Just the Spectre of a Bond Movie

Well, I finally got to see the new Bond movie, Spectre.

Spectre

Spectre (2015) – Rated PG-13

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.”

I really like Daniel Craig’s Bond. He comes across as a muscle-bound thug, a blunt instrument of policy. Connery is my favorite but Craig’s ruthlessness makes him a close second. The Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan eras verged on parody with their outlandish gadgets and grandiose villains.

Casino Royale was a wonderful reboot of the franchise, bringing Bond back to the basics and packing a real emotional punch. They even included a scene from the book that I doubted would be filmed (ow!). Sadly, they followed this up with a rather lazy cash grab in Quantum of Solace.

Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) was hired to bring Skyfall to the screen. In spite of, or perhaps because of, not being an action director, he knocked it out of the park. Skyfall was not only a wonderful action picture but also a love letter to Connery’s Bond.

The success of Skyfall meant that I had seriously high hopes for the reteaming of Mendes and Craig in Spectre. Toss in one of my favorite character actors (Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds) in the villain role and I was all set.

Daniel Craig as a ruthless James Bond – check!

Attractive ladies for Bond to bed but never wed – check!

Callbacks to the Connery era (not just Spectre itself) – check!

Ridiculously dangerous-looking stunts – check!

Really evil villain – check!

Character who dies immediately after giving crucial information – check!

Requisite fancy car chase through exotic locale – check!

So why was I left underwhelmed? Well, in part it was because much of the movie seemed to be developed from the checklist.

Christoph Waltz is a fantastic actor and was absolutely chilling as Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds. Unfortunately, he isn’t given as much to do here. He is physically unimposing so they felt they had to have an imposing opponent as well. Enter Mr. Hinx (though I don’t remember him being called that) played by WWE giant, Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy).

There is one laughably bad action scene that I would swear was lifted from an Austin Powers movie. A dozen armed villains stand around and shoot everywhere but at Bond while he picks them off one by one.

It is explained that Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) hates guns but she shows she is quite capable with them. One would think, in the interests of self preservation, that she would pick one up off the ground when people are shooting at her but she prefers to hold hands with Bond instead.

There is a fantastic train face-off that is worth the price of admission. Yet, after destroying four train cars, Bond and Madeleine simply go back to their train car and have sex. Huh? For every wonderful scene, there is a head-scratching one.

Bottom line is that Spectre is no Skyfall or Casino Royale but neither is it Quantum of Solace. It is fun but not particularly good. It will also make plenty of money so there will be another one in a few years.

Fleming, Ian Fleming

I just used that title so that I could highlight the fact that Ian Fleming not only wrote the James Bond novels but was also responsible for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Netflix has recently put the following on instant:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) – Rated G

“Dick Van Dyke stars as quirky inventor Caractacus Potts, whose magical flying car transports his family and lovely lady friend to Vulgaria, a kingdom strangely devoid of children, ruled by the evil Baron Bomburst.”

From Russia with Love

Sean Connery as James Bond

Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, Diamonds are Forever, Never Say Never Again (aka Thunderball 2: Electric Boogaloo)

Non-Bond recommendation: Well I guess you can’t beat the role he won an Oscar for: The Untouchables.

George Lazenby as James Bond

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Non-Bond recommendation: Umm, well, that’s all he did really. Give On Her Majesty’s Secret Service a whirl and try to stay awake.

Live and Let Die

Roger Moore as James Bond

Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill

Non-Bond recommendation: The Wild Geese

The Living Daylights

Timothy Dalton as James Bond

The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill

Non-Bond recommendation: Mary, Queen of Scots

Pierce Brosnan as James Bond

Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough

Non-Bond recommendation: The Long Good Friday

Daniel Craig as James Bond

Okay, these aren’t available but Craig is pretty entertaining in Archangel.

Bond…James Bond on Netflix and Amazon Prime

There is plenty of Bondage on Netflix and Amazon Prime (same titles on both services). Be aware that it only lasts until the end of the month.

Dr. No

Dr. No (1962) – Rated PG

“Sent to locate a colleague who’s vanished in Jamaica, debonair Agent 007 — in the first of the James Bond films — finds villainous scientist Dr. No plotting to derail the U.S. space program and take over the world.”

Goldfinger

Goldfinger (1964) – Rated PG

“The third installment in the 007 series — which racked up an Oscar for Best Sound Effects — finds überspy James Bond trying to thwart baddie Auric Goldfinger and his elaborate gambit to corner the gold market by contaminating Fort Knox.”

