Movie Review: THUNDERBALL

How do you top the success of Goldfinger? Bond filmmakers sure did try their best with the followup, Thunderball. To this day, Thunderball remains the all-time highest grossing James Bond movie at the box-office…adjusted for inflation of course.

The film has lost a bit of its luster over the past few decades, but there is definitely a lot of Bond bang for your buck. Sadly, this was also the start of many troubled Bond productions and Connery going from being in his prime to lazy efforts.

 

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Bond’s coolest moment? When he goes to the casino in the Bahamas. He does just enough trash talk to the villainous Largo, while still being smooth on the dance floor with Domino. A close runner-up is this scene with Fiona. 

Bond’s most embarrassing moment? Being strapped to that machine at the health clinic, that is pulling him like he’s a piece of taffy. Maybe that’s the moment Sean Connery knew he wanted out of this role ASAP!

Bond’s best line? After Domino says to him “What sharp little eyes you’ve got.” And James mutters: “Wait till you get to my teeth.

Best acting performance? Luciana Paluzzi as seductive henchwoman Fiona Volpe. She brings a real energy to the role, without every making it feel campy.

Bond’s #MeToo #TimesUp moment? First off, forcibly kissing the nurse at the health clinic. Then threatening her job, unless she has sex with him in the steam room.

Worst line in the movie? When Bond tells Moneypenny he’s going to put her over his knee for a presumed spanking, she replies with “On lemon juice and yogurt. I can hardly wait.” Yeah umm I don’t get it. 

What I noticed for the first time after watching this for the 84th time? When the faux-Francois skyjacks the NATO plane, and knocks out the rest of the crew with gas, literally just a few seconds earlier we see a crew member eating a sandwich. How did he get knocked out without a mask on?

Best action sequence? Bond escaping from Fiona and Largo’s men during the Junkanoo.  I guess the underwater battle at the end, but the pacing is a little off for me. 

Who or what is the title song about? Tom Jones is singing about how cool and suave and dangerous 007 is. But I think if Largo was listening to the lyrics, he would think it was about himself. 

Best looking cinematic moment? Bond on the beach with Domino. It looks half From Here To Eternity and half Caribbean postcard. She might be the best looking Bond girl ever. In fact, every lady in this looks top notch. 

How could the villain have succeeded? As usual with most of these villains, they love spending time just hanging out with James. I think Largo believes he and Bond are soul-bros. 

Which other Bond actor could have starred in this movie? None. This is very much a Connery-Bond movie. He also seems a natural fit for all scuba scenes. He’s a great swimmer. 

Does Bond ever think he might die? There’s some real worry on his face being chased around during the Junkanoo. He’s been shot in the ankle, doesn’t really know where to go, and there’s something about Fiona’s ice cold demeanor that would scare any agent.

What would have made the movie better? Tighter editing. Cut some time off the underwater hijacking of the bombs, and also off the underwater climax. 

What’s in a name? Bond doesn’t use an alias in this, although he really should. He does some good detective work in this movie, but probably shouldn’t be telling everyone his name is James Bond.

What’s in a title? Thunderball comes from the novel by Ian Fleming. Although, Fleming allegedly took the title and much of the story from an annoying man named Kevin McClory.

Drinking game: Drink a glass of Rum Collins each time you see a shark on screen. 

“WTF?!” moment: Continuing with sharks; Sean Connery’s face when he comes face to face with one in the pool. Yeah, I don’t blame him for being pissed at the producers. By the way, while we are on the subject of sharks… how many sharks were killed during the production? 

Fun fact: The ending music on the DVD Blu Ray is not the same as in the original movie. Here’s the original:

Overall ranking: 14th out of 24. 

Review synopsis: Connery is at his charming Bond best, and director Terence Young knows how to make a film look beautiful and colorful. The leading ladies are a feast for the eyes, and Largo makes for a memorable villain. The plot lacks the importance of From Russia With Love, and the zaniness of Goldfinger, but Thunderball is a pretty solid 007 adventure.

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The Best Bond Video Game

No. Not Goldeneye. Goldeneye is too easy of an answer. Saying that Goldeneye is the best James Bond video game ever produced is like saying The Beatles are the best band ever. The answer might be true, but it’s such a lazy effort.

Goldeneye is a terrific first-person shooter game, but for me a Bond video game has to separate from the movie franchise. What about the From Russia With Love video game that gave us the return of the original (and by this time, very old-sounding) 007…Sean Connery? Love it, but it’s just a remake.

Then what about original ones such as Agent Under Fire? Nightfire? Bloodstone? 007 Legends? Not bad, but the best James Bond video game ever is Everything or Nothing!

