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My Name is Bond Series: Diamonds are Forever (1971)

13 11 2012

Copyright 1971 Eon Productions

★ ★ ★

After a one picture hiatus in which Australian model/actor George Lazeby briefly picked up 007’s licence to kill, Sean Connery returned for his final portrayal as Bond, at least, his final portrayal that falls into the official canon of Eon Productions films. He did pick up his Walther PPK one more time in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, an interesting re-take on Thunderball that only came to fruition because of some sticky copyright dealings.

One of Bond’s arch enemies, Ernst Blofeld, this time portrayed by Charles Gray, is supposedly murdered early on in the pre-title sequence. However, with experimentations in facial reconstruction surgery, it soon becomes apparent that Blofeld was not as easily killed off as originally thought. In the meantime, Bond is assigned to a case involving a supposed smuggling ring in the South African diamond industry. To intercept the targeted diamonds, Bond travels to Amsterdam disguised as smuggler Peter Franks. It is here that he meets the primary “Bond girl” of this film, Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), a liaison in the smuggling circle. When the real Franks shows up, Bond kills him, and switches identities in Case’s eyes by saying the dead man is British agent James Bond. The diamonds are then smuggled to Los Angeles via the real Franks coffin, and later, through to Las Vegas. As he becomes involved deeper in the disappearance of the diamonds, he realizes that the true cause is much deeper than just depressing the diamond industry as originally thought. The diamonds are being used in a contraption within a top secret base that belongs to billionaire recluse Walter Whyte (Jimmy Dean, taking cue from real life billionaire Howard Hughes). As Bond digs deeper, he realizes his supposedly deceased foe, Blofeld, may in fact be behind the whole operation. Furthermore, he has a pair of sadistically witty, homosexual assassins, Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (bassist Putter Smith) on his tail.

Whew, gotta love writing a synopsis for a Bond film. This one might be more convoluted than most, however, with a story that kind of weaves in and out of direction as the movie progresses. Of all of Connery’s performances as Bond, this might be one of the weakest, if not the weakest. The villains aren’t particularly novel, Jill St. John is not a very well-rounded Bond girl as neither really an adversary, nor a solid ally, and the suspense that Bond gets himself into is not particularly exciting. It’s not a terrible film, but it doesn’t capture the magic of early Connery movies like Dr. No, From Russia with Love or Goldfinger. Directed by Bond alumnus Guy Hamilton, this is a novel effort to recapture the magic of Connery’s early era as Bond, but somehow misses the mark and falls short of full potential.

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My Name is Bond Series: Skyfall (2012)

11 11 2012

Copyright 2012 Eon Productions

★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

Even though it’s only been released in the US for a couple of days now, it feels like I finally got to see the new Bond film.  Coincidentally, I saw it on the heels of The Living Daylights last night, a selection from the Bond 50th Blu-Ray series which was my birthday present from my sweet girlfriend, Maddie.

OK, so the 23rd Bond film, and Daniel Craig’s third go round in the part. Upon hearing of the production of this film I was wildly excited, first because one of my favorite DPs, Roger Deakins, was going to be shooting the film, but even more so, that it was being helmed by Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes. Granted, an acclaimed artistic director doesn’t always make a great Bond film (Michael Apted and Marc Forster…ahem), but I have consistently been amazed with Mendes’s work over the years (outside of Away We Go, which was terrible.)

This paragraph of my reviews is usually reserved for a synopsis of the film; however, for this film, I feel I would be cheating you, my reader, by divulging much of the story. This film carries nearly all of the staples of a classic Bond film, yet if I gave you too much of an overview, it would spoil the brilliance of its execution. So, I opt out of this usual section of my review format (you’ll thank me later).

What I can say, is that this is one of the best Bond films in many years. I will have to let it all sink in a bit more, but it might actually be one of the best Bond films of the entire canon. Daniel Craig seems quite comfortable in the role now, even more so than his previous two installments. The script is sharp, the action sequences are breathtaking, the direction apt, cinematography exquisite, the villain is evil, really there is nothing I can say bad about this film. It fits the Bond formula to a tee, but also manages to add something new and invigorating to the mix. Its achievement in doing this, make it a very fitting film for the 50th anniversary of this iconic franchise, and I think, proof that Bond will continue for many generations to come.





