Sunday, January 22, 2017
I really dug Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). It's got a lot to recommend it. Terrific action sequences, two great Bond women, it’s funny in all the right parts, and a villainous plot that’s forward looking and diabolical while also being not ludicrous. The movie is also steeped in some odd cultural artifacts of the 1990's, so that makes for some interesting viewing if you were around at the time.
Heck, it has a nerve-jangling pre-credits sequence that’s better than near any of the last ten or so films.
By the time I saw this movie, Jamie and I were dating, so we believe we saw this one in the theater together but can’t piece together when or how. But because I never saw the final two Brosnan movies – the reviews were scathing on both, and I was otherwise occupied – I never returned to watch this one again.
You’ll remember Tomorrow Never Dies as "the one with Michelle Yeoh" if you spent 1993-1995 writing "Mr. Michelle Yeoh" inside a heart in all of your school notebooks (which, ha ha, surely no one did. Cough.). Brosnan is back as Bond and seems more comfortable in the role. Dame Judy Dench continues as M, now giving Bond a lot more leash and verbally manhandling the British Navy. Our villain is Jonathan Pryce, who isn't reptilian or overly creepy, and that makes him oddly buyable as a motivated guy people would get behind. And, of course, the movie features one of the Loises of the 1990's, Teri Hatcher.
I was surprised to realize that, at least now, I liked this movie perhaps more than I’d enjoyed GoldenEye. The writing seemed to be on better footing from both a plotting and dialog perspective, and while Martin Campbell was not responsible for this film, he’d paved the way for what Bond could be like in the 1990’s context which director Roger Spottiswoode would continue to good effect.
Friday, January 20, 2017
If the idea of ending the Timothy Dalton experiment was to shore up the Bond franchise again, one can certainly make an argument that it worked. This was the Bond film that brought in Pierce Brosnan as Bond, got Martin Campbell in as a director, and more than anything else that would point toward what a modern Bond could be in tone - casting Dame Judy Dench as M.
I'm a little bit convinced that the rethinking that led to Casino Royale may well have come from what M reveals about Bond to his face in her brief appearance in the film. In a movie of very good moments, for a wide variety of reasons, Dench's scenes are the most grounded and somehow still the most engaging, and it's also the best Brosnan himself is at any point in the movie - and he's rather good throughout.
GoldenEye arrived in 1995 as The Age of the Blockbuster took a leap forward, and Bond was no longer to be an option on the marquee. Now, we all had to go see Brosnan, whom every American had pegged for the heir to the Bond throne from his first appearances on Remington Steele.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
So, this was one of the Bond movies I was absolutely positive I hadn't seen before. I would have been 14 when it came out, and for the life of me, I have no idea how I missed a Bond movie coming and going over the summer when I was that age, except for family vacations and summer camp colliding to make it difficult. I even remember reading about how this wasn't a typical Bond movie, and that sounded kind of interesting.
But, you know, it didn't work out. Never saw it.
Well, we finally arrived at the second and final Timothy Dalton Bond, and while I will go to the mat supporting Dalton, it's hard to know exactly what was going wrong as they put these things together, but it's an oddball of a movie, certainly. And you can see what they had in mind for this movie, and how the 1980's influenced everything about this movie rather than Bond influencing other action movies as it had once upon a time.
But at least Q actor Desmond Llewelyn got a tropical holiday out of it all.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
This movie doesn't have the best ratings, but there's a lot to like in The Living Daylights (1987). Maybe not everything is grand, and I feel like the back 40 minutes got away from them, but all in all, I enjoyed this the most of any Bond we've watched since For Your Eyes Only.
Look, I may like Roger Moore as much as the next person who grew up with him as Bond, but he made some very, very silly Bond movies (lest we forget Moonraker) and by View to a Kill, I was firmly believed this was a man who should not be running anywhere without a spotter, let alone that Tanya Roberts would be throwing herself at Grandpa Roger. That he did not openly wink at the camera seems somehow unbelievable.
I can't say I need my Bond more grounded. I love The Spy Who Loved Me, and that has a sneaky kidnapping boat and an undersea villain's layer. But I also want it to feel like maybe my Bond is not treating itself like a parody. And with The Living Daylights, we get back to what feels like good old fashioned international intrigue, a plot that holds together very well (if not entirely a mirror to our own world), and makes Bond feel like a secret agent rather than a gentleman who gets into ridiculous scrapes.
Thursday, December 29, 2016
On the social medias, Jake asked me if I thought Never Say Never Again was better than Octopussy, and I told him I'd think about it. I'm gonna go with "Octopussy is the clearly more fun of the two movies, but Never Say Never Again is the better-thought-out and probably smarter movie. Less clowns." But what I will say is that both are much better than Moore's final outing as 007, A View to a Kill (1985).
