12.21.2006

Bondariffic

(This post took me about a month and a half to complete... good thing I'm not a Doctor Who fanatic)

Phase II of the modern James Bond era began last month with a reboot of the franchise starring Daniel Craig in what is being billed as "the first James Bond adventure", Casino Royale. While the movie has wowed just about everybody (including me), prior to its release, expectations were up in the air. Could Craig pull it off? Could the producers do justice to an origin story that will look very little like and have a much smaller scope than Die Another Day? Casino Royale had the potential to be one of the worst Bond films or one of the best -- or simply a good action film but not a good Bond film.

What is the great Bond movie? It's more than just gadgets and girls as the commercials would lead you to believe. Things like villains, henchmen, sidekicks, locations, types of action and even the one-liners (not just Bond's) play heavily into the final film product.

Though no Bond film is 100% perfect, a few come close, some try hard and fail, and some just fail. Period.

Here's your categorical breakdown, plus ranking amongst the 20 (and then some) Bond films, in somewhat relative order:

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For hardcore fans' eyes only

A View to a Kill (1985)
Roger Moore's last flick as Bond is also his worst and probably the worst of all 21 films. The 57 year-old Moore was just too old to project the adventurous, virile Bond saving Silicon Valley (!?) from destruction at the hands of Christopher Walken-- at least that's all I remember. I'm proud to say I've seen every Bond movie, just not all of them twice.

Plot: In this one he stops an evil industrialist from destroying Silicon Valley in order to corner the microchip market.

Villain: Christopher Walken before he was "crazy, fucking Christopher Walken"

Henchman: Grace Jones as a henchman. Not a henchwoman. Henchman.

Girl: Donna's mom from That 70's show is the Bond girl and she plays a geologist. Roger Moore was older than her mother at the time of filming. Yikes.

Gadgets: A ring that's really a camera, a check-book sized copy machine/scanner and a submarine disguised as an iceberg. Some ridiculous shit.

Locations: Opening in Siberia; an English racetrack; San Francisco including a boring climax on the Golden Gate Bridge

One-liner:
James Bond: Well my dear, I take it you spend quite a lot of time in the saddle.
Jenny Flex: Yes, I love an early morning ride.
James Bond: Well, I'm an early riser myself.

Good: Duran Duran performs the title song and not much else.

Bad: Roger Moore wearing more makeup than most of the women in the movie. Corny character names like May Day and Jenny Flex. Also, imagine Roger Moore doing it with Grace Jones... now try and wipe your imagination. Good luck.


The Living Daylights (1987)
Timothy Dalton gets pooped on a lot as Bond, but it's really unfair. This movie is 50% of his output and it's not entirely his fault that it's garbage. The mid-80's were not kind to the James Bond franchise.

Plot: This time we're treated to the topical subject of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan providing cover for the opium trade.

Villain: A couple Soviet generals and an American arms dealer played by the same actor who would play the all-too-obvious CIA agent Jack Wade in the Brosnan Bond films. Snore.

Henchman: A Robert Shaw (From Russia with Love)-look-alike Soviet assassin that really likes his Pretenders music. Funny/scary, but ultimately dumb.

Girl: A chaste cellist played by Maryam D'Abo. She actually got three paychecks -- one for herself and two for her eyebrows.

Gadgets: It will be a while before this category gets populated with cool stuff, so I'll just skip it here.

Locations: The beautiful Afghan countryside/desert wasteland.

One-liner:
Linda: [into phone] It's all so boring here, Margo - there's nothing but playboys and tennis pros. [sighs] If only I could find a real man.
[James Bond, having just dispatched an assassin in a burning truck in mid-air, lands on the boat with a smoldering parachute]
James Bond: I need to use your phone.
[takes it and says into it]
James Bond: She'll call you back.
Linda: You are who?
James Bond: Bond, James Bond.
[into phone]
James Bond: Exercise Control, 007 here. I'll report in an hour.
Linda: [offering drink] Won't you join me?
James Bond: [into phone] Better make that two.

Good: Ah-ha following up Duran Duran with another poppy, good title song; the pre-title exchange you just read between Bond and Linda. You can now fast forward two hours to see the credits.

Bad: Roger Moore-style Bond writing does not suit Timothy Dalton well; Joe Don Baker as a very enthusiastic, trigger-happy arms dealer; a downhill sled chase involving Bond and Bond-girl sliding down a mountain in her cello case; I just read that it took three days to film the cello-sled chase. It actually feels longer to watch the sequence.


