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Posts Tagged ‘Sean Connery’

In 2011, I marked the 50th anniversary of Britain’s most iconic car, The E Type Jaguar. It seemed only fitting that I did the same for what is probably America’s most iconic car, The Ford Mustang.

There are several stories surrounding the origin of the name, it is most likely that The Mustang was named after the World War II fighter plane, the P-51 Mustang by stylist John Najjar. What we know for sure is that it was introduced on 17th April 1964 and is one of the most successful and iconic cars of all time. Now in its fifth generation it has appeared in countless films. If you look on the Internet Movie Cars Database, you will find 152 pages of listings for the Ford Mustang. There are surprisingly few iconic appearances for the car, but there are a handful of truly iconic ones.ford mustang bullitt

I have written in the past about Goldfinger (1964) and how James Bond became associated with Aston Martin and the DB5, what I have never written about was the other side of the DB5’s best seen in Goldfinger. In the book Tilly Masterton drove a “dove-grey Triumph TR3” by the story had made it to the screen Triumph had been replaced by white Pre-production Ford Mustang convertible. It wasn’t the last time the mark would be seen in a Bond film. Fiona Volpe “takes Bond for a drive” in a Mustang convertible in Thunderball (1965). Sean Connery’s last appearance as Bond is also the last notable appearance for a Mustang in the film series. Bond drives Tiffany Case’s Ford Mustang Mach 1 in the Las Vegas car chase scene from Diamonds Are Forever. One of the better moments (despite the infamous continuity error) of a week film.Ford Mustang Goldfinger

The most famous mustang in its most famous and iconic movie. The 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT Fastback driven by Steve McQueen in Bullitt (1968) as he chases a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T through San Francisco. Like anything associated with McQueen, the movie is the epitome of cool, a fact that isn’t harmed by a fantastic scene. It starts with the bad guys following McQueen, they lose sight of him. Then we see the Mustang appear in the rear view mirror of the Charger. The cars prowl around the city to Lalo Schifrin’s fantastic score, until: There is a click of a seat belt, the music cuts and is replaced by squealing tires as the Charger makes a run for it. For the next 8 minutes, there is no music, no dialogue, just screaming tires and roaring V8’s.

No list would be complete without a mention for “Eleanor”. The climactic final car chase in Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) features a 1971 Ford Mustang (masquerading as a 1973) and accounts for about a third of the movies runtime. The scene was recreated in the 2000 remake Gone in Sixty Seconds. Bigger, bolder and slicker but not necessarily better, this time “Eleanor” is played by a 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. The original Eleanor is referenced in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007) both verbally by Kim (Vanessa Ferlito) and visually in her car, a 1972 Mustang LeGrand.Eleanor Gone in 60 SecondsEleanor Gone in Sixty Seconds

And the future: Need For Speed (2014) features a 2014 Ford Mustang claiming to be a special unfinished Carroll Shelby special edition. The car features in some pretty good chase scenes across America in the movies second act. It ends with the as yet not released 2015 Mustang.Need For Speed 2015 Mustang

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As I work on my inevitable list of best films of 2012 I started thinking about Argo. Not the Ben Affleck film that we saw, but the un-filmed Star Wars rip-off Sci-Fi movie that featured in it. For as long as I can remember Star Wars has been essential Christmas viewing, but why? Probably because as an action adventure fantasy film it is yet to be surpassed. It is often stated that Star Wars changed films for ever, it certainly built on the idea of the summer blockbuster that began with Jaws two years before. All this is most probably true, but surprisingly Star Wars has never inspired a successful and credible action adventure set within a alien universe. The greatest failing of most of them is an unnecessary attempt to ground the plot in the reality or to earth, this is true from The Last Starfighter (1984) through to Avatar (2009). It worked for Star Trek as the idea of humanity exploring space was central to the premise. After its cancellation in 1969, it gained cult status, around the time of Star Wars a plan to resurrect the television series as Star Trek: Phase II.  It was a planned and quickly abandoned, ideas from the pilot were however saved and became Star Trek (1979). The  highlights of the film series that followed are: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and the reboot Star Trek (2009). 1977 star wars

