The Name’s Blog, James Blog (Part II)

Well, here it is, my personal top 10 Bond films in descending order:

  1. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

You don’t need me to explain the start of this film, when Alan Partridge does it so well for me:

What follows from an admittedly dubious opening, is a really slick and watchable Bond film. The theme tune, when Steve Coogan isn’t singing it, is a classic. The villain, whilst not the best, does have another very cool base – this time underwater – and Barbara Bach, who is admittedly a bit funny looking, is a passable bit of eye candy as Roger Moore’s love interest.

But this film deserves to be in the top 10 for two very good reasons: Firstly, it marks the debut of Richard Kiel as the unforgettable henchman ‘Jaws’.  Secondly, whilst I would always prefer Bond to be driving an Aston Martin, how frigging cool is a Lotus Esprit that turns into a submarine?!

Quite simply, this is the second best film to be released in 1977.

  1. From Russia With Love (1963)

This film just oozes class. It was only the second Bond release, following just a year after Dr No., but already Connery had made the role his own, and looks more comfortable this time around. Due to the success of Dr No., United Artists doubled the budget for From Russia With Love, and it shows – there are some superb locations. Robert Shaw, as Donald “Red” Grant, is fantastic; the evil Rosa Klebb and her dagger shoes give us the first taste of gadgetry in a Bond film; and Daniela Bianchi as the Bond girl is extremely easy on the eye – if a little rubbish when it comes to achieving anything practical (although, in her defence, she is drugged for part of the film). The soundtrack is also fantastic and, were it not for Connery’s next outing in the role, this would be my favourite of his 007 portrayals.

  1. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

I’ve surprised myself a little here. When I was at law school, a friend and I watched all the Bond films back-to-back (up to and including The World Is Not Enough, which was the latest release at the time), to raise money for charity. We called it a ‘Bondathon’, amazingly just one year before Alan Partridge did the same thing (he even called it a Bondathon too). I swear one of the show’s writers must have overheard my friend or I discussing it in the pub at some point, and stolen the idea.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, it took us a little over 43 hours to watch them all, and The Man With The Golden Gun was the point at which we nearly admitted defeat. When you have been up all night, you’re slightly delirious from lack of sleep, and Roger Moore is trying to be suave (but looks more like he’s having a stroke), it does leave a nasty taste in the mouth – although that may, in fairness, have been all the Red Bull we had consumed. For years, I couldn’t watch this film and, in all honesty, I wasn’t sure I ever would again.

However, I saw it just a few months back, and not only managed to survive the ordeal, but really enjoyed it. Christopher Lee is a fantastic actor, and makes a superb villain, along with his French midget henchman Nick Nack on their desert island paradise lair. There is a flying car, which is pretty ridiculous, but it somehow works and, speaking of cars, one of the greatest motoring stunts in cinematic history (long before CGI ruined everything) takes place on a twisted and disintegrated bridge. It would be even better without the silly sound effect they added afterwards but still.

Even Britt Ekland, whilst bloody useless, does a fine job of squeezing into a little bikini.

  1. The World Is Not Enough (1999)

This film, aside from being a very good Bond release in itself, will always hold a special place in my heart for two reasons. Firstly, as I’ve already explained, it was the last film that my friend and I watched when we completed our ‘Bondathon’ more than 10 years ago. Secondly, it marks an emotional farewell to Desmond Llewellyn, who had played ‘Q’ for 36 years.

He apparently had no plans to retire from the role, but there is an emotional scene when he more or less hands over to his successor, ‘R’ (played by John Cleese) and then slowly lowers into the ground. Sadly, Desmond passed away just one month after this film was released, and I remember it being screened at Leeds Festival the following summer when, following this scene, there was a spontaneous standing ovation for him. Very touching, and it still brings a tear to my eye when I think about it.

