TV Show Review: Depp v. Heard

I don’t really get to watch a lot of TV these days. I’ve been a bit busy writing books and working on this blog. But while channel hopping recently, I found this hilariously funny new comedy show called Depp v. Heard.

Now, I have missed a few episodes and so, I’ve only caught some of it. From what I’ve managed to work out, Depp v. Heard is a kind of mockumentary courtroom drama. Think Ricky Gervais’ The Office, only about a thousand times funnier. The cast is brilliant. You’ve got Johnny Depp (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Edward Scissorhands, Donnie Brasco) playing himself, except it’s like a really funny and exaggerated version of him. He has these really witty and well-observed comments that he makes regarding the whole case. Amber Heard (The O.C., Californication) plays this manipulative and clearly terrible liar, who is claiming that Depp beat her up but has zero evidence.

HEARD 1

The plot seems to revolve around the idea that Johnny Depp is suing Amber Heard for liable over her obviously false claims of his abuse that she wrote about in a newspaper column. So far Depp has had to defend himself against numerous allegations, that are very clearly false, thrown at him by Amber Heard’s lawyer. Now, this is where the real comedy comes from. So Heard’s lawyer is a guy called Ben Rottenborn. I’m not sure who plays this character as I’ve not been able to find a full cast list yet. Anyway, Rottenborn is not only a funny name, he’s probably the funniest character in the whole show. He could even be a contender for one of the most hilariously funny comedy characters ever made.

I don’t know who the writer is on Depp v. Heard but they deserve all the awards that should be coming to them for how brilliantly observed this Rottenborn character is. I mean, every good comedy show has the staple idiot character. The one who becomes the butt of a lot of jokes but also provides some of the best comedy a show has. Think Manuel from Fawlty Towers, an absolutely clueless employee that really is well in over his head. The only real difference is that Manuel had the excuse of being Spanish, so he didn’t really understand the English language fully. The Ben Rottenborn character doesn’t have that defence though as he is a native English speaker. Yet, he’s still utterly clueless and unable to do his job properly. I mean, I don’t want to get into spoilers here but there was one bit where Rottenborn raised an objection against a question that he himself asked. Fucking hilarious, if a little exaggerated as there is no way that a real lawyer could be so stupid.

BEN ROTTENBORN

What is really impressive about the Depp v. Heard show is that it is actually broadcast live. That’s a lot of pressure on the actors as live TV can really lead to a lot of problems with actors fluffing lines and so on. But to add a layer of authenticity, Sky News is broadcasting it via its YouTube channel. It really is a genius idea that adds a layer of ‘realism’ to the show and the whole mockumentary concept, even Ricky Gervais never did that. You can also catch previously broadcast episodes, easily found with a quick interwebs search. I recommend that you do too as it is hilarious.

If I have to find fault with the show, then there are times when you can hear people laughing in the background. This usually happens when Depp delivers one of his cutting witticisms or observations (“a mega-pint?”, “I wasn’t participating in the festival of ice cream.”) or when Rottenborn makes a complete idiot of himself, which does happen a lot. This does kind of break the immersion of the whole mockumentary courtroom drama feel. Plus, episodes do seem to drag on a bit sometimes. I’m talking several hours long and that can get a little boring after a while. Still, you can watch edited highlights which just gets to all the best bits. Also, there have been a few times when actors have broken character and you can see both Johnny Depp and his lawyer creasing up laughing at Amber Heard’s lawyer’s incompetence. Still, it is a live TV show and you kind of have to expect little bumps like this.

DEPP LAUGHING

There’s a lack of characters. I mean, in real life when you have similar cases involving celebrities, multiple people always step forwards to collaborate the story of the accuser. Yet here, there hasn’t been anyone who has come forward to speak out against Johnny Depp except for Amber Heard. In fact, quite the opposite has happened with people very clearly stating that Depp has never abused them in any way and how he is a great person to work for and with. This does feel a bit unrealistic and it does give away the fact that you are really watching a TV show.

Another issue is that it is kind of obvious where the plot is going. Even a blind person can see that Johnny Depp is easily going to win this as Amber Heard’s legal team are complete jokers. Unless the writers can pull off some kind of clever twist at the end that sees Depp lose and shows the judge and jury as being as utterly clueless as the Ben Rottenborn character is, then I really don’t think the plot and resolve will surprise you.

