Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bond Miscellany

Bromley. Patrick Bromley.

Last year around this time, we were all obsessing over James Bond leading up to the release of Skyfall and ran a series covering our favorite 007 movies. Well, it's November again, and I'm back to being deep in the throes of geeking out on Bond. Seems like a good time to revisit some of my picks for favorite and least favorite aspects of all things James Bond.

These choices may or may not reflect your own tastes. More likely "not."
Favorite Bond Movies
This list is fluid and totally subject to change. A year, six months, a week from now it might look totally different. There are some that will never make the list, but one of the things I like about the Bond franchise is how I can fall in and out of love with certain movies as I age and revisit them.

1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) I'm keeping this in the number one slot for now because it does so many things right. Forget Lazenby (who I should call LAZY-B), who isn't very good but isn't bad enough to ruin my favorite Bond movie. There is so much that's so great about this movie, which stands apart from the rest of the Bond films for a number of reasons (only one to star Lazenby, only one to be directed by stunt coordinator Peter Hunt, the only movie to have a purely instrumental theme, etc.). It has emotional stakes, great stunts, fights that feel real (when they're not being artificially sped up) and Diana Rigg.

2. From Russia With Love (196?) The second Bond movie is fast becoming my favorite, and even by the end of this kick I'm on could easily end up unseating OHMSS. Great in every way, and very much the template for every Bond movie I really love.

3. The Living Daylights (1987) Every time I watch this one, it goes higher up my list. It's never going to be my favorite, but I really do love it. That's ironic, because growing up I thought this was the "boring" of the two Dalton Bonds -- proof that I was too young to appreciate all of the things that The Living Daylights does well and even greater proof that Licence to Kill is made for 12-year olds.
4. Goldfinger (1964) - If aliens landed on Earth and wanted to see the best single example of everything that makes a James Bond movie, this is the one I would show them. As JB has pointed out, this is the installment that bridges the "two Bonds" -- the gritty espionage action of Dr. No and From Russia With Love and the comic book bombast of You Only Live Twice and most of Roger Moore's run. Great villain, great title song, arguably the best Bond girl and lots of larger-than-life stuff that borders on camp, it's grounded just enough to keep it from becoming completely ridiculous.

5. Skyfall (2012) - Yes, this is the newest Bond movie and the one I've lived with the least, so there is every possibility that it falls out of the top five in the future. I'm still riding the high, though, of a Bond movie that plays like a "greatest hits" of so many things I love about the series while getting rid of a lot of the jokey one-liners I like less than other fans. I know that Sean Connery IS James Bond, but Daniel Craig continues to be my favorite. Unlike past Bonds (save maybe for Timothy Dalton), being a secret agent doesn't just feel like part of a lifestyle for Craig. It feels like HIS LIFE. He is a bullet just waiting to be pointed at the thing that needs to be killed. I love that.

Worst Bond Movies I Love

1. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) Loving Bond means having to love some of the goofy installments, and there might not be a goofier Bond movie than this one. Notice I said "goofy" and not "retarded," which is why Moonraker won't make any lists. Though Britt Eklund's character is insultingly awful, it's hard to argue with the one-two combo of her and Maude Adams, and Christopher Lee is terrific as the three-nippled assassin Scaramenga. I also love the theme song by LuLu (imitating Shirley Bassey). It's the perfect complement to this ridiculous movie. Fuck you.
2. The World is Not Enough (1999) The problem with the first three Brosnan Bond movies isn't that they are bad (they're not), but that they are generic. It's difficult for me to distinguish GoldenEye from Tomorrow Never Dies from The World is Not Enough. The latter is probably the lest respected of those three films, primarily because of Denise Richards and all the terrible Christmas puns. Fair enough, those are garbage. But I don't think Denise Richards (playing an astrophysicist, because HOW DARE SHE, RIGHT EVERYONE??) is a dealbreaker. First of all, those shorts are adorable. Second, she's not even in the movie that much. And the other stuff is good, like Sophie Marceau as the bad Bond Girl, or Robert Carlyle as the villain who can't feel pain. It's still the third-best of the Brosnan movies, but I like it.

