Music Break: 5 Great Themes from 5 Favorite Action Flicks

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As an action movies fanatic, I also love the music that accompanies them. Here’s a list of some great themes from action movies throughout the years.

Black Rain
Chase to the Steel Plant by Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer has been the go to guy for composing big Hollywood tent pole pictures within the last 15 years or so. But he started out composing small movies and this was his first gig at composing a budget Hollywood film. It’s also his first collaboration with Ridley Scott. In this underrated buddy cop action thriller, his style really shows and I love this film’s soundtrack. Especially this particular track, it’s from a scene where two of the main characters chasing a suspect that leads to a shootout. The music works perfectly with the scene and I always get goose bumps when I watch this scene and hear the theme.

Heat
Unused Ending score by Elliot Goldenthal

I thought Michael Mann’s Heat is a nearly flawless masterpiece and the music by Elliot Goldenthal is just as good. To me the music in the film is timeless, you can still watch the film today and never thought it’s from the 90s. This track was supposed to be used at the film’s ending scene but apparently Mann wasn’t too thrilled about it and decided to use Moby’s God Moving Over the face of the Waters track instead. This of course angered Goldenthal and he and Mann didn’t work together again until Public Enemies. I love Moby’s theme but I prefer this one over the one that was used in the final fim.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Song for Jesse by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Technically this film isn’t an “action” picture because there’s only one shootout scene but I thought it’s one of the best westerns ever made and quite underrated. The score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis was just stunning. There are many great tracks from the soundtrack but this one is my absolute favorite. The whole film felt like a dream and this theme enhances the mood.

Sunshine
Surface of the Sun by John Murphy

I wish more Hollywood directors would hire John Murphy to compose their films, he’s one of my favorites, I thought his work in Mann’s Miami Vice was excellent. He and Danny Boyle has collaborated in many films together. This track from Sunshine has been used in many movie trailers and it’s a great one.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
We Have All the Time In World by John Barry

I can’t leave a James Bond flick out of a list about action pictures. John Barry’s excellent and timeless theme for one of my favorite Bond flicks. I can listen to this theme and the song by Louis Armstrong over and over again. I know for years many so called Bond fans hated this flick, but ever since Christopher Nolan said it’s his favorite Bond film, they have changed their tune about the film now. I’ve always been a fan and had Connery returned as 007 or Timothy Dalton accepted the role, it would have a been perfect Bond film to me. George Lazenby wasn’t bad as Bond but I couldn’t really accept him playing a super spy. But Diana Riggs was an awesome Bond girl.

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These are some of my favorite action themes, feel free to share yours in the comments section.

Long Weekend Roundup: An underrated Bond flick, a Sci-fi Horror and some TV Watching

Happy post-Thanksgiving weekend! Hope those of you in the States enjoyed your long weekend off, spending time with family and perhaps got some sweet deals from Black Friday? I was quite bummed that I missed the Amazon big sale on the Pixar’s BRAVE 3-disc- st blu-ray, it was only $8 bucks on Thursday from 2-6pm but I thought it was Friday! 😦 Ah well, I guess I’ll wait a bit longer until there’s another good deal for it.

Well, I got 5-days off this weekend so it’s movie-watching time in the comfort of my entertainment room. We actually skipped the cinema all week long as there’s really nothing that made the trip worthwhile. So it’s a lot of rewatching and catching up on older movies, including my third rewatch of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol which was still a lot of fun! I still got goosebumps watching Tom Cruise on top of that Burj Khalifa skyscraper!

I also got to rewatch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, something I’ve been wanting to do but finally iTunes has it available to rent.

I think I saw this movie years ago when I was growing up but my memory of it is hazy. So I felt like I have seen this for the first time now and I actually enjoyed it. Ok so George Lazenby is far from being my favorite James Bond and there are some silly parts, especially those with all the girls at Blofeld therapy session, ahah, and what’s with him and the kilt? 😀

Back to Lazenby though, I don’t think he’s a terrible Bond, he just doesn’t seem all that charismatic. He does have a lean, athletic physique and handles all the action and fight scenes stuff very well. He even looked manly wearing a ruffled shirt! Perhaps if he had done a couple more films, I might like him more than Brosnan but I guess we’ll never know. I quite like Telly Savalas as Blofeld, he’s not super menacing but not cartoon-ish either. Diana Rigg is fabulous as the beautiful and feisty Contessa Teresa ‘Tracy’ di Vicenzo, the kind of brain + beauty combo I like, just like Eva Green’s Vesper. Now I know why my friend Michael likes Rigg so much 😉

