22 Bond Intros in 1 Minute

My favourite part of this Bond split-screen video is the sound of 22 MGM lions roaring in unison.

For audiences of different generations, both the Leo the lion and the Bond theme are iconic.

So when somebody had the idea of doing the first 22 James Bond intros at the same time, you get two for the price of one.

It’s an interesting visual experiment as you can see how little has changed since Dr. No (1962).

That Bond film still has the best opening titles, which were designed by Maurice Binder.

> Find out more about MGM and the James Bond franchise at Wikipedia
> Art of the Title

Film Notes #6: The Omen (1976)

* SPOILER WARNING: Plot details will be revealed *

Richard Donner’s horror film about a biblical prophecy forms the sixth film in my 30 day film watching experiment.

For newcomers, the deal is that I must watch a film every day and make notes about it, with the following rules:

  1. It must be a film I’ve already seen.
  2. I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  3. Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  4. It can’t be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on The Omen (1976) which I watched on watched on a PVR on Monday 12th March.

  • This was green lit on the back of the enormous success of The Exorcist (1973)
  • Nice font on the credits – big blocky and elegant – and the creepy image of a Damien’s shadow forming an inverted cross.
  • The film starts straight off with a movie taboo – the death of a child – and the pacing is very good. No dicking around, straight into the story.
  • In a way, Ambassador Thorn (Gregory Peck) reasons for adopting the baby and lying to his wife are understandable.
  • There’s a lot going on in the shot of Peck, the baby, the nun and the priest – interesting composition that fills the screen and reflected .
  • What was exactly going on with the hospital in Rome? Didn’t anyone notice a Jackal giving birth? 😉
  • Donner a very underrated director, his background in television gave him a solid grounding in storytelling.
  • Like so many films of the 1970s that I first saw on TV in the 1980s, it is interesting to see it in proper aspect ratio (2:35).
  • Widescreen lensing and compositions are more interesting than many modern horrors.
  • Richard Donner is actually a visually interesting director who just happens to work in mainstream cinema.
  • Gregory Peck and Lee Remick make a nice couple – Peck is actually looks like a US ambassador
  • “You know, you could be too sexy for the White House” – Peck’s character is not wrong when he says this to Remick.
  • Good use of fades to denote scene changes and strange – but very efficient – photo montage to take us up to the birthday party scene.
  • When you stop to think about it, the scene where the babysitter hangs herself in front of a party of schoolchildren is seriously messed up (talk about a party pooper).
  • The sound effect with the satanic dog is unnecessary.
  • US embassy in the 1970s very different to the fortress it now resembles post 9/11. Peck’s office is a convincing location – would probably be some crappy green screen work now.
  • Patrick Troughton is perfectly cast – he looks like the definition of a haunted man.
  • The ambassadorial country house is the old Guinness estate near Woking.