Thunderball (1965) – Rated PG

“With his sights set on a blackmail payday of global proportions, terrorist mastermind Emilio Largo hijacks two nuclear weapons — and only James Bond can stop him in this 007 classic featuring Oscar-winning special effects.”

You Only Live Twice (1967) – Rated PG

“After American and Soviet spaceships disappear, the two countries trade blame for the incidents — and as the nations edge toward war, James Bond is tasked with getting to the bottom of another international mystery.”

Live and Let Die (1973) – Rated PG

“Roger Moore debuts as suave secret agent James Bond, who’s sent to the United States to go after a master criminal scheming to take over the country by turning the populace into heroin junkies. Paul McCartney provides the Oscar-nominated title tune.”

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) – Rated PG

“In this rousing 007 adventure, sly spy James Bond teams with a shapely Russian agent to foil a millionaire industrialist who plans to rule an underwater empire — by wiping out the surface world. Steel-toothed thug “Jaws” makes his first appearance.”

For Your Eyes Only (1981) – Rated PG

“This entry in the überpopular film franchise finds the indomitable James Bond tasked with recovering a top-secret device capable of directing ballistic missiles from nuclear submarines — before the Soviets get their hands on it.”

Octopussy (1983) – Rated PG

“Agent 007 springs into action after uncovering a terrorist plot hatched by a renegade Soviet general and an exiled Afghan prince to launch a nuclear attack — financed by the sale of Fabergé eggs — against NATO forces in Europe.”

A View to a Kill (1985) – Rated PG

Agent 007 races against the clock to stop a power-mad French industrialist who’s scheming to corner the world’s microchip supply by triggering a massive earthquake that would destroy California’s Silicon Valley — and kill millions.”

Licence to Kill (1989) – Rated PG-13

“This time it’s personal as James Bond — stripped of his license to kill — embarks on a one-man, unauthorized mission of vengeance when notorious Colombian drug lord Franz Sanchez leaves 007’s newly married friend for dead.”

Goldeneye (1995) – Rated PG-13

Pierce Brosnan takes his first turn as suave secret agent James Bond, who — with his sophisticated gadgets and signature Aston Martin — investigates the destruction of a Russian satellite weapons base with help from the massacre’s sole survivor.”

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – Rated PG-13

“Pierce Brosnan stars as suave action hero James Bond in this continuation of the 007 series, this time teaming the secret agent and a sexy Chinese superspy against a megalomaniacal media mogul bent on starting World War III to boost his ratings.”

The World is Not Enough (1999) – Rated PG-13

“Greed, revenge, world domination, high-tech terrorism: It’s all in a day’s work for cunning secret agent James Bond, who’s on a mission — and in a race against time — to protect a beautiful oil heiress from a notorious terrorist.”

There is also the original premiere of James Bond way back in 1954 in

Casino Royale (1954) – Not rated

Having gambled away a vast sum of his country’s funds, a diabolical Soviet spy tries to recoup his losses through a high-stakes game of baccarat, but secret agent James Bond enters the competition to foil him in this 1954 teleplay.”

This is only for curiosity value. Barry Nelson is Jimmy Bond and Peter Lorre is his nemesis.

When you are done with that massive marathon, watch the excellent documentary:

Everything or Nothing

Everything or Nothing (2012) – Not rated

“He’s the greatest secret agent in the world, but who are the men behind Agent 007? This engrossing documentary goes inside the James Bond legend to uncover how a series of spy stories became one of the most iconic franchises in cinema history.”

 

 

Everything or Nothing – Film on Film Week

Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Everything or Nothing (2012) – Not rated

“He’s the greatest secret agent in the world, but who are the men behind Agent 007? This engrossing documentary goes inside the James Bond legend to uncover how a series of spy stories became one of the most iconic franchises in cinema history.”

This is an exercise in how to make a documentary.

* Tell the whole story: Every Bond on film is covered here from the early TV version up through Daniel Craig. There are interviews with all of the Bonds. Sean Connery, who is notorious for not wanting to talk about Bond, is shown in older interviews.

* Tell interesting side stories: the story over the rights to Thunderball is fascinating but also heartbreaking as it allowed someone who wasn’t Ian Fleming to finesse the rights to a James Bond story

* Have more than just talking heads: Besides the wonderful and extensive set of clips, we also get Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger. Christopher Lee discusses his relationship with Ian Fleming.

* Give credit where credit is due. Ian Fleming is the beginning focus of the documentary but later we shift to Cubby Broccoli, Harry Saltzman and the Bonds.

