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Archive for October, 2012

Growing up in England my first sporting love is football, I started watching American football when it was first show on British TV in the 80’s. Then a few years later a few years later I started watching NBA basketball. Now I only ever watch occasionally and then only the big the big games. But one American I watch at every opportunity is baseball. I started watching it in the late 90’s on TV but really fell in love with the sport a few years ago when I went to my first game, San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks at AT & T Park. By a mixture of luck and judgement I had a fantastic seat between home plate and first Base and was lucky enough to sit next to a season ticket holder who helped fill in the gaps in my knowledge of the game. Up until this point I had never affiliated myself to one particular team but suddenly became a Giants fan. As the season progressed and they finished with a record of 72–90 putting them fourth in the NL West I suddenly realised I was following a rubbish team.

The following season was a little better with Tim Lincecum who I had seen in the game I had been to the year before emerging as a top pitcher and taking a well deserved place in the All-Star Game. The highlight of the season came against the San Diego Padres when Jonathan Sánchez threw a near perfect “ no-hitter”. 2010 look liked like it would be more of the same, trailing the San Diego Padres most of the season, they did however come through to National League Western Division. They went on to defeated the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, Philadelphia Phillies in the Championship Series and the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Maybe I had picked a decent team to follow after all.

This season has gone the same way, trailing to their old rivals the LA Dodgers. Just as things where starting to pick up they lost star player (and MVP at the All-Star Game) Melky Cabrera to a drug suspension. Then from august onwards everything seemed to go well as went on to win the division. The division series didn’t start well going down in the first two games against Cincinnati before coming back to win the next three games in Ohio. They started the same in the championship series going 3-1 down after for games to was years champions the St Louis Cardinals. They came back winning the next three games giving up just one run to set up a best of seven World Series against the Detroit Tigers. After coming from behind and facing six elimination games in the play-offs so far the Giants have started in style winning the first three games including back to back shutouts in games two and three. Needing just one win in the four possible remaining games its looking good for my adopted team.

So why all this talk of baseball on a movie blog? As mentioned in previous posts baseball is the most cinematic of sports and baseball movies are the reason I started watching the sport. More specifically Kevin Costner baseball movies.

Bull Durham (1988): Journeyman Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is employed by a minor league baseball team to help educate their hotshot rookie pitcher Ebby LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a player destined for the major-league if he can learn to control his erratic pitching. The pair don’t exactly hit it off, the problem is exacerbated by the presence of Annie (Susan Sarandon). This is the movie that first sparked my interest in baseball. The casting is perfect with genuine chemistry between the three leads and the right blend of comedy and drama. it’s a sports movie that knows which clichés to embrace and which to avoid.

Field of Dreams (1989): “If you build it, he will come” Iowa farmer Ray Kinchella (Kevin Costner) is compelled by voices he hears in his cornfield to build a baseball diamond on his land. Before long the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson and his team-mates banned in the 1919 Black Sox scandal (see Eight Men Out above) come to play there. On paper Field of Dreams a cheesy and pointless movie, in practice it is cinema perfection that gets better every time I see it.

For Love of the Game (1999): Costner plays Billy Chapel, a forty year old pitcher in his nineteenth season with the Detroit Tigers. While pitching in the final game of the season against New York we flashback to his career and his on-and-off relationship. It soon becomes evident that this will probably be his final game and it could well be a perfect game. Made by people (Director Sam Raimi as well as Costner) who clearly do love the game. Unfairly overlooked, it isn’t as good as a movie as his other two movies but it gives a very different prospective.

All three of his movies feature very different characters with varying relationships to baseball; Crash Davis is a Journeyman in the minor leagues, he operates as a catcher and mentor for a rookie pitcher, he is also closing in on the minor league record for career home runs. Ray Kinsella is a fan of the sport obsessed with the beauty and history of the game. Billy Chapel is a major-league star, prominently a starting pitcher. As he plays for the Detroit Tigers in the American League who adopt the designated hitter rule it is unlikely he spends much time at bat. I would love to see another Costner Baseball movie, at 57 he is clearly too old to make another movie as a player but there is lots of scope to play a coach or scout.

Back to 2012 World Series, game four is set for later today with remaining games on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday if needed, lets hope they are not!

 

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When I was a kid (from the age of around five) The Dukes of Hazzard was my favourite program on TV. It was therefore no great surprise that when as a family we got our first VCR I gravitated to a certain type of movie. I don’t know what to call it, a genre or sub genre I guess, I’m not sure if anyone has ever given it a name. Sometimes B movies, others were high grossing blockbusters. Usually featuring bootleggers, truckers and small town sheriffs and nearly always set in America’s southern states. Typically the men (it is a very male genre) are simple talking, rough tough men with rough edges but a heart in the right place. The characters often spent their time just the wrong side of the law or taking the law into their own hands. These films were all made in the 70’s and they belong in the 70’s, there have been attempts to recreate the style many times but they don’t really work in the modern era. Quentin Tarantino has given us a nod at the genre but Strangely Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson has probably come closest with the remake of Walking Tall and Faster, but you have to go back to the original movies of the 70’s to appreciate the genre.

Although it’s a 70’s genre its roots go back before that to films like the Robert Mitchum bootlegger classic Thunder Road (1958). Mainstay of 70’s cinema and the genre, Burt Reynolds stars as Bobby “Gator” McKlusky in White Lightning (1973). Reynolds plays a moonshine runner who is let out of prison to help bring down a corrupt sheriff (Ned Beatty) who was responsible for the death of his younger brother. Cars are an important part of the genre and this movie is no exception. Gator’s vehicle isn’t an exotic sport car but a working class hero, a suitably anonymous muscle car, a souped up Ford Custom 500. From the same year Last American Hero sees a young Jeff Bridges as Elroy Jackson Jr. a character based on real life moonshiner turned NASCAR driver Junior Johnson. Also from ‘73 the original Walking Tall stars Joe Don Baker and is loosely based on the life of Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser who cleans up his small town at great personal cost. Forget the remake and watch the classic original.