I think the action stuff is excellent, especially the ski and sled chase scenes. But it’s the love story aspect that separates this Bond film from the rest, and that end scene when Bond cradles Tracy’s lifeless body in his arms is so heartbreaking. Even though I already knew it’s going to happen, I still teared up as he said, ‘It’s ok really, we have all the time in the world.’ Speaking of which, that score by Louis Armstrong is absolutely beautiful… it even has a tinge of sadness to it which is perfect for this film.


The one movie I have not seen before was the sci-fi horror vampire flick Daybreakers. I’m done with the review but I will post that separately as it’s quite long.

On the TV front, I watched some episodes of Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome in 10-minute increments on YouTube, which was pretty decent even though whoever plays the young Adama is not nearly as charismatic as Edward James Olmos but whatever.

My hubby and I are still hooked on Once Upon A Time show so we watched a few more episodes of that too on Netflix Instant. Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin/Mr Gold is still the best thing about this show but I’m warming up to Ginnifer Goodwin & Josh Dallas as Snow White and Prince Charming. We might actually finish Season 1 by end of the year!


Well, that’s it for my long weekend round-up. Any thoughts on these films/shows? What did YOU see this past weekend?

007 Chatter: (Ian) Fleming’s Bond – The James Bond of the original novels compared to the 007 movies Part 2

Welcome to another edition of 007Chatter!
Just because Skyfall has been released in the US now, doesn’t mean we can’t continue talking about Bond. So this is the second part of Marcus’ post where he compared the Ian Fleming’s Novels to the Bond Films. In this post, Marcus takes a closer look at what is going on inside Bond — his relationships to the two important women in his life provide a great contrast to his movie image.

Check out PART I if you haven’t already.

Thanks again to Marcus Clearspring for these two-part posts!
Check out his movie blog Cinesprit and his writing blog.

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My introduction to Bond movies were double features at our small town cinema. Two Bonds on the big screen for half the price of one blockbuster ticket in London. Once I discovered that deal, I was eagerly opening the weekly listings to see when the next double feature was showing. Like most people who were happy with the movies, I wasn’t really aware of the books. Then I discovered several Bond books on the family bookshelves which changed my view of the Bond character completely.

Only five of the movies really follow Fleming’s novels closely. Dr No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. All the first movies made, with the exception of You Only Live Twice, which mixes in so much new stuff that it greatly differs from the novel.

The novel would be difficult to adapt to the screen. The first one hundred pages consist largely of Bond and Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese Secret Service, talking about cultural differences between British/Western ways and Japanese/Asian perspectives. The final showdown does not take place in a hollowed-out volcano as in the movie. You Only Live Twice is an exception, a very strange novel in many ways. The final showdown is quite literally fantastic. Definitely to be recommended if you are open to a different kind of 007 narrative.

In general, the movies liberally mix and match individual scenes and characters from the novels. The best example is Live and Let Die. The movie has very little to do with the novel except for Bond chasing Mr. Big’s drug ring and visiting Harlem. However, some of the most memorable action scenes from Live and Let Die are mixed into other movies. For example, the scene in For Your Eyes Only with Bond and Melina, the woman  with the crossbow, being dragged as shark bait behind a boat.

Then two scenes in Licence to Kill. The one where Felix Leiter has been fed to sharks and has a classic Fleming line attached to him saying “He disagreed with something that ate him“. The other is when Bond breaks into the warehouse belonging to Crest. The scene is much longer in the novel and has far more suspense. As I said in my first post, its surprising that many action scenes are more engaging in the novels.

I’d like to focus on two topics which generally put Bond’s character in a negative light. His relationship to women and the perception from the movies that he’s merely a blunt instrument, an assassin with no introspection. Both topics are different in the novels.

There is a common perception that Bond is a misogynist and only sees women as “disposable pleasures.” Particularly for the movies of the 1970s that is often true. The phrase, I believe, is from Fleming’s Casino Royale and quoted in the movie. However, in the novels, I would argue that’s only a setup by the author to get Bond more emotionally involved.

