Skyfall - Review




Directed by Sam Mendes

Starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem and Judi Dench

When a hard-drive listing all undercover NATO operative is out of the hands of British Intelligence and into the hands of cyber villain Silva; James Bond must resurrect himself from a near death experience in order to recover the drive, salvage M’s reputation and control a man who wants ultimate revenge.

From a personal point of view, Daniel Craig is the most impressive James Bond to date even in the shaky second instalment: Quantum of Solace. Here Bond is back in fine form in a film specially made to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Ian Fleming’s juggernaut series. Having rebooted the film series away from the campness of the Brosnan era, Skyfall picks up a while after the first days of a licence to kill in Casino Royale. In this film he is more of a hurt hero battling with ghosts from his past.

The film opens with an adrenaline laced chase sequence through a Turkish bazaar. What’s beautiful about this opening is what director Sam Mendes has described as a “Russian doll” approach. You think it’s a car chase, which evolves into a bike chase, which morphs into a train chase: and this happens seamlessly. Praise must be given early on for cinematographer Roger Deakins who has delivered searing and dramatic visuals; stunning cinematography would be an understatement.

Sam Mendes has taken up the mammoth challenge of this 23rd Bond movie with refreshing poise. He has spoken of trying to get a quality plot cemented to begin with and then to incorporate all the obligatory elements we expect from a James Bond film. This seems to work better than starting with necessary fundamentals (the credits sequence, the Bond girls, the exotic locations, the cars, the villains and the explosions) and trying to fit in something of a plot around it. There are charming odes to Bond films of yester year and finally a director has been happy to utilise the breathtaking British scenery for the majority of the movie: Skyfall is definitely worthy of the 50th year anniversary.

This movie’s iconic credit sequence is one of the best ones yet. Craig takes a tumble through morbid animations supplemented by Adele’s dulcet tones. They definitely cracked it this time. James Bond spends a hour or so as an unshaven wreck who is out of shape and hitting the bottle. I say “out of shape” but fear not, Craig’s glistening musculature is not impeded by this. And rightly so because he has multiple Bond girls to please. Fellow agent Eve (Noamie Harris) gives a reasonable effort as MI6 sniper and Berenice Marlohe is utterly beautiful; but Skyfall is most definitely about the men.

Javier Bardem’s villain Silva does not surface until the second act, but when he does, it is glorious. In a lengthy tracking shot he delivers a parable about rats which acts as a recurring motif throughout the rest of the movie, he then probes Bond about his drink, his form, his relationship with M and even his sexuality in an erotically charged scene. It’s moments like this where Mendes is at his American-Beauty-best and Daniel Craig shows that subtlety is his ace. Silva is multifaceted and a highly original creation, a foreigner with a Nolanesque deformity to boot (echoes of Harvey-two-face anyone?) What’s bracing is that Silva’s motives are personal, and his way of going about his revenge is in a very 21st century way.

There’s a wonderful reinvention of Q by Ben Whishaw who brings youth and humour while reminding us of, quite sinisterly, the damage that can be done with a computer before breakfast in the wrong hands. The banter between him and Craig is inspired, another example of Mendes getting the absolute best out of his actors. As commented by members of our viewing party, Ralph Feinnes plays it as enigmatically as ever but gets some excellent action scenes in the third act.

Skyfall provides everything we have come to expect and love from James Bond, it’s sleek, traditional, thrilling, fun and laden with classic characters. All in all, if Skyfall was to be the last Bond movie, Sam Mendes most definitely ends it on a high. However thankfully one thing’s certain, 50 years in, James Bond will remain on our screens as a Great British icon for many more years to come.

Rating: 8

Daniel Craig as 007

Ready for action: Daniel Craig as James Bond

Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem get to know eachother

Gadget man Q played by Ben Whishaw

James and Severine

What's Your Number - Review




Directed by Mark Mylod

Starring Chris Evans, Anna Faris and Ali Graynor

This movie came on to Sky Premier last week and while movies of this genre never really float my boat, it was either this or another foreign language affair and this seemed a bit easier going.

So the premise is as follows: serial dater Ally’s hits a wall in her life when she realises how all her friends are settling down with lovely men while she is still going out on meaningless one night stands. She then vows to make her 20th conquest the man she spends the rest of her life with, when this goes to pot, Ally is forced to try to rekindle the flame with her extensive list of ex-boyfriends. This all seems fair enough, but within the first 5 minutes of this story you will easily see what will happen in the end. What is the point of that? And that generally is my issue with romantic comedies, they are sickeningly predictable, save the occasional curveball such as (500) Days of Summer.

