Archive | April, 2013

HITCHCOCK

11 Apr

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“Although he never won an Academy Award, in 1979 the American film Institute awarded him their life time achievement award.”

SYNOPSIS: HITCHCOCK is a love story about one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century, Alfred Hitchcock and his wife and partner Alma Reville. The film takes place during the making of Hitchcock’s seminal movie Psycho.

CAST
Anthony Hopkins……………………..Alfred Hitchcock
Helen Mirren………………………………Alma Reville
Scarlett Johansson……………………………Janet Leigh
Toni Collette………………………………………Peggy
Danny Huston……………………..……..Whitfield Cook
Jessica Biel……………………………………Vera Miles
Michael Stuhlbarg………………………Lew Wasserman
James D’Arcy……………………………Anthony Perkins
Michael Wincott………………………………….Ed Gein
Kurtwood Smith……………………….Geoffrey Shurlock
Richard Portnow…………………………Barney Balaban

Review: Directed by Sacha Gervasi; written by John J. McLaughlin, and based on the book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello, the film is a biopic that takes place during the filming of Hitchcock’s Psycho.
The story opens with Hitchcock narrating the events surrounding the arrest of Ed Gein, a real serial killer whom the book Psycho is written. When Hitchcock’s newest picture “North by Northwest” is released it becomes a major success for Paramount studios. Hitchcock is obligated to make one more film for Paramount, Hitchcock wants it to be Psycho. Barney Balaban head of Paramount protests as does Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville. From here on in the story surrounds itself with Hitchcock’s obsessions. The film looks at his loving yet sexless marriage with Alma, realistically played by Helen Mirren. She is delightful and droll and in life is also his writing partner. Alma puts up with Hitchcock’s obsessions with getting Psycho made, and his obsessions with the beautiful blonde leading ladies he has procured over the years as a filmmaker.

Anthony Hopkins is an interesting choice to play “Hitch”. It is easy for an actor to cross the line and make Hitchcock a cartoon; Hopkins captures the essence of Hitchcock’s public persona without going over the line into caricature. Hopkins navigates Hitchcock’s obsession such as his obsession with his blonde leading ladies, his almost paranoid suspicion about his wife Alma’s friendship with writer, Whitfield Cook, and the delusions he has of serial killer Ed Gein as he dreams day and night that Gein is controlling his every action. All his delusions come to a head when he is filming the famous shower scene with Janet Leigh. Hitch berates the stand-in for not stabbing Leigh in a realistic manner; her reactions are superficial not real. As the cameras are rolling, Hitch takes the knife and in a terrifying manner goes after Leigh. She is genuinely terrified as he goes at her with the knife. Hitch is having mental delusions about his wife cheating on him, his obsession with Vera Miles, and the dead bodies found in Ed Gein’s home before his arrest. When Hitch snaps out of it, he prints the take and everything is back to normal. Also quite amazing is a scene at the theater where Psycho premiers. Hitch is under enormous pressure for the film to be a success, he stands to lose everything. Hitch arranged with theater owners around the country not to let anyone in the theater after the movie starts and not to give away the ending. As the now famous eee,eee,eee, shower music is playing, Hitch is standing outside in the lobby conducting the screams he hears, like an orchestra conductor. Needless to say the movie was a huge success.

Helen Mirren plays Alma Reville, Hitch’s wife and writing partner. Alma both loves and reviles Hitch and his obsessions. She becomes close with the writer Whitfield Cook and agrees to help him write a screenplay based on a story he wrote. Hitch keeps ignoring Alma as she asks Hitch to read the story and make a movie out of it. As Alma and Whit get closer, Hitch obsesses with the notion that his wife has taken a lover, after all they sleep in separate beds, have a sexless marriage, and Alma to tune him out wears a mask over her eyes when she goes to bed. As time goes on Hitch becomes more paranoid about the relationship and eats and drinks obsessively. Mirron plays the part with patience, tolerance and understanding.

Scarlett Johansson takes on Janet Leigh. Although physically she is no Janet Leigh, Johansson captures Leigh in subtle ways, the way she walks, the way she speaks, her charm etc. Leigh and Vera Miles become friendly on the set, Miles warns Leigh about the falling out she had with Hitch. Alma is worried that Hitch will obsess about Leigh, Leigh proves her wrong and Alma appreciates Leigh’s professional behavior.

Danny Huston plays the writer Whitfield “Whit” Cook, he befriends Alma, and hopes she will help his career by having Hitch make a movie from a story he wrote. Hitch will have none of it, although Hitch at times tries to placate Alma. Whit in truth is a scoundrel and although he flirts with Alma, she manages to keep him at bay. Their friendship ends when she catches Whit, who is married, fooling around with a young lady when he was supposed to be working on the script. Alma would retreat into working with Whit as an escape from Hitch. Huston does a good job although he has little to do.

