change and the repercussions on the gang in the long run, instead looking at small snippet in time, on the character of Pinkie, the seventeen year old portrayed by Richard Attenborough. At a time when his mob is struggling to deal with the changing landscape, he finds himself having to clean up all sorts of mess.

The film is littered with all sorts of different sub plots; each character could have a story of their own. There is Fred, a newspaper reporter who is killed early on as part of the mob’s revenge for the death of their leader. There is Spicer, an old mob veteran who is struggling to keep up with the younger generation and is tossed aside despite his loyalty. There is Rose, a young naïve girl who believes she is truly in love with Pinkie and will do anything for him. And then there is Ida, a strong willed woman who is persistent in finding out the truth. All these pose different problems for Pinkie, who will stop at nothing to protect himself, he states he is religious yet uses underage marriage to protect himself, with a girl he does not truly love.

The direction and cinematography makes full use of the British town to make the more dramatic films effective. The peer scenes fantastically juxtapose the fun rides with the impending death of a character, thanks to some great editing, and then the chase scenes throughout the streets are truly filled with great suspense.

There is a feeling of impending doom for the main character throughout the whole film, who only seems to keep digging a bigger hole for himself. He can run, but he can’t hide. Many of the film’s scenes, including the finale evoke Orson Welles and in particular The Lady From Shanghai, with fantastic use of lighting and angles to heighten the tension.

The film is not perfect. Everything is centered around the menacing and amoral Pinkie, helped by a perfect performance from Richard Attenborough. Whilst there are other enjoyable elements, most of them mainly serve to help us study him as a character. Carol Marsh’s character is a great example of this, she does the job, and is vital in understanding Pinkie, but as a character herself she is a little rushed and underdeveloped. The last scene with her though is particularly brilliant, a great slice of dark comedy that leaves a strange smile on your face as the credits roll.


Lethal Weapon 3

Richard Donner, 1992

I had seen the original Lethal Weapon, but not the second film, although it looks like I missed absolutely nothing. I give the first film three out of five, and at the time I would consider that pretty generous. It is by no means great, but I was willing to forgive some of the film’s weaker points and sit back and enjoy the ‘cheesy fun’. Now, having watched this film, I would consider my rating for the first film even more generous. This is basically a complete rehash of the original, but far more laughable in its execution.

Going through what is wrong with the film won’t take long. First although there is the plot, the story is simple yet it feels like it takes an hour and a half for anything to really happen. Then there is the main characters, Danny Glover’s overacting is far more noticeable here, with many cringe worthy scenes, complete with constant saxophone and in any ‘emotional’ scene he just shouts. Mel Gibson, whilst more consistent, is your typical alpha male ‘sex magnet’, his purpose in the film is to sleep with the only (developed?) female character. The writing is laughable; the dialogue is not really funny. The plot is riddled with coincidences and weird occurrences, why did that young cop join them for a few minutes before being shot dead? The scene with Mel Gibson and the dog seems like parody, and I find the re occurring joke with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover’s daughter to be a little odd.

The main villain is lacking in any personality and is extremely unmemorable. An ex cop gone rogue, how original. On the opposite side of the spectrum you have a memorable character in Joe Pesci, but for all the wrong reasons. Yes, he was in some great roles under Scorsese, but outside of his work with him, he seems to be easily available for any silly comedy role. His character offers nothing to the film apart from being really irritating and unfunny; he shows up every now and again to remind us of this, and each time I think we are supposed to laugh as Gibson and Glover attempt to get rid of him without offending him.

And now onto something that possibly irritated me the most. The action sequences. I have read and watched many different people discuss directing action scenes, the importance of camerawork in ensuring the action is coherent and easy to follow. I am normally pretty easy on film and will admit I do not normally notice many films with sequences hard to follow, but here they are almost unwatchable. The cuts do not make sense; it is just random shots one after another mashed together, until we eventually get to the end of the scene. This is particularly evident in the final shootout scene.

I know there are people who are big fans of the series as a whole, and there are people who simply find the films terrible, that they have not aged well. I did not lean either way really after watching the first film, but this is worse for me on every single level. In It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the characters make a spoof version of 'Lethal Weapon 5', it is hilariously bad, but at least it is supposed to be.


It's cool to see that you're writing reviews again.