Back to the film – there’s good plot and a decent performance from Pierce, Robert Carlysle is great as the psychopathic villain, and there is a fantastic chase scene on the Thames prior to the opening credits.  Garbage’s theme isn’t one of the best, but it’s not awful either, and Denise Richards is in it, back when she was quite pretty.

  1. Goldeneye (1995)

Ok, The World Is Not Enough is very good, but when it comes to choosing Brosnan’s best contribution to the franchise, this is a no-brainer. Goldeneye was his debut, and what a debut it is. Right from the explosive opening, when Bond bungee jumps down a dam before (somewhat recklessly) chasing after a falling plane, it’s all out action. Isabella Scorupco would probably be in my top 3 Bond girls (and when you consider her competition in this film alone is a femme fatale who crushes men with her thighs – yikes – that’s some going), while Brits Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane and Alan Cumming are all excellent in their supporting roles. Talking of Brits, it was a bold move to cast Judi Dench as a female ‘M’, but she plays the role fantastically, and continued to do so until the latest film just a few years ago.

I’m personally not a huge fan of the Tina Turner theme, and don’t get me started again on Bond driving a (this time convertible) BMW, but it shows how good the film is if, despite these issues, it still sits just outside my top 5.

  1. Casino Royale (2006)

Speaking of the Top 5, and of very good debuts, this film introduces the latest actor to play Bond, Daniel Craig. It commences with quite a dark opening scene, showing Bond carrying out two assassinations (without so much as a flinch) in order to earn his double-O status, and culminates – via some high stakes Poker (updated from the Baccarat that Bond plays in Fleming’s book of the same name) – with his love interest drowning herself. Hardly laugh-a-minute, and a million miles from good ol’ Roger’s Bond, but it’s a very classy film with some excellent action scenes.

I will backtrack slightly on one of my previous comments, by saying that Mads Mikkelsen almost convinces us that French bankers can be threatening, and Eva Green as the Bond girl is certainly up there, but it’s Craig who really makes this film what it is. Plus, the Aston makes a timely – if all too brief – return (with the invisible paint thankfully misplaced by Q branch) for a short-lived car chase, that ends up with Bond rolling the car and nearly killing himself.

I know a lot of people place this as their favourite Bond, and it is excellent, but I’ll make a case for the next 4 being better.

  1. Live And Let Die (1973)

By far the best of Roger Moore’s efforts, in my opinion, and again it was his debut. It’s interesting that my favourite offerings from Roger, Timothy, Pierce and (technically) George, are their first films as 007.

Solitaire is my favourite of all the Bond girls (don’t judge me) and the opening scene with the fake funeral procession is fantastic – in fact, the whole voodoo theme, with Kananga and Baron Samedi, is great.

Paul McCartney’s theme tune is up with the best, and the stunts are extremely well done – including Bond’s iconic escape from being eaten by crocodiles by running over their backs.

Bond at it’s very best… almost.

  1. Skyfall (2012)

Where do I start? This film is every Bond fans’ dream. The action is non-stop, the stunts are explosive, there are so many in-jokes and references to earlier films that it’s hard to spot them all on the first viewing, and it all ends back at Bond’s family home for a thrilling showdown in Scotland, with Bond having travelled there in the old Aston Martin DB5. Wow.

We bid farewell to Judi Dench as ‘M’ at the end of the film, but she is replaced by the equally brilliant Ralph Fiennes, who I hope remains in the role for some time. Ben Whishaw (who voices Paddington in the recent film, if you didn’t already know), does a great job of taking over – and revitalising – the role of Q, and Javier Bardem is pretty terrifying as the bad guy.

In fact, the only bad thing I can think of regarding this film is (whisper it) the theme tune courtesy of Adele. I know it’s really popular, and it won lots of awards, but I just don’t like it. I don’t mind her personally, but they could have at least tried to find a singer who could pronounce the name of the film properly. Still, it’s not as bad as Madonna’s effort.

