Monday, 22 October 2012

The James Bond Challenge

We are extremely grateful to fellow blogger Simon Columb from Screen Insight for the following article, in which he gives us some advice on the possible pitfalls and highlights of a Bondathon.

Part One

From Dr No through to You Only Live Twice

First off, I have joined Rhys in a Bond Marathon before. Nowhere near as challenging as the one Rhys and Tez are beginning, but a marathon of sorts. We attempted to watch every James Bond film, one-a-day, leading up to watching Die Another Day at the cinema, back in 2002. We majestically failed, shortly after watching the first couple of Roger Moore’s. Indeed, it might’ve been at Diamonds Are Forever. But I remember the feeling when watching the first five 007 adventures.

Tez and Rhys will be perfect at the start. The moment Connery replies to Sylvia Trench’s introduction, the boys will be filled with the same feeling we all have with a James Bond film. Excited and keen to watch much, much more. The one thing they didn’t remember, or factor in, was the parts which drag on. And they begin in this first film.

Dr No is great, until we have the slog through Jamaica at the start – whereby we are supposed to question Quarrel’s allegiance. They’ll be fine at this early stage in the game, but a little doubt will creep in: was this a good idea? All doubt’s a worries will be ignored when the small voice of Ursula Andress sings ‘Underneath the Mango Tree’. Indeed, this will help them through – continuing the viewing through From Russia With Love and the gorgeous Tatiana – It’s easy street! What a great film! And then to Goldfinger. Everything we love about 007 in one two-hour film! Tez and Rhys will be exceptionally pleased – 6 hours in and no problem whatsoever. But I’ll bet they forgot about Thunderball.

They’ll sing along to the Welsh crooners Bond-song, croaking when trying to sing ‘that’ final note. But, despite the comedy of Vargas (“He does not smoke, he does not drink – he does not make love: what do you do Vargas?”) and, what should be brilliant underwater fighting, Thunderball drags. A long film in comparison to the other three, this film will be the first major test. Fighting underwater is simply too slow! A guy with an eye-patch is nothing in comparison to Dr No, Red Grant and Oddjob!

Again, it’s only 8-hours in, the two plough on to You Only Live Twice. Ken Adam's sets never looked this good – and both will recall “oh yeah! Bond gets married in this film!”, and Donald Pleasances iconic role of Blofeld is the icing on the cake. A bit excessive, it is clear that Jay Roach and Mike Myers were primarily referencing You Only Live Twice when making the Austin Power trilogy. 18 films “and counting…”

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to The Man with the Golden Gun

Vastly underrated, Rhys and Tez will watch the jump-cuts and vicious fighting and realise, hey, losing Connery wasn’t that bad. Until that fateful line: “This never happened to the other guy..”.

What. The. Fu..

Kojak fighting on a bobsleigh won’t even help them here. Still a good fight and great music will pull them through. But again, doubt creeps in. Roger Moore is only one film away now. Diamonds are Forever, with a small snack on the side, will help. Sean Connery looks tired, how the mighty has fallen. Mr Wint and Mr Kidd and, ridiculously, that guy from You Only Live Twice is apparently Blofeld now. With grey hair? In Vegas? Remember fellas! The USA pattern – films primarily based in the USA are apparently always worse than other 007 missions. They will be seeking something new. Something different!

Cue Roger Moore, his Blaxploitation rip-off Bond adventure Live and Let Die, whereby white men are ‘Honkys’ and every African-American is working for Mr Big. Racism has never been so blatant. But Roger Moore oozes confidence and, though different to Connery, it was what was needed. The blow-up ending is ridiculous but it does pre-figure the Moore comedy that the boys have yet to truly experience. But, a strong coffee will be needed now as they pop the next DVD in: The Man with the Golden Gun. Yes, we all remember fondly the fun-houses, Nick-Nack, Christopher Lee and incredibly-hot Britt Ekland … but we forgot the stupidity of the blonde bombshell. We forgot the strange ‘desire’ Scaramanga has with a laser – why does a brilliant, hired assassin want to use a laser? It’s all a little bit too much. As Lulu reintroduces her exceptionally crude (just listen to the lyrics!) outro version of her entry into the Bond songs series … both Tez and Rhys will look at each other.

“We’re not even halfway there…”

Part Two

From The Spy Who Love Me to A View to a Kill

I can imagine, at this point, Tez and Rhys are tired. They didn’t realise how long this would be – and they surely didn’t realise that only after two films, Roger Moore becomes unfunny. But fear not fellas! You have some treats in store. First off, Agent XXX in Barbara Bach is on-screen. She would be quite a trip as she manages to equal 007 in many regards … except she fails to even equal Roger Moore with regards to acting skills. No offence Ms Bach, but it appears that your skill may be limited to woo-ing Ringo Starr rather than treading the boards. Even on a James Bond film. The Spy Who Loves Me manages to be virtually the same formulae as before – but this time we see “Spielberg-should-be-sueing” Jaws. An iconic henchman and Richard Kiel, you’ll be happy to know, is always in attendance to the various comic-book conventions across the world. Lucky that he appears in Moonraker aye? And yes guys, it is virtually the same as The Spy Who Loved Me… but in space. Hugo Drax wants to create a new race. In space. Webbed-fingers villain wanted to create a new race. In Atlantis. The tears that stream down your face may be similar to that of Cubby Broccoli’s when he said, after Moonraker, let’s go back to the days of old.

