Sunday, November 29, 2015

53 years of James Bond, Part 2

Now let's take a look at the rest of the James Bond films

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The Good:  Best pre-credits sequence ever with a breathtaking ski jump by stuntman Rick Sylvester, Jaws fights Bond, excellent plot, Roger Moore finally gets comfortable in his Bond role, the Lotus Esprit car that can swim underwater as well as drive on the road.

The Bad:  Kurt Jergens as Stromberg is one of the weaker playing villains, Stromber's lair reminds us of Dr. No.

Gerber's take:  This is my favorite Roger Moore film and the third best 007 film in the series, Moore clashes with Jaws so brilliantly in a great story about the capture of USA and the now former USSR nuclear submarines hijacked as Bond's main woman is a KGB agent who might kill him for the death of her lover during the opening ski chase.  The casting of Barbara Bach as a smart Bond woman is a complete departure from Britt Elkland who set womanhood back a 100 years in the Man With The Golden Gun.  Grade: A

Fun Fact:  This is the first 007 film where Bond directly kills a woman (Caroline Munro as Namoi),   It is also the first Bond film to be shot is Dolby Stereo as well as the only Bond film where M's name was used (Miles)

Moonraker (1979)

The good:  Bond in outer space, Bond and Jaws tangle again, good plot to create a master race in outer space to destroy earth.

The bad:  The film takes the laughable route, at one point a "Magnificent Seven" type scene occurs.  Then the film goes the Star Wars route.

Gerber's take:  It's laughable at times and Roger Moore really does a lot of jokes - - but what makes this film so interesting to watch is the use o he space shuttles as well as the special effects - - just 2 years after this film was released, NASA launches the first space shuttle, Columbia (STS-1).  But Q line at the very end of the film ("I think he's attempting reentry, sir") is the best  of the Bond series.  Grade B

Fun fact:  #1 This is the fifth and final Bond film where the original and undiluted John Barry/Monty Norman 007 theme could be heard - - as well as the only Roger Moore film using said theme.  The others were Dr. No, From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice and OHMSS.  #2  Director Lewis Gilbert's last film but more interestingly is the fact that it's his second film which deals with an outer space theme (You Only Live Twice)

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

The Good:  Roger's Moore's best film, good chase sequences, Topol, Bond finally kills Blofeld as well

The Bad:  Film suffers from rehash of previous Bond film with underwater sequences (Thunderball), and a ski chase (OHMSS) as well as the recovery of an encryption device (the Lektor in From Russia With Love),

Gerber's take:  Moore takes his role more seriously then his other Bond outings and Julian Glover is decent as the main villain.  There is a satisfying conclusion to Bond finally killing Blofeld after Bond visits his wife's grave, however the ski chase and underwater sequences remind us of past Bond films.  Grade C+

Fun Fact:  Julian Glover appeared in 2 episodes of The Saint's Roger Moore.  Coincidentally, at the end of a different episode of The Saint, "Luella" (1963), a woman would come up to Roger Moore's Simon Templar - looking forward to work alongside James Bond then asks Templar if he was James Bond.  9 years later, Moore would start playing Bond in 1972 for Live and Let Die.

Octopussy (1983)

The Good:  Carly Simon's theme song, Maude Adams returns to play the title character.  Good plot to start an Soviet invasion on Europe.

The Bad:  Moore getting silly but still holding his own, some actions sequences are getting worn.

Gerber's take:  Silly at times (Bond as Tarzan and a clown) but this is a film starting Roger Moore and he does provide the comic relief mixed in with a very good plot to disarm most of Europe by plating a nuclear bomb to kill thousands at a U.S. air force base in West Germany, allowing the Soviet Union to invade Europe.  This is a much better film than Never Say Never Again, however is falls short of the best Bond films.  Grade:  B-

Fun fact:  This is the first Bond film to use a title named after a female character as well the first actress (Adams) to "die" in one Bond film (The Man With the Golden Gun) then appear in another film.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

The Good:  Sean Connery comes back for one more Bond, good cast with Kim Basinger, Klaus Maria Brandauer, and