"But, Signal Watch," you say. "That's the first one I saw in the theater! It was fun! Christopher Walken!" Yes. Those are all *facts*. It's why you're nostalgic for this movie. But, my friends, I am sorry to say - this was not a great movie. In fact - it was a bad movie.
What it does have is a killer theme song, courtesy Duran Duran + John Barry. The video is a bit weird as Rhino didn't seem to have rights to anything but the song itself, so, no the video is not broken. Just wait til the 1:17 mark for audio.
As I mentioned with Octopussy, it feels as if View to a Kill was made for children, which is weird, because Bond is still humping his way across the Northern Hemisphere and killing people. So it's likely meant to be some entertainment Dad can take the kids to see and not feel too bad, and lord knows my mom dropped me and my brother off to see this one in the theater with no parental supervision.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Jamie wanted to finally see this rogue James Bond movie - and try as I might, I never quite remember the details of how this movie came to be. I know the ownership of the character - filmwise - was under contention or something, and that problem continued until they settled their differences and we got Casino Royale. So all's well that ends well.
But this film is not by the Brocollis or at MGM. As the film's credits rolled at the end, Talia Shire gets a special credit as a consultant to the producer, her husband, Jack Schwartzman. Always glad to see Talia Shire is keeping busy. And, of course, it starred a 53-year-old Sean Connery (really in terrific shape) coming back to the role that made him.
I was shocked to figure out I had never seen Never Say Never Again (1983), making this one of three I am positive I've never seen all the way through. Or, if I have seen it, I have totally forgotten it, but that seems marginally unlikely as I've realized here and there what I've seen before as we've gone along.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Of all the Bond movies, this is the one I'd argue is the one most made for 13-year-old boys. It's got James Bond fighting Russians, engaging with a circus, dressing as a clown, gorilla, roustabout and knife-thrower within about 45 minutes of runtime. There's an all-girl island, a castle escape and a submarine that looks like a crocodile.
Not maybe coincidentally, I think I liked this one a lot more when I was 13 than when I was 41.
And, of course, the lead of the movie is the titular Octopussy (1983), a name sure to drive everyone into peels of uncontrollable giggling.
This isn't, by any stretch, one of the best Bond movies, and it may be one of the least memorable Bond films in general. It has a couple of good set-pieces, and a few set-pieces that probably sounded better than they were in execution, but mostly the plot is a bit whispy and blandly convoluted.
Saturday, October 1, 2016
|somewhere, a visual design graduate student is madly scribbling about this poster in their thesis|
If memory serves, For Your Eyes Only (1981) was the first Bond movie I ever watched. I seem to recall my Dad watching it on television a couple years after it came out, probably around 1983, and I felt like I was watching exciting action meant for adults. After all, Star Wars did not feature guys on motorcycles with nails in the wheels or exciting ski chases.
I've seen the movie two or three times since then, and my general impression was "this is one of the better Bond films". I recall my delight at the tiny-yellow car in the car chase during my middle-school viewing of the movie and as scenes came up during this viewing, I was quite pleased to see the scenes pop up, because I'd forgotten them over time, washed away in a haze of Bond-ness.
But I really like this Bond film. For Your Eyes Only feels like a sane reaction to the excesses of Moonraker, maybe even feeling some influence from the Bond of the novels (of which I've only read two and am nowhere near an expert). The task Bond is sent on feels grounded very much in a possible reality - to figure out what happened to a sunken British boat that was carrying their secret encoder/ decoder for nuclear weapons comms. It's not "where's our spaceship?" And the flow between scenes isn't haphazard, there's a logical progression to the unfolding of the mystery.
Monday, September 26, 2016
I hadn't watched Moonraker (1979) since middle-school. My recollection of watching the movie included three things: the opening parachuting sequence (which is the best part of the movie), it had Jaws running around in it, and the ending feeling like it had been imported from a completely different franchise.
Straight up - I'm not sure that this is literally the worst Bond movie - finishing the series will tell me that. But this is my personal least favorite Bond movie as of this writing and has been since I saw it the one time previously.
All this is frustrating coming right on the heels of one of my favorite Bond movies (The Spy Who Loved Me), especially as they abandon the tone of danger and adventure with light comedy that movie employed and turn this movie, essentially, into a Roadrunner cartoon with Jaws in the role of Wile E. Coyote. It's kind of mystifying.