  • Billie Whitelaw is effectively creepy as the nanny. Shrewd to cast one of Samuel Beckett’s favourite actors in a supporting role.
  • Damien’s freakout is at Guildford Cathedral. Effective scenes that shows that a horror set-piece doesn’t have to involve a death.
  • Good build up in the Windsor Safari Park sequence – first the giraffes and then the baboons! Reminds me of the animal freakouts in the US version of THE RING (2002) and its sequel THE RING 2 (2005).
  • Jerry Goldsmith’s score – in particular the piece ‘Ave Satani’ – is frequently mistaken for Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’.
  • The film cleverly plays on post-natal fears – there is a lot of focus on Lee Remick’s doubting herself as a mother.
  • Widescreen compositions of Troughton’s face in the Putney Bridge meeting are ace – DP Gilbert Taylor also shot REPULSION (1965) and STAR WARS (1977).
  • The biblical rhyme is pretty creepy.
  • Note the outside lighting changes for the satanic storm that immediately whips up after Peck leaves and features some old school practical effects.
  • The move Peck plays with Damien by holding his hands is rather funky.
  • Was that sequence where Cathy falls an influence on THE SHINING (1980)? E.g. kid on bike
  • The fact that Damien lets his (adopted) mother fall and subsequent bit where Cathy says to Robert “don’t let him kill me” is kind of chilling.
  • Empty spaces of the manison are depicted well.
  • Editing style is a reminder that you can maintain pace and tension without the need of quick cutting on an Avid.
  • Script by David Seltzer is very tight and well paced – events click into place and there are several memorable moments e.g. David Warner showing Peck the ‘marked’ photograph
  • The biblical hokum could be ridiculous but the way Donner handles all the elements really sells it.
  • Burnt priest and subsequent graveyard scene very effective. Another creepy image – this time of a infants skeleton, which reminds us of the child murder that began the whole plot.
  • Graveyeard scene is almost certainly a studio soundstage but is good work from the production design team.
  • Cathy’s death reminds me of the opening of Donner’s LETHAL WEAPON (1987) – also featuring a woman slamming into a vehicle from a great height.
  • Peck delivers some fine acting on hearing of his wife’s death – nice shot of his head as he recites the poem and the anounces he wants Damien to die.
  • More great location work in the Israel sequence.
  • Did the bit where the photographer’s head gets cut off through by ‘accident’ influenced the entire FINAL DESTINATION franchise? It really is spectacular and shows what can be down with a fake head and editing.
  • Peck’s doubts about kiiling a child are eminently reasonable.
  • Interesting (almost) wordless sequence where Gregory Peck goes back to murder Damien – only dialogue spoken is when Billie Whitelaw says “Run, Damien, Run!”
  • The church at the end is in Staines.
  • Bit where Damien says “please Daddy, no!” is very clever as it puts you right in Robert Thorn’s shoes and plays on his doubts about killing a child.
  • The graveyard at the end is Brookwood Cemetery, one of the largest in Europe.
  • Apparently Donner struggled to get the kid playing Damien to smile at the end.
  • The idea that Damien is heir to the US presidency is a highly effective pay off.