Octopussy (1983)
Plot: James Bond infiltrates a circus and somehow ends up taking down a renegade Soviet General (The Bond producers had a warehouse just full renegade Soviet Generals in the 80's, but no warehouse full of decent plots), an exiled Afghan prince and their convoluted plot to nuke a US Air Force base and invade Europe. The word "pussy" is spoken several times.

Villain: Frenchman Louis Jourdan plays an Afghani prince with an Indian name (Kamal Khan) who's bent on destroying NATO. Or something.

Henchman: A couple knife-throwing twins from the circus. Pretty cool, actually.

Girl: Maud Adams as the titular Octopussy. Think of her as a madame whose whores are really circus freak henchmen.

Gadgets: A boat that looks like an alligator. You still got a ways to go before it starts getting cool.

Locations: East Germany, the somewhat crowded streets of India.

One-liner:
Homer Simpson: You know what I like about you British? Octopussy. I must have seen that twice.

Good: The Indian go-cart chase involving Bond's sidekick, Vijay -- a real life professional tennis player -- attacking bad guys with a tennis racket. One of the prince's henchmen has a rotary sawblade attached to chain that he uses to destroy everything in his path. Why can't they have that weapon in GTA?

Bad: It turns out that the evil prince and his renegade Soviet general buddy are financing their dastardly plan with fake Faberge eggs. When will these bad guys learn that 60% of all dastardly plans go wrong because they're uncool? I never in a million years would have thought this, but India just isn't that great a place to set a spy movie. Has anyone tried a musical there? You can also see Roger Moore getting more and more tired as the film wears on; the opening song might be the worst of the series.



Moonraker (1979)
Most of the movie takes place on Earth. None of it takes place on the moon. This movie stinks simply based on its lying title.

Plot: The producers of James Bond jump on the Star Wars bandwagon and send him to space to stop a nefarious businessman from killing everyone on Earth and repopulating it with a master race..

Villain: Michael Lonsdale as Sir Hugo Drax. Though he was only in his 50's, Lonsdale moved like an 80 year-old man. Bond should have snapped his neck in the first 20 minutes.

Henchman: The infamous Jaws makes second appearance in a Bond film. Unfortunately he's more comedic relief than he is menacing.

Girl: Lois Chiles as one of the more ridiculously-named women: Dr. Holly Goodhead. Easy on the eyes, but with about as much allure as a high school English teacher.

Gadgets: James Bond gets around Venice in a gondola that turns into a hydrofoil. It's as cool as it sounds. Even though this one is in space, still no gadgets worth mentioning. I will mention that the laser was the special weapon in the Moonraker Caves level of Goldeneye on Nintendo 64.

Locations: Venice, France, space -- duh.

One-liner:
A decent one from Sir Hugo Drax: Mr. Bond, you persist in defying my efforts to provide an amusing death for you.

Good: I guess James Bond having sex in space is good. Good for him. Sir Hugo Drax alternates between wanting to destroy all human life and wanting to specifically destroy James Bond only.

Bad: The special effects in the movie lean more towards 2001 than Star Wars or Star Trek; Jaws speaks; no Wookies.

Die Another Day (2004)
Some say Die Another Day is an homage to the previous 19 Bond films; some say it is simply a retread of tired action sequences from the last 40 years. I'm part of the former camp, but I still can't defend this movie. It's pretty bad and would be even further back on this list if it weren't for the high production values.

Plot: James Bond has to prevent a North Korean madman from invading South Korea by way of destroying the minefield separating the two countries using a solar-energy-focusing laser.

Villain: Two actors playing the same villain?!? Caaa-raaazy! Toby Stevens gets more screen time as Gustav Graves -- the new identity of Colonel Moon of North Korea after he was presumed dead as the result of a hovercraft accident. He's a pretty decent baddie with a snide look on his face for the entire movie.

Henchman: The abominable snowman... er... Rick Yune as a giant albino with crystals coming out of his head.

Girl: Did you hear? Oscar winner Halle Berry was in this one. She attacks the role the same way she attacked her rolls in such films as Gothika, B*A*P*S, and The Flinstones.

Gadgets: Nothing good.

Locations: Cuba, the Korean peninsula, the Arctic

One-liner:
Miranda Frost: I can read your every move.
Jinx: [Jinx stabs Miranda with a knife embedded in a copy of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War"]
Jinx: Read *this*, bitch.

Good: Umm... Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost is kind of good looking. Visual references to all 19 previous Bond films.

Bad: We already saw the bad guy's plans to destroy things with the sun's energy in The Man with the Golden Gun; Madonna provides a shallow, techno-y title song and also appears in the movie; Halle Berry being way too obvious about wanting a spin-off movie for her character.