Anyway, I say give Depp v. Heard a watch. It really is the best comedy show this year, if not this decade. I hope they release it on Blu-ray once it had finished its TV run. They could pack it with loads of special features that look at how the show was made, interviews with the writers and actors, etc.

Did Futurama ‘Borrow’ A Lot From Red Dwarf?

Well, it looks like Futurama is being brought back… again… again… again.

It took me a while to get into Futurama. I always saw it as a far less funny, sci-fi version of The Simpsons. For years I simply dismissed the show. In fact, it took me ten years to actually sit down and watch Futurama properly and when I did, loved it. Since then, I’ve watched had re-watched the episodes so many times (I have even just finished a binge-watch of the whole thing… again). So much, to the point where I began to notice quite a few times that Futurama has seemingly ‘borrowed’ from another brilliant sci-fi comedy show, Red Dwarf. Funnily enough, this was another show I also didn’t like at first, also a show that I really got into later and a show I ended up falling in love with.

FUTURAMA 1

When watching episodes of Red Dwarf after watching Futurama (or visa-versa), I began to notice quite a lot of similarities. Character traits motivations, and relationships. Even plots and story elements, which I felt that Futurama must’ve ‘borrowed’ from Red Dwarf. So I think I should get all of this down in writing and document the many, many times I believe that Futurama ‘borrowed’ from Red Dwarf.

First up, just a few general and very broad similarities to point out…
Of course, both shows are sci-fi comedies. That alone is not exactly unique but there are several things worth looking at. Lister is frozen in Red Dwarf and woken up many years later. Fry in Futurama, same thing Slightly different amount of years, I admit. But still, the basic premise is the same for both shows. There there are the names of Dave Lister and Philip Fry, both characters are known mainly by their last names over their first names. This extends to (Arnold) Rimmer and (Turanga) Leela too.

RED DWARF 1

Both Lister and Fry are pretty slobby and oafish, both held dead-end jobs in their pre-frozen lives. Cat and Zoidberg are both animal characters who have evolved over the years… both really like fish too. This one is rather tenuous I admit but Starbug is green, so is the Planet Express ship. When not being used, Starbug rests in Red Dwarf, which is red. While the Planet Express ship rests in the Planet Express HQ… which is red. Lister is an orphan and often wonders about who his parents were, same for Leela. In both cases, we later learn about their parents too.

Those are just some basic similarities but now onto more episode-specific ones…
It is revealed in the first episode of Red Dwarf that Lister broke relegations by smuggling his cat, Frankenstein, onboard the ship. Leela is also found guilty of animal smuggling when she rescued Nibbler with the Planet Express ship. The Red Dwarf episode Future Echoes has the crew experience time-skips. This also happens in Futurama with the Time Keeps On Slipping episode. Also, Future Echoes features a toaster with a personality who bugs the crew. There is a talking toaster (that annoys Bender) in the Raging Bender episode of Futurama.

RED DWARF 2

Lister learns that he is a god to the cat-race and that disagreements led to a Holy war. Bender is seen as a god in the Godfellas episode of Futurama and a Holy war breaks out between his followers. In both cases, Lister and Bender question the need for religion. In the Me² episode of Red Dwarf, Lister is told that the £17.50 he left in his bank account before he was frozen makes him incredibly rich on Earth due to compound interest. Unfortunately, he is lost in space so all his wealth is meaningless to him. In Futurama, Fry becomes rich after leaving a small amount in his bank and due to compound interest, in the A Fishful of Dollars episode.

In Red Dwarf, Kryten the robot is a big fan of the in-universe soap opera, Androids. Bender the robot is also a big fan of the in-universe soap opera, All My Circuits in Futurama. That’s not all. In Androids, the credits show that it had an all robot crew. The All My Circuits: The Movie shown in the Raging Bender episode shows all of its crew were robots. Cat talks about mermaids in Red Dwarf and claims that the fishtail on a woman’s body is the stupid way around as it makes sex rather difficult. Fry falls for a mermaid in the Deep South episode of Futurama. But when they go to bed together, Fry laments that she is not the ‘other kind’ of mermaid with the fish part on top and the woman on the bottom.

