Sunday, March 31, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective: In Conclusion...

Well, there you have it. 50 years, and still going strong. James Bond, which started as a partnership between two people, has now evolved into the longest running franchise in history, earned billions in box office sales, shared a hefty number of Oscar nominations, and has jump started the careers of many classic actors. The series has suffered from serious low points, but it’s also had incredible high points. It’s evolved over the years to fit various times, and has gained many a fan with each new installment. It’s earned its position as one of the most beloved franchises ever.

So, how will the future affect the series? Well, Daniel Craig is still confirmed to be doing two more films, and we’re not sure what the next films will be about, but here’s hoping for great things. But once Craig’s time is done, the studio will have the impossible task of finding someone to fill his shoes. Rumors have circulated about possible contenders like Idris Elba, but no matter what actor the studio chooses, I hope they never lose sight of what made these movies a success, but still continue to try new things.

Needless to say, the franchise will always have its devoted fanbase ready for more thrills. Whether your favorite movie is Goldfinger or GoldenEye, whether your favorite Bond is Sean Connery or Daniel Craig, your favorite Bond song by Paul McCartney or Tina Turner, everyone has their connections to Bond, both positive and negative. And though we don’t know what the future has in store, we can only hope that the next 50 years of vodka martinis will be just as incredible.

James Bond will return...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #23: Skyfall

Before Skyfall came out, we didn’t know what to expect. We weren’t totally sure what the film was about, either. All we knew was that EON was intending to kick Bond’s 50th off in style. One of the chief indications of this was by hiring Sam Mendes are director. Mendes was known more for character driven dramas like American Beauty and Road to Perdition than he was for action, so there were some who were skeptical of him being chosen. Not me, as I was too busy shouting “INSPIRED DECISION!” Next up, the studio started hiring some of the best technicians in the business, and enlisted some of the best actors currently working such as Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, and Albert Finney. Naturally, we all got excited, but I don’t think any of us were ready for how much this would change the way we look at the series.

Throughout this retrospective, you’ve probably noticed me bring up Goldfinger a lot, usually in the case of comparison. So, with how much I hold the other films up to its standards, you might assume it was my favorite. As a matter of fact, it’s not. For that honor is held by Skyfall, which is just about the most perfect blending of everything I already love about Bond, and every new road I wanted it to go down. Thrilling, rich in character, suspenseful, funny, superbly acted, terrifically directed, and flawlessly produced, Skyfall is not only a fantastic James Bond film. It’s simply a fantastic film!

Friday, March 29, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #22: Quantum of Solace

With Casino Royale making such a splash back in 2006, EON was quick to get their next film out, and contracted Daniel Craig for more Bond films. Quantum of Solace (meaning a small amount of comfort amidst sorrow or disappointment) was that next film. Release anticipation was hyped up to extremes, and… the title bore an ironic metaphor. While fans and critics certainly gave it positive notices, it failed to generate the same passionate love that Casino Royale had. And while I certainly can get behind that same sentiment that’s it’s not as good as the previous film, there’s still some REALLY good and fascinating stuff in this movie. If you’ve seen my reviews of Diamonds Are Forever, Thunderball, and Moonraker, you know I’m quite critical of follow ups to great movies, but this movie is doing exactly what I want it to do. It’s a proper continuation showing how the previous film’s events affected Bond, and NOT a rehash. This movie’s better than any of those follow ups.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #21: Casino Royale

With Die Another Day leaving a sour aftertaste, EON decided that they needed to begin focusing more on quality. They were gonna be consistent this time, but what were they gonna do? Taking a cue from Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (which was actually inspired by the Bond saga), the studio rebooted the series from scratch, serving up a brand new timeline. Their next movie was going to be Ian Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale, which had been adapted as a Peter Sellers parody in the late 60’s… and it sucked. There had been a number of potential directors interested, including Quentin Tarantino, who had planned to shoot the film in black and white, set it in the novel’s original 50’s setting, and would have used Brosnan once more as Bond.