Monday, September 12, 2016
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) is one of my favorite Bond films. If I had a top 5 pre-Craig Bond films, this would be hovering right next to Goldfinger. It's peak Moore, when he's not just seemingly having a laugh in a tux, but he's funny as hell but still buyable in action sequences - of which this movie has some good ones. It has one of my favorite title sequences/ theme songs after Goldfinger with Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better", and the pre-title's opening is directly tied to character motivations later in the film (and it's a bad-ass ski-chase with the best ending to a ski chase on film!).
Sunday, July 3, 2016
The last time I remember watching The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) was during a summer sleep-over in middle school. At the time, my folks had a tent, and Peabo and I had the bright idea that we'd set up the tent in the backyard and sleep out there. Of course, this was summer in Texas, and about 9:00 someone figured out it was really hot in that tent, so we went inside to watch TV until it cooled off outside. The Man With the Golden Gun was just starting, we watched it, and then just slept inside, because camping in your yard makes no sense.
Flash forward to 2016: As the movie wrapped up this time, Jamie and I had differing opinions. This is more or less one of the better Moore movies, says I, and Jamie found it "very silly". I guess it boils down to how you feel about Sheriff JW Pepper, slide whistles and elaborate, carnival-like death traps. These things, of course, I take deadly seriously.
Bond is told a master-assassin, Scaramanga (Christoper F'in' Lee!) is gunning for him and is taken off his current case about a missing solar energy scientist. He goes after Scaramanga, tracking him around the planet, and it seems the two cases could be dovetailing.
The cast is an interesting ensemble. The aforementioned Christoper Lee, model/ actress Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaize (Tattoo from Fantasy Island) and some Bond stalwarts like Lois Maxwell. And, of course, Roger Moore.
The locations include Hong Kong and Thailand, and more than one person I've met has been to "James Bond Island" in Phuket.
I kind of dig the change of pace in this movie - that it's an equal to Bond picking a fight with him to see who's the better man. Of course, that gets an echo of sorts in Skyfall, but Javier Bardem didn't have a shooting gallery with a Roger Moore life-sized doll, did he? No. He did not.
This one features karate schools, a half-assed boat chase, an amazing car trick (completely undercut with highly questionable sound effects), lasers, and lots of good stuff. Including a flying car. Like, a legit flying car.
I dunno. I enjoyed it.
Monday, June 20, 2016
At the risk of sounding super creepy, what I really remembered from this movie was Jane Seymour. I knew I hadn't seen this one during my Bond-sprint post 7th Grade because I was totally shocked to find out, in high school, that Paul McCartney and Wings had offered up a song for a Bond movie when Guns N' Roses covered the song on Use Your Illusion I. While I'm certain I'd heard the Wings version, I don't think I'd ever quite put 2 and 2 together (because I could not have cared less about Wings until about that point).
When I was in college I lived in a dump of an apartment that happened to be (a) close to campus, (b) furnished and (c) featured cable. And, in that year ('94-'95), TBS started showing Bond movies on an infinite loop, and it was then that I finally saw Live and Let Die (1973). And, as a 19 year-old, it was kinda hard to ignore Jane Seymour, who I was mostly familiar with from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Somewhere in Time.
|"It shall be I and Yaphet Kotto that you will remember from this movie, for very different reasons!"|
But, as they say, I showed up for the Jane Seymour, I stayed for the bat-shit plotting and boat chases.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
This may be the true start of "silly Bond". Or, at least, a more lighthearted Bond franchise.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971) saw the return of Sean Connery to the role after the George Lazenby experiment (and, yes, we skipped On Her Majesty's Secret Service because we'd watched it just prior to starting on the chronological viewing of Bond films, but we'll get back around to it). He looks comfortable in the role, picking up the thread of revenge for the death of Diana Rigg at the conclusion of the prior movie. Oddly, it's not stated directly, but Bond tracks Blofeld to a secret lair where he manages to dispatch him before the credits even roll.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
We give You Only Live Twice (1967) the most prized of all Signal Watch awards: The Stefon (the award for the movie that has EVERYTHING).
After the frantic shenanigans of Goldfinger, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman clearly believed they were in some sort of race against The Devil who would consume their souls if they did not keep making bigger and crazier James Bond films. Thunderball went all over the place, winding up in a massive underwater battle and then out of control hydrofoil battle.
You Only Live Twice has:
Saturday, January 30, 2016
The Ipcress File (1965) is one of those movies you see mentioned a lot, especially in conjunction with the name "Michael Caine", but I'd never actually seen it, myself. Just as Bond movies were taking off, Bond producer Harry Saltzman decided to launch a competitor to Bond's sexy, sly cartoonish spy adventure and gave us a spy somewhere between Bond and George Smiley.* His world is not about bureaucracies being very sneaky against each other, nor is Harry Palmer going to drive a high end sports car with a smoke screen and rockets, either.