An underrated actor, Jan-Michael Vincent. Is probably best know in the UK for the TV show Airwolf, his first entry on this list is in White Line Fever (1975). Returning home from Vietnam and setting himself up as an independent truck driver that predates Convoy by three years. A lot of the movie is of its time, but the themes of fighting against corruption and oppression are timeless.  I started by talking about The Dukes of Hazzard, Moonrunners (1975) was actually the origin on the TV show: directed by Dukes of Hazzard creator Gy Waldron, the Balladeer (Waylon Jennings) introduces us to cousins, Grady and Bobby Lee Hagg, who run moonshine for their Uncle Jesse. A lot of the elements of the movie were toned down for the family friendly TV show but were reinstated for the (rubbish) 2005 movie. Although fictional Moonrunners was inspired by the life of bootlegger turned stock car racer Jerry Rushing. Rushing was a contemporary of and raced against Junior Johnson mentioned above. The movie is dated but worth a look for fans of the genre. I’m not aware of it ever being released on DVD and the hard to find VHS copies date from the early 80’s but you can find it streaming online with the claim it is now in the public domain.

Burt Reynolds returned in Gator (1976) a sequel to White Lightning, with a similar story to the first movie it is very much a case of more of the same, it is most notable as Reynolds first feature as a director. Continuing the theme of returning Vietnam veterans, Rolling Thunder (1977) is the story of Major Charles Rane (William Devane) a former POW who returns home to a small town in Texas. A brutal revenge drama the movie has more in common with Walking Tall than the other films on the list. It is also one of the best movies from the ever reliable William Devane and an early film role for Tommy Lee Jones.  Possibly the most well known movies of the genre Smokey and the Bandit (1977) was a huge hit and spawned two sequels and countless imitators. A lighter more fun and comic film than the others mentioned, the movie is basically one big car chase from Texas to Georgia. Reynolds may be the star of the movie but Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice has all the best lines and steels the movie from under him.

Reynolds was back again in Hooper (1978) reunited with Smokey and the Bandit director Hal Needham and co-star Sally Field. It also featured Jan-Michael Vincent. Although very different to the other movies I have mentioned in story and setting, it has the same spirit of character as many of them so I felt compelled to include it. Reynolds plays a veteran stuntman and Vincent the new up and coming rival. It is as much a story of an end of an era as it is a tribute to movie stuntmen. Very fitting as Reynolds and director Hal Needham both began their careers as stuntmen. Is Convoy (1978) an attempt to cash in on the CB radio craze of the time? Or a protest at the 55 MPH speed limit? Or even an exploration of equality or race? Its probably a combination of all three. Like Hooper above it is also the story of an end of an era, and this is the speciality of director Sam Peckinpah. Kris Kristofferson and Ali MacGraw are perfectly cast, but the real star is Ernest Borgnine.

By the 80’s the genre was dead having become a pastiche of itself with movies like The Cannonball Run. But we still have a whole decade of movies to enjoy and to remind us the 70’s was about more than New Hollywood, Jaws and Star Wars.

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A few months ago I wrote an article about how “I Miss Celluloid” since my local multiplex has moved over to digital projection. Two things got me thinking about that article this week. I went to see On the Road, arriving at the cinema during the adverts but before the trailers. The image was strangely small and off centre. I pointed this out to a member of staff and was told he would fix it. The trailers started and nothing was done so I told someone else and was told ten others had brought this to their attention and it had been fixed, the image would revert to normal during the film. Then the film started a full twenty minutes after I had first made them aware of the problem. A few others got up to go and explain the situation, at which point a member of staff came in and said that they would have to restart the projector to fix the problem. This took 20 minutes. I am happy to report all was well after this.

Now I know film has had its problems and the films used to break or get stuck and burn but to be honest having watched thousands of traditionally projected films I have never seen any of those things happen. But having seen around two hundred digitally projected films it has gone wrong in a similar way to this four times. Realistically a 2% failure rate on what is essentially a new technology isn’t bed and I am probably me been unfair.

I tweeted “Is digital projection really the future? It seems to go wrong a lot more than film ever did.”

@LambThe reminded me “Its not that strange analog film has a long history and less variables than digital projecting so I don’t think its strange”

And @matinee_ca said “Films used to break, burn, bulbs blew out. I don’t think it’s proportionately higher with digital.”

The second thing was Ryan McNeil from The Matinee’s review of the documentary Side by Side. The film explores the production and exhibition of both traditional and digital movies. I look forward to seeing this movie and see it as a good companion piece to The Last Projectionist that I saw earlier this year.

I’m not a total Luddite, I can see the good things about digital projection I just hate the assumption that new is better than old.  Change isn’t always progress and doesn’t always equate to improvement. My real objection probably has nothing to do digital v photochemical it is the lack of a projectionist or staff member to take responsibility for projection and ensuring films are displayed properly. 

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Heather over at Man I Love Films has published a list of her “TOP TEN FAVORITE POST-APOCALYPTIC MOVIES” I started replying but soon realised it was just a list of other movies that I would recommend, so I decided to post my own alternate list instead. As an alternate list I have avoided all the films heather chose, The Mad Max Trilogy, 28 Days Later, 12 Monkeys, Children of Men would all have made my list. Escape From New York may have made the list and Reign of Fire would have been worthy of an honourable mention. As anyone who listens to Wittertainment (if you don’t know what Wittertainment is google it) knows, Post Apocalyptic is an oxymoron as there is no “post apocalypse”, after an apocalypse there is nothing! So putting that cheery prospect aside we will continue to use the term Post Apocalyptic as it is the accepted name of this sub genre.

