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Archive for November, 2021

A little (two weeks) late, its time for my movie of the month. I only watched five movies at the cinema in October, but it was a great month.  Venom was a little better than I expected, the other four were all excellent:

The Last Duel – Ridley Scott is a little hit and miss as a director, he has made some of my all time favourite movies, he has also made some really bad ones, and lots of average ones.  As he doesn’t write his own scripts, he is very much limited by the material he has to work with.   Happily, he is well served by screenwriters Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Nicole Holofcener.  Its the first time Affleck and Damon have worked on a script since their Oscar winning debut.  Based on the true story of the last legal Trial by Combat in Medieval France.  Told in a Rashomon style with three chapters, each reflecting the perspectives of the three main characters.  The whole cast is excellent, but Jodie Comer really holds the story together. 

Dune – Denis Villeneuve ‘s adaptation of (half of) Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi novel is finally with us.  I first watched David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune when I was around ten years old.  I loved it and have watched it numerous times since.  A couple of years later I read the book, it was even better.  Villeneuve’s film looks amazing, the cast is fantastic and the storytelling is sublime.  It hits all the same beats of the Lynch movie but is a true adaptation to a movie as it relies on show don’t tell where the earlier version uses a lot of voiceover to speed the story along and vocalise the inner monologue of the characters.  The great news is that part 2 has been green-lit.

The French Dispatch – Wes Anderson is back with an anthology film that is just about the most Wes Anderson movie ever.   The ensemble cast is filled with all the Anderson regulars and a few faces to his repertory company.  Wonderfully quirky, I have heard mixed reviews, personally I loved it. 

Venom: Let There Be Carnage – The first Venom movie had some fun moments thanks to Tom Hardy, ultimately it wasn’t very good, it did however take over $850million at the world boxoffice.  This time they have hired performance/motion capture expert Andy Serkis, but the CGI isn’t the noticeable difference; the story is smaller, simpler and more contained, this is a good thing.  While still flawed, it’s still fun, and better than the first film. 

Last Night in Soho – Edgar Wright’s much anticipated movie is very different to his previous work.  Flipping between drama and thriller it is essentially  a psychological horror that owes a debt to giallo.  Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy are both sensational; it is also a fitting final performance for the great Diana Rigg.  If I am hyper critical, it loses its way a little in the final act, but it still works.

If I am objective, Dune is a better movie and will probably be higher on my end of year list, but for now, my movie of the month is the film that haunted me for days after watching it: Last Night in Soho.

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Bond without Bond! 

It was reported earlier today that Kim Sherwood is to write a new trilogy of James Bond novels.  Her agent, C&W has already dubbed it Double O Trilogy and given the following blurb: “James Bond is missing. Meet the new Double O agents in the Double O trilogy by Kim Sherwood, a new series that will blow the world of Ian Fleming’s James Bond wide open.”

This is an exciting if risky move for  Ian Fleming Publications, to open the universe beyond Bond has a world of opportunity, but also removes the familiarity of a much loved character.  The fact that a woman has been hired has already led to speculation that this will be the beginning of “Jane Bond”; the statement “new Double 0 agents” not agent suggests that there will be more than one, and by the law of averages they will be both male and female (or possibly not identify as either!).  We have already had a female 00 in the movies in the Nomi (Lashana Lynch) the new 007 following Bonds retirement.  There have been many female agents in the recent continuation novels notably Scarlett Papava in Devil May Care.  Writen by Sebastian Faulks (in the style of Ian Fleming to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of, the creator of Bond) and set after the events of Goldfinger (Flemings last full novel) where Bond is still not himself following the events of You Only Live Twice.  Papava, an MI6 agent turns out to be far more than a sidekick/Bond girl and is promoted to 00 at the end of the book. 

It isn’t clear when the books will be set, the recent continuation novels have jumped around a little in the timeline: Devil May Care (2008) by Sebastian Faulks (described above) – Carte Blanche (2011) by Jeffery Deaver rebooted the series and made Bond a post-9/11 agent, the 00 section independent of MI5 and MI6. – Solo (2013) by William Boyd, set in 1969, six years after The Man With the Golden Gun and sees Bond celebrating his 45th Birthday. – Trigger Mortis (2015) by Anthony Horowitz is Set in the 1950s two weeks after the events of Goldfinger  and contains previously unreleased material written by Ian Fleming. –  Forever and a Day (2018) also by Anthony Horowitz is a prequel to Casino Royale and tells of Bond’s first mission as a 00 agent.  Based on an idea, and also using unpublished material from Fleming.

The interesting thing will be to see if EON are willing to take the risk of adapting them into movies.  Will they make a film within the Bond universe without the main man?  They have already dipped their toe into the waters of a female agent when they adapted Mark Burnell’s The Rhythm Section (book 1999, film 2020).  The book was excellent, the film terrible!  This despite getting the casting spot on with Blake Lively in the lead. 

