Bond goes sky-high in blockbuster DVD
Dvd: Skyfall (cert 12, 137 minutes) BOND is reportedly killed in action and section chief M pens an obituary as a political storm rages around her. A database of MI6 assets has fallen into the wrong hands, compromising undercover agents around the world. While M (Judi Dench) fends off sustained attacks on her reputation, news filters through that Bond (Daniel Craig) has survived and M engages her physically bruised agent to track down menacing cyber terrorist Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). Bond traverses the globe in search of Silva and consequently he unearths dark secrets from M’s past that threaten to bring down MI6. Skyfall opens with a breathtaking 12-minute pre-credits sequence, which draws heavily from the Bourne franchise. Sam Mendes’s film looks stunning courtesy of cinematographer Roger Deakins, and Adele’s soaring theme song harks back to the belting ballads of Shirley Bassey. Craig has rugged physicality in abundance but his one-note interpretation of the spy who is shaken but never stirred remains devoid of personality. Mendes sensibly surrounds his leading man with an ensemble of award-winning actors. Bardem is deliciously camp and menacing, and Dench is glorious. Ben Whishaw asserts himself as a gadget geek worthy of the Q mantle. The film dazzles during verbal jousts, whether it’s M discovering Bond in the shadows of her London apartment (“You’re bloody well not sleeping here!”) or Silva fondling Bond’s inner thighs and asking what regulation training suggests he do in such a situation. In his 50th anniversary year, Ian Fleming’s debonair secret agent is on top form. A three-disc box set comprising Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall is also available.
Film: Song for Marion (PG, 93 minutes) Music is the food of eternal love in Paul Andrew Williams’s comedic drama about personal triumph and reconciliation in the wake of terminal illness. His gently paced script sings from the heart, milking copious tears between lively choral arrangements of Salt-N-Pepa’s dancefloor filler Let’s Talk About Sex and Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades. Those racy renditions come courtesy of the OAPZ, a motley crew of fun-loving pensioners who find camaraderie during their sessions at Smith Hall Community Centre under the baton of pretty volunteer conductor Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton). She gladly gives her time to the old timers, witnessing first hand the power of music to lift spirits and temporarily ease the stresses of daily life. Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) is one of the most popular and beloved members of the choir. She is battling terminal illness with the help of her cranky husband, Arthur (Terence Stamp), who would prefer his wife to give up singing so she can concentrate on getting better. “She seems in good spirits,” observes a friend of the couple. “Yeah, she’s got a couple of months,” replies Arthur matter-of-factly. The OAPZ are preparing for a singing competition and Marion is earmarked for a rousing solo. Alas, when she can no longer trill through the pain, Arthur begrudgingly takes his wife’s place and rediscovers his love of singing. In the process, he also rebuilds bridges with his mechanic son James (Christopher Eccleston) and widens his circles of friends to support him when the time comes to let go of the woman he adores. Song For Marion is joyful and uplifting, anchored by Stamp’s sympathetic portrayal of a curmudgeonly loner who finds redemption at his lowest ebb. Williams’s film could easily have descended into cloying sentimentality and shameless emotional manipulation. So it’s to the writer-director’s credit that he doesn’t soften too many of Arthur’s rough edges or steer his characters far away from the reality of their devastating loss. Earthy humour counterbalances the grief, such as when one member of the OAPZ questions whether it’s appropriate to be singing about sex. “Makes a change from just thinking about it,” tartly replies Marion’s pal Brenda (Anne Reid) with a twinkle in her eye. Eccleston makes an impact in his limited scenes and Redgrave radiates a glow over every frame.
DVD: Tower Block (Cert 15, 86 minutes) Jimmy (Ralph Laurila) is murdered by hooded figures in the corridors of the condemned Serenity House tower block and none of the residents come forward as eyewitnesses to the shocking crime, fearful of the reprisals for helping the boys in blue. Three months later, as the final residents are preparing to move out, new terror grips the block when a sniper begins taking pot shots through the windows. Like her neighbours, Becky (Sheridan Smith) has tried to forget the murder but now she has nowhere to hide from a hail of bullets. She heads out into the corridor in search of an escape route, only to discover that the mystery attacker has set traps to keep residents hostage in their homes. Becky decides to search for a way out of Serenity House and she carefully makes her way through the gloom accompanied by bully boy Kurtis (Jack O’Connell), alcoholic Paul (Russell Tovey) and other terrified targets. Silence can be deadly in James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson’s claustrophobic thriller, which sustains dramatic tension from a slender premise. Smith and O’Connell deliver the stand-out performances in underwritten roles, while supporting cast struggle to flesh out their two-dimensional characters as the residents are slaughtered one by one. However, James Moran’s script comes unstuck in the closing frames.