Planet of the Apes (1968) Everyone knows all about Planet of the Apes, most people have seen at least one of the movies and many know the twist at the end, but go back and watch it again and remind yourself just how great it is.

Death Race 2000 (1975) I saw this movie when I was very young, too young! I loved it at the time but didn’t really get it. Following a financial crisis and a military coup United States has become a fascist police state. The most popular sport is the Annual Transcontinental Road Race, a race where drivers score points for killing pedestrians as they race from coast to coast. The acting is terrible and the production cheep, but it has aged surprisingly thanks to a simple subtext that makes it an effective political satire.

Dawn of the Dead (1978) Heather favours the 2004 remake that I must admit I like but the original is my all time favourite Zombie movie. At its heart it is a clever satire and allegory of modern consumer society but forgetting that its just a great horror movie.

Hardware (1990) Written and directed by Richard Stanley and based on a short (7-page) comic strip called SHOK published in 2000 AD by Steve MacManus and Kevin O’Neill. Set in a dystopian world ravaged by war, the population is living of the scraps of the dead and decaying civilisation. A soldier retuning home for the Christmas cease-fire, gives the head of a long destroyed robot to his sculptor girlfriend, before long it begins to reassembles itself the body count begins to rise. There is an inherent honesty in the low budget simplicity of the movie that is as sumptuous in its grime and bleakness as it is in its sense of desperation.

Delicatessen (1991) Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s feature début is set in a strange retro post apocalyptic France. A bizarre little film about a butcher and landlord who finds an interesting and cannibalistic way of feeding his customers. Like so many films of the genre, it is about a fight for survival, but in this case its on a smaller and more intimate scale.

The Matrix (1999) One of Heaters honourable mentions but deserving a place on my list as a hugely influential film and one of the best films of the 90’s. A lot of The Matrix is set within “The Matrix” so it is easy to forget the real world scenes onboard the Nebuchadnezzar. Like The terminator movies the glossy Sci-Fi is enhanced by the grim reality of the dystopian future. 

Doomsday (2008) Doomsday is a bit of a mess of a movie but it such a good fun mess it really doesn’t matter. Made up of multiple set pieces including shootouts, car chases and sword fights (inspired by movies as varied as Escape from New York, Aliens, Mad Max 2 & 3 and Gladiator) the final result is a little disjointed but each element is extremely well made. At the heart of the story and holing it all together is Rhona Mitra in her best role to date as a sort of female Snake Plissken. Think of it as a more polished and high quality take on a Enzo G. Castellari style movie. It actually gets better each time I watch it. 

The Road (2009) Post Apocalyptic movies are often gung-ho survival of the fittest stories in the new world order, The Road is very different. A melancholic and chilling story of a world dying with a whimper told through a grim and gritty story of a farther and sons fight to survive. It sounds depressing but it strangely isn’t.

Stake Land (2010) Thanks to a certain franchise of sparkly, vegetarian, teenage vampires the genre has taken a bit of a beating in recent years, Stake Land redresses the balance with the style, brutality and themes of a zombie film except with vampires. Like many great genre movies it is enhanced by a strong subtext, reflecting the time it was made, the tone of the movie is bleak but with a small but vital glimmer of hope, in other words a reflection of the world today.

Perfect Sense (2011) Like the road Perfect Sense tells a story of society going out with a whimper and not a bang. Starting with taste, people start losing their senses. Concentrating on a chef and a scientist (Ewan McGregor and Eva Green) who fall in love as the epidemic unfolds it could have been soppy, disjointed and depressing, it isn’t.

Here are a few more movies that are set in Post Apocalyptic future that are worth a look: Monsters, Zombieland, The Hunger Games, The Book of Eli, A Boy and His Dog, Night of the Comet. And don’t forget The Terminator and Terminator 2, set in the present day but featuring characters who have travelled back in time from a post apocalypse future. There are also a lot of films set in a dystopian future that probably don’t fit the Post Apocalyptic tag, they include: Metropolis, Brazil, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Rollerball, Eraserhead, The City of Lost Children.

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As we anticipate the release of Skyfall in less than two weeks I thought I would take a look at some of my older James Bond Movies for my ongoing Groovers Video Vault series. I’m not sure why I started with Licence to Kill but I am glad I did.

On route to his wedding Felix Leiter (David Hedison) gets word that south American drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) has left the safety of the (fictional central American state) Republic of Isthmus to retrieve his runaway girlfriend (Talisa Soto). Leiter along and his best man James Bond (Timothy Dalton) capture Sanchez before arriving fashionably late for the wedding. Sanchez promptly escapes and takes revenge on Leiter and his new bride. Refusing the order from M (Robert Brown) to fly to Istanbul on a mission, Bond escapes and recruits pilot and friend of Leiter, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) to seek help him seek revenge.

Having directed Roger Moore’s last three Bond movies that were frankly rubbish, John Glen was a brave choice to take Bond in a new direction with a new leading man.  But, he did a good job with The Living Daylights, so bringing him back for a fifth and final time made a lot of sense.  Continuing from Timothy Dalton’s first outing as Bond in The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill dispenses with the increasingly silly character portrayed by Roger Moore and returns Bond closer to the character from Ian Fleming’s novels. This however is no step back in time to the in time to Sean Connery’s Bond this is a modern (for the late 80’s when it was made) Bond who finds himself not saving the world from preposterous criminal organisation but in the middle of Reagan’s “War on Drugs”. This was the obvious but ultimately the right choice for a cold war character in a new post cold war era. This Bond isn’t a mischievous charmer with a glint in his eye, he is a cold hard cynical killer, still carrying the emotional scars of the past.

