Posts Tagged ‘David Arnold’

Film Review ::: The World Is Not Enough

December 6, 2009

Pierce Brosnan’s third James Bond outing proves to be one of his finest. But is that saying much?

The story for “The World Is Not Enough” had plenty of potential. But, the way that Purvis and Wade handled the story was quite poor; helicopters with buzz-saws attached to them made for quite a laugh (no more than an invisible car, though — but that’s for another review). The funny part is that Eon Productions still hires these men to write Bond films for them.

Before my viewing, if I had read a brief description of each character in this film, I would’ve been optimistic. But after seeing how under-developed and poorly played they were in this film, I was disappointed. I will say that Elektra King and James Bond are the two most interesting characters of this film. Sophie Marceau’s portrayal of Elektra King is fantastic. At first, she plays the character as an absolute victim, causing the audience to sympathize with her and the loss of her father. However, it is later revealed that she is quite a sadistic villain, bent on getting revenge by teaming up with her former captor, Renard. Though, I think the filmmakers wanted Renard to be the central villain of this film, Marceau’s character really took that title. To me, it’s a shame that Marceau’s talented could not have been put to use in a better Bond film.

Pierce Brosnan also excels in this film. While I admired his performance in “GoldenEye”, I think this film showed his true colors. Not only was Brosnan looking fantastic in this film, but he also captured the essence of Ian Fleming’s James Bond. This wasn’t the “I’ll fight off an entire army in a steath boat”/generic action-hero James Bond that we had seen in the previous film. Unfortunately, Brosnan never had the chance the reprise the role like this again — his following Bond film was a complete atrocity that left him playing a character that para-surfed on tidal waves. After that, he was dropped for Daniel Craig. His most Fleming-esque scene had to be Elektra’s demise. Bond was able to put his feelings aside and carry on with the mission, even if this meant putting a bullet in his lover’s head.

The other Bond girl in this film was played by Denise Richards. Her performance was terrible and, in my book, goes down as the worst in the history of the James Bond franchise. Luckily this film had Sophie Marceau to make up for it in both beauty and acting ability. The other characters and performances were all rather limited. Robert Carlyle’s Renard was supposed to be a main villain of the film, but it more or less seemed that he just sort of hung out in the background. To boost his Bond baddie appeal, they gave him the inability to feel pain. This still didn’t do anything for me. Judi Dench really didn’t take M to another level from the last film, but Colin Salmon boosted the appeal of the Mi6 staff/cast. We also see Valentin Zuckovsky return, portrayed by Robbie Coltrane. I didn’t mind Zuckovsky’s appearance in “GoldenEye”, but in this film, it bugged me. He left too much room for the writers to add in more ridiculous one-liners and jokes.

While the cast of “The World Is Not Enough” may not seem too promising, I have to say that it does hold some historical significance within the Bond franchise. Desmond Llewelyn graced our screens as the beloved Q for the last time in this film. Sadly, shortly after the release of the film, he died in a car accident.

David Arnold’s score for this film was mediocre, at best. More orchestrations infused with synthetic sounds and beats really made for music that doesn’t go easy on the ears. Garbage’s theme song was well-done for an altertnative rock song, but I much prefer Tina Turner’s “GoldenEye” and even Sheryl Crow’s “Tomorrow Never Dies”.

The locations in this film were promising. Bond goes from Spain, to Scotland, to Azerbaijan, to Turkey. As a matter of fact, one of the greatest scenes of the film included Bond driving his BMW Z8 to Baku, Azerbaijan. Arnold’s music and the camera work just worked well together, believe it or not.  I also enjoyed part of the pre-titles sequence that took place in the bank at Bilbao, Spain.

Overall, this film had quite a bit of potential, but was thrown off by poor pacing, uninspired action sequences, a shoddy Purvis and Wade script with poorly-written characters, and some bad performances. I place this film at the bottom of my Bond rankings.

4.0 / 10

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Review of Dame Shirley Bassey’s “The Performance”

November 2, 2009

Today, The Scotsman has released a review of Dame Shirley Bassey’s latest album, titled “The Performance”.

By Fiona Shepherd

DAME SHIRLEY BASSEY: THE PERFORMANCE
****
GEFFEN, £12.72

IT’S Dame Shirley Bassey these days, if you don’t mind – as if anyone needed reminding that we are in the presence of musical royalty. Elegant, commanding, playful, sophisticated, vulnerable – or, in the words of Manic Street Preachers’ frontman James Dean Bradfield, “this beautiful, glamorous singing beast” – Bassey is everything you could want from a diva and now she’s back to show yer Leonas how it should be done.