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Bond movies have been with us for nearly 60 years, longer than I have been alive.  In that time we have had 25 movies, nearly half of them have featured an Aston Martin.  Every Bond other than Roger Moore (more on that later) drove an Aston at one time or another.  Sean Connery will always be associated with the DB5 from Goldfinger, but he only actually drove the car in that movie and the pre-credit scene in his next movie Thunderball.  I haven’t added up the screen time, but would suggest of all the Bond actors Daniel Craig has spent the most time behind the wheel of an Aston, including two in his latest movie No Time to Die. 

Bond’s relationship with the brand goes all the way back to Goldfinger, not the 1964 movie, but the novel on which it was based.  Fleming’s eight novel, first published in 1958 predates the introduction of SPECTRE (that came two books later in Thunderball), at this time Bonds main adversary was the Russian security service in particular SMERSH.  The chapter where the Aston Martin was introduced is even named after the car “Thoughts in a D.B.III”.  There wasn’t actually a car called the BD III, it was actually, a BD Mark III an evolution of the DB2.  The first mention of the car sees Bond driving the car (fast) towards Sandwich to play golf against Auric Goldfinger at Royal St Mark’s Golf Club (inspired by Royal St George’s Golf Club).  “James Bond flung the DBIII through the last mile of straight and did a racing change down into third and then into second

The next paragraph goes back  to explain how Bond, who up to this point had mainly driven his own Bentley, came to be in an Aston Martin.  “The car was from the pool.  Bond had been offered the Aston  Martin or a Jaguar 3.4.He had taken the DBIII.  Either of the cars would have suited his cover – a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good fast things in life.  But the DBIII had the advantage of an up-to-date triptyque, an inconspicuous colour -battleship grey-and certain extras which might or might not come in handy.  These included switches to alter the type and colour of Bond’s front and rear lights if he was following or being followed at night, reinforced steel bumpers, fore and aft, in case he needed to ram, a long-barrelled Colt .45 in a trick compartment under the Driver’s seat, a radio pick-up tuned to receive an apparatus called the Homer, and plenty of concealed space that would fox most Customs men.” 

Not only did this represent the first time Bond Drove an Aston Martin, but it was also the first time he drove a Q Branch car with gadgets.  Other than a re-read of Casino Royale around the time the movie came out, I haven’t read any of the books since the 90’s,but don’t remember any other mentions of Aston Martin.  By the time the film came along, the latest Aston was the short lived but iconic DB5 (just over 1,000 were produced between 1963 and 65).  I probably don’t need to say any more about the most recognisable Bond car, other than to say it represented the first product placement deal in a Bond movie.  The DB5 (the same actual cars used for Goldfinger) returned for Thunderball in 1965, but were only used in the Pre Credit scene.  This was the last we saw of the DB5 until it made memorable return thirty years later.  But there are couple more cars to talk about before we get to that. 

By 1969 and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Connery had stepped down from the part, and was replaced by George Lazenby, an Australian model with no prior acting credits.  At this time there were two Aston Martins in production, the now dated DB6 that was really an evolution of the DB4 & 5.  And the new more modern looking DBS. This is the car Lazenby drove in the movie. It made sense, a newer more modern car for the new Bond. The car and actor both looked the part, but the Australian’s acting wasn’t that great and diminished what could have been one of the best films in the series. Connery did return to the part for Diamonds Are Forever (1971), his final (official) Bond movie, but didn’t get to drive as Aston this time.  A DBS does feature in the movie, but only as background vehicle.  It can be seen in Q Branch with a missiles being fitted into the engine bay.  Not sure where the engine would go!  Set mainly in America, the “hero” car was a bright red Ford Mustang Mach 1. 

After a false start with Lazenby, Connery’s replacement was found in the shape of Roger More.  Moore never drove an Aston Martin in a Bond film, his most famous car was probably the white Lotus Esprit that turned into a submarine in The Spy who loved me.  And just like that the Story of Bond and Aston Martin ended, Just like the other brand synonymous with Bond, Rolex that has been replaced my Omega as anyone who has seen Casino Royale know. For those that haven’t, seen the movie there is a sledgehammer subtle reference to Bonds new timepiece.

Although he didn’t drive an Aston as Bond, he did have a couple of memorable screen appearances with them. Shortly before he became Bond, Moore appeared in The Persuaders! a TV show that ran for one series of 24 episodes between 1971 and 1972. His character Lord Brett Sinclair drove an Aston Martin DBS.  The car that featured in the show was sold a auctioned a few years ago for a then record for a DBS of £533,500. Moore’s second screen Aston came in the 1981 movie The Cannonball Run, where he played a character called Seymoore, who claimed to be Roger Moore, and drove an Aston Martin DB5 with a lot of the gadgets from the Goldfinger Aston.