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  • The title is so Bondian that the EON production company actually stands for this.
  • Not only does it have Pierce Brosnan voicing Bond, but also Judi Dench as M and John Cleese as Q! Who wouldn’t want Willem Dafoe as Bond villain, or Heidi Klum and Shannon Elizabeth as Bond girls? Keep in mind this is 2004. Did I mention the return of Jaws?
  • Locations? Tajikistan, Egypt, Peru, New Orleans, Moscow.
  • Plenty of gadgets and fast cars.
  • Even has a classic Bond title theme/intro after a signature pre-titles action sequence.  It’s sung by Mya and she even has a small role in the game. Again, keep in mind this is 2004.

 

I highly recommend watching this and pretending it’s Brosnan’s never-completed 5th movie. Even Pierce’s eye roll-worthy puns are on point! Am I saying Everything or Nothing would have been a great end to Brosnan’s Bond career? Not really. It would have been on par with Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and maybe slightly better than Die Another Day. All I know is between Nov 2002 and Nov 2006, we didn’t have a Bond movie to watch. So this is as good as it got. Give me everything or nothing at all!

Movie Review: THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS

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In a span of four years, the Bond franchise went from spy parodies Octopussy and A View To A Kill, to a taut spy thriller. 1987’s The Living Daylights is just that. At that time, it provided perhaps the best espionage tale since 1963’s From Russia With Love. 30+ years later, the Cold War plot of TLD seems dated, but the style ushered in by Timothy Dalton as 007 has now been the foundation for the Daniel Craig era.

Dalton’s Bond-style was promoted heavily on his dangerous side. This wasn’t the 12 year run of Roger Moore, nor was it the original choice to play 007 in TLD (Pierce Brosnan).

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Bond’s coolest moment? The entire cat and mouse, sniper vs wannabe-sniper situation in Czechoslovakia. Dalton’s at his most “Fleming’s Bond” during those first scenes after the credits. 

Bond’s most embarrassing moment? It has to be sliding down snowy woods, using a cello case. Not too embarrassing for Moore or Brosnan, but for super-serious Dalton, it’s downright humiliating.

Bond’s best line? “We have an old saying too, Georgi. And you’re full of it.” 

Best acting performance? As stated before, I think it has to be Dalton’s turn as James Bond. He’s going all in on what Ian Fleming intended the character to be. Sometimes it doesn’t work for this film, but kudos to his true commitment.

Bond’s #MeToo #TimesUp moment? Stripping off the clothes of General Pushkin’s girlfriend, and using her naked body as a distraction.

Worst line in the movie? Moneypenny: “Anytime you want to drop by and listen to my Barry Manilow collection…”

What I noticed for the first time after watching this for the 86th time? The parrot in this movie looks and sounds exactly like Max the parrot in For Your Eyes Only! Did the British government hire Max after the events of FYEO?!

Best action sequence? The pre-title sequence is fantastic and as realistic as a Bond movie can be. Skydiving, to rock climbing, to hanging from a jeep. Some thrilling stuff.  

Who or what is the title song about? The title song is all about Bond’s hard edge. I mean, living is in the way he dies folks!

Best looking cinematic moment? When James and Kara are riding through Afghanistan with the Mujahideen. 

How could the villain have succeeded? Koskov is too arrogant for his own good. He also has too many nefarious things going on all at once. 

Which other Bond actor could have starred in this movie? Since the original choice was Pierce Brosnan, this is an easy answer. While this movie seems tailored more towards Timothy Dalton, the script was originally written for Brosnan or a Roger Moore-ish actor. 

Does Bond ever think he might die? When he’s fighting with Necros (a very underrated henchman) in the back of the cargo plane, and especially hanging outside of it. 

What would have made the movie better? Dumb down the plot just a skosh, give James a girl who isn’t boring, and cut out any silly scenes for Dalton’s Bond. 

What’s in a name? When Bond is knocked unconscious, Koskov and Necros smuggle him onto a plane using the alias Jerzy Bondov.

What’s in a title? “The Living Daylights” comes from the title of a short story by Ian Fleming. 

Drinking game: Take a shot of vodka for each time Kamran Shah’s men inexplicably laugh at James Bond when he is trying to explain his dire situation.

“WTF?!” moment: Brad Whitaker’s whole fetish for military strongmen and dictators. In an odd way, he’d make for a good American villain now. 

Fun fact: Timothy Dalton had absolutely no time for pre-production, as he was still filming the movie Brenda Starr. 

Overall ranking: 9th out of 24. 

