Posts Tagged ‘Moonraker’

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.

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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/

Film Review ::: Octopussy

September 11, 2009

Following the down-to-Earth, Fleming thriller, “For Your Eyes Only”, “Octopussy” seems to relax a bit, and reverts to the jolly, humorous Roger Moore Bond film style — but this time, in moderation.

The film starts off with some great espionage and action. James Bond uses a disguise to infiltrate an air base and plant a bomb. The plan ends up falling through, and Bond comes face to face with the man he’s imitating. After being captured, Bond is able to escape from the back of a military truck with the help of his attractive, fellow agent. Cleverly hidden within a horse trailer, Bond hops into his AcroStar Mini Jet and flies off — only to come into contact with some opposition. After dodging a heat-seeking missile, and performing some amazing stunts, Bond casually lands near a gas station. After pulling up, he lightheartedly says, “Fill her up, please.”

The characters in this film aren’t of the high quality of the characters in “For Your Eyes Only”, however, they work well with the material. I’ve never really been amazed by Louis Jourdan’s performance of the villain Kamal Khan. He certainly doesn’t rank up there with Wiseman’s Dr. No, or Sheybal’s Kronsteen, or even Savalas’ Blofeld. On the other hand, though, he’s not a terrible character. I just never found him to be menacing. On the other hand, Kabir Bedi’s performance (as Gobinda) was quite menacing; I consider him to be a henchman to match the might of Oddjob. I like how the character was taken rather seriously, instead of being turned into a joke like Jaws. Perhaps that’s what added so much menace to the character. The knife-throwing twins, Mischka and Grischska, and the power-hungry General Orlov held these similar characteristics. As far as allies go, Vijay was pretty standard. He wasn’t as amazing as Jack Lord’s Felix Leiter, but he wasn’t as terrible as, say, Rosie Carver. The Bond girls seemed standard to me, also. Maud Adams returned to play Octopussy — but, Bond’s been there and done that. Kristina Wayborn (Magda) played a minor Bond girl, but I seemed to think that she wasn’t much of an actress, and more so an object to please the average male viewers’ eyes. It was fun to see Q in the field, though, landing a hot-air balloon on top of some of Khan’s goons.

John Barry did a favorable job with the film’s score. Though, I don’t consider it to be as legendary as the scores to “You Only Live Twice” or “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, it still beats the hell out of Bill Conti’s dated, cheesy score to “For Your Eyes Only”. Rita Coolidge’s theme song was decent, also, but surely doesn’t match some of the classic themes of the series. Again, I prefer it to that annoying, sappy theme to “For Your Eyes Only”.

As far as locations go, India worked well in this film. The locations in Germany seemed grim, but worked well, also. The rest of the film tends to stay pretty serious, although we do get some ridiculous scenes that tend to take an audience out of “the moment”. For example, there’s a scene where Bond tells a tiger to “sit”, a scene where Bond swings across some vines and the Tarzan jungle-cry is heard, and then just plain-old cheesy lines like “That should keep you in curry for a few weeks”. Though Roger Moore was nearly 60-years-old at the time of the film’s release, he still held up pretty well, and looked pretty damn good.

Overall, the film is a laid-back successor of “For Your Eyes Only”. There are some scenes/aspects in which “Octopussy” tops “For Your Eyes Only”, but there are also some scenes/aspects in which “Octopussy” reverts back to the old, ridiculous nonsense that plagued Bond films like “Moonraker”. Roger Moore’s Bond era tend to catch a lot of harsh criticism, but sometimes for good reason. This film, however, doesn’t deserve any of that. It’s serious, yet fun. And most of all, it’s Bond. This is one of Moore’s best portrayals, I’d say.

7.5 / 10

7.5 / 10

Moonraker — 30th Anniversay

June 27, 2009

It was thirty years ago yesterday that Moonraker was launched to the big screen.  The eleventh film of the series, and the fourth to star Roger Moore, was the highest-grossing Bond film up until GoldenEye. There’s a lot to like about Moonraker and a lot not to like. Though, none the less, it was worth mentioning this milestone.

Here’s my review of the film:

Film Review ::: Moonraker

June 19, 2009

“Moonraker” brings the fantasy of the James Bond films to a whole different level … a level that I don’t care much for.

The film’s story hardly resembles Fleming’s classic novel. As a matter of fact, it’s simply another lame rehashing of the story from “The Spy Who Loved Me” (courtesy of Christopher Wood) … which was essentially a rehashing of Roald Dahl’s story for “You Only Live Twice” – quite original, eh?

The characters don’t have much going for them. The most complex character of the film is probably James Bond, which is really no surprise. Roger Moore portrays him elegantly and humorously as he did in the past three films. Lois Chiles’ character, Dr. Molly Goodhead, is quite bland, to say the least. Michael Lonsdale portrays Hugo Drax in an interesting fashion, but hardly comes off as menacing or diabolical; he’s more or less a wealthy and extravagant nut case. “Jaws” unfortunately returns in this film and adds more ridiculous nonsense, also. However, this time around, the ingenious writer had the audacity to incorporate a half-witted love story amongst the metal-mouthed henchman and a petite, pig-tailed blonde named Dolly. By the end of the film, Jaws realizes that the odd couple isn’t fit for Drax’s superior race and rebels. This would’ve been a nice cash-in, made-for-TV, spin-off flick.

The greatest aspect of this James Bond film has to be John Barry’s score. If there’s one man behind-the-scenes of a Bond film who always does his job well, it’s John Barry. Somehow, Barry was able to add some sort of redeeming quality to even the cheesiest scenes of the film. One of his best pieces of music for the film is “Corinne Put Down”, which is played during Corinne’s death. The strings and winds really add emotion and depth to the scene. Shirley Bassey’s title track for the film was also great although it was wasted on such a shameful Bond film. The mellow and lovely style of the track really didn’t fit the style of the film. The locations of the film were admirable, also. Bond travels to California, Rio de Janeiro, Venice, and Brazil. The only undesirable location was outer space.

Overall, I think that “Moonraker” starts off just like the previous Moore films, however, it gets out of control as it moves on. It’s obvious that the success of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” films helped to blast this Bond film into outer space. However, while “Star Wars” succeeded as a science-fiction/action/adventure film, “Moonraker” failed as a science-fiction/action/adventure film. Actually, I’m not even quite sure what genre “Moonraker” falls under, as it’s more like a science fiction/action/adventure/espionage/comedy.

I think Bond films like this took the main character off of the path of “secret agent”, and took him onto the path of “generic action hero”. While a Bond film should have a sufficient amount of action, the character must never enter the realm of “generic action hero”. Bond is a trend-setter, not a trend-follower. Bond’s an elegant secret agent, but also a cold killer, if need be. James Bond isn’t a man who flies around outer space and blasts poison pods with lasers, as one would in a Space Invaders video game.

I think it’s safe to say that James Bond should wield his Walther PPK on planet Earth, rather than wielding a laser gun in outer space.

4.5 / 10

4.5 / 10