Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Halloween Apocalypse: "Exit, Pursued By A Bear"

'What is it you're saving them from?' 'You don't know?' 'I've been busy.' 'The Flux.' 'What's The Flux?' 'A hurricane ripping through the structure of this universe disrupting every particle, the falling of the structure of the universe. A cataclysm of unknown proportions or patterns. We don't know for sure.' 'And when is this Flux supposed to happen?' 'It's already begun.'
'What was it he said? "The final few hours of planet Earth?" He doesn't get rid of us that easily!'
'Renewed at last.' 'What have you done?' 'I waited ... Your time is done, as mine has begun once more.'
'What's the matter with me? I'm not the one breaking into people's houses dressed as a dog.'
'Look at your little brain trying to work it all out. Embarrassing.'
'A quick check on my mind, I had a little ... glitch earlier!'
'Nothing ever changes. But then, you know that.'
'I must admit, Yaz, I can't help feeling some of this is my fault!'
'Why is this thought in my mind?' 'What thought?' 'Thank you.'
'What's the matter with Sheffield?' 'It's too near Leeds!'
'Also, one other thing is bugging me, a tiny detail. Why does Dan have such a flashy computer?' 'Because, it's not his!'
'Don't be throwin' eggs at my 'ouse!' Well dear blog reader, what do you know? This blogger actually thought that was great. Which is, in fact, far more unusual than even long-term From The North dear blog readers may have thought. Primarily because, this blogger had avoided all pre-series publicity and trailers and, as a consequence, knew not what to expect from The Halloween Apocalypse. Apart from the presence of large-toothed wacky Scouse funster John Bishop, obviously - we've all known that was happening since New Year's Day. So, anyway - as The Clash once asked, what do we have for entertainment? We have - and the list is not all-encompassing - Weeping Angels, Sontarans, Dog-Faced shooty-type individuals, Green-Skinned (and, now, very dead) aliens, the Cloister Bell, a spooky house, an ancient (but, entirely unknown to The Doctor) enemy, something up with the TARDIS doors and a properly outrageous, 'get out of that one' cliffhanger ... What's not to love?
'The end of the universe. I always wondered what it would feel like!' Doctor Who, dear blog reader. It never ceased to amaze this blogger.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

"His Words Are Bonds, His Oaths Are Oracles, His Love Sincere, His Thoughts Immaculate"

So, dear blog reader, as Keith Telly Topping mentioned in the last-but-one From The North bloggerisationisms update, Tuesday of this week had been pencilled-in for this blogger's second post-lockdown cinema visit, this time for to see No Time To Die. And, it being a horrible, miserable, rainy day notwithstanding that is, indeed, what occurred. Just thought you'd be interested.
Given that Diamonds Are Forever was the fourth movie that this blogger was ever taken to see as a both shaken-and-stirred eight year old and, two years later, Live & Let Die was the seventh, attending a new Bond flick a few days after its opening was hardly a significantly out-of-character step for this blogger to have taken. And, thus it was that - with his beast fiend and fellow life-long Bond devotee, Young Malcolm - this blogger attended a shortly-after-1pm screening (half-an-hour's worth of adverts and trailers being an unwanted necessity) of the twenty fifth film in the most successful movie franchise of all time at Newcastle's Cineworld multiplex in The Gate. Which was nice.
The short review, of course, is that this blogger thought it was great. Which, he trusts, is as little a surprise to you, dear blog reader, as it was/is to him. Especially given that the reviews - at least from most UK critics - have been, by and large, wildly positive and that the opening weekend's takings were astronomical; something to which this blogger has now contributed. A few, slightly more verbose, comments need to be made to go with 'Keith Telly Topping thought it was great,' however. (If you're wondering, Young Malcolm expressed the opinion that he thoroughly enjoyed it, too.) Firstly, the length: In common with just about every Bond movie since the mid-sixties, No Time To Die was overlong. At one hundred and sixty three minutes, a good half-an-hour too long. As has been the case with, again, just about every Bond movie in some considerable time, it could easily have done with losing twenty minutes or so, at least - this blogger even extends this observation to the shortest Bond movie in living memory, A Quantum Of Solace which, at one hundred and seven minutes, was still at least twenty minutes too long. Actually, in that particular case, it was about one hundred and seven minutes too long.) From The North favourite and Britain's finest film reviewer Mark Kermode has often commented in the past that any movie which is longer than one hundred and forty one minutes needs to work really hard to justify its existence. The reason being that one hundred and forty one minutes is the length of 2001: A Space Odyssey and, in that movie, Stanley Kubrick managed to go from The Dawn Of Civilisation to the birth of a new species. Thus, if you're spending more than two hours and twenty one minutes establishing your narrative, make sure you don't pad it to buggery. (Mark, incidentally, loved No Time To Die, with a few, minor, reservations and, so did his mate, Simon Mayo, as you can discover, here.) So, yeah, it was a bit too long. Then again, so was The Spy Who Loved Me. So was The Living Daylights and Goldeneye and Skyfall. All four of those are also great and, to repeat, so is No Time To Die - and, unlike in the case of Skyfall where the obvious twenty minutes to cut was the entire Macau subplot, in No Time To Die there was no blindingly obvious, 'the movie would've lost nothing if they'd cut that bit' which stuck out like a sore thumb. So, for once, ending the movie with a jolly numb bum and having to rub ones legs vigorously to get them working again as the titles rolled was a small price to pay.