The latest failed attempt of the genre was John Carter (2012) based on A Princess of Mars by (Tarzan author) Edgar Rice Burroughs. So uncomfortable in its own skin the producers dropped the Sci-Fi “of Mars” title from the movie shortly before it hit cinema screens. Telling the story of a civil war era gent who is transported to Mars that is going through its own Civil War. A lot of the story involves the fish out of water scenarios as Carter adapts to the culture of the society and then imports his own sensibility. Going back to the time of Star Wars, the biggest of the early attempts to cash in on the Star Wars was unsurprisingly by Disney. The Black Hole (1979) had a budget of around $20million, around double that of Star Wars but only grossed around the same as Star Wars took in its first weekend. There is a good reason, for all its technical accomplishments, the movie is just plain dull. I have seen it at least twice and remember very little about it. With a budget of around $4million Starcrash (1978) is certainly low budget but isn’t quite the Z Movie it is often claimed to be. Poorly acted with terrible effects and unintentionally funny moments it isn’t very good. However it does deserve a certain amount of praise as a low budget movie that has grander ambitions than many of its contempt competitors, it is also good silly fun at times.

Starcrash

The one success of the genre (artistically if not financially) was Flash Gordon (1980). The plot is a rehash of the original thirteen part film serial starring Buster Crabbe from 1936. One of the reasons the movie looks so good and worked so well is the retro design including long shiny almost phallic spaceships that were inspired by the original 1930’s comic books. The result is utter camp, the characters and the performances are totally bonkers and over the top in the vein of Barbarella (1968). All this was held together by a an equally camp and over the top score by Queen.

Flash Gordon

The story goes that David Lynch turned down Return of the Jedi instead opting to replace Ridley Scott as the director of Dune (1984). Unlike most people, I am glad he did. I first saw Dune on video in 1985 and loved it. A few years later I read the first three or four of Frank Herbert’s novels. It was the first David Lynch film I saw, I have seen and loved everything he has made since. The movie shares producer Dino De Laurentiis with Flash Gordon, that is where the similarity ends. While Flash Gordon is fun and camp, Dune is sombre serious but when you strip away all the religious symbolism, mythology and the ideas of loyalty and betrayal it is simply a story of trade and politics, possibly an allegory for the fight for the control of the worlds supply. The TV mini series is heralded as a superior adaptation, it may be but it is painfully dull, something the movie can not be accused of even in its three hour cut.Dune

Star Wars often plays like a western set in space.  This is where the genre has found the most sucess.  A film that took this idea a stage further was the Roger Corman produced Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) that took its plot from Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai. It has a certain degree of pedigree with a screenplay by John Sayles, a score composed by James Horner, and the special effects directed by a young James Cameron. A similar idea had been attempted in the “High Noon in space” Outland (1981) with Sean Connery in the Gary Cooper role. Not a classic, but far better than its reputation. The best space western is probably Serenity (2005) based on the too short-lived TV show Firefly (2002-2003). It is still rooted in the reality of humanity but unlike the movies that suffer for this, Serenity plays its hand perfectly.Battle Beyond the Stars

The Star Wars prequels failed to live up to their billing, will the new Disney produced movies be more successful or will we have to wait for someone else to create a new Space Opera in a believable alien universe? Star Wars: Episode VII is expected in 2015.

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I started writing a review of The Living Daylights (1987) for my Groovers Video Vault, it quickly became clear that I was not writing about the movie but about its star, Timothy Dalton. He probably isn’t the best James Bond, but he is certainly the most underrated, probably the closest to the character Ian Fleming wrote, and possibly the most influential since Sean Connery. The review of The Living Daylights will have to wait for another day.

In 1985 a 58 year old actor played James Bond, the actor Roger Moore was playing the part for the seventh and final time in his twelve year tenure. An older Bond could have made an interesting character as it did when (the younger) Sean Connery reprised the role for the unofficial Never Say Never Again (1983), but thanks to lazy writing, Moore still playing the part as if he were a much younger man. This was exacerbated by the over reliance of silly gadgets and comedy one liners. In essence the small elements that made Bond, Bond had taken over. It was a bit like watching an aging rock star putting all their effort into an extravagant stage show but forgetting to sing the songs. The final nail in the creative coffin was that they had run out of Ian Fleming novels and were writing new stories, bad stories. Bond had become a parody, the result A View to a Kill was a terrible film, the franchise was an unsustainable mess, something had to be done. There was little of merit in the Roger Moore movies after his third outing, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), the series really needed new direction back then. I suspect that remembering the failure of George Lazenby as Sean Connery’s replacement, the producers were scared of upsetting the status quo and kept Moore in the role for an extra decade. As bad as the films got (Moonraker (1979), Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985) being the low points) they still made money.

