Movie Review: QUANTUM OF SOLACE

2008’s Quantum of Solace was the first sequel in the Bond franchise. That sounds crazy doesn’t it? The 21 official films before it were always stand-alone features. Sure every now and then we would get a recurring character, or a mention of a past mission, but never a direct sequel.

QoS picks up immediately after the brilliant Casino Royale ends. If CR is 007’s true origin spy story, then QoS is James Bond at his most vengeful since Licence To Kill in 1989. Quantum has the shortest running time of any Bond flick in franchise history, but it certainly packs in a whole lot of action in those 108 minutes.

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Bond’s coolest moment? The way he dispatches Slate in the hotel room in Haiti. Craig’s Bond is a lethal killing machine, and his cold gaze elsewhere as Slate slowly bleeds out is a sight to see. A close runner-up is Bond leaving Greene in the desert. 

Bond’s most embarrassing moment? Jumping out of the plane with Camille. It sounds a lot cooler than it looked. Too CGI-ish and it can’t hold a candle to the same stunt (done for real) in 1979’s Moonraker. 

Bond’s best line? GREENE: “Please, my friends call me Dominic.” BOND: “I’m sure they do.”

Best acting performance? Olga Kurylenko as Camille. She might be one of the strongest, most independent Bond girls in the long-running series. Her backstory involving her family, and being desperate for revenge, is one of the best plot lines the movie has going for it.

Bond’s #MeToo #TimesUp moment? I guess it would have to be the way Bond “seduces” Strawberry Fields. But it only really feels that way when we see her get “Oilfingered”. I know how dirty that sounded. 

Worst line in the movie? Considering this film was plagued by the WGA strike, and director Marc Forster and Daniel Craig had to write some of the dialogue while on location, there aren’t too many bad lines. I guess I don’t like Mathieu Amalric as Green saying “Please don’t talk to me like I’m stupid… It’s unattractive.”

What I noticed for the first time after watching this for the 27th time? Daniel Craig’s hair is a little longer than it was in Casino Royale. Nothing wrong with that. He looks fine with that hairstyle. But this film opens up minutes after Casino Royale ended. Slight hair continuity issue.

Best action sequence? In a movie filled with terrific action set-pieces, nothing beats that opening car chase. In fact, it might be the best car chase in the franchise.

Who or what is the title song about? The title song “Another Way To Die” is about the dangerous life of a secret agent. This song grows on me each time, but I think the legendary Shirley Bassey’s “No Good About Goodbye” would have fit the tone of this movie better. Hell, they even work the song into the score throughout the film. 

Best looking cinematic moment? Bond and Camille walking in the desert. This is a very art-house looking scene for a Bond movie. 

How could the villain have succeeded? Dominic Greene is a very interesting villain with his extremely down-to-earth style of world domination. Water over oil? Perhaps he needed to keep a lower profile. His quasi-eco warrior persona looked too suspicious.

Which other Bond actor could have starred in this movie? This is a Craig-Bond movie 100%. His performance especially works well if you watch it back-to-back with Casino Royale. 

Does Bond ever think he might die? When he and Camille are trapped in the fire at the end. I also enjoyed the fact that he contemplated killing her, rather than having her die from her greatest fear. Not sure I could see any other Bond do that. Not even Connery or Dalton. 

What would have made the movie better? Less camera shots aiming to be like Jason Bourne/Paul Greengrass. It takes away from all the tremendous action scenes. 

What’s in a name? Bond doesn’t use an alias, but he does pretend to be a teacher who just won the lottery. 

What’s in a title? “Quantum of Solace” is the title of a short story from Ian Fleming, but the plot of the story and of the movie have nothing in common. I kind of like the song title “Another Way To Die” better than “Quantum of Solace”. 

Drinking game: Drink a glass of cheap Italian wine each time the name “Vesper” is mentioned. 

“WTF?!” moment: Greene’s lackey Elvis has a couple of WTF moments. But I will go with his loving look to another Greene lackey when they are at the opera. Was there a “Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd” type of scene that was cut out? 