Diamonds are Forever (1971)
Another case of "this movie would be farther back on the list except...". The "except" this time is Mr. Sean Connery himself, who returned to the roll after quitting following You Only Live Twice.

Plot: Bond's official 60's nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, has been stockpiling diamonds -- not to get rich, but to build a space-laser that can destroy targets anywhere on Earth (where have we seen this idea before?). This would have been my second choice for plot. The first one involves a very large cocaine cutting machine. Oh yeah -- Jimmy Dean is more than just that dude who sells sausages.

Villain: Charles Grey as yet another incarnation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Henchman: Two partners (Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd) working for Blofeld, and when I say "partners", I mean it in the Massachusetts sense of the word. How progressive! One looks like a walrus, the other looks like Crispin Glover, which makes sense since it's his dad.

Girl: Jill St. John as the world's most stupid diamond smuggler.

Gadgets: A suit with pockets that snap on the fingers of anyone searching you -- why not just throw mousetraps in your pockets and getting cats named Tom to frisk you?

Locations: Almost exclusively in the southwestern US, mostly Vegas and the desert.

One-liner:
Mr. Kidd: Well, they're both aboard, and I must say Miss Case seems quite attractive...
[Mr. Wint glares at him]
Mr. Kidd: ...For a lady.
[pause]
Mr. Kidd: Heh heh heh heh!

Good: Good to see Sean Connery as Bond one last time; a Bond girl with the name "Plenty O'Toole'"; female henchmen called Bambi and Thumper that beat on Bond for a few minutes. Shirley Bassey's second Bond title song.

Bad: The movie starts off as a revenge flick with Bond killing everyone in his way as he hunts down Blofeld for the murder of his wife. It ends with a fight on an oil rig; the producers paid Sean Connery $2 million to return as Bond, but forgot to budget any money to the makeup department. Connery's face looks like an old leather glove; Jimmy Dean can't play a mega-rich recluse -- he looks like he belongs behind the counter of a hardware store; overall the movie is too 'American'. Bond and Blofeld stand out way too much as the only Europeans to be featured in it.



Bits and pieces of Bond goodness, but not "must-see"


The World is Not Enough (1999)
Plot: A former KGB assassin attempts to shut down most of the world's oil pipelines so Stockholm Syndrome sufferer and oil-heiress Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) can monopolize. This plot would be more topical today, especially since the price of oil determines whether or not I can take a bathroom break. It still stood up well in those days of the late 90's when Americans took gas for $0.99/gallon for granted. James Bond is dispatched by MI6 to investigate and to set gasoline prices so they'll never go below $2/gallon again.

Villain: Academy Award nominee Robert Carlyle does his best Thom Yorke impression playing Renard -- a bad man with a bullet in his head that is slowly killing him, but also allowing him to not feel pain.

Henchman: No one special. This is one of the few Bond films in which the true villain has a special power and the henchmen are just stupid thugs.

Girl: Where to begin... lets just say that Pierce Brosnan's Bond did not have much luck finding the worthwhile Bond girls. Denise Richards plays a nuclear scientist, if you can believe it. One year prior she was playing a high school girl who liked to take her shirt off. Awesome casting job!

Gadgets: A ski jacket that can inflate to protect its wearer from an avalanche. How convenient that James Bond finds himself in an avalanche this time out.

Locations: Scotland, Azerbaijan, Istanbul

One-liner:
[last lines]
James Bond: [in bed with Jones] I was wrong about you.
Dr. Christmas Jones: Yeah, how so?
James Bond: I thought Christmas only comes once a year.
Audience watching in the theater: Loud groaning

Good: Garbage does a good job with the opening song; the pre-title boat chase sequence on the Thames river; Robbie Coltrane in his second turn as Russian mobster Valentin; Judi Dench earns her "dame"-ness with more screentime. John Cleese debuts as R, Q's subordinate.

Bad: Mostly lame action sequences; a plot twist you can see from a mile away; Denise Richards is so bad, I have to mention it twice; boring locations.


You Only Live Twice (1967)
I'm not sure if Sean Connery stated prior to filming that YOLT was going to be his last Bond picture, but the producers really took this one to 11.

Plot: James Bond is sent to Japan to investigate the disappearance of American and Russian astronauts. Could Japan be behind it? When will Bond learn that it's never a country or government doing evil, it's always some renegade? James Bond dies, James Bond meets his nemesis, James Bond gets married, James Bond goes Japanese!

Villain: Again with the Blofeld...! This is the first time audiences see his face -- and look, it's Dr. Loomis from Halloween!

Henchman: Blofeld does have a bodyguard, but for the most part, it's nameless thugs that go after James Bond and end up dead.

