A Bond-tastic January

This January has been interesting, Bond-ly interesting. I've seen so much 007 that I could be happy never seeing him again...harsh, but true. There have been good moments and bad moments, but most of it has been a lot of fun. I'll leave you with some thoughts on the series as a whole:

Official Bond Films:
Dr. No
From Russia with Love
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live and Let Die
The Man with the Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
For Your Eyes Only
A View to a Kill
The Living Daylights
Licence to Kill
Tomorrow Never Dies
The World Is Not Enough
Die Another Day
Casino Royale (2006)
Quantum of Solace

Unofficial Bond Films:
Casino Royale (1967)
Never Say Never Again

Bond Actors from Best to Worst:

Timothy Dalton — Yes, the man who was Bond only twice. Dalton's performances are full of heart and emotion. He's by far the most accomplished actor of the lot.

Sean Connery — You have to get give credit where credit's due. This man started it all. He can give a one-liner like no one else (my personal favorite line from the entire series comes from him).

George Lazenby — The one-timer. Perhaps the most unappreciated Bond of all of them.

Daniel Craig — The only actor that you can believe doing the stunts that 007 does. He brings the physicality to the series...also the severity that some hate. Still, I'm a fan.

Roger Moore — Whether it's the comic indifference or that freakin' eyebrow, Moore can get old fast. Too bad he's the reigning Bond champion.

Pierce Brosnan — The loser of losers. Brosnan isn't convincing and his films aren't that fun. By far, he is the lowest of the Bond actors.

Best Bond Foes:
Javier Bardem as Silva from "Skyfall"

Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez from "Licence to Kill

Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver in "Tomorrow Never Dies"

Top 10 Bond Films:

10. "For Your Eyes Only" — Roger Moore's redeeming grace. Let's all thank John Glen for this one.

9. "Dr. No" — The original Bond film.

8. "From Russia with Love" — Robert Shaw, Sean Connery, trains, planes, and automobiles. What's not to love?

7. 'The Living Daylights" — The first few minutes of the film speak for itself.

6. "Casino Royale (2006)" — Lots of fun, lots of poker, lots of weird.

5. "Quantum of Solace" — What? You heretic, burn at the stake! Whatever, I liked this movie...I liked it a lot.

4. ""On Her Majesty's Secret Service" — Well ahead of its time, it remains the darkest Bond film yet, this film is a pleasant surprise.

3. "Thunderball" — Wow! The underwater sequences are fantastic, the action is great, and Connery has never been in better form.

2. "Licence to Kill" — Dalton again and this time with a revenge piece. Ferocious and wickedly entertaining.

1. "Skyfall" — It could be because this was the first Bond film that I'd seen; but I don't think that's the real reason. "Skyfall" contains the best performances, the best song, the best music, the best villain...it's simply the best.

Last Thoughts:
Whether you're a fan or not, you have to admit that the Bond franchise is an anomaly in the film world. It's the longest running series and most of it is incredibly fun. Let's all be thankful for these movies, if only so we know how to introduce ourselves and order our drinks.