As was evident from her lauded appearance two years ago at the Glastonbury festival, she effortlessly musters the level of respect and regard afforded her fellow Welsh warbler Tom Jones, an old pro who just about manages to pull off the balancing act of moving with the times while remaining true to himself. Bassey, for her part, is about to show exactly how that is done on her first full studio album in more than 20 years. The Performance is dignified, heartfelt and timeless.

A good deal of the credit must go to Bond composer David Arnold in the role of producer. Given Bassey’s indelible association with the James Bond series – she is the only artist to have sung three Bond film themes – it must have taken all of five seconds to matchmake those two, and another ten to persuade John Barry and lyricist Don Black to compose a new song for their muse, the first they have written for her since Diamonds Are Forever. Our Time Is Now is a good, grown-up meditation on romance but it is far from the best this album has to offer.

More intriguing than the rekindling of old creative partnerships is the host of bright young things who have also queued up to write songs for Bassey. Some of the album’s contributors are no-brainers – the Pet Shop Boys, David McAlmont and Rufus Wainwright would probably have had diva strops of their own if they had not been invited to the party. Others, such as KT Tunstall and Kaiser Chiefs’ Nick Hodgson, are more unexpected choices, and some – we’re looking at Richard Hawley here – are downright inspired.

Most are understandably in thrall to the Bassey persona, writing songs to fit their conception of the veteran diva. And so Bassey comes out contemplative rather than shaking her stuff on opening number Almost There, written by Tom Baxter. You can see right away where he is going with the line “I’m not quite so young, I’m not quite so foolish in my defence”, but Bassey makes subtle work of its rather mournful tone before soaring on the big orchestral finish.

Her countrymen, the Manic Street Preachers, take the sentimental, pseudo-autobiograpical route with The Girl From Tiger Bay. It’s a lovely song from a band who are more than capable of whipping up some heart-tugging romance when they have a mind to and, unlike other tracks, it is strong enough to retain something of the Manics’ stamp even as it is submitted to the traditional Bassey takeover.

Apparently, we have Rufus Wainwright to thank for the impetus of the album, and won’t he love that. His contribution, Apartment, was the first track to fall into place and he dares to take Bassey somewhere different. Despite the Latino arrangement, there is more than a hint of the European cabaret tradition about its protagonist’s irreverent rejection of the fairytale lifestyle (“I’m running away from Cinderella, don’t want to go to Rapunzel’s hairdresser”) in favour of becoming a girl of independent means.

KT Tunstall also has fun with brassy Bassey without crossing over into kitsch on the bluesy strut of Nice Men, a good bad girl song on which Bassey demands to know “where have all the nice men, where have all the good men, where have all the bad men gone?”

Gary Barlow’s This Time is an old school Bacharachian ballad which is infinitely more dynamic than anything on the most recent Take That album, while Nick Hodgson’s classy composition I Love You Now also evokes old-school pop glamour without being a slavish pastiche of the sequined 1960s.

Best of the lot is Bassey’s beautifully controlled rendering of the tremulous, melancholic After The Rain, written by Richard Hawley, who is on formidable form right now.

Compared to these gems, Arnold’s two contributions are a little Bassey-by-numbers. No Good About Goodbye boasts a great title but sounds like an inferior Mad About The Boy, while As God Is My Witness is just plain turgid.

An old-school performer like Bassey knows that you need to hold something back for the finale – and the Pet Shop Boys-penned The Performance Of My Life provides the quintessential grandstanding finish which will please those looking for some va-va-voom from the Dame. It is to the writers’ credit – and Bassey’s, and Arnold’s – that this performance, along with the rest of the album, is more about soul-baring integrity than retro camp.

 

Sounds promising. I can’t wait to hear the album for myself. Keep an eye out for it on November 9th. I’m sure it’ll be worth the money.

2010: James Bond back in action again?

October 23, 2009

According to Access Hollywood, actor Daniel Craig told fans that Bond 23 starts up in late 2010.

An extra year will probably help MGM sort out their current financial situation, also.

As of now, we know that Bond 23 is being written by  Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and Peter Morgan, who penned “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon”. David Arnold will return to compose his sixth Bond film score. However, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have yet to announce a director.

This is good news. Perhaps it’ll give the Bond team a chance to develop a fresh story, with fresh characters. Maybe they’ll use the time wisely to seek out an experienced director, too.

Bring back Dame Shirley Bassey!