FUTURAMA 2

In the Stasis Leak episode of Red Dwarf, Lister discovers he is married to the love of his life, Kochanski thanks to time travel. Yet, he does not know how it happened and tries to work out how they ended up together. Fry has the same thing happen when he finds out he and Leela are married thanks to the time-skips from the Time Keeps On Slipping episode of Futurama. With Fry trying to learn how it happened too.

We learn that there is a parallel universe in Red Dwarf with the aptly titled Parallel Universe episode. In the other universe, the same characters exist, only the men are women and visa-versa. In Futurama, there is also a parallel universe (several of them) where the main thing that is different is that coin flips have the opposite effect when making decisions. The thing is that both shows have the parallel universe accessible via a basic box. With Red Dwarf, Holly creates the Holly-Hop Drive which is operated via a simple stop and start button. With Futurama, it’s just a literal box with a universe inside it.

RED DWARF 3

Camille is an alien creature in Red Dwarf that disguises itself as a perfect match for whoever it meets. Basically, it becomes a female version of Lister, Rimmer, etc. Except for Cat where it becomes Cat. In the Futurama episode, A Bicyclops Built For Two, Leela meets Alkazar, a perfect male match for her. Of course, it turns out that Alkazar is just an alien that disguises itself as a perfect match for whoever it meets. Though to be fair, Alkazar has a much more ulterior motive for his actions than Camille did. Kryten actually becomes human in one episode of Red Dwarf, where he struggles to grasp the basic nature of being a human. Bander also became human in Futurama. It was in the Anthology of Interest I episode and yes, Bender does struggle with the concept of being human too.

Lister uses his pool skills to knock a planet into a white hole, using various planets as the ‘balls’. An idea the rest of the crew feels that Lister is not up to. Fry has a similar idea in the A Big Piece of Garbage episode where uses one big ball of garbage to hit another ball of garbage off course, via the gravity of several other planets. An idea that people don’t think Fry is up to doing. The Quarantine episode of Red Dwarf explores the idea of a positive virus that gives the infected special skills, like amazing luck. Fry has a similar experience when he eats a sandwich from a truck stop that gives him positive parasites and vastly improves his skills.

FUTURAMA 3

The crew of Red Dwarf experience a hallucination that was brought about by something called a despair squid. The episode (Back To Reality) ends where it began with the crew investigating the planet the despair squid was found. Bender also experienced a hallucination in the episode Obsoletely Fabulous. This one was brought on by an upgrade chip though, yet the episode ends where it began. Kryten has his guilt-chip removed in an episode of Red Dwarf. This allows the robot to function without inhibitions. Bender has his inhibition unit tampered with in Futurama and we get to see how he acts without it.

Lister finally learns the truth about his father when he goes back in time and actually becomes his own father. Fry also went back in time and accidentally killed his own grandfather. As Fry still existed, he believed his grandfather wasn’t his real grandfather… so he had sex with his own grandmother (when she was young), therefore Fry became his own grandfather. Both main characters of both shows are of their own parentage.

RED DWARF 4

Kryten says that he has a degree (in sanitation) that he earned at university. Kochanski says that he never went to university and that the degree is just a program installed into him. Bender also says he learned bending at bending school. However, a flashback shows that it was just a program installed into him. After which, he is handed a degree.

Well, those are just some of the remarkably similar elements that Futurama seemed to have ‘borrowed’ from Red Dwarf. There are actually quite a few more I have spotted, I just don’t want this to go on too long.

RED DWARF 5

There is another coincidence worth looking at, one that can’t really be blamed on ‘borrowing’. The last series of Red Dwarf was in 1999, the year that Futurama first aired. There was talk of doing another series of Red Dwarf and even the possibility of a movie. However, the BBC officially cancelled and cut all ties with the show back in 2007. It was revived in 2009 with a ‘film’ called Red Dwarf: Back to Earth on a different TV channel. I say it was a ‘film’ because that was how it was conceived and shot, but it was really three special episodes that could be viewed as a film, or just three connecting episodes. That ‘film’ led to the series eventually being revived, Anyway, Futurama was also cancelled in 2003. It too was brought back via films that could be split into episodes and it too was revived for more seasons (and the Yanks call them) by a different TV station.

Remembering Ivan Reitman

I remember being in school around January of 1985. One of my friends sat next to me (can’t remember his name, it was almost forty years ago) and he was telling me how amazing Ghostbusters was, that he had seen it. However, I noticed something strange (in the neighbourhood) as all he kept talking about were scenes shown in the trailer and nothing from the actual film itself.