The screenplay by series regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the director Cary Joji Fukunaga and From The North favourite, the excellent Phoebe Waller-Bridge managed to avoid a common problem with scripts written by committee, that is feeling like a script written by committee. One or two reviews - included Kermode's mentioned above - have suggested that the movie was rather 'set-piecey' shifting the narrative all over the place in a series of individual subplots, some of which seemed to have little obvious link to other aspects of the overall plot. This blogger doesn't buy that. If there's one thing that No Time To Die did really well, it was make the audience follow the narrative with an economy that isn't always there in a Bond film (I'm looking at you, Tomorrow Never Dies). One thing which this blogger does agree with yer man Kermode about (other than the fact that it was great) was the suggestion that Waller-Bridge's contributions had mainly been to provide the - often superb - comedy zingers and general pith at which the movie excels. It's perfectly possible that she did but that rather undermines a fine author who, as her astonishing work of the first series of Killing Eve proved, can write action and drama just as well as she writes sharp, sarky dialogue and excellent one-liners. That said, is it wrong to be utterly convinced - as this blogger is - that the entire Bond-in-Cuba sequence featuring the brilliant Paloma (Ana de Armas), possibly the best new Bond character in half-a-dozen movies, was largely the work of Pheebs her very self? Elsewhere, as usual Ben Wishaw gets most of the dryly pithy lines (well, at least, the ones that Rory Kinnear doesn't get). And, in just a couple of scenes, Christoph Waltz was given the opportunity, once-again, to do his wonderfully entertaining so-far-over-the-top-he's-down-the-other-side routine with aplomb. Which certainly helped to make up for a curious lack of humour in the film's main villain, played with just the right degree of nostril-flaring, eye-rolling, scenery-chewing intensity by Rami Malek.
The music was pretty good - Billie Eilish's theme song was obviously going for the Adele, Skyfall, 'you can sort-of imagine Dame Shirley belting this one out in Studio One at Abbey Road' vibe and, for the most part, succeeded. No, it's not the most memorable Bond theme of recent vintage, although it's in a different league to Sheryl Crow, Jack White and Alysia Keys, Madonna and Duran Duran. Let's face it, dear blog reader, Bond themes tend to age gracefully or be utterly forgettable. We're probably never going to get another 'Diamonds Or Forever' or 'Live & Let Die' or 'Nobody Does It Better' (much less another 'Goldfinger' or 'You Only Live Twice'). But, so long as we don't get too many 'All Time High's or 'View To A Kill's then we can, at least, think 'hmmm ... the song's okay, oh, it's finished, the movie's started.' Hans Zimmer's score was really rather good - heavily influenced (as with several aspects of the plot, if that isn't too much of a spoiler for those who have yet to see the movie) by one of John Barry's greatest hits, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The guitar work - by From The North favourite Johnny Marr - was particularly impressive.
Bits this blogger particularly liked: The portraits of Judi Dench and Robert Brown in MI6 (one presumes there was also one of Bernard Lee in there somewhere). The fact that, unlike in, say, The World Is Not Enough, they managed to construct a pre-title sequence in under forty minutes. Just. The entire Cuba sequence (especially the bit with the hidden tuxedo). Bond and Moneypenny interrupting Q's evening of 'entertaining' (and Q's very poor attempts at convincing M he's surprised to see Bond alive and well). The Bond-Blofeld scene in Belmarsh. The Bond-Nomi's verbal duelling. A nice cameo for Hugh Dennis. Madeleine's lethal use of a cup of tea. The moment when James didn't say 'this never happened to the other fellah(s)' as something quite unexpected happened five minutes before the end. The last scene. 