The opening sequence features a mid air stunt where Bond hooks a cable around a the tail of a light aircraft attached to a Coast Guard helicopter. Clearly an inspiration for Bond fan Christopher Nolan who copied the scene on a larger scale for his opening scene to The Dark Knight Rises. Sanchez makes a public offer to anyone listening to anyone who springs him from custody, something that was copies in the recent version of the movie S.W.A.T. (2003). The real credit to the film isn’t just the influence it had on other films, but the impression that they got it right. Reviews from the time were mixed but Dalton and his Bond is beginning to receive the respect he deserves. Delays from a legal dispute ultimately cost Dalton his place as Bond, when the franchise did return with GoldenEye in 1995 he was replaced by Pierce Brosnan. While Goldeneye was a solid film, it did return to an extravagant world domination plot. This continued in the downward spiral that led to the invisible car, ice palace and Madonna of Die Another Day (2002). Were the movies just a product of there time or was the Dalton direction the one they should have continued on? We will never know but Daniel Craig’s Bond of Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) is closer to Dalton’s interoperation than any of his other predecessors suggesting to me that in the Dalton movies they got it right!

The first Bond film with an original title and not one taken from a Fleming story, it does have references to the books as well as the movies that went before it. David Hedison reprised his role of Felix Leiter having played the part in Roger Moore’s first Bond film Live and Let Die. The story of Leiter being fed to the sharks and the line “He disagreed with something that ate him” came from the Book of Live and Let Die but had not been used in the film. The character Milton Krest is lifted from the short story The Hildebrand Rarity as is his boat the Wavekrest, but a lot of his character attributes including physical abuse of his wife are transferred to the character Franz Sanchez. Although lacking the grandeur and extravagance of The Spy Who Loved Me or Thunderball the underwater scenes have become a classic and iconic part of Bond movies and are used sparingly but handled well here. Q (Desmond Llewelyn) pops up with his usual array of useful gadgets but not very far fetched by Bond standards. This really is a grounded Bond movie in comparison to what followed.

As has become the tradition since Golfinger there are two Bong Girls. The movie benefits from them being very different both in personality and look. Although more common now, Ex-Army pilot and CIA informant Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) was the first Bond girl since Major Anya Amasova aka Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) in The Spy Who Loved Me who could hold her own alongside Bond. The modernisation of the Bond girl is sometimes an awkward one, with her short hair she is often portrayed as a tomboy and as useful as she is to Bond she nags and begs him to let her come along rather than him seeing that he needs her. Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto) is more conventional, the villains woman who wants to get away and falls for Bond in the process. She is the catalyst for the story and was clearly chosen for her looks and not her acting ability. That leads onto the main villain/antagonist; Latin America drug lord Franz Sanchez played with cold perfection by Robert Davi. A perfect opponent for this more modern Bond, a ruthless businessman who is ultimately defeated by his by his own character flaws. His main henchman is played with relish by a young (22) Benicio Del Toro.

As mentioned on its release the movie received mixed reviews, Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times being one of the few major critics to give a positive review. I think what Ebert saw and others missed was that Licence to Kill is a solid movie as they were so fixated on how it compared to what went before it. As Pierce Brosnan took us back to the bad old days of Roger Moore Dalton’s Bond looked increasingly out of place but now as a companion pierce to the Daniel Craig movies it may just find its place in Bond history.

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In 1997 Mike Myers gave us Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, a movie that made a mockery of James Bond. How could Bond continue after this?The simple answer, in the Pierce Brosnan era Bond became as silly as the spoof. Then in 2002 around the time Brosnan was making his last appearance as Bond in Die Another Day the game really changed with The Bourne Identity. Bond took a four year break and returned as a younger rougher Bond in Casino Royale played by Daniel Craig. Despite the reboot, there is still a sense that Bond belongs in the 50’s and 60’s and not in the present day.

Powers Bond Bourne Reacher

As good as the Jason Bourne trilogy was, it was always just that a trilogy. The critical, financial and artistic failure of the Bourne Legacy proved that. Largely plot driven it couldn’t adapt and evolve the way Bond has, but then no other film series has. Bruce Willis is John McClane, and there couldn’t be a Die Hard movie without him. The same goes for Riggs and Murtaugh/Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon and Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. Next year, Chris Pine will be the fourth actor in five films to play Jack Ryan but they have always felt like separate films and not a coherent series. Mission: Impossible has the scope to be rebooted and is set up in such a way that other characters can be introduced without the need to recast existing ones. There has been a suggestion that William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) introduced in the latest film Ghost Protocol has been suggested as a replacement for Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) but is it the new Bond? Probably not but it does lead on nicely to Jack Reacher, a film franchise that could be the James Bond for a new generation. I am not talking about a replacement for Bond.

Dirty Harry Jack Ryan John McClane Riggs and Murtaugh

Bond as a character is showing no sign of going anywhere but that doesn’t mean there isn’t space for a new action hero franchise. The screen incarnation of Bond has been with us for fifty years, longer than most people who read this article have been alive. It has always updated itself in an effort to stay relevant but is at its best when it has one foot in the past as M said in Golden eye “I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War”. This is why there is room for a new hero one who, one conceived in a world after Vietnam, the cold war and 9/11. I’m not totally convinced that that character is Jack Reacher but it stands a chance. The controversy over the casting of Tom Cruise who is too old and too short (by ten inches) and worst of all too famous to play Reacher may just work in its favour. If cruise can establish the character over three or four movies it will have the chance to be recast and reinvented in future the way Bond has been.

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher

Who is Jack Reacher? Starting with Killing Floor in 1997 Lee Child has already written more novels than Ian Fleming. Unlike Bond, Reacher isn’t a spy with the backup of the British movement and the “Q” branch. Reacher is a former military policeman who has taken to drifting around America. Along the way he gets into various scrapes and ultimately ends up helping people in a sort of Kwai Chang Caine way. Totally lacking any sense of remorse but with a strong sense of morality and a compulsion to help people the character is very clichéd, this isn’t a criticism.

