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.

James Bond Week – Hulu

Hulu of course has nowhere near the depth or breadth of the movies available on Netflix. However someone in their programming and procurement office is pretty savvy.

Hulu

At the beginning of the month, just in time for Spectre, Hulu acquired the exclusive rights for a slew of Bond films. Connery is well-represented, with Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds are Forever – even the non-canon Never Say Never Again. Only his first, Dr. No, is not available. Goldfinger and From Russia With Love are justifiable classics. The others are worth watching just for Connery though Never Say Never Again is a very lazy remake of Thunderball.

From Russia With Love

All seven Bond entries from the Moore tongue-in-cheek era are here: The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, Moonraker, The Man with the Golden Gun, and Live and Let Die. Both Dalton’s The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill are available. Heck, they even have George Lazenby’s single outing as Bond, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That one is worth watching for the absolutely radiant Diana Rigg.

The more recent Brosnan and Craig entries are not on Hulu but 16 movies of the franchise is 16 more than Netflix or Amazon Prime have.

Mockingjay Double

Unfortunately I will be missing the Mockingjay double feature but both Hulu and Amazon Prime have The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One streaming in time for the theatrical premiere of Mockingjay Part Two. Netflix has….umm…the not really a satire Starving Games so good luck with that.

No Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Buy!

I love going to the movies (duh!) but it’s expensive. I try to finesse every FREE ticket offer and discount to keep my costs down and allow me to attend more often.

Spectre

Best Buy currently has an endcap of single James Bond titles for $7.50 each. Each one contains not only a Blu-Ray but also a digital HD copy AND $7 movie money towards Spectre.

The $7 Spectre coupons are also on many of the Bond films at Target. Many Targets also have cheap Bond Collections with digital HD copies (but no Spectre coupons).

I got the Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, and Roger Moore collections from Target, along with Quantum of Solace which had a Spectre ticket. I bought The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill, each with Spectre tickets from Best Buy.

So now I have three tickets for Spectre and all of the canon Bond films on digital HD/UV/Vudu except for George Lazenby’s single turn as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Wal-Mart and Best Buy (and likely Target as well) have Peanuts movie cash on various children’s features (the Ice Age series, the Garfields, Penguins of Madagascar, Epic, etc) as well as on some DVDs of Peanuts specials.

Oh Regal, You So Crazy! Spectre Ultimate Ticket

Regal Cinemas

I love Regal’s special offers and try to take as much advantage of them as I can. Their newest offer is hilarious. They are offering what they call the Regal Ultimate Ticket to Spectre. For $100 plus shipping (seriously, they aren’t even covering the shipping of a card!), you get an anodized steel collectible card that they will personalize with your name.

Spectre

 

So what does this card do? It allows you to see the new Bond movie at Regal Cinemas every single day. Of course they do specify only once a day and there is no mention of it being valid for RPX or IMAX. Of course as this is the only intrinsic value of the card and tickets run $8-10 in my area, I’d have to see Spectre at least ten times to get the value of the card (slightly less if they allow it to be used for RPX or IMAX).

I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie ten times in the theater. My guess would be that if I have, it would have been Star Wars or Grease when I was a kid. I’m not above seeing a movie two or three times but ten? Speaking of Star Wars, I could really see this being a hot item for that movie.

On the other hand, this might make a great collectible.

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.

Netflix Top Ten and MGM Deigns to Sprinkle Amazon

* Ugh! When is Netflix going to fix their suggestion algorithm? I just looked at their Top 10 suggestions for me. Six of the ten are items I have already WATCHED & RATED on Netflix. How is it a suggestion if I’ve already told you that I’ve seen it and how good it was? a seventh suggestion is one that I’ve watched on Netflix but have yet to rate because I haven’t finished it (the TV series Spaced with Simon Pegg). Out of their ten suggestions, there are only three actual suggestions – one animated that I might watch and a science fiction and a horror suggestion that I have no interest in.