Seen as the best Roger Moore, For Your Eyes Only, is very-much a return to form. But with Moore now getting a little too old, it is also a little creepy that “apparently” blonde teenagers fancy aging 50 year-olds. It’s unlikely, even for 007. Load in Octopussy – yup, Roger Moore is back again and, in fact, he wasn’t due to be! Due to the release of Never Say Never Again, producers wanted to play it safe and kept Roger Moore so that he could ‘clown around’ (ho ho ho!) in Octopussy. Drag yourself into A View to a Kill, which – at the very least – has a damn good song. Duran Duran top Rita Coolidge and her sedate “All-time-Hi-i-i-i-i-gh” any day of the week. And, we have Christopher Walken! One of my favourite bad-guys – and his bleach-blonde hair will hint at Javiar Bardem’s villain in Skyfall. Indeed, you’re past the halfway point fellas!

The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill

My issue with The Living Daylights is the potential. And you’ll feel it too! Timothy Dalton was Daniel Craig’s James Bond at a time whereby Die Hard and Lethal Weapon were the action-film trend. A brilliant opening sequence and a fantastic plane-finale – with rebel Afghan terrorists supporting 007. Just to clarify – is that the Taliban supporting James Bond? You decide. Then it moves onto Licence to Kill, which is not really a James Bond film.

Well, it is – but no mission from M, no John Barry and a wedding involving Felix Leiter and sharks. Rated 15 and starring Benicio Del Toro in one of his first roles (“Honeymo-o-o-o-on”) this is a memorable one – but you’ll be desperate for 007. The real 007. Dalton’s James Bond drinks Bollinger, apparently. He sleeps with very few women and Mexican drugs are the threat to humanity.

It’s been a long-time coming and, only now do you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, Goldeneye is next… and what a sweet moment it is when you will see the gun barrel of Pierce Brosnan…   

Part Three

From Goldeneye through to Die Another Day

This is the final stretch. This is where I, personally, can start quoting lines and I can recall the cinema visits I had to watch the films. Goldeneye was my first DVD and I watched the film many, many times. It is a brilliant film and General Ourumov is a personal favourite character whilst Alec Trevelyan was my N64 character-of-choice. So it truly is a shame that Eric Serra (Leon) is composing the soundtrack. Seriously, what on earth is that music playing when Bond is racing Xenia at the start? Simply nuts.

Tomorrow Never Dies on the other hand manages to gain the current heir to the John-Barry throne for scores-duty, David Arnold. The stand-out start sequence, whereby arms-dealers buy weapons from each other (Like a war-criminal car-boot) kicks off the film whilst Teri Hatcher – at a time whereby her role came from The New Adventures of Superman rather than anything to do with Desperate Housewives – is a brilliant Bond-girl. And what a shot when her dress drops! Yowza! That’ll wake you up fellas!

“There’s no news, like bad news” says Jonathan Pryce and he is right – Die Another Day isn’t far away folks. The World is not Enough is vastly underrated though – and I’m sure Rhys and Tez are in agreement. The best opening sequence of the entire series – the Thames boat chase … a 360 air-turn! Millennium Dome! Parliament! Amazing. Then Robert Carlyle’s ‘Renard’ – “a bullet lodged in his head … he can push himself harder and stronger than any other man”. A brilliant villain – though it is undercut by the [similar to The Dark Knight Rises] reveal that Elektra King is the true villain whilst Renard is merely a henchman. Shame.

Bigger shame? Die Another Day. Time to snooze fellas. No point in waking up until post-surf sequence. The car chase is cool but let us be clear about a few things: (1) The camouflaged car is a great ‘gadget’, (2) the whole torture-sequence is a genius way to begin a Bond film whilst (3) Villain-car vs Bond-car on the ice is impressive - “ejector-seat? You’re joking” – not when it is used to flip a car round! But there is no forgiving Tamahori for the problems with Die Another Day – so I’m not even talking about his cross-dressing prostitution. But, let’s be honest, that’s a bad sign from the outset.

Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and then ... Skyfall

Martin Campbell on directing duties again, and Daniel Craig was cast. In comparison to Brosnan, it is easy to knock Brosnan but – as with Moore and Connery – he is a product of his time and Brosnan did what he needed to do. The Bourne Identity was 2001, so it’s not fair to compare Die Another Day with the new-style of action-film. But Casino Royale right-ed all the wrongs. I remember leaving the cinema feeling that Casino Royale was a brilliant ‘tease’ for the future of Daniel Craig’s 007 – and, of course, the follow-up, Quantum of Solace was supposed to be brilliant.

But it wasn’t.

But Skyfall will be. Tez. Rhys. If you have got this far – you are sorted and I’m sure it will all be worth it. Skyfall sounds like it will be everything we have hoped for and, as James Bond fans, this is the film which corrects the huge flaws of Quantum of Solace and Die Another Day. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli know what they are doing – and they know how to fulfil the picky demands of the fanbase. And it seems it is Skyfall will pay-off in full.

Well done fellas!

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