Wednesday, January 30, 2008

James Bond Marathon

Every other night or so for the last month, I've been watching a James Bond movie with my son before bedtime. We've hit the halfway point, and I wanted to share a few sentences about each of them with you.

We've been watching them in order, so that's how I'll do it.

Dr. No (1962) - The first film in the franchise was probably the most grounded in reality of all the Connery Bond films (which isn't saying much, but it's true). Overall, this sets the tone of fun for the rest of the franchise and establishes all the hallmarks (the shooting through the gun barrel, the music, the opening credits sequence, etc.) Also, Ursula Andress is quite fun to look at.

From Russia With Love (1963) - This film has a plot unlike most of the rest of the Bond films. There isn't anyone trying to take over the whole world, it's about SPECTREs plan to steal a Russian decoding machine and James Bond's attempts to get it. The film also features a young, fit Robert Shaw as a maniacal assassin, hot on James' trail. This is one of the best in the series.

Goldfinger (1964) - Hands down the best Bond film ever made. This has everything you'd ever want in a Bond film (escapes, chases, explosions, a great villain, a great plan by the villain, Pussy Galore, etc.) This film also boasts the best Felix Leiter (with the possible exception of the current Felix, Jeffrey Wright.) If you were only going to watch one James Bond picture, I would have to insist this would be it.

Thunderball (1965) - Thunderball is pretty standard fare but has some of the coolest sequences of any of the Bond pictures. (SPECTRE's #2 has stolen a nuclear-armed plane and hidden it underwater). It's also interesting to see how they one-up the ending of Goldfinger. In Goldfinger, the film ends with a great firefight between the US Army and Goldfingers private Army. In Thunderball, it's pretty much the same thing, private army vs. government army, except it's underwater. But it's rad. Also, the Felix Leiter in this picture is a lame goofball.

You Only Live Twice (1967) - This is certainly the most unusual of the Connery Bonds. This film has him in Japanese makeup and it's all quite odd. It's a fun movie and the plot is interesting, but there's just something a little off about it. And the writers couldn't figure out how to top the ending fight to Thunderball, so instead of underwater fights, this one is in a volcano. And the combatants are SPECTRE's army vs. ninjas. Seriously. Donald Pleasance was also great as Blofeld.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) - Honest to god this is at least tied for 2nd or 3rd best Bond film ever. This was also George Lazenby's only outing as Bond. I've written a review of this one before (you can read that here). I honestly wish that Lazenby had been able to do more films. Telly Savalas surprised me with the quality of his Blofeld, too.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971) - It's obvious watching this film why they felt the need to replace Connery in 1969. He's a bit too old for the part here. He's good and the film is fun as hell (cheesy in places, but fun.) I don't know why the hell they hard such a hard time holding on to Blofelds, but this one is the least awesome so far.

Live and Let Die (1973) - This was Roger Moore's first Bond picture and I have to say that Yaphet Kotto stole the show. This is a solid addition to the Bond franchise and the boat chases across the Louisiana Bayou were fantastic.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) - I haven't seen all of Roger Moore's films but I would argue that either this or The Spy Who Loved me is the best of his films. Christopher Lee plays the kick-ass assassin Scaramanga and he seems to have a score to settle with Bond. The fate of the world isn't at stake in this one as much as the others and that serves it well.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) - This has a great ski-chase in it, a great love story and it introduced one of the most iconic James Bond villains in the series: Jaws. It also has one of the best endings of any of the films. (James is caught by M and the minister sleeping with the Russian Agent Triple-X. "What are you doing, 007?" To which he looks a bit confused and then replies coyly, "Keeping the British end up, sir.")

Moonraker (1979) - If I had to pick my least favorite Bond film in the first half of them, this would probably be it. It was slapped together to include an outer-space sequence because of the popularity of Star Wars and it's just pretty funny. It's amazing to me that Roger Moore still had three Bond pictures left in him, because it's obvious that they've taken a turn downward. And what the hell is up with Jaws and his girlfriend in this one?

So, I'll be back in a few weeks when I finish the other half of the Bond series.

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