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Archive for November, 2015

The first chapter (after the prologue) of Pulp Fiction (1994) “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife” features Jack Rabbit Slim’s, a 1950s-themed restaurant.  Vincent Vega (John Travolta) orders a Douglas Sirk Steak (bloody as hell) and Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) goes for a Durward Kirby Burgar (also bloody as hell).  So why am I talking about Pulp Fiction, steaks and burgers?  I like many people have made the distinction before.  Steaks and burgers are like motion pictures.  Steaks are films that make their money at the cinema and get Oscar nominations, Burgers are Movies, genre pictures that if they are lucky enough to make a profit do so on video, they are more likely to be described as cult classics than blockbusters.  Quentin Tarantino has made a career of out of making films that look and sound like movies.  So what are the best burgers of the decade so far? To be a genre film helps and any film that is nominated for an Oscar in the main categories will be excluded, so no Inception.  Here are ten juicy cheeseburgers of movies, some of them are even bloody as hell!    

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Depending on your point of view Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is either the coolest movie of the year or a flashy over edited mess that is trying too hard. Well it made it to my top ten movies of the year but only the lower reaches so I guess that says it all, I’m leaning towards the very cool argument but can see the imperfections of the movie. The casting is spot on and the action brilliantly choreographed, the script is cutting and funny but above all it is great fun, yes if you haven’t guessed this is the other contender for the most fun movie of the year.Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Haywire: Possibly the controversial choice on the list certainly the “Marmite” choice on the list. Steven Soderbergh has crafted a B movie with an A list cast held together by Gina Carano, a former cage fighter with no acting experience. The antidote to modern action movies with frenetic editing an too much CGI.haywire-gina-carano

Killer Joe: William Friedkin’s tale of murder set around a dysfunctional Texas family is often violent and repugnant, but it is also brilliant mainly because of a star turn from a resurgent Matthew McConaughey.Killer Joe

Edge of Tomorrow: For all the films that are interesting, clever or thought provoking sometimes a movie needs to be fun, and Doug Liman’s time loop, action adventure, alien invasion, war movie is the most fun movie of last year.  It didn’t make much of an impact at the box-office but is gaining a great reputation on DVD.edge of tomorrow

Lucy: A young woman develops super powers when the packet of drugs in her stomach splits. The trailer makes it look like Limitless (2011) but its more ambitious and vastly different.  Far from perfect but interesting and fun.Lucy

Snowpiercer: Not actually released in the UK but available from a well know online retailer.  Visually spectacular.  It is equal parts satirical and bonkers.  As you would expect, Tilda Swinton steals the show with an over the top supporting role.Snowpiercer

What We Do In The Shadows: Vampires get the mockumentary treatment thanks to the Flight of the Conchords team.  The deadpan Spinal Tap style delivery takes a little time to get into but when you adjust to it, it is very funny.What We Do In The Shadows

Stoker: It’s no secret that Oldboy is one of my all-time favourite movies, it therefore comes as no surprise that I have been eagerly anticipating the English language debut of its director, Chan-wook Park. It isn’t Oldboy but I was far from disappointed. Sumptuous and beautiful to look at and suitably weird and unnerving.stoker

Stake Land: A grim and often violent road movie from the team who gave us the direct to DVD zombie/rat/mutant classic Mulberry Street. Benefiting from its gritty realism and the constraints of a low budget it is intelligent and thoughtful whilst still being entertaining, and the vampires don’t sparkle in sunlight they burn! The best vampire movie since Let The Right One In.Stake_Land

John Wick: Bonkers over stylised ultraviolent revenge thriller.  Breaking from the current trend of fast cutting the film has some of the best fight scenes in recent memory.  Keanu Reeves is perfect taking on elements of many of his previous characters.John Wick Keanu Reeves

 

 

 

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Perfect Scene?

Is this the perfect movie scene?  The scene from Casablanca contains everything that is great about film from emotion and drama to comedy.  The expressions and glances from Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains say more than a thousand lines of dialogue could. It is all topped of by the power and emotion of music, and La Marseillaise it the most rousing and passionate of National Anthems.