"Skyfall" Revisited

"Skyfall" was one of the first films I reviewed. Being such, it's also quite a mess of a review...I'll link it here to make it easier on your prying minds. It's interesting to look back on my own words and see how well I BS-ed that review. I knew nothing, nothing about the series besides the occasional reference to martinis and the infamous way that Bond delivers his name to those who asked. Still, I did a little bit of research and talked to a few people and hey—that's what you got.
Having now been through all 23 (or 25 if we're counting the un-official movies) Bond films, I can testify that "Skyfall" stands above the rest, head and shoulders. It assembles a fantastic cast and a great director. Working with a wonderful script, the film works as a stand-alone movie and it incorporates the world of Bond into itself seamlessly.
After the movie's prologue which cements the fate of the rest of the picture, Bond is left thought to be dead and M has to pick up the pieces from a huge breach in security. A hard drive with the real names of NATO operatives has been compromised and lies now in the hands of an unpleasant source—one unknown, living in the shadows.
Perfectly happy living in retirement on a beach in the middle of a paradise, Bond is oblivious to the stresses mounting on M's shoulders. From "GoldenEye" when Judi Dench first took the reigns of M, the films have been giving her more and more screen time, sometimes to the chagrin of critics as exemplified in "Quantum of Solace" which had Bond as a musing, silent agent and M and a chatty and relatable head of security—it worked for me, but not for everyone.
A man named Gareth Mallory steps in to oversee the forced retirement of M. His presence isn't exactly welcomed with open arms. Driven to finish the job before she is ousted, M is tested by a series of cyber attacks that end with the line: Think on your sins. These cutesy little messages that pop up on computers and in MI6's network are quite chilling...their aftermath even more so.
A portion of MI6 blows up, sending a handful of people to their graves and sending Bond back to London to help out with the resulting chaos. M places Bond on the case to see if he can find whoever is targeting the agents in the field, MI6 and M herself.
Shaken but not stirred by traumas from the past, Bond must push himself harder than ever to catch this baddie.
Much of the Bond franchise feels like it has a license to over-kill; but not this one. The action is perfectly explosive, the characters are given their due amount of time, and Bond doesn't have to sleep with every single female character with the all the boyish pleasure of collecting baseball cards. "Skyfall" captures the laissez-faire  attitude of the Roger Moore movies, the sexual provocativeness of the Connery flicks, the urgency of the Dalton films, the emotion of the sole Lazenby picture, and the action of Pierce Brosnan's time. But this movie belongs to Daniel Craig and no one can take that from him. Still, as much as its him, it is also Javier Bardem's because this where we finally have a villain that gives Bond the best chance of losing.
Bardem is flawless in the movie and many people were surprised to see his turn go unloved at the Oscars...myself included. Bardem is the best villain in the franchise and also gives the best performance of the series.
Sam Mendes has never really made a flop, but "Skyfall" is by far his biggest hit. He jumps the gap from drama to action as easily as he bridged the divide between theater and film.
A series that has as many entries as the "Bond" franchise does was bound to make a masterful film eventually and "Skyfall" proves just that. It's shot by the legendary Roger Deakins which explains why the film looks so good. Pulling out all the stops and hiring Thomas Newman, Ralph Fiennes, and Adele at the peak of her fame, "Skyfall" remains a sure-success...and what an exciting one it is at that!

Score: ★★★★

Quantum of Solace (2008) (PG-13)

I think the general consensus of "Quantum of Solace" is fairly universal in the critical and public mind—dud. It's the equivalent to a fart in the franchise...this is what most people think. I was talking to a friend post-seeing "Skyfall" (which, up to this month, had been the only Bond film I had seen), and "Quantum of Solace" got brought up. Seeing as everyone had just come off "Casino Royale", it was curious to me how many people hated this film. I asked him what the big deal was. Among other things, his largest complaint was that the film was a direct sequel to "Casino Royale" and if you hadn't seen that, you'd be lost. Bond movies aren't supposed to be sequels—that's what he said at least.
I disagree with everyone on this movie, it is directed by a man who knows action as well as drama, and it is even better than its predecessor.
And yes, the Bond franchise is one sequel after the other...which explains why characters' deaths are referenced in movies to follow. After all, Bond chased Blofeld through three or four Bond films, only to finally dispatch him at the mercy of helicopter (he could still be alive...bwah wah!).
Just a note to those reading: this review will include minor SPOILERS for "Casino Royale"; but I'll try not to reveal the secrets of "Quantum of Solace".
At the movie's opening, Bond is involved in a terrifically disjointed car chase. Whoever was editing the action sequences had a field day in the editing room. The frames are so quick and so jolting that you don't get to really appreciate the action—but you do get used to the style.
In the trunk of Bond's car is a suspicious man named Mr. White. This man was involved with a death that Bond is seeking retribution for. Carting the man's body to M and company, the interrogations begin. Mr. White scoffs at the pitiful lack of knowledge that MI6 has. You'd think, he says, that with all the technology and spying eyes that they have, they would have at least heard of the organization.
Organization you say? What organization?
Simply the best and brightest minds using their evil intellect to infiltrate the world's most powerful businesses and networks to further the company's end goal. These people are everywhere.
To illustrate his point, one of the agents present whips out his gun and starts shooting people dead. He misses M and Bond and a merry little chase ensues. Mr. White escapes and MI6 is left scratching their heads, wondering how an agent managed to get under their nose for eight years.
As the trail starts to tighten around the group of villains, Bond gets a chance to encounter several deadly people; but none so mysterious and deadly as Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" fame). Greene has a facade of running an economically friendly company that accepts donations of any kind. We know that he's interested in a plot of land in the middle of the desert. There's no oil there, there could be diamonds; but nobody can find anything that would interest Dominic. But perhaps they should be looking harder...
Yes, there's a little bit of the same "x leads to y leads to z, etc." feeling in the film. It would impossible to avoid that.
Olga Kurylenko appears as a Bond girl, but this one is interesting because she doesn't have to sleep with Bond and she is better with a gun than she is with her swim suit. Kurylenko is a great actress but she doesn't really pull off a wonderful performance here. In her action sequences, she stands right next to Daniel Craig with no problem; but when they're having heart-to-heart conversations, it may not be the best piece of cinema.
Then again, nothing in the Bond franchise is what is commonly defined as "great film making".
When you watch "Quantum of Solace" you have to keep in mind the timeline. Wouldn't it be great if this was all leading up to a SPECTRE revelation? I was thinking so, and I think I would have been right if the film wasn't shunned so forcefully. 
I don't get it. Because no other critic really achieved the fame of Roger Ebert, it's best to use him as an example. With "Die Another Day", the last Pierce Brosnan 007 film, Ebert enjoyed the absurdity, while I found watching the film like pulling teeth. Ebert loved "Casino Royale" and gave it a four-star rating; but with "Quantum of Solace" his rating dropped down to two-stars, stating that he hated the realism of the piece and missed the tropes of the series like Q and Moneypenny, who both vanished from the series. For hating realism so much, it's odd that him and most critics like "License to Kill" and "Casino Royale" which were grounded in revenge and realism...but I digress.
There's nothing wrong with "Quantum of Solace", it doesn't try to be a masterpiece and its director, Marc Forster knows exactly what he's doing.
The editing could have used a little work; but the film has a terrific speed and is the shortest Bond film yet. Cinematically overwhelming in a good way, Forster understands how sad and operatic the saga has become...it's almost a mockery; but a blindingly entertaining one at that.
Action-packed and wonderfully well-timed film, "Quantum of Solace" has a better villain and a better plot than its older brother.
It's a pity that everyone hates this movie, because this kind of film was missing for the entire era of Roger Moore and much of Pierce Brosnan's reign.