Everything or Nothing has a slew of interviews but much of what the interviewees are saying is illustrated by clips from the Bond movies.There are also plenty of instances of classic Bond music.

Sean Connery receives the lion’s share but Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig are also featured. Even George Lazenby receives his due. The only thing not covered is the 1967 comedic version of Casino Royale.

If you are at all interested in James Bond, this is a riveting and fast-paced documentary.

My Name is Moore, Roger Moore

While the Connery Bond selection was disappointing (initially – then they added the three best ones), the Moore one is heartening. My two favorite Roger Moore – James Bond films are available on instant Netflix (Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun) as well as The Spy who Loved Me, Moonraker, Octopussy, For Your Eyes Only and A View to a Kill.

Live and Let Die (1973) – Rated PG

Roger Moore steps in as the suave, sophisticated Agent 007 in this eighth Bond installment. Bonds investigation of the murders of three fellow agents in New York soon puts him on the trail of Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto), a Harlem crime boss plotting a globally threatening scheme involving tons of self-produced heroin. Jane Seymour plays Mr. Big’s Tarot card reader, the beautiful Solitaire, whose loyalties are quickly cultivated by the charming Bond.

Live and Let Die is the first and easily the best of the Roger Moore Bonds. The story is a bit problematic as the hero and main damsel in distress are white Anglo-Saxons and the villains are ummm well not so much but strangely I didn’t find that offensive so much as silly – “Watch as a white man infiltrates Harlem!” and it works as an adjunct to the then current Blaxploitation era.

If you can get past that then there is quite a bit of fun to be had here. The villains are fun (particularly Yaphet Kotto and Geoffrey Holder) and, frankly, more interesting than Bond. Our main damsel is played by a gorgeous 22-year-old Jane Seymour. The locations are interesting as are the situations – basically the operative word for this movie is fun.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) – Rated PG

Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), the world’s deadliest assassin, has set his sights set on 007 (Roger Moore). James Bond has a license to kill, but Scaramanga isn’t playing by anyone’s rules as the cat-and-mouse game of death takes the two from the Far East to Scaramanga’s island lair.

First let me state that yes I understand that this is not a good movie. Yes Herve Villechaize is tremendously annoying. Yes the martial arts subplot is quaint and lamely attempting to cash in on the then-popular Bruce Lee craze. Yes J.W. Pepper (from Live and Let Die) makes a very unwelcome appearance here. Still with all that I have a huge soft spot for Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, Britt Ekland is quite cute and Roger Moore is still a little charming.

The Spy who Loved Me (1977) – Rated PG

This one is pretty good and is better than The Man with the Golden Gun though I like it less.

Moonraker (1979) – Rated PG

I really like the opening gag of having Bond jump out of a plane without a parachute to steal someone else’s in mid-air. After that though the rest of the film flips back and forth between aping the success of The Spy who Loved Me (even to the extent of having Richard Kiel return as Jaws), amping up the gadgetry and playing Bond for cheap laughs.

For Your Eyes Only (1981) – Rated PG

Taking a few pointers from the failures of Moonraker, Bond has almost no gadgets in this film and the one-liners are toned way down. Not only that but Bond encounters a woman who is quite willing to sleep with him and he turns her down.

Octopussy (1983) – Rated PG

See Moonraker above.

A View to a Kill (1985) – Rated PG

How can you go wrong with Christopher Walken as a villain? Well let us just say they did – after this they attempted to reboot the franchise with Timothy Dalton as Bond.

Connery Redux

Woohoo! Yesterday I posted that the four lesser Connery Bond films are available on instant Netflix and *surprise!* today the three best Connery Bond films became available on instant play – in HD no less! I look forward to rewatching these classics some time in the next week or so.

Dr. No (1962) – Rated PG

On a mission in Jamaica, suave Agent 007 (Sean Connery) — in the first of the James Bond films — finds mad scientist Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) plotting to derail the U.S. space program and take over the world.

While not the first Bond adaptation, Dr. No is the first of the official MGM adaptations and thus the first of the Sean Connery Bonds. I rank this one third of the Connery Bonds. The pluses to this film are the portrayal of Bond as ruthless (something the series gradually steers away from until Casino Royale brought the series back on track), the performance of Connery who is front and center for much of the film, and the lack of distracting gadgets.

Goldfinger (1964) – Rated PG

The third installment in the 007 series — which racked up an Oscar for its sound effects — finds uberspy James Bond trying to thwart baddie Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) and his elaborate gambit to corner the gold market by contaminating Fort Knox.