  1. The Living Daylights (1987)

Surprised? Ok, so it’s Dalton playing Bond, but that’s no reason to discount it. The plot is great, the action sequences are among the best in the series, the A-ha theme tune is my favourite of all time, and it’s just a very, very good film. I can watch this one over and over again (in fact, I did not so long ago), and although I know it backwards, I never tire of it.

It’s perhaps my guilty pleasure when it comes to Bond, and most would place it far further down, but this is my list, so screw you if you don’t agree. In fact, I can only think of one Bond film that I prefer…

  1. Goldfinger (1964)

Yep. It just had to be, didn’t it? From the Shirley Bassey theme tune, to the Aston Martin DB5 (complete with ejector seat), to Connery at his very best and Honor Blackman at her (much, much younger) finest, to Oddjob and his bowler hat, his boss in the title role, big productions, great action sequences and stunts, charm, wit, charisma, and a laser going dangerously close to Bond’s secret weapon – ending his favourite pastime, if not his life.

Quite simply, it is cinematic perfection.

So, there it is ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for humouring me.

You might not agree with some (or most) of my list, but any Bond fan would be hard pushed to disagree with my winner.

Oh, and a good friend of mine, since reading the first part of this blog entry, has pointed out that I could/should have referred to Bond’s evil nemesis as Ernst Stavro Blogfeld.

Damn.

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The Name’s Blog, James Blog (Part I)

I am a BIG James Bond fan.

Now, that sentence originally said HUGE fan, but I decided that it might give the impression I am one of those nerdy comic-book store virgins, who will snort at you disdainfully, before correcting your pronunciation of some obscure character from Star Wars (for what it’s worth, I love Star Wars – well, the original trilogy anyway – and would certainly admit to a little nerdiness myself, but I do occasionally see daylight, and have actually kissed over three women, so I’m going to distance myself from that type of fan).

I enjoy the Bond films, to the extent that I can quite happily name them all in order, tell you who played 007, and rate the ‘Bond girl’ out of 10 (perhaps I shall save that for a later Blog), but I draw the line at knowing every miniscule detail of every film.

I decided, however, that it was about time I placed the series in order, as a countdown from my least favourite Bond film to my overall winner – and that, dear reader, is what follows.

I will qualify my list, by explaining that this is my own personal countdown, so there will be some surprises (I even surprised myself at points) and some that you will almost certainly disagree with if you, yourself, are a fan, but I will try to explain or justify why each has been given its particular place in the sequence.

Oh, and I am only including official Bond releases, so the truly awful Never Say Never Again can piss right off as far as I’m concerned.

Lastly, because my full run down would be too long for just the one blog entry, I’ll start with a countdown from number 23 to number 11, and leave my top 10 for next time.

  1. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

See, immediately I feel I have to explain myself. I am absolutely certain that this is not the worst film of the franchise, and if I took the time to re-watch it now, I am sure I would place it far higher up my list, but hand on heart I cannot remember a single thing about it – other than the fact the Bond girl looks a little like one of my Aunties (which makes it very difficult to find her attractive). For that reason, it cannot possibly be that good, and to anyone who dares question me, consider this: Bond’s car in this film is a Citroen 2CV. No further questions, your Honour.

  1. Moonraker (1979)

Utter pish. The plot is awful; the theme tune is awful; the Bond girl has a ridiculous name (even by Bond standards), and is dull in both looks and personality; and if it weren’t for one of cinema’s greatest villains, Jaws, making an appearance (RIP Richard Kiel), then it would most likely have pipped that appalling Citroen 2CV advert into last place.

  1. Thunderball (1965)

Oh dear, I’m going to start upsetting people soon. Ok, so Tom Jones’ theme tune is pretty good – as far as Tom Jones tracks go – and the main villain is all right, I suppose, but this film just lacks something and, for me, it’s the weakest of the Connery outings (we’re pretending Never Say Never Again didn’t happen, remember, although it’s interesting that NSNA was based on Thunderball, so they had two bites at the cherry and cocked them both up). It’s adequate, but nothing special, and I just don’t like it.

