TF Film Review: Skyfall (2012)

All good things come to those who wait is a very apt phrase given its been four years since ‘Quantum Of Solace‘ not to mention the extra 5 week wait for us movie fans in Japan. There has been a lot of hype surrounding the release of ‘Skyfall‘ which heightened by the fact that its also 50 years since the first Bond film, ‘Dr No‘ was released. That shouldn’t affect one’s judgement of this third film to star Daniel Craig in the secret agent role. However, I have to say that this isn’t just a great Bond film but it is indeed a fantastic film in itself.

First things first though, and one disappointment at the outset is that there is still no traditional gun barrel opener. The pre-titles Turkish scenes in Istanbul and Adana were thrilling and left me short of breath as the opening titles kicked in. Adele’s lovely theme tune is, unlike the last couple (which I do actually like), one where you can actually sing the title of the film.

I was pretty much spoiler free going into this film (albeit not quite to the extent of that of ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘ back in the Summer) other than knowing that it had something to do with M’s past coming back to haunt her. Judi Dench’s character comes out from the background of past films to basically co-star alongside Daniel Craig. Together in this I think were both absolutely brilliant with the latter wrestling with both his emotions and his physical and psychological attributes which have served him so well.

Unlike ‘Quantum of Solace‘ the plot of ‘Skyfall‘ is actually understandable and very topical of modern times with its storyline but there are also a few other bits to keep us fans really happy such as the introduction (re-inroduction?) of Q, the backstory on Moneypenny, some of Bond’s family history and the return of the Aston Martin DB5 car (from 1964′s ‘Goldfinger’) which doesn’t make too much sense but it’s a nice nod to the past.

As ever there was a good range of locations taking in the aforementioned Turkey as well as China, England, Scotland and even Japan with Hashima in Nagasaki a.k.a. Gunkanjima (Battleship island) kind of being used as the ‘Dead City’ island retreat of antagonist Silva (Javier Bardem) although in the film it’s off the coast of Macau. The long shots are real but sadly this was all filmed on set at Pinewood Studios. Nevertheless, I’d still love to visit this island one day.

I really did love seeing the scenery from back home of London and the Scottish Highlands or maybe I’m just a misty-eyed Brit living abroad! It was also nice to see BBC News’ Huw Edwards as well as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer perform their cameo news anchor duties within the film.

The name Skyfall refers to Bonds family estate and childhood home in Scotland (filmed in reality in Surrey) where he retreats to with M leaving a trail behind so that Silva can find them and thus turn the tables as they had always been one step behind him up until then. Along with the innkeeper they then basically defend from within with limited resources akin to that of ‘The A-Team‘ or even ‘Home Alone‘! The ending took me by surprise and I was so thankful that I didn’t know what was going to happen beforehand. It is a long film but its 142 minute entirety thankfully passed me by with relative ease.

I’m now just relieved that I can finally read other reviews, listen to a backlog of 007 related podcasts and look into adding to my already substantial list of Bond movie locations visited. Bring on the next installment.

Skyfall_wallpaper skyfall_image

Tokyo Fox Rating 9/10

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Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967)

After a gap of four years the 23rd James Bond film ‘Sky Fall‘ is nearly here, 50 years since the release of ‘Dr No‘ starring Sean Connery. The Scot went on to make six official 007 films (plus non-Eon Bond film ‘Never Say Never Again‘) with my favourite being ‘You Only Live Twice‘ in 1967 which is partly responsible for my filming locations fascination and the inspiration for me going on to watch many more international films set in Japan thereby leading to this series of reviews on the subject.

This was the first film I remember watching which offered an insight into the country that has been my home for many years now. From the haunting but beautiful sweeping sounds of Nancy Sinatra’s soundtrack to the exotic oriental locations this film really does develop a flavour for Japan with its beautiful women, emerging technology and ancient customs.

 

The stakes are high in this film with the threat of World War III. The catalyst for this threat comes after a spacecraft is hijacked which sees both America and Russia blame each other. British Intelligence discover that an Unidentified Flying Object went down into the seas of Japan and so agent 007 is despatched to the Far East. Not wanting him to be distracted by old enemies under such pressure and time constraints Bond’s death is faked.

Bond forms an alliance with Tiger Tanaka, the Head of the Japanese Secret Service who many years later would reappear in the 007 novel ‘The Man With The Red Tattoo‘ which I finally read last year. Naturally, Tiger’s competent agent is a female called Aki who Bond gets together with before she goes the way of so many other Bond girls. But thats ok as she is easily replaced a short time later with another girl….or two!