Aside from the horrendous predictability, the film is quite amusing and entertaining. Chris Evans and Anna Faris are cute, gorgeous and sassy, everything you want really. The supporting cast is actually very decent: Martin Freeman, Ali Graynor, Joe McHale and Zachary Quinto all make appearances to keep you on your toes. Also, the soundtrack is fair. The problem is that films like this are forgettable and people take little from them, but who says films have to be memorable and life changing to be watched?

Rating: 3

On The Road, Kill Your Darlings, Howl

It has been a while since the last Kill Your Darlings update and while there is still no specific release date for 2013 it does seem like filming has wrapped. It also seemed like an opportunity to update all you ‘beat freaks’ out there on everything Beat Generation in film at the moment!

James Franco’s wonderful portrayal as Allen Ginsberg in the 2010 film Howl aired on Sunday night for all us British people. The film illustrates Ginsberg’s revolutionary poem alongside extracts from the obscenity trail that ensued. Though by no means a conventional movie, this little film depicts the poem as a performance and truly does it justice. Here’s the link to where you can catch or rewatch Howl on BBC iPlayer.

Similarly as you may well know, an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic novel is also hitting cinemas. On The Road stars Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund and tells the story of a young writer’s journey across the country. Amateur Reviews will endeavour to review the movie at some point.

Now back to Kill Your Darlings, here are some of the latest images that have come to our attention and also a link to an interview of co-star Jack Huston.


Moneyball - Review




Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill,Robin Wright

Directed by Bennet Miller

Whether it was due to the critical acclaim, or the fact that Aaron Sorkin was on script writing duties, I really wanted to love this film. And it was good, but not for the reasons expected. Moneyball doesn’t necessarily require extensive knowledge of baseball, but unlike the F1 documentary Senna, a bit of prior understanding would probably aide your viewing. 

The film is based on Michael Lewis’ book of the same name and is an account of Oakland Athletics team’s 2002 season. General Manager Billy Beane (Pitt) and economist Peter Brand (Hill) are faced with a dire financial situations and resort to a sabermetric approach to rating and analysing players. And instead of all the sports movie clichés, this mathematical approach to picking players is why the film is interesting. Instead of what you normally expect from a sports movie, Moneyball has a sophisticated edge and the economic discussions are pretty complex.

Pitt and Hill are fantastic collectively and you get the impression they are doing dramatically more than trying to be caricatures of Beane and Brand. What’s more is that the pair of them are pared back and believable whilst maintaining some of the charm we know and love to make their characters believable. Together they lend to some comedic moments, both men manage to incorporate their humour with straight drama which is a delight to watch.

Moneyball isn’t just about baseball but the storyline with Beane’s daughter feels a little out of place and less realistic than the rest of the movie. Also, Moneyball is a lengthy film. Personally I am not opposed to long films provided they grip from start to finish, but at times found myself thinking it could have done with a more ruthless edit.

With that said, Moneyball is a recommendation on the grounds of the interesting aspect of baseball and wonderful acting.
Rating: 5.5


We Are Augustines: Live

This blog is predominantly known for its film reviews but the title doesn’t explicitly state that Amateur Reviews is tied to film so it seemed like time to exploit this!

Wednesday evening, The Ritz, Manchester. The sold-out venue was buzzing with excitement before the show with fans of the stunning album Rise Ye Sunken ships. Their debut is a searing labour of love, blood, sweat and tears and it seems that some journalists wrongly like to focus on the gory details of the album’s inception. But this band has a social conscience and use the tragic back story for tremendous powers of good.  A lot of other bands should take a leaf out of We Are Augustines’ book because they have got here against the odds and have so much to say.

The second the boys came out on stage, the crowd went nuts. It’s a music cliché to say that bands sound just as good live as they do on a record, but that comparison was made for this band. Some may even say they sound even better live! Playing the majority of the tracks from their glorious debut, with the help of another guitarist and a stunning brass section, the gig was definitely one to remember. It’s rare to be part of such a faithful crowd and the band made a connection with the fans in a spectacular way. We Are Augustines care for the music, the fans, the performance and that is met with due reverence, adoration and respect. Their live show is truly a spectacle to behold.

The entire show was one big highlight but Chapel Song, Augustine and Strange Days stood out as favourites. As well as a piano and vocal rendition of Philadelphia which was literally awe inducing. The crowd sang every lyric right back at them and it was tremendously memorable. When Billy sings, it’s like a torrent of emotion, raw and passionate – voices like that are a rare find. Strong, soulful and immensely talented: We Are Augustines are a must see for any proper music fan.

Here is some of my photography from the gig for all those interested and keep scrolling down for a selection of some of their beautiful music to get your ears around.

Strange Days