Lee Child’s cameo in the new Jack Reacher movie

So will Reacher be the new Bond? No, and if the filmmakers try to turn him into the new Bond it will be a missed opportunity for a new franchise. Since its reboot a few years ago Bond took a step towards Bourne but always kept its own identity and that’s that Jack Reacher needs to do, forge its own identity in a crowded movie schedule.

  • Skyfall is released on 26th October 2012 in the UK and two weeks later in North America.
  • Jack Reacher is released on 21st December 2012 in the USA and on Boxing Day in the UK

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 It was announced this week that Adele would sing the title track for the new James Bond movie Skyfall, but lets be honest who didn’t already know, it is officially the worst-kept secret in the history of secrets. Last month Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo from the BBC 5live radio movie show “Wittertainment” joined forces with BBC Philharmonic for a James Bond special where viewers were asked to vote for their favourite Bond themes.

The top three were:

  1. Live And Let Die from Live And Let Die, Paul McCartney and Wings
  2. Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me, Carly Simon
  3.  Goldfinger from Goldfinger, Shirley Bassey

Its hard to argue with the top three as classic Bond themes, but along with Tom Jones they are a little predicable and lets be honest the classics aren’t always as good as we remember them. Shirley Bassey’s Moonraker was a terrible song and Tom Jones’ Thunderball was lumbered with the most preposterous lyrics. The show like all discussions about classic Bond themes tnd to focus on the 60’s and 70’s but there are some more recent songs worth remembering.

A View To Kill sung by Duran Duran: The movie was terrible but the song was good and managed to be combine the elements you would expect from a Bond theme with 80’s pop.

The Living Daylights sung by A-Ha: just like Duran Duran, A-Ha nail the classic Bond combined with 80s pop.

Licence To Kill sung by Gladys Knight: Ditching the 80’s vibe and returning to a big ballad out of the Shirley Bassey school.

GoldenEye sung by Tina Turner: after a brief hiatus Bond needed a big return, and he got it thanks to Bond fans Bono and The Edge from U2 who wrote the song.

Tomorrow Never Dies sung by Sheryl Crow: I was unsure about this song when I first heard it, I thought it was trying to hard to be a Bond theme and moving away from what Crow does best, but it really has aged well and sits well with the classics.

The World Is Not Enough sung by Garbage: with soaring strings and a slow deliberate delivery from Shirley Manson that almost oozes out, the song has the Bombast that only a Bond theme can get away with.

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50 Years of James Bond

On this day in 1962 James Bond made his first cinematic outing  in Dr No, 50 years, 22 movies, 6 actors and a lot of vodka martini’s later he is still going strong.  Why didn’t they release Skyfall today?  Below is a guide to all the James Bond films.  Whose in them, what they are about and most importantly should you see them.  Please note the links throughout that will take you to some of my other ramblings on Bond.  The list was compiled without influence or collaboration so all onions are my own, you may not agree with them, please share your thoughts.

  • Dr. No (1962)
  • Dir: Terence Young
  • Bond: Sean Connery
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Bernard Lee
  • Q: Peter Burton (credited as Major Boothroyd not Q)
  • Felix Leiter: Jack Lord
  • Principle Bond Girl: Honey Ryder played by Ursula Andress
  • Principle Villain: Dr. Julius No played by Joseph Wiseman
  • Basic Plot:  Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the murder of an agent.  The investigation leads him to Dr. No and his secret underground base on a private island.  No is planning to disrupt an American space launch using a radio beam Weapon.
  • Should I see it? Yes.  A great first Bond film made for just $1m making it the cheapest Bond film ever.
  • Random Trivia: Andress’ voice was dubbed.  Nikki van der Zyl provided the speaking voice and Diana Coupland the singing voice.

Dr No

  • From Russia with Love (1963)
  • Dir: Terence Young
  • Bond: Sean Connery
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Bernard Lee
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Priciple Bond Girl: Tatiana Romanova played by Daniela Bianchi (voice by Barbara Jefford)
  • Principle Villain: Blofeld (SPECTRE’s no. 1) is in charge but Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) and Red Grant (Robert Shaw) are the memorable villains.
  • Basic Plot: As revenge for the death of Dr No and in order to obtain a Russian decoding machine SPECTRE coerces a young Russian embassy employee.  The complicated scheme worked out by a leading chess grand master is supposedly infallible and will result in the death and dishonour of Bond.
  • Should I see it? Yes, the best Bond film
  • Random Trivia: The moves in the chess match at the start of the film is a re-enactment of a real match between Boris Spassky’s and David Bronstein.

  • Goldfinger (1964)
  • Dir: Guy Hamilton
  • Bond: Sean Connery
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Bernard Lee
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Felix Leiter: Cec Linder
  • Principle Bond Girl: Pussy Galore played by Honor Blackman.  Special mention for Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson (the one who is painted gold!)
  • Principle Villain: Auric Goldfinger played by Gert Frobe.
  • Basic Plot: Gold smuggler Auric Goldfinger plans to irradiate Fort Knox’s gold supply making it worthless and increasing the value of his own reserves.
  • Should I see it? Yes the most iconic bond film if not his best and the first appearance of the Aston Martin DB5.
  • Random Trivia:  The first Bond film to have a theme song over the opening credits.

goldfinger

  • Thunderball (1965)
  • Dir: Terence Young
  • Bond: Sean Connery
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Bernard Lee
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Felix Leiter: Rik Van Nutter
  • Principle Bond Girl: Domino played by Claudine Auger (voice by Nikki van der Zyl again!)
  • Principle Villain: Emil Largo played by Adolfo Celi, voice by Robert Rietty
  • Basic Plot: Bond is one of many 00 agents tracking following leads to the theft of nuclear weapons.  A trip to a health farm provides a vital clue.
  • Should I see it? Yes. Good solid fun, so good they made it twice.
  • Random Trivia: Very faithful to the book, but then it would be the script is based on the book that in turn was based on a screenplay.  The legal wrangling that followed allowed Never Say Never again being made and are too complicated to go into.