James D’Arcy brings Anthony Perkins to life with all his nuance and neurosis. Although the role is small D’Arcy’s Perkins is right on the money.

There are many homage’s to Hitch, such as the device of him narrating the story like he did on his television show, or at the end when he tells us he looking for his next film to direct, a big black crow, ala The Birds, lands on his shoulders. The film was well done with a great cast. Ivan (Animal House) Reitman produced, so you know there was a little tongue in cheek throughout.

The movie is available on Netflix, Amazon and Redbox

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Bond, James Bond PT 5: M Bernard Lee, Robert Brown, Dame Judi Dench

9 Apr

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“He turned me into that unsavory character, M.”

 

M is a fictional character in Ian Fleming’s Bond books  and film franchise; the character is the Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service also known as MI6. Fleming based the character on a number of people he knew who commanded sections of British intelligence. M has appeared in the novels by Fleming and seven continuation authors, as well as appearing in twenty-four films.

In the EON Productions, Albert R. Broccoli produced, Bond films, M has been portrayed by four actors: Bernard Lee, Robert Brown, dame Judi Dench and Ralph Finnes, who is the current incumbent; in two independent productions, M has been played by John Huston and Edward Fox.

Fleming based much of M’s character on Rear Admiral, John Godfrey, who was Fleming’s superior at the Naval Intelligence Division during WWII. After Fleming’s death, Godfrey complained “He turned me into that unsavory character, M.”

Fleming’s third Bond novel, Moonraker, establishes M’s initials as “M**** M*******” and his first name is subsequently revealed to be Miles. In the final novel of the series, The Man with The Golden Gun, M’s full identity is revealed as Vice Admiral Sir Miles Messervy KCMG;Messervy had been appointed to head of MI6 after his predecessor had been assassinated at his desk.

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Bernard Lee: 1962–79

M was played by Bernard Lee from the first Bond film, Dr. No, until Moonraker, (1979). In Dr. No, M refers to his record of reducing the number of operative casualties since taking the job, implying someone else held the job recently before him. The film also saw M refer to himself as head of MI7; Lee had originally said MI6, but was overdubbed with the name MI7 prior to the film’s release. Earlier in the film, the department had been referred to as MI6 by a radio operator.

A number of Bond scholars have noted the Lee’s interpretation of the character was in line with the original literary representation; John Cork and Collin Stutz observed that Lee was “very close to Fleming’s version of the character”, whilst Steven Jay Rubin commented on the serious, efficient, no-nonsense authority figure. Smith and Lavington, meanwhile, remarked that Lee was “the very incarnation of Fleming’s crusty admiral.”

Lee died of cancer in January 1981, four months into the filming of For Your eyes Only and before any of his scene s could be filmed. Out of respect, no new actor was hired to assume the role and, instead, the script was re-written so that the character is said to be on leave, with his lines given to either his Chief of Staff Bill Tanner or the Minister of Defence, Sir Fredrick Gray. Later films referred to Lee’s tenure as head of the service, with a painting of him as M in MI6’s Scottish headquarters during the 1999 installment, The World Is Not Enough.

 

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Robert Brown: 1983–89

After Lee’s death in 1981, the producers hired actor Robert Brown to play M in Octopussy. Brown had previously played Admiral Hargreaves, in the 1977 film, The Spy Who Loved Me. Bond scholars Rubin,  Cork, and  Stutz all consider Admiral Hargreaves would have been promoted to the role of M, rather than Brown playing a different character as M.

Pfeiffer and Worrall considered that whilst Brown looks perfect, the role had been softened from that of Lee; they also considered him “far too avuncular”, although in License to Kill they remarked that he came across as being very effective as he removed Bond’s double o license. Bond book series continuation author Raymond Benson agrees, noting that the M role was “once again under written, and Brown is not allowed the opportunity to explore and reveal his character traits”; Benson also considered the character to be “too nice”.

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Dame Judi Dench: 1995–2012

After the long period between Licence to Kill and Goldeneye, the producers brought in Dame Judi Dench to take over as the new M. The character is based on Stella Rimington, the real-life head of MI5 between 1992 and 1996. For GoldenEye, M is cold, blunt and unabashedly dislikes Bond, whom she calls a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War.” Tanner, her Chief of Staff, refers to her during the film as “the Evil Queen of Numbers”, given her reputation at that stage for relying on statistics and analysis rather than impulse and initiative.