As ever with Bond films I really don’t think the storyline is of paramount importance as the reason fans watch these films is to see the action scenes, the Bond girls, the lines, the villains and Bond’s charm and seduction when in the face of adversity as he often is.

This 007 film in particular played a huge part in giving Mike Myers his ideas for spoof agent Austin Powers such as the incredibly evil villain with his white cat who has a pedal that when pressed sees the floor taken from beneath his victim. There’s also the gigantic lair with guys in the background turning knobs to make it look like they’re doing something. The volcano base set is an elaborate one and the mysterious man stroking the cat is finally revealed to be Ernst Stravo Blofeld for a few brief scenes 100 minutes into the movie.

You Only Live Twice‘ may tire a bit in the second half but overall its a fun movie and on top of some nostalgic Japanese scenery it also features the “Little Nellie” helicopter which is one of the most beloved Q gadgets (used by Bond to explore the volcano area). As well as Blofeld finally being unveiled we also see the absurd plot whereby Bond is transformed into a Japanese man to maintain cover on his secret mission which can probably be attributed to (or blamed for) the many documentaries we’ve seen over the years with celebrity presenters throwing themselves into Japanese culture.

 

Tokyo Fox Rating 8/10

You can see my ‘You Only Live Twice‘ Japan filming locations here and here.

TF Film Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Here it is then – a review of a film which came out in November last year apart from the fact that it has only just been released here in Japan. These delayed releases really are annoying as you can basically get the movie on download before it comes out here. I know that promotion and subtitling can take time but if some films have a worldwide release date then surely so can most others, especially the Quantum of Solace which is even distributed by Sony who are of course a Japanese company.

I was very late to get into the Bond franchise with ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ in 1997 being the first one I saw in its entirety and from then I on I was hooked and over the years I have made the effort to see many of the others, both new and old. I even went to James Bond Island near Phuket (featured in 1974’s ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’) which was a highlight at the time for me and Ethan.

Having bought my ticket in advance (its 500 yen cheaper and also including a free bottle of Coca Cola Zero zero 7) I got up early last week for the 10am showing before work. I’d been doing my best to avoid any article or TV report about the film but couldn’t help but hear that it was now more similar to the excellent Bourne films and that was constantly in my mind as I watched some of the opening scenes which were remnant of The Bourne Ultimatum in my opinion but I guess that film franchise also borrowed heavily from Bond.

Overall, I enjoyed the action parts of the film but coudln’t really explain it plot-wise (luckily so for those who haven’t seen it yet!) but thats never been such an important thing for me. I didn’t think it was as good as Casino Royale and as much as I like Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond I do miss the little things which made 007 iconic such as the gadgets, quips and memorable lines.

Vienna Filming Locations: James Bond

Having ‘done’ Bratislava quicker than I imagined I decided to take a day return to Vienna as it was only an hour away for just nine euro’s return on the train. Hugo was being a miserable git and decided to stay put in Slovakia as he wanted to just sit around reading a newspaper or something. A waste of time in my opinion but I guess the beauty of travelling is that you just do whatever you wanna do.

Consequently, I went alone and got off to an awful start but I wasn’t the only one! When the platform for our train was announced 10 minutes before its departure a small cluster of people went to platform 1 where a train was waiting. One guy opened the door and got on and about eight more of us followed suit but as soon as we stepped onto the train we were shocked as it started moving very slowly ending up at the depot five minutes away where we then had to run back along the track resulting in all of us missing our intended 11am train and so we then had to wait nearly an hour for the next one!

Didn’t bother with any tram or train tickets once in Vienna as I headed first for Schönnbrun Palace on the outskirts which featured in the James Bond film ‘The Living Daylights’. My initial bad impressions (due to the seemingly ever-present scaffolding on such places) were thankfully soon to be found wide of the mark when I went round the back and saw the beautiful sunny sight of the Gloriette structure in the distance from the Palace which would provide great views across the city as well as of the Palace.

After that I went to Stephansplatz in the city to see the humungous Stephansdom and walked on over through the picturesque Hofberg Imperial Palace area avoiding purchase of most things which seemed so expensive now I was back in Western Europe. After about four hours looking round Vienna it was time to head back to Bratislava which I did but not before I’d made another (slight) mistake as I got on a train which took me to a station on the other side of Bratislava. Without a map I just got on a bus which many locals were getting on and hoped for all hell that it was heading back over the river to the part of the city I recognised. Luckily it did just that and I had a few hours left before Hugo and I would take the overnight train out of Slovakia.