3. A View to a Kill (1985) This one gets sentimental points because it's the Bond movie on which I grew up. It was the one that showed on cable all the time -- well, this and Never Say Never Again. This was the one with the theme song from a band I knew and a cool music video to go along with it. As an adult, I enjoy it for all the reasons that have nothing to do with Roger Moore, who embarrasses himself playing Bond at 57. There's Grace Jones, there's Dolph Lundgren, there's Christopher Walken, there's a blimp, there's Tanya Roberts visibly trying to remember her lines. This would win the title for the Most '80s Bond if not for Licence to Kill four years later.
Worst Bond Movies I Don't Love

1. Die Another Day (2002) No contest. Even the worst of the Roger Moore movies can't compete with this miserable drag, which can't even be enjoyed as a parody of Bond movies even though it mostly behaves like one. Every time a Bond run gets this shitty, it demands a reset. Hence, Casino Royale -- the only good thing to come out of this garbage movie.

2. Octopussy (1983) I can forgive and even enjoy a lot of the terrible Roger Moore Bond movies. Not this one. It's so fucking lifeless and boring.

3. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) After taking a one-movie break, Sean Connery returned for one more terrible James Bond movie. He should have stayed retired. He's bored, the movie is dumb. I don't like Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) or her stupid up-do. This is the movie that ruins Connery's legacy as Bond, enough that he had to come back to play the role one more time in Never Say Never Again. But the real reason for that is so he could make a bunch of money and stick it to Cubby Broccoli.

Favorite Bond Theme Songs

1. "You Only Live Twice" by Nancy Sinatra
2. "Nobody Does it Better" by Carly Simon
3. "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey
4. "Skyfall" by Adele
5. "A View to a Kill" by Duran Duran
6. "Tomorrow Never Dies" by Sheryl Crow
7. "Thunderball" by Tom Jones
8. "The World is Not Enough" by Garbage

Bond Theme Songs No One Likes But Me

1. "Another Way to Die" by Jack White & Alicia Keyes
2. "Licence to Kill" by Gladys Knight
3. "The Man With the Golden Gun" by LuLu

Worst Bond Theme Songs

1. "Die Another Day" by Madonna
2. "All Time High" by Rita Coolidge
3. "Moonraker" by Shirley Bassey

Favorite Bonds in Order

1. Daniel Craig - We'll see if he stays at the top after a few more movies, but his take on the character remains my favorite.
2. Sean Connery
3. Timothy Dalton
4. Pierce Brosnan
5. George Lazenby
6. Roger Moore

Favorite Bond Girls

1. Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), Goldfinger
2. Tanya Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), From Russia With Love
3. Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), GoldenEye
4. Theresa Di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg), On Her Majesty's Secret Service
5. Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), Dr. No
6. Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), Tomorrow Never Dies
7. Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), Casino Royale

Least Favorite Bond Girls

1. Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson), For Your Eyes Only
2. Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts), A View to a Kill
2. Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), Diamonds are Forever
3. Jynx (Halle Berry), Die Another Day
4. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), Moonraker

Bond Movies That Are Growing On Me

1. You Only Live Twice (1967)
2. Quantum of Solace (2008)
3. Dr. No (1962)

Bond Movie That Will Probably Never Grow On Me

1. Live and Let Die (1973)


  1. Wait, wait, wait....your Bond actor list is in the correct order! WHAT DARK MAGIC IS THIS?!? (Sue me, Lazenby and his sex kilt are growing on me.)

  2. As A View to a Kill came up the other day in Adam's column about movie songs, I thought to myself "wow, isn't this interesting, SMM just ended, and here we are talking about Bond, just like last year."

    Anyway,These are pretty much all spot on. About the only choice I see that I would change is that I haven't seen The Living Daylights, so I would probably replace it in my top Bond movies list with Goldeneye, the best of the Brosnan Bonds, I think. I also would add Live and Let Die to the list of best Bond songs. The movie may not be the best, but I love the song. Otherwise, I think I agree with everything else here. Good work!

