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Top 10 007 Movies
"Bond, James Bond."
Mel and I have been on mission, on her majesties secret service. 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of DR. NO to theaters, and today sees the US release of SKYFALL, the newest Bond film in the franchise.
Despite the fact that the 24 films (26 if you count the "non-cannonical" NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN and the original CASINO ROYALE staring David Niven, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen) have no strong plot ties to bring them together, we decided (well, I decided and she went along with it) to do a marathon of ALL of the bond films this year, starting in May. We averaged three a month, starting with DR. NO and working our way forward. I'd seen them all before of course. I know of Sean Connery's appeal as the first (and some fan's ONLY Bond), I grew up with Roger Moore, so in many ways, he's MY Bond, and fell for Pierce Brosnan's perfect blend between the two, but after the re-watch, I finally feel qualified to offer up my Top Ten list:
10. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN - (1974) This is Roger Moore's second outing as the suave sophisticated secret agent, and it shows how comfortable he's gotten in the role. Exotic locations, a pair of Bond beauties in Maud Adams and Britt Ekland, a masterful plot by the villain (wonderfully played by Christopher Lee and of course, Herve Villechaize as Nick Nack). This one is fun. Sure, some of the fun house sequences are a little out there, and some of the martial arts are played for laughs, but it is 70's Bond after all.
9. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH - (1999) Pierce Brosnan in his third outing as Bond, and it's a hoot. Yes, it has dark moments like the cringe inducing Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist. Not only can she not act, but is that even remotely believable? Even for a Bond film? But I think it makes up for it with the daring choice to have Sophie Marceau be the villainess. Bond has never faced a woman on top before (rim shot!) and it was an interesting direction to take. Desmond Llewellen's Q gets a heart touching send off in his last Bond film. Also, Judi Dench's M gets way more screen time in this one, and takes full advantage of it, fleshing out her relationship with Bond, and the pre-title sequence with an attack on MI6 and subsequent boat chase is pure magic.
8. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE - (1963) Sean Connery IS Bond in his second film (DR. NO was just the trial run) and it's here the series starts picking up steam. Bear in mind this is NOT an action flick, as they would later become known as, but a very intense spy thriller. Robert Shaw once again shows why he was such a great actor, playing the first (and in some ways best) version of the unstoppable henchman.
7. TOMORROW NEVER DIES - (1997) People look at me like I'm crazy when I say I like this one better than Brosnan's kick off film GOLDENEYE. But I think my taste is justified in that this is fundamentally a better movie. GOLDENEYE had too much pressure on it, Brosnan is stiff and working to be Bond, here he's relaxed into the role and much more fluid. Yes, they had run out of books to base them on so the plot seems a bit far fetched... or is it? A media mogul (Jonathan Pryce having a blast) starts a war between England and China so that he can cover it. If William Randolph Hearst was alive today, it's something he might come up with. And then there's the car. GOLDENEYE's biggest flaw was introducing us to the beautiful new Bond BMW, fully loaded as Q would say... and then it never gets used! WTF!?!? They address the error quite well here, putting the car through it's paces in a parking garage, and Brosnan looks like he's having the time of his life driving it... by remote control.
6. CASINO ROYALE - (2005) Daniel Craig's first shot at 007 isn't as good as everybody makes it out to be. Don't get me wrong, it's a great film. But it wasn't deserving of all the hype. I get the idea of the reboot and showing Bond before he became suave, but Craig is almost too much of a blunt instrument, more at home in the BOURNE IDENTITY spy films than James Bond. The action scenes are bar none, some of the best in the series, and it's beautifully shot, but seems a bit drab color wise compared to the previous installments, and Craig spends most of his time looking like he lost a fight with a shaving razor (there's the gritty realism again) even more so in the complete waste of time follow up QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Maybe that's why I'm not sold on him yet as Bond. Maybe SKYFALL will solidify him for me.
5. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY - (1981) Roger Moore was beginning to show his age in this one, but it's a fantastic story of a woman seeking revenge for the death of her family by a double agent. Very 80's with it's Lotus and soundtrack by Bill Conti, but far more believable than the nearly farcical (but still a guilty pleasure) MOONRAKER that preceded it. Topol and Julian Glover are picture perfect as a pair of former friends and comrades turned against each other in the Greek underworld. The climax which has Bond climbing a sheer rock face to reach a monastery is still amazing to watch.
4. LICENSE TO KILL (1989) - Timothy Dalton gets a bad rap among the Bond fan community for this one, the lowest grossing film in the series. BUT, take into account it was released in Summer of '89, the biggest summer ever at the time. It faced stiff competition from BATMAN, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, LETHAL WEAPON 2, GHOSTBUSTERS 2 and more. I remember seeing this one in the theater Friday night opening weekend. Just me, and six other people. Opening weekend. Yikes did it get clobbered financially, and Bond has never strayed back into summer release waters again. BUT, it's a great movie, with Robert Davi playing a drug king pin who fed Bond's CIA friend Felix Liter to the sharks. This time, it's personal screamed the ads. And they were right. Bond went all the way off the reservation to extract his revenge, pulling off some of the greatest stunt work involving semi-trucks ever, and all before CGI. Well done sir. Well done.
3. GOLDFINGER (1964) - This is regarded as the quintessential Bond film. Sean Connery is at the height of his powers, there's a fantastic plot involving a raid on Fort Knox, there's Pussy Galore, Odd Job, Shirley Bassey singing arguably the best theme song in the franchise, the Aston Martin makes it's first appearance (complete with ejector seat), and of course the now infamous exchange: "Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die." They don't make them like this anymore. So why isn't it on the top of my list? Well, quite honestly, it's overhyped as well. Bond spends over half the movie as a prisoner, Goldfinger's undoing (despite his immense wealth) is cheating at cards and golf, scenic Kentucky doesn't have quite the same flare as a true exotic locale, and Pussy Galore... ah, Pussy. Why does she changer her mind so easily after sleeping with Bond? She caves and agrees to help and ruins Goldfinger's plan, and it all happens off camera! Other than these nitpicks, yes, it is perfection.
2. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) - This, for me, is the true quintessential Bond film. Roger Moore at the height of his powers, a fantastic plot involving nuking humanity and starting over on the sea floor, Agent Triple X, Jaws, Carly Simon singing arguably the best theme song in the franchise, the Lotus car turning into a submarine, and of course, the now infamous exchange: "Bond, what do you think you're doing?" "Keeping the British end up, sir." Okay, so maybe the lines don't quite measure up, but this is Bond. Big, brash and bold.
1. ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969) - Poor George Lazenby, having to follow up Sean Connery. This is his only outing as Bond, and while he's not fantastic, he does a good job. The film however, does a great job, giving us action and stunts galore, mixed with a great plot about Bond going undercover and finding true love with Tracy (Diana Rigg) even going so far as to get married and resign from MI6. But of course, there are no happy endings. Blofeld (Telly Savalas) will make sure of that.
I am of course aware that everyone has their own ideas of what makes a great Bond film, and one man's trash is another man's treasure. If you agree (or disagree) with my picks, let me know!