Producers, particularly Cubby Broccoli courted a young little known Irishman Pierce Brosnan who was staring in the TV show Remington Steele. Contractual obligations prevented Brosnan from taking the part so attention turned to Shakespearean actor Timothy Dalton. Dalton had been approached to replace Connery in the late 60’s but felt he was too young, and then again in the early 80’s when Moore’s contract was in dispute. Comments in various interviews have suggested Dalton was not happy with the direction the franchise was going, he also suspected that he and other actors were used force Moore’s hand. When he eventually took the part he did it on his own terms. A fan of Flemings source novels, Dalton insisted on scaling back the sci-fi/fantasy elements of the plot in favour of a grittier more plot driven story. He played Bond as a reluctant hero who like his literary counterpart drank and smoked too much. He was a man clinging to small pleasures while he tried to take away the taste and guilt of the repugnant side of the job. This can be seen early in his first movie, The Living Daylights (1987). It took its name from an Ian Fleming short story that was originally published along with Octopussy.

The story saw a jaded Bond on sniper duty, his mission to take out a KGB sniper and aid an agents escape from East Berlin. On realising the KGB sniper is a beautiful, blonde cellist he had seen on her way to and from practice earlier, he decides to shoot her weapon from her hands rather than killing her. Captain Sender his local contact, explains to Bond that he had to mention Bonds actions in his report stating “You should have killed that sniper whoever it was” Bonds response:

James Bond Said wearily “Okay with any luck it’ll cost me my Double-0 number. But tell Head of Station not to worry. That girl won’t do any more sniping. Probably lost her left hand. Certainly broke her nerve for that kind of work. Scared the living daylights out of her. In my book, that was enough. Let’s go.”

It is with this defiance that Timothy Dalton played the part. Most of the short story makes it to the screen reworked into the plot of the movie. Bond’s words became “STUFF my orders! I only kill professionals. That girl didn’t know one end of her rifle from the other. Go ahead. Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.”

Bonds relationship with Saunders (based on Captain Sender from the short story) is unusual within a Bond film, in that it brings out many emotions in him. Initially the two don’t get on, but they grow to respect each other. When Saunders is killed Bond loses heart in his cover and becomes agitated and on edge. There is nuance in this performance you don’t expect from Bond. This isn’t a new Bond this is a return to the real Bond, the Fleming Bond. We can see this in his interactions with General Pushkin, the new head of the KGB. This the Bond we have seen on screen and read about on the page who has always been more interested in following his instincts than his orders. Dalton’s second and final Bond film Licence to Kill (1989) takes Bond a stage further refusing M’s orders and resigning in order to seek personal revenge. The film was both praised and criticised for darker and more violent tone of the movie taking it away from the family audience and more towards contemporary Hollywood thrillers. Interestingly it wasn’t that well received by American audiences. Receiving a 15 certificate in the UK and Rated PG-13 in America probably didn’t help.

In 1990, MGM/UA was sold, this led to various legal disputes that are too complicated to go into. The legal disputes caused delays and the next film due to go into production in the early 90’s was delayed until early 1994, this again was delayed and Dalton resigned from the role despite originally signing a three picture deal.

The interesting thing about Daltos time as Bond is what happened when he quit, Cubby Broccoli got his man, the actor he always wanted to play Bond, Pierce Brosnan. After a promising start GoldenEye (1995) the series descended into something very similar to the latter Roger Moore films, farces filled with silly gadgets and product placements. Bond as a character was conceived during World War II and was a cold war character, for that reason he lost a little of his relevance after The Living Daylights. While he was away fighting drug dealers and on a brief hiatus, the world was changing, Russia was changing. To their credit this became an underlying plot point in Brosnan’s début film but it was never expanded on or played with in future films. Then in 2006 in the wake of the Jason Bourne movies for the first time ever, Bond wasn’t recast, it was rebooted with Daniel Craig getting the part to the surprise of almost everyone. His début Casino Royale (2006) was a return to form, its sequel Quantum of Solace (2008) (a direct sequel is another Bond first) was less well received. And now the Zenith of what Dalton started, Skyfall (2012) has taken Bond further from Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan than many thought possible. He may have taken it too far to be recognisable as a Bond, but it is proving popular with fans (including me), audiences and critics. Don’t expect the ever humble Dalton to take any credit where Bond is today, but I don’t think he would have got to this point without the new direction he took the character in 1987.

