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Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga – Review

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Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Netflix

Did the elves really go too far? Rachel McAdams may think so, but we certainly don’t. Here’s our review of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.

Eurovision. The most ostentatiously outrages song contest to ever grace our screens, yet it’s been an absolute hit since the first airing way back in 1956. Just when you thought that the show couldn’t possibly get any crazier, each year another performance has us on the edge of our seats. Whether it’s through fits of giggles, horror or sheer disbelief, it’s a contest that just keeps on giving. From dancing grannies to pirates and air hostesses. The pan-European competition has proven that the impossible can be made possible. In fact, it comes with added sparkles, glitter and the occasional sexy roman soldier or milk-maid.

Alas, like everything else that is wholesome with the world Eurovision 2020 did not go ahead due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Netflix gifted us with a show that encompasses everything that is Eurovision.

The story

“Wedding Crashers” director David Dobkin has created an endearing comedy. With an infectious charm that entertains in the most bizarre of circumstances. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is fun, quirky and unbelievably outrageous with a full cast. Including Demi Lovato, Dan Stevens and Pierce Brosnan.

It follows the story of two life-long friends Lars and Ingrid (Will Farrell and Rachel McAdams). They have dreams of entering the contest, and after a fluke entry acceptance, they begin their journey towards Eurovision fame. Although Rotten Tomatoes only presented it with 3 stars, I believe it’s worth so much more, and here’s why.

The performances

A review of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga must look at performances. Farrell returns to his initial charming comedic persona. One that saw his fanbase rocket in the mid-nineties during his time on the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. But it’s McAdams who steals the show with her innocent portrayal of Ingrid. An elf-loving, free-spirited woman who is secretly (but blatantly) in love with Lars. Having grown up watching Farrell in films such as “Elf” and “Anchor Man”. And McAdams with her fantastic portrayal as Regina George and her heart-wrenching performance in The Notebook. I thought I would never see the day that the two would combine in a rom-com. Yet both compliment each other perfectly, with the added pizazz and charm that was very much needed for such a film. McAdams brings the house down with her brilliantly-timed witty reactions to Farrell’s comedic style.

Silliness

One of the movie’s first scenes reveals Will Farrell and Rachel McAdams in full Nordic costume. Singing at the top of their lungs in the middle of Icelandic vista about a volcanic protector. If that doesn’t set the scene for the whole movie, the soundtrack itself certainly does.

It encapsulates the silly traditions of Eurovision without making offence. Yet it is catchy enough to have you bobbing your head without even realising it with a mixture of techno vibes and some rather absurd lyrics.

Room for improvement

The only downside I can find to the music as a whole is that while Farrell sings to the best of his ability, only adding to the overall wit. Ingrid’s vocals are mainly voiced by Swedish singer and junior Eurovision 2006 entry Molly Sandén. Who we can thank for that spectacular high note at the end of “Husavik – My Home Town”. Still, according to music producer Savan Kotecha, McAdams did contribute to most of the soundtrack, albeit in small doses. According to Kotecha, McAdams’ voice blended in well with Sandén’s tone. Though, when Vanity Fair questioned Sandén on the comment, she disagreed, stating “I didn’t really hear her in the soundtrack… maybe it’s mixed in somewhere.”

Either way, the finale of the film is simply stunning thanks to McAdams’ innocent and effortless acting performance. On the subject of “Husavik”, it is, in my view, the only song of the whole soundtrack that isn’t shadowed by dramatics. It has strange lyrical combinations and odd noise amplifications. Although the rest of Eurovision’s music is fun and energetic, “Husavik” brings you back down to earth with a huge bump. It’s a breath-taking end to an all-round crazy journey.

On stage

The annual contest is, by all means, theatrical and I’m completely for it, but The Story of Fire Saga is in a world of its own when it comes to melodramatics. Take Lars and Ingrid’s stage set up during their first Eurovision performance, “Double Trouble”. It’s practically comical that the soft notes of Ingrid’s opening lyrics are juxtaposed with two very brightly dressed male dances waving their arms dramatically either side of Ingrid. Enter Lars dressed in a blinding modern replica of a 90s boiler suit. Riding downstage on a giant hamster wheel. And it quickly imitates Verka Serduchka’s 2007 entry “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”, with a touch of Conchita Wurst’s “Rise Like A Phoenix”.