Dench continued playing M for the 2006 film Casino Royale, which rebooted the series with Daniel Craig playing Bond. In this new continuity, M has worked for MI6 for some time, at one point muttering, “Christ, I miss the Cold War”. Her ability to run the Secret Service has been questioned several times; in Casino Royale, she was the subject of a review when Bond was caught shooting an unarmed prisoner on camera; in Quantum of Solace, the Foreign Secretary ordered her to personally withdraw Bond from the field in Bolivia and to stop any investigations into Dominic Greene, the villain of the film; and in Skyfall, she is the subject of a public inquiry when MI6 loses a computer hard drive containing the identities of undercover agents around the world. Skyfall marks Dench’s final appearance as M. Her character becomes the target of the film’s villain, Raoul Silva, over a perceived betrayal. She is shot and killed during the climax of the film, making Judi Dench’s M the only M to be killed in the Eon Bond films.

There have also been brief references to M’s family: in GoldenEye, she responds to Tanner’s “Evil Queen of Numbers” jibe by telling him that when she wants to hear sarcasm she will listen to her children. Quantum of Solace director Marc Forter suggested that Dench’s casting gave the character maternal overtones in her relationship with Bond, overtones made overt in Skyfall, in which Silva repeatedly refers to her as “Mother” and “Mommy”. In Skyfall she is also revealed to be a widow.

Unlike the other actors to play M, Dench’s character was never referred to by name on-screen. However, a prop from the final scene of Skyfall, where M bequeaths some of her possessions to Bond following her death, revealed that her character was given the name “Olivia Mansfield”. As the character was never directly referred to by this name, it still may be a mystery.

Bond, James Bond Pt4: Moneypenny, Lois Maxwell

8 Apr

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“I always said I’d have Roger (Moore) for a husband, but Sean (Connery) for a weekend lover.”

Everyone knows (or should know) Lois Maxwell as the one and only “Miss Moneypenny”, but there’s much more to her acting career than that. She started out against her parents’ will, and without their knowledge, in a Canadian children’s radio program, credited as “Robin Wells”. Before the age of 15 she left for England with the Canadian army’s Entertainment Corps and managed (after her age had been discovered) to get herself enrolled in The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she met and became friends with Roger Moore.

Her movie career started with a Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger production, Stairway to Heaven (1946). After having won The Most Promising Newcomer Golden Globe Award in 1947, she went to Hollywood and made six films before she decided to try her luck in Italy. She ha to leave Italy to go to England when her husband became ill, and since then she has had roles in a number of movies besides the first 14 Bond movies. In 1989 she retired.

Maxwell lobbied for the role in the James Bond film Dr. No, as her husband had had a heart attack and they needed the money. Director Terence Young, who once had turned her down on the grounds that she looked like she “smelled of soap”, offered her either Moneypenny or the recurring Bond girlfriend, Sylvia Trench, but she was uncomfortable with a revealing scene in the screenplay. The role as M’s secretary guaranteed just two days’ work at £100 a day; Maxwell supplied her own clothes. The Trench character, however, was eliminated after From Russia with Love.

In 1967, Maxwell angered Sean Connery for a time by appearing in the Italian spy spoof Operation Kid Brother, with the star’s brother Neil Connery and Benard Lee. In 1971, Maxwell was nearly replaced for Diamonds are Forever after demanding a pay raise; her policewoman’s cap disguises hair she had already dyed for another role. However she continued in the role, as her former classmate Roger Moore took over the part of 007. In 1975, she played Moneypenny weeping for the death of James Bond in a short scene with Bernard Lee as M in the French comedy Bons baisers de Hong. For the filming of A View to Kill (1985), her final appearance, Bond producer Cubby Broccoli told her that the two of them were the only ones from Dr. No still working on the series. Maxwell asked that her character be killed off, but Broccoli recast the role instead. Her final Bond film was also Moore’s last outing, and she was succeeded by Caroline Bliss during Timothy Dalton’s tenure and later by Samantha Bond in the Pierce Brosnan films.

As Moneypenny, according to author Tom Lisanti, she was seen as an “anchor”, with her flirtatious repartee with Bond lending the films realism and humanism. For Moneypenny, Bond was “unobtainable”, freeing the characters to make outrageous sexual double entendures. At the same time, her character did little to imbue the series with changing feminist ideals. While still acting in the Bond films during the 80s Lois also became a regular columnist for the Toronto Sun newspaper. She purchased a cottage in northern Ontario and would often share stories about her experiences on the movie set, her co-stars, life in Italy, her experiences growing up in Canada and about her present life in general. As well as commenting on topics of the day. Her feature was a favorite for many and she was sorely missed when she finally retired from writing for the Toronto Sun.