 

 

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I have mentioned in a previous article that Daniel Craig’s James Bond has the biggest story arc of all the incarnations of the character.  This is clear to see, but it can also be observed in his co-stars.  There is a convention in Bond movies of two “Bond Girls”.  The secondary of them often appears first in the movie but is ultimately a disposable character.  Her normal role is to provide some cheap thrills for both Bond and the audience, move the plot forward and is then disposed of, sometimes terminally.  A look at these characters tells us a lot about how Bonds character develops across Craig’s four films. 

WARNING PLOT SPOILERS FOR ALL FOUR MOVIES 

The first such character that Craig’s Bond encounters is Solange (Caterina Murino) in Casino Royale (2006).  The wife of Alex Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian), who is in the employ of the films main villain Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), Bond sleeps with her to get what he wants then leaves her to clearly knowing that his actions could have fatal consequences for her, ultimately they do! Bond’s cold detachment happens before his heart is thawed but ultimately broken by Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).Solange Caterina Murino

Quantum of Solace (2008) is a direct sequel to Casino Royale, but most importantly post Vesper.  Bond has allready met the movies primary character Camille (Olga Kurylenko) before the appearance of Agent Fields (her first name is revealed in the credits if you are interested) (Gemma Arterton).  After putting herself in the firing line of Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), she is abandoned by Bond who leaves with Camille to follow a lead.  Her death is clearly an homage Goldfinger.  Bond leaves a none field agent in danger without even thinking about it but does feel the need to avenge her, sending Green to a certain death when he may have been better questioning him.  This is a reckless broken Bond who is yet to find the humanity he must find before he can think about any idea of redemption.strawberry fields Gemma Arterton

Skyfall (2012), is a slightly different proposition, there is no primarily Bond Girl, the slot is instead filled by M (Judi Dench) and to a lesser extent Eve (Naomie Harris) who is later revealed as Moneypenny.  The secondary part is taken by Severine (Bérénice Marlohe).  Her death at the hands of Silva (Javier Bardem) is followed by a quip from Bond that has led to a lot of speculation.  Was this the cold pre Vesper Bond, or a tactic to distract Silva?  I have always believed the latter but understand other point of view.Severine Bérénice Marlohe

This finally brings us up to date with Spectre (2015).  Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci).  In the pre-credit sequence we see Bond killing Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona).  It is later revealed to be an unsanctioned hit, acting on orders from beyond the grave for the previous M (Judi Dench).  At the funeral he meets Lucia Sciarra who in true Bond fashion she falls into his arms (and into bed) before revelling vital information to further the investigation. After he has what he wants, instead of leaving her to die Bond calls in a favour from Felix Leiter of the CIA (who we haven’t seen since Quantum of Solace) to protect her.  The character is has a lot of similarities to Solange in Casino Royale, Bond’s more human and humane treatment is surely testament to the development of him as a person over the four movies.  Is Bond in love with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) at the end of the movie? was Bond capable of love in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall?Sciarra Monica Bellucci

On a side note, A lot was made of an older woman in the part, the first to be older than Bond (Monica Bellucci is four years older than Craig, Bérénice Marlohe eleven years younger, Gemma Arterton eighteen years younger and Caterina Murino nine years younger) this was followed by great disappointed that she isn’t given a lot to do.  While this is true, it is better to have an actress like Bellucci lending a certain class to the part than a typical twenty-something as used in other movies. For example, Bellucci was considered for the par of Paris Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), a part that ultimately went to Teri Hatcher.  Both Hatcher and Bellucci are eleven years younger than then Bond, Pierce Brosnan. 

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Warning this article contains spoilers for Mad Max (1979), but if you are reading this, you have probably already seen it!

