Judi Dench

REVIEW: Artemis Fowl (2020)

When his father (Colin Farrell) is kidnapped, child prodigy Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) must find a missing magical artefact and battle against powerful fairies in order to rescue him.

I shall preface this by saying the Artemis Fowl series was one of my favourites as a child. I read them from roughly the ages of 9 – 14 and though it’s been a good while since I’ve read the source material there are some things that have stuck with me for all these years. In the books, Artemis Fowl is an antihero, with the emphasis on the anti. He is a criminal mastermind and his parents are not a major part of the story at all, in fact he gets involved with the world of magical creatures because he kidnaps one and wants money and secrets. The film version may use a few elements of the plot of the book (and brings in a villain from later books) the end product is mostly unrecognisable.

Part of this may be down to Artemis Fowl going through what is commonly known as production hell. There’s been a variety of directors and producers attached to the film over the years, and it has had multiple release dates before being dumped on Disney+. Also, there’s the antihero part. Artemis is not a nice boy, he is super smart and looks down on everyone, and is not above threats of (and carrying out) torture to get what he wants. This is the kind of lead character that doesn’t really suit the family-friendly Disney image. Though that was part of the reason the books stood out in the boom of young boy heroes like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Alex Rider.

The film begins with Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad), a giant dwarf, being arrested and as he’s interrogated, he begins to narrate the story of Artemis Fowl and what transpired at Fowl Manor. This as a narrative device is weird to begin with. Sometimes the dialogue is as if Mulch is talking to an unseen integrator while at other times it’s as if he’s talking directly to the audience. I guess this choice was made as a way to give information about this magical world to the audience, but it ends up being jarring and the film would’ve worked just as well as a straightforward narrative.

This is Ferdia Shaw’s first role so we’ll have to see over the course of his career if he improves, but in Artemis Fowl his line delivery is often flat and he doesn’t do a good job at show much emotion on his face. Lara McDonnell, who plays kidnapped LEPRecon Officer Holly Short, isn’t given much to do – in fact in one of the big action sequences in Fowl Manor she gets stuck in a chandelier for the majority of the ensuing battle. That being said, I feel the cast did the best with what they were given. It’s not their fault they had a bland script with little character development, and the end product was often shoddily edited making their characters look disconnected from one another. Watching the trailers again after seeing the film is interesting as there’s so many shots shown that aren’t in the film and hint at whole scenes and plotlines having been cut.

Artemis Fowl has a trim runtime of 90 minutes but amazingly it feels longer. The action scenes aren’t exciting, the intrigue isn’t there, and the characters aren’t particularly memorable. Though Judi Dench growling out “Top of the morning” was the one and only time that I laughed. While Judi Dench may have been an odd choice for Commander Root (the character being a male fairy in the books for one thing) her growling, no nonsense attitude was one of the only enjoyable things to watch.

Artemis Fowl is an incredibly disappointing adaptation and is also a disappointing film. It tries to cram in a lot of lore and it repeatedly tells you things about the world and its characters rather than show you, or indeed having the things it tells you actually being relevant – for instance the film begins with Mulch waxing lyrically about how smart Artemis Fowl is, when a lot of what he does comes from what he’s just heard his father talk about rather than researching himself. Artemis Fowl ends up just being a dull, lifeless film with generic and unexciting action sequences, and is unlikely to be remembered fondly by anyone – both people new to this world and fans of the book. 1/5.

REVIEW: Skyfall (2012)

skyfall-poster_510x756When a hard drive with the identity’s of undercover MI6 agents is stolen M’s (Judi Dench) past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack James Bond (Daniel Craig) must hunt down the mysterious and deadly Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), no matter the cost.

Skyfall is a good-looking film. Standout moments include the static shot of Bond and Patrice (Ola Rapace) fighting in Shanghai. They are silhouettes with blue lights behind them and not only does it look really cool, you can actually see and follow the fight much more easily than when fights are shot with a lot of close ups and quick cuts.

New characters are introduced in Skyfall – or rather old characters with new faces. Q (Ben Whishaw) is much younger than the previous incarnation and allows for interesting commentary for the new age of espionage. Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) is definitely a twenty-first century version of the character and is awesome. (more…)

REVIEW: Quantum of Solace (2008)

quantum_of_solace_ver4_xlgJames Bond (Daniel Craig) is on the hunt for revenge as he tries to stop the mysterious organisation Quantum from eliminating a countries most valuable resource.