  1. Quantum of Solace (2008)

Easily Daniel Craig’s worst film (well, to date I guess, although I do hope it stays that way). The plot makes little sense, the action sequences – whilst dramatic and adventurous, which is perhaps the only saving grace for this abomination – are nauseating (literally, they made my wife feel sick due to the shaky way in which they had been filmed), and the Jack White/Alicia Keys theme tune is crap. Worst of all though, the baddy is a French environmental scientist – three words which are not particularly synonymous with all things menacing (well, I guess ‘scientist’ can be, if it is preceded by the word ‘mad’, but you get my point). History has taught us that no Frenchman will ever take over the world, especially if he also happens to be an environmental scientist with a penchant for eating apples in a pervy way.

  1. Octopussy (1983)

Roger Moore at his campest. Unfortunately, Roger Moore at his campest is often bloody awful, as it is here. His penultimate outing, whilst not his worst, sees old Rog looking jaded and a bit bored with the role, and it doesn’t take long for the viewer to become just as despondent. The film also features a cameo role for Vijay Amritraj, a former Indian tennis player who, at one point, uses his tennis skills to fight off would-be assailants. I mean, come on. Rita Coolidge’s theme All Time High is passable however, and is just about enough to give this film a teen placing in my list.

  1. Licence To Kill (1989)

Timothy Dalton played Bond twice and, oh my, how the films differ. This one starts dark – with Felix Leiter’s wife being raped and murdered, before Felix himself is maimed by a Great White shark – and just gets darker. The Bond girl, Pam Bouvier, is quite easy on the eye, despite her name sounding like she should be Homer Simpson’s other sister-in-law, and the theme tune is average, but generally speaking this is a pretty poor effort. So much so, I don’t think anyone was too sad to see Dalton leave the role after this film, even though I personally rate him as 007, and as an actor generally.

  1. Dr No (1962)

If it were not for this film, the franchise may never have existed, so for that at least we give thanks. Actually, in parts it’s quite good – with one of the very finest Bond girls in Honey Ryder – but again it fails to live up to the Connery releases which followed it, and the villain is a bit naff. In case you haven’t seen it, he’s called Dr No (the clue is in the title). Stupid name, really. But this film did set the trend for Bond as a character, and launched Connery’s career as a result, so we shall forgive its little faults – of which there are quite a few.

  1. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Generally regarded as a bit shit, and I’d agree on the whole, but – unlike my doting other half – I quite enjoy the laughable campness of Mr Wint and Mr Kidd (will they, won’t they – it’s like a gay Ross and Rachel), and you can’t very well put a Bond film which features the winning combination of Sean Connery as Bond, Ernst Stavro Blofeld for the villain, and Shirley Bassey singing, near the bottom of the list, can you? The only shame is, despite that being a blueprint for a great Bond film, it simply isn’t. It’s like getting all the best ingredients in the world, then making a bland and tasteless flan. And the Bond girl is whiny, ginger, and a bit ropey looking, even when she’s in her skimpies. Connery should have quit while he was ahead.

  1. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

I struggled to work out which is my least favourite Pierce Brosnan film and, as will become clear with the next entry, this just about edges it. Teri Hatcher is a bit rubbish as Bond’s non-Asian love interest (Michelle Yeoh, in contrast, is pretty good), Sheryl Crow’s theme song is worse, and don’t even get me started on Elliot Carver as the bad guy. As with Quantum of Solace, you cannot try to make a convincing world-dominating nutter, out of the description ‘psychopathic media mogul’. Putting ‘psychopathic’ before it, does not make it scary. Consider this: ‘Psychopathic koala bear’. ‘Psychopathic Victoria sponge’. See? On the whole, Brits make good bad guys, but Jonathan Pryce doesn’t. Plus, it won’t matter how many cool gadgets you stick on a BMW, it’s still not an Aston Martin, and so Bond should not be driving one. Bond has boinked his way around the globe, killing countless bad guys along with way, so he doesn’t need to try and emphasise his genitalia by driving a BMW, which is, frankly, the only reason people buy them.