    1. That might have been what instigated my Bond kick. Or the fact that it's November, and that's the time for Bond.

      GoldenEye is my favorite of the Brosnon Bonds, too. You really should see The Living Daylights. It has a fairly terrible villain (Joe Don Baker), but it's really great.

      I like "Live and Let Die" as a song, but not as a Bond theme. Weird, right? It's also how I feel about "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell.

    2. I think I can understand your stance on "Live and Let Die" and "You Know My Name." If nothing else, they're both great songs on their own.

    3. Also, since it has your endorsement, I will make it a point to seek out The Living Daylights.

  3. The more I rewatch the Bond films the bigger a fan of Dalton’s portrayal of him I become; The Living Daylights is easily my favourite film in the franchise now. I love how different his relationship with Kara is from how he normally treats the women around him and the action sequences are top notch. From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty's Secret Service would round out my top three.

    I’m in total agreement with you about You Only Live Twice having the best theme and Die Another Day having the worst and also being the absolute dregs as a film too. It’s just truly awful from start to finish and Halle Berry plays one of the most unlikable good guys I’ve ever seen.

    The one that doesn’t do it for me too much anymore is Goldfinger. I know that is sacrilege to say, but for the film with the most famous theme tune one of the most recognisable villains, probably the most well known henchman, and that set the template that many after followed, it just leaves me a bit cold nowadays and is one of the films I have the least interest to revisit.

    1. We have the same top three! Just in a different order.

      Haven't gotten around to rewatching Goldfinger on this run yet. I'm going to keep your words in my head as I do, and I'm curious what another viewing will reveal. Like I said, our relationships with these movies are fluid, so I think it's totally normal to drift away from one and maybe towards another.

  4. Have you ever typed in a long-ass post, filled with witty bon mots and shattering insights, only to hit "publish" and have it vanish? So here's the abbreviated version:

    Disagree on "Moonraker." Terrible movie, lush and lovely song.
    Disagree on Connery being bored in Diamonds Are Forever. Don't get me wrong, it's not a very good movie. But Connery is much more charming and easygoing here than in You Only Live Twice, where I think he really was bored (and just plain tired of the role at that point).
    Agree on not bashing Denise Richards. Also, The World is Not Enough has another great theme song.
    You're not the only one who likes the song "License to Kill." It's awesome, and Gladys Knight sings the hell out of it.
    Agree on Timothy Dalton - one of my all-time favorite scenes is his with Kara after the death of the fellow agent at the amusement park. He's so pissed off, but has to keep his composure to keep her in the dark. Let me also say that "If There Was A Man" by The Pretenders is a great unsung Bond theme, along with "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Ban" from Thunderball.

    Viva Bond!

    1. My problem with the song "Moonraker" is that it feels kind of sleepy. It has neither the punch nor the theatricality of the Bond themes I like. But the songs are just like the movies -- we all want something different out of them -- so I totally understand why you like it.

      I'll watch Diamonds are Forever again, but I just feel like EVERYONE is bored in that movie.

      It's nice to see that Timothy Dalton is finally being reevaluated and getting respect as Bond. I think it took Daniel Craig for everyone to realize that Dalton was really on to something.

      I also like Blondie's take on "For Your Eyes Only," which is also one of the few Roger Moore Bonds I can tolerate.

  5. Just as a kawinky-dink, I was re-watching SKYFALL this past week. I know it's an unfair advantage that Roger Deakins has over the earlier films, but SKYFALL is so beautifully photographed; really makes it stick in my memory.

    1. (Insert standard Oscars Are Crap rant here) but it's still a damn shame that Roger Deakins has never won one. That shot in Skyfall of James looking over the valley toward the end brings a catch to my throat every time.

    2. Seconded. And didn't Life of Pi win? I still haven't seen it, but I know people say it is very beautiful. Still, I don't think you should win if you created many-to-most of your shots in a computer after the fact.