I mean, he didn’t even know about the giant marshmallow man. It became quite clear that he hadn’t seen the film at all and was trying to sound ‘cool’. I knew he hadn’t seen the film because well, I had. Anyway, that was the first memory that came to my mind when I heard that Ivan Reitman had died. I was a kid back then, I never understand filmmaking at all, I didn’t know what a director did, had zero idea of what (if anything) happened behind the camera. All I cared about was the fact I enjoyed watching the film.

STRIPES

As I grew older and became a fan of not just films but filmmaking. When I began to learn about everything that does go on behind the camera, that was when I understood what a director and producer did. That was when I started to become a fan of Ivan’s work. I remember watching Stripes on TV for the first time. It had a couple of the guys out of Ghostbusters in it, so that was enough to get me to watch. Of course, Stripes was also directed by Ivan Reitman. Then there was Meatballs, the film that really launched both Bill Murray’s and Ivan Reitman’s careers. This film was also the start of the personal and professional relationship between Ivan, Bill and Harold Ramis.

IVAN AND HAROLD

The all-time classic Animal House that really kick-started John Belushi’s film career and the whole National Lampoon’s film franchise was directed by John Landis but produced by Ivan Reitman. I didn’t realise it at the time but Ivan was shaping my tastes in American comedy films as I grew from boy to young adult. Then there was Twins, the mismatched and goofy comedy starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito as twin brothers. It is stupid but harmless and good fun. A film that took the then gargantuan action star that was Arnold Schwarzenegger and showed that he had some pretty decent comedy chops. Something that Ivan would do again later with both Kindergarten Cop and Junior.

Of course, the film that inadvertently made me an Ivan Reitman fan got a sequel. Ghostbusters II has always been a bit of a hit and miss film. A disappointment after the first film sure but still a good watch and it was great to see the old team back together again. As a director, Ivan kept himself busy up to 2014 with his last film being the sports drama Draft Day.

TWINS

As a producer, Ivan Reitman had a few other notable films under his belt. Cult favourite Heavy Metal, the animated movie based on the magazine of the same name. Full of violence and beewbage! The awfully terrible Sylvester Stallone starring Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was another. But Ivan Reitman made up for how bad that was with the pretty damn great Space Jam afterwards. Melding live-action with classic Loony Tunes characters for some basketball action… and a Bill Murray cameo. Ivan was also a producer on the biographical making of Psycho with the 2012 film Hitchcock.

When Ghostbusters was remade in 2016, Ivan Reitman was on board as producer. And of course, he returned to the franchise one last time for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which was released last year. Directed by his son, Jason Reitman, the film worked as a direct sequel to the original films and was pretty damn great too. Ivan was not just a producer on this film, he even had a little ‘hidden’ cameo at the end, which I’m not going to spoil if you’ve not yet seen it.

Ivan Reitman was set to direct a sequel to Twins this year called Triplets. Bringing back Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito but now with Tracy Morgan playing the third brother. Sadly, now that Ivan has passed away, it is not known where the film stands, especially as it was set to begin filming this month. Ivan’s cause of death has not yet been revealed but his family have described it as being an ‘unexpected loss’. Maybe Jason will pick up the mantle and finish what his father sadly could not?

IVAN AND JASON

There’s been an amazing backlash for the last decade in America: political correctness. In many ways, I think that, while we’ve been remarkably violent in our media, there’s been a real schizophrenia. In private, on the Internet, and on public-affairs shows or talk radio, we’re way more explicit than we’ve ever been. But traditional Hollywood has been much more frightened than it ever was in the ’70s about presenting things that could be perceived as politically incorrect.

– Ivan Reitman

Sixty Years Of Bond… James Bond

2022 sees the James Bond film series reach the big six zero years old. It all began back in 1962 with Dr. No. Yeah, yeah, before the backlash of ‘actually’… begins. I do know that Dr. No wasn’t the first Bond film. Yes, I do know that Casino Royale from 1954 with Barry Nelson as Bond was technically the first. However, I’m talking about the start of the officially recognised franchise, the one that became a worldwide phenomenon and catapulted the James Bond character into the stratosphere.