Thunderball

  • You Only Live Twice (1967)
  • Dir: Lewis Gilbert
  • Bond: Sean Connery
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Bernard Lee
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Principle Bond Girls: Kissy Suzuki played by Mie Hama and Aki played by Akiko Wakabayashi (before Bond both actresses were best known in Japan for appearing in monster movies)
  • Principle Villain: The best version of Erst Stavro Blofeld played by Donald Pleasence.
  • Basic Plot:  Bond investigates the theft/hijacking of spacecraft that threaten world peace.
  • Should I see it? Yes.  It represents the start of Bond descending into ridiculously unrealistic fantasy and I can not forgive it for that but it is an enjoyable film.
  • Random Trivia: screenplay by Roald Dahl

You only live twice

  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
  • Dir: Peter R. Hunt
  • Bond: George Lazenby
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Bernard Lee
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Principle Bond Girl: Tracy di Vicenzo played by Diana Rigg
  • Principle Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld Aka Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp played by Telly Savalas
  • Basic Plot: Whist on leave Bond continues his search for Blofeld.  He falls in love with the daughter of a crime boss.
  • Should I see it? Yes. Lazenby is rubbish and has no chemistry with Diana Rigg but the film is good.
  • Random Trivia: As the books were filmed out of order there is a huge continuity error.  Despite having met him previously (in You Only Live Twice) Blofeld does not recognise Bond.  It was suggested in an early draft of the script that Bonds character has had Plastic surgery to disguise him from his enemies.  This would have fitted in with the change of actor.  The idea was dropped!

  • Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
  • Dir: Guy Hamilton
  • Bond: Sean Connery
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Bernard Lee
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Felix Leiter: Norman Burton
  • Priciple Bond Girl: Tiffany Case played by Jill ST. John
  • Principle Villain: It’s Blofeld again along with new henchmen Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr Kidd (Putter Smith).
  • Basic Plot: Bond traces a diamond smuggling ring back to SPECTRE and a plot to build a space based weapon.
  • Should I see it? No it Connery’s only bad Bond and it is very bad
  • Random Trivia: Lana Wood who plays Plenty O’Toole made her film debut as the younger version of her sister (Natalie Wood)’s character in the John Wayne movie The Searchers.

diamonds are forever

  • Live and Let Die (1973)
  • Dir: Guy Hamilton
  • Bond: Roger Moore
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Bernard Lee
  • Q: N/A
  • Felix Leiter: David Hedison
  • Priciple Bond Girl: Solitaire played by Jane Seymour.
  • Principle Villain: Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big played by Yaphet Kotto
  • Basic Plot: Heroin smugglers and Voodoo in New Orleans and Jamaica provide the backdrop for Moor’s first and possible best Bond film. Its plot is reasonably faithful to the book.
  • Should I see it? Yes, great film even though I don’t like Roger Moore as Bond.
  • Random Trivia: Parts of the film are intended to look and feel like a 70’s “blaxploitation” film

  • The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
  • Dir: Guy Hamilton
  • Bond: Roger Moore
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Bernard Lee
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Priciple Bond Girl: Mary Goodnight played by Britt Ekland
  • Principle Villain: Scaramanga played by Christopher Lee
  • Basic Plot: Whist on a mission to find a solar expert bond stumbles across Scaramanga, the Man with the Golden Gun of the title and the words top assassin.
  • Should I see it? Yes, but don’t expect it to be as good as the best Bond films.   Its a bit of a mess overall but Scaramanga is a great villain and Christopher Lee is perfectly cast.  Ultimately, both actor and character are a little wasted, they deserve a better film. *
  • Random Trivia Christopher Lee who plays Scaramanga is Ian Flemings Step-cousin.

the man with the golden gun

  •  The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
  • Dir: Lewis Gilbert
  • Bond: Roger Moore
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Bernard Lee
  • Principle Bond Girl: Anya Amasovo (agent Triple X) played by Barbara (wife of Ringo Starr) Bach
  • Principle Villain: Karl Stromberg played by Curt Jurgens but Richard Kiels portrayal of “Jaws” is more memorable.
  • Basic Plot: Bond and Russia’s top agent “XXX” team up to locate missing submarines and end up uncovering a plot to destroy the world as we know it.
  • Should I see it? Yes defiantly, it is camp and cheesy but really good fun.
  • Random Trivia:  The first Bond film to take no more than the title from Ian Fleming’s Novel.  The novel didn’t actually feature Bond that much so Ian Fleming didn’t want it filmed, the link from the movies title will take you to my idea on how it could be adapted.