Score: ★★★½

Casino Royale (2006) (PG-13)

Breaking from the horrid stretch of Pierce Brosnan Bond movies, "Casino Royale" has a special place in the Bond franchise because it's where most modern fans heard of the series and it's been done before. I'm not talking about the formulaic feeling that permeates so many films of the series. No, "Casino Royale" is actually the second film based on the book by Ian Flemming. The first was "Casino Royale" (seems obvious) and it was made in 1967 with David Niven as the leading man. It's essentially a Monty Python version of the series—an unashamed parody; but I would argue necessary for completing the Bond canon. Despite its tendencies to make a mockery of the subject material, the 1967 film and the 2006 film are fairly similar.
Following a purposely ambiguous prologue that reminds us that the Bond franchise has no clear timeline, "Casino Royale" then brings forth the best main title sequence that has yet to come. It reinforces that everything in the film will be about cards and poker. Silhouetted men fight each other through the credits and when the kill each other, they bleed one of the suits—clubs, hearts, diamonds, or spades. It's actually quite clever.
Bond, meanwhile is gaining a reputation for himself as the up-and-coming thrasher spy. He gets to this place in the public eye by storming an embassy and killing an unarmed terrorist, stealing the dead man's bag (which has a bomb inside), and hastily retreating, letting someone else clean up the mess.
Articles run the next day about how MI6 let an agent kill an unarmed man inside an embassy—the backlash is worse than catastrophic which means that we get to see more of M (Judi Dench back and better than ever).
Bond is left with the dead terrorist's phone and only a one-worded, vague text message. Determined to discover the truth behind all the killings and bring the terrorist group to its knees, Bond starts his own investigation into the affairs and he turns up a mysterious man named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). This guy likes to take other people's money and play the stocks with it. Then he'll give it back and no one will be the wiser to the vast sums that he pocketed for himself. In the tradition of being a physically scarred villains, Le Chiffre has a small wound above his left eyebrow that never quite healed. His left eye is clouded over and occasionally leaks blood.
This goes to show you how the Bond series has changed since its birth with "Dr. No". The first movie had telegrams and a villain who had comically huge and vastly cumbersome fake hands. Here, the scarring is in the eyes, the window to the soul. The bloody tears could be another reference to the famous beginning sequence in which Bond shoot a bullet at the screen and red blood drips down from the top.
You can make your own speculations on that.
Bond gets news of a poker game which requires a $10 million dollar deposit just to get into the game. Having already foiled Le Chiffre's plans once, Bond goes for it again and enters into the game. He meets Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) the woman who is part of the treasury. She's giving him the money on the condition that he wins for England. He's very confident that he will.
In this winner-takes-all $150 million dollar poker game, "Casino Royale" manages to balance the suspense of the card game itself with the terrific action that it evokes from its situations.
"Casino Royale" isn't cliche-free, but it's a huge step above the last entry in the Bond series. The film follows the path of people knowing people. Bond has to meet Man 1 which will lead him to Man 2 and then Man 3, etc. etc. It feels very much like walking along a set path and only a few unexpected moments pop up.
I'll give it this, "Casino Royale" does have one of the best car crashes in film.
Daniel Craig is ten times what Pierce Brosnan was to the Bond movies. He's cool, suave, seductive, and the only Bond thus far that you actually believe could pull off all the stunts that he does. The first few scenes involve some great parkour, or free-running stunts. Craig proves himself the a credible and bankable action star.
"Casino Royale" doesn't shy away from the characters, it gives them time to talk and love between the explosions and the car chases. This isn't a perfect movie, but it is one of the best in the franchise.