BOND AT 60 IMAGE

Anyway, there are actually several other movie milestones within the Bond franchise that are worth looking at too and that’s exactly what this article is all about. Starting with that first official James Bond film from 1962, I’m going to do a quick celebratory look at all the Bond films reaching a worthy milestone in 2022.

Dr. No

DR NO

Released in 1962, making this inaugural film in the long-running, sixty years old franchise. The film didn’t just launch the James Bond movie franchise, it also turned its star, Sean Connery, into a film legend. Connery had a few small roles earlier in his career but becoming James Bond would be a career-defining role. It was also a role that Sean Connery ended up detesting.

Seeing Bond sent to Jamaica when an MI6 agent is murdered. The investigation leads Bond to discover the titular Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman ) and his nefarious plan involving a shuttle launch and a radio beam weapon… whatever that is. While this is the first ‘proper’ James Bond film, the novel it is based on was the sixth. Interestingly, the film makes several references to past and future Bond adventures. So this first appearance of Bond on film was treated as the character as already existing.

The intro to Dr. No set the standard that would be followed for six decades. The famed gunbarrel shot (though Bond was not played by Sean Connery but stuntman, Bob Simmons) the iconic Bond theme, the flashy and stylised graphics-heavy title sequence. It all began right here, though there was no dedicated James Bond song that became tradition after this film. Instead, what you do get is the Bond theme that mixes into a very Jamaican rendition of the Three Blind Mice nursery rhyme.

DR NO SCREEN

I’ve never really been a fan of this one, to be honest. I just found it all a bit ‘dull’ for a film that was billed as being such a huge action-adventure picture. Of course, you do have to give it credit for creating such a massive and much-loved franchise. Apparently, Bond creator, Ian Fleming, said of the film after seeing it that it was:

“Dreadful. Simply dreadful.”

I don’t think I’d go that far but Dr. No is hardly one of Bond’s best. The franchise had just begun and in fact, it wasn’t even thought of as becoming a franchise at the time. Even the production studio didn’t have a lot of faith in the film. When released, reviews were very mixed with film critics really not enjoying the film for the most part. Still, it was the general public that paid for cinema tickets that made it popular and once the studio saw the money that Dr. No was bringing in, a sequel was quickly greenlit. The beginning of Bond and a sixty-year franchise was born.

You Only Live Twice

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE

This one came out in 1967 and is fifty-five years old this year. Now in 2022, this film is becoming infamous for the whole Japanese disguise thing where Sean Connery is ‘magically’ transformed into someone of a different race. The snowflakes of today like to find offence in things decades out of date. Still, I thought transitioning into something you are not was quite a popular thing these days…

Anyway, this flick has Bond sent to Japan to investigate the disappearance of American and Soviet spacecraft, which each nation blaming the other. You Only Live Twice is the first Bond film to show Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence ) proper. He had been in previous films, but never seen or only partially seen. The screenplay for the film was also written by the awesome Roald Dahl. This was also the first Bond film to really have very little to do with the novel of the same name. Dhal threw out most of the novel’s plot, only keeping a few smaller references, and instead wrote an all-new story.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE SCREEN

At the time, this was reported as being Connery’s last time playing James Bond. It was too… for one film. Conery was enticed back Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 and the non-canonical Never Say Never Again in 1983. Just a little tit-bit for you. Do you know the last time Sean Connery officially played James Bond? It was for the From Russia with Love video game from 2005. Connery not only lent his likeness to the game but he also recorded all new dialogue as James Bond.

I actually really like this Bond outing. It may not be ‘politically correct’ these days and it’s a shame that it has been getting a lot of bad press due to the whole Japanese disguise thing. The film is much more than one outdated gadget from over half a century ago. Connery was well into the role by now and I may even go so far as to say that this was his best performance as James Bond.

The Spy Who Loved Me

SPY WHO LOVED ME

1977 was the year that this Bond film hit the big screen, making it forty-five years old. By now, Sean Connery was gone and Roger Moore had stepped into the famous tuxedo. This was Moore’s third outing as James Bond. The Spy Who Loved Me was the tenth book by Ian Fleming and was also the tenth film in the franchise.