New Bond Film “Skyfall” Moving Forward Nicely

23 02 2012

Copyright 2011 EON Productions

Daniel Craig’s third outing as British super spy James Bond is due out on November 9th.  On the official James Bond 007 Web site, a video blog was recently released detailing director Sam Mendes’s thoughts on the production and reasons for getting involved in the project.  That video can be viewed here:

Few details have been released on the film, outside of the fact that the story will test Bond’s loyalty to his supervisor at MI5, M (Judi Dench).  The production crew compiled for the film is an impressive, though somewhat non-traditional group.  Director Sam Mendes, whose previous credits include the Academy Award-Winning American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road and indie comedy-drama Away We Go, is an interesting pick for the multi-billion dollar Bond franchise.  However, I’m very curious as to how this film will be handled by a director not accustomed per se to large budget action oriented filmmaking.  The previous film in the canon, Quantum of Solace, seemed to suffer under the helm of Marc Forster, who like Mendes, is not a traditional big budget director.  However, personally, I have much preferred Mendes’s output to Forsters’, outside of the dreadful Away We Go.

Another newcomer to the Bond franchise is long time Coen Brother cinematographer, Roger Deakins.  Deakins, whose resume reads almost as a top movie list of the past twenty some odd years, is one of the most well-respected DPs in the business and has garnered an impressive nine Oscar nominations, though no wins.  Always the bridesmaid, but no less an amazingly talented artist and one of my favorite working cinematographers in the industry today, his soft light, naturalistic approach to imaging will be an interesting contrast to the usually over the top stylization of a Bond film.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have definitely taken a chance on hiring extremely talented, though somewhat out of the norm picks for two positions that are highly influential in the production of a Bond movie.  However, like all iconic franchises, there is always a time for recreating the image to stay up with the times, and now is no better a time after the disappointing reception of the last Bond film.  Hopefully, the glorious rebirth of the Bond image we experienced in Casino Royale will once again come to fruition on November 9th when we get to see the curtain come up and experience our twenty third adventure with James Bond in Skyfall.





My Name is Bond Series: Goldeneye (1995)

21 12 2011

Copyright 1995 EON Productions

★ ★ ★ ★

A viewing of this film from the other night was probably the first time I had seen this movie in its entirety since soon after its home video release in the mid-1990s.  Being that I was only six-years-old when Licence to Kill came out in 1989, and there was a nearly six year hiatus between films due to various problems and law suits, this was the first Bond movie that I was able to see upon release in theaters.  For that, it does hold a special place in my heart; however, my viewing of this film as an adult has diminished my memories slightly from the grandness it was to my twelve-year-old mind.

The pre-title sequence takes place nine years earlier than the rest of the film and recounts Bond’s loss of good friend Alex Trevelyan, aka 006 (Sean Bean), to Russian General Ourumov while on a mission in Russia.  Fast forward nine years later, while on a bit of a retreat and review, Bond runs into gorgeous Xenia Onatopp (get it? “On the Top”), portrayed by Famke Janssen.  Suspicious of her background, Bond follows her and catches on that she is planning to steal a top secret Tiger Helicopter.  Too late to stop her, she and an unnamed accomplice get away with the helicopter during a publicity event demonstrating the vehicles functions.  Her accomplice turns out to be General Ouromov and, with him, they destroy a military communications base in Russia and steal vital information about the Goldeneye project, which is an electromagnetic pulse device.  The only two survivors of the siege on the communications base are programmers Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming) and Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco).  Grishenko we find later is assisting the antagonist, and Natalya becomes the good Bond girl figure for the remainder of the movie.  In investigating the destruction of the base, Bond uncovers an villain he would have never presumed and then goes on to save the world as usual.

Whew!  That plot is harder to condense than you would think, but in reality, its not as complicated as it sounds.  I was blown away by this film when I saw it in the theaters in 1995; I’m sure a large degree of this was due to my never having experienced Bond on the big screen, and my age at the time.  Seeing the movie again at 28, I can’t say that it was as pleasing for me as it was when I was younger.  It’s still a good Bond film, possibly still Brosnan’s best, but not near as interesting or exciting of many others in the canon.  Though I will admit, Famke Janssen is as hot to me now as when I was a kid – that might be the only constant variable in the two viewings; what can I say, sometimes I’m a sucker for the bad girl.

