Jan 30 2013

Review: Live And Let Die

Welcome to my review of Live And Let Die, the eighth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, Diamonds Are Forever, hereSpoilers follow.

Live And Let Die
(dir. Guy Hamilton, 1973)

Live And Let Die trailerLet’s take a moment to look at the actors who have portrayed James Bond so far.

Sean Connery is the ideal Bond to many; even Ian Fleming, who famously didn’t like Connery to start with (he wanted someone like David Niven), warmed to Connery enough to write in a Scottish heritage in the books. Connery is dashing, flippant and suave. He is also a killer. It’s in his eyes and his body language and his attitude. Get in his way and he’ll turn off the charm and shoot you.

George Lazenby was—at least in my eyes—a little less of the same. That’s not to run him down at all (remember: his film is currently sitting at the top of my league table), but merely that, while he was a charming assassin, he felt like he was more in control than Connery. He’d say “please” when he was questioning you and backhand you if you refused to cooperate. He came across as a pretty likeable guy, which might be why some people still don’t see him as 007.

Which brings us to Roger Moore: the gentleman spy.

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Jan 26 2013

Review: Diamonds Are Forever

Welcome to my review of Diamonds Are Forever, the seventh part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, here. Spoilers follow.

Diamonds Are Forever
(dir. Guy Hamilton, 1971)

Diamonds Are Forever trailerI imagine that following the unfair critical lambasting of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, there was a meeting at EON Productions that talked about getting the 007 franchise back on track. Diamonds Are Forever is an obvious attempt to renew past glories, but unfortunately it misses its targets spectacularly and lands like a floppy, camp blancmange.

Let’s start with the plot. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service left us with the death of James Bond’s new wife, murdered by Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Blunt. The opening to Diamonds Are Forever doesn’t entirely ignore this, starting as it does with horrendously dubbed bad guys being beaten up by Bond as he searches for Blofeld. And then Bond catches up with Blofeld, who is in the process of altering the appearance of a henchman to use as a body double. Bond kills Blofeld and wittily quips, “Welcome to Hell, Blofeld!” Good; that’s the revenge all sorted then. On with the next adventure!

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Jan 23 2013

Review: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Welcome to my review of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the sixth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, You Only Live Twice, here. Spoilers follow.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
(dir. Peter Hunt, 1969)

On Her Majesty's Secret Service trailerWhen you’ve just watched 5 Sean Connery films back-to-back, George Lazenby comes as a bit of a shock to the system. It’s not his performance—that’s completely fine. It’s his looks. It’s his slightly over-large chin, his full head of hair (Connery wore a toupee in every single Bond film he made), the clothes that remind me slightly of old photos of my father (despite the fact that my dad wouldn’t have been seen dead in that ruffled shirt or even the cardigan Bond affects when he’s in disguise as the bookish Sir Hilary Bray).

The change of appearance clearly throws the characters in the film too. Blofeld (this time played by Telly Savalas) doesn’t immediately recognise Bond, which is weird because they came face to face in the previous film. This makes sense in the books (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service comes before You Only Live Twice in the series) and apparently the film makers were going to throw in a line about Bond having plastic surgery as part of his mission, but as it stands this is a bit of a weird oversight in the film.

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Jan 19 2013

Review: You Only Live Twice

Welcome to my review of You Only Live Twice, the fifth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, Thunderball, hereSpoilers follow.

You Only Live Twice
(dir. Lewis Gilbert, 1967)

You Only Live Twice trailerWhen I reviewed Thunderball, I felt a bit guilty for putting it at the bottom of the league table. Thunderball is, as far as I know, one of the more popular of the ‘old-school’ Bond films, and even though I had only reviewed the first four films it still felt bad to condemn it to last place. I reconciled this with the thought that as soon as I reviewed You Only Live Twice, Thunderball would be moved up a position. After all, You Only Live Twice is the film where they disguise 007 as a Japanese man by gluing his eyes back and painting him orange.

Alas, aside from that scene, You Only Live Twice is a better film than Thunderball. I didn’t fall asleep halfway through, for a start.

It is also a very silly film in many ways, and is part of the reason I’m not trying to find the best Bond film (I’m trying to find my favourite in the series, which is quite different). After all, how could you compare this as a piece of work to, say, Casino Royale—or even to Dr No? This film has dastardly plots and space rockets and a mini-helicopter and a villain with a cat and a volcano lair and how the hell did it take so long for anyone to produce a decent parody of this?

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Jan 16 2013

Review: Thunderball

Welcome to my review of Thunderball, the fourth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my previous review, Goldfinger, here. Spoilers follow.

Thunderball
(dir. Terence Young, 1965)

Thunderball trailerI fell asleep while watching Thunderball, which can’t be a good sign. It might just signify that I was tired, but then again I was a bit knackered while watching Goldfinger and I still managed to stay awake. During Thunderball, however, one minute Bond was defeated and trapped alone in a remote cave and the next there was an undersea battle going on near the coast of Miami involving at least forty CIA and SPECTRE agents. It was very confusing. When I rewound the film, it turned out I’d missed 15 crucial minutes.

