London Filming Locations: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Movie locations being faked has been a bit of a fascination for me these last few years. Many different places have been used to replicate the likes of AfghanistanMyanmar andVietnam but who would’ve thought that this Stanley Kubrick film did the same trick. Whilst its no surprise that some of those aforementioned far-flung places have been faked it’s quite rare to see New York city filmed elsewhere but that is what happened in ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘ as Kubrick’s fear of flying meant it was predominantly shot in London. Continue reading

Sydney Filming Locations: Mission Impossible II (2000)

M:I-2‘ as it was officially titled is probably the worst of the Mission Impossible films but thats not to say that its bad. Its just that John Woo’s direction of the sequel grates with me a bit because of all the ridiculous acrobatics, somersaults and slo-mo action scenes.

A lot of the movie was filmed in New South Wales (NSW), particularly in Sydney and it starts straight away with the camera panning over the Opera House (below left) and on to Biocyte Pharmaceuticals which in reality is Governor Phillip Tower (below right). It can be found in the north-east area of the Central Business District (CBD) at 29/1 Farrer Place, Sydney NSW 2000.

   

Argyll Street in The Rocks (below) doubles up as Seville in Spain and is where Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) meets Nyah (Thandie Newton). During filming the street was totally transformed with dust added to the streets and passionate music playing whilst a religious procession took place.

   

The Spanish driveway scene in “Seville” on 17 mins was shot at Boomerang Mansion (above) at 42 Billyard Avenue in Elizabeth Bay. This three storey mansion has been described as the oldest and finest example of Spanish architecture in Australia and is private property so the only view I could really get of it was from Beare Park.

On 34 mins the beautiful Nyah is driven under Sydney Harbour Bridge on the boat which takes her to villain Sean Ambrose’s apartment which was located at Bradley Head on Mosman and can be seen after 36 mins and again on 42 mins. The apartment was just a set prop so I didn’t feel it too necessary to take a boat over to Mosman instead settling for a long distance view (lower right) of it taken from one of the towers on the bridge.

 

 

Broken Hill in the far west outback of NSW appears on 35 mins as the remote sheep station where Hunt meets up with his team; the Aussie pilot and the computer expert.

 

46 mins in and we see Royal Randwick Racecourse. This is the type of place I wouldn’t bother with usually when hunting down filming locations but as I was staying 5 minutes walk away at my friends house I jumped at the chance of seeing it. The course is undergoing a bit of reconstruction at the moment which probably worked in my favour as it meant it was open and I could just walk in and take the photos below.

 

The screenshots (below) are of Darling Harbour; the location featured on 86 mins where Ambrose parks up and shows the virus in the test-tube to Nyah leading her to slap him and is then left to wander the streets of Sydney in a daze having previously injected herself with the virus to stop him killing her to get it. I had planned to go here but ultimately ran out of time and considered it low priority as it was a little out of the way from all the other areas of Sydney I was concentrating on on this trip.

 

The most interesting filming location from M:I-2 has to be Bare Island in La Peruse down in Bottany Bay which makes its big screen debut at the 87 minute mark. The place where Cruise climbs up the cliff face is on the left side near to the back and is usually just a place for fishermen to dip their tackle in and see what bites. The tower with all the satellite dishes on it was a prop added to the island by the producers.

 

     

This island fortress is Ambrose’s bunker headquarters where his transition with Biocyte’s CEO takes place. Cruise rides his motorcycle through balls of fire in what is perhaps the most iconic scene from the whole movie. Its certainly the one which is seen on most posters or pictures relating to the film. The little castle looking building (above right) can be seen 104 mins in as a fairly lengthy motorcycle chase seemingly goes round in circles and doesn’t actually go as far as it would appear on screen. It can be seen in the top of the  picture (lower left) which shows how close it is to the point where Hunt escapes from the fort.

   

The film ends in the Royal Botanic Gardens (below) by the Opera House on 117 mins with the two heroes kissing and walking off arm in arm through the place as we get a final aerial view of Sydneys two most famous landmarks.

 

Want to see more Mission Impossible filming locations? If so, then check out:

London Filming Locations: Mission Impossible (1996) – click here.