A few months ago, I watched all four Lethal Weapon movies for the first time. I really enjoyed the first one, which I think is easily one of the best buddy-cop movies I've seen. The second installment was also pretty entertaining. However, I hated the third and fourth movies. I'd say Lethal Weapon 3 is the worst of the series.

Haven't seen 3. Recently saw Lethal Weapon 2 for the first time with Gunslinger in a commentary. Didn't really like it.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Matt Reeves, 2014

After Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a film that despite its flaws focussed steadily on the interactions between humans and apes, and slowly built up to an action set piece finale, I feared that the follow up may have sacrificed certain elements that made it work and opt for a two hour action filled ‘war’ epic between apes and humans. Fortunately, that is far from the case, and I was impressed how Dawn manages to build up the tension slowly but surely, it feels like at any moment – thanks to a couple of ‘hot headed’ character – it could explode.

The plot of the film is simple, a large group of human settlers has sent a small team of people to attempt to fix a dam in an attempt to restore much needed power, however this plan is jeopardised when in a moment of panic one of the team shoots and kills an ape, leading to an uncomfortable stand off between the two species, both are generally hesitant to go to war, with too much at stake for either side.

Then we get to the character of Koba, the reason the movie exists. You have probably heard a lot about him as a villain, or at least seen that infamous World Cup advert with him. He is your typical character for this type of film, you know at any moment he could ruin everything for his tribe, single minded due to his own bad experiences, he lacks the level headed rational of his leader, Caesar. However terrifying his character may be, and believe me he is, it is always frustrating to see such characters purely created for the plot to exist, and thanks to this the story is pretty straightforward and predictable. One could have hoped for a bit more ambition with the overall story.

The story allows for the sort of dilemmas you would expect to occur, to occur. The Planet of the Apes films have always focused on the dark side of humanity, human nature, whether species can work together and so on. This focus unsurprisingly provides the emotional centre point, and it works quite well, largely in part to strong human performances at the front of the film, paired with another great motion capture performance from Andy Serkis. Jason Clarke gives the best human performance as the face of reason for the humans. Alongside him we have Kirk Acevedo as the human equivalent to Koba, only there to cause problems, and then there is Gary Oldman who is exactly as you would expect him to be, overacting, screaming battle cries, but in such a film it is to be expected, and he is good at what he does.

The third act, whilst filled with impressive battle scenes, seemed a bit convoluted. I did not really understand the final scene with Oldman’s character, and the build up and confrontation with Koba seemed to take a while to happen. I must say that the film underwhelmed me slightly in an emotional sense, perhaps because of the focus on violence and predictable battle scenes. In the first one there are many touching moments, but I could not point to a certain moment in this film where I could say, “That is the part where you would start tearing up”.

As far as blockbusters go, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a triumph in terms of special effects, and for what it wants to achieve, it does so pretty well. The story works within itself, but does not really do much overall in terms of the series. The sets are well designed, with the home of the Apes particularly memorable, the film has little details that help us evoke the original Planet of the Apes, and I am interested in if they plan on doing a same-story-new-technology remake of the original. Whilst I was perhaps a little underwhelmed, there is no denying that as a blockbuster affair, the film is strong, and the majority of people will go away more than happy and getting what they hoped for.


Nice review of Dr. No. So far I've only seen the first three Bonds, but contrary to you I think Dr. No is the best of them. Just has so much style.
Yeah, there's no body mutilation in it

Total Recall

Paul Verhoeven, 1990

Previous to watching this film, Paul Verhoeven had been a hit and miss director for me. Whilst I enjoyed his futuristic crime sci-fi satire Robocop, I disliked the ridiculously shallow Basic Instinct, a film where we watch Michael Douglas sleep with Sharon Stone for a couple of hours.

Total Recall looked more like my cup of tea, and within the first quarter of an hour, I was hooked. I think the main strength was clear from the off; an intelligent story that makes full use of the futuristic sci-fi setting, exploring the possibilities of mind/memory control. What made Robocop so interesting is the way it uses the setting and story to take aim at modern society, and more important the large corporations that control it. Similar themes are evident here and are extremely relevant in today’s modern society, large companies, and monopolies deliberating regulating supply in order to gain money and power, with personal benefit put ahead of the needs of the people.