Girl: Let's turn Japanese!

Gadgets: A nice little collapseable helicopter

Locations: You would think that the only place on earth to film a spy movie is Japan.

One-liner:
[about to make love to Helga Brandt]
James Bond: Oh the things I do for England.

Good: The epitome of 1960's Bond movies -- foreign land, enormous sets, rocket ships, giant raid at the end. Incredible orchestral soundtrack that plays off of Nancy Sinatra's opening credits song -- even sampled by Robbie Williams on his Millenium record; Bond's Japanese sidekick; Japan was less than 15 years removed from the destruction caused by World War II and it's just cool to see it on the path to its oddball cultural identity of today.

Bad: Heavily influenced the Austin Powers films, which would be fine except for the fact that Goldmember was made; James Bond unconvincingly goes undercover as a Japanese man.


Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
This might be the most forgettable of all post-Dalton Bonds, but it's still pretty good.

Plot: An evil media mogul tries to start a war between the UK and China so he can launch his new news service company with a bang. Bond and a Chinese secret agent get to the bottom of things.

Villain: I don't know what Rupert Murdoch looks like, but I'm guessing it's a lot like Jonathan Pryce as the ruthless Elliot Carver

Henchman: Gotz Otto as another callback to Robert Shaw's Red Grant character (From Russia with Love), but not as effective.

Girl: By now, the Bond series had this down to a science: One girl in the beginning for kicks, one "good" girl and one "bad" girl. TND has Cecilie Thomsen as Bond's language professor (she calls Bond "a cunning linguist"), Teri Hatcher as Carver's wife (and Bond's ex-girlfriend) and Michelle Yeoh as his Chinese secret agent-counterpart.

Gadgets: A remote controlled BMW is always fun.

Locations: Bangkok-as-Hanoi

One-liner:
Elliot Carver: Mr. Wallace, call the President. Tell him if he doesn't sign the bill lowering the cable rates, we will release the video of him with the cheerleader in the Chicago motel room.
Mr. Wallace: Inspired, sir.
Elliot Carver: And after he signs the bill, release the tape anyway.
Mr. Wallace: Consider him slimed.

Good: Johnathan Pryce as one of the more talented Bond villains; Michelle Yeoh as probably the most talentend Bond girl -- and she's more of a Bond Woman. Though not the first woman in a Bond movie to be Bond's equal for another country, she is definitely the strongest out of that small group; the motorcycle chase with Bond handcuffed to Michelle Yeoh's character; appearances by Ricky Jay and Vincent Schiavelli; my most favorite teaser trailer comes from the TND ad campaign: Pierce Brosnan walks onscreen, looks at the camera and says "Bond. (beat) You know the rest." and then we see 15 second of crap exploding.

Bad: Special effects don't really stand up so well. Teri Hatcher's character has a backstory with Bond -- why? Story is ultimately not very exciting.


Dr. No (1962)
The very first James Bond feature film and it's solid.

Plot: Bond is dispatched to Jamaica to investigate the death of undercover British agents -- turns out the agents were on the trail of a certain Dr. No, who has plans to sabotage America's space program.

Villain: Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No. (see film title for more information). I wonder what kind of medicine he studied.

Henchman: No one who fits the definition of "henchman" -- mostly various people trying to get in Bond's way has he hunts down Dr. No.

Girl: Honey Ryder, introduced to the audience with probably the most famous camera shot in the history of James Bond movies.

Gadgets: None -- The Q character makes an appearance, but only to deliver Bond his new gun.

Locations: The film takes place almost exclusively in Jamaica

One-liner:
[Professor Dent tries to kill Bond, but his gun is out of bullets]
James Bond: That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six.
[shoots Dent twice]

Good: One of the best spy films from the height of the cold war; Sean Connery is electric as Bond; pre-Hawaii 5-0 Jack Lord as Felix Leiter; he Caribbean in the early '60's is a perfect setting.

Bad: Nothing distinctly "Bond" about the movie. Replace the character names and you have a basic spy movie; Ursula Andress was not cast for her acting skill.


License to Kill (1989)
Definitely the most dark and violent Bond until Casino Royale.

Plot: Taking a cue from all the other popular war-on-South American drug lords-movies, the producers of License to Kill send James Bond to fictional South American country to take down Franz Sanchez in direct defiance of MI6.

Villain: Robert(o) Davi as Franz Sanchez. Though you know most Bond villains aren't hesitant to kill or steal their way to the top, Franz Sanchez will scare the crap out of you, the audience member, while he's doing it.

Henchman: A young Benicio Del Toro looking like he got into some of the on-set cocaine.