* Amazon Prime has signed a deal with MGM for more streaming. Unfortunately while the news services tout this as news, it is not like you get a large selection of their films. Almost the entire Clint Eastwood catalog is MGM. After this deal, Amazon Prime users can watch a whopping four Clint Eastwood films (Where Eagles Dare, The Gauntlet, Paint Your Wagon and the Clint Eastwood-directed Breezy). So well over 50 starring roles and we get three. By contrast Netflix which did not announce a new deal has nine starring and a further two directorial efforts from Eastwood.

Okay let’s look at another hallmark of MGM – the James Bond series. Twenty-two films from Sean Connery’s Dr. No through Daniel Craig’s Quantum of Solace. How many are available through Amazon’s fantastic new MGM deal. Oh that’s right – not one. To be fair they were also yanked from Netflix. I guess they are trying to create value for the James Bond mega Blu-ray set available September 25th (all 22 and a hardcover book) and for the new Bond film, Skyfall (yay!).

The Rest of the Bonds

While instant Netflix is a goldmine if you like Connery or Moore as Bond, you are completely out of luck if you prefer Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan. Also missing is the screwball 60s comedy Casino Royale. Still there are a few more Bonds for me to cover.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

George Lazenby takes over the role of Agent 007 for what many consider to be the finest Bond film ever made. Bond tracks archnemesis Ernst Blofeld (Telly Savalas) to a mountaintop retreat where he’s training an army of beautiful but lethal women. Along the way, Bond falls for Italian contessa Tracy Draco (Diana Rigg) — and marries her in order to get closer to Blofeld. Meanwhile, he locates Blofeld in the Alps and embarks on a classic ski chase.

This one is better than many give it credit. Unfortunately what sinks it is the casting. George Lazenby is a cipher as Bond and shows little charisma and Telly Savalas makes the worst of the Blofelds. Diana Rigg is quite good as Tracy Draco and is thankfully treated as more than the arm candy that some of the Bond girls end up as.

The Living Daylights (1987) – Rated PG

Timothy Dalton makes his suave and lethal debut as superagent James Bond in this turbo-charged action-adventure. This time, Bond’s charged with protecting a Soviet general (Jeroen Krabbe) from a beautiful sniper (Maryam d’Abo). But after being used as a pawn in a fake defector scheme, Agent 007 must trek across the world to find the escaped general and stop a terrifying weapons conspiracy that may be linked to the Soviet military high command.

Licence to Kill (1989) – Rated PG-13

James Bond (Timothy Dalton) resigns from the Secret Service after a friend in the CIA (along with his new wife) is brutally murdered by drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi). With a score to settle, Bond partners up with pilot Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) and Sanchez’s mistress (Talisa Soto). While avoiding the British government, Bond races across land, air and water in a whirlwind of action and suspense.

Timothy Dalton was not bad as Bond. He jettisoned the tongue-in-cheek approach of Roger Moore to bring back some of the Bond toughness but I am afraid that he comes across as the successor to George Lazenby. They tried him a couple times and then rebooted with Pierce Brosnan.

Casino Royale (1954)

Having gambled away a vast sum of his country’s funds, a diabolical Soviet spy (Peter Lorre) tries to recoup his losses through a high-stakes game of baccarat, but secret agent James Bond (Barry Nelson) enters the competition to foil him in this 1954 teleplay. Intended as a pilot for a weekly TV series that never materialized, this first screen adaptation of a James Bond novel finds 007 portrayed as an American.

Casino Royale (1954 – not the 1967 comedy or the 2006 reboot) is quite an oddity. It showcases many of the limitations of 1950s television. I’ve always enjoyed Peter Lorre from his scary debut as the serial killer in “M” up through his humorous AIP turns in The Raven and Comedy of Terrors (both 1963) but this is not one of his best roles.

There is not much to recommend this film except as the first appearance of James Bond and that it is less than an hour long. Still if you are curious, instant Netflix offers it up.

 

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.