“Do you expect me to talk?” – “No Mr. Bond I expect you to die!”

Considered by many to be the height of the Bond series, Goldfinger is a fun romp with several memorable villains, signature gadgets that do not overwhelm the story, and an interesting, if implausible, plot.

From Russia with Love (1963) – Rated PG

Bond is back — and so are the bullets, beauties and bad guys! You’ll be shaken and stirred by Sean Connery’s second outing as 007, which has him paying the price for his previous adventure when SPECTRE seeks revenge for the death of Dr. No.

This is my absolute favorite Bond film. Being the second film, the rough edges of Dr. No have been polished out but the gadgets have yet to overwhelm the series. The plot is thankfully not about a megalomaniac trying to take over and/or destroy the world but is instead about the intrigue between British intelligence (and their allies), the Russians (and their allies), and SPECTRE.

Although quite dated, it features one of the first realistic fist fights put on film. Much of it takes place on a train which is a personal favorite of mine and the beginning takes place in (and under) Istanbul which I had the joy of visiting some years back. Pedro Armendariz gives a wonderful performance as Ali Kerim Bey in spite of being terminally ill with cancer during the filming.

My Name is Connery, Sean Connery

Instant Netflix has an absolute plethora of James Bond films currently available. Sean Connery has always been my favorite Bond (though Daniel Craig is a close second). Wonderfully four of the Connery Bond films are on instant play. Not so wonderful – Connery made seven Bond films and his three best (From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, and Dr. No) are the ones that are not available. Back on the wonderful side – these films are available in HD (if you have the bandwidth).

Thunderball (1965) – Rated PG

Terrorist mastermind Emilio Largo hijacks two nuclear weapons and has his sights set on a blackmail payday of global proportions — unless James Bond (Sean Connery) can stop him!

Thunderball is the fourth best Connery Bond film. Yes it is dated but Bond is tough and this is not embarrassing like the other three are. This is the last Connery Bond to even attempt to adapt the book. The downside to this is that not only is it dated but it is slow-moving in comparison to the other Bonds.

You Only Live Twice (1967)

After American and Soviet spaceships disappear, the two countries trade blame for the incidents. As the nations edge toward war, James Bond (Sean Connery) finds himself in the middle of another international mystery. After staging his own death, Agent 007, with Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tanba) and the beautiful Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), discovers that the leader (Donald Pleasence) of the SPECTRE crime organization orchestrated the events.

This one is a real split decision. Connery begins to phone in his Bond beginning with this installment but the supporting cast is quite good, especially Donald Pleasance who makes the best Blofeld. The Bond series is often misogynistic but this one also takes a bit of a dip into racism. The sets are wonderful and the action sequences are fun.

Diamonds are Forever (1971) – Rated PG

When he discovers that his evil nemesis, Blofeld (Charles Gray), is stockpiling the world’s supply of diamonds to use in a deadly laser satellite, secret agent James Bond (Sean Connery) sets out to stop the madman, with the help of beautiful smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John).

I have a soft spot for this film. This was the first movie I ever remember seeing in a theater. I even remember having Necco wafers as my candy. Still this one is embarrassing, fun but embarrassing. I cannot watch Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint without wincing from the homophobia on display.

This was also the first of the Bonds to devolve into self-parody. It provides a bit of a segue into the Roger Moore era where nothing is taken seriously. Connery once again phones it in and pretty much everyone else plays it over the top. Oddly Charles Gray who played Henderson in You Only Live Twice returns here as Blofeld.

Never Say Never Again (1983) – Rated PG

Sean Connery makes his final appearance as Agent 007 in this action classic. When two atomic warheads are hijacked by the evil SPECTRE organization, James Bond jumps into a frantic race to save the world from nuclear terrorists. With Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), Blofeld (Max von Sydow) and Fatima (Barbara Carrera) bent on destroying the world, Bond is never far from death in director Irvin Kershner’s Golden Globe-nominated spy flick.

I love Connery but here he is starting to show his age as a 53-year-old Bond. This film resulted from some bizarre legal rights regarding Thunderball. This is not part of the official MGM Bond canon and is essentially a remake of Thunderball. Unfortunately, as with Diamonds, the supporting performances are over the top. Barbara Carrera is a lot of fun as bad girl Fatima Blush.

Steven Seagal was the martial arts instructor and look for the debut of Rowan Atkinson as Nigel Small-Fawcett. Sadly this barely even feels like a Bond film since M, Q, and Moneypenny are played by different people and the music seems out of place.