Movie Review: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Moonraker was literally out of this world for the Bond franchise, so when 1981’s For Your Eyes Only was released it came as no surprise that this story would be more grounded. Roger Moore’s fifth turn as 007 had a lot more in common with early Connery-Bond, than it did with his own first four flicks. That isn’t to say that FYEO doesn’t engage in the usual Moore hi-jinx… we will talk about the parrot later.

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My FYEO Notes:

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Bond’s coolest moment? In typical “Roger Moore is James Bond” fashion, even when in danger he stays as cool as a cucumber. Case in point, when being chased by baddies he still makes time to look out of the car window and give them a double-take/nod.

Bond’s most embarrassing moment? Getting sexually harassed by the teen figure skater. Just how old is Bibi Dahl (yes, I know, that name!) supposed to be exactly?

Bond’s best line? “Yes. Well, you get your clothes on… and I’ll buy you an ice cream.” When Bibi tells him she isn’t a virgin.

Best acting performance? Topol! Topol is absolutely killing it here. Columbo is the most interesting character in the entire film. This might include James. 

Bond’s #MeToo #TimesUp moment? Shockingly enough, there isn’t one. He treats Melina with respect. Has some feelings for Lisl. Bond gets the reverse treatment from Bibi Dahl though, as stated above under embarrassing moment.

Worst line in the movie? Without a doubt it’s “I’ll buy you a delicatessen! In stainless steel!” from Blofeld in the pre-title sequence.

What I noticed for the first time after watching this for the 97th time? One of Gonzalez’s henchmen is the same stunt actor who James Brolin had his Octopussy fight audition with. 

Best action sequence? Willy Bogner and his crew did some fantastic work with the skiing scenes. For me, it’s the only time Bill Conti’s score really comes alive. 

Who or what is the title song about? Sheena Easton (who is the only Bond singer ever to be shown during the song/credits) sings about how much she loves James and how she is all his. 

Best looking cinematic moment? Like I mentioned earlier, the skiing scenes in Cortina are beautiful. It’s got a “Bond goes to the Winter Olympics” feel. 

How could the villain have succeeded? Kristatos, aside from being one of the dullest Bond villains ever, ruins a cool way to kill Bond/Melina. Dragging them across the ocean bit is sinister, but he easily assumes they have either drowned or that the sharks have quickly eaten them up. 

Which other Bond actor could have starred in this movie? There was some serious thought that Roger Moore wouldn’t return. Timothy Dalton’s name was mentioned as a possible replacement. There are elements of this film that suit his Bond quite well.

Does Bond ever think he might die? I don’t know if the character does, but Roger Moore certainly does when he is climbing that mountain in Greece at the end. Tom Cruise he is not. 

What would have made the movie better? Making Columbo the real villain since he is actually interesting. Dropping the whole Bibi Dahl subplot. 

What’s in a name? James Bond keeps his name when he tells Lisl (played by Cassandra Harris, the late wife of Pierce Brosnan) that he is a writer researching Greek smugglers for his next novel. 

What’s in a title? “For Your Eyes Only” comes from an Ian Fleming short story. 

Drinking game: Take a shot of Ouzo every time Max (the parrot) speaks.

“WTF?!” moment: The Columbo-Kristatos fight at the climax of FYEO has aggressively bad film editing continuity.

Fun fact: Just in case Moore didn’t return, the opening at the graveyard of Bond’s wife Tracy was to establish that this character has always been the same man. Codename theorists begone! 

Overall ranking: 16th out of 24.

Review synopsis: For Your Eyes Only has some terrific action set pieces, and an espionage tale worthy of classic Fleming. The tonal shifts are the biggest issue. This is the least campy of the Roger Moore era, yet we still have to deal with Bibi and Max and a Margaret Thatcher impersonator! However, it is a nice film-palette cleanser sandwiched between Moonraker and Octopussy.

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When James Bond Comes Back Down To Earth

Even during a successful six decade run, the Bond producers have had to get a hold of reality every now and then. Sometimes you just need to get back to the basics. In fact, it’s happened on four different occasions. A villain’s diabolical plan too outlandish, gadgets beyond unrealistic, and humorous scenes turning into full-on camp.