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It’s the 50th year of James Bond movies. Here are 50 random reasons to love Bond movies.

“Bond, James Bond” introduction
Aston Martin DB5
Francisco Scaramanga
Lotus Esprit submarine
Walther PPK
Ice chase from die another day
Attaché case in From Russia with Love
Red Grant
The Vesper martini
Little Nellie

Daniel Craig’s reinvention of the character
Pam Bouvier
M
Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) emerging from the sea
Domino Dervaly
Rosa Klebs shoes
SPECTRE’s extravagant way of disposing with failed operatives
Oddjob’s hat
Jaws’ teeth
Sean Connery probably still the best Bond
Xenia Onatopp’s unusual way of killing
Moneypenny
SPECTRE’s ridiculously over the top bases and lairs
Union Flag parachute
Colonel Wai Lin
Introducing parkour to mainstream movies
Pussy Galore
AMC “barrel roll” from The Man with the Golden Gun
Magnetic Rolex watch
Q
Teresa “Tracy” Di Vicenzo
Scaramanga’s golden gun
Exploding pen
Monty Norman/John Barry’s James Bond Theme music
Vesper Lynd
007 logo
Its British
Felix Leiter
Camille Montes
The Gun barrel sequence
Theme Songs
Anya Amasova aka Agent XXX
Bond’s ‘one-liners’
Moonraker’s shameless attempt to cash in on the success of Star Wars
Timothy Dalton’s ahead of his time interpretation of Bond

Ian Fleming’s source novels
Pre-title sequence
Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) iconic but gruesome death
Title sequence
“James Bond Will Return”

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Talking about James Bond in last weeks Radio Times, film critic Barry Norman made the statement: Ask anybody: who is your favourite James bond? I guarantee the answer will be the first one they ever saw”. I’m not sure if I am more discerning or just awkward, but it isn’t true of me. To the best of my knowledge and memory the first Bond I saw was Roger Moore in Live and Let Die. Moore is far from my favourite Bond, but I have recently come to the conclusion that I don’t know who my favourite Bond is! For years I have always claimed it is Sean Connery with the caveat that Timothy Dalton is the closest to the character from Ian Fleming’s novels.

I hold with the popular opinion that George Lazenby was the worst Bond, and this is a great shame as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the best Bond films despite him. He is closely followed by Roger Moore whose comic version of Bond just doesn’t work for me. He did however make some decent movies, Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me were both really good films. The Man with the Golden Gun isn’t as good but does benefit from a fantastic performance from Christopher Lee as the villian Scaramanga.

So Back to who is my favourite Bond, Sean Connery certainly had the best stories with relatively faithful adaptations of Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball. You Only Live Twice is the point where the franchise started to get silly and even became a parody of itself, it was however still a good film in its own right. Connery’s only misstep was Diamonds Are Forever that was both silly and dull.

I have already said Timothy Dalton most closely resembles the character from the books in his portrayal, but there is another actor who probably looks most like Bond, Pierce Brosnan. This may be a bit of a stretch as there is little description of Bonds appearance beyond his short black hair and a resemblance to Hoagy Carmichael. Pierce Brosnan isn’t my favourite Bond either. He is perfect for the films he made and the time they were made, but sadly most of them weren’t actually very good. After a strong opening with GoldenEye the rest of his films got progressively worse culminating with the car crash of a movie, Die Another Day that was as bad as anything Moore did.

This leaves us with two contenders: Timothy Dalton who was hamstrung by only making two appearances both of them being good but not great films, The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. Had he made more films he could well have been my favourite Bond but for reasons to long winded and complicated to go into today he didn’t. And finally Daniel Craig, Casino Royale is certainly one of my favourite Bond films and Quantum of Solace is underrated and will probably age well, but is he my favourite? Not yet but he may well be in future, with three more movies including Skyfall due out next month, he will certainly have a chance before handing his Aston Martin and Walther PPK to Michael Fassbender, my choice for the next James Bond.