The Bad:  Thunderball ripoff plot, Connery gets beaten up most of the time, Since this was a Warner Bros film, not MGM-UA, no gun barrel sequence

Gerber's take: Producer Kevin McClory finally got his wish to see his Thunderball version on the big screen after a nearly 2 decade court battle with Eon Productions over McClory's rights to the Thunderball novelization by Ian Fleming.  He should have burned the entire production down.  The only bright spot in the film is Barbara Carrrera who plays the killer Fatima Blush.  Edward Fox plays a overacting M, lousy.   Grade:  D

Fun Fact:  The only differences between Thunderball and Never Say Never Again are the absences of the gun barrel sequence and the Aston Martin car in the latter, as we as some minor character differences between the two films (Emily Largo/Maximilian Largo, Fiona Volpe/Fatima Blush, etc.) and addition of the video game battle between Bond and Largo in the latter.  Adjust those items and you have two nearly identical films.

A View To A Kill (1985)

The Good:  Duran,Duran's theme song, Grace Jones and Christopher Walken as baddies.

The Bad:  Moore is too old and worn to play Bond anymore.  Plot to destroy Silicon Valley, CA - - ho hum.

Gerber's take:  Christopher Walken is a great actor but he is so stiff in this weak Bond film, Moore lacks the humor he exhibited in eariler films and he is bedding women half his age.  Grade C+

Fun Facts  #1  Patrick MacNee would be the third Avengers TV star to appear in a James Bond film.  The other two - Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg.  #2  So far, this would be the final James Bond film to be shot in the United States.

The Living Daylights (1987)  

The Good:  Bond seeking revenge against a drug lord, Dalton's final film

The bad:  Truck doing a wheelie?????  Oh please

Gerber's take:  Only Die Another Day tops the worst Bond film.  No megalomaniac bad guy, no interesting Bond, and it plays more like a made-for-TV film.  Banal Bond.  Grade:  F

Fun fact: #1 Final film for longtime Bond filmmakers Richard Malibum (Screenwriter), Maurice Binder (he's the one who created the famous Bond title sequences), and director John Glen.  Glen also was film editor of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.   #2  David Hedison is the first actor to play Felix Leiter in more than one Bond film.  His first appearance was Live and Let Die.

Goldeneye (1995)

The Good:  New Bond (Pierce Brosnan) reignites the Bond franchise after a 7 year hiatus,  Tina Turner belts out the title song, Judi Dench as the new "M".

The Bad:  Special effects start to take over the Bond series,  Some critics say Brosnan is nowhere near the league of Connery and Moore

Gerber's take:  No doubt Brosnan is a definitive improvement over Dalton but he is nowhere near Connery, Moore or even Daniel Craig.  There is a terrific chase between Bond (in a tank) and Ourumov (Gottfried John).  The film is Brosnan's best but he goes downhill from there with the next 3 entries.  Grade:  B-

Fun fact:  Joe Don Baker is the fourth actor who appeared as two different characters - - as the arms dealer Brad Whitaker in The Living Daylights and as CIA agent Jack Wade.  Baker reprises his Jade Wade role one more time in the next film, Tomorrow Never Dies.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

The Good:  Johnatha Pryce as an above average villian, good plot to cause WW III by a media mogul

The Bad:  Typical Bond formula

Gerber's take:  Part Thunderball (stolen missile), part From Russia With Love (encoder machine) - - with the only best parts are from Johnathan Pryce and Michelle Yech as a Chinese spy working alongside Bond.  Bond does his exercise by jumping over machine gun bullets, ho hum.  Grade:  C-

Fun Fact:  TND opened the same day as the epic classic Titanic, enough said!.

The World is Not Enough (1999)
The Good:  At last an original Bond plot that does not rely on previous films, spectacular opening sequence which is the longest in any Bond film, at nearly 15 minutes.

