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The Final Countdown

Posted by James Hartigan on October 19, 2012 at 10:25AM

Only seven days to go until the 23rd official James Bond movie opens at the Odeon Leicester Square…

And I’ve got my tickets booked.  Words cannot begin to describe how excited I am about the release of ‘Skyfall’.  Not just because of the awesome trailer, but because I’m a ridiculously huge 007 fan.  If you think I’m a geek when I talk about cinema, you should hear me wax lyrical about Bond!

If I were a contestant on ‘Mastermind’, the James Bond film franchise would be my specialist subject.  In fact, I can identify every movie in the series from the gun barrel logo alone (for the uninitiated, Monty Norman’s famous theme receives a different arrangement in each opening sequence).  Personally, I think Sky Movies 007 (a new channel showing back-to-back Bond films) is the best thing to happen to television since colour transmissions began in the late 1960s.

I recently purchased the ‘Bond 50’ box set, and am currently mid-way through a Blu-ray Bond-a-thon.  I haven’t watched any of 007’s cinematic adventures, other than ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Quantum of Solace’, since the summer of 2006, so it’s actually nice to relive the highs (‘From Russia with Love’, ‘Goldfinger’) and lows (‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, ‘Moonraker’) of the series.

More Blu-ray reviews later.  But, as far as cinema releases are concerned, the film that’s impressed me the most in recent months is Rian Johnson’s ‘Looper’.  It’s a wonderful cross-genre piece: a time-travel thriller, combining elements of sci-fi, western and film noir.  I never warmed to Johnson’s (much-revered) breakthrough movie ‘Brick’.  But ‘Looper’ is an engaging, cleverly written and structured story, nicely performed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt.  I also appreciated the (unexpected) positive tone of the movie’s conclusion.

With several critics pointing out the obvious comparisons with ‘Twelve Monkeys’, another time-travel drama starring Bruce Willis, I decided to revisit this movie on DVD (it’s still brilliant), which then inspired me to watch another Terry Gilliam sci-fi work, ‘Brazil’.  In my opinion, this dystopian satire is Gilliam’s masterpiece.  It’s a film deserving of re-appraisal, and probably ranks amongst the best movies of the 1980s.  The Criterion Collection will release a special edition of ‘Brazil’ on Blu-ray in the US in December.  This is a must-buy disc for anyone who owns a Zone A Blu-ray player.

On the subject of dystopia, I finally got round to watching ‘The Hunger Games’, which I thought was excellent.  But I’m shocked the film’s based on a work of teen fiction, as the story is incredibly dark.  The idea of children killing each other in a gladiatorial area doesn’t sit comfortably with me.  It’s a cross between ‘1984’, ‘The Running Man’ and ‘Battle Royale’, but is raised above the level of “average derivative blockbuster” by its young star, Jennifer Lawrence.

So, what else have I watched on disc in the last few weeks?  I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Raid’, an intense action flick with scenes of extreme, brilliantly choreographed violence.  The plot is so simple it’s practically non-existent, and certainly not important.  This is a “switch brain to neutral” visual spectacular.

Several classics have received high-def releases in the last couple of months.  ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is probably the best musical, and one of the ten best Hollywood films of all time.  It looks and sounds beautiful on Blu-ray.

‘Jaws’ received a full digital restoration, and limited cinema re-release to accompany its debut on the Blu-ray format.  I was depressed to watch a short video about the restoration on YouTube.  This film is the same age as me, but the negative was in a shocking state of decay.  Luckily, a dedicated team of technical geniuses worked their magic.  ‘Jaws’ now looks and sounds better than ever before, and I still think it’s Steven Spielberg’s best work.

Final word: I’m recommending a movie every day on Twitter, through to the end of 2012.  Follow @J_Hartigan for the last few #JHfilm selections.  Next month, in addition to my full-length review of ‘Skyfall’, I will re-cap films 201-300.


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