       Bits that made this blogger go 'hmmm': The fact that, according to her grave, Vespa Lynd was twenty two or twenty three at the time of Casino Royale (Eva Green was twenty seven and she looked it!) David Denick's 'wacky minor Russian villain' who manages to say 'Chames Bondt' twice without sounding remotely convincing. The glider. But, they're minor points, really. Once again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, this blogger thought it was great. And, among the best things in it was Danny Craig who, yet again, played a Bond used to loss, heartbreak, pain and suffering. A Bond that, let us remember, more than a few planks back in 2005 - sight-unseen - took issue with. Four of Craig's five Bond movies have been utterly terrific, for many different reasons but, always, because of him (and, with regard to A Question Of Sport, he wasn't in any way the reason that particular pile of rancid diarrhoea didn't work). Whomsoever has the job of replacing him in the franchise has big boots to fill. One doesn't envy the responsibility that the next owner of the hardest working libido in the intelligence service will face. But, importantly, James Bond will return. And, he will return with a clean slate as well as a new face. MI6's Time Lord's next regeneration is going to be fascinating to observe.
So, dear blog reader, just to repeat again, this blogger thought No Time To Die was great. Not Danny's best (Skyfall still ,just about takes that honour), but right up there with Casino Royale and Spectre. And From Russia With Love. And The Spy Who Loved Me. And The Living Daylights. And On Her Majesty's Secret Service. A film about a blunt instrument who does what is necessary when a trigger needs to be pulled. Someone once told him 'names is for tombstones, baby.' For a man who faces such an ending every day, James Bond has had a remarkable run. And, he's still running. Shaken, maybe but never, ever, stirred. 
One of the - few - highlights of sitting through half-an-hour of annoying pre-movie adverts was the first opportunity to watch the trailer for Edgar Wright's forthcoming Swinging London psychological horror movie Last Night In Soho which opens in the UK at the end of this month. This blogger has been eagerly anticipating this movie for a long time (so long, in fact, that Matt Smith was probably still The Doctor when it was first announced!) With a cast that includes Smudger his very self, Anya Taylor-Joy, the Godlike Genius that is Terence Stamp and, in her final big screen role, Diana Rigg even without having the director of Hot Fuzz behind the camera it would probably be worthwhile. This blogger and Young Malcolm decided, of an instant, this would be our next joint trip to the flicks. Again, it's had some startlingly good reviews from the likes of the Torygraph and Gruniad (and one sniffy one from some prick of no importance at Vanity Fair). So, this blogger is really looking forward to that. 
And finally, dear blog reader, as mentioned at the beginning of this From The North bloggerisationisms update, the weather was pure-dead filthy on Tuesday morning, so it was. A slate-grey sky and the rain was lashing down like The Flood had returned. This blogger had arranged to meet Young Malcolm just before 1pm at the cinema and, although he had a few bits and pieces of shopping to do beforehand, he was leaving it as late as possible to vacate the safety of The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House on the off-change that it might just stop stotting-it-doon for five minutes so this blogger could get to the bus stop in a post-diluvium state without getting, you know, drowned. That didn't look likely for most of the morning and, as the time approached 11.30, it appeared increasingly as though a thorough soaking was going to be the order of the day. And then, miraculously, the rain stopped. It still wasn't exactly a bright sunny day, remaining overcast and with occasional short busts of misty precipitation but, at least, this blogger managed to get the twelve up to town, do a quick round of Morrison's, the bank, Poundland, Boots, Greggs, Wilkinson's and, because he was still twenty minutes early, Starbucks without getting drenched through to his vest. And, after the movie, it was still just about dry enough for us to have a quick soft drink in the nearest rubba before getting the bus home. It was almost as if some divine force was looking upon yer actual Keith Telly Topping and thinking 'you shall be dry today.' Would that this was always the way, dear blog reader. Of course, it isn't and his blogger can pretty much guarantee that, the next time he ventures forth from The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague Hour - say, to grab a nice yung-chow fried rice, curry and chip from the local takeaway - he likely to return to his gaff with his shoes squelching. 
      Anyway, like James Bond, From The North will return ...