When Mad Max Fury Road came out earlier in the year there was lots of speculation about how it fits into the continuity of the other three Mad Max movies.  Ultimately there are too many things that don’t fit with the second and third movies so it has to be a reboot or reimagining of some kind.  It could follow the original film or it could be a totally new timeline.  This got me thinking about the character of Max and how he was shaped by the events of the first movie.  The voiceover at the start of Fury Road includes the declaration from Max that he is “A man reduced to a single instinct; survive”.  But what would have happened if things were different?mad max tom hardy

The original film, Mad Max (1979) set in a crumbling society described as being a few years from now, begins with escaped convict The Nightrider (Vince Gil) running for his life in a stolen police car (1972 Holden Monaro).  He is chased by a two police pursuit vehicles (both Ford Falcons).  Eventually he comes face to face with The Interceptor, aka Max Rockatansky.  After losing a game of chicken, The Nightrider crashes and dies.  His friends, a biker gang led by The Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne – who also plays Immortan Joe in Fury Road) seek revenge.  They kill Max’s wife, Jessie (Joanne Samuel) and their child, as well as his best friend Jim Goose (Steve Bisley) .  Max steels what becomes his iconic car, a V8 1973 Ford Falcon GT.  He kills the bikers and disappears into the wasteland.the nightrider mad max

The second film Mad Max 2 aka Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)  sees a world that has descended further and is little more than a wasteland populated by societies looking for hope, war parties trying to take it from them, and loners like Max who are reduced to the survival instinct.  But what if things had been different on day one, what if The Nightrider had been shot trying to escape, or had crashed before he reached Max?  The world would still have descended into madness but Max’s place in it would be very different. Was he still working for the police when things finally fell apart?  Would he have developed his cold survival instinct? Would he still have a family to protect, and give him something to fight for?  Would he ever have found his way to Thunderdome? What would The Toecutter and his gang done had they survived?tina turner mad max beyond thunderdome

And what is the point of all this?  The scenarios within the Mad Max universe are endless.  A sequel (or prequel) Mad Max: The Wasteland with Tom Hardy reprising the role has been announced.  The idea of a Furiosa movie has been suggested.  As much as I would like to see more Charlize Theron and the character Imperator Furiosa, we have already seen her story.  She, not Max is a the primary character of Fury Road and the events of the movie are the most significant of her life, the redemption she has been seeking.  There are two films I would like to see: An action road movie starring Hardy set at a time somewhere between the first and second movie.  The other; thirty years after the events of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) Max (a returning Mel Gibson) struggles to find a place in a recovering society but is the only hope when marauders emerge from the wasteland.

Credit To WARNER BROS

Whaterver comes next, I am onboard as long as George Miller is at the helm!

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I have had conversations with three people recently (one being my own farther!) who have said they don’t like Sci-Fi.  When asked why they all came up with the same vague answers about it not being real, or realistic and they can’t suspend disbelief if the concept is too far from reality.  But none of them had a problem with unrealistic plots in other films if the film was gunny or exciting.  When challenged they all came up with a Sci-Fi film they actually liked, but hid behind things like, “but its funny” or they like the star.  I didn’t intend to turn into a ardent defender of Sci-Fi or any other genre, but firmly believe there are two types of movie; good and bad, this is true regardless of genre.

With this in mind I have come up with my ultimate list of ten(ish) Sci-Fi films everyone should watch.  I have taken out some of the more challenging movies: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Solaris (1972), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004); anything animated that they may try and dismiss as kids films: Akira (1988), WALL·E (2008); and anything silent: Metropolis (1927).  I have also taken out anything with serious baggage like Star Wars and Star Trek.  We are left with my Must See Sci-Fi list:

Alien (1979) & Aliens (1986)Alien

Blade Runner (1982) blade runner

The Thing (1982)the thing

The Terminator (1984) & T2 (1992)Terminator 2 Judgment Day

Back to the Future (1985)Back to the future

The Matrix (1999)The Matrix

Donnie Darko (2001)Donnie Darko

Serenity (2005)serenity

Children of Men (2006)children of men

Inception (2010)Inception

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After the release of Skyfall I suggested a “Bond Week” eight seminal Bond films to watch over a week (one a day and two on Sunday), now I have a new Bond Week, with a difference or two.  The first Bond Week was an idea, a hypothetical list to immerse someone in the world of Bond movies.  The Second Bond Week consists of Daniel Craig’s four Bond movies, four movies that I watched over the past five days.  