Review synopsis: I believe The Living Daylights becomes more of a fan favorite as time passes. And this coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of the brief Dalton era. Bond filmmakers promised a harder edge and we got it. What Dalton lacks in humor, he makes up for with his serious commitment to the role. As far as intelligent spy plots go, The Living Daylights is close to a top tier 007 flick.

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Favorite Non-Fleming Bond Novels

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65 years ago Ian Fleming created a literary character that became a motion picture icon. When Fleming died in 1964, it didn’t mean James Bond died. Since Fleming’s passing, there have been several authors who have stepped up to tackle the world of 007. I haven’t read all 25+ non-Fleming novels, but I have read most of them and here are some of my personal favorites. I’m also taking into account which ones I think should have their plots turned into big-screen Bond adventures.

 

ICEBREAKER

If you’re a sucker for a James Bond story set in the snow like I am, then I highly recommend reading this one. Written by John Gardner in 1983, Icebreaker has Bond teaming up with an alliance of agents from the CIA, the KGB and Mossad. The Scandinavia backdrop sees Bond dealing with frenemies and a Neo-Nazi villain who fancies himself the next Hitler. It also has two Bond girls, one good and one bad, but you might not know which is which. Could this work as a film? Great title, and the current new rise of “nationalism” could strike a cord.

 

ROLE OF HONOR

What if James Bond became an agent of SPECTRE? In Role of Honor (John Gardner: 1984), Bond inherits some money from a dead relative and it gives MI6 a clever idea. They publicly accuse Bond of financial improprieties and he resigns. Bond, now a disgruntled ex-employee of her Majesty’s Secret Service, offers his services to SPECTRE (now run by Tamil Rahani). This is a great tale of how far will Bond go to keep his cover. Of course, they learn that Bond’s resignation is false and he foils the villainous plot of the rebooted SPECTRE. The title does have a nice Bond-movie ring to it. The idea of a new leader of the infamous crime organization is neat, and the climax takes place in an airship over Switzerland.

 

NOBODY LIVES FOREVER

This is direct sequel to Role of Honor has Rahani putting a price on 007’s head. Literally! He hires assassins from all over the world to give him James’ head. Nobody Lives Forever, written again by Gardner in 1986, also has Moneypenny getting kidnapped and Bond putting an end to Rahani and whatever is left of SPECTRE once and for all. The title sounds like a Pierce Brosnan – Bond flick. I’d totally be into a movie where Bond is taking on assassins who out to decapitate him.

 

DEVIL MAY CARE

If this isn’t the best non-Fleming title then I don’t know what is! Devil May Care was written by Sebastian Faulks in 2008, but the novel is set in 1967. Bond investigates Julius Gorner, a businessman who produces heroin. His ultimate goal is to get the Soviets and the Brits into WWIII. The plot sounds like it’s been done before a number of times, but the title is still great; oh and did I mention Gorner suffers from main de singe AKA monkey’s paw! Keep the title, keep the monkey lefthand, update the plot and I’d definitely watch that.

 

SOLO 

Written by William Boyd in 2013, Solo takes place in 1969 and has Bond caught in the middle of an African civil war. Bond gets double-crossed, and is shot and left for dead by a group of mercenaries. After that it becomes a classic Bond-goes-rogue type of mission that takes him to the States and dealing with the CIA. It’s crackerjack of a story, that could easily be updated. It also has a villain with a terrific name (Kobus Breed), who has a disfigured face and a permanently weeping eye. Sorry, no weeping blood this time.

 

 

Movie Review: LIVE AND LET DIE

It’s only fitting that I review Live And Let Die on Halloween, since LALD is about as close as you can get to a horror Bond movie.

This 1973 flick not only had voodoo, but it is also directly tied to the blaxploitation era. Roger Moore’s first turn as 007 has him traveling to places that make him stick out like a sore thumb, as well as battle quasi-supernatural elements. It truly is James Bond like you’ve never seen him before.

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Bond’s coolest moment? Roger Moore handles the “fish out of water” Bond style very well when he travels to Harlem. His intro to Solitaire is so smooth.

Bond’s most embarrassing moment? Using a deck of cards to get the upper hand in a fight with Tee Hee inside the train. I have no clue what he was thinking. 

Bond’s best line? After dispatching of Tee Hee and his mechanical hook arm, Solitaire asks him what he’s doing: “Just being disarming darling.”

Best acting performance? Yaphet Kotto as Kananga/Mr. Big is not only a menacing villain, but he has the style, intelligence and arrogance to match Bond. 

Bond’s #MeToo #TimesUp moment? Bond tricking Solitaire into losing her virginity. I mean it was a fun prank with the tarot cards, but he did kind of ruin her life too. Also, Jane Seymour has a face that could start the Trojan War!