Score: ★★★½

Die Another Day (2002) (PG-13)

By this time, I think I've had it with Pierce Brosnan and the incessant, increasing stupidity of these last few Bond movies. Because the films are so determined on being so deadly serious while trying to lay humor into the films, everything just plays out as a completely catastrophe.
At least we're not back in Russia anymore.
"Die Another Day" opens in North Korea, where Bond and other agents are surfing to shore undetected by the beach patrol. Sneaking inland they trick a helicopter into landing and then Bond jumps in and kicks one guy out. The man who is ejected from the vehicle had a briefcase filled with diamonds, which were being used to trade for weapons. Bond shows up in the de-militarized zone with the briefcase, now laced with C-4. Here is where we see the first among hundreds of problems with this film: these people are expecting the man with the briefcase, but they've never seen him before or even have a picture of him on record? Really?
Still, Bond convinces them for a few minutes, until they use a program to identify him as 007—a British assassin, as they see it. So there are explosions and chase scenes and eventually Bond is captured by a General, the father to the mentally-unstable son that Bond just happened to drop off a waterfall.
Fourteen months of torture occur amidst the main titles, which are accompanied with a song by Madonna. I'm not a Madonna fan to begin with, so the electronica inspired music was not welcome and it really didn't fit.
Bond is traded by to MI6 in exchange for a North Korean agent/mercenary named Zao. Bond does not welcome the trade because Zao is a feared and deadly man who should not be set free...yet he is...bummer for 007.
Placed on suspension pending everything, Bond manages to escape MI6 and he starts his own rogue mission to track down Zao and find out who double-crossed all of them.
Like "License to Kill", "Die Another Day" plays out like a revenge piece. Bond is on the outside looking in, he's got to complete his unofficial mission and then he'll be respected once more. It's a nice thought, but it's treated horribly wrong.
The director Lee Tamahori treats his character development very seriously, and that's nice to see. But those intimate scenes when we actually feel something for Bond and M are drowned out with the slow-motion shots of Halle Berry walking around and cheap CGI.
Zao was next to Bond's diamond/dynamite briefcase and it literally blew up in his face. Now he's trying to get a complete genetic make-over, but he gets interrupted half-way through, leaving him looking like Blofeld from the SPECTRE days. The way a character later describes him—that he has a case of very expensive acne. Yes, the diamonds are still in his face, because apparently these people have the technology to make you into a completely different person, but they can't pick a few jewels from your face even though they're clearly visible.
Still the Bond movies never were grounded in realism.
James tracks Zao into Cuba were he meets the mysterious and voluptuous Jinx Johnson (Halle Berry). This woman is very capable, very self-reliant, and full of many double entendres. Halle Berry is likable but pretty much a terrible actress in this, which is probably why the camera ogles her so much and rarely lets her speak.
"Die Another Day" deals with issues like strained father-son relationships, honor, revenge, and a slew of others. It can't make up its mind on exactly what it wants to be, so we have Bond gumbo.
The plot has twists, Madonna makes a cameo, and it all seems very forgettable...which is precisely what it is....what am I even writing about?
I forget.