  6. I like Another Way to Die as well. The vocals are a bit shrieky but the instrumental is brilliant.

    1. Yes! We have to stick together. I think if the chorus was more melodic it would be more well-liked. I love the energy of the intro and the way it feels modern without compromising being a Bond song (a la "Die Another Day").

    2. I've always liked the song to a degree also, and admired its pushing of the envelope, but thought the R&B crooning and "shoot 'em up, bang bang" interjections were ultimately detrimental to said envelope. So, I fan-edited it to focus on the good stuff, and am much more pleased with the result. Check it out if you like!

  7. I don’t think Quantum of Solace will ever grow on me & will always be just an OK Bond movie. I agree with the critics that it’s way too much like a Jason Bourne movie with the running across rooftops, shaky cam, and super serious tone. The worst part is that Marc Forster doesn’t have Paul Greengrass’s talent to make the shaky cam action & rapid cut editing action scenes look coherent or intense. There is barely any fun in it.

    I will say Another Way to Die should get more respect.

    1. Even it becoming an OK Bond movie is proof that it is growing on me, because it started as less than that for me.

  8. Hey Patrick wanted to add a few comments on your Bond list. I am with you on liking A View to a Kill, its kinda ridiculous but has a fun energy to it with Walken's villainous Lex Luthor like plan to blow up the coast, also the stuntmen in this movie are basically in every shot that not either a close up or a scene of Moore tapping his grand daughter's model friend.

    I'm actually with you on the theme songs for Licence to Kill and Quantum of Solace (one of very few things I like about Quantum of Solace) the songs are great. As for Licence to Kill I actually think this movie is pretty good as an 80's action movie but is totally wrong as a Bond movie, it really feels like this script wasn't written with Bond in mine. Hell just change the character of Bond to an american cop who's getting revenge for his friend and the film makes a lot more sense.

    As for worst bond movies I'm with you on Die Another Day, I have a guilty pleasure for Octopussy, I nearly die everytime I see him crawl out of that alligator and finally the worst Bond is Moonraker, in fact that's my punishment for my kids when they are bad. "Its Moonraker time Billy and you've gotta do a 1000 word report afterwards, that will teach you not to hit your sister."

    1. That's a great point about Licence to Kill. It's not that it's a bad movie. It just feels like everyone was reacting to the '80s and trying to turn Bond into Miami Vice. It's not a great fit. But as a non-Bond movie, it's fine.

  9. Warning: longish post ahead. :)

    Can the Skyfall critical re-appraisal please begin now? I love Craig and Dench, but it bored me to tears. I can appreciate a truly great slow movie (say, Zodiac), but what is there to like in this movie besides the eye-popping photography? Bond fails to retrieve the list because he disobeyed a direct order to try tending to the dying agent. This means the murders of the undercover agents Silva outed are in large part his fault. Then he sexes up a longtime sex slave, Q decides it's a good idea to plug a master hacker's laptop into his own system, Silva somehow overpowers two armed guards who have every reason to shoot him the minute his cell door opens, and Bond decides to take M to an isolated spot, not call for help from other agents (too bad they're not in Britain or anything), and not discreetly stash M in a country inn along the way. Oh, and then M leaves a perfectly good secret tunnel and lets her companion wave a flashlight around in the dark in the middle of an assault. And this all takes some forty minutes longer than Casablanca to tell. Look, I get it, the movie looked beautiful, and people were in the mood for a great Bond flick after Quantum and the many production delays. But I think anyone who says this movie is any less of a mess than Star Trek into Blahness or The Amazing Spider-Man is kidding themselves... and the latter at least had awesome performances by Garfield and Stone.

    As for Bond's future, I frankly demand to learn more about him as a character. Since Skyfall made such a big deal about his aging and not being as invincible as he used to be, fine, let's actually address the subject instead of coyly circling it: does he ever think about retiring, or what he'll do if he's made to? If he ever does, will he just hang around in tropical locales, fooling around with booze and women on a permanent basis? Will he still be chasing thirty-something tail with his cane and bad back?