Film Notes #5: Wall Street (1987)

* SPOILER WARNING: Plot details will be revealed *

Oliver Stone’s 1987 drama about corruption in American finance forms the fifth part of my Film Notes series.

For newcomers, the deal is that I must watch a film every day and make notes about it, with the following rules:

  • It must be a film I’ve already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can’t be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on Wall Street (1987) which I watched on a Blu-ray on Monday 26th March (today).

  • Opening sequence is tinged with a post 9/11 sadness as it features prominent shots of the Twin Towers (I last saw this film in October 2000)
  • Big, old style Hollywood fonts on the titles
  • Hal Holbrook’s character is based on Oliver Stone’s father who was a stockbroker
  • The green text and lack of GUIs on the computer screens is noticeable
  • But the film reflects how technology even then was changing the nature of finance
  • Before the subprime crisis of the late 2000s, there was the crazy period in the 1980s
  • No-one had done a mainstream business film in years partly because of ROLLOVER (1981) and also because the genre is not deemed sexy enough
  • Richard Gere turned down the role of Gecko and later regretted it – possibly why he played a similar character in PRETTY WOMAN (1990)
  • Jeff Beck (not the guitarist) was the adviser on the Gecko character but Stone and Douglas later found out he had lied about being in Vietnam.
  • Confidence is the key to Gecko’s appeal and the fact that he knows how to aggressively play the system.
  • Ellen Mirojnick did the costumes, which are actually a key part of the film.
  • Douglas was not ‘on text’ for the first few days of filming, meaning that Oliver Stone had to pull him aside and get him to stick to the script.
  • His final performance is really precise and on point – clearly the pep talk from Stone worked (like Gecko’s to Bud!)
  • Lighting change at the end of the squash club sequence goes to dark (shadows form around Gecko’s head), possibly reflect Bud’s crossing over to the dark side.
  • British business tycoon played by Terence Stamp is apparently based on Sir James Goldsmith
  • Gecko’s line about British arrogance might have been influenced by certain people he had worked with
  • Music is interesting: Sinatra, Eno/Byrne and score by Stuart Copeland.
  • Bud becomes Gecko’s corporate spy because of the allure of the closed world of Wall Street.
  • Stone filmed actual sessions on the trading floor.
  • The Anacott Steel deal is loosely based the dispute between Jimmy Goldsmith and Carl Ichann over TWA
  • Stone cameo in the square block 60s montage
  • Sean Young pissed off Stone by saying she was Dariane in front of Daryl Hannah (who eventually won the role). Ironically Hannah ended up not liking the role.
  • Julian Schnabel provided most of the paintings in Gecko’s house.
  • Ernest Lehmann’s punchy dialogue for THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957) was an influence on Stone and Stanley Weiser’s screenplay
  • Stone cast Terence Stamp after seeing him in THE HIT (1984)
  • Robert Richardson’s visuals are interesting – lots of real locations mixed with beautiful shots of the Manhattan skyline
  • Yuppie lifestyle now looks tame and understated compared to the boom of the 2000s
  • Hard to state how influential this film was on the real Wall Street: dialogue, red braces and juicy dialogue all were a big inspiration on a generation of traders.
  • Gecko’s famous speech works because it contains elements of truth about corporate bureaucracy.
  • Stone intended it for to be ambivalent – equating evolution with greed.
  • The phrase “greed is good” has become synonymous with that era of late 80s greed – one of the most resonant lines in film history.
  • People even write about Gecko as though he’s a real person.
  • Ivan Boesky once said “greed is right” and Stone modified it to “greed is good”Boesky once said “greed is right” and Stone modified it to “greed is good”
  • A paper company is a brilliant metaphor for stodgy, indulgent business as practiced by old, complacent men.
  • Scene on Gecko’s jet very well lit – notice how the light moves up and down Charlie Sheen’s face (apparently Robert Richardson’s first plane sequence).
  • Douglas is brilliant in the dinner party sequence – he really sells the deal with the unions and the look of pride on his face is noticeable
  • The argument between the Sheens has added juice because the actors are actually father and son.
  • Nice swinging camera movements in the elevator scene and in Spader’s law firm
  • Jeff Beck of Drexel Burnham plays someone in the scene where Bud finds out Gecko has betrayed him – he was a leading light of Wall Street who knew Douglas socially and was an influence on the Gecko character
  • Stone claims that Kirk Kerkorian asset stripped MGM in the same way Gecko strips Bluestar Airlines
  • David Byrne’s wife plays the woman who tells Bud his father has had a heart attack
  • Moving scene between the Sheens provides the emotional motivation for Bud’s rescue plan.
  • Gecko’s meltdown after Bud tells him not to “get emotional about stock” is shot intriguingly wide and then Richardson goes for the same lighting trick that he did in the squash club scene (i.e. Gecko’s head fades to black)
  • Unusually long tracking shot as Bud is led out by Stock Watch
  • Confrontation scene in Central Park was shot in the July, 1987 on a wet summer day.
  • Final music cue is great as the camera pulls back on the Manhattan skyline – this scene was shot on July 3rd 1987.
  • Stone feels that BROADCAST NEWS (1987) was favoured by Barry Diller (who ran Fox then).
  • Scott Rudin – then a Fox executive – had left before the theatrical release and Stone felt they had lost an ally of the movie.
  • Stone felt that they shouldn’t have opened wide immediately on 2,000 screens and instead gone for a buzz-building platform release, like they did with BROADCAST NEWS which earned several Oscar nominations
  • Although WALL STREET was only nominated for one Oscar (Best Actor) it ended up winning – one more than BROADCAST NEWS – that year was dominated by THE LAST EMPEROR (1987).
  • It ended up making about the same money as BROADCAST NEWS but has had a much longer legacy, even though.