Fun fact: The waitress that General Medrano attempts to rape is Oona Chaplin, the granddaughter of screen idol Charlie Chaplin.

Overall ranking: 10th out of 24. 

Review synopsis: The only cinematic crime committed by Quantum of Solace is that it is sandwiched between Bond classics Casino Royale and Skyfall. As time passes, I think QoS could become one of the most underrated Bond films, right up there with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. If this is considered the worst Daniel Craig movie during his Bond tenure, then he’s had one hell of a run. 

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Pierce Brosnan in “The Living Daylights”

After 12 years of popular, lighthearted movies, it was never going to be easy to replace the uniqueness of Roger Moore’s James Bond. When Moore, at the age of 58, officially announced his retirement from the role in December of 1985, his replacement was already waiting in the wings.

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Think of a mid-1980s Pierce Brosnan as the Idris Elba of our time. Except with credible news sources, a suitable starting age, and an actual vacant role. Brosnan had been playing a Bond Jr. of sorts in the NBC hit show Remington Steele. It gave him an opportunity to show he looked good in a tux or suit, and had a grasp on light humor similar to what Moore did.

Brosnan auditioned in 1986 and eventually got the coveted roll. Unfortunately, just before the announcement of Pierce as the new 007, NBC wouldn’t let him out of his Steele contract due to his sudden popularity. Even in a world without social media, this was still a major entertainment news story. Yes, Brosnan eventually got the role 8 years later, but it truly devastated him. To this day, he is still somewhat bitter at missing out on starring in 1987’s The Living Daylights. What could have been?

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Exactly how different is the The Living Daylights script with Timothy Dalton starring as Bond instead of Pierce Brosnan? Originally, the script was written with a Roger Moore-type 007 in mind. So that would be an easy transition for Brosnan. Dalton, as Bond fans know, brought a much harder edge to the role. His interpretation is closer to Fleming’s, and was a very early beta-test for what Daniel Craig would bring to the 21st century.

When you rewatch TLD, pick out some of the differences between Dalton and Brosnan. You can clearly tell which sections of the screenplay were rewritten after Dalton was cast.

DALTON STYLE:

  • The car ride in Czechoslovakia with Saunders.
  • His reaction after the death of Saunders in the amusement park in Vienna.
  • His confrontation with Pushkin in the hotel room in Tangiers.

BROSNAN STYLE:

  • All the Q lab stuff.
  • Using a cello case to escape in the snow.
  • Hopping around rooftops in Tangiers; especially the unused “magic carpet ride”.

Movie Review: DR. NO

First doesn’t always mean the best. When 1962’s Dr. No was released, James Bond was just a character on the pages of multiple Ian Fleming novels. What movie producers, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, were able to do was to breathe life into this spy character’s world.

Dr. No is the jumping off point for a film franchise now in its sixth decade. Audiences in the early 1960s had never seen such a vivid world of danger, sex, and globetrotting. This is why the first film is so important to the legacy of Bond.

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MY DR. NO-TES:

Bond’s coolest moment? His first ever scene, the one in the casino. Saying the name “Bond, James Bond” is beyond iconic and cool.

Bond’s most embarrassing moment? Singing “Underneath the mango tree…”

Bond’s best line?I think they were on their way to a funeral.”

Best acting performance? It’s got to be Connery. Early Bond/Connery is a terrific mix of menacing and charming.

Bond’s #MeToo #TimesUp moment? Even though she is clearly bad, Bond really does force himself on Miss Taro.

Worst line in the movie? Bond demanding to Quarrel: “Fetch my shoes.

What I noticed for the first time after watching this for the 82nd time? When in M’s office, Bond offers to light M’s pipe and M declines.

Best action sequence? The one at the end in Dr. No’s lab is about as far of a true action scene as you will get in this movie.

Best looking cinematic moment? If there is one thing this film has it’s colorful, eye-popping cinematography. You can’t go wrong with Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) coming out of the water.