October 5, 2009

A behind-the-scenes look (or listen) at Dame Shirley Bassey’s new album project has been launched on YouTube. Here’s the video:

It’s obvious that this legend still has “her groove”. Those song excerpts are astonishing. I really can’t wait to hear this album in full.

EON Productions… do yourself a favor. Hire Dame Shirley Bassey to sing the theme song for the next Bond film. David Arnold’s got her back (he’s producing her new album), and she’s never failed the franchise.

Keep an eye out for “The Performance”, coming to stores November 9th. For more information, check out Dame Shirley’s home page: http://www.dameshirleybassey.com/

Muse for Bond 23?

September 16, 2009

According to BBC News, British rock band Muse have reportedly expressed interest in performing a song for the 23rd James Bond film.  Muse drummer Dom Howard said, “It’s something we’d probably say yes to, or at least give it a good go… Certainly some of our music fits with the James Bond vibe – and I think it could work… The last few have been pretty good … But I think we could do a good job… United States of Eurasia [from their new album, “The Resistance”] could have worked but it’s probably a bit late for that now.”

I’ve heard parts of their new album, and must say that (of what I’ve heard) it isn’t too bad. I’m mixed when it comes to Muse, though. I really enjoy some of their music and really can’t stand the rest. Will they be good for Bond? Well, I don’t think they’re up-to-par with the last British rock group to perform a Bond theme, Duran Duran, but I think they’d certainly do better than that White/Keys mess of song.

At this point, I’ve got high hopes for The Killers.

I’ve always liked this Muse song, titled “Shrinking Universe”…

David Arnold conducts two “Casino Royale” tracks…

July 4, 2009

Nicholas Dodd tends to conduct most of David Arnold’s James Bond scores.

Here’s a glimpse at the Bond composer conducting his own music …

David Arnold conducts “City of Lovers”:

David Arnold conducts “The Name’s Bond … James Bond”:

Though I’m not much of a fan of his Casino Royale score, it’s still interesting to see him conducting his own work.

Friday Feature: “The World Is Not Enough” HD Fan Trailer

July 3, 2009

On June 24th, Chigawa of YouTube released a fan-made trailer for “The World Is Not Enough”, in high-definition. With over 370 views, and counting, the trailer retains a five-star YouTube rating. Check out Chigawa’s other videos at the link provided above.

Enjoy…


Dame Shirley Bassey announces new album…

June 30, 2009

Dame Shirley Bassey’s website has reported that she’ll be making another album, produced by Bond composer David Arnold.

Official blurb from her site:

Dame Shirley Bassey – Signs to Geffen Records

Geffen Records are very proud to announce the signing of one of the most celebrated British singers of all time, Dame Shirley Bassey.

The iconic Dame Shirley Bassey, Britain’s most successful female artist ever is working on her first new studio album in almost a decade. David Arnold, the Grammy Award-winning producer best known for scoring five James Bond films is producing the album, due to be a set of contemporary songs released in autumn 2009.

During a career that has included 135 million record sales, Dame Shirley Bassey has had many highlights.  In addition to singing three James Bond theme songs she has received numerous awards including a DBE (Dame of the British Empire) in 1999.

Recently, Dame Shirley appeared at the Glastonbury festival in 2007, where at the same event Arctic Monkeys covered ‘Diamonds Are Forever’.  Kanye West also sampled the same track on his 2005 Grammy-winning song ‘Diamonds From Sierra Leone’.

Keep updated with this by visiting http://www.dameshirleybassey.com/ and signing up for the newsletter. This should be a very interesting album. Though I’m not a huge fan of Arnold’s Bond scores, I’ll say that he probably makes a better producer than composer. But, with Dame Shirley Bassey – the woman who brought us the most iconic James Bond themes of all time – you can’t go wrong!

Film Review ::: Casino Royale

June 23, 2009

This film does a great job of grasping the audience right from the beginning. The pre-titles sequence doesn’t follow the normal formula, either. First and foremost, it doesn’t start off with the traditional gun barrel and, instead, ends with it. The pre-titles are also in grayscale – something we had never seen before in a James Bond film. Finally, the scenes take place in James Bond’s past. The crew involved with these scenes did an outstanding job. In noir-fashion, we see James Bond earn his legendary double-oh number. The bathroom fight brought me back to the Dalton era. In this scene, James Bond is in his most brutal form. Between slamming the enemy into the urinals and drowning him in a sink, these flashbacks certainly deliver thrills. We also see how cold James Bond can really be when he shoots Dryden (the 00-section chief). A quickly-cut shot shows a family photo on Dryden’s desk as the bullet strikes him. And at last, we also get an idea of how the gun barrel sequence came to be.