    The Brosnan-era movies made occasional references to the character's history as a British Navy officer; I assume the Craig Bond has some military background also. Does he have no friends or ties left from his Navy days? Does he ever want a family? Does he ever hang out with any other MI6 agents socially, or even at work (apart from briefings and the like)? Or is he just a soulless, "high functioning sociopath" with no interests whatsoever apart from whatever's bothering M and Britain at the moment?

    Because frankly, I just didn't care whether Bond lived or died throughout Skyfall. Instead of accepting M's view of him as a disposable tool as an inherent part of the job, as he seemed prepared to do in Casino Royale, he acted all childishly petulant about it, and again, the loss of the undercover agents list was on him. So, yeah, it'd be nice to care about Bond again, and some solid character work could help greatly in that regard.

    My Bond Top Five Flicks:
    5. Casino Royale
    4. The Tailor of Panama
    3. The Matador
    2. The Thomas Crown Affair
    1. Mission: Impossible II

    I'm not sorry. :P

    1. I agree with your assessment of Skyfall. The first half was basically a remake of Mission: Impossible (1996) and the second half was Home Alone. Also how was Bond completely fine after what happened in the pre-credit sequence. He gets shot and falls hundreds of feet into a rushing river to his death? Then we see him chilling out hardly the worse for wear a couple of scenes later. Sure it's a Bond movie, but the audience is supposed to think holy crap did he die? Nope, next scene nary a word is spoken about it and he is out on a beach drinking cocktales. I think a better film would have had him dealing with his injuries or continued that opening story more.

      My Bond Top Five: no particular order
      Dr. No
      From Russia with Love
      On Her Majesties secret Service

      Others I really enjoy:
      The Man With the Golden Gun
      The World Is Not Enough
      The Living Daylights
      Casino Royale

    2. @El Gaith: I notice you love Pierce Brosnan, but not any of his Bond movies? I'm confused. And where was Mamma Mia!?

      I don't agree about Skyfall. I just rewatched it to make sure I still really like it and I do. It's certainly more slowly paced than a lot of blockbusters, but never boring (to me, anyway). I would argue that it is a character piece about what it's like to be James Bond. It's the best-looking, best-acted James Bond movie ever, and while the script has some big problems (Silva's plans are ridiculous acts of convenience), it's still smart and even poetic. It does a great job at honoring everything that's classic about the series while still feeling contemporary. And even though it owes a LOT to The Dark Knight, it doesn't make the mistake of trying to be the "gritty" Bond. That was Quantum of Solace.

      I can't convince anyone to like it. But since a reassessment was called, I did my own. I still think it's terrific.

    3. Seems we disagree on Skyfall's pacing and story merits. That's cool, but I honestly don't know what you mean when you call it "smart". Its intellectual core is the moment M tells the hearing the world has grown more dangerous since the Cold War. Really? The world very narrowly avoided nuclear devastation multiple times due to flocks of geese or whatever, and now that the West is on cordial if somewhat awkward terms with Russia, making a full-out nuclear exchange far less likely, our current times are more dangerous... because Spanish Julian Assange can kill a few of your people by taking advantage of a ridiculous digital defect in your building's plumbing? Seems to me that M and her people should have anticipated that weakness, and that those deaths are, again, in large part her fault. Also, and I know this is a total nitpick, but Eve's huge frizzy hair bothered the crap out of me. No, you don't get to be a field agent with that much hair. No, no, no. :P

      I recently re-watched Goldeneye, and agree it's the best Brosnan Bond by far (and the only good one, frankly), no doubt especially because the story was conceived as a Dalton one. But I think the franchise has a serious problem in its reason to continue existing, starting with Tomorrow Never Dies, namely: what use are white spies anymore? The Mission: Impossible series sidesteps this by being unapologetic fantasies, but the Bond films, apart from Die Another Day, keep trying to keep one foot in reality, and it's just not working for me. I want to see a movie about a 00 agent of Middle Eastern ancestry infiltrate Iran, or a Korean-British 00 go solo into Pyongyang in order to get a defector out. Casino Royale benefited enormously from a fairly small-scale story, but then the farcically international and high-ranking Quantum organization of the next movie didn't work for me one bit. M was absolutely right to say that on-the-ground operatives are still needed... just not ones that look like Daniel Craig, is all. ;)