The theatrics don’t stop with the performances, though. They ricochet throughout the movie. Especially with the tremendous boat explosion scene. Which, in true King Ralph fashion, exterminates all other Icelandic candidates. Leaving nothing but the half-dismembered ghost of pop singer Katiana (Demi Lovato). She follows Lars in attempts to warn him of the dangers ahead.

Round-up

Between the chaos of inexplicable lyrics, stage lighting, dramatic costumes and outrageously comic script lies Pierce Brosnan. A gentle reminder that this story is, in fact, an exaggerated replica of real Eurovision life. And that behind every eye-popping, mind-boggling performance that graces our television each year. There is almost certainly a parent back home shaking their head in complete disbelief.

Now let’s all sing a few verses of “Jaja Ding Dong” together.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10


Thanks for reading our review of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, currently streaming on Netflix. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


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Read IMDB information about Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga HERE.

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No Time To Die – Review

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James Bond No Time To Die image
Metro Goldwyn Mayer

No Time To Die is the 25th instalment in the official James Bond series. It’s the VERY long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Spectre. The 6-year gap between the two films is only matched by the same gap between Timothy Dalton’s last outing in 1989’s Licence To Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Here’s our review of No Time To Die.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the film, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

Of course, there are mitigating factors in that enormous gap. Namely COVID. Which made No Time To Die the first major film to delay its release due to the pandemic. Although, this film has had a difficult gestation irrespective of the global situation in the last 18 months. As soon as Spectre was released the speculation over Daniel Craig’s future in the role began. With him initially suggesting he would rather slash his own wrists than play the iconic spy again. He did a mea culpa on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in August 2017, where he confirmed he would appear as Bond for a fifth and final time. The original director and writer, Danny Boyle and John Hodge, left the project a year later over creative differences. Cory Joji Fukunaga took over as director. While Bond script veterans Robert Wade and Neil Purvis took charge of the screenplay – with a sprinkling of magic from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Delays

Originally slated for release in April 2020, at long last, we finally get to see Daniel Craig’s denouement as 007. His portrayal of Bond has been very much in keeping with the character of Ian Fleming’s original novels. His performances have certainly followed the dramatic lineage of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Rather than the lighter portrayals by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Yet his Bond has displayed a vulnerability only really demonstrated with any plausibility by George Lazenby in his solitary outing as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

The deference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in stark relief throughout this 2h43min epic. Making this the longest Bond film in the series. As this was the first film I’ve seen at the cinema since before the pandemic, I was already excited before I even sat down. As a massive James Bond fan as well, I was close to apoplexy! I felt a tangible shiver go down my spine as the iconic gun barrel sequence appeared before we see James cruising around Italy in the classic DB5 with Madeleine Swann at his side. This anticipation was clearly felt by other cinema-goers. They have made No Time To Die break the UK box office record for the biggest opening weekend. It took almost £26m, breaking the record previously held by Skyfall.

I’m not going to spoil the plot for those who’ve not seen it. I had made a conscious decision to avoid spoilers before I went.

A step up?

This film is another shot in the arm for those who see Craig as the definitive Bond. This was aided by a refocusing of the Bond canon after the main tropes of the series were stretched to breaking point by the invisible cars and melting ice palaces of Die Another Day. And then stretched still further by Madonna’s cameo as a fencing instructor. Daniel Craig was given leeway to truly regenerate James Bond for the 21st Century. The stripped-back nature of Casino Royale, without most of the supporting characters that have been a staple of the series like Q and Moneypenny. Gave him licence (pardon the pun) to explore the deepest and darkest recesses of the Bond psyche. Some well-drawn female leads and villains really allowed Craig’s Bond to spar with them with depth and genuine emotion.

That exploration continues and grows in No Time To Die. We get to see an ageing, truly world-weary Bond, whose past he appears unable to escape. This leaves him in a state of almost constant angst. Paradoxically though, we also see him truly relaxed at times. In a way I can’t recall ever seeing James Bond in any of his previous cinematic outings.