Girl: Take your pick -- Talisa Soto as the two-timing mistress of Sanchez or Carrie Lowell as CIA agent Pam Bouvier. I'd go with Carrie Lowell because of her tight jeans.

Gadgets: Exploding toothpaste, a camera that turns into a sniper rifle.

Locations: Florida and "South America"

One-liner:
[a fork lift truck bursts through a wall with Heller impaled on the forks]
Pam Bouvier: Oh, God, it's Heller.
James Bond: Yeah. Looks like he came to a dead end.

Good: LTK is known as the "violent" Bond. It ain't pretty. It's a revenge flick -- Sanchez rapes the bride of Bond's friend and colleague Felix Leiter before torturing Leiter (shark pool) and leaving him for dead; Wayne Newton might have the best Bond-cameo appearance and is just awesome as a television evangelist acting as a front for Sanchez's drug empire; Q comes to visit Bond in the field; the writers definitely play to the strhe amazing tractor trailer fight/chase; this might be the most underrated James Bond film out there.

Bad: Gladys Knight (!?) sings the opening credits song.


Thunderball (1965)
Plot: James Bond investigates the theft of two nuclear bombs by SPECTRE. The end.

Villain: Emilio Largo has no front, he is simply the #2 man at SPECTRE after Blofeld.

Henchman: Guy Doleman as the ineffective Count Lippe who ends up being eliminated by his own bosses; Fiona Volpe, one of the first henchwomen to get out in the field and try to take down Bond

Girl: Claudine Auger as the beautiful Domino -- not a bad name, for once.

Gadgets: A ridiculous jetpack that gets some screentime and pocket scuba gear.

Locations: Mostly in the Bahamas.

One-liner:
[after shooting a henchman with a spear gun]
James Bond: I think he got the point.

Good: It's a straightforward plot -- bad guy plans to hold the world hostage, Bond is sent after him, beats him and gets the girl in the end.

Bad: You have to see this rocketpack to understand how silly it is. James Bond shoots his way out of problems -- he doesn't fly to Superbowl I!


The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Plot: This one is all about sub-envy: James Bond is sent to investigate the disappearance of nuclear missle-carrying submarines and discovers that shipping magnate Karl Stromberg is using a giant tanker to "eat" all other subs. Bond teams up with a Soviet agent who is on the same trail.

Villain: Karl Stromberg -- a knockoff of the Blofeld character because the producers lost the rights to Blofeld in a lengthy legal battle that began after Thunderball was released.

Henchman: One of the most famous Bond henchmen of all time - Jaws. If you've never seen the movie, you can pretty much figure out what his deal is.

Girl: Barbara Bach as the not-so-subtly-named Agent XXX of Russia -- James Bond's supposed equal.

Gadgets: A ski pole/gun; Bond's Lotus has surface-to-air missles

Locations: Egypt, the Austrian Alps, the Mediterranean

One-liner:
James Bond: Mmm, maybe I misjudged Stromberg. Any man who drinks Dom Perignon '52 can't be all bad.

Good: XXX's original mission was to kill James Bond, which she puts off so they can thwart Stromberg, but keeps it over his head for most of the movie. Bond just chuckles the death warrant off; Jaws really is terrifying; Roger Moore lays on the charm as Bond and gets away with my heart.

Bad: Stromberg is fairly generic as a villain; Carly Simon's "Nobody Does it Better" as the opening credits song sounds like elevator music.


The Real Deal Bond


The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Plot: James Bond is the target of Francisco Scaramanga, an assassin who uses a golden gun to shoot his targets. Scaramanga is also constructing a solar-powered laser with which he can hold the world hostage.

Villain: The alway-excellent Christopher Lee as golden-triggerhappy Francisco Scaramanga.

Girl: Britt Eckland plays the mostly-useless Ms. Goodnight. Though she's supposed to be a help to Bond, she spends most of the movie either trapped in small spaces, or blatantly trying to get into Bond's pants.

Henchman: The late Herve Vellechaiz plays Nick-Nack, Scaramanga's short, yet still murderous, assistant.

Gadgets:
Scaramanga gets all the good ones: his golden gun has room for only one bullet -- he's that good -- and he also owns a flying car.

Locations: Mostly southeast Asia -- Bangkok, Hong Kong

One-liner:
James Bond: Who'd want to put a contract on me?
M: Jealous husbands! Outraged chefs! Humiliated tailors! The list is endless!

Good: Lulu's opening credits song is an underrated classic; Christopher Lee is pretty menacing and always keeps his cool; Bond's corkscrew car jump; something about Roger Moore and boats -- the Bangkok canal chase is pretty cool; the return of Sheriff J.W. Pepper from Live and Let Die.