The Spy Who Loved Me

  • Moonraker (1979)
  • Dir: Lewis Gilbert
  • Bond: Roger Moore
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Bernard Lee
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Principle Bond Girl: Holly Goodhead played by Lois Chiles
  • Principle Villain: Sir Hugo Drax played by Michael Lonsdale.
  • Basic Plot: A space shuttle is hijacked mid air.  Bond is called in to investigate then it starts to get even more silly.
  • Should I see it? No possibly the worst Bond film ever and a feeble attempt to jump on the space bandwagon following the success of Star Wars (thanks for reminding me Ross).  The link from the title is my idea for a better version of the movie.
  • Random Trivia: The story differs so much from the novel a novelization based on the screenplay was written by screenwriter Christopher Wood.  This was his second novelization, the first was for The Spy Who Loved Me.

moonraker

  • For Your Eyes Only (1981)
  • Dir: John Glen
  • Bond: Roger Moore
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: N/A
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Principle Bond Girl: Melina Havelock played by Carole Bouquet
  • Principle Villain: Aristotle Kristatos played by Julian Glover
  • Basic Plot Many unused elements of various Ian Fleming Novels and short stories where cobbled together in a plot that I really can’t remember, something about a  marine biologist getting killed and bond looking for a sunken ship.  There is a good car chase with bond driving an unlikely car.
  • Should I see it? Probably not, maybe I should because I really don’t remember much about it!
  • Random Trivia: Despite not being very good and opening just two weeks after Raiders of the Lost Ark the film performed well at the box office and helped save United Artists from Bankruptcy.

for your eyes only

  • Octopussy (1983)
  • Dir: John Glen
  • Bond: Roger Moore
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Robert Brown
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Principle Bond Girl: Octopussy played by Maud Adams
  • Principle Villain: Kamal Khan played by Louis Jourdan
  • Basic Plot: A convoluted plot that starts with the murder of 009 and leads to an attempt to detonated a nuclear bomb on an American air base in Germany. Along the way there is a story about Faberge eggs and a “female octopus Cult???”.
  • Should I see it? No another contender for worst Bond film ever.
  • Random Trivia: the first MGM Bond film after the merger with UA

Octopussy

  • A View to a Kill (1985)
  • Dir: John Glen
  • Bond: Roger Moore
  • Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell
  • M: Robert Brown
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Principle Bond Girl: Stacey Sutton played by Tanya Roberts
  • Principle villain: Max Zorin played by Christopher Walken
  • Basic Plot: A new twist on the Goldfinger plot.  This time the villain intends to corner the market in microchips by flooding Silicon Valley.
  • Should I see it? Only to celebrate the end of Roger Moore as bond, not before time!
  • Random Trivia: Patrick Macnee becomes the fourth Avenger/New Avenger to appear in a Bond film Ralph Fiennes will be the sixth when Skyfall comes out later this month,  he would probably like to forget The Avengers though! *

a view to a kill

  • The Living Daylights (1987)
  • Dir: John Glen
  • Bond: Timothy Dalton
  • Moneypenny: Caroline Bliss
  • M: Robert Brown
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Felix Leiter: John Terry
  • Principle Bond Girl: Kara Milovy played by Maryam d’Abo
  • Principle villains: General Georgi Koskov played by Jeroen Krabbé and Brad Whitaker played by Joe Don Baker.
  • Basic Plot: A fake defection of Russian general leads to a weapons smuggling plot.
  • Should I see it? Yes, it is a darker more brooding and violent Bond, ahead of its time.
  • Random Trivia: The scene where Bond deliberately misses when he is supposed to shoot a Russian sniper (who turns out to be an attractive female civilian) is based on the short story “The Living Daylights” that was published in the same book as Octopussy
  • Licence to Kill (1989)
  • Dir: John Glen
  • Bond: Timothy Dalton
  • Moneypenny: Caroline Bliss
  • M: Robert Brown
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Felix Leiter: David Hedison
  • Principle Bond Girls: Pam Bouvier played by Carey Lowell and Lupe Lamora played by Talisa Soto
  • Principle Villain: Franz Sanchez played by Robert Davi
  • Basic Plot:  A drug lord kidnaps Felix Leiter and his new wife, she is raped and killed, he is fed to a shark and left for dead.  Bond resigns from the secret service and goes after the drug lord to seek revenge.
  • Should I see it? Yes it has its problems but is not a bad film.  Look out for a young Benicio Del Toro
  • Random Trivia: The first Bond film not to take its name from an Ian Fleming Novel or Short story

licence to kill

  • GoldenEye (1995)
  • Dir: Martin Campbell
  • Bond: Pierce Brosnan
  • Moneypenny: Samantha Bond
  • M: Judi Dench
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Felix Leiter: None but Jack Wade played by Joe Don Baker fills a similar role
  • Principle Bond Girl: Natalya Simonova played by Izabella Scorupco but Xenia Onatopp played by Famke Janssen is far more memorable
  • Principle Villain: Plot spoiler Alec Trevelyan/006/Janus played by Sean Bean.  As above Xenia Onatopp played by Famke Janssen is far more memorable.
  • Basic Plot: Bond has to stop a satellite based EMP weapon being used to cause financial meltdown in London.
  • Should I see it? Yes, it is Pierce Brosnan’s first and only good Bond.  It is actually one of the best ever.
  • Random Trivia: John Woo was asked to direct but turned it down.

  • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
  • Dir: Roger Spottiswoode
  • Bond: Pierce Brosnan
  • Moneypenny: Samantha Bond
  • M: Judi Dench
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Felix Leiter: None but Jack Wade played by Joe Don Baker fills a similar role
  • Principle Bond Girl: Wai Lin played by Michelle Yeoh
  • Principle Villain: Elliot Carver played by Jonathan Pryce
  • Basic Plot: Bond investigates media mogul Elliot carver and uncovers his plot to start a war just so he can cover it on his new news channel.
  • Should I see it? It has some good things about it but on the whole not that good.  For Bond fans only.
  • Random Trivia: look out for Gerard Butler as a crew member on HMS Devonshire