She was the first actress to play the role of MissMoneypenny in the Bond Films, playing the character from Dr. No, in 1962 until her final performance of the character in the 1985 film A View to Kill. Is second only to Desmond Llewelyn for the number of appearances in James Bond movies. She was in 14 and he was in 18.

As Maxwell’s career declined, she lived in Canada, Switzerland, and England, until she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2001. She moved to Perth, Western Australia, where she lived with her son until her death in 2007, at the age of eighty

Anna Karenina (Blu-ray) DVD

7 Apr

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Synopsis: Director Joe Wright and writer Tom Stoppard’s visually  stunning telling of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Featuring Keira Knightley as Anna and Jude Law as Karenin, the story speaks of love, infidelity and consequences in the Imperial age of Russia in the late 1900’s.

Cast

Keira Knightley …………………………………………Anna Karenina

 Jude Law………………………………………………………………Karenin

Aaron Taylor-Johnson…..…………………………………….Vronsky

Kelly Macdonald………….……………….…………………………..Dolly

 Matthew Macfadyen………………………………………………Oblonsky

Domhnall Gleeson………………………………..…………………….Levin

Ruth Wilson Princess Betsy…….……………..………………Tverskoy

Alicia Vikander………………………………..………………………….Kitty

 Olivia Williams……………………….…………………Countess Vronsky

 Emily Watson…………………………..…………………….Countess Lydia

Review: Directed by Joe Wright and written by Tom Stoppard, this version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is both lavish and well acted. Here within lies the conundrum, the film makers can’t seem to decide whether this is an experiment in cinema or an experiment in filmed theatrics.

The story unfolds inside a large theater that through a variety of both synchronized choreography and camera movement becomes Russia in the Imperial era of the mid 1900s.. For example the stage has lavish stage backdrops that depict various landscapes and cities, trains literally go in and out of the theater as it is transformed into a lavish looking train station, then like magic it transforms through rapid set changes into a seat of government or the home of Anna Karenina and her husband Karenin. It seems as each character appears and goes through a stage door some new set is waiting behind it. This experiment in cinema is very distracting when you are trying to understand who each new character is and how they are related to each other.

The time is 1874. Vibrant and beautiful, Anna Karenina has what any of her contemporaries would aspire to; she is the wife of Karenin a high-ranking government official to whom she has borne a son, and her social standing in St. Petersburg could scarcely be higher. She journeys to Moscow after a letter from her philandering brother Oblonsky arrives, asking for Anna to come and help save his marriage to Dolly (Kelly Macdonald). En route, Anna makes the acquaintance of Countess Vronsky, who is then met at the train station by her son, the dashing cavalry officer Vronsky. When Anna is introduced to Vronsky, there is a mutual spark of instant attraction that cannot – and will not – be ignored.

The Moscow household is also visited by Oblonsky’s best friend Levin, an overly sensitive and compassionate landowner. Levin is in love with Dolly’s younger sister Kitty. Inopportunely, he proposes to Kitty but she is infatuated with Vronsky. Devastated, Levin returns to his Pokrovskoe estate and throws himself into farm work. Kitty herself is heartbroken when, at a grand ball, Vronsky only has eyes for Anna and the married woman reciprocates the younger man’s interest.

Anna struggles to regain her equilibrium by rushing home to St. Petersburg, where Vronsky follows her. She attempts to resume her familial routine, but is consumed by thoughts of Vronsky. A passionate affair ensues, which scandalizes St. Petersburg society. Karenin is placed in an untenable position and is forced to give his wife an ultimatum. In attempting to attain happiness, the decisions Anna makes pierce the veneer of an image-obsessed society, reverberating with romantic and tragic consequences that dramatically change her and the lives of all around her.

Tolstoy wrote about Russian society, I think most people want Gone with the Wind romance. But why this was so deeply clever was that it cut to the real story which is NOT about a fallen woman, or love. It’s about how lust almost incidentally is the backdrop for the question between whether what is right is good, and in those days that meant religion and society. Keira being so exquisitely beautiful, all the more perfect for the imperfect eye teeth, brought a brittle doll like quality which, just like the sparten but beautiful set, underscored that this is NOT a story about a deep love and sensuality. It’s a story about right and wrong, spirituality, the soul and the meaning of life! Anna feels that lust is the answer to an existentially empty life, but she needs the theatre of society. The battle for her is the social v. lust. We can’t help but understand her plight. Brittle Keira makes the social dominate at the beginning and shatter like a china doll.

It is the acting that in fact redeems this movie. Jude law is steadfast as he battles with God’s law and the laws that society demand of him. He is never angry but never at real peace. There are a few familiar faces in the cast such as Emily Watson of Downton Abbey who plays Countess Lydia, and Domhnall Gleeson as Levin, who you may remember as Bill Weasley in the Potter movies.