Casino Royale (2006) was the film I hadn’t seen for the longest.  It confirmed my original thought, that it is the best of Craig’s Bond film.  Directed by Martin Campbell who also made GoldenEye (1995), Pierce Brosnan’s first and best outing as Bond.  The script is excellent with the perfect balance of action, grit and humour, it is everything Bond should be.  Weaving together three distinct stories including one that takes its plot outline from Flemings source novel. Made after The Bourne Identity (2002) but before its sequels the influence is clear but it is still 100% Bond.  Clocking in at 144 minutes the film never feels that long, surprisingly second billed Eva Green doesn’t appear until the hour and the film runs for a full 30 minutes after the death of the main villain Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen).james bond and vesper lynd

Quantum of Solace (2008).  I once described Quantum of Solace  as the perfect Bond film, it isn’t the best Bond film but it is everything you want from a Bond film.  The film is the closest Craig’s Bond ever gets to  the character from Ian Fleming novels.  At 106 minutes, it is the shortest of all 24 Bond films, this again goes back to the 250 page novels.  But most importantly, it does the bravest thing a film can do, it doesn’t try and be bigger and better than its predecessor.james bond and Camille

Skyfall (2012).  If Quantum of Solace is the perfect Bond film and Casino Royale is the best, Skyfall is the biggest.  Introducing Q and Moneypenny to the rebooted series, having two M’s and delving into Bond’s childhood, there is a lot going on.  The 50th anniversary Bond movie, it is filled with nods to the earlier films, despite this it still works as a film in its own right, not just a Bond film.  I’m sure it is the first Bond film for many viewers, it works as well for them as it does for existing fans.   There is an interesting departure from the Bond formula.  Dispensing with a primarily  “Bond Girl” Bond spends the final act with M (Judi Dench).James Bond and M

SPECTRE (2015) Having watched the first three on DVD, I have been back to see SPECTRE at the cinema for a second time.  Skyfall director Sam Mendes returns for what feels like an end of an era.  Bringing all the plots of the previous films together and attributing them to SPECTRE feels a little clunky and forced.  Take this aside and the film is great.  M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) are given more to do then their characters can normally expect.  This break from formula shows real confidence by Mendes.  If it is Daniel Craig’s last Bond film, it is a fitting swansong.James Bond and Madeleine Swann

In this era of bindgewatching television, four movies in four days isn’t a big task, will I take on all 24 Bond movies in a month?  possibly one day.  Did I learn anything from watching the films back to back? probably not but it does lend a prospective to them.  Timothy Dalton is the closest to the character described by Ian Fleming; Pierce Brosnan looks like the character Fleming described; Sean Connery had the best of Fleming’s stories, but Daniel Craig has the best Story arc and the most consistently good movies.  Is Craig the best Bond? possibly!

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With the Harry Potter movies and the Game of Thrones on TV audiences should demand a certain quality from fantasy TV and Movies.  Unfortunately we don’t always get it.    Film critic Mark Kermode has described The Last Witch Hunter as Highlander light, it is probably a fair assessment.  A film set largely in the modern day real world where the general public are blissfully unaware of a whole different world that exists below the surface, it is one of an increasingly common subgenre, urban fantasy.  Think: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, I Am Number Four, Underworld, or even the Twilight movies.  Many if these are based on books, often of the young adult variety.  The Last Witch Hunter is actually based on an original concept, if an original concept really still exists in Hollywood!the last witch hunter

Vin Diesel plays Kaulder, an 800 year old immortal witch-hunter who brings rouge witches to justice to protect a delicate truce.  After 800 years it is second nature to him until a plot unfolds to bring The Witch Queen back from the dead and destroy humanity.