Bad: Scaramanga's third nipple is one of Q's "gadgets;" Britt Eckland might be the worst Bond girl that doesn't have her vocals dubbed; silly sound effect during the corkscrew jump.




For You Eyes Only (1981)
My personal favorite Bond film and the best Roger Moore-era Bond.

Plot: Unknown assailants sink a British naval vessel in order to steal a submarine-tracking computer. James Bond is sent to recover the computer and determine who planned the attack.

Villain: British thespian Julian Glover as the slimy Aris Kristatos.

Henchman: Emile Locque as the brain and Erich Kriegler as the bleach-blonde brawn.

Girl: Carole Bouqet as Melina Havelock, whose parents are murdered by Kristatos's men. She's a feisty Greek bent on revenge. I don't like my Greeks any other way. There's also figure skating nymph Bibi Dahl -- one of the few women James Bond chooses not to bed.

Gadgets: After heading into outerspace in the last movie, James Bond finds himself mostly working with his wits in FYEO. His car does have a decent anti-theft system: self destruction.

Locations: The Italian Alps, the Greek Isles

One-liner:
[After rejecting Bibi Dahl's advances as she's lying under his bed covers, naked]
James Bond: Now put your clothes back on, and I'll buy you an ice cream.

Good: Overall a strong Bond film from start to finish. Carole Bouquet isn't that strong of an actress, but she does a good job as a crossbow-wielding revenger seeker; every single action sequence is exciting from the downhill car chase (with Bond driving a beat up Citroen - backwards!) to Bond's not-yet-ready launch off a ski jump followed by another downhill ski chase to the montain-top monastery raid with Columbo's Greek raiders. Speaking of Columbo, the actor Topol plays him with just the right amount of jolliness.

Bad: No gadgets at all! M never says "I don't want James coming out of the bathroom with just his dick in his hands"; the opening credits song is kind of lame - and Sheena Easton actually appears on screen to sing it.


Live and Let Die (1973)
Imagine if all of a sudden James Bond ended up in a 70's blaxploitation flick -- that's the first half of Live and Let Die.

Plot: You can't accuse the Bond producers of not keeping up with the times -- James Bond investigates the death of an agent in the Carribbean and discovers a drug trafficking ring financed by the dictator of a small island country with a presence in both Harlem and New Orleans.

Villain: Yaphet Koto as the dictator Kananga

Henchman: Two decent ones -- Tee Hee, who has a metal arm replacing what was bitten off by an alligator and the king of the zombies himself, Baron Samedi.

Girl: Bond gets his hands on CIA agent Rosie Carver first and then deflowers the absolutely stunning Solitaire, played by Jane Seymour. He does such a good job that he robs her of her soothsaying powers. Who knew Doctor Quinn could be so hot? Actually, I saw Wedding Crashers... so yeah...

Gadgets: The only thing special is a watch that can be turned into a high powered magnet. Gadgets were so off the minds of the writers of LALD that Q doesn't even appear in the movie.

Locations: Harlem, New Orleans, the Louisiana bayou, the Caribbean

One-liner:
[Bond has just explained the first two Lover's Lessons to Solitaire]
Solitaire: Is there time before we leave, for Lesson number 3?
James Bond: [undressing] Of course. There's no sense going out half-cocked.

Good: One of the most stylish Bond films for the time; Jane Seymour is just smokin'; the movie has pretty much all you could ask for -- blaxplotaition, jazz, big Cadillac cars and voodoo; LALD also takes a cue from the Smokey and the Bandit films with a great boat chase and its own version of a smokey; The very last camera shot is kind of cheesy but fits in perfectly with the film.

Bad: Definitely the most dated Bond film since the 60's. Sometimes goes over the top in the blaxplotation category, but then again, isn't that what blaxploitation is?


Goldeneye (1995)
Pierce Brosnan's first Bond film and also his best.

Plot: James Bond matches wits with an old friend, 006, who faked his own death in order to exact revenge on the United Kingdom for poor treatment of Russian Cossacks during the Stalin era. His plan is to detonate an EMP blast over London in begin a global financial crisis.

Villain: At first it looks like Bond is up against a former Soviet general in form of Ourumov, but then we learn it really is his old friend Alex Trevelyan, played by Sean Bean. Bean can definitely be seen as Pierce Brosnan's acting equal and luckily his character in the film also comes off as Bond's "evil" equal.

Girl: Who says computer programmers can't be sexy? The lovely Izabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova agrees with me.