Stoppard’s screenplay covers all the bases of Tolstoy’s vision of love, hate, sacrifice and remorse. What was missing for me in all the eye candy, was a real depth of emotion. Was this a masterpiece of cinema risk taking leaving behind the language of cinema story telling or was this a filmed theatrical with over the top melodrama? Don’t get me wrong there are genuine moments of brilliant acting and emotion, the problem is that the design and grandeur of the sets soon become a distraction.

The Blu-ray format enhances a textural movie such as this, the lush seems more luxurious, the colors are so vivid you feel you there watching the story unfold before your eyes.  Available on Netflix, Amazon and at the Red Box.

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Bond,James Bond PT3: Q Desmond Llewelyn

7 Apr

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“Yes, I know Q is beloved,” Desmond said. “But for God’s sake, don’t make him some kind of sentimental grandfather — that’s what I am in real life.”

Desmond Llewelyn, as the iconic Q, the gadget master in 17 Bond films, supplied 007 with everything from a BMW with a rocket launching sun roof to lethal umbrellas and toxic fountain pens. Llewelyn always played the tolerant father to his child, 007, when it came to giving him the keys to the car. “007 you will bring the car back in pristine condition, won’t you? Or Grow-Up won’t you 007?!”

Llewelyn in his real life adventures was no stranger to dangerous adventures.  In the early days of WWII, he was serving in France with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers holding off a Panzer division. The battle lasted for 2 days, as Llewelyn and his mates tried to secure the perimeter of a canal.

When things went sour, Llewelyn swam to the other side of the canal hoping the British were there. “Unfortunately the Germans were,” he says. The Welsh-bom Llewelyn ended up a prisoner of war for 5 years — to the day — in camps like Rottenburg, Laufen, and Warburg.

He says he harbors no ill will against the Germans, though there were 118 officers crowded into the room at his 1st internment.

It never occurred to him, to try acting until, after the war he went to work as a scene shifter with an amateur theater group.

“I used to share study with actor Dennis Price. He said, ‘Why don’t you come and act?’ I said, ‘I don’t want to.’ Finally he persuaded me. And I got bitten by the bug and managed to persuade my family.”

It was simply by chance that he was cast as Q. “I did small parts in TV and films. I did one film about the liberation of Paris which was directed by Terence Young. Terence was to direct Dr. No, luckily for me, the man who played Q in that wasn’t available. And when my name came up, Terence said yes.”

Llewelyn likes playing Q which he’s did for 17 of the films, though his parts are usually small.

“It’s jolly nice,” he said. “I always complain. It’s difficult in a way. I’m treated as a star and I don’t get a star’s salary. They’re extremely generous. I get paid extremely well for my one or 2 days’ work. But I’m always plugging away and next time maybe I can get a larger part.”

In real life Llewelyn was a techno novice. As far as gadgets he said, “I can’t work them at all, I can’t even work the cash machine at the bank.”

Roger Moore, former Bond star says of Llewelyn, “I was the bane of his life. He had to say probably the worst gobbledegook that any actor could be asked to perform. “He had technical words to say that never seemed to make any sense.”

Moore revealed how he used to tease Llewelyn by rewriting his lines on the prompt boards, to make him say silly things.”He was a wonderful man to work with,” said Moore. “He had a wonderful sense of humor.” Moore goes on to say, “No Bond film was complete without Q and his gadgets. “I would go further and say I do not think a Bond film would be complete without Desmond Llewelyn.”

At age 85, Llewelyn was in a fatal car accident on December 19, 1999, as he was returning home from a book signing event. Despite attention from a doctor called to scene and transfer by helicopter to Eastbourne District General Hospital he died shortly thereafter.

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Bond, James Bond PT2: Maurice Binder

7 Apr

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Maurice Binder (August 25, 1925 – April 4, 1991) was a film title designer best known for his work on 14 James Bond films including the first, Dr. No, in 1962 and for Stanley Donen’s films from 1958. He was born in New York City, but mostly worked in England from the 1950s onwards. The Bond producers first approached him after being impressed by his title designs for the 1960 Stanley Donen comedy film The Grass is Greener. He also worked with Stanley Donen in Charade and Arabesque, both with music of Henri Mancini (Pink Panther).

Binder created the signature gun barrel sequence for the opening titles of the first Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962. Binder originally planned to employ a camera sighted down the barrel of a .38 caliber gun, but this caused some problems. Unable to stop down the lens of a standard camera enough to bring the entire gun barrel into focus, Binder created a pinhole camera to solve the problem and the barrel became crystal clear. Binder described the genesis of the gun barrel sequence in the last interview he recorded before his death in 1991:

“That was something I did in a hurry, because I had to get to a meeting with the producers in twenty minutes. I just happened to have little white, price tag stickers and I thought I’d use them as gun shots across the screen. We’d have James Bond walk through and fire, at which point blood comes down onscreen. That was about a twenty-minute storyboard I did, and they said, This looks great!”