Prague Filming Locations: Mission Impossible (1996) – click here.

Caserta (Italy) Filming Locations: Mission Impossible III (2006) – click here.

TF Film Review: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I went to see this fourth installment in the film franchise the other night as it’s a rarity in that it was actually released in Japan before The UK. It comes out in the The UK on Boxing Day but usually these films are released in Japan months after the rest of the western world. Of course I also wanted to see it as I’m a fan of the movies.

One local reviewer here reckons that the action isn’t quite up to that of the recent Bond and Bourne films and though I’m a huge fan of those movies I disagree with that train of thought as Ghost Protocol was full of action that made my palms very sweaty. It’s no secret that it was filmed in part in Dubai and the worlds tallest building features in an enthralling scene followed by one of the films more comical moments thanks to Simon Pegg’s portrayal of the bumbling English computer nerd who has a far more important role in this movie than one was expecting.

Other locations include Budapest, Mumbai and Russia where someone blows up the Kremlin and frames the IMF thereby activating the Ghost Protocol and leaving it up to Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his three buddies to save the day without any support.

 

One of my main gripes with the previous trilogy of MI movies was the over-use and over-reliance on the use of latex face masks and I’m glad to report that this cop-out way of telling a story is kept to a minimum. Running in at over two hours I was gripped by this flick throughout which is a rarity for a guy like me who has poor concentration.

You can see the Mission Impossible filming locations here

TF Film Review: The Last Samurai (2003)

I gave this film a very short brief review back in 2006 with brief being the word! I only said it was better than expected but too long for my liking which I say for any film over two hours. In preparation for my recent trip to Kansai I decided to watch it again. Whilst I (still) don’t mind it, its not my kind of film and it just goes to show how the filming locations and the movie itself can work hand-in-hand both ways. As you’d expect its the film first which often leads to the interest in the locations but this one worked the other way round with me.

Most of the film was made in New Zealand but Japanese locations included Chion-in temple and Nijo-jo in Kyoto and Engyoji temple in Himeji as featured in my ‘The Last Samurai filming locations’ article recently.

The film may move along at quite a slow pace and may be predictable in its outcome (hence the title!) but the casting, costumes, landscapes, storyline and film direction are very good with some fine battle scenes to boot. Hans Zimmer’s score incorporates traditional wood flutes and thunderous drums which adds a nice touch and adds to the suspense, sadness, empathy and joy.

The samurai have only one true goal which is to serve their Emperor and believed that to die under his service is an honour. The Japanese are accustomed to killing themselves in shame after defeat which they think is a noble death whereas Cruise’s character Algren shows his resilience, determination and perseverance by continuously rising again after defeat. As far as I know this is the film that really brought Ken Watanabe to western audiences for his poignant portrayal as the leader of the last clan of Samurai. The scenes between Watanabe and Cruise held my interest in terms of their feelings of hostility, compassion and camaraderie.

He may often get a hard time from the critics but Tom Cruise is loved by his fans and in this epic he perhaps delivers his most powerful performance in cinema. The Last Samurai shows a human story of one Westerner learning to embrace another culture but unlike most other films set in Japan it is done in a more subtle way where both parties realise they can learn from one another and after a hostile start they develop a respect for each other.

 

Kyoto Filming Locations: The Last Samurai (2003)

Most of this 2003 epic was shot in New Zealand but there were still a few interesting scenes filmed in the Kansai region of Japan. 12 minutes into the film sees the appearance of Chion-in Temple in Kyoto albeit with a bit of CGI. Although the steps lead to a temple it is not directly at the top or as dominating as the one in the picture (below left). Four men including Tom Cruise are seen climbing the steep steps which are on the other side of the main entrance gate which is protected by two guards in the film.

   

The action moves on to Daikodo (Main Hall) at Engyoji temple on the 41 minute mark which is where Algren (Cruise) meets Katsumoto (Watanabe). This is at the top of Mount Shosha in Himeji (west of Osaka) and provides the hilltop backdrop for Katsumoto’s mountain village. There is even a laminated picture card among the information pamphlets on the little souvenir shop counter in this building and it features five screenshots from ‘The Last Samurai’.