What really stood out for me, though, was that Harry Palmer - at least in this film (and he's in 3-5 films, depending on how you count them) - feels like a very real sort of person in comparison to James Bond. Chalk this up to Michael Caine's talents or a very clever script, but Harry Palmer is a semi-ne'er-do-well who is happy having a government check, finds all this easier than working for a living, and is riding out this "spy" gig he's got going on until the gravy train runs out. In the meantime, he peeps on people and doesn't particularly care for the rest of the rubbish paperwork.
Until he's changed offices and put on a real assignment.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
|this poster does a surprisingly good job of summing up the movie|
This was the one Bond movie that, even during the 7th grade sprint of renting Bond movies back to back all summer, somehow I never picked up. I don't know why. It's possible it was checked out. Even stranger, I always assumed I'd run into it on cable or at the Paramount during the summer, but it never showed, or I never came across it.
So, here in 2016, I finally watched the movie.
Unfortunately for me, I had triple-checked the plot of Thunderball (1965) over the years to make sure I really hadn't seen it, and - yes, that movies absolutely was the one where the guy crashes a Vulcan with two atomic bombs into the ocean near The Bahamas and ends with a wicked underwater fight.
Don't worry. If I had that spoiled for me over and over and still enjoyed the movie, you'll be fine.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
So, we just finished Goldfinger (1964), and I may have mixed myself a Vesper halfway through.
A Vesper is:
Shaken, not stirred. And operate no heavy machinery after enjoying one.
A Vesper is:
- 3 parts Gordon's Gin
- 1 part whatever Vodka I have around (Tito's. God bless Austin, TX)
- 1/2 part Lillet
- and a lemon twist
Shaken, not stirred. And operate no heavy machinery after enjoying one.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
As I mentioned in my chat on Dr. No, Jamie got us the "50 Years of Bond" BluRay boxed set for Christmas. We're fans of 007, and it looks like we're going to gradually make our way through the Bond movies in chronological order.
I should also mention, I'd seen this movie another time in recent years, but my comments were brief, to say the least.
It's amazing to see the jump from a sort of rough sketch of Bond movie we get with Dr. No (1962) to a full Bond film with From Russia With Love (1963). Of course, if you start in the Marvel Cinematic U, even the much-celebrated Iron Man that launched the whole enterprise feels a bit primitive in comparison to what we're now getting.*
This adventure sends Bond to Istanbul in 1963 as the Cold War is underway. SPECTRE has recruited a top SMERSH agent (Rosa Kleb, who has effectively defected to SPECTRE), but only the top Kremlin brass have that intel. This agent grabs one of the top SPECTRE prospects, played by Robert Shaw, to execute the plans given to her by the chief SPECTRE strategist. Their plan is... incredibly convoluted - but they'll have an attractive staffer at the Russian Embassy in Russia throw herself at Bond with the gift of a Russian code-device.
Friday, December 25, 2015
It's been so long since I've seen Dr. No (1962), and I remembered so little of it, that I'm calling this the first time I've seen the movie. I remembered a few things from the movie - the look of Dr. No, Ursula Andress and Quarrel, the local fellow who rightfully does not want to get all that mixed up in Bond's adventures.
For good or ill (for you people), Jamie's Christmas gift to me was a 2012 boxed set of "50 Years of Bond", so, yes, I now have every single Bond movie on BluRay, so you can probably expect we'll be looking at a lot of Bond over the next few months.
The timing isn't entirely coincidental (I just asked for confirmation on this). Jamie ordered the set partially because (a) she knows I've always liked Bond, and I've become more interested in Bond in recent years and (b) I was reading the books. Also, Jamie (almost) always likes Bond, so it's not like I need to wait for her to go to bed to put one of these movies on.
Friday, December 18, 2015
Reading the first two Bond books is a bit of an odd experience. This is still a Bond that's not yet been made into a film, and the books feel oddly slight, especially in comparison to the meandering nature of the typical Bond movie. I'm not sure if I should rehash that the Bond of the book, at this point, is not equipped with super-science gear or any of the trappings I think of when I consider my first exposure to Bond via the movie For Your Eyes Only. And after the exotic locales of the first book (to Americans, anyway), setting much of Live and Let Die in Harlem and then St. Petersburg, Florida is oddly pedestrian despite the death traps and odd goings on. But with the 3rd act change in scenery to Jamaica, it does move the action to a locale I readily associate with the Bond franchise and, of course, Ian Fleming's base of operations when writing his Bond novels.