At least one critic has also observed that the sequence recalls the gun fired at the audience at the end of  The Great train Robbery (1903)

Binder is also best known for women performing a variety of activities such as dancing, jumping on a trampoline, or shooting weapons. Both sequences are trademarks and staples of the James Bond films. Maurice Binder was succeeded by Daniel Kleinman as the title designer for 1995’s Golden Eye.

Prior to Golden Eye, the only James Bond movies for which he did not create the opening title credits were From Russia with Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964), both of which were designed by RobertBrownjohn.

Binder shot opening and closing sequences involving a mouse for The Mouse That Roared (1959), a sequence of monks filmed as a mosaic explaining the history of the Golden Bell in The Long Ships (1963), and a sequence of Spanish dancers explaining why the then topical reference of nuclear weapons vanishing in a B-52 mishap shifted from Spain to Greece in The Day the Fish came Out. He designed the title sequence for Sodom and Gomorrah (1963) that featured an orgy (the only one in the film). He took three days to direct the sequence that was originally supposed to take one day.

Binder also was a producer of The Passage (1979), and a visual consultant on Dracula (1979) and Oxford Blues (1984).

Binder’s visual style and eroticism has made an indelible mark on Bond Films. His work was more organic in the way movement was portrayed, as opposed to the CGI look of later Bond films. Binder’s creative genius gave us the flavor and mood of the story that was about to unfold before us.

Binder, who never married, but loved his career, photography and women, died of lung cancer in London at 65 years of age.

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Bond, James Bond PT 1: Albert (Cubby) Broccoli

7 Apr

 

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On the Bond movie formula: “A virile and resourceful hero, exotic locations, the ingenious apparatus of espionage and sex on a fairly sophisticated level.”

In the first of a series concerning itself with the Bond franchise, the following is a broad overview of legendary film producer Cubby Broccoli. The 22 Bond films based on the books by Ian Fleming and produced by the Broccoli’s, has become the most enduring and profitable franchise in cinema history.

Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli was born in the borough of , Queens, New York, the younger of two children of immigrants from the Calabria, region of Italy, Giovanni Broccoli and Christina Vence. He acquired his nickname after his cousin, Pasquale “Pat” DiCicco, began calling him “Kabibble,” eventually shortened to “Kubbie” and adopted by Broccoli as “Cubby.” The family later bought a farm in Smithtown, New York, on long Island, near their relatives the DiCiccos.

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During his early period in Hollywood, Broccoli may have taken part in a bar-room brawl which took the life of comedian Ted Healy. According to E. J. Fleming’s book The Fixers, Broccoli, his cousin, gangster Pasquale “Pat” DiCicco, and film star Wallace Beery, fought with Healy and beat him to death. Fleming asserts that MGM executives Eddie Mannix and Howard Strickling, in an attempt to save the reputation of their star Beery, fabricated a story about college students attacking Healy, immediately followed by a four-month trip to Europe for Beery. Immigration records confirm a four-month trip to Europe on Beery’s part immediately after Healy’s death, ending 17 April 1938.

At the beginning of the 1950s, Broccoli moved once more, this time to London, where the British Government provided subsidies to film productions made in the UK with British casts and crews. Together with Irving Allen, Broccoli formed Warwick Films that made a prolific and successful series of films for Columbia Pictures.

When Broccoli became interested in bringing Ian Fleming’s, James Bond character into features, he discovered that the rights already belonged to the Canadian producer Harry Saltzman, who had long wanted to break into film, and who had produced several stage plays and films with only modest success. When the two were introduced by a mutual friend, screenwriter Wolf Mankowitz, Saltzman refused to sell the rights, but agreed to partner with Broccoli and co-produce the films, which led to the creation of the production company EON Productions and its parent (holding) company Danjag, LLC named after their wives’ first names, Dana and Jacqueline.

Saltzman and Broccoli produced the first Bond movie, Dr. No, in 1962. Their second, From Russia with Love, was a break-out success and from then on, the films grew in cost, action, and ambition. With larger casts, more difficult stunts and special effects, and a continued dependence on exotic locations, the franchise became essentially a full-time job. In 1966, Albert was in Japan with other producers scouting locations to film the next James Bond film You Only Live Twice, Albert had a ticket booked on BOAC flight 911. He cancelled his ticket on that day so he could see a ninja demonstration. Flight 911 crashed after clear air turbulence.