Worst line in the movie? Bond introducing Rosie to Quarrel: “Meet the man who shares my hairbrush.

What I noticed for the first time after watching this for the 99th time? Rosie Carver screams exactly like Ned Flanders.

Best action sequence? I guess it has to be the boat chase, but to be honest it goes on way too long. Also has too much Pepper. Sheriff J.W. that is. 

Who or what is the title song about? Paul McCartney’s rock classic is definitely an outlier in the world of Bond theme songs. I think the song is about Bond’s weary work-life.

Best looking cinematic moment? Just the look of Bond landing in NYC and then going around the city is a joy to witness. 

How could the villain have succeeded? Kananga had a great plan about dominating the heroin market, but he failed like so many other Bond villains. He had a chance to do away with Bond a bunch of times, but instead goes for obscure ways to murder him. Croc farm? Shark pool?

Which other Bond actor could have starred in this movie? I think Sean Connery, fresh off the campy Diamonds Are Forever set, could have done quite well in LALD. However, I can’t see him handle the Harlem scenes better than Moore did.

Does Bond ever think he might die? He’s really frightened being alone on that tiny island surrounded by crocs and gators. Can’t blame him. This scene still holds up as one of the most dangerous stunts in Bond movie history.

What would have made the movie better? Having a pre-title sequence with James Bond in it.

What’s in a name? Bond never changes his name, although he does pretend to be a flight instructor. Poor Mrs. Bell. 

What’s in a title? Live And Let Die comes from the novel written by Ian Fleming. It’s one of the few Bond movie titles that has no connection to the plot; nor is it uttered in the film. 

Drinking game: Drink a glass of bourbon (no ice) each time Geoffrey Holder’s Baron Samedi laughs.

“WTF?!” moment: Kananga exploding! 

Fun fact: Before hiring Roger Moore, producer Cubby Broccoli flirted with the idea of making Bond more American. He had Burt Reynolds in mind.

Overall ranking: 12th out of 24

Review synopsis: Live And Let Die is one of the most daring starts to a Bond actor’s career. While it took a couple of movies before Roger Moore was a natural as 007, he handles the action and humor like a seasoned Bond. It’s far from a classic, top tier flick in the franchise, but LALD provides Bond fans with a lot of style and the unexpected.

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The Seven Most Disturbing Scenes in Bond Movie History

With Halloween a day away, it got me thinking about some horrifically, disturbing scenes in the Bond movie franchise. I’ve come up with my most bizarre seven.

Runners-up:

Jaws goes Pennywise (Moonraker)

Clowns are always scary, so imagine Richard Kiel as Jaws dressed as a clown puppet, in a dark alley, during a freaky night of carnival in Rio.

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Jaws meets Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me)

Now that I think about it, Jaws could have his own list. The character is clearly named after the famous movie shark, so it shouldn’t be surprising when he fights a shark at the end of the movie. But for me, watching “man bites shark” still kind of freaks me out.

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Now on with my personal Bond creepy countdown…

 

7. Jaws is hiding in a closet (The Spy Who Loved Me)

Like I said, we are gonna need a bigger list thanks to Jaws. Here he is hiding inside Agent XXX’s train closet. He’s been perfectly still and quiet that whole time. Yikes! True story, actress Barbara Bach’s frightened reaction wasn’t acting.

 

6. Saunders gets sliced in half (The Living Daylights) 

Saunders is one of those effeminate characters that Bond bullies around. However, when Bond witnesses him getting sliced in half by a sliding door controlled by Necros, you can see Bond’s emotional reaction. Keep in mind, this is at an amusement park. There are kids there with balloons and everything!

 

5. May Day goes to the car wash (A View To A Kill) 

There is something both sad and horrifying the way May Day sneaks up behind Tibbett, and chokes him out. The music is menacing. The last thing you would ever think about, while going through the car wash, is Grace Jones popping up from the backseat and killing you.

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4. Anytime Voodoo Snake Man is doing his thing (Live And Let Die)

Nothing else really needs to be said here.

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3. Corinne gets torn apart by Drax’s hounds from hell (Moonraker) 

Let me remind you that Moonraker is one of the most light-hearted Bond movies ever! But this scene is straight out of those creepy, horror movies of the 70s like The Exorcist or The Omen or Halloween. The music! The woods! Horrible way to die.

 

2. Bond wants Ruby; finds Irma Bunt instead (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) 

This may not be the second scariest moment in Bond history for many, but it has always creeped me out. Bond is looking for another fling with Ruby, but Irma Bunt is waiting for him in bed. And then you have Bond having some freaky Christmas hallucination after getting bonked on the head.