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There appears to be a lot of fuss over James Bond drinking Heineken in the upcoming movie Skyfall, what’s the big deal? It isn’t the first time he has drunk beer. Product placement isn’t new to movie in general and certainly isn’t new to Bond. Think of the cars he drives, Bond didn’t give up his Bentley (driven in the books) in favour of various Aston Martin, Lotus and BMW’s for the fun of it. And lets not forget Vesper Lynd’s introduction in Casino Royale where Bond makes it clear that his watch is an Omega not a Rolex (as featured in the books and worn by Sean Connery). Pierce Brosnan used a Ericsson phone and had a Parker Jotter pen with a handy class-four grenade (I still have one that I won along with a copy of GoldenEye on VHS – mine lacks the grenade). By the time Pierce Brosnan hung up his Walther it is rumoured that as much of half the $140million budget for Die Another Day (2002) came from “marketing partners” this led to the film being nicknamed “Buy Another Day.” Then we have the whole idea of what is sponsorship, United Artists is part of MGM that by the time Daniel Craig took over were owned by Sony. Take a look at the gadgets on display, Sony Vaio laptops, Sony Ericsson mobile phones, Sony Bravia TV’s and Sony Cyber-shot cameras.

Looking more specifically at what Bond drinks, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Bond actually drinks more Champagne than anything else including his signature Vodka Martini. The original character in Ian Fleming’s novels favoured Taittinger remarking in Cassino Royale “[1943 Taittinger] is probably the finest champagne in the world”. in the movies, Sean Connery’s Bond appears to have preferred Dom Perignon but some time in the 80’s and ever since thanks to a sponsorship deal Bond started drinking Bollinger. Oh and did I mention bond has had a deal with Heineken before! If you still have a problem, look at it this way, it could be far worse, he could be drinking the tasteless self proclaimed king of beers that is drunk in most Hollywood productions.

If you are still not convinced, sit back watch any Bond movie and lookout for the products, if you need some refreshment during the film why not try one of these, the recipe for “The Vesper” is:

  • Three measures of Gordon’s Gin
  • One of vodka
  • Half a measure of Kina Lillet
  • Shake over ice until it’s ice-cold and strain into a martini glass.
  • Then add a large thin slice of lemon peel

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As I sat watching Silver Streak on TV, a movie I haven’t seen for about twenty years, I suddenly realised something I have always know in the back of my mind; there is something magical about movies set on trains. Air travel and the jet set should be more sexy, it probably is, but its far less cinematic, Planes are little more than a mode of transport, they are the way James Bond gets from one exotic local to another, but trains are the locations in themselves. True, plains have been the setting for movies live Air Force One, Flight Plan or Red Eye, but none of these movies offer anything new that we haven’t seen before in movies like The Narrow Margin (the 1952 original, although the Gene Hackman, Anne Archer remake isn’t bad either). The size of a train is what makes it so suitable for a film, particularly a thriller or murder mystery, they are big enough to provide the space need for the action to play out but small enough to create just enough claustrophobia and intimacy.

A common theme of train set movies if people finding love, romance or just sex on a journey. North by Northwest features one of the best seduction scenes ever as Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint flirt and seduce each other over dinner. The movie then ends with the most audacious ending as the train itself becomes a phallic symbol in the most overt of innuendos that only Hitchcock could get away with. In a lot of ways Silver Streak condenses all the ideas of North By Northwest down to a train based part of the movie with just enough action, comedy and absurdity to keep it the right side of parody.

Although only a small section of Some Like it Hot is set on a train, it is a fantastic part, not least as its where we are introduced to ‘Sugar’ Kane (Marilyn Monroe). James Bond has spent his fair share of time on train, most notably in From Russia with Love (1963). Encapsulating the romance and the danger as Bond (Sean Connery) woos Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) and fights ‘Red’ Grant (Robert Shaw). Bringing things more up to date Harry Potter first meets Hermione on the Hogwarts Express, it is also the place he first encounters the dementors.

As the world shrinks under the weight of ever the increasing progress of technology the magic of trains in movies evaporates, but filmmakers will always find ways to bring it back. This can involve setting movies in more exotic places like The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and Transsiberian (2008) or in the past: Water for Elephants (2011). In this age of laptop computers and MP3 players I wonder how often people actually strike up a conversation with a stranger on a train anymore? That could be a good or a bad thing depending on who you talk to: Guy Haines (Farley Granger) encounters psychotic Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker), who has a plan to help him get away with murder in Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) (adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name with a screenplay by Raymond Chandler). On the other hand in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, American student Jesse (Ethan Hawke) has a very different experience when he meets Céline (Julie Delpy), a young French woman on her way home to Paris.

Next time you are watching a movie set on a train (and there a lot, I have only mentioned a few) have a think about the setting and if it would work anywhere else.

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