The Bad:  Robert Caryle as Renard is one of the weakest Bond villains,

Gerber's take:  After a fantastic pre-credits sequence where Bond escapes death then chases a woman who killed a friend of M's - the chase ends at the Millennium Dome and nearly 15 minutes into the film - the rest of the movie goes the convoluted route and becomes and exercise in action without rhyme/reasoning - - as well as a lack of character development.  Grade:  D

Fun fact:  Final film for Desmond Llewelyn as Q (Major Boothroyd).  Mr. Llewelyn remains the longest serving actor in a recurring role to date with 17 films over 36 years - - the notable exceptions where Lleewelyn did not appear in a Bond film are Dr. No and Live and Let Die.  (Never Say Never Again does not count because it's not an Eon produced film).

Die Another Day (2003)

The Good:  The 20th Bond film takes everything from the previous 19 films  (excluding Never Say Never Again which is a remake of Thunderball),, Halle Berry, Madonna singing the title song, Piecre Brosnan's final Bond role.

The bad:  Awful CGI takes up almost the entire film, too many scenes reflecting on the past 19 Bond films, plot is ripoff of Diamonds Are Forever

Gerber's take:  Positively the worst Bond film ever made - - instead of a film which reflects on the past 19 Bond films  - - it is crammed into almost every scene along with some of the most awful CGI special effects/  Take for instance the invisible car, Bond surviving an avalanche (shades of OMHSS) by now take a surf wave, Bond rescuing Jinx by finding a hot water area in a glacier filled scene (????).  Even Roger Moor hated this film (and he made it clear that shooting Bond in outer space was preposterous) Grade: F

Fun fact:  Almost every single reference to the previous 19 Bond films can be found in the "classified" MI6 page here  Even a page as detailed as this can have a couple of omissions too, one of them I know is the "house of mirrors" sequence in the "Thunderball" health clinic.  Those mirrors are from The Man With Golden Gun.

Casino Royale (2006)

The Good:  Daniel Craig as the new Bond.  Film is based on Ian Flemings first novel, the 007 franchise gets a new life with a "reboot" - how Bond gets it 007 status.

The Bad:  Longest film until Spectre, no gadgets,

Gerber's take:  Casino Royale is one of the best Bond films.  The film not only take us back to Bond's roots as a cold-blooded killer of bad guys, the film allows Daniel Craig to mold and grow into his Bond role. Instead of the phony CGI effects in DAD, we see Craig as not a cartoon character but a man who is vulnerable and intimidating.  The Madagascar Parkour chase sequence with S√©bastien Foucan as Molika is one of the best action sequences ever filmed, using Parkour free running moves.  Grade:  A

Fun Fact:  Loved that Parkour chase sequence?  You should because this foot chase it is the very first non-vehicle chase sequence in the entire 007 franchise (well 95 percent of the time as Bond hops on the back of a truck for a few seconds).

Quantum of Solace (2008)

The good:  Continuation of Casino Royale, Judi Dence as M has a larger role

The bad:  Shortest Bond film in history,  product placement is getting annoying (possibly because of the short running time),

Gerber's take:  QOS could have been a much better film if director Marc Foster and his crew took more time in continuing to develop Daniel Craig's Bond.  We immediately jump to a car chase sequence which looks like part of the northbound FDR Drive tunnels in New York City (but it's not, obviously) without any reasoning why this chase happened until after it ends (Mr. White from Casino Royal is tied up in the car's trunk).  The short running time builds on one thing, chase and action sequences - - and leaves little time on the plot development until the last 30 minutes of the film.  And the last 30 minutes of the film is not that great either.  Grade:  C-

Fun Fact:  To date, this is the only Bond film which as a car, boat and foot chase sequences.

Skyfall (2010)

The Good:  Craig in one of his better Bond roles, Judi Dench in her best role as M

The bad:  Judi Dench's final film as M

Gerber's take:  Judi Dench gives her best performance as M - - this film has a lot of character development as well as humor - - especially between Bond and the bad guy Raul Silver (played by Javier Bardem). Skyfall also makes you want to care about Bond relationship with his boss, M.  However, the final 30 minutes is disappointing, not so much when M dies but the overall action takes places in a house.  Grade B+

Fun fact:  Skyfall received the most Academy Award nominations in the entire Bond franchise with five, winning two of them (Best Original Song performed by Adele, also the first for a Bond film to win in song and sound editing)

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