Quantum of Solace is a direct sequel to Casino Royale (2006) it starts almost moments after Casino Royale ends and has a lot of the same characters and themes running through it. I definitely think you get more from Quantum of Solace if you watch it straight after Casino Royale as they work like one big story.

From interrogating Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) Bond, M (Judi Dench) and Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear) learn about the far-reaching organisation Quantum and Bond goes on the hunt for answers. His search leads him to industrialist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who seems to have many connections with dodgy military figures and with Quantum. When his search begins, Bond meets Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who is also out for revenge and while they may not trust each other to start with, they end up working together. Camille is great, she has a tragic backstory and is determined and resourceful and isn’t impressed by Bond. I love competent Bond girls and Camille is definitely one of the best.

A lot of the relationships between characters are expanded on in Quantum of Solace. You see how M does (generally) trust Bond to do the right thing, even if he does cause chaos, and Felix Leiter (Jeffery Wright) appears again and you see the respect he and James have for each other even though they are technically working on different sides in Quantum of Solace.

The memorable action sequences in Quantum of Solace for me was a boat chase in which Camille shows she doesn’t need saving, and the aerial dogfight (which again Camille is pretty great in) and the finale in the desert. Both Camille and Bond each have their own Bad Guys to face in the finale and the way the sequence is shot means it very tense and dramatic but not overly so.

Quantum of Solace continues to balance the emotional beats with great action, plot and characters and has a great yet understated Bond Girl in Camille. 4/5.

When I first watched Quantum of Solace years ago, I didn’t really get it as it was almost a direct sequel to Casino Royale which I hadn’t watched before – now watching them both in the right order, I enjoyed them a lot more.

REVIEW: Die Another Day (2002)

Die Another Day Poster 2James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) investigates diamond mogul Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) and his connections with a North Korean terrorist named Zao (Rick Yune).

The opening sequence was suspenseful and action-packed and Bond’s actions in those first ten minutes had an effect on the rest of the film. It was also good to see how Bond’s escapades have repercussions for M (Judi Dench) and MI6.

Seeing Q (John Cleese) with all the old gadgets was like a trip down memory lane. There was the shoe with a hidden knife from From Russia With Love (1963) and the jet-pack from Thunderball (1965) and probably a lot more that I missed. It was a nice call-back to previous films in the series.

There’s a sword fight between Bond and Graves which was a lot of fun – Madonna even makes a cameo which was weird. The scenes in Iceland and the ice palace hotel are extravagant and they look great but due to a lot of the stunts they also seem quite ridiculous.

Graves wasn’t that much of an intimidating villain, Zao both looked and acted more threatening and his fights with Bond were a lot better. Jinx Johnson (Halle Berry) is the Bond Girl this time round and she’s an American government agent but is not necessarily working towards the same goal Bond is. She’s quite capable and has her moments to shine but does still need rescuing.

Die Another Day is an interesting film. In many ways it’s like the later Roger Moore Bond films as it goes rather outlandish and over the top. There’s the invisible car and a lot of CGI in the film which makes things go slightly unbelievable.

During my Bondathon, I don’t think I’ve ever commented on how a film was shot because nothing that interesting or noticeable has happened before. In Die Another Day there is frequent slow motion shots, that may or may not suddenly then be at double speed, and there’s sudden quick pans around a character a few times as well. It’s different and often jarring as it’s something incredibly noticeable – I don’t think it added anything to the film.

Die Another Day may look good and very modern compared to previous films even in Brosnan’s run, but the characters aren’t compelling and are all cardboard cut-outs of the standard Bond tropes. Also the overuse of special effects makes the film feel dated and a cheap copout for some of the great stunts seen before. 2/5.

J is for Judi Dench

article-2547258-1A3433D500000578-901_306x423Judi Dench is a bit of a British Legend. Probably the first films I ever saw her in was the Pierce Brosnan Bond films as the formidable M. I have no doubt that when she was first cast there was probably people going “there can’t be a female M” (as people are wont to do about casting decisions) but she sure showed them how badass and awesome a female M can be. I love how there’s subtleties to the character as the films progress which is mostly thanks to her brilliant performance.

I’ve loved a lot of her films and her performances, Philomena (2013) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) are both sweet, touching, funny and just generally great. I love the story of how Vin Diesel got Judi Dench to star in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), he sent flowers to her dressing room every night when she was in a play in London to try and persuade her to take the part. Evidentially it worked and then when they were filming he taught her how to play Dungeons and Dragons. I just love that story a lot.

And now for my other favourite Judi Dench-related story: