Friday, November 2, 2012

10 FAVORITES (66): Bond James Bond

In one week, the 23rd film in the James Bond movie franchise will be released.  Directed by Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes and starring Daniel Craig (in his third outing as 007!), Skyfall has been long-awaited after financial difficulties with MGM Studios and script concerns (with Peter Morgan leaving to be replaced by John Logan).  The anticipation for this film has been stirring for a while (especially since Craig's appearance alongside Queen Elizabeth II in the 2012 London Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies!), it now seems that everyone has Bond-fever.  Both Craig and Logan have already signed on for two more Bond movies following Skyfall and most box-office prognosticators predict that the film shall be one of the biggest openings of November (second probably to the final installment of The Twilight Saga).  But being as this is the 23rd cinematic Bond outing, I thought that maybe this week I would discuss some of the superspy's previous adventures and which ones were his absolute best.  So this week's 10 FAVORITES is dedicated to:


On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
James Bond played by: George Lazenby
Theme Song sung by: Louis Armstrong
I know you might want to laugh at this moment and you may even want to click to another site, but hear me out first!  George Lazenby had a very tough act to follow when Sean Connery decided to forgo playing 007 in the sixth Bond film.  Is Lazenby great? No, but he's not horrible and who could compare to Connery at that point? No one else had played the role (in any serious way).  Lazenby is helped by a very good supporting cast (which includes Diana Rigg and Telly Savallas) and a well fleshed out script (from one of Ian Fleming's short stories about Bond!).  Lazenby ends up getting a bad rap mainly because of the shoes he had to fill that he just (as simply a former model and not a seasoned actor) could not fill.

Thunderball (1965)
James Bond played by: Sean Connery
Theme Song sung by: Tom Jones
This was Connery's fourth film as 007 and after the first three (which we'll get to!), you could see the strains of the franchise beginning.  But this slightly convoluted spy film (I mean what spy film isn't convoluted?!?) is still entirely enjoyable.  Plus the Tom Jones theme song sets you up for adventure...of the underwater kind!

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
James Bond played by: Roger Moore
Theme Song sung by: Carly Simon
This was Roger Moore's third time in Bond's shoes and I almost added The Man With the Golden Gun (Moore's second Bond film) to this list.  But its this film's story that I have always found fascinating.  Even though there was an actual Ian Fleming novel with this title, the story of the film is in no way related to the narrative of that book.  Here, they have an evil recluse (played brilliantly by Curt Jurgens) trying to destroy the world and create a new one underwater (called Atlantis!) that revolves all around him.  It features another great Bond girl (Barbara Bach as the Russian Anya Amasova who allies with Bond) and an infamous villain sidekick (who can forget Richard Kiel's metal-mouthed Jaws?!?).

Dr. No (1962)
James Bond played by: Sean Connery
Theme Song played by: The John Barry Orchestra
This was the first, the original, the "shot heard round the world" (so to speak!).  It perfectly set up the character as we know him (who doesn't remember the first time Sean Connery spoke the name "Bond James Bond?") and it has one of the most famous Bond girls of all-time (Ursula Andress grrr!!!).  This one's placement on this list is a no-brainer.

Licence to Kill (1989)
James Bond played by: Timothy Dalton
Theme Song sung by: Gladys Knight
I may take a lot of flack for this one, but I really enjoyed this film (a lot more than Timothy Dalton's earlier Bond film The Living Daylights, yuck!).  And I think what I liked about it was the pacing and the mood.  It felt like a series finale.  And for a few years after this film came out, it felt like they were never going to do another Bond film again.  That might have to do with the fact that the year this film came out, it was up against other franchise fair like Back to the Future II, Lethal Weapon 2, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman and The Little Mermaid.  With those films making most of the box office money in 1989, its no wonder MGM considered this to be the last Bond film...for the time being (but we'll get to that in a bit!).

Live and Let Die (1973)
James Bond played by: Roger Moore
Theme Song sung by: Paul McCartney
This was the first time Roger Moore stepped into the Bond role and it was very different from previous ones.  Here Agent 007 was up against the trappings of Caribbean voodoo and the mystery found in those American islands.  Moore proved himself quite up to the task of taking over for Connery and he had some great support.  Yaphet Kotto was well cast as the imposing villain Dr. Kananga and Jane Seymour (in her first major film role) is both sensual and mysterious as the psychic Solitaire.  And the thrilling theme song by Paul McCartney just empowers you!

Casino Royale (2006)
James Bond played by: Daniel Craig
Theme Song sung by: Chris Cornell
There was a lot riding on this film.  It was based on one of Fleming's most famous 007 books which had never really had a serious film adaptation (a 1954 television episode and the satirical 1967 film do not count!).  It was also introducing a new actor as Bond, an actor that many people had never really heard of before.  But in the hands of director Martin Campbell (who had directed Goldeneye) and screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (who have been with the franchise since The World Is Not Enough and have worked on the script for Skyfall alongside John Logan), this adaptation fully satisfies Bond fans who have been waiting for this title to be seriously adapted.  It was a good choice for Purvis and Wade to ally themselves on this film with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis (of Million Dollar Baby and Crash fame).

From Russia With Love (1963)
James Bond played by: Sean Connery
Theme Song sung by: Matt Monro
When dealing with a superspy character that was created during the Cold War, at some point the films are going to have to deal with Soviet antagonists.  So the producers ventured the subject matter in the second Bond film and did so quite brilliantly.  It is highly considered one of the best Bond films of all time and it has one of the best screenplays with really well-developed characters.  Connery was becoming more comfortable in Bond's skin and it clearly shows.  Plus the villains are so well cast.  Robert Shaw gives a breakout performance as an assassin after Bond.  And then there's Lotte Lenya, who practically steals the movie as the truly ruthless Rosa Klebb.

Goldeneye (1995)
James Bond played by: Pierce Brosnan
Theme Song sung by: Tina Turner
As I said before, in the early 1990s the studio considered not doing anymore Bond films.  But with growing interest and the casting decision of Pierce "Remington Steele" Brosnan, this became one of the most profitable and most enjoyable of 007 films.  Again, Bond is up against Soviet holdouts from the Cold War and has to stop a dangerous nuclear device from destroying the world.  But the addition of (SPOILER ALERT!) the traitorous Alec Trevelyan (known at MI-6 as 006!) played perfectly by Sean Bean was just the kick this Bond needed to make him fascinating.  It also didn't hurt that Famke Janssen played one of the more shall we say "interesting Bond girls," Xenia Onatopp (the deadliest legs in the Bond universe literally!).

Goldfinger (1964)
James Bond played by: Sean Connery
Theme Song sung by: Shirley Bassey
What can I say?  Everything about this Bond film is perfect.  It has the best Bond actor (Sean Connery IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE 007!).  It has the best Bond girl (Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore...'nuff said!).  It has the greatest Bond villain (Gert Frobe is amazing as Goldfinger despite the German actor's voice needing to be dubbed by British actor Michael Collins).  It has the best villain sidekick (Oddjob and his deadly hat!).  And it has the greatest Bond theme song (belted by the amazingly talented Shirley Bassey!).  It is a brilliant piece of Bond cinema and is extremely hard to top!

Will Skyfall join this list?  Will Adele's already amazing theme song join the annals of great Bond themes alongside the likes of Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner, Paul McCartney and Tom Jones?  We will have to wait until next week to find out.

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