Bond has to team up with KGB agent, Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), to learn of the disappearance of a British and a Soviet ballistic-missile submarine. The duo learn that the subs have been stolen by Karl Stromberg (Curt Jürgens) and he plans on creating a new civilisation under the sea called Atlantis… cos it’s a James Bond film. This is the first film where Bond gets to cross paths with fan-favourite villain, Jaws (Richard Kiel).

SPY WHO LOVED ME SCREEN

To be honest, I’ve never been much of a fan of Roger Moore’s take on James Bond. It was a bit on the silly side and came across as more of a parody of the character. But that is not to say that Moore’s tenure as Bond and that era of films were bad, they are kind of iconic and enjoyable in their own way. While my favourite Moore/Bond film is Live and Let Die, there’s a lot to like here with The Spy Who Loved Me. The memorable opening with the ski-chase/skydive/Union Flag parachute. ‘Wet Nellie’, that’s the awesome Lotus Esprit S1 that turns into a submarine. The Nobody Does It Better song, the first of the Bond songs that’s doesn’t share its title with the film (though Dr. No didn’t have a dedicated song). I have always felt that this film was to Roger Moore what Goldfinger was to Sean Connery.

The Living Daylights

LIVING DAYLIGHTS

Thirty-five is how old this one is, being released in 1987. We are now onto our fourth official James Bond with Timothy Dalton now playing the part. I have to say this right here, Timothy Dalton was the best James Bond ever. He played the part much more closely as to how Ian Fleming wrote him, he actually looked like Fleming described him too.

For this adventure, Bond is assigned to help General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé), a KGB agent, defect. Whilst on the mission, Bond crosses paths with Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo), Koskov’s girlfriend who is actually trying to kill Koskov. James Bond soon learns that the whole Georgi Koskov wanting to defect was a ruse for something far more sinister.

LIVING DAYLIGHTS SCREEN

The Living Daylights was not just a film with the best James Bond, it also brought back the iconic Aston Martin. Not seen in a Bond film since 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as Lotus became the Bond car manufacturer of the Roger Moore years. Aston Martin’s V8 Volante was the car here and there’s just something about James Bond and Aston Martin that works.

Both of Timothy Dalton’s outings as Bond (this and Licence to Kill) have always been vastly overlooked, I feel. It really is a shame that Dalton didn’t have the chance to come back for more. Long story short and there were behind the scenes legal issues with the James Bond rights. It took several years to sort out and by then, Timothy Dalton was perhaps a bit too old and the producers wanted a new James Bond. A third film was written for Dalton and it was set to be released in 1991. I actually have a separate article looking at that film coming up later. Anyway, after the legal issues were resolved, a new actor stepped into the role, speaking of which…

Tomorrow Never Dies

TMORROW NEVER DIES

Released in 1997 and now a ripe twenty-five years old. The eighteenth James Bond film and the second to star Pierce Brosnan after GoldenEye. For me, Pierce Brosnan always felt like the Roger Moore of the nineties. Perhaps not quite as parody-like but certainly a James Bond that was a tad less serious than the predecessor.

This time around, Bond teams up with Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese agent. The two investigate the media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) who, as it turns out, is hellbent on starting World War III via the use of his media empire… and some stolen missiles, of course. This was the first Bond film after the death of the franchise’s legendary producer, Albert R. Broccoli.

TMORROW NEVER DIES SCREEN

This really is not one of the best Bond outings, yet it has one of the best Bond girls with Michelle Yeoh. She’s awesome in this and I always wanted to see a Wai Lin spin-off film. She was going to return for 2002’s Die Another Day to help Bond when he was in Hong Kong. But the idea was scrapped and the character was replaced with Mr Chang (Ho Yi) instead. And on the subject of that film…

Die Another Day

DIE ANOTHER DAY

Originally released for the fortieth anniversary of the James Bond franchise in 2001, now twenty years old itself. Die Another Day was specially written to pay respects to the franchise turning forty and was the last outing for Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.

After over a year of imprisonment in North Korea  Bond’s freedom is exchanged for Zao (Rick Yune), the right hand-man of Korean dictator Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee) … who Bond kind of accidentally killed. MI6 believe that Bond has been broken by the Koreans and leaked information. After escaping MI6, James Bond ends up in Cuba and meets NSA agent Giacinta ‘Jinx’ Johnson (Halle Berry). The two learn of a mysterious British businessman called Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) and soon discover his naughty plan.