It’s like in romantic comedies and dramas. In the beginning, the male or female lead declare to their best friend how they are totally finished with serious relationships because men/women are so awful. We all know that’s a setup, that they will hook up at the end with the person they disliked the most in the beginning. The greater the distance created, the greater they can fall in love later on. I think Fleming does this too. Only, it’s not served as a fluffy romance, so many people don’t seem to recognize it behind the rough and tumble macho disguise. Why else would Fleming have Bond literally call  himself a misogynist, then have him fall in love? Bond gives a simple explanation. It’s because he has never met a woman he could have an interesting conversation with. Surprising insight, if you only know the movies.

Bond only falls in love twice in the novels. That is with Vesper in Casino Royale and Tracy in On her Majesty’s Secret Service. Vesper, the sphinx, is the first woman he can talk to with ease. Tracy, a woman with “issues”, becomes Mrs Bond.

These are some of the most fascinating parts in any of the Bond novels. It’s this very tough character, an assassin, being caring and tender, able to relate to another person. Mixed with action and imminent danger this delivers a great result. It goes far deeper than the stock “hero getting the girl” because Fleming adds so much interior to Bond’s character.

Bond’s introspection is what sets him apart from many other action heroes. He will question what he needs to do and what he has done. He will ponder the moral and ethical sides of his actions, question the service he works for. There is an entire short chapter in Casino Royale, where, while recuperating in the clinic, Bond speaks to Mathis about his job, pondering whether he should quit. He questions whether his actions are any better than those of the villains he hunts. Some interesting thoughts and answers from Mathis which are worth reading and thinking about.

One thing to keep in mind is that the novels were written in the 1950s and obviously do not reflect what’s considered politically correct today (see note below on Live and Let Die). It’s a post World War II era. The onset of the Cold War.

Here’s a brief personal ranking of the novels.

Best:

  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  • From Russia with Love
  • You Only Live Twice
  • Dr No
  • Thunderball
  • Goldfinger

Mediocre:

  • The Man with the Golden Gun
  • Live and Let Die*

* Caution: “Live and Let Die” contains many racial references considered highly offensive today.

Weak:

  • Diamonds are Forever

Special mention:

The Spy Who Loved Me is an exception in the series, written entirely from the perspective of a woman. James Bond only has a short appearance. You can’t really count it as part of the normal Bond novels. It is interesting though and I plan on re-reading it.

There would be lots more to say. I can only encourage anyone interested in Bond, to check out the novels and discover a depth of character not present in any of the movies to date.


So that concludes the two-part post on how the Ian Fleming’s Bond books compare to the Bond movies. 

What are your thoughts on this topic?

007 Chatter: (Ian) Fleming’s Bond – The James Bond of the original novels compared to the 007 movies Part 1

October is Bond month as the producers are celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No, which opened in the UK on on October 5, 1962. In addition to the Skyfall countdown, here at FlixChatter we are taking an in-depth look into the world’s most popular movie franchise and its origins.

Special thanks to Marcus Clearspring for this two-part posts in comparing how the original novels of Ian Fleming compared to the Bond movies.

Check out Marcus’ movie blog Cinesprit and his writing blog.

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Fleming’s Bond

When you think James Bond, you probably think Martinis-and-bikinis, “shaken not stirred” and of course “Bond, James Bond”. The James Bond of the movies is a kind of superhero. However, Ian Fleming’s original novels show far more depth of character and certainly no superman. He may actually have a few things in common with some of the darker superheroes, only he has no superpowers. Although he has gadgets, they rarely spring him from danger in the novels.
The complete collection of Ian Fleming books – photo courtesy of ebookee.org
Fleming’s Bond is a character with doubts, who is vulnerable and expresses his fears. The most extreme example is when Bond falls into a long depression for several months after the death of his wife Tracy. The story begins with Bond visiting her grave, and his boss M back at the office, telling Bond to shape up or ship out. This is the beginning to Thunderball in the novel. Bond is not sent to the health clinic to work undercover. It’s an ultimatum. He goes there because he is too depressed and out of shape to work. He discovers the bad guys by chance. It is surprising how dark the beginning is, but it’s also very memorable.
The movies have so far never portrayed Bond like this. We saw him place flowers on his wife’s grave in For Your Eyes Only, but that was followed by an action-comedy sequence with Blofeld at times so camp it was close to Austin Powers. The Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again had Bond sent to the clinic because he was supposedly out of shape, but that was all. It too was upbeat, almost comedic, with no mention of any other trouble.

