There’s a new Bond coming…

Ghostly goings on in the Bond camp? Everything is almost certainly not what it seems…

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That was the week in which...

Details of the next James Bond film were announced.

Spectre is the title. The official plot summary doesn’t give too much away: “A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.”

Not much has actually been officially confirmed. Unsurprisingly given the success of Skyfall, Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig have been reunited, with Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear all also returning.

Newcomers include the eternally youthful Monica Bellucci and Blue Is The Warmest Colour’s Léa Seydoux as the latest “Bond ladies”; Sherlock’s Andrew Scott; and wrestling dude / actor Dave Bautista who will surely deliver the beef as Mr. Hinx.

Aside from the fact that filming starts on Monday, the rest of the details can be glossed over (Bond still doesn’t feel like a natural Heineken drinker to me) in favour of random speculation. Is Christoph Waltz’s Oberhauser a front for Bond baddie legend Blofeld to make a comeback? What truth is there in the rumours that Sam Smith will perform the theme tune? And even if he does, what rhymes with Spectre? (Vector, sector… ejector? You’re welcome – Ed.)

The purpose of such announcements seems to be to simply provide enough basic information to give the rest of the world enough to speculate on for months on end. So far, that mission has been a success.

It can be fun to dig around for some leftfield interpretations when the facts are so scarce. The winner, in this case, could be the Dallas Voice (“The premier media source of LGBT Texas”) who excitedly declared that the “New 007 promises to be the gayest yet.” In keeping with big business, Bond feels traditionally conservative but maybe Daniel Craig’s eventual successor will be the first gay Bond?

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The Big Film: Men, Women & Children

Director Jason Reitman is concerned about our relationship with technology and wants you to take a long hard look at yourself – while also laughing about it. Or crying. Or something. If that all seems a little unclear, it’s probably because Men, Women & Children is a film that appears eager to say a lot about our obsession with the Internet and its innate inability to ruin our ability to communicate with one another, without really articulating it in any meaningful way.

Based on author Chad Kultgen’s novel of the same name, Reitman’s film follows the interlinked stories of its titular subjects and the impact that the ‘net and mobile technology has on their lives. It’s a relatively simple conceit for sure, but one in which clichés abound.

There’s the overprotective mother who filters every aspect of her daughter’s online activity for her own good (an intensely irritating Jennifer Garner) while Breaking Bad alumni Dean Norris is the single father who struggles to communicate with his son – a former football protégé who abandons the game in favour of MMORPGs. Meanwhile Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt play the married couple whose stagnant relationship leads to both exploring sexual vices via escort and affair websites – decisions that ultimately play out with little consequence.

The children take their first tentative steps in to the scary world of sexuality, helped and inhibited by the World Wide Web. Olivia Crocicchia plays a young aspiring actress, encouraged by her own mother’s failed career to sideline in questionable online photo shoots. Ansel Elgort is the aforementioned former footballer blighted by existential crises, which are tempered by a relationship with fellow outcast Kaitlyn Dever, whose social life is marred by Garner’s incessant mollycoddling. Meanwhile, Elena Kampouris portrays an anorexic cheerleader, whose ill-fated obsession with a high school jock makes for one of the most interesting subplots and the one that the film lamentably happens to spend the least time with.

There’s scope among this eclectic ensemble for insightful observations, but while Men, Women & Children isn’t without its positives, with a rare likable performance from Sandler and solid turns from its cast of young relative newcomers, the whole endeavour ends up amounting to little more than an overbearing exercise in preachy cynicism – one made all the more frustrating by Reitman’s apparent lack of anything particularly profound to say on the subject. Words: Paul Weedon

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Also Out: The Grandmaster

Renowned for the glorious stylisation and emotional punch of films such as In The Mood For Love and 2046 (let’s not mention My Blueberry Nights), Wong Kar-Wai has applied such traits to the world of kung fu in The Grandmaster. The result is an anomaly for the genre: it’s full of classically choreographed action – rarely does it feature an action scene which doesn’t result in a high kick which catapults them through a door or a window – but there’s a sensuality which is sourced from the strength of its female characters and its swooning tribute to a bygone era.

The story follows kung fu master Ip Man (notable in wider pop culture as Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun mentor) through the golden age of martial arts and the chaotic history of China from the 1930s to the early 1950s. Such events run parallel to the narrative between Ip Man and Gong Er, the daughter of the recently retired Grandmaster. From rivalry to romance, the uncertain fate of their connection is the driving emotional force behind the film.

As we’ve come to expect from Wong Kar-Wai, The Grandmaster is an elegant visual treat which particularly flourishes during two fight scenes: the breath-taking balletic style of the sumptuous, rain-soaked opener, and a thrilling confrontation on a snow-layered railway station which imaginatively adds a speeding locomotive to the mix.

Yet using such brilliant traits as building blocks towards a cohesive whole is where the film falls down. Perhaps this apparently more commercially minded 108-minute edit of a 130-minute original did more harm than good: the weighting of action versus romance is a little off-kilter. Text pops up to remind the audience of leaps in time, and supporting characters seem to disappear just as they’re becoming intriguing. It leaves an unusual final cocktail of finesse, flaws and fury.

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Shorts

Paddington topped last weekend’s UK box office with a gross of over £5 million, which will be enough to fund marmalade sarnies and duffle coats for the remainder of his natural life. Horrible Bosses 2 (review) was the only other notable new entry at #4, unless you count the relaunch of 2001: A Space Odyssey at #14.

The casting of David Ayers’ Suicide Squad caused a ruffle of excitement that would’ve been more notable in a week that wasn’t a Bond/Star Wars sandwich. Jared Leto, Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Margot Robbie and Cara Delevingne are all involved, with Leto facing the challenge of being the first big screen Joker since the late Heath Ledger.

Finally, the launch of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer (watch it!) exposed a few knuckleheads who were opposed to John Boyega playing a black stormtrooper. It’s a really simple debate: can he act? Yes. Does he look cool as a stormtrooper? Yes, again. His response was stylishly succinct:

 

 

With love xxx

A photo posted by @jboyega on

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Words: Ben Hopkins, except where indicated

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