The story and its elements, whilst not entirely original, are executed perfectly. The film will evoke similar films from the genre in how it deals with memory and identity: Blade Runner, The Matrix and Dark City, but what is fresh is the more light hearted way in which it does so, staying true to its satirical comedic tone and action driven style throughout.

Whilst Arnold Schwarzenegger’s serious acting leaves a lot to be desired, I can have no complaints over his role in which he is perfectly cast, bringing a welcome amount of comedy to the film, as well as, of course, being the part for a number of action scenes. Straight from the off Verhoeven makes full use of the elaborate sets, they are big, blocky and matched with the effects can perhaps be described as cheesy, but they make for a whole lot of fun.

There are many great moments throughout the film, I was aware of the famous head mask removal scene and the woman with three boobs long before I had seen either properly. And there is a great array of supporting characters, all unpredictable and with their own motives that keep popping up to provide us with problems. I particularly enjoyed Sharon Stone here, where instead of being a one note sex object like Basic Instinct, proves to be an effective cunning villain, with her final scene providing possibly my favourite line of the film, along with "Get your ass to Mars."

Total Recall is a film I would recommend to everyone, it works on almost every level. Going in you know you are going to get entertaining violent sci-fi action, but it would be a disservice to the film to label it simply a guilty pleasure, it’s much more intelligent and well made. I thought I was going to enjoy it, but I think I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed the film.


I can't imagine anyone else delivering lines like "get your ass to mars" and "consider that divorce" and making me smile so much


Alan J. Pakula, 1971

A man goes missing and private eye John Klute (Donald Sutherland) is sent to investigate the only lead he has, a call girl named Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda) who was receiving strange letters from him. The plot makes the film comparable to many noirs, with an investigator falling into a world bigger than him as he is drawn in by a mysterious woman.

This film however is like no other noir, much more focussed as a character study and also a study of the dark underworld in which they are involved. Like our title character, we are drawn into this world slowly; with not much to go by he is soon shown the unsympathetic workings of the life of Bree. The film is moody and atmospheric. The first half at least, is comparable to some of the greatest slasher films ever made, we get a number of shots from point-of-view perspective of a creepy stalker, there is clever use of dim lights to illuminate near dark scenes – I find it interesting that Gordon Willis when working on The Godfather also justified the same decision as he wanted it to reflect the darkness of the world he was portraying and the same is evident here, and the sound is very relaxed adding to the eeriness.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere alone is not enough to make this a great film, and whilst it has other strengths, I felt it lacked a strong narrative to bring all the elements together in the third act. The film is comparable to Pakula’s other work All The President’s Men in some ways, both are about investigations and move along at a consistent methodical pace, but whilst one speeds up nicely to a great ending, the other seems to be repeating the same note until the very end. Whilst it is certainly a fascinating film, it feels like something that perhaps does not need an end, which when it comes is to abrupt given the slow burning creepiness that went before it.

Jane Fonda won an Oscar for her role, and she undoubtedly gives a great and intriguing performance. She is a complex character with serious emotional issues that are brought fully to surface when she meets John Klute. We hear her conversations with him, her clients, her pimp and her psychiatrist, all giving us glimpses into her life and her motives. She gets no pleasure from her job, but does it for security, both financial and from a personal perspective, convincing herself of her control. She is a truly damaged and tragic character, who Klute attempts to help and understand, and she does so herself attempting to become an actress, but ultimately she will always be trapped by her current lifestyle. Donald Sutherland is also good in the title role; he gives a quiet, understated performance that is very effective, only adding to my likeness for him as one of the great actors of the seventies era. Speaking of which, I was pleasantly surprised to see Roy Scheider appear as a pimp, whose character helps add to the grimy and cynical underworld Pakula depicts.

As mentioned, the mystery of the film takes a back seat to characters and plot, and its abrupt solution I feel was a little disappointing and perhaps prevents me from describing this film as a great one. But we are aware that this is just a slice of life for these two main characters whose own future paths in life remain ambiguous. I can certainly see the appeal of this film and recommend it to those who enjoy films that cynically explore the dark and grimy reality that is often hidden from broad daylight. All The President’s Men also does just this in a way, if you want a more focussed and entertaining/thrilling narrative, watch that, if you want a compelling character study with one of the most fascinating performances of all time, watch Klute.