The Franchise really lost its way in the mid 80’s with Moores final two movies (Octopussy and A View to a Kill) ranking amongst some of the worst Bond movies.  Fortunately they came back with a bang!  After first choice Pierce Brosnan was unavailable due to TV commitments Timothy Dalton, who had previously turned down the part was convinced to step in.  He may have only made two movies, that while very good, are not amongst  the very best the franchise has to offer.  What he did however was take the character back to something closer to the one from the books.  And, as it turned out it wasn’t the end of the Aston Martin/Bond story. Dalton’s Bond was back where he belonged, behind the wheel of an Aston Martin, two actually despite Q’s attempt to make us believe them to be the same car.  We briefly see Bond driving a Aston Martin V8 Volante (their name for a convertible).  Before it is “winterised” by Q (we see a hardtop being lowered into place).  Its worth going on a slight tangent here.  The reason Bond is driving THAT car is down to one man, Victor Gauntlett.  The then owner/chairman of Aston Martin, Gauntlett negotiated the product placement to get Bond back into Aston.  The reason for that particular car was simple, it was Gauntlett’s car and daily drive at the time.  The Volante fitted with the more powerful Vantage engine, an option that had only just released for sale.  The coupe version seen later in the film was the standard V8 (made to look like a vantage).  Filled with even more gadgets than the DB5 back in the day. This is my favourite Bond car.  Partly I think because I saw one of the production cars up close at a car show when I was a kid, and partly just for the car itself.  It has made a surprising but welcome return to the franchise this year. 

Set in America, Bond doesn’t drive his own or a Q branch car in Licence to Kill. Dalton’s third Bond movie was held up by a legal dispute, and ultimately never happened.  This gave the filmmakers a chance to get their man, Pierce Brosnan.  His first, and by far his best movie GoldenEye came out in 1995, the same year as the BMW Z3.  You guessed it, by this time Bond was fully on-board with product placement (the movie is full of them) and  drove the Z3.  Fortunately there is a scene early on in the movie somewhere along the way somebody conceived a fantastic race scene between Bond in an Aston Martin DB5 and the Ferrari F355 driven by Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) who turns out to be the movies main henchwoman.  It is never made clear if this is Bonds own car or a Q car, but it does have a few gadgets. The DB5 makes a brief appearance in Tomorrow Never Dies, more than can be said for The World Is Not Enough where it a scene was shot with the car but left on the cutting room floor. 

Brosnan’s last movie Die Another Day (2002) is possibly the worst Bond eve.  However, it was the start of a product placement deal with Ford (who owned Aston Martin at the time) allowing Bond to drive the Aston Martin Vanquish.  They really jumped the shark with the invisible car,  but the ice chase was the one good part of the movie, not least because they gave the villain an equally tricked out car, a Jaguar XKR. Its worth looking out the making of documentary to see the lengths they went to to prepare the Vanquish for the ice chase. Jaguar and Land Rover that also belonged to Ford at the time were also used, and have continued to be used in Bond movies ever since.

In a post Jason Bourn world 2006’s Casino Royale gave us a new and very different Bond played by Daniel Craig.  For many watching the new Bond drive a Ford Mondeo was something of a joke.  It was actually yet more product placement as it was the Pre-Production version of the yet to be released new car.  Craig commented at the time, as a prototype it was more valuable than all the Astons and they were paranoid about letting him drive it. Things quickly got better when he won a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 in a poker game.  The second half of the movie is based on the book of the same name, where in the book he drove his own Bentley here, he is given his “company car” an 07 Aston Martin DBS.  An excellent film, but as with so many Bond cars, things don’t end well for the DBS. Quantum of Solace is the first direct sequel in the franchise, despite the unfortunate ending for his last car Bond is given another DBS. While not a traditionally Bond colour, it looks stunning in black. The film opens with a spectacular car chase; the car does survive, sort of!  

Skyfall (2012) gave us a plot reason to drive an old car.  The one he chose really messes with the continuity  of the series, but if you are worried about continuity, don’t bother with this franchise! Bond doesn’t pick the left hand drive DB5 he won in Casino Royale, but BMT 216A, the same car as in Goldfinger and Goldeneye, including all the gadgets.  Car fans, don’t worry, the one that got destroyed was a 3/4 scale replica. 

Spectre (2015) ends with a DB5 (supposedly the car from Skyfall restored by Q) but earlier in the movie Bond takes the car intended for a different 00 agent, a DB10.  A fictional car made for the movie.  A stunning car, but a strange choice for the movie, one of the movies villains drove a concept car that also never made it into production, the equally stunning Jaguar C-X75.

This brings us up to date with No Time to Die that was finally released in 2021.  The now retired Bond is first seen driving the DB5 he was driving at the end of the last film. Spoilers, the new 007 (Lashana Lynch) drives a DBS Superleggera.  The Valhalla hypercar was promised but only appears as a background vehicle.   If you have seen the trailer, you will know the fate of the DB5, he then visits his London lockup (same one as in Skyfall?) and drives away in my all time favourite Aston Martin, a V8 Vantage that shares its number plate with the similar car from The Living Daylights.  The car ends the movie in way that is a fantastic nod to a similar car in an earlier movie, that’s about as much as I can say without getting into spoiler territory. 

I am sure to have missed something, feel free to comment below.  I will leave you with this thought, a franchise that always has one in on the past and is always willing to nod to a previous movie, it is safe to say we haven’t seen the last of these cars.  Daniel Craig’s Bond has twice visited a London lockup and pulled back a tarpaulin to reveal an immaculately restored car from the characters past.  Maybe the next Bond, or the one after that will do the same, but this time they will drive away with Pierce Brosnan’s Vanquish or Craig’s DBS, because one thing is certain, James Bond WILL return…

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