In the end, however, it was just a “good” movie to me, rather than “great” as it once was.  Literally every line out of Brosnan’s mouth is a pun or a cute comment, this didn’t bother me years ago, but drove me nuts this time around.  Furthermore, I think I am just too familiar with the story to truly enjoy it, as I saw it in the theatre and on VHS years ago and played the heck out of the Goldeneye video game for the Nintendo 64.  Heck, I still play that game sometimes.  All and all, I chalked the review up to mix my feelings of long ago with my feelings upon recent viewing and feel that I’ve satisfied both my twelve-year-old and 28-year-old opinions on this movie.





My Name is Bond Series: Licence to Kill (1989)

29 11 2011

Copyright 1989 Eon Productions

★ ★ ★ ★

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and with the four days off, I was able to watch a pretty decent amount of movies.  Some were good, some were terrible and one was Bond, so it gets incorporated into the “My Name is Bond” Series here on the blog.  Yes, I know I said I was going to go in order, but after seeing this one and having it fresh in my mind, I am going to jump around a bit.

Timothy Dalton takes his second and final turn as James Bond in this film.  Longtime friend and CIA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison) is on his way to his wedding with Bond as the best man.  On the way, however, the DEA intercepts him because of a lead on notorious drug runner Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi).  After an exciting pre-title action sequence that results in Sanchez’s capture, Leiter and Bond arrive for the wedding in epic style.  Under interregation, Sanchez offers $2 million for anyone who will free him.  DEA agent Ed Killifer (Everett McGuill aka ‘Big Ed’ to all you Twin Peaks fans) can’t pass up the offer and frees Sanchez during the transport.  Knowing his captor, Sanchez kills Leiter’s newly wed wife and feeds him  to the sharks, though he does survive in intensive care.  Bond, seeking revenge, plans to go gunning for Sanchez, but his boss M demands he stay on course and head to Istanbul for a field operation.  James resigns and gives up his “Licence to Kill”, instead embarking on a journey into South America to find and kill Sanchez.  Along the way, he garners some convenient help from a CIA operative named Pam Bouvier (Cary Lowell) and receives some help from Q (Desmond Lleweln) under the table.

In addition to being Dalton’s final appearance as Bond, this was also the final Bond film for Albert R. Broccoli in the Executive Producer position, Richard Maibaum as a writer, John Glen as a director (he directed all 5 Bond movies in the 1980s beginning with For Your Eyes Only), title designer Maurice Bender, Robert Brown as M and Caroline Bliss as Moneypenny.  So, in a way, this film marked the end of an era in the EON Productions Bond franchise; because of this and lawsuits that arose in the early 1990s, it was six years before a new Bond movie release, that being Goldeneye with Pierce Brosnan.

A lot of bond fans are not too keen on Dalton as Bond.  A more emotional, sentimental Bond than some in ways, yet more realistic and rough and tough in others.  According to many, Dalton’s portrayal is the closest to the original character in the books by Ian Fleming.  For me, personally, I immensely enjoyed Dalton’s portrayal and hate he didn’t stick around for a third film.  As for the film itself, director John Glen felt this was his best effort of all his Bond films; I have to agree.  It is gritty, it is dark and the action sequences are very well-handled.  Though little attention gets paid to this film in the canon, I really enjoy it.  This was my third time seeing the movie and it hasn’t lost any of the allure it had for me when I first saw it nearly seven or eight years ago.

In short, a great, underrated Bond film.  And no, I didn’t misspell the title; “Licence” is the British way of spelling what we Americans are more familiar with transcribing as “License.”





Directors who Started in Other Departments – PART I

22 03 2011

Some film directors start out knowing that all they really want to do is direct.  Others, for various reasons, have started in an array of other departments and moved into direction along the way at some point.  So, as a series of posts, I’m going to compile a list for your viewing pleasure of directors who started out being known for something other than directing.  Now, of course, many directors wear multiple hats, but the ones I list in this post and the ones following will be only directors who were prominently known for a role other than directing BEFORE they became directors.  To start the series, we’ll begin with editors turned directors:

THE EDITORS:

Robert Wise (1914-2005) – Before winning Oscars for West Side Story and The Sound of Music, among nominations and accolades for many of his other films, Robert Wise was an editor.  Some of his editing credits include 1939’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welle’s infamously cut classic.  However, probably his best known editing credit is for the film that constantly ranks among the best ever made, Orson Welles’s 1941 classic Citizen Kane. Interestingly enough, out of Wise’s eight Oscar nominations, his first was for editing Citizen Kane.