As great as that all may sound, I think this is the first and final solid aspect of the film. Once again, in true cinematic James Bond fashion, this film loosely adapts the classic Ian Fleming novel.

Perhaps one of the better aspects of the film includes the characters. Vesper Lynd and Rene Mathis were portrayed quite well, in my opinion. Eva Green did a great job of playing James Bond’s lover. She was certainly the best Bond girl we’ve been given since Sophie Marceau or Izabella Scorupco. Giancarlo Giannini’s portrayal of Rene Mathis was exceptional and the character ranks up there with the greatest allies of the series. On the other hand, the fates of each character were poorly written. With Vesper, the masterminds Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis turn Fleming’s sleeping pill suicide into a drowning in an elevator. They also (pointlessly) turn Mathis into a potential informant for Le Chiffre, and therefore he is tasered and taken off for imprisonment by the end of the film. As far as Mad Mikkelsen’s performance as Le Chiffre goes, I could take it or leave it. It was certainly a more glamorized, MTV-generation version of the character. In the novel, Le Chiffre was not model material. I would prefer Peter Lorre’s version of the character any day. The producers also introduce Felix Leiter in this film, portrayed by Jeffrey Wright. I saw this performance as very limited, thanks to the writers. Wright did not have much to work with here, and therefore, was not able to shine as he has done in some other films that he’s been in. Judi Dench is also brought back as M – which is another disgrace to Fleming’s novel. Instead of acting as Bond’s boss in the film, she more or less acts like his mother. It gets annoying after a while, to be honest. Other performances in the film were limite; none of them come off as memorable or worth a mention.

David Arnold also offers us another uninspired score. I consider the score to be one of the worst of the series. It’s dull, lifeless, unoriginal, and doesn’t even come close to the works of John Barry or Eric Serra. That said, I think I’ve given the score to this film more attention than it deserves.

Chris Cornell’s theme song was decent; made in more of “Live and Let Die” style, it certainly provided for an interesting title track. The vocals are great (coming from a Cornell fan), but the lyrics are pretty simple. It’s not the worst of the series, and not the best either. It works well with the film, though.

My major problem with this film is the ridiculous action and the poor adaptation of the novel – they go hand in hand. The story seems to be propelled by lack-luster action. The only scenes that stand up to the film’s opening include the casino scenes and the moments before the end titles. Other than that, the rest of the film carries that MTV-generation appeal. I really can’t find the difference between this James Bond film and the films of the supposedly “out-of-control” Pierce Brosnan era. When you shred away the thin, outer coating, they’re still the exact same things – generic action films made to generate loads of cash. The most outrageous scene of “Casino Royale”, though, has to be the falling house in Venice. If this house were made of ice, it would really be no different than one of those scenes in “Die Another Day”.

The brutal take on James Bond goes a bit too far, also – to the point in which it seems to mimic Jason Bourne, rather than Ian Fleming’s character. You can really notice this at Miami International with Bond’s attire. Jason Bourne can wear blue jeans and casual jackets – not James Bond. And what was with the sadistic smirk after killing Carlos? It made Bond come off as some sort of psychopath. What was with the deliberate disobedience? Had a fresh agent thoughtlessly killed a suspect against the instructions of his superior, I doubt he’d be in the service for much longer. While Bond can be a cold assassin at times, there has to be a line drawn. He is not some psycho on a killing spree.

The first few viewings of “Casino Royale” were satisfying, I must admit. It was a new Bond, and a new take on Bond, too. After a while, though, this film started losing its appeal with me, and the flaws started standing out a bit more. If you’re into generic action and cringe-worthy love scenes, then this is the film for you. However, you could also get that out of a random Arnold Schwarzenegger film if you wanted to. Though the series does not have a reputation for faithfully adapting Fleming’s novels, I think the writers could have at least made an honest attempt. Instead, this is not Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale” … it is Eon Productions’ “Casino Royale”. They maintained the basic plot, and changed mostly everything else. Even that genital mutilation/torture scene from the novel was turned into a joke.

I do not see how this is any more of a James Bond film as “Moonraker” or “Die Another Day”. It provides ridiculous action and trend-following, rather than trend-setting.

In the end, an official, faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s classic novel went to waste. What a shame.