Screen time

The issue with that exploration is that a number of characters then have their screen time cut. Moneypenny is reduced to little more than a cameo. And Remi Malek’s Safin is almost secondary as he features in the opening moments as his story is told, but then disappears for what seemed like an eternity. He of course reappears but he almost seems a mild irritation within the plot and merely a conduit to allow us to see the climax of Daniel Craig’s Bond era. It’s a disappointing underuse of a terrific actor. One with a captivating screen presence, who could have been one of the most menacing Bond villains of all time. That said, the influence of his dastardly but highly sophisticated plan is felt by all of the main protagonists. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld continues to wreak his havoc with malevolent glee from his cell. He again revels in the chaos of his twisted sibling rivalry with Bond.

Lea Seydoux is wonderful again as Dr Madeleine Swann, picking up where she left off in Spectre and giving Bond as good as he gets in every way imaginable.

There are new characters who definitely cut through. Ana De Armas is utterly charming in her relatively brief time on-screen as Paloma, while Lashana Lynch takes no nonsense from Bond as Nomi. She also gives us a potential indicator as to the future direction of the franchise. Which has been the subject of much discussion in all quarters. That debate has even made its way into the political sphere with even Boris Johnson weighing in on what gender the next actor to play 007 should be.

Score

Hans Zimmer’s score is classic Hans Zimmer, adding power and bombast to the usual mix of stunning scenery and brilliantly choreographed stunts. He brilliantly weaves nods to previous entries in the Bond musical tapestry throughout his score. While his cues are always thunderous, they never overpower the action on screen, but do add a sonic rumble that I don’t think has been heard in a Bond score for quite some time. I found Fukunaga’s direction a bit mixed, with some of the cinematography unnecessarily showy. Some of the tracking shots almost gave me motion sickness while some (admittedly beautifully composed) shots of the scenery seemed to have made the edit purely so as whoever the drone operator was could demonstrate their skills.

Duration

The film is much too long, although at no point did I check my watch. It’s not that any of the plot points are superfluous, more that the pacing is a little slow in places. Some of the dialogue feels cliched and clunky, making what is a great story feel a tad generic. Which doesn’t do anyone justice. However, there were some excellent jokes, and I laughed out loud several times. You don’t have to be a 007 super fan to get some of the self-referential humour that they seem to enjoy sprinkling throughout the film.

Billie Eilish’s theme song is a worthy addition to the collection and certainly sits comfortably within the top half of the ‘Bond Theme Chart’. It’s definitely more memorable and evocative than Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Spectre. Her voice trembles at times as you can almost feel she recognises the significance of singing the theme for Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the franchise.

It was also very pleasing to see that this film has moved with the times and reflects the world of 2021 with its portrayal of women. Every single female character had a genuine purpose and important role within the plot. While of course, the female actors playing those roles are all irrefutably glamorous and attractive. There was genuine respect and no objectification of women.

Wrapping up

I came out of the screening with mixed emotions. Glad to be back in the cinema on one hand, sad that Daniel Craig’s stint ordering Martini’s was over on the other. I was pleased that such a good climax had been created to bring this era of Bond to a close, and all its story arcs had been brought to conclusions. I’m also excited and apprehensive in equal measure for the future of such an iconic film series. But I was disappointed with some of the characters not getting the necessary screen-time to truly develop their characters. Surprisingly, I was almost tearful at the final few moments, especially as the credits rolled.

Overall, this is a loving homage to the James Bond series, past and present. It’s a solid if unspectacular film in its own right, but the performances of Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux, as well as the Bond history it wraps itself in, elevate it beyond that.

It’s not Craig’s best Bond film, as Skyfall is almost untouchable in my opinion, but it does bring closure to his tenure in the tuxedo in a manner that should please Bond fans across the board. It also tantalises us as to what the 6th age of Bond will look like. Let the intense speculation begin!


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10


Thank you for reading our review of James Bond No Time To Die. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out who we think could be the next James Bond and why HERE.

Read IMDB information about No Time To Die HERE.

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