The possibly closest portrayal of Fleming’s Bond in the movies for me is Timothy Dalton in Licence To Kill, and to some extent Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. As of the Daniel Craig era you can imagine the producers using a downbeat opening like in Fleming’s Thunderball because attitudes have changed. It’s okay now for Bond to be vulnerable and the story to have some gravitas. When they tried that with Timothy Dalton in Licence To Kill, audiences were not yet ready. It was 10-15 years too early.
Fleming’s Bond is always focused and very rarely distracted. There’s a scene in Goldfinger where Bond sees a pretty girl in an open sports car and is tempted to follow her. Then he smiles and mutters to himself that he needs to keep shadowing Goldfinger. You may recall that scene from the movie. It’s an exception in the novels rather than something you would expect, as you do in the movies. Likewise, you won’t find scores of bikini-clad girls sunbathing around swimming pools. No five-star hotel concierge greets Bond after several years by name and announces that a Martini is waiting. Not in the books.

What makes Fleming’s Bond so interesting?

[ruth’s note: I found this illustration by Gabriel Hardman above from this site, inspired by this description from Fleming’s Casino Royale novel: As he tied his thin, double-ended black satin tie, he paused for a moment and examined himself levelly in the mirror. His grey-blue eyes looked calmly back with a hint of ironical inquiry and the short lock of black hair which would never stay in place slowly subsided to form a thick comma above his right eyebrow. With the thin vertical scar down his right cheek the general effect was faintly piratical.]
There have been many new authors who have written Bond novels since Ian Fleming. Make sure to start at the source, with the real deal. There may be some good 007 novels by other authors but I have not heard of any to surpass Fleming’s originals. When I refer to “the novels” from here on, I mean solely Ian Fleming’s books.
What I find particularly interesting in Fleming’s novels is the way we get to see and feel everything that Bond does from inside Bond’s head. That’s a totally different perspective to the movies. We get a multitude of thoughts and emotions racing through Bond’s head. Doubts, strategies, fears, next moves. All this is mostly told as a running commentary.
Many action scenes in the novels are better than in the movies. I know that sounds odd because movies are normally better at action than books, but this is one of Fleming’s strong points. A good example is the car chase in Casino Royale. It has far more detail and suspense than the movie, which only shows Bond catching up, then the final rollover of his car. The novel manages to put you inside Bond’s head, with him in the driver’s seat, following his every move and thought. He sits there thinking about how Vesper got herself caught. Complaining about her and worrying at the same time as he shifts gears and his thoughts race. These are some of the best moments in the books because you get both the internal and external action.
I would never have thought it could be exciting the way someone shifts gears and moves along serpentine roads, but it is the way Fleming writes. I know someone who used to drive rallies and they thought Fleming’s descriptions were great. Especially if you are bored by the fast cuts of current movie chases which abbreviate so much, you will appreciate the detailed and engaging way Fleming writes his action scenes.

Focus and Purpose

The fight scenes are full of precision and purpose. Often brutal, but never for show. Bond often considers each move in advance. However, not as in many movies where the hero recites a bunch of moves to show off how easy it’s going to be and how cool he or she is. If there’s any comparison in movies, Fleming’s Bond takes the approach of a Clint Eastwood type character. Someone who gets straight down to business when he has to and takes the shortest, most effective route without any showing off.
The skiing scenes in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are another great example. The movie’s ski scenes are great due to Willy Bogner’s amazing photography, but the novel has the advantage of putting you inside Bond’s skin as he tries to escape from Blofeld’s mountain lair.

The movies are glamorous, mainstream action entertainment. The books get inside Bond’s head and under his skin. It’s a very different perspective. It’s the main reason to read the books. In the next post I’ll take a closer look at what is going on inside Bond. His relationships to the two important women in his life provide a great contrast to his movie image. His introspective side shows how critical, and at times cynical, Bond can be of his own job.


Well, that’s it for Part I. Is there anything you miss in the movies, or which you think might be better in a novel?

Five for the Fifth October 2012: Spy Edition

Hello folks, since October 5 2012 edition of Five of the Fifth happens to fall on Bond’s 50th Anniversary, all the questions have a SPY theme in honor of our super spy 007.