These were the times when 007 needed to “get down to earth.”

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ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969) – After 1967’s You Only Live Twice, the Bond team didn’t just need a new lead actor… they needed a new direction. YOLT gave us a helicopter picking up a car with a giant magnet, a hollowed-out volcano for the villain’s lair, and insane ninjas. OHMSS was the first time Bond needed a bit of a reset. The film was more serious, stuck to the core of Ian Fleming’s novel, hardly had any gadgets, and the action sequences were more brutal and realistic. This new Bond style didn’t last long, since Diamonds Are Forever ushered in the wacky James Bond 1970s.

 

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981) – The title of this article is “when James Bond comes back down to earth.” Now I mean it literally. In the Summer of 1979, James Bond went into space. That happened. For Cubby Broccoli, Moonraker was a Bond too far. FYEO is probably the most serious Roger Moore as 007 movie you could ever get. It’s more of a throwback to the gritty style of From Russia With Love.

 

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) – How do you go from 12 years of Roger Moore camp to Timothy Dalton’s no-nonsense edge? It wasn’t an easy transition after 1985’s bonkers A View To A Kill. Pierce Brosnan was originally the first choice to replace Moore and it made sense. Pierce’s Bond is just a less lighthearted version of Roger’s. When Brosnan couldn’t get out of his NBC contract, Dalton stepped in. TLD and Dalton were the beta-test for Casino Royale and Daniel Craig nearly 20 years later.

 

CASINO ROYALE (2006) – Speaking of which… Die Another Day gave us surfing, DNA switching, kite-surfing tsunamis, an invisible car, and some of the worst puns in film history. DAD is the mother of all eye rolls when it comes to the Bond franchise. Thankfully, four years later we got a grounded Bond flick and it was fantastic. Going from Brosnan to Craig, Die Another Day to Casino Royale, is the most shocking transition in franchise history.

 

With Craig playing Bond for probably the 5th and final time in 2019 or 2020, and since his replacement will either be an actor similar to his style or an actor closer to Brosnan/Moore, James Bond won’t have a need to return down to earth for quite some time.

 

Sean Connery is James Bond in “One Last Time”

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Whenever I watch one of my favorite action movies ever, 1996’s The Rock starring Sean Connery, I can’t help but think of him as a 65 year-old version of James Bond. In fact in The Rock, James Bond and John Mason have a lot in common.

  • Both British spies, trained by the SAS.
  • Both Bond and Mason are skilled at using firearms and engaging in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Both have a dark sense of humor.

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For what it’s worth, Connery as Mason or a much older Bond, still makes quite a dashing figure when he is all cleaned up in the San Francisco hotel scene. Connery played an “older” Bond in the official 007 flick Never Say Never Again in 1983. NSNA is just a remake of Thunderball, since that’s the only story producer Kevin McClory was allowed to make. McClory and Connery almost teamed up in the mid-70s for a non-official Bond movie called Warhead. So it’s no surprise that in the late 90s, McClory wanted to remake Thunderball/Never Say Never Again (again). Holy redundancies!

The Rock did very well at the box-office in the Summer of 1996, with Connery showing he could still kick ass as a senior citizen. Was it a coincidence that in the Fall of 1997, McClory and Sony officially announced that they would remake Thunderball and call it Warhead 2000? They intended for the film to be released in 1999 as a rival picture vs the official Bond movie The World Is Not Enough. Think of 1983’s battle between Octopussy and Never Say Never Again. Instead of Sean Connery vs Roger Moore, this time it would be either Liam Neeson or Timothy Dalton vs Pierce Brosnan. The project was officially scrapped since the rightful owners of the real Bond franchise (EON and MGM) sued McClory.