Broccoli made one notable attempt at a non-Bond film, an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968, and due to legal wrangling over the rights to story elements, ceded producer credit on Thunderball to Kevin McClory. By the mid-1960s, Broccoli had put nearly all of his energies into the Bond series. Saltzman’s interests continued to range apart from the series, including production of a loose trilogy of spy films based on Len Deighton’s, Harry Palmer, a character who operates in a parallel universe to Bond, with all the danger but none of the glamour and gadgets.

Saltzman and Broccoli had differences over Saltzman’s outside commitments, but in the end it was Saltzman who withdrew from Danjaq and EON after a series of financial mishaps. While Saltzman’s departure brought the franchise a step closer to corporate control, Broccoli lost relatively little independence or prestige in the bargain. From then until his death, the racy credits sequence to every EON Bond film would begin with the words “Albert R. Broccoli Presents.” Although from the 1970s onward the films became lighter in tone and looser in plot, at times less successful with critics, the series distinguished itself in production values and continued to appeal to audiences.

In 1981, Broccoli was honoured with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work in film; the award was presented at the 1982 Academy Awards ceremony by the current James Bond at that time, Roger Moore. Broccoli also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as Cubby Broccoli.

Broccoli married three times. In 1940, at the age of 31, he married actress Gloria Blondell (the younger sister of actress, Joan Blondell); they later divorced amicably in 1945 without having had children. In 1951, he married Nedra Clark, and the couple were told they had fertility problems and would never have children. They adopted a son, Tony Broccoli, after which Nedra became pregnant. She died in 1958, soon after giving birth to their daughter, Tina Broccoli. At the time of Nedra’s illness, while nursing her in America, Albert Broccoli became convinced that Bond would make a good movie series, and set up a meeting between Ian Fleming and his partner in London.

In 1959, Broccoli married actress and novelist Dana Wilson (née Dana Natol) (1922 – 29 February 2004). They had a daughter together, Barbara Broccoli, and Albert Broccoli became a mentor to Dana’s teenage son, Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli insisted on keeping his family close to him when possible. Consequently the children grew up around the Bond film sets, and his wife’s influence on various production decisions is alluded to in many informal accounts.

Michael Wilson worked his way up through the production company to co-write and co-produce. Barbara Broccoli, in her turn, served in several capacities under her father’s tutelage from the 1980s on. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have co-produced the films since the elder Broccoli’s death.

Dana Broccoli died of cancer in 2004, aged 82. The end of Tomorrow Never Dies, displays the dedication “In loving memory of Albert R. (Cubby) Broccoli”.

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The Intouchables (Gamount) (DVD)

3 Apr

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“Every so often a film is written that pulls at your heartstrings and brings both a smile and tears to your eyes as we watch the human condition unfold.”

Synopsis:  The Intouchables’ tells the true story of a wealthy, physically disabled risk taker, Phillipe, the picture of established French nobility, who lost his wife in an accident and whose world is turned upside down when he hires a young, good-humored, black Muslim ex-con, Driss as his caretaker. Their bond proves the power and omniscience that love and friendship can hold over all social and economic differences. The Intouchables depicts an unlikely camaraderie rooted in honesty and humor between two individuals who, on the surface, would seem to have nothing in common.

CAST

Francois Cluzet………………………………………Phillipe

Omar Sy……………………………………………………Driss

Alba Gaïa Kraghede Bellugi…………………………..Elisa

Audrey Fleurot……………………………………..Magalie

Clotilde Mollet……………………………………….Marcelle

Cyril Mendy…………………………………………….Adama

Anna Le Ny……………………………………………..Yvonne

Alba Gaïa Kraghede Bellugi……………………………..Elisa

Christian Ameri………………………………………… Albert

Grégoire Oestermann…………………………………Antoine

Marie-Laure Descoureaux……………………………Chantal

Absa Dialou Toure……………………………………….. Mina

Salimata Kamate………………………………………….Fatou

Review: Released in the U.K. as Untouchable, the film since its’ initial release has become one of the highest grossing films ever in France. Written and directed by, Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano the film tells the true story of  two people whose lives intertwine in an unlikely way.

The story  told entirely in flashback, starts At night in Paris, Driss is driving Philippe’s Maserati Quattroporte at high speed. They are soon chased by the police: when they are caught, Driss, unfazed, doubles his bet with Philippe, convinced they can get an escort. In order to get away with his speeding, Driss claims the quadriplegic Philippe must be urgently driven to the emergency room; Philippe pretends to have a stroke and the fooled police officers eventually escort them to the hospital. As the police leave them at the hospital, Philippe asks what will they do now, to which Driss answers: “Now let me take care of it.” as they drive off.