Fascinating idea, but the studio once again enlisted GoldenEye director Martin Campbell, but casting Bond himself was a tricky task. They had a number of considerations including the likes of Goran Visnjic, but the actor they eventually went for was Daniel Craig. Craig was a respected actor who’d been in several great films, but he was not a household name at the time, and having never headlined a major release before, many had doubts that he could pull it off. In my opinion, not only do I think he was the best possible choice, I’d dare call him the best Bond ever, but maybe that’s a personal bias. For many viewers, this was their introduction to 007. I was 14 at the time this movie came out, and this was the first Bond film I ever saw, and when you’re a newcomer to a franchise decades older than you, this is exactly where you want to start.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #20: Die Another Day

I don’t want to go so far as to say everyone hates Die Another Day. I’m sure it has its fan, every Bond film does, but of all the films I had to watch this month, this was the one I was looking the least forward to reviewing. I was hoping for a pleasant surprise, as I’d come across several during this retrospective... sadly, there were no surprises to be had. Good god, I hate this movie! This is up there with A View to a Kill as one of the most uninspired, unproductive, and all around clunky James Bond films ever made.

One thing that everyone seems to agree in criticizing is the over abundance of CGI. This film was released in 2002 (the franchises 40th anniversary), and it was at a time between here and the mid-90’s when CG was all the rage. Movies like The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean used it to inspired effect, but most others were exploiting it to cut corners. Comedian and online critic Doug Walker described this period of movies best, stating “Mostly, [CGI] was just used as a dodge, a way to save money on much bigger effects. And the filmmakers seemed to think ‘If we have CG, we don’t need to try that hard on the stories, either.” Sad to say this is the exact pitfall Die Another Day suffers from: Preferring to value flashy visuals as opposed to good storytelling.

Monday, March 25, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #19: The World Is Not Enough

Pierce Brosnan’s era as James Bond was doing well enough, and while Tomorrow Never Dies didn’t quite duplicate the same level of success as GoldenEye, it was still a capable hit with plenty of fans. The same couldn’t quite be said for The World Is Not Enough. I’m not gonna lie, this was one of the movies I was looking the least forward to reviewing. While it’s not the one I was looking the least forward to (just wait until tomorrow for more on that), I think it’s just one of the most bland, jumbled, and undercooked films in the entire James Bond franchise. Don’t expect me to say too much on this one.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #18: Tomorrow Never Dies

All the way to 1997, GoldenEye was just the success that EON was hoping for. The film had shattered box office records, word of mouth was strong, the video game was doing gangbusters at the stores, and it had sent Pierce Brosnan’s career soaring. Brosnan had been contracted to do three more films after GoldenEye, and one of the movies that came afterward was Tomorrow Never Dies. This became the very first film in which original 007 pioneer Albert Broccoli did not work on, having passed away over a year and a half before the film’s release, and his friend and partner Harry Saltzman had died almost two years earlier. In the case of Tomorrow Never Dies… It was something of a mixed result. Opinions were split down the middle, and everyone agreed that it just wasn’t GoldenEye good. While I certainly can say it’s not as good as GoldenEye, what’s good in this movie is still REALLY good.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #17: GoldenEye

Licence to Kill hadn’t been the success that EON was hoping for. It resulted in a sort of death for the old style of Bond, and the studio wanted to act fast. For the first time, Albert R. Broccoli opted to be a consulting producer as opposed to a full on producer, handing the job over to his daughter Barbara Broccoli, who had served as an assistant for previous Bond films. They decided to go for an original story, and handed the director’s chair to Martin Campbell, an action director also responsible for the exciting and undervalued The Mask of Zorro. Timothy Dalton opted not to come back, but the studio had made their decision. Enter Irish actor Pierce Brosnan, best known for television roles such as in Remington Steele, but also for films such as The Fourth Protocol and Mrs. Doubtfire. It made for a refreshing step in the right direction, and when it opened, it blew up. GoldenEye was exactly the success EON needed, and it’s arguably the most famous Bond film ever. But why is that? Well, let’s take a look.

Friday, March 22, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #16: Licence to Kill

For 25 years, the James Bond films had been well known for their light tones, but that standard had been abandoned in favor of a more serious tone in 1987’s The Living Daylights. The film was a success, and took James Bond down routes he should have gone down much sooner. Naturally, the studio wanted its star, Timothy Dalton, to come back for the next film. This time, they were gonna blow preconceptions of what Bond should be out of the water. The last film may have been gritty, but this next one was going to up that grit, take on a weighty tone, and give Bond the depth he hadn’t been given since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This was Licence to Kill, a film which proved divisive among its audiences.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #15: The Living Daylights