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 26th March 2012

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Rabbit Proof Fence (Optimum Home Enterainment): Phillip Noyce‘s 2002 drama is the true story of Aboriginal girls in 1931 who used the Australian rabbit-proof fence to return to their community at Jigalong, a journey of 1,500 miles. Starring Everlyn SampiKenneth Branagh and David Gulpilil it is a deeply moving story and along with The Quiet American (2002), marked a remarkable return to form for Noyce. [Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The first feature film from the Monty Python team is this 1975 comedy written and performed by Graham ChapmanJohn CleeseTerry GilliamEric IdleTerry Jones and Michael Palin), and directed by Gilliam and Jones. A riotous retelling of the story of the legend of King Arthur, it features a treasure trove of extra features, some of which are exclusive to the Blu-ray. Terry Gilliam’s once-lost animations, outtakes, deleted scenes and audio commentaries are just some of the delights. [Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]

The Gospel According to Matthew (Eureka/Masters of Cinema): Vintage 1964 drama based on the the life of Jesus Christ, from the Nativity through to the Resurrection. Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the dialogue is taken mostly from the Gospel of Matthew, this Blu-ray comes with a brand new transfer and extras including Pasolini’s 53 minute film on the scouting of locations, 1963 newsreel extract and a 36-page booklet. [Buy the Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon UK]

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK): A documentary about the famed B-movie producer, who has exerted a major influence on modern Hollywood over the last 40 years. A civil engineer’s son who became Hollywood’s most prolific writer-director-producer, he not only set the template for independent filmmaking but also gave career breaks to the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and James Cameron. [Buy the Blu-ray or DVD]

ALSO OUT

Arrietty (StudioCanal) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Final Destination (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Happy Feet 2 (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / 3D Edition + 2D Edition + DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy]
Justice (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Leon the Pig Farmer (Network Releasing) [Blu-ray / with DVD – Double Play]
Malena (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Puss in Boots (DreamWorks Animation) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Awakening (StudioCanal) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Big Year (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Chemical Brothers: Don’t Think (EMI UK) [Blu-ray / with Audio CD]
The Thing (2011) (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / with Digital Copy – Double Play]
The Yellow Sea (Bounty Films) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Wuthering Heights (Artificial Eye) [Blu-ray / Normal]

Recent DVD & Blu-ray picks
The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2011

Film Notes #4: The Offence (1972)

Sidney Lumet’s’ dark 1972 feature about a police interrogation forms the fourth instalment of my 30-day film program.

For newcomers, the deal is that I must watch a film every day and make notes about it, with the following rules:

  • It must be a film I’ve already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can’t be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on The Offence (1972) which I watched on a DVD on Saturday 18th March.

  • Connery was allowed make this film as part of the MGM deal for DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1972)
  • Lumet keeps the visuals impressively dark – no obvious day-for-night stuff
  • Great visual motif of the circles of light at the beginning, only becomes clear once you’ve seen the film.
  • Drabness of suburban England is expertly evoked but it is never made clear where the action takes place.
  • The town remains nameless although exteriors were shot in Bracknell and interiors were filmed in Twickenham Studios.
  • Connery is very good indeed – it was a brave film for him to star in at this point in his career.
  • Scene at school near the beginning was shot at Wildridings, Bracknell.
  • Brilliantly effective visuals as the girl goes under the bridge.
  • Connery’s flat is at Point Royal, which is the same place that Jenny Agutter’s character lives in I START COUNTING (1969).
  • Audience are forced to work to see the details in certain scenes.
  • Trevor Howard is also a powerful presence as a senior police officer brought into to investigate Connery.
  • Ian Bannen is brilliant in what must have been a very difficult role to play.
  • Vivienne Merchant also gives a heartbreaking performance as Connery’s long suffering wife.
  • There is dialogue and physical action which even modern writers and directors would shy away from.
  • It is a rare film that deals with the emotional cost of policing, which is still a taboo subject in a world obsessed with the police procedural.
  • Clever flashback structure keeps us guessing but the reveal is disturbing because it doesn’t offer a conventional twist.