    4. I agree that it has plot issues, but I think it's smart about being a Bond movie. But we may disagree on what we want out of the Bond franchise or how we feel about it. I think they've always been fantasies, too, and show very little concern about the real world of spies and political espionage. They have always existed in "James Bond World" as far as I'm concerned, which is its own separate reality. This may explain why I'm able to overlook certain aspects that you have a problem with.

  10. I would like to know your favorite open credit sequences. They're almost always good, even if the movie is bad.

    The opening credits of Octopussy sort of saves All Time High for me. I don't like the song much, but play it in that context and suddenly it's a pretty okay song. Not great, I never said great, but okay. I kind of have a man-crush on Maurice Binder, and while I don't find Daniel Kleinman's work nearly as compelling, I do like his stuff.

    1. Without a doubt my favorite Bond credit sequence is For Your Eyes Only. Maurice had a huge crush on Sheena Easton, and having her in the credits inspired him to do some fantastic work.

      Other great sequences include You Only Live Twice (great use of Japanese iconography), The Spy Who Loved Me (I think the first use of a gun barrel as gymnastics bar), A View to a Kill (dayglo madness!), and GoldenEye (I just love those women smashing commie statues to bits).

      Skyfall is pretty damn awesome, too. You could watch that sequence 20 times and see something new each time.

    2. I have a hard time remembering which is which, to be honest. I always enjoy them as an institution, but a lot of them run together. I know I'm a fan of the credits to The Spy Who Loved Me, and rewatching Skyfall reminded me that those are pretty cool.

    3. If you have the Five Decades of Bond set (and of course you do) and about an hour to kill (maybe you don't) the bonus disc has all the opening credits as a single program. This allows you a fun little sit through what are essentially the most expensive student films ever made. We won't mention how much nudity is included, because we're classier than that, but WOW! These managed to keep their PG rating? It was a simpler time.

  11. I'll pile-on the admiration for "The Living Daylights." I saw it growing up in a double-feature with, of all movies, "Innerspace." While Craig has had the benefit of three movies with the development time, budgets and directorial talent (Mendes, Campbell, etc.) to establish his Bond, Timothy Dalton had to do it all by himself on a film that inherited the old Roger Moore crew from EON (John Glen directing, Maibaum and Wilson screenwriting, etc.) that essentially had him as an international NARC. That's a downgrade of sorts from the usual 'world existence is at stake' plots from the earlier Bond flicks, but that to me is sort of the appeal of "The Living Daylights." These are like the average bad guys Bond and British Secret Service had to deal with when they didn't have to keep the Russians from taking over Eastern Europe or SPECTRE from trying to destroy the world. An average day at the office, if you will.

    Combined with Dalton's controlled intensity and down-in-the-trenches dirty fighting contrasted with the character's obvious intelligence and 'jenesequa,' the still-reliable work family (the old Q and M, a link to the past, alongside a pretty new Moneypenny), the freshness of not having uncle Roger around, John Barry going all-out for his last score for the series (his best, IMHO) and a couple of truly stunning action set pieces (the airplane fight, the Rock of Gibraltar car stunt) and you have a pretty peachy, fun and well-made Bond adventure that, sadly, served out to work out the kinks on the series to pave the way for the Brosnan era rather their own mini-series. "Licence To Kill" was such a departure from the Bond canon (forced mostly by budget limitations and the need to compete with the then-hot action flicks Hollywood was fast-tracking) that "The Living Daylights" truly feels like an almost-perfect one-off.

    Imagine Timothy Dalton starring in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." Man, that would easily be the best Bond movie ever. :-(