Roger Moore concluded his time as Bond on a weak note with A View to a Kill, and is currently regarded for playing 007 the most times in any of the EON produced films with a total of 7 (I’m not including Connery’s non-official canon Never Say Never Again). Suddenly, the studio made a turnaround. Rather than focus on hit and miss campiness, they finally did what they should have done. Give the series a legitimately gritty tone. But who would play Bond? The studio decided on Shakespearean thespian Timothy Dalton. If you don’t know who Dalton is… watch Hot Fuzz, because he’s terrific in that. You may also know him for prestigious roles such as Alexei Volkoff and Mr. Pricklepants. All introductions aside, The Living Daylights was the right way to start off a new era.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #14: A View to a Kill

For Your Eyes Only started the official downward spiral of Roger Moore’s career as James Bond, as people were starting to get pretty sick of him. Octopussy didn’t help in giving it any new life. But, when A View to a Kill came out, it slaughtered that era.

This was the first Bond film to be produced by current Bond co-producer Michael G. Wilson, and what a weak way to start that trend. This is such an uninspired, ridiculous, half baked, overblown and boring mess of a film that, at the time, was the worst Bond film yet. IT DIDN’T EVEN DESERVE TO SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY, AND YET THEY STILL GAVE IT THE GREENLI-okay, let’s just talk about it for a minute.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #13: Octopussy

Roger Moore’s downfall had begun with the release of For Your Eyes Only, and over time, the reception of every new release would only get worse, and worse. The second step of the downfall came two years later in Octopussy, a confusing and downright dry exercise in Bond filmmaking. The Roger Moore films always had a knack at being downright absurd, which either hurt or helped the movie’s case, depending on how it was used. Octopussy isn’t always so absurd, but it does have its moments, but that’s not why it’s so bad. It isn’t just ridiculous, it’s boring, which you could argue is even worse.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #12: For Your Eyes Only

There came a period in Roger Moore’s career when his time as Bond started to fade. When did it all begin? Some say it started with Moonraker, others say it started with Octopussy, but I say it started right in the middle with For Your Eyes Only. This was the first film directed by longtime editor of the franchise John Glen, who had never directed a film before, but was interested in taking the franchise in new directions. By new directions, I mean a complete demonstration of why he was so unqualified to be given the reigns for this project in the first place. Not that the story gave him anything to actually work with.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #11: Moonraker

If you’ve seen my reviews for Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever, you know I’m quite critical of follow ups to great films. Moonraker kinda falls into that same pit, but I enjoy it more than those other two. It was made at a time when Sci-Fi was all the rage, none the least of which was Star Wars, which eclipsed The Spy Who Loved Me in popularity. That idea is pretty outlandish, and I suppose the goofy charm of Roger Moore is starting to wear a little thin, but if you can get past its gimmicks, it is fairly enjoyable.

Friday, March 15, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #10: The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me was a film of many firsts for the James Bond franchise. It was the first film that was not produced by original co-head of EON, Harry Saltzman. It was also, despite taking the title from one of Fleming’s books, the first Bond film that didn’t use a SINGLE element from his original story. The Roger Moore films had this reputation of being fun, albeit quite absurd and light films. This was the movie that people had been waiting to see of James Bond since Goldfinger, and it is the best Bond film since Goldfinger. Thrilling, romantic, funny, superbly acted, beautifully filmed, and even occasionally intense, this is everything that makes a great film, and The Spy Who Loved Me is a great film.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #9: The Man With the Golden Gun

Out of all the entries in the 007 franchise, The Man with the Golden Gun is probably my vote for most underrated. Nowadays, that’s not a popular opinion. A lot of people seem to have really mixed feelings about it. Yes, it can be said that maybe the film is a bit too goofy at times, especially since I recently criticized Diamonds Are Forever for that very reason, but I feel like this earned more of the silliness. With a great setup, great action, and a fantastic villain, not only do I think Golden Gun is as good as Live and Let Die, I think it’s even better.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #8: Live and Let Die

After the disastrously disappointing Diamonds Are Forver, Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli looked to the future, targeting Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die as their next entry in the series. With Connery finally retiring from playing the character, and going on to torment Alex Trebek in the future, they sought after new talent to fill his shoes. This was the era of Bond number three, Roger Moore. Moore was an English actor best known for his role in the long running TV series The Saint, and had his own history with Bond. He was reportedly one of the actors considered by the producers to play 007 in Dr. No, but Moore claims he wasn’t approached about it until this very film. Whichever the case, it appears they learned from their mistakes, for Live and Let Die is one of the more entertaining entries in the 007 saga.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #7: Diamonds Are Forever

Much like Thunderball to Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever had a lot to live up to after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, George Lazenby’s only cinematic appearance as James Bond. After Lazenby left the series, Saltzman and Broccoli had no choice but to return to Sean Connery. This would be his last appearance as James Bond in the official EON canon (I am NOT reviewing Never Say Never Again), and thankfully so.