Score: ★½

The World Is Not Enough (1999) (PG-13)

The Bond franchise is no longer fun, that has long since been sucked from the series by terrible performances and stupid plot ideas. For instance, in the case of "The World Is Not Enough" I would like to know the collective pool of screenwriters that thought this film was actually a good idea, because I can't see how it even looks good on paper.
With Roger Moore we suffered a long stretch of impossibly dumb movies, yet they were still enjoyable...enjoyably dumb—which is what the series was shooting for. When John Glen took the reigns of the series, we got a newfound energy; but once he left, we've been struggling with one-time directors and Pierce Brosnan.
The Brosnan Bond films seem determined to recapture the silly fun of the Sean Connery films; but it fails to do so. The entire tone of the film is split it two. One half is the stupid, fun one-liners and corny names (such as a busty scientist, a possible lesbian as the film implies, named Dr. Christmas Jones) and the other half is so serious and so determined to make a thriller that the end result of the film feels like a parody of the series more than anything else.
The only interesting thing we are left with from this movie is that the woman who plays Moneypenny is named Samantha Bond...what are the odds?
"The World Is Not Enough" begins with failure. Bond completes a mission before realizing that the villain's intention was for him to succeed. In a moment an explosion rockets through the MI6 building and the resulting chaos is left for M and Bond to sort through.
A rouge man who is dying from a bullet in his head that is slowly making its way deeper and deeper into his brain, has decided that he shall rule the world. The motives for the villain are unclear and gradually become obvious during the film. This thorn in his flesh, the bullet in his head, is making him into a super human...great, one of those again. By destroying vital parts of the man's grey matter, the deadly, slow moving death capsule has annihilated the man's sense of touch and pain.
So Bond is sent to protect a woman who seems determined to open up the West to great oil deals.
The opening titles give us female silhouettes that are formed from oil. We get the idea just from the first ten minutes that a great deal of the film is about oil; but that's where we're wrong. Oil is only a small part of the puzzle, an unnecessary sidetrack that does nothing but enrage us at the length of the film.
Bond's quest makes him the object of desires of this Elektra King, oil tycoon. But he rejects her advances because he thinks that she is in danger from this rogue super human dude.
Several problems: Bond seems weary but his sex appeal is even stronger than ever. He sleeps with his doctor so she'll give him a clean bill of health. Then there's the super human ability to this random guy which we never really see. He seems just as weary as Bond is.
Then there's the acting. Brosnan just isn't a good Bond...he lacks the humor of Roger Moore, the emotion of George Lazenby, the pep of Sean Connery, and the tenaciousness of Timothy Dalton. In every sense, he is the weakest of the franchise. But it's nice for him that these films surround him with an unprecedented cast in bad acting.
"The World Is Not Enough" can make even a talented actor like Robbie Coltrane seem like a plank of wood. Then again, everyone looks good standing next to Denise Richards (metaphorically, of course).
Her acting is so bad that many polls list her role as Dr. Christmas Jones as one of the worst cast roles in film history...that's pretty bad.
Still, the explosions are fun as always. The series has started to become digitalized, which means that the natural scares from the previous films are not present.
"The World Is Not Enough" is an good title, because the world is not enough to save this film from sheer meh-ness.

Score: ★★

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) (PG-13)

Once again, the Bond movies have managed to ruin what should have been an easy success. Perhaps it's just Pierce Brosnan that I have a problem with, but I don't think that's the sole reason. It's around this time in the series that the director's seat feels like a hot stove. Martin Campbell, who directed "GoldenEye", will return for "Casino Royale; but all the other directors are one-timers. The director of "Tomorrow Never Dies" is Roger Spottiswoode who seems like he knows what he's doing at the beginning of the movie; but we soon learn that he has no clue.
The script also is bad because it, like many other Bond movies, has no idea how it wants to end...so we get a random half hour of running through corridors and shooting through glass which usually is fun enough for me to enjoy, but it just didn't cut it this time around.
At the movie's opening, which plops us back down in Russia (why is it always Russia?), Bond is staking out a terrorist bazaar. Bad guys from all over the world will come here to trade three missiles for two tanks and the like. It's essentially like the terrorist version of Halloween candy bargaining...and it's all congregated in one nice open space. One of the men present at this exchange of weapons is an American who has an encoding device, lifted from the CIA.
M and all of MI6 is watching through Bond's eyes. M is joined by a military commander who sees this as an opportunity to shoot all of his fish in a barrel. He commands that a missile be shot toward the arms dealers and he hopes that this will eradicate most of the world's problems...foolish man. What he doesn't know, and what Bond points out to him soon after the missile is launched, is that a plane present is armed with nuclear bombs. The result of the missile striking and the bombs going off would be catastrophic. Unable to abort the missile, Bond has to save the day once more; but that's only the prologue.
After the main titles, we see a British ship in the ocean off the coast of China. It is being harassed by two Chinese fighter planes who tell them that they are in too close to the Chinese coast, if they do not turn around, they will be fired upon. All of the British ship's navigational instruments say otherwise—they are well off the coastline and in international waters.
The truth is deceitful. The American present at the terrorist bazaar (their words, not mine) is using his encoding device to trick the British into thinking that they are farther out to sea than they actually are.
But there's a third observer. An undetected ship surfaces and starts messing with both the Chinese and the British. They sink the British ship and shoot a fighter plane down. Unknown to the two parties involved, the respective governments both blame the other one.
The mastermind behind is all is Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) who's just doing this for the ratings. Much like "Network", this film tries to implant the idea of digital paranoia and media control. Not much has changed since this movie's release, so the poignancy of the film remains.
I've always been a fan of Jonathan Pryce ever since I saw his incredible performance in "Brazil" and here he makes one of the best Bond villains; but that's not enough. His character is poorly written and doesn't have a strong enough motive...but those are just some of the issues.
Bond is out of his element here, which is enjoyable to see and I think Brosnan does a respectable job in "Tomorrow Never Dies". Michelle Yeoh appears and her martial arts skill are not utilized to their full potential (three years later, they would be in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon").
"Tomorrow Never Dies" has so much build up that the lack of pay-off is terribly annoying.
The film is fun because the action is still fun, but things could have gone a lot better.