Henchman: Possibly my most favorite henchwoman of all time, Famke Janssen as Zenia Onatop, who's pelvis is so powerful, she can crush a man to death with just her legs. She also seems to get off real easily just by shooting a gun.

Gadgets: The first appearance of James Bond's BMW Z3 -- God I want this car bad, and this movie is over 10 years old -- with global GPS and behind-the-headlights stinger missles. Q Branch also gives Bond an Omega watch that has a built-in laser and a pants belt that doubles for a grapple launcher.

Locations: Monte Carlo, Siberia, the Caribbean

One-liner:
Xenia Onatopp: You don't need the gun.
James Bond: Well, that depends on your definition of safe sex.

Good: The entire pre-title sequence, especially Bond's bungee jump and cliff jump after an out-of-control airplane; the opening credits sequence with naked chicks destroying statues of Lenin; Bond's ride through St. Petersburg in a tank.

Bad: Tina Turner's opening credits song isn't so hot; a lot of the score is done with a synthesizer; Pierce Brosnan's hair is a little big; the movie inspired the video game that made me socially awkward for most of my freshman year at college.


Goldfinger (1964)
If this is your favorite Bond, we got some issues.

Plot: The first of James Bond's "over the top" plots. James Bond discovers international merchant Auric Goldfinger's plot to irradiate Fort Knox, thus rendering the US's gold supply useless and increasing the value of his own gold supply several times over.

Villain: Gert Frobe as Aurich Goldfinger. Apparently Ian Flemming did not believe in the statement that "anyone who speaks German can't be evil."

Girl: There are quite a few, but everyone associates this film with Pussy Galore, the leader of a all-women flying circus. In the Goldfinger novel, Pussy Galore is a lesbian -- James Bond changes her mind.

Henchman: Probably the most well known Bond henchman, Odd Job, played by former wrestler Harold Sakata, with martial arts moves and a bowler hat that has razor metal for a brim.

Gadgets: The introduction of the most famous Bond vehicle, the Aston Martin DB5 equipped with a rear bullet-proof shield, smokescreen, oil slick and passenger ejection seat for the future Mrs. Bond.

Locations: England, Germany and Kentucky -- yeee haaaw.

One-liner:
Pussy Galore: My name is Pussy Galore.
James Bond: I must be dreaming.

Good: Naked woman covered in gold -- how can that not be good? Oh wait, she's dead; the most "Bond" of all the Bond films.

Bad: Heavy dubbing on all the foreign actors.


Casino Royale (2006)
The reboot that should be the template for all movie franchise reboots. Bond truly does go back to his roots as the hard-edged government agent who uses mostly blind force and some wits to get the job done. It also doesn't hurt that the producers return to the earliest source material for the plot of the film -- Ian Flemming's novel of the same name is the first James Bond adventure.

Plot: Unless you've been living in a cave, you know what this film is about: James Bond has just been promoted to double-0 status and is sent to the Casino Royale in Montenegro to beat terrorist-enabler Le Chiffre at poker in order to deprive terrorists of funds.

Villain: Mads Mikkelsen plays Le Chiffre. You can barely call him a villain since he doesn't care about taking over the world or even creating a super-race. No, he's just a genius card player who gets bankrolled by terrorist outfits to win money for them.

Girl: Caterina Murino plays Solange (Bond's first 007 conquest); Eva Green is Vesper Lynd, a Treasury agent that is there to watch over Bond as he plays with the Queen's money.

Henchman: Quite a few thugs, but no one memorable. Bond does chase an acrobatic bomb-maker at the beginning of the film.

Gadgets: No Q in this one -- Bond does get a little tracking/health monitor implant in his arm. He also gets a shiny new Aston Martin with a defibrillator in the glove box. I bet that lowers the insurance on it a little.

Locations: Madagascar, Montenegro, Venice

One-liner: The bits of humor in Casino Royale are few and far apart, but when they do occur they'll having you guffawing.
Almost every one-line is a gem, but here's my favorite:
James Bond [while being viciously beaten between the legs with a rug beater]: Now the whole world will know that you died scratching my balls!

Good: A unique twist on the Bond-in-gunbarrel POV shot; the film's near complete-faithfulness to the book; the one-liners when they occur; the post-title action sequence; the Venetian palazzo collapse; Jeffrey Wright as Bond's "brother from Langley" Felix Leiter; Bond's final line.

Bad: The producers replacing the book's baccarat game with poker; Daniel Craig doesn't get to shine as an actor -- he was good in Munich; the presence of Judi Dench as M presents an identity crisis for the series as she reminds us of the Brosnan era.


On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
You read that right -- OHMSS is one of the best Bond films ever made, and you probably haven't seen it. Shame on you.

