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Casino Royale: A Review

So I love the Bond films. There’s been some great ones in the years I’ve been alive, including the latest, Skyfall, so I jumped at the idea to read the first of the books when it was presented to me in my bookclub. What better way to appreciate Bond than read the books.

It started a little dull, as older books tend to do. While it’s not acceptable to write a book with lots of description and back story up front these days it was just fine back then. People liked to have the scene set for them and didn’t need to be hooked on the first page because their attention spans were longer. I also thought the dossier chapter was interesting if a little dry.

Bond wasn’t entirely what I was expecting. He appeared very sexist, and the author may well have been. As the book was written in the 50’s this could be a sign of the times again but I’m not entirely sure. M was male, something I found interesting given that I always imagine M as Judi Dench and probably always will. Given Bond’s sexist nature this was probably necessary.

I’m still not 100% sure if I liked the book, however. It was shorter than I expected, barely even long enough to call itself a novel, and very few of the side characters were fleshed out. Bond had some backstory and info about him but it was sparse and the rest of the characters had even less, giving the whole thing a rather 2d feel to it. I imagine it would build over several books, but I’d really have liked less description about the setting and more of the characters.

All in all it’s left me very unsure whether to continue. The ebooks aren’t cheap given how short they are (this one was £4) and not as good as a lot of cheaper indie books are these days but I am sort of curious. I suppose I might consider trying a second if I’m feeling flush sometime, but given how many other ebooks I want to buy I don’t expect it will be any time soon.

Skyfall: A Review

This is the third James Bond film with Daniel Craig as the main character and it came out to celebrate 50 years since the first ever bond film. For a series where there’s no logical explanation why the Bond character changes appearance every now and then it’s doing remarkably well with it’s format and I was eager to see yet another in a quintisentially British series.

The first two with Daniel Craig in, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, were both prequels and both a little dissapointing. Casino Royale being the better of the two as Quantum of Solace just felt like any other standard revenge film and not the different swaggering spy movie Bond normally delivers.

This third one was the same and also delivered us with a prequel, thankfully, no where near as dissapointing. I had found out, not long after the previous Bond film that Daniel Craig actually played Bond much more like the original author intended, which helped me to try and see it from the author’s eyes. In Skyfall I think Craig really came into the role and It completely redeems him for me as a great Bond.

The plot was fantastic and I loved getting to see a bit more of Bond’s previous life and childhood as well as a modernisating effect on the whole team behind him. I was also kept very amused by the references to the old films and hints at beginnings of habits we know Bond well for, like his shaken not stirred drink and his habit of ignoring the rules, tests and anything else anyone tried to give him boundaries with.

On top of all that the support acting was fantastic. The villian felt believably psychotic and had me thinking he really might get to achieve his nasty plot before 007 could stop him, even though a part of me knew Bond always comes out on top. M was again superb but Dench is one of the best actors we have so no real surprises there. The actor who stole the show for me though, was Bérénice Marlohe, who played Sévérine, the trafficked girl owned by our bad guy. Her fear at being in his power and her trepidation at wanting to hope Bond could rescue her had me on the edge of my seat. I’m sure it helped that I’m passionately against trafficking and know more about it than the average person but for me her fear and emotions in those few scenes were so perfect.

However, the only major downside with the film was what happened next with Sévérine. As is normal in a Bond film, he gets to sleep with someone at somepoint (occasionally more than one person). Unfortunately they picked our broken trafficked girly as the one to fall for Bond’s charms but that just wouldn’t happen. No trafficked girl ever feels like they can jump right into the arms of another man just because he ‘might’ be able to rescue her. Especially when they’ve only just met.

Had they not been so unrealistic I think I’d be chalking this down to the best Bond film ever, but I just can’t quite bring myself to do so. Even with the fantastic settings, including the house, skyfall (to the left), I just couldn’t quite forgive it for this slip up.

I will be looking forward to the next Bond film, however, and I hope they don’t keep us waiting long. I’ll also be adding this one to my film collection, I just might have to fast forward the shower scene to keep myself calm.

Olympics

I know this could be considered a little late but I thought I’d give my opinion on the Olympics this year, considering that my country were the hosts too.

First off there was that opening ceremony. This was the part most of our country was worried about. We could have done an awful job but actually it was amazing. I don’t expect that everyone in other countries would have really understood it but it was very British and well planned out.

My favourite bit was when James Bond went to pick up the Queen in the cut away video. We all thought it was just a Queen lookalike but when she turned around and greeted him and revealed that it was indeed our monarch a cheer went up in our house full of spectators.

I had heard she had a good sense of humour but I think this just proves it. She even allowed her darling Corgis to be in the video.

On top of that I have to admit I really quite like Daniel Craig as James Bond. He’s not the best actor that’s taken on the role but for this moment he seemed to have the perfect expression. His face when the Queen said ‘good evening Mr Bond was spot on.’

The other thing I loved was how they managed to turn this —>

into the industrial age, tower-filled forge below. And yes that is the same house in the shot and that ring to the left is covered in grass in the first shot.

Amazingly they managed to do this while stuff was going on around. Workers appeared and stripped back grass while others appeared to be winching up the towers into the middle of the stadium and Isanbard Kingdom Brunel surveyed it all with satisfaction after reading out an excerpt from the Tempest.

On top of that we had sillyness from Mr Bean and one very amazing music medley of 60’s to the present. The final stunning part, however, was the Olympic flame itself. Not only had they managed to keep it secret that seven young athletes were going to light the Olympic cauldron instead of an established professional as it normally is but they had also managed to keep it quiet that the copper petals each country carried in with their parade actually all came together to make a stunning cauldron.