How could the villain have succeeded? Get better hench-people. The “three blind” men. The jittery chauffeur. A freelance photographer. Professor Dent and his faux-Chinese secretary. Cmon Dr. No, you work for SPECTRE. Call up Blofeld and get some real help.

Which other Bond actor could have starred in this movie? No one else. Producers cast Sean Connery, a diamond in the rough, and it worked beautifully.

Does Bond ever think he might die? He’s sweating quite bit in bed with that tarantula crawling up on him.

What would have made the movie better? More action set-pieces and more exotic locations.

What’s in a title? “Dr. No” is the name of the villain Dr. Julius No, which comes from the same name of Ian Fleming’s novel.

Drinking game: Drink a medium dry vodka martini each time the James Bond theme is played throughout the film. From opening credits to end credits, and every scene in-between.

“WTF?!” moment: Bond and Honey taking a decontamination shower while Dr. No’s people watch.

Fun fact: Thunderball was originally going to be the first Bond movie.

Overall ranking: 15th out of 24.

Review synopsis: This Bond flick won’t set your heart racing, but it’s a well-made detective story and it gives us the first of many Bondisms. Connery looks the part and instantly becomes James Bond with his first couple of lines. An audience watching it today might get bored, but it’s understandable why an audience in 1962 was wowed. A movie legend was born.

 

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BOND 25 CASTING CALLS

A little over a week ago the casting call for the main villains in the next James Bond movie was leaked. With production about 4-5 months away, you can be sure that rumors about certain actors will start popping up. Before this casting leak, names like Angelina Jolie, Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch were already being bandied about.

I’m going to give my top 5 acting choices for each character, with #1 being the biggest (most expensive?) name. I’ve also added a 4th character. The heavily rumored “Bond girl” role, which is more of a young apprentice for 007 to mold.

 

MAIN VILLAIN

Playing age: 30’s – 60’s
Russian. (Also open to suggestions of actors from the Balkans or similar) Must speak fluent English.
Characteristics: Charismatic, Powerful, Innovative, Cosmopolitan, Bright, Cold and Vindictive.

My choices:

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  1. Viggo Mortensen
  2. Goran Višnjić
  3. Lars Mikkelsen
  4. Ciarán Hinds
  5. Vladimir Mashkov

 

BOND GIRL #1/VILLAINOUS

Playing age: 30 – 45
Russian. (Also open to suggestions of actresses from the Balkans or similar) Must speak fluent English.
Very Striking. Strong Physical / fighting / stage combat skills required.
Characteristics: Intelligent, brave, fierce and charming. She’s witty and skillful. A survivor.

My choices:

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  1. Angelina Jolie
  2. Milla Jovovich
  3. Alexa Davalos
  4. Svetlana Khodchenkova
  5. Yuliya Snigir

 

 

HENCHMAN

Playing age: 35 – 55
Maori.
Advanced physical / fighting / stage combat skills required.
Characteristics: Authoritative, cunning, ruthless & loyal.

My choices:

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  1. Jason Momoa
  2. Cliff Curtis
  3. Temuera Morrison
  4. Manu Bennett
  5. Mark Dacascos

 

BOND GIRL #2/PROTEGE MI6 AGENT

Playing age: 20 – 30
British
Strong Physical / fighting / stage combat skills required.
Characteristics: Intelligent, brave, witty and skillful. Not a pushover.

My choices:

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  1. Hannah John-Kamen
  2. Lily James
  3. Cara Delevingne
  4. Imogen Poots
  5. Holliday Grainger

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is MISSION IMPOSSIBLE “Doing Bond” Better?

With the opening of the sixth Mission Impossible movie (Fallout) this weekend, you will see many of the same headlines as the one I have provided. Before we get down to the nitty gritty, let’s answer the headline’s question first: Currently? Yes. Yes it is. But in this article you will read that as amazing as Tom Cruise is as Ethan Hunt, 007 still has a few tricks up his cuff-linked sleeve.