  1. Die Another Day (2002)

And on that note, the fact that Bond was back in an Aston Martin by the time this, admittedly not very good, film was released, is one of its few redeeming features – even if that was somewhat spoilt by the decision to give the car the power of invisibility. Jesus wept. Some of the stunts in this film are too over-the-top for words, and once Toby Stephens takes over as the main villain (having undergone considerable facial surgery to turn him from North Korean to North Kensington), it all gets a bit daft. But, so help me, I quite like it. It’s not a great Bond film, not even close, but as a film that you can watch over and over, and just enjoy for what it is, it’s ok. Halle Berry, whilst not my particular cup of tea, is a passable female lead, and does a sterling job of emerging from the sea almost wearing a bikini, but I actually prefer the very beautiful Rosamund Pike as the femme fatale and the scene on the plane when the two fight each other in tiny clothes is AWESOME. Am I coming across as a bit pervy yet?! The Aston, when you can see it, is involved in some fantastic car chases, culminating in a race around a melting igloo (yeah, erm…) and the stunts as a whole, whilst ridiculous, are well filmed. Brosnan is pretty darn good in the role too, which makes it surprising he was handed his P45 after this film. In fact, the more I think about it, if we leave all the daftness to one side, there’s only one thing holding this film back as being higher up my list. Ladies and gentlemen…. Madonna.

  1. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Ok, it’s not as bad as everyone makes out. OHMSS appears to be the whipping boy for most people’s least favourite Bond film, but even Lazenby in the lead role isn’t that bad. I am not sure he warranted the seven film contract he was apparently offered (and thank God he turned it down), but he does a half decent job and, when all is said and done, the plot is pretty good and the action scenes, very much like Diana Rigg at the end of the film, are well shot (that can’t be classed as a spoiler, as the film came out 46 years ago, so if you’ve not seen it by now…). Plus, Louis Armstrong does an excellent job with the theme tune “We Have All The Time In The World”, which was the last song he ever recorded before he sadly passed away a couple of years later. All in all, quite a slick entry into the franchise, and not anywhere near as poor a film as it has been labelled.

  1. A View To A Kill (1985)

Roger Moore’s final outing as 007, and by no means his best, but we’re now firmly into mid-table ‘average’ territory in my countdown and this sits nicely in 12th. It’s nowhere near good enough to warrant a top 10 placing, but in my opinion is better than the films which precede it. The Duran Duran theme tune is, again, really good, and any disappointment of having the utterly barking mad Grace Jones playing an equally mad villain-turned-heroine (short of actually having man parts, she’s about as masculine as they come), is more than matched by the excellent Christopher Walken – who also does ‘crazy’ particularly well here. It’s nicely filmed, has a decent enough storyline, and ends explosively on the Golden Gate bridge. Standard Bond fare, so it’s only right that it feature at the midpoint of my list.

  1. You Only Live Twice (1967)

I really like this film, and if nothing else it deserves recognition for having the coolest bad-guy lair of the entire series (which, if you haven’t seen it, involves fans’ favourite Blofeld turning a volcano into a garage for the Soviet spacecraft he’s just nicked) but it misses out on my top 10 because it isn’t quite as good as the releases which follow. Plus, it is slightly spoilt by having Connery undergo an entirely unconvincing makeover to make him appear (not in the slightest) Japanese, and the half-decent theme tune is even more spoilt by that fat useless pillock, Robbie Williams, sampling it in Millenium many years later.  So close to the Top 10, yet so far.

I hope that has whet your appetite for Bond, and I’ll be back with my Top 10 countdown next time.

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