The films gestation is confused and complicated and this shows on screen.  The screenplay was featured on the 2010 “Blacklist”.  It was picked up in 2012 with Timur Bekmambetov set to direct.  The script was written by Cory Goodman.  Bekmambetov left the project and was replaced by Breck Eisner whose back catalogue includes the underrated Sahara (2005) and the decent remake of The Crazies (2010).  The script was then rewritten twice until we were left with three credited writers: Cory Goodman, Matt Sazam and Burk Sharpless. The reason I bring all this up is that there are a few moments that reminded me of one of the last really great movies within the genre, Timur Bekmambetov’s Night Watch.the last witch hunter

Films like Night Watch give the glimmer of hope that the genre has potential to make quality movies and not derivative and predictable ones.   The problem with The Last Witch Hunter is exactly this, it is derivative and predictable, all this seems to stem from the script.  The story is made up of a series of set pieces that are linked together in a plot that is vaguely coherent but disjointed at best.  In short the concept and the execution are sound they are just limited by the writing.  The story seems to be intended as the start of a franchise, hopefully if this is the case future stories will be better.  Ultimately the box-office and not critical reception will decide if the film is worthy of a sequel, and we must remember Diesel is part of three franchises (four if you include his voice work as Groot) including The Fast & Furious series, the most recent of which has grossed over $1.5billion to date.  The star power of Vin Diesel even more important when you consider that he was largely responsible for getting the film made.  A keen Dungeons and Dragons player, Diesel’s character was reported to be partly based on his old Dungeons and Dragons character, Melkor.

Occasionally a film breaks the mould and offers something extra within the genre, more often than not this is the result of writer directors who are invested in the story and not guns for hire.  Auteurs like Guillermo del Toro and Timur Bekmambetov.  I don’t think it is too much to ask for a few more quality movies in the genre but am also interested to see what has to offer considering the renaissance of horror, super hero and High fantasy. 

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Two years ago I speculated on who would take over from Daniel Craig as James Bond. After championing him in 2010 I decided Idris Elba would be too old by the time the role became available.  I considered it to be between Michael Fassbinder, Henry Cavill, Tom Hiddleston or Nicholas Hoult if they wanted to try something new with a younger Bond.  I made the same mistake as everyone else.  Here are the current favourites for the part along with their odds according to an odds comparison website:

  • Damian Lewis 5/2
  • Tom Hardy 5/2
  • Idris Elba 9/2
  • Henry Cavill 11/2
  • David Oyelowo 12/1
  • Michael Fassbender 14/1damian lewis jaguar

So what’s the problem?  Take a look at the actors who have played Bond:

Daniel Craig’s most notable part before Bond was Layer Cake (2004), but he had already been announced as bond by the time it came out.  Prior to that he had starred in smaller films like Enduring Love (2004) and Sylvia (2003) or had supporting roles in larger films like Road to Perdition 2002 or Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 2001.  For many he was best remembered for the 90’s TV show Our Friends in the North.Daniel Craig

Pierce Brosnan was best known for the TV show Remington Steele and a string on low budget features and TV movies.   To be more precise, he was best known for missing out on Bond in the 80’s because of his commitment to Remington Steele.Pierce Brosnan

Timothy Dalton had had supporting parts in film as varied as The Lion in Winter (1968) and Flash Gordon (1980) but was still best known for TV movies and stage work.james bond timothy dalton

Roger Moore had been kicking around for a about 30 years, mainly on television,  before getting the Bond gig. He played the title role in Ivanhoe in the late 50’s.  In the early 60’s he replaced James Garner in Maverick  playing Garner’s cousin  Beau Maverick ( a part turned down by Sean Connery).  His most famous role was in the late 60’s as The Saint.  Then in the 70’s The Persuaders! alongside Tony Curtis.Roger Moore

George Lazenby was a martial arts instructor and reported to have been the highest paid male model in Europe.  Prior to James Bond his only acting credit was an episode of  the TV Series General Hospital.George Lazenby

Sean Connery had worked in TV, film and theatre for about a decade before his first outing as Bond in Dr. No, as far as I can see, it was his first significant role in a large feature film.Sean Connery