One thing that had been made apparent after seeing Lazenby take on the role of 007 was how far Connery had gone. He started out in high fashion, coming off strongly in the first three Bond films… but boy, did he get old fast. Connery had long overstayed his welcome (Just like someone else we’ll get to), and his send off was horribly weak.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #6: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

With You Only Live Twice concluded, Sean Connery had reached the end of his five picture deal with EON. He planned on retiring from the character, but that was not the case. He would come back in the future release Diamonds Are Forever, but in the middle of all that, new talent had emerged for the role. Australian actor George Lazenby hadn’t hit it big in the business, but he screen tested for, and eventually won the role of Bond. Compared to the likes of Connery, Roger Moore, and Pierce Brosnan, Lazenby is the most under the radar. Some even forget who he was, due to the fact that this was first and only Bond film he’d ever starred in. Every other actor, even Timothy Dalton, played the character at least twice. This made me think he must be so bad that he almost ruined the movie. In actuality, he’s responsible for one of the best Bond movies yet.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #5: You Only Live Twice

Saltzman and Broccoli had long been building up the SPECTRE storyline first introduced in Dr. No, and this was the beginning of the end of that saga. You Only Live Twice is interesting in the way that it had some strange decisions behind its production. Chief among this was the fact that the script was written by author Roald Dahl, who most readers would know best as the author of Matilda, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Some could argue that he was out of his element, but what he turned in isn’t all that bad. It’s incredibly silly at times, but it at least has some much needed stamina behind it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #4: Thunderball

Goldfinger had been such a success in its original release that everyone and their dog went to see it. It literally kept theater chains open 24/7, made the Bond series the cream of the crop, and the film even won an Oscar, one of only three Bond films to do so. The creators were on top of the world. Their next follow up had some serious potential. With just the right amount of hard work, this could even best Goldfinger. What could possibly go wr-OH, COME ON! You had to return to the SPECTRE storyline?!

Yep. Turns out Thunderball isn’t the anticipated follow up it should be, serving as more of a disappointment to its predecessor.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #3: Goldfinger

Now THIS is more like it. Following the success of Dr. No and From Russia with Love, Broccoli and Saltzman were quick to get the third James Bond feature out, and boy was it gonna be a special one. It feels like they finally started examining what worked for their previous two features, and what they needed to improve on. The result of their hard work was Goldfinger, the third movie featuring Sean Connery as Bond, and the first directed by Guy Hamilton. Often considered by many to be the best Bond movie ever made, Goldfinger gave us more of the iconic Bond staples we loved, and upped the bar for themselves big time. If you’re going to make a breezy, light, funny and thrilling action movie, this is the standard you need to hold yourself up to.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #2: From Russia With Love

After the success of Dr. No, Albert Broccoli and Henry Saltzman were quick to put out their next James Bond feature film From Russia with Love. The film was once again directed by Terence Young, and had Sean Connery come back as 007. So… I don’t know if it’s me, but this seemed like a step backwards. They tried to stay true to what made the first film a success, and while it does have its fair share of enjoyment, this movie really seemed to fail at engaging me like Dr. No had done.

Friday, March 1, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #1: Dr. No

To start off my retrospective, we take a look at Bond’s first cinematic appearance, Dr. No. James Bond was originally created by English author Ian Fleming, and who should seek out the rights to make a film based on his books? Why, none other than Albert Broccoli and Henry Saltzman, who formed a partnership in bringing Bond to the big screen. The two had initially wanted to start with Thunderball, but due to circumstances, they opted for Dr. No. The film was to be directed by Terence Young, but casting Bond himself was an issue. They had initially thought of Cary Grant, and even considered the likes of Roger Moore (And we’ll get to him real soon). Enter Scottish actor Sean Connery. That’s right, the guy Darrel Hammond used to play in the SNL parodies of Jeopardy!, that was this guy. Connery was 30 when he signed on for five feature films, and the movie’s production was set in stone.