Thunderball is by no means a bad film. It starts strong; the pre-credits sequence is the best yet, with Bond fighting a man in a dress—a SPECTRE agent, it turns out, who had faked his own death. Bond uses a jetpack to get to the Aston Martin, which has a brief but fun cameo before the credits start. Tom Jones’ intro song is suitably awesome, and the return of Blofeld (his face still obscured) and the SPECTRE hierarchy brings us straight back into the madcap world of super spies and maniacal evil plotting.

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Jan 12 2013

Review: Goldfinger

Welcome to my review of Goldfinger, the third part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. Over the course of the next couple of months, I’ll be watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my previous review, From Russia With Love, here. Spoilers follow.

Goldfinger
(dir. Guy Hamilton, 1964)

Goldfinger trailerWell, that’s this challenge finished, right? Goldfinger is the definitive Bond film—everyone says so. It’s got Sean Connery, it’s got Q and the cool car, it’s got the preposterous villain and a Bond girl called Pussy Galore, and it’s got Dame Shirley Bassey wailing out the theme song over the opening credits. I might as well pack up and watch something else now.

Except… I’m not looking for the definitive Bond film. I’m looking for my favourite Bond film, and awesome though Goldfinger is, I’m not sure it ranks in the number one spot.

As I said above, Goldfinger is a mightily good film. For a start, SPECTRE are nowhere to be seen, which means that the villain isn’t a vague, behind-the-curtains kind of guy: Gert Fröbe plays Auric Goldfinger, a bombastic German with a fetish for gold who surrounds himself with minions such as the mute Korean hat tosser, Oddjob (Harold “Tosh Togo” Sakata). Bond is sent to investigate Goldfinger’s gold smuggling, which then mushrooms into a plot that involves hot female snipers and breaking into Fort Knox.

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Jan 9 2013

Review: From Russia With Love

Welcome to my review of From Russia With Love, the second part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. Over the course of the next couple of months, I’ll be watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of Dr No here. Spoilers follow.

From Russia With Love
(dir. Terence Young, 1963)

From Russia With Love trailerI was convinced that I had seen From Russia With Love before, but when I came to re-watch it I had no memory of the plot at all. My brain only sparked with recognition when James Bond (Sean Connery’s second stab at the character) and the villain Red Grant (Robert Shaw) had their fight in a cramped passenger car on a train—I have seen this film, but somehow I managed to forget nearly everything about it.

Which is weird because From Russia With Love is an excellent Bond film. After the somewhat tentative footsteps taken by Dr No into the franchise, From Russia With Love clearly shows off an increased budget and greater confidence in the source material from both the actors and the studio.

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Jan 5 2013

Review: Dr No

Welcome to my review of Dr No, the first part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. Over the course of the next couple of months, I’ll be watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here.

Dr No
(dir. Terence Young, 1962)

Considering it was made 50 years ago on a shoestring budget, Dr No is as exciting and suspenseful as any action film made today, and serves as a grand introduction to 007. Sean Connery nailed his role as the top British agent, and it’s not surprising that so many people still hold him up as the definitive Bond. He is the very definition of suave and charming and he brings a surprisingly brutal edge to his character that fans of the newer films in the franchise might not expect.

James Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a British agent, who has been assassinated as part of a vaguely nefarious plot by Dr Julius No (played by Joseph Wiseman), a Chinese-German madman with an inferiority complex. Notwithstanding the low budget (the studio assumed the film would bomb and so gave it a little over $1 million), the film looks great, although a few of the special effects are now a little dated and I’m pretty convinced Connery doesn’t know how to drive a car, judging by his acting during the ever-so-slightly ropey car chase scene.

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Jan 3 2013

A random job perk

Sometimes, I have to write voice scripts for games as part of my day job. Sometimes, the game in question might be based on a well-known brand, and when that happens I have the opportunity to write a script for someone famous.

This does not happen often; in fact, so far it’s happened exactly once. Luckily, the famous person in question was Tom Baker. Yes, that Tom Baker.

Anyway, this was one of the highlights of 2012 for me:

[Sorry - You need to install Flash to listen to this. I am working on finding a solution to this!]

According to the person who actually attended the recording session, Mr Baker was a delight to work with. This is reassuring, because I was terrified he might take issue with my writing.

 


Jan 2 2013

Which Bond is best? A challenge for 2013

I’ve been given an interesting challenge to kick off 2013: pick my favourite James Bond film.

That’s quite a feat, I think. The series has been created over 50 years, with 6 lead actors and 23 films (so far), so picking any one film as a clear favourite is a tough call. Like most people, I’ve seen a fair few Bond films already, so I’m coming into this challenge with a number of preconceptions that, frankly, I need to shake.

Firstly, even though the last few Roger Moore films and those of Timothy Dalton were released in my lifetime, I didn’t see Bond at the cinema until Pierce Brosnan made his debut in Goldeneye. For a long time Brosnan equalled Bond to me, even after watching films starring the other actors. My first task, then, is to remember that there are 6 James Bonds, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Secondly, my father hates Roger Moore.

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