Forget Neeson or Dalton in Warhead 2000. How about Sean Connery as James Bond 007 in One Last Time. My cheesy title would have given Never Say Never Again a run for its money. Connery would have been almost 70, but he still looked somewhat up for the challenge in the movie Entrapment in 1999. I guess The Rock’s John Mason is the closest we ever got to seeing Sean Connery as 007 again. Well, I did my best…

 

 

Movie Review: YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE

The production of James Bond movies is never easy. If you’ve been following the news on the upcoming 007 adventure, you know this to be very true. You Only Live Twice, the 5th film in the series, was the first time there were massive production issues. Unhappy star (Sean Connery quit after), casting problems (a Japanese actress contemplated suicide), location nightmares (Japanese fans and press were too much), etc. And yet, YOLT was extremely successful at the box-office and it provided Bond fans with everything we love about the character and the franchise.

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My YOLT Notes:

Bond’s coolest moment? Watching him walk around Tokyo. He never felt like a fish-out-of-water. Although a very tall Sean Connery going for a stroll in Tokyo did have a Gulliver’s Travels feel to it.

Bond’s most embarrassing moment? It’s a cool action scene, but Bond flying around in the toy helicopter (AKA – Little Nelly) looked ridiculous.

Bond’s best line? “Well, I won’t need these” as he pushes away a plate of oysters, after learning he and Kissy Suzuki will be sleeping in separate beds.

Best acting performance? Even though it’s brief, Donald Pleasance as Ernst Stavro Blofeld remains the most iconic of all the portrayals throughout the franchise’s history.

Bond’s #MeToo #TimesUp moment? That whole bathing scene is seriously problematic. As the great Tiger Tanaka says to Bond: “In Japan, men come first. Women come second.” Let’s not forget that Bond picked a very “sexiful” girl to give him a rub down. Having written all this, I do love that scene. Very 1960s Bond. 

Worst line in the movie? Not too many to choose from in Roald Dahl’s entertaining script, but there’s something about the way Kissy says “this is business” that makes her sound like a little kid and less like an agent. 

What I noticed for the first time after watching this for the 182nd time? After the Soviet space capsule is hijacked, there is a picture of Dwight Eisenhower behind the American generals and military officials. 

Best action sequence? That final act of Tiger’s ninjas vs SPECTRE’s crew fighting inside a hollowed-out volcano is what a James Bond climax is all about!

Who or what is the title song about? You Only Live Twice is one of the most beautiful Bond songs of all-time. It’s very poetic and sounds like a chance encounter for Bond that can lead to so much more. 

Best looking cinematic moment? The cinematography of the rooftop chase/fight at Kobe docks is a stunner. Having John Barry’s hypnotic score attached to the scene doesn’t hurt.

How could the villain have succeeded? This is going to sound cliche but… just kill Bond already! Blofeld captures him, doesn’t kill him. Allows Bond to open up the crater and let Tiger’s ninjas inside, still doesn’t kill me. Blofeld then shoots one of his own men before finally attempting to shoot Bond.

Which other Bond actor could have starred in this movie? Considering Connery really didn’t want to be there, I think this film has a Roger Moore-ish quality to it. After all, it’s very similar to Moore’s The Spy Who Loved Me. 

Does Bond ever think he might die? I think when Helga Brandt leaves him to die in that plane crash. 

What would have made the movie better? Better dubbing of the Japanese cast, and a clearer explanation as to why (and how) Bond faked his own death in the beginning.

What’s in a name? Bond poses as Mr. Fisher from the British company Empire Chemicals, trying to do business with Mr. Osato the CEO of Osato Chemicals, which is really a front for SPECTRE. 

What’s in a title? You Only Live Twice comes from a Ian Fleming novel, although the novel and movie are not much alike. YOLT is also the title of a haiku. You only live twice; Once when you’re born, And once when you look death in the face.

Drinking game: Take a sip of Sake each time Bond bows his head.

“WTF?!” moment: The entirety of Bond becoming Japanese. They give Sean Connery a Spock wig, make him hunch down a lot, and he’s instantly Japanese. Not quite. 

Fun fact: The sumo wrestler Bond fights in the office of Osata is the grandfather of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. 

Overall ranking: 4th out of 24. 

Review synopsis: I’m a sucker for any movie that takes place in Japan, so You Only Live Twice ranks higher for me than it does for other Bond fans and critics. I think this is the last time Sean Connery truly feels like a credible 007. The soundtrack might be the best of all, we also get our first glimpse of a classic villain pulling all the strings, and some breathtaking Japanese scenery.

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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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