David Lean (1908-1991) – Before being at the helm of such epic masterpieces as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago, Lean was working in the cutting room.  He started cutting his teeth in newsreels in the early 1930s before moving into cutting features such as Pygmalion and Pressburger and Powell’s 49th Parallel. By the time he moved into directing in the early 1940s, Lean had cut some two dozen features.  As a fitting ode to his former career, Lean would edit his final picture A Passage to India in 1984, ending one of the most impressive careers in cinema.

Hal Ashby (1929-1988) – Ashby started in the editorial department and would eventually only end up as primary editor on six features.  Though his quantity as an editor was not high, he was awarded an Academy Award in 1967 for cutting Best Picture winner In the Heat of the Night. Norman Jewison, the director of the film, would go on to let Ashby direct a picture he passed on, 1970’s The Landlord. What followed would be, in my opinion, one of the most underrated careers of any director in mainstream cinema.  During the 1970s, Ashby would direct a slew of well-received motion pictures which includes Harold and Maude, Shampoo, The Last Detail, Bound For Glory, Coming Home and Being There. Though drugs and irrationality would end his career essentially in the 1980s, his film output the decade before is testament to a unique auteur of American cinema.

John Glen (1932- ) – Glen is probably best known for directing more James Bond films than any other, having directed all 5 Bond movies produced in the 1980s (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights and License to Kill).  Before being at the top of the super spy franchise, Glen started in editing.  His editing credits, outside of three prior Bond movies (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker), included British films Murphy’s War and The Sea Wolves, among many others.  To add to his already impressive resume, he also served as 2nd Unit Director on several of the films he edited including being in charge of the thrilling ski chase at the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me.

Peter R. Hunt (1925-2002) – The Bond series liked to grow their directors from the inside it seems, as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service director Peter R. Hunt was also an editor on the series before turning to directing.  Hunt, whose credits as an editor started in 1954, cut such Bond classics as Dr. No, Goldfinger and From Russia with Love. In addition to George Lazenby getting an opportunity of a lifetime upon Connery’s departure from the series, Hunt was able to move up as well in 1969 with Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It would be his only Bond film as director, though he did continue a directing career until 1991.

Anthony Harvey (1931- ) – English Director/Editor Harvey began as an assistant editor in the early 1950s.  During the decade he moved to full editor and in the 1960s edited several iconic films including a collaboration with famed director Stanley Kubrick on Lolita and Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He served also served as editor on his debut film as a director, Dutchman.  His second film would become his most well-known and revered, 1968’s The Lion in Winter. For this film, Harvey would receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Director and both leads, Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn, would receive nominations.  Hepburn would go on to win (her third of four).  Harvey has continued a sporadic career as a director with his last film to date being 1994’s This Can’t Be Love.

Robert Parrish (1916-1995) – Parrish’s career began first as an actor while still an adolescent.  He made appearances in several John Ford films, as well as the Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front  and as one of the newspaper boys in Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.  Through his work with Ford, Parrish became an assistant director and later, and more prominently, an editor.  His editing credits include: The Battle of Midway, December 7th, Grapes of Wrath (assistant), Body and Soul and All the King’s Men.  He won an Oscar for Best Film Editing for Body and Soul in 1947 and was nominated for All the King’s Men in the same category as well.  In the 1950s, Parrish moved into directing with such films as Cry Danger, The Purple Plain and Fire Down Below, as well as working in television for such shows as The Twilight Zone (check the Twilight Zone Master Guide above for episodes he worked on).  He continued directing through the 1960s, being one of the five directors of the James Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967), and into the mid-1970s.  He had one credited film for a documentary in the 1980s, entitled Mississippi Blues.  Parrish died in Long Island, N.Y. at the age of 79.

Well, those are the ones I know of who began prominent careers as directors while first serving as editors.  If you can think of more people to be added to this compilation who began their careers as editors before turning to directing, then please comment and I will review and add to the list!








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