Score: ★★½

GoldenEye (1995) (PG-13)

There's a reason that "GoldenEye" looks so vastly different than all the other Bond movies that have come before it. Between the last film "License to Kill" and this one, there's a gap of six years. It's the longest stretch between movies in the series. Whatever the reason, whether it was replacing Timothy Dalton or finding a director, the franchise plods on undaunted.
What John Glen and Timothy Dalton did for the series, "GoldenEye" negates with its first ten minutes. It's much like how "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" expanded the emotion of the series, only to get Roger Moore following up with bad film after bad film.
The movie takes us back to Russia, back to criminals trying to rule the world, back to the basics. Pierce Brosnan enters as 007, referencing more of Sean Connery's portrayal of the man than any other actor.
In the movie's prologue, Bond is breaking into a chemical plant in Russia with the intention to blow it up. While there, he meets up with agent 006 and they proceed with their plans. It doesn't take too long before their presence gets picked up. Soon Russian soldiers come pouring into the room where Bond and 006 are. A few rounds of gunfire and some fast running later and 006 is captured, putting Bond between a bomb and a hard place.
Distracting and evading, Bond gets out alive; but 006's fate is not so great.
Apparently elated by his hasty retreat, Bond celebrates by defying the laws of physics. After he's done with that, taking a victory lap around the decimated facility, the main titles scroll up and we all breathe a sigh of relief that Maurice Binder's monotonous silhouettes are gone.
Nine years later, Bond is over the memory of his dead comrade. He speeds along a European mountain road (as we've seen him do in many other films) with a woman who's filling out a psych evaluation on him. She's not too excited by how fast he drives, particularly when another car goes shooting by and a race ensues between the two. The other driver is a beautiful woman who seems like she's got a few screws loose.
Still, after the car chase, the woman lets Bond know that she's going to have to be perfectly honest in her evaluation.
Ah, but she is a weak-minded woman and ice-cold champagne will make her change her mind. Well, that and a quick trip to the backseat of the car.
For as much alluding as the previous movies have done, "GoldenEye" is by far the most sexually overt of the lot of them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does give way to a S&M style sex scene in which Famke Janssen screams and claws her way to orgasmic climax. It's supposed to be slightly humorous...I'm not sure that it succeeded.
The woman who was driving the other car is named Xenia Onatopp (Janssen) and she doesn't give in to Bond's "gentleman" ways of seduction. She likes it a little loud and rough...which is what we see later.
Onatopp is a character that Bond feels needs more scrutiny (take that however you will). He follows her and gets to see her steal a helicopter, while he remains helpless.
Onatopp, companioned with General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov (try saying that five times fast) make their way to procuring a doomsday device known as "GoldenEye". Finding the machine and activating it, the duo make their escape, not knowing that they have left two programmers alive, fleeing for their lives.
"GoldenEye" introduces Judi Dench as M which is the biggest improvement in the series in a long time. Her curt, no-nonsense manner makes her the right amount of sanity to the picture.
Still, the ludicrousness of it all just builds and builds to an anti-climatic crescendo. What's enjoyable about watching the movie is how a tank rips through walls and how an explosion sends an entire structure to its foundation. What's not fun is the throwbacks to older Bond movies. If you lined the Bond movies up, "GoldenEye" goes along and plucks something from every one. These are not subtle references, they are taking literal scenes and plot devices from their own series. There have been mild reproductions in the franchise, but it doesn't really compare to this.
Pierce Brosnan is an okay Bond; but the most enjoyable scenes from "GoldenEye" involve fast camera work and Famke Janssen's psychotic performance.
Also included in the movie is Alan Cumming as a computer nerd/perve. If you're used to seeing him covered in blue paint and transporting, this is a disappointment.
Better luck next time.