Each petal alone was stunning as you can see to the right. and there were 204 of these that came into the arena, one with each country. All we knew as they were coming in was that they were very pretty and we were told they would all feature later. Well they all ended up in the centre in a spread out spiral. As the bottom few were lit the flames jumped from petal to petal around and up the spiral and then it was all lifted up to create one large cauldron.

Not too bad really for an opening ceremony from us. I also really liked that almost everyone involved was a volunteer. It was nice that any old joe could give up time to practice and get to take part, as well as all the builders being honoured during the torch bearing.

Unfortunately the first day of the olympics didn’t go quite so well in Britain’s favour. We had hopes in the men’s road race but just couldn’t get enough other teams to work with us to catch some early leaders so none of the British could get near a medal.

The following day saw us pick up a couple of medals, however. We did a lot better in the women’s road race and picked up a silver, then a bronze in the pool with Rebecca Adlington.

Monday saw us do well in the Equestrian cross country after our good start in the dressage. We also did well in the gymnastics, though there were upsets there with the Japanese fall that was possibly a wonky dismount.

Tuesday granted us a silver in the team equestrian which wasn’t too surprising after the amazing cross country we had the day before.

Then all of a sudden it really took off on the Wednesday with the female rowers getting us our first gold medal and then over the following days we got loads more in the cycling, rowing and even a few unexpected ones in the athletics.

The second Saturday was our best day with six gold medals being acquired throughout the day. I believe they were two rowing ones, a cycling one and the female heptathalon, men’s long jump and men’s 10,000 run. On top of a bunch of silvers and bronzes.

By the end Team GB had 29 golds 17 silver and 19 bronze medals, a lot more than had been expected and I think our best games for over 100 years. The whole buzz and excitement of the olympics was extraordinary too. Almost everyone was talking about it and watching as much as possible.

Eventually the games reached the end and we came to the closing ceremony. This was put together by someone different but still followed a similar theme to the opening ceremony. There was a lot of music and bands playing. Unfortunately not everyone could sing as well as they used to but they did their best.

It started with Winston Churchill reading more of the Tempest from inside the top of Big Ben while chaos ensued around him. There were suddenly street parties and golden oldie songs beginning with Our House by Madness, who popped out the back of a newspapered covered truck driving around the edge.

As they sang more newspaper covered cars, people and dancers appeared around the stadium and the stadium led a rendition of parklife, which led into westend girls by the pet shop boys being driven around on bright orange chariots. I kid you not. Bright orange chariots! I did spend most of my time wondering how their drivers could see and also wondering if the petshop boys had done something naughty to deserve their black dunce caps. It was entertaining at least, however and did make me think of their whacky music videos.

Unfortunately then came the first of the oldies who is getting a little past it now in terms of singing voice as Ray Davies tried to treat us to a rendition of Waterloo Sunset. It could have been better but it was bearable and watching everything else going on around him was at least interesting.

This was rescued by Emeli Sande who sang read all about it on her newspaper covered car. Thankfully at this point all the newspaper disappeared and the parade of atheletes final medal ceremony and all of the official things happened. The best bit of this was allowing the atheletes to enter from all parts of the stadium so all the crowd got to see them and congratulate them as they walked in. I thought that was a great idea.

After everything official they started us off again with an excerpt from Bohemian Rhapsody, which led into Imagine by John Lennon, sung by The Liverpool Philharmonic youth choir, followed by more madness from George Michael’s white light and the Kaiser chiefs version of Pinball Wizard.

Then things got more odd with David Bowie’s fashion and those lorries that were newspaper covered earlier all came back with lots of big fashion brands and models on their sides. At the end of the song they all opened up to reveal models for each brand and some very lovely dresses, plus one man.

And at that point, just when you didn’t think things could get any more odd Annie Lennox came on stage to sing Little bird. Her mode of transport was a sail-less boat, complete with a guy holding wings up for her. Thankfully she sang better than she did in the Queen’s jubilee celebration and I really liked her boat. Everything else was a bit odd but the boat was cool.

The next song was pure genious with Ed Sheeran singing Wish you were here with a band comprising of a genesis member, a pink floyd member and several others.

Russel Brand then added his mix of eccentricness into it by singing pure imagination from the original charlie and the chocolate factory film followed by I am the walrus. Which led into Fatboy Slim dj’ing from a giant octopus for a couple of songs and then a medly from Jessie J, Tinie Tempah and Taoi Cruz, who sang their own songs followed by coming together to sing the Beegee’s, you should be dancing.

Unfortunately this very bright vw camper powered octopus was followed by another oops of the closing ceremony. Five taxis came driving into the stadium with some passangers most people probably didn’t want to see, the Spice Girls. They climbed onto the roof of their taxis and drove around singing a medley, although thankfully some of it was mimed.

When that was finally over the director decided to take a leaf out of the opening ceremonies book and went back to the eccentric humour the brits are best at.

Cue Eric Idle and, Always look on the bright side of life, complete with new olympic lyrics and some great dancers. Yup, that’s us Brits right there.

After this it pretty much wound up to the extinguishing of the olympic torch with the official olympic song by muse, a brilliant screen of Freddie leading everyone in random scatting from a recorded concert moment and a phenominal guitar solo from the ever loved Brian May. He was then joined by Queen’s drummer and Jessie J helped provide the vocals to We will rock you.

Once the flame was extinguished there was Take that and finally a trio of songs from The who. All in all not too bad if you forget the few that seemed more pointless. I Am torn between Eric Idle and Queen +Jessie J for best act of the night, however.

This concludes my olympic round up. Right now I’m very proud to be British.