Through friendship, humor and respect the two, Phillipe a French millionaire, quadriplegic, who through tragic circumstances loses his wife. and Driss, black, Muslim,  ex-con, form a life-long bond. Phillipe, with the help of his assistant Magalie, looking for a  live-in caretaker, meets Driss, a candidate, has no ambitions to get hired. He is just there to get a signature showing he was interviewed and rejected in order to continue to receive his welfare benefits. He is extremely casual and shamelessly flirts with Magalie. He is told to come back the next morning to get his signed letter. Driss goes back to the tiny flat that he shares with his extended family in a bleak Parisian suburb. His aunt, exasperated from not hearing from him for six months, orders him to leave the flat. when Driss comes back to the next day Phillipe for his paper, he finds he has been hired on a trial basis.

He learns the extent of Philippe’s disability and then accompanies Philippe in every moment of his life, discovering with astonishment a completely different lifestyle. A friend of Philippe’s reveals Driss’s criminal record which includes six months in jail for robbery. Philippe states he does not care about Driss’s past because he is the only one that does not treat him with pity or compassion, but as an equal. He says he will not fire him as long as he does his current job properly.

Over time, Driss and Philippe become closer. Driss dutifully takes care of his boss, who frequently suffers from phantom pain. Philippe discloses to Driss that he became disabled following a paragliding accident and that his wife died without bearing children. Gradually, Philippe is led by Driss to put some order in his private life, including being more strict with his adopted daughter Elisa, who behaves like a spoiled child with the staff. Driss discovers art, opera, and even takes up painting. For Philippe’s birthday, a private concert of classical music is performed in his living room. At first very reluctant, Driss is led by Philippe to listen more carefully to the music and opens up to Philippe’s music. Driss then plays the music he likes to Philippe (Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind & Fire), which opens up everybody in the room to dance.

Driss discovers that Philippe has a purely letter writting relationship with a woman called Eléonore, who lives in Dunkirk. Driss encourages him to meet her but Philippe fears her reaction when she discovers his disability. Driss eventually convinces Philippe to talk to Eléonore on the phone. Philippe agrees with Driss to send a photo of him in a wheelchair to her, but he hesitates and asks his aide, Yvonne, to send a picture of him as he was before his accident. A date between Eléonore and Philippe is agreed. At the last minute Philippe is too scared to meet Eléonore and leaves with Yvonne before Eléonore arrives. Philippe then calls Driss and invites him to travel with him in his private jet for a paragliding weekend. Philippe gives Driss an envelope containing 11,000 euros, the amount he was able to get for Driss’s painting, which he sold to one of his friends by saying it was from an up-and-coming artist.

Adama, Driss’s younger cousin, who is in trouble with a gang, takes refuge in Philippe’s mansion. Driss opens up to Philippe about his family and his past in Senegal, where his then-childless aunt and uncle adopted him from his real parents, and brought him back to France. His adoptive parents later began having children of their own, his uncle died and his aunt bore still more children. Philippe recognizes Driss’s need to be supportive to his family and releases him from his job, suggesting he “may not want to push a wheelchair all his life”.

Driss returns to his suburbs, joining his friends, and manages to help his younger cousin. Due to his new professional experience, he lands a job in a transport company. In the meantime Philippe has hired caregivers to replace Driss, but he isn’t happy with any of them. His morale is very low and he stops taking care of himself. Yvonne becomes worried and contacts Driss, who arrives and decides to drive Philippe in the Maserati, which brings the story back to the first scene of the film, the police chase. After they have eluded the police, Driss takes Philippe straight to the seaside. Upon shaving and dressing elegantly, Philippe and Driss arrive at a Cabourg, restaurant with a great ocean view. Driss suddenly leaves the table and says good luck to Philippe for his lunch date. Philippe does not understand, but a few seconds later, Eléonore arrives. Emotionally touched, Philippe looks through the window and sees Driss outside, smiling at him. Driss bids Philippe farewell and walks away.

Every so often a film is written that pulls at your heartstrings and brings both a smile and tears to your eyes as we watch the human condition unfold. This is such a film. The performances by Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy register in their faces the love and respect they have for each other. Cluzet can only emote through his face due to his character’s condition, for any actor this is difficult enough, Cluzet is brilliant. Omar Sy gives us a sense of humanity through his humor and light touch, you become drawn to these two likeable characters and get taken along for the ride.

There are some who feel that there is in fact an American Buddy Movie formula going on here, I didn’t feel that as the film progressed. Some have compared the racial differences to Driving Miss Daisy , I find in both cases this is not the case. You can become too critical at times and not just enjoy the story which is based on real events. The film is uplifting and soars with human connection.  The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2012.

The film is available on DVD, at Netflix, Amazon and Red-Box.

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