Score: ★★½

Licence to Kill (1989) (PG-13)

This review contains SPOILERS!
"Licence to Kill" is not about some mindless war criminal who wants to blow up the world or get them all dependent on heroin to get a monopoly on drug trafficking. There is no real silliness to this flick. Instead, this movie builds on characters that we already know and our emotional attachment to them, much like what "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" did.
For those who don't know, Felix Leiter is a CIA agent who's appeared in several Bond movies, usually just at the right time to get 007 out of a jam. I don't think that an actor has yet to play him twice, but I could be wrong about that (I'm excluding Jeffrey Wright's reprisal role in the Daniel Craig films...I haven't gotten to those yet).
The movie opens as Bond is consoling a very nervous Felix Leiter who's on his way to his wedding. Bond is the best man and he keeps reminding Felix that yes, he does have the wedding ring and yes, everything will go according to plan...which it doesn't.
Coincidence or fate, a drug lord lands on an island near the ceremony. The Coast Guard sees him land and goes to fetch Leiter so they can grab the drug lord, Franz Sanchez, before he slips back into Cuban airspace.
What ensues seems like the non-related pre-story that fills up time before the main titles, reintroducing the characters and setting up the major themes. Up to this point, the Bond movies have followed a preexisting mold; but here it is broken.
After the wedding, Bond has to force Leiter to put his work behind him, entertain his guests, and enjoy his honeymoon.
But we haven't heard the last of Sanchez, a man who is not to be trifled with. Bribery, extortion, whatever you call it—the most insidious ways of intimidation, he's got nailed down. Sanchez escapes during transportation and he's going back to teach Leiter a lesson for capturing him.
Bond is just about to head overseas again on another mission when he hears of Sanchez's escape. He rushes back to Felix's house to find that his wedding night was ruined.
Hellbent on revenge, more angry than we've ever seen Bond before, he starts taking matter into his own hands to try to find why and who tortured Felix. The plot goes much deeper than just Sanchez as Bond quickly finds out.
Sanchez is a brutal man just as "Licence to Kill" is perhaps the most brutal Bond film yet. It's bloody and there's swearing in it (something that was avoided in the Roger Moore era, alluded to by cheap lines). Like its predecessor "The Living Daylights", it throws caution to the wind and plows headfirst into severity. This is very interesting because the director, John Glen, has remained since "For Your Eyes Only". We've seen the series have many ups and downs all at the mercy of John Glen. "A View to a Kill" wasn't that great; but with Timothy Dalton as 007, Glen manages to bring thrilling and frightening scenes to the screen. It's such as shame that this is both Glen and Dalton's last appearance in the Bond franchise.
Even more than "The Living Daylights", there is peril and loss of life in "Licence to Kill" that surpasses even "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and its morbid ending.
Not happy with Bond's sudden vigilante style of agent-ing, M revokes 007's licence to kill (hence the title) and demands that he turn in his weapon. But Bond is not about to sit quietly and let this one get swept under the rug.
Escaping even his own MI6, Bond gets to a place that he's never truly been in the past—alone. Naturally, he's not by himself, ostracized by the CIA and MI6 for too long. He meets an agent who was working with Leiter, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell). This woman is not to be trifled with, she's no-nonsense and she loves a good fist fight. Still predictable and overly emotional, it is somewhat nice to see the writers trying harder to make the women stronger in this series.
Bond must avenge his friend and discover why Sanchez is unpredictably evil. 
The action sequences, as with most of this franchise, are pretty spectacular. The stunts never fail to be jaw-dropping. Who doesn't like a good explosion?
Smarter than even the last film, "Licence to Kill" has layers of plot twists that make this Bond movie very enjoyable and very thrilling.