This was one of the few James Bond films I got to see at the cinema when I was a young twenty-something. Man, I was excited and I came out of the film one happy Bond fan. This film is packed with nods and references to all of the previous Bond films in the franchise. Lines of dialogue, background details, gadgets and more. Die Another Day is a feast for the eyes of a Bond fan.

DIE ANOTHER DAY SCREEN

I then re-watched the film a few months later on DVD… and it was utter pants. I think there’s something about watching a film at the cinema that gives the viewer a false sense of ‘wow, this is awesome’. This is not true of all films of course, but some. There’s just something about seeing a film with a crowd of people on a huge screen and an ear-bleeding sound system that can camouflage how good (or bad) a film really is.

Yes, taking in all the references was bliss for a Bond fan. But the story and characters of this film really are dull and I just didn’t notice how dull when in the cinema because I was too busy being a Bond fan and soaking up the references. I don’t outright hate this film, ‘hate’ is a very strong word and I very rarely use it. But Die Another Day is certainly a disappointment for what was supposed to be a big celebration… and it has Madonna in it too.

Skyfall

SKYFALL

The youngest film celebrating a milestone this year. Released in 2012, Skyfall is ten-years-old. This was our latest Bond, Daniel Craig’s third outing as James Bond. And if you are any good at maths, Skyfall was released on the fiftieth anniversary of the James Bond franchise. It has that awful theme song from Adele but don’t let that put you off Skyfall is great.

Here, James Bond has retired after accidentally being shot and presumed dead. When MI6’s headquarters are blown up, Bond comes out of retirement and offers to help. Back in service and sent to Shanghai, Bond learns of a man called Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). Silva is an ex-MI6 agent who now has a penchant for cyberterrorism and he was the man behind the attack on MI6’s HQ. Silva is captured and brought back to England… which was actually part of his grand plan.

SKYFALL SCREEN

Skyfall is great, not my favourite Daniel Craig outing, that has to go to Casino Royale. But this film is awesome. There’s just something raw about it that makes it stand out. A very different Bond film but still familiar at the same time. I really do like Craig as Bond too. He’s very much like Timothy Dalton in how he is much more no-nonsense and far less jokey. Javier Bardem is a great villain, perhaps the best of the Daniel Craig era of films.


Well, this is it, my look back on sixty years of James Bond and at films that are sharing a milestone within those six decades. I’ll have a few more James Bond articles through the year to continue my James Bond at sixty celebrations.

Movie Review: Scream

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Scream franchise. The first film did feel fresh and slightly unique at the time. Though personally speaking, I’ve always felt that Wes Craven did the whole self-referential, meta-horror film thing far better a couple of years earlier with New Nightmare.

Anyway, I did enjoy the first Scream and it reinvigorated the dying slasher sub-genre by poking a very self-referential finger at it. Watching the first film now, it feels very cliché but at the time, it really was quite a revelation to the horror genre. Scream 2 decided to take on the topic of sequels with its meta writing. Scream 3 tackled the horror trilogy, while Scream 4 poked fun at horror remakes. The first film really was quite brilliant, the first sequel was okay but the concept was already beginning to feel stale. The third and fourth films, which I have seen, I couldn’t tell you a thing about them as they were so unforgettable and tired.

SCREAM FILMS

Now twenty-six years after that first iconic movie comes Scream 5… or just Scream as it is titled. My dislike for movies that fuck up their titles like this aside, this fifth film also has a horror film subject as it attempts to make light of, the reboot/sequel… or requel as the kids say these days.

Okay, so I’m not doing spoilers here, so this is safe to read if you have not yet seen Scream… the fifth film, not the original film.

Scream wastes no time in getting to the meta writing as it opens up with what is basically a remake of the opening scene from the original film… as seen in the trailer. Let this set the tone for what this film is. A film that very heavily references the first film while trying to be new. Scream falls into the whole legacy sequel thing that is on-trend right now. A sequel to a film from a few decades ago trying to breathe new life into an older franchise.

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This being a Scream film means it can have a bit more fun with that idea thanks to its meta writing. Of course there is a scene where people sit around and talk about requels. Of course there’s a reference to ‘passing the torch’. Of course there is the return of some of the original cast to show the newbies how it’s done. The trouble is, this shit just isn’t fresh anymore, it’s about twenty-six years out of date.