Plot: James Bond goes undercover to infiltrate Ernst Blofeld's latest operation -- brainwashing women from around the world to unleash biological chemical agents into the air and water supplies on his command. Along the way Bond meets and falls in love with Tracy di Vicenzo, the daughter of international mob boss Marc-Ange Draco -- a rival of Blofeld.

Villain: Telly Savalas takes a turn as Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Who loves ya, Bond-y?

Girl: Diana Rigg plays Tracy di Vicenzo, but for the most part, her presence in the film is outside Bond's mission; she does appear at the beginning (pre-mission) part of the film and in the scenes leading up to the film's climax.

Henchman: Ilse Steppat plays Irma Bunt, looking like a poison-tipped-shoeless Rosa Klebb from From Russia with Love. She comes off as just the really nasty headmistress of Blofeld's "clinic". This is definitely Telly Savalas's show.

Gadgets: OHMSS goes back to Bond's gadget-less roots. Q does make an obligatory appearance, but doesn't give any tools to 007. Several gadgets from previous Bonds show up in a scene where James considers resigning.

Locations: Most of the film takes place in Switzerland, with the end in Portugal.

One-liner:
[At the beginning of the film after Bond rescues Tracy from drowning herself only to lose her to two kidnappers while dispatching two other would-be kidnappers]
James Bond: [to the camera] This never happened to the other fellow.

Good: The above sequence and first line of dialogue get me every time; George Lazenby could have been Bond for several more films; Diana Rigg is one of the best Bond girls who is definitely a Bond woman; Telly Savalas chews scenery like it's rare steak; the demolition derby; Bond telling Draco that his daughter (Tracy) needs a psychiatrist and Draco telling Bond that "she needs ... a man... to *dominate* her! To make love to her enough to make her love him! A man like [Bond]!"

Bad: Not having any gadgets at all hurts the film a little since we're so used to them; the film created too many Lazenby-haters; lyric-less opening song; the downhill ski-chase/avalanche has too many blue-screen shots for close-ups --Lazenby wasn't allowed to ski by the insurance company.


From Russia with Love (1963)
Possibly the best Bond film ever made.

Plot: SPECTRE, the organization headed by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, lures James Bond to Istanbul in order to assassinate him. Bond heads there thinking he is going to contact a soon-to-be Russian defector, but soon learns the truth.

Villain: Blofeld is technically the "main bad guy" but he does most of his bad guy-ing from behind a desk, giving orders to Rosa (poison-tipped-shoes) Klebb.

Henchman: Robert Shaw as the assassin Red Grant -- the original bleach-blonde psychopath henchman.

Girl: Former Miss Universe Daniela Bianchi plays one of the most stunning Bond girls ever as Tatiana Romanova.

Gadgets: A briefcase containing a collapseable sniper rifle, hidden compartment for money, hidden throwing dagger and a booby trap for all those snoopers. Sometimes simple is best.

Locations: Istanbul, Venice, aboard the Orient Express, Yugoslavia

One-liner:
[after shooting down a SPECTRE helicopter]
James Bond: I'd say one of their aircraft is missing.

Good: Daniella Bianchi (clothes optional); it's distinctly a Bond film, but not over the top; the fight on the train; the gadgets that aren't totally out of this world; the gypsy camp fight between two women fighting over a man turning into an all-out military assualt.

Bad: Very little, if anything at all.

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So as we can see, most of the films towards the end of this list don't have outlandish special effects and gadgetry -- and if they do, it's balanced out with good performances from actors and a simple but still intriguing plot that calls for James Bond and not some other, generic spy. They are all unique and have something memorable about them whether it's a particular villain, henchman, girl, gadget or one-liner or all five.

Now you can plan ahead for the next 007 marathon on SpikeTV. Happy viewing!

2 Comments:

Blogger jomilkman complained...

holy fucking shit, this is a great labor of love.

gimme a month or so to digest all this, then i'll get back to you.

12/26/2006 2:58 PM
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Blogger Elliott complained...

Excellent post. A great, concise way of remembering the Bond movies. I think I've seen them all at some point in my life (except for 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service'), but my memory's a little hazy with most of them. Thanks for the refresher.

Although Bond films don't age particularly well, I might take some time to rewatch some of them.

BTW, I'd like to add a 'Good' and 'Bad' to Casino Royale:

Good: Scintillating opening song, performed by the peerless, amazing Chris Cornell.

Bad: Not only did they replace baccarat with poker, but it seems as if the writers felt compelled to throw in every single shitty poker cliche in movie history. I had hoped that 'Rounders' put an end to such shenanigans.

1/02/2007 8:02 PM
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