Tomorrow Never Dies

  • The World is not Enough (1999)
  • Dir: Michael Apted
  • Bond: Pierce Brosnan
  • Moneypenny: Samantha Bond
  • M: Judi Dench
  • Q: Desmond Llewelyn
  • Priciple Bond Girls: Elektra King played by Sophie Marceau or Dr. Christmas Jones played by Denise Richards; you decide. Personally I would have liked to have seen more of Maria Grazia Cucinotta.
  • Principle Villain: Renard played by Robert Carlyle.
  • Basic Plot: Bond plays bodyguard to an oil heiress, this gets convoluted with a plot to kidnap M and set off a nuclear device.
  • Should I see it? No, a couple of good set pieces can’t save this rubbish.
  • Random Trivia: The World Is Not Enough is a translation of: Orbis non sufficitthe, the Bond family motto as mentioned in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

le monde ne suffit pas

  • Die Another Day (2002)
  • Dir: Lee Tamahori
  • Bond: Pierce Brosnan
  • Moneypenny: Samantha Bond
  • M: Judi Dench
  • Q: John Cleese
  • Principle Bond Girl: Giacinta ‘Jinx’ Johnson played by Halle Berry
  • Principle Villain: Gustav Graves played by Toby Stephens.
  • Basic Plot: Bond is captured by North Koreans, after being released he goes AWOL (again) to find out who betrayed him.
  • Should I see it? No there are lots good things about it but farm more things wrong with it,  the final contendor for the worst Bond film ever made.  It descends far too far into fantasy and the plot relies too much on silly gadgets.*
  • Random Trivia: As the 40th anniversary of the first Bond film it is filled with references to other Bond Films.  There is also a scene where Bond is has a copy of “Birds of the West Indies” the author of this book was called James Bond, this is where Ian Fleming got the idea the character name from.

Die Another Day

  • Casino Royale (2006)
  • Dir: Martin Campbell
  • Bond: Daniel Craig
  • Moneypenny: N/A
  • M: Judi Dench
  • Q: N/A
  • Felix Leiter: Jeffrey Wright
  • Principle Bond Girl: Vesper Lynd played by Eva Green
  • Principle Villain: Le Chiffre played by Mads Mikkelsen
  • Basic Plot: Bond has to defeat a terrorist banker in a game of high states poker (changed from baccarat in the book).
  • Should I see it? Yes one of the best, a real return to form for Bond partly as they were able to use the basic plot from the original Novel.*
  • Random Trivia:  The Skyfleet S570 plane is actually a 747 with cosmetic modifications to make it look like a prototype.  It can be seen in the background of the Top Gear Test Track.

  • Quantum of Solace (2008)
  • Dir: Marc Foster
  • Bond: Daniel Craig
  • Moneypenny: N/A
  • M: Judi Dench
  • Q: N/A
  • Felix Leiter: Jeffrey Wright
  • Principle Bond Girl:  Camille Montes played by Olga Kurylenko
  • Principle villain: Dominic Greene played by Mathieu Amalric
  • Basic Plot: a direct sequel to Casino Royale, Bond goes after the Quantum organization to avenge Vesper’s death.
  • Should I see it? Yes, but only if you enjoyed Casino Royale.  It is more of the same but not as good.  I have seen it about five times now and actually like it more each time I see it as mentioned here.
  • Random Trivia: Although many Bond girls characters have been from Russia or the Soviet Union Olga Kurylenko is the first to actress to play a Bond girl actually born in Soviet Union (Ukraine).

Quantum of Solace

Unofficial Bond Films:

  • Casino Royale (1954)
  • Dir: William H. Brown Jr
  • Bond: Barry Nelson
  • Priciple Bond Girl: Valerie Mathis played by Linda Christian
  • Basic Plot: Made for American TV a one hour play based arounf the baccarat scene from the novel.  Bond is now an American called Jimmy and there is an English character called Clarence Leiter who is a sort of amalgam of Felix Leiter and Rene Mathis.
  • Should I see it? Interesting for Bond fans, casual viewers don’t bother.

Casino Royale (1954)

  • Casino Royale (1967)
  • Directed by: Various
  • Bond: David Niven
  • Basic Plot. A spoof version. Bond now Sir James bind comes out of retirement to investigate the killing of other spies.
  • Should I see it? No it is a mess of a film than only has a few funny moments.

Casino Royale (1967)

  • Never Say Never Again
  • Dir: Irvin Kershner
  • Bond: Sean Connery
  • Moneypenny: Pamela Salem
  • M: Edward Fox
  • Q (referred to as Algy): Alec McCowen
  • Felix Leiter: Bernie Casy
  • Principle Bond Girl: Domino Petachi played by Kim Basinger
  • Principle Villain: Maximillian Largo played Klaus Maria Brandauer
  • Basic Plot: A remake of Thunderball that follows the same basic story.
  • Should I see it? Yes. It looks a little dated but is better than the official Bond films of the era.
  • Random Trivia: The name of Largo’s ship the “Flying Saucer” is a direct translation of “Disco Volante” the name of the ship from Thunderball.

*This is a re-post from 2009 when I had about 4 followers.  anything marked * has been altered from the original post to correct, update, elaborate or reflect a change of opinion.

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September was a bit of a slow month and I didn’t get a chance to see my most anticipated movie Looper, I hope to catch it later this week. As to what I did see:

The Imposter: Engrossing and engaging documentary with a story so preposterous you wouldn’t believe it if it was used in a feature film.

Dredd: Better than the 1995 version in every way. The plot is thin but the casting is good, as is the action. It looks really good too with good photography and visual effects. The 3D isn’t bad but doesn’t add anything.

Lawless: A romanticised story of a bootlegging gang in prohibition era Virginia is solid and entertaining but not spectacular.

Premium Rush: Lightweight and silly but great fun thanks partly to great casting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon.

Killing Them Softly: A gritty tale of low level mobsters with a strong subtext will divide opinion. Brad Pitt is on top form.

Savages: Salma Hayek is fantastic but the rest of Oliver Stone’s story of Pot growers V Mexican drug cartel is a bit of a mess.

Resident Evil: Retribution: The action is good and the dialogue is terrible, to put it another way, about what you would expect from the franchise.

The Movie of the Month is: Killing Them Softly

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