So the basic plot of Scream is that the in-universe film series, called Stab, is floundering now it is at its eighth instalment, stylised as Sta8 (poking fun that Scream 4 was stylised as Scre4m). As the Stab films are (now) very loosely based on the events derived from the first film and are not very good, as they have begun to take severe liberties… like giving the killer a flamethrower. So someone decides to restart the famed Ghostface killings and teens begin to turn up dead so that perhaps the Stab films will have something new and realistic to be based on. Dewey has become a recluse after his divorce from Gale but the teens convince him to look into Ghostface attacks. Dewey gets in contact with both Sidney and Gale and the trio turn up to sort things out.

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That is your basic plot, though there are a few more spoilery details that I’m skipping over. How best to sum up Scream? It’s a Scream sequel… that’s about it. The film isn’t terribly awful but it doesn’t really do anything you haven’t already seen before… especially if you have watched the Scream sequels before it. David Arquette’s Dewey is by far the best character in the franchise and it is great to see him back here. It’s also a very different Dewey who has changed following the events of the franchise. He is no longer the goofy Deputy Sheriff of Woodsboro, he’s actually pretty bad-ass here, while being a broken man. Then you have Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers and she is still a bit bitchy if not just a tad softer when she wants to be. Yes, Sidney Prescott is back and played by Neve Campbell and she is fine I guess. But if anyone is the standout here, then that has to be David Arquette.

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The new cast are your typical teens played by people way too old to be playing teens. I don’t even think I could tell you one of the new character’s names off the top of my head because they are so stereotypical and bland. The only name I remember is a character called Wes and that is because I’m pretty sure he is a reference to the series’ original director and master of the horror genre, Wes Craven. Wes isn’t behind the camera for this one as he sadly passed away back in 2015.

Scream has a multitude of references and throwbacks to the first film. There are some subtle and not so subtle returns of some other characters from the original. Plus the fact that this is set in Woodsboro once more, you’ll also get to see some familiar locations. This almost feels like one of those legacy sequels that ignores the franchise’s other sequels… almost. There are returning characters from Scream 4, so the events of the other films most definitely did happen. In this regard, Scream kind of feels like Ghostbusters: Afterlife in how that film heavily referenced the first film but mostly ignored Ghostbusters II… even though Ghostbusters II did happen. Scream just references Scream (see the issue with the title?) more so than the other films in the series and this makes it feel like it is ignoring the other sequels when it isn’t.

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This isn’t a scary film at all but then again, I don’t think the Scream films ever really were. There are quite a few bloody kills but those feel very ‘seen it all before’ as there really is only a handful of ways to kill someone with a knife. People get stabbed in the neck, in the back, in the chest, in the legs. There is nothing imaginative or creative in any of the death scenes (or the fakeouts) at all. The surprises are minimal and you should be able to work out who the killer is before you get to the halfway point, especially if you have seen any of the previous films in the franchise and know all the signs and false signs.

It is the writing of the Scream films where the real attraction lies. The meta humour, nods and references to other horror films, the ‘satirical’ sideways look at the horror genre. Yes, Scream has this in spades but very rarely does it feel like the writing pops in the same way it did in the first, and for most of the second film. The concept of the meta-horror film has been done to death and Scream really doesn’t do anything worthy with it here. For me, the whole meta-horror film idea peaked with Scream 2 and never really got any better.

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There were a few lines and references here that kind of worked but for the most part, it was tiresome and predictable with a lot of recycling tired, old ideas without a sense of irony. Yes, the title of Scream (instead of Scream 5) gets a reference. There is a bit of dialogue calling out ‘toxic fans’ in what felt like a preemptive attempt at shielding against the negative press this film could quite easily amass. Yet, Scream has been getting loads of massively positive press and I can not work out why. The film is okay at best. I loved the first film, the first sequel was pretty damn decent too. After that, they got a bit ‘meh’ and this sequel is very much at that level of quality. Scream is Scream 3 & 4 okay-ish and not Scream 1 & 2 levels of cleverness.

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If you are a die-hard fan of the franchise, you’ll probably get more out of this than I did. I got a very okay film with a concept that just feels outdated now. Scream movies put me in mind of knock-knock jokes. The subject may change but the structure, the delivery and the payoff is always the same. Still, as annoying as the title Scream is for the fifth film, at least they didn’t call it 5cream.