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The Mission Impossible franchise is doing something most never do. They continue to get better as each new movie hits theaters. The first three were solid flicks, but since 2011’s Ghost Protocol, they have reached a status rarely seen in the action movie genre. Now with Fallout being universally praised as not only one of the best films of 2018, but also one of the best action movies in the history of cinema (currently has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 86 score on the even tougher scale of Metacritic), the producers and crew of the next Bond movie (aka Bond 25) had better step their game up.

Why are the M:I films succeeding, while Bond is failing? I wouldn’t call it failure. We are only six years removed from the most successful (financially and critically) Bond movies of all-time with Skyfall. The reason why we see this M:I > 007 equation going around is because… and this pains me to say… in 2015, Rogue Nation was a much better film than Spectre. The most frustrating aspect of this is that you can see a lot of similarities between the two movies. The obvious one being in the criminal organizational villainy department. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation had the Syndicate, run by Solomon Lane. Spectre had their organization run by Franz Oberhauser, oh excuse me I mean Bond’s foster brother Ernst Stavro Blofeld. (insert eye roll)

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Do me a favor. Tonight at home, watch Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and pretend Ethan Hunt is really James Bond. Soloman Lane is Blofeld. The Syndicate is SPECTRE. You can even replace Alec Baldwin’s character with Ralph Fiennes’ M, Jeremy Renner’s with Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter), Simon Pegg’s with Ben Whishaw as Q, and so on. Rogue Nation is the film Spectre needed to be, especially after the triumphant success of Skyfall.

There’s a giant elephant in the room that we have not discussed. The insane stunts done by Tom Cruise. This is both M:I’s greatest strength and weakness. While the Bond franchise has decades under its belt when it comes to death-defying stunts, they are usually done by stuntmen. Sure, Daniel Craig does a lot his own stunts. But he’s not Tom Cruise. Cruise is both an adrenaline junkie, the likes of which we have never seen on the big screen, and he’s richer than God (or L. Ron) which means he can pay off the insurance companies to let him do his insanity. And let’s face it, the man always delivers. Scaling the world’s tallest building or hanging from a plane as it flies mid-air, can’t be topped. Although the stunts he does in Fallout are right up there too.

Remember what I said about Tom Cruise’s stunts being the M:I franchise’s weakness? Daniel Craig will leave the role of Bond after the new movie is released in November 2019. He’s the sixth actor to have played Bond over the 55+ year run. There will be a 7th actor to play 007 and audiences will still go see the films in droves. Can the same be said of Mission Impossible once Tom Cruise leaves the role of Ethan Hunt? Will we want to see someone else play that character, or a similar one with a role in the IMF? I doubt it. At least not in the same massive box-office numbers. Cruise is the greatest entertainer in the movie industry. He’s like a Vegas show at your local cinema. I want to see him perform the crazy stunts. Not a new actor’s stunt double. Talk about a tough act to follow, right?

Audiences care about James Bond 007 more than the actor. These same movie-goers care more about Tom Cruise than they do about Ethan Hunt. That’s the edge the Bond filmmakers have. But let me be clear, as of today, at this very moment in time, the Mission Impossible franchise is beating the 007 franchise. Your move Bond 25.

This blog will self-destruct in five seconds.

 

 

George Lazenby in “Diamonds Are Forever”

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Despite his profession and love for Queen and country, James Bond isn’t immune to exacting revenge. In Licence To Kill and Quantum of Solace, 007 is in full-on vengeance mode. But there was one Bond movie where he should have gone “007 meets Taken.” That flick would be 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.

At the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, we see Bond get married and then immediately watch his new bride get gunned down by Blofeld and Irma Bunt. This underrated 1969 entry in the series ends in a very un-Bondian way.

