Netflix Bond, Lack of Bond

Alright Netflix – Hulu skunked you on the James Bond series but maybe you can redeem yourself with some good movies featuring the stars of Bond.

Sean Connery will always be my Bond. I first saw him as a wee tyke in Diamonds are Forever, one of my first movie memories. Growing up I loved catching the expurgated versions on network television. When VCRs came around, you can imagine how ecstatic I was.

The Longest Day

Connery has never been the most prolific of actors but he has 93 imdb credits to his name, including such gems as The Man who Would be King, The Rock, Marnie, The Hill, The Molly Maguires, and my favorite Robin and Marian. Netflix has exactly three Connery titles: The Longest Day (pre-Bond), Playing by Heart, and the animated feature Guardian of the Highlands. Poor showing Netflix.

The Wild Geese

Ignoring the abortive Lazenby attempt, Roger Moore took over the mantle with Live and Let Die. Moore too has 93 imdb credits but not nearly as many gems. Netflix has but a single Moore title. Thankfully it is probably his best non-Bond effort: the mercenary saga, The Wild Geese with Richard Burton and Richard Harris.

Hot Fuzz

After Moore retired the 00 designation, Timothy Dalton attempted to bring back Bond’s edge. He has 67 imdb credits, including the delightful Penny Dreadful series. Netflix has Hot Fuzz (hysterically funny) and Disney’s Secret of the Wings.

Not well played at all, Netflix. Just counting Hulu’s Bond movies, they beat you on these three actors.

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.

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.

The Great Train Robbery – Trains = Money week

The Great Train Robbery (1978) – Rated PG

Victorian rogue Edward Pierce (Sean Connery) crafts an ambitious plan to stage England’s first hold-up of a moving train. To get to the 25,000 pounds of gold bars on board — which are well-guarded by a complex key system — Pierce enlists a bedmate (Lesley Anne Down), a safecracker (Donald Sutherland) and a tough guy (Wayne Sleep). Director Michael Crichton adapted the script from his novel by the same name, which is based on actual events.

“Now, on the matter of motive, we ask you: Why did you conceive, plan and execute this dastardly and scandalous crime?” – “I wanted the money.”

In addition to directing, Michael Crichton wrote the screenplay based on his own novel. He has a fine eye for detail without bogging things down. The film feels fun and Geoffrey Unsworth’s Victorian cinematography is gorgeous. This film is dedicated to Unsworth’s memory.

Sean Connery is delightful (and clearly having fun) as Edward Pierce. Yes he really does run on top of the train while it is moving at 40-50 mph. Lesley-Anne Downe is quite good as Miriam, his love interest and accomplice.

Donald Sutherland gets to play his normal delightfully goofy 70s self, the robber Agar – thankfully reined in just a bit by Crichton. Wayne Sleep plays the fourth robber, Clean Willy and was a member of the Royal Ballet Company.

This is first and foremost a caper film and follows the standard tropes associated with that subgenre, even though it takes place in the mid-19th century. Crichton delights in both the details and language of the 19th century criminal underclass. You can learn quite a bit simply by paying attention to this film and yet it doesn’t come off as preachy. Crichton also manages to throw in a wonderful double entendre conversation for Connery and a fun ending to bring the film together.

People Watch: This was the last film of Hammer regular Andre Morell. He plays the Judge.

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.

Outland – Help! We are Surrounded week

This is Help! We are Surrounded week. Outland is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Outland (1981) – Rated R.

“Director Peter Hyams transplants High Noon to outer space in this sci-fi thriller starring Sean Connery as William ONiel, a cosmic lawman on a Jupiter moon outpost who conducts an inquiry after three miners go mad and die in rapid succession. But his probe does not sit well with the mine manager (Peter Boyle), who is boosting worker productivity through dangerous drugs … and he promptly dispatches a pair of thugs to get rid of ONiel.”

“Such a smart piece of equipment, and a wreck like me trying to run it.”

Obviously no discussion of Outland can start without pointing out that it is High Noon set in space. Well High Noon is certainly a good template for a movie and it works well here.

Peter Hyams both wrote and directed this movie. In a very interesting move that pays off, although the movie is science fiction, Hyams keeps it grounded in reality. There are no ray guns, aliens, or even incredible technology. The whole story takes place on a mining station and the actors, when needed, wear bulky spacesuits.

This grounding without flashiness allows this to be more of a character-driven drama than an action film. There are good action pieces here along with many demonstrations of what happens when a person is exposed to space but primarily this is a showcase for the actors.

Sean Connery overwhelms with charisma here and puts in a highly watchable performance. This is easily one of his best post-Bond roles. Peter Boyle plays the slimy boss of the mining operation. He is good but put in better performances in Joe and Young Frankenstein.

Wonderful character actor Frances Sternhagen actually gets the female lead here and steals many a scene from Connery. This is my favorite Sternhagen performance. It is a real credit to the screenplay that her doctor character could have been a man without there being much of a difference to the story.

Outland was nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound. It used the extremely short-lived Megasound system, yet still another attempt at boosting the movie experience through improved surround sound. The Oscar went to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Outland does owe a bit to Alien. Part of the genius of Alien was that it showed that eventually regular Joes and Janes would be traveling in space. Primarily Outland is a mining operation – secondarily it is in space. Even the poster riffs on Alien, “Even in space, the ultimate enemy is man”. The art and set design is also reminiscent of Alien.

I recommend this intriguing blend of mystery, western, and science fiction, mostly for the performances of Frances Sternhagen and Sean Connery.

Trivia: The evil corporation here, Con-Amalgamated, also features in Peter Hyams Capricorn One.

People Watch: John Ratzenberger plays Tarlow here. His most famous role is of course Cliff in Cheers but did you realize that Frances Sternhagen plays his mom in Cheers?

Robin and Marian

Two years after filming two of the best swashbucklers ever made back-to-back – The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers (sadly not available on Netflix), Richard Lester made this gem. Robin and Marian is currently available on instant play.

Robin and Marian

WATCH: Robin and Marian (1976) – Rated PG

“Whatever became of Robin Hood after his famed tale of good deeds ended? Now you can find out, in this sequel that takes place years after Robin and his merry men bested the Sheriff of Nottingham. After following Richard the Lionhearted to the crusades, Robin (Sean Connery) returns to Sherwood Forest to find things drastically changed. Audrey Hepburn plays the stalwart Marian … who’s joined a nunnery!”

This is an absolutely wonderful counterpoint to yesterday’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. While that film celebrates youthful exuberance and heroics, Robin and Marian is a testament to the aging and fading of heroes and the power and danger of love. Robin and Marian’s cast is as impressive as The Adventures of Robin Hood’s cast. Charismatic and wry, Sean Connery is riveting as an aging Robin Hood. Thankfully Marian’s role is considerably beefed up as Audrey Hepburn returned to the screen from a nine-year absence to make this and she is absolutely amazing. Robert Shaw is marvelously sympathetic as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Nicol Williamson is heart-breaking as Little John.

The film was written by James Goldman, author of The Lion in Winter and Nicholas and Alexandria and much of the credit for this complex exploration of love, devotion, and heroism is deservedly his. While Robin and Marian are still obviously in love, Robin is torn between his love of Marian and his love of glory. Marian is torn between her love of Robin and despair over his nature. Little John clearly loves Robin and knows that Robin is part of what defines him. Even the Sheriff seems to love Robin after a fashion. The first act plays out as a microcosm of the rest of the movie. Robin loves his King, Richard (the ever wonderful Richard Harris) loves his subject Robin as well as glory and Little John loves Robin.

People Watch: Look for Ian Holm in a small role as King John.