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  1. Milton Krest blows his top (Licence To Kill) 

Milton Krest is one of those scumbag secondary villains that deserves the death he gets. However, this one is rough as it is the goriest death in Bond franchise history. Franz Sanchez kicks Krest inside a decompression chamber and turns the pressure valve to the highest level. Then ruptures the vent with an axe. The rapid decompression causes Krest’s head to expand and then explode like a tomato in a microwave.

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Movie Review: LICENCE TO KILL

James Bond filmmakers have a history of reacting to current trends. For example, at the end credits of 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, it reads: JAMES BOND WILL RETURN in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. This of course never came to be. Why? Because in the summer of ’77, Star Wars became a sensation. Bond producer Cubby Broccoli decided to make the followup to TSWLM be Moonraker, because movies in outer space were all the rage.

So it wasn’t a surprise that 1989’s Licence To Kill dealt with one of the major current events at that time… the drug war. Put 007 up against a villain who is a mixture of Pablo Escobar and Manuel Noriega, set the plot to fit the gritty times, and you have Timothy Dalton’s 2nd and final turn as James Bond.

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Bond’s coolest moment? Being Sanchez’s houseguest and “innocently” convincing him that his underlings are trying to rob and undermine him.

Bond’s most embarrassing moment? Getting into a Hal Needham-style dive bar fight.

Bond’s best line? Sanchez: Problem solver? Bond: More of a problem eliminator. Followed by some diabolical laughter. 

Best acting performance? Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez takes a villain we’ve seen before in countless drug cartel films, and gives him some style and grace. Almost like a scumbag version of Bond. 

Bond’s #MeToo #TimesUp moment? Dalton’s Bond is pretty much a gentleman here. I guess him checking out Pam (Carey Lowell) getting out of her harbor master outfit would be the best example. To be honest, I’d be guilty of that too!

Worst line in the movie? If a “worst line” can also be the most entertaining line, it’s definitely how Benicio del Toro as Dario says “We gave her a nice honeymoooooooon.”

What I noticed for the first time after watching this for the 59th time? In the opening credits, it doesn’t state the name of the title song or its artist (Gladys Knight). I guess I always took this for granted.

Best action sequence? Quite a few to choose from, but I will go with the underwater action scene with Bond fighting Krest’s men, and then ends up water-skiing on the back of a plane. 

Who or what is the title song about? My hunch is that it’s from Bond’s perspective. He’s trying to impress a pretty lady by talking about his “licence to kill.”

Best looking cinematic moment? The pre-title sequence is a stunner, with Bond lowering down from a helicopter to hook Sanchez’s plane. You know it’s good when Christopher Nolan paid homage to it in the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises. 

How could the villain have succeeded? By not being an abusive boyfriend. Sanchez could have laid low and let Lupe go away. Instead, he becomes obsessive and gets back on the DEA’s radar.

Which other Bond actor could have starred in this movie? In many ways, Dalton’s failure as Bond was a test-drive for our current 007. So I think a modern Daniel Craig – Bond flick could work in LTK. 

Does Bond ever think he might die? James looks downright petrified on that cocaine conveyor belt. Rightfully so. Horrible way to die. Right Dario?

What would have made the movie better? Keeping the same hard edge throughout the film. Lose the campy bar fight, cut out the truck wheelies and other road hi-jinx, don’t cast Wayne Newton as the televangelist, and please don’t show the winking fish statue at the end.

What’s in a name? James Bond doesn’t go by any other names, but he does pretend to be looking for a great white shark for his employers at Universal Exports. 

What’s in a title? Licence to Kill comes from, of course, what Bond has. Interestingly enough, while this screenplay is original, some elements from Ian Fleming’s “Live And Let Die” and “The Hildebrand Rarity” are in LTK.

Drinking game: Drink a Budweiser with lime, each time Professor Joe Butcher says: “Bless your heart.” 

“WTF?!” moment: The easy answer here is the exploding head of Milton Krest, but instead I’m going to go with all the times Felix Leiter’s new bride Della kisses and flirts with best man James. Talk about Three’s Company! 

Fun fact: President Hector Lopez is played by Pedro Armendáriz Jr. His father played Kerim Bey in From Russia With Love

Overall ranking: 21st out of 24.

Review synopsis: Kudos to Timothy Dalton for giving audiences perhaps the first true portrayal of what Fleming intended the character to be. Unfortunately, it’s wasted in a Miami Vice/TV movie of the week masquerading as a Bond film. Make no mistake, this is still a very entertaining flick with some solid, intense action sequences. But in my opinion, 007 is at his best when dealing with international espionage and not going rogue to take down a drug kingpin.

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