Director Peter Hunt originally had the idea to end the film with Bond’s wedding and put this scene to start the next film, Diamonds Are Forever. Thus setting up a true “Bond out for revenge” pic. Long story short, George Lazenby becomes a one-and-done 007 and Hunt doesn’t return to direct. Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton steps in, and of course, the first and true James Bond (Sean Connery) returns.

The opening of Diamonds does have the right idea, in a campy sort of way. We see Bond brutally dispatching anyone who may have info on Blofeld’s whereabouts. You can check out the bad dubbing/ADR and a shockingly older looking Connery here:

 

The rest of the movie is flat-out bonkers: some stereotypical gay henchmen, Blofeld in drag, the Jimmy Dean sausage guy, acrobatic lady bodyguards, etc.

What I would have loved DAF (that’s what the cool kids call it) to have been was a direct sequel to OHMSS. Get Hunt/Lazenby back for a revenge mission against Blofeld (bring back Telly Savalas) and his SPECTRE crew. Even the title “Diamonds Are Forever” works since when we last saw Bond, he had slipped a diamond ring on Tracy’s finger. I guess keep the ridiculous plot about needing diamonds to help build a giant laser in space, or whatever, but keep Bond’s vendetta front and center of the film. Lazenby wasn’t a great actor (hell, was he even an actor?) but he handled action well, and he could have truly grown into the role. Keep the female lead as Tiffany Case, but don’t make her so goofy. Keep her character closer to the one that Ian Fleming wrote. IMHO Diamonds Are Forever is the worst of the 24 official Bond films. The main reason being… it wastes a tremendous emotional plot line.

George Lazenby is James Bond 007 in Ian Fleming’s DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. Oh what could have been!

 

Sean Connery in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”

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Sean Connery is considered by most to be the greatest James Bond ever. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is considered by many to be one of the greatest Bond stories ever. This is why it’s a heinous cinematic crime that we never got to see Connery play 007 for the 6th time in OHMSS.

Why didn’t Connery come back after You Only Live Twice? Sean had mentally checked out by the mid-60s and he felt that he was being grossly underpaid, especially after the huge hits of Goldfinger and Thunderball. He resented the Bond producers, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Especially Saltzman! So much so that Connery demanded that Saltzman not be on the set while he was acting. Things got worse when Sean arrived to film in Japan. The press didn’t leave him alone. He had enough. He said never again! (More on that statement other time…another place.)

Why did the producers go with George Lazenby to star in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Lazenby was a complete unknown, who they thought they could mold into the next Connery. That proved easier said than done. Lazenby is really the only weak spot in the entire film. Not entirely his fault, as he had never acted before. But when your great film’s only weakness is the lead actor, that’s a major issue and the producers only had themselves to blame. OHMSS needed Sean Connery. And actually, Sean Connery could have really used a film like OHMSS.

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With the beautifully talented Diana Rigg as Tracy, Bond’s future wife, and with terrific character actor Telly Savalas, playing the villain Blofeld, Connery would have fit right in. If he was tired of Bond because the movies had become lazy and out-of-this-world, then OHMSS was exactly what he needed. It’s one of the more grounded Bonds in the franchise’s 55+ year history. There are hardly any gadgets, the action is shot well thanks to director Peter Hunt, the locations make it a sweeping epic, and it offers a Bond actor a first: Bond falls in love and gets married.

It’s a shame that this movie didn’t end up as the followup to Goldfinger, as it was intended to be. Bond history might have changed. Connery would have eventually had enough of being “underpaid” and would have grown too old for the part, but we would have seen him in somewhat of his prime in one of the best 007 movies ever made.

As it stands now, if you are a Bond fanatic like myself, you have grown to respect and love the film. It’s easily in my top 10 Bond flicks, but for casual Bond fans it’s an outlier. Usually you will hear from them: “Oh yeah! That one with that one guy who only played the part once. The one without Sean Connery.” That’s a shame. Sean Connery is James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Has a much better ring to it. That would have been an all-timer on the level of From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, Casino Royale and Skyfall. Even with George Lazenby as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service it still might be. It’s that good of a movie.