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here. So let’s get started, shall we?
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1. Well, now that Adele’s Skyfall theme song has been officially released, I’m quite pleased to see the classic ballad is back again. I’ve listened to it half a dozen times now and the melody easily gets stuck in my head. I like that there’s a trace of the Bond theme in it, and it doesn’t hurt that I’m a big fan of Adele’s voice. She’s channeling Dame Shirley Bassey, though I don’t think anyone could match the Welsh singer’s powerful pipes. So take a listen below…

Now on to the two-part question: Thoughts on Adele’s song AND which singer/band do you wish would sing the Bond theme song next?

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2. James Bond might be the world’s most famous spy character, but Ian Fleming isn’t the only popular British spy author. This article on Word and Film site lists all the films based on English author John le Carre’s classic British spy and espionage novels. I have only seen three of them on the list: Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, The Constant Gardener and The Tailor of Panama, and they’re all very good.

I’m curious to check out the rest from that list, especially The Spy Who Came in from the Cold starring Richard Burton. That sounds really intriguing.

Are you a fan of Le Carre’s work? Which of his books is your favorite?

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3. A few days ago I came across this Best Bond Movies poll that the MI6-HQ site conducted late last year. Below are the results of the ‘most favored’ James Bond films by the fans:

Rank Film Actor Score
1 Casino Royale Daniel Craig 75%
2 Goldfinger Sean Connery 54%
3 From Russia With Love Sean Connery 53%
4 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service George Lazenby 46%
5 GoldenEye Pierce Brosnan 37%

The Living Daylights made the top 10 at #8 (which makes me happy), but what I find most interesting is that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service made the top 5!

So even though people didn’t like George Lazenby, apparently they still love the film. That’s one of the Bond films I really want to revisit again, I might do it yet this month as I don’t remember much about it aside from that heartbreaking finale. I’m even more curious as Christopher Nolan said it’s his favorite Bond film, so who knows, perhaps a remake is in order with a more capable Bond actor?

What’s your thoughts on the poll and/or OHMSS film specifically?
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4. Now switching gears from MI-6 to CIA… Americans’ got our own super spy too, y’know 😀 The name is Ryan, Jack Ryan. Ok it doesn’t have the same catchy ring to it and the franchise is not nearly as lucrative, but the Tom Clancy’s character has quite a fan base.

And the reboot coming up next year seems to be going back to basics, titling it simply Jack Ryan, and casting the young and hip Capt Kirk Chris Pine in the role. Interestingly enough, he’s surrounded by Brits: Kenneth Branagh is directing and starring as the villain and Keira Knightley as his wife. But hey, he’s got Kevin Costner as his CIA mentor.

For me, my favorite Jack Ryan actor is Harrison Ford, but it could be because Patriot Games was the first movie I saw of the franchise. I know most of you probably love Alec Baldwin most as he’s the first in The Hunt For The Red October, and I might revisit that movie at one point, but I quite like Ford’s intensity. He might appear curmudgeon, which somehow I find endearing, but to me he captures that hard life and being constantly on edge as what I imagined his job would entail.

So, who’s your favorite actor portraying Jack Ryan?
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5. Now, back to Bond again as today is Global Bond Day after all. As the franchise keeps going on and on, let me turn to the one who started it all: Ian Fleming. I’d love to see the creator of Commander Bond gets a proper biopic treatment on the big screen. Well, last May there were reports circulating that Duncan Jones (director of Moon, Source Code, etc.) is going to be at the helm. As The Guardian article says, Fleming’s fascinating life story seems to be worth telling and no doubt inspired his creation, inspired by his years in the British naval intelligence during WWII. He reportedly lived a hard life too, smoking and drinking (60 cigarettes a day??!), and was also quite the playboy.

I haven’t heard of who’d be cast as Fleming. I think I heard James McAvoy was rumored at some point, which would be a good choice I think, aside from the fact that Fleming has Scottish roots. Now if they decide to do a biopic on his later years though, I’d love to see Geoffrey Rush play him. I mean, I even found this photo when I was searching on Google, so obviously I’m not the only one who think of their uncanny resemblance!

Thoughts on this biopic, now who would you like to see portray Ian Fleming?


Well, that’s it for the Special SPY edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