     

The garden temple is opposite the wooden bit featured above and appears after 1 hr 11 mins as Watanabe and Cruise talk about something or another. The dvd extra’s reveal that it wasn’t filmed during the cherry blossom season and that those flowers were added to the place.

 

The Buddha seen below also features for a few moments. No photos can be taken inside (I presume) so I settled for a sly zoom-in one from outside.

 

It’s not all Kansai though as there is a very brief shot of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on 1hr 19mins. Its the typical picture postcard type view of the place which I have seen and photographed many times over the years.

 

How to get to Engyoji: Take bus #8 at Shinki Bus Terminal East gate of Himeji Kita station (if coming from JR Himeji station then exit the station and turn left and you will see the bus station across the road). Get off at the final stop which is ‘Shosha Ropeway’. A special ticket (1300 yen) gets you return bus and ropeway tickets. The temple entrance is 500 yen payable when you get to the top of the ropeway.

Prague Filming Locations: Mission Impossible (1996)

The 1996 re-make of the TV series was mainly set in Prague and London and I certainly wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to scout out the filming locations while I was in the former. Once I’d done a couple of Casino Royale spots I found myself at Hotel Europa at Vaclavske namesti 25 which was the headquarters of mysterious arms dealer Max.

A bit further down the same road and just past Wenceslas Square is the National Museum; the ‘American Embassy’ where the teams first operation commences as they infiltrate some fancy reception.

Liechtenstein Palace is just a stones throw from Kampa Park (as featured in ‘The Bourne Identity’ and mentioned in ‘Prague Pt II’) and was not where I thought it was. I’d actually given up on finding it but on my descend from Prague Castle I found it by chance. It was actually this place that provided the exterior shots of the ‘American Embassy’ as the real embassy was no doubt deemed to not be glitzy enough for the movie.

Undoubtedly the city’s (and indeed the films) major attraction is the world heritage Charles Bridge which connects the Old Town with Prague Castle. It’s here that things really go wrong with controller Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) plunging into the Vltava having taken a bullet on the bridge. This famous bridge was also used music video’s by Linkin Park (Numb) and Kanye West (Diamonds From Sierra Leone) as well as 2002’s XxX. It’s here that Vin Diesel comes up with an out-of-this-world stunt to save the bridge and the city of Prague from a deadly bomb though his movie career sunk without much trace!

London Pt III: Mission Impossible Filming Locations can be seen here.

TF Film Review: Knight And Day

When I first heard of this film a few months ago I had no real desire to see it and the critical reviews didn’t do too much more to make me want to see it. However, on one of the mornings last week I came across a show on Japanese TV which was heavily promoting this film and I guess it did what it intended as I got sucked in! Its big-name lead stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz were being interviewed at the Tokyo premiere in a way which as an English speaker I find frustrating to watch. Of course I’m not so arrogant to think that there shouldn’t be translations for the many fans here in Japan but it does mean that the conversation (if it can even be called that!) just doesn’t flow with Cruise just saying one short line which is then tranlated by an out-of-shot woman and then he says another line and this process continues on and on.

 

Anyway, I realised after watching this preview show that this kind of film was maybe right up my street in terms of fast-moving action, a bit of comedy and a very simple storyline amid some exciting world locations. One of these places included Seville which made me happy as I went there at the start of this year and so already have photos of some of the landmarks which featured in the latter half of the movie.

Anyway, I watched this flick last weekend and particularly enjoyed it. Sure, the plot is a bit thin on the ground, has you questioning why some things are happening and is full of some action scenes which really are beyond belief. However, it’s good fun, fast-paced and its two main stars deliver what they were paid to do in terms of glamour, their celebrity power and commitment.

Tom Cruise plays a spy on the run called Roy Miller which was a surprising name as it was also the name of Matt Damon’s character in Green Zone earlier this year (an interesting comparison of the two can be seen here.) Of course Knight and Day won’t win any awards but it kept me entertained for its duration and I can’t really ask for any more than that.