4.0 / 10

4.0 / 10

In Review: The Bond Music of the 90's

June 17, 2009

The Scores:

Ranking The Scores:

My ranking is chronological. The quality seems to decrease as the years roll on:

  1. “GoldenEye”
  2. “Tomorrow Never Dies”
  3. “The World Is Not Enough”

Composer Eric Serra opened Pierce Brosnan’s Bond era with a fresh, original score which not only complimented the post-Cold War era, but also the new Bond era.

David Arnold’s debut Bond score was one of his best efforts. It contained quite a bit of music, and generally stayed orchestral, rather than relying heavily on synth/techno trash. Another good debut score.

“The World Is Not Enough” had few perks, and sounds more and more like a video game score whenever I hear it. The music sounds messy through out most of the score.

The Best Tracks of the 90’s:

“GoldenEye”

Track 02: The GoldenEye Overture
All around stylish. Definitely the most original Bond theme rendition of the 90’s … and perhaps one of the most original of all time.

Tank Drive Around St. Petersburg (Theatrical Version)
Very stylish action piece. The track sounds very much like a Barry action piece, and compliments the scene in the film perfectly. There’s a nice take on the Bond theme in this track, also.

Track 08: Whispering Statues
Perhaps one of the most original tracks of the 90’s Bond music, also. Definitely very different than what we’ve heard pre-1995, and sets the mood of the scene very well.

“Tomorrow Never Dies”

– Track 14: Bike Shop Fight
One of his finest tracks. The opening cues really set the mood of the scene, and the music following compliments the location of Saigon.

– Track 15: Kowloon Bay
Though not a very romantic scene in the film, it’s a very romantic piece. Shame he couldn’t have done more like this with “Casino Royale”.

“The World Is Not Enough”

– Track 09: Elektra’s Theme
Definitely one of Arnold’s finest themes of the 90’s. I wish he would’ve done something more like this with Vesper’s theme in “Casino Royale”. This track is very elegant and romantic. Used through out the film, it works very well.

– Track 10: Body Double
Very synthy, but has a nice style. It’s probably one of his more stylish overly-synth pieces. It also compliments the scene in the film well, and makes for a quality stealth cue.

The Worst Tracks of the 90’s:

There are too many to name, but I’ll cover the worst of each score…

“GoldenEye”

Track 03: Ladies First
Pure trash. Sounds like the theme to a pinball game. I believe someone once stated that it sounds like it was performed by “R2-D2”.

“Tomorrow Never Dies”

Track 18: All in a Day’s Work
Very messy. The over-lapping of synth beats and noises make this a very unenjoyable track.

“The World Is Not Enough”

Track 18: Christmas In Turkey
A very poor “romantic track”. This sounds like it belongs in a soap opera, rather than Bond film. Compare this to the love themes of John Barry’s earlier scores — I think you’ll feel the same way as I do.

The Best Theme Songs of the 90’s:

  • “GoldenEye” – Tina Turner
  • “Tomorrow Never Dies” – Sheryl Crow
  • “Surrender” – K.D. Lang
  • “The World Is Not Enough” – Garbage
  • “Only Myself to Blame” – Scott Walker

I’d rank them as:

  1. GoldenEye
  2. Surrender
  3. Tomorrow Never Dies
  4. Only Myself to Blame
  5. The World Is Not Enough

Turner’s “GoldenEye” theme has to be one of the best Bond themes since Bassey’s work.

“Surrender” was another great piece by K. D. Lang; the brass was outstanding and very Bondian, reminiscent of “Goldfinger”. I think this should’ve been the main theme song.

“Tomorrow Never Dies”, by Sheryl Crow, was a quality song. I enjoyed the romantic style of it, but I could be bias here, as I’m a fan of Crow’s non-Bond work, also.

“Only Myself to Blame” is an interesting track. Performed by Scott Walker, I can definitely hear where “Elektra’s Theme” was derived from. It’s also got a slight jazzy, noir style to it.

“The World Is Not Enough” isn’t a terrible track, but I don’t think it’s outstanding either. The style and tune is interesting. I enjoy the Bondian guitar riffs and brass through out, too.

Final Thoughts:

The Bond music of the 90’s was surely a mixed bag. The 90’s Bond scores started out quite original, but ended on an unoriginal note with “The World Is Not Enough”. It seems as if Arnold has kept up with this unoriginal tradition with the release of his “Quantum of Solace” score. This decade didn’t feature many glamorous Bond themes, as John Barry once did, either. I can’t say that most of the music of this decade is memorable, either. Perhaps some of Serra’s score, and some of the theme songs … but I’d say that’s about it.