Can you see the problem?  Most of the actors who are being suggested are a little too A list or top end B list.  I’m not suggesting the next Bond will be an unknown, but if EON stick to their formula he won’t be a huge star.  The one exception has more of a TV background and has recently moved into pole position: Damian Lewis.  Dominic Cooper who played Bond creator Ian Fleming in a TV miniseries has been gaining some traction.  In a recent interview on the BBC radio 4 Film Program Bond casting director Debbie McWilliams spoke about how she had championed Rupert Friend to play a younger Bond in Casino Royale.dominic cooper as ian fleming

Whatever happens we must remember that Daniel Craig is still in the role and is unlikely to say anything until after SPECTRE’s cinema run and video release.  SPECTRE left it open for him to walk away or return.  Although I think he has been a great Bond, I think his job is done and it is time to walk away.  I’m sure there are will be lots of twists and turns before things are decided.  Until then:

I still stand by an idea I had back in 2010.  The next film should be a one off stop gap with Timothy Dalton returning as an older retired Bond before a reboot two or three years later with a new young Bond.  It will never happen, but I still think it is a great idea.

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Has Bond Given Up Drinking?

Bond is a heavy drinker, I believe there have been studies into how long he would survive drinking what is described in Ian Fleming’s novels.  But things have changed in SPECTRE, Bond tells Léa Seydoux’s Dr. Madeleine Swann that he drinks too much.  But I don’t remember him actually drinking anything in the film.  He pours a glass of champagne but then throws it on the floor.  He orders a Martini but doesn’t drink it.  spectre-lea-seydoux-daniel-craig

But what about earlier films? I mentioned in an earlier blog that James Bond Doesn’t just drink Martinis. He actually seems to drink more Champagne than anything. At times it is actually part of the plot or used to demonstrate Bonds character or knowledge. Although the rather cheesy commercial below will have you believe that Bond only drinks Bollinger that isn’t entirely true. The original character in Ian Fleming’s novels preferred Taittinger remarking in Cassino Royale “[1943 Taittinger] is probably the finest champagne in the world”

Bollinger In Bond Films

  • Live and Let Die: Bollinger
  • Moonraker: Bollinger RD ’69
  • View to a Kill: Bollinger ’75
  • License to Kill: Bollinger RD ’75
  • The Living Daylights: Bollinger
  • Goldeneye: Bollinger Grande Année 1988
  • Tomorrow Never Dies: Bollinger Grande Année 1989
  • The World Is Not Enough: Bollinger Grande Année 1990
  • Die Another Day: Bollinger ’61
  • Casino Royale: Bollinger Grande Année 1990
  • Quantum of Solacee: Bollinger

Other Champagne in Bond films

  • Dr. No: Dom Perignon ’55
  • From Russia with Love: Taittinger Blanc de Blanc
  • Goldfinger: Dom Perignon ’53
  • Thunderball: Dom Perignon ’55 (to accompany Beluga Caviar)
  • You Only Live Twice: Dom Perignon ’59,
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Dom Perignon ’57.
  • The Man With The Golden Gun: Dom Perignon ’64

Notable Champagne Scenes:

The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond:  Bond quips “Maybe I misjudged Stromberg. Any man who drinks Dom Perignon ’52 can’t be all bad

Goldfinger: shortly before being painted gold Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) is in bed with Bond, he gets up to get them a bottle of Champagne from the fridge bestowing these words of wisdom: “My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done. Such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above a temperature of 38 degrees Farenheight. That’s as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.”

The Living Daylights: Bond delivers a Harrods hamper to General Georgi Koskov who has defected and is being hidden in a country house. “What’s this? From Harrods a godsend, the food here is horrible. What’s this, Caviar, well that’s peasant food for us, but with champagne it’s ok. And more – Bollinger RD – the best!” Bond explains he took the liberty of changing it as the brand on the list was “questionable”.

Die Another day: After fourteen months of captivity Bond walks into a posh Hong Kong hotel looking like Robinson Crusoe with tatty clothes, long hair and a bushy beard. He asks for a room, food and champagne, “If there’s any left, the ’61 Bollinger” Now that’s style, shame the films crap!

And with all this Champagne that Bond drinks do you think I can find a picture of him drinking it?

bond with martinibond with another martinigeorge lazenby

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