Score: ★★★½

The Living Daylights (1987) (PG)

It's a relief to get a break from Roger Moore. Timothy Dalton steps into Bond's shoes in "The Living Daylights" and John Glen remains at the helm for directing. The team manages to pull a fun a fresh Bond out of the franchise, but that could just be the result of the change in scenery.
While on a training mission, a mercenary infiltrates the MI6 base and starting killing off people. While they try to sneak into a military-like base protected by other MI6 agents (if you get shot by a paintball gun, you're dead), this infiltrator is cutting ropes and leaving messages.
But don't worry because James Bond is among those being hunted, yet he cannot be surprised. A car chase leads to parachutes which leads the main titles which then brings us back into Bond's world.
Bernard Lee played M for a long time, longer than any of the Bond actors played 007 and Lois Maxwell was Moneypenny even longer than Lee was M (nothing to do with the Fritz Lang movie). Here, they are both gone and both replaced by different actors. The entire cast, minus Desmond Llewelyn as Q, is practically brand new and that could answer why "The Living Daylights" feels so...well...new.
The first twenty minutes of the film are filled with fun times and races against the clock. A Russian general has claimed that he wants to defect to England and 007, along with another fairly annoying agent are in Russia to make sure that everything goes along smoothly. A few shots in the dark, midnight car rides, and stripteases later and the general is safe in Austria where a plane is waiting for him.
But the KGB are not so easily duped and they are determined to get their general back even if it means killing loads of British agents...the more the merrier.
Without revealing too much of the plot of "The Living Daylights", suffice it to say that Bond once again has to suit up and kick butt.
Timothy Dalton is perhaps my favorite Bond yet. Roger Moore was almost painful to watch, though he did have a certain uncaring and nonplussed quality that brought a great courage to the Bond character. Dalton is less like Moore and more like George Lazenby (less Moore, more...never mind) who never really got to stretch his creative wings and take over the Bond character.
Dalton is intelligent, fast on his feet, emotional, and ruthless. He becomes a Macgyver-esque character, with something always up his sleeve. This movie has James Bond defeating most of his foes simply with his ingenuity and his hands. Q's devices don't really come into play until the very last seconds of the film.
"The Living Daylights" is possibly the smartest Bond movie yet with an almost air-tight plot. It's well acted, and it bridges the gap between comically stupid and entertainingly thrilling. There have been moments the Bond series that have been pulse-pounding; but this movie is much more serious. The stunt work is incredible again and this Bond girl (Maryam d'Abo) is fairly tolerable.
"The Living Daylights" does have some problems, most notably the overindulgence in sentimentality that it didn't need; but for the most part, it's a lot of fun.

Score: ★★★

A View to a Kill (1985) (PG)

Absurdity has always been very close to the Bond movies. They're not asking to be taken seriously, and they shouldn't be. "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was the first movie to imply growth in the franchise, yet that growth was quickly demolished with the era of Roger Moore. The emotional depth to the piece vanished as soon as the next dry martini was ordered.
Along comes director John Glen who revived the series after a run of bad Bond movies, yet with "A View to a Kill" there's something altogether laughably terrible about it (and not in a good way). In one the most offensives stunts that the franchise has yet to pull, our villains are Nazi-engineered super babies with a tendency for psychosis. Bred in concentration camps under the veterinary care of a sadist, we get Zorin and his sidekick May Day.
The movie's opening deposits us in Russia where Bond is trying to find a dead agent's body underneath all the snow. We've seen skiing chase scenes before so this is nothing new. Bond skis, the enemy follows, chaos ensues, he escapes.
It becomes tiresome to keep repeating all the same tropes that the series is using. I don't think that there is anything quite original to this movie, it feels formulaic (I've made that complaint before) and not terribly well-conceived.
When did the Bond villains become Saturday morning cartoon characters? Tim Burton managed to capture the comic-book aspect of the Joker with "Batman" and it feels like John Glen is trying to do the same thing with this film (though this came first). We've transcended from action and mystery movies to straight up laughable parodies of themselves.
There's no way that the writers and director didn't realize how ludicrous this adventure seems; but they plod on anyway. You could argue that there's intelligence to the picture, how it obviously over emphasizes everything to the point of self-degradation; but I highly doubt that was the intention. Albert R. Broccoli has produced all the Bond movies through this one. It seems that the series slips into just desiring profits.
Microchips—that's what all the fuss is about. We are introduced to the idea that a nuclear explosion in space could send out a magnetic force so great that it would render all microchips-version 1.0 useless. Enter microchip-version 2.0, immune to the potential nuclear holocaust of space.
Well, that was quick. It seems the peril is over as soon as the movie starts. But wait, there's more.
A man by the name of Zorin (Christopher Walken) is mass producing these microchips-version 2.0. It's unclear exactly what his purposes are but he seems like a shady enough character for Bond to investigate. Incredibly wealthy and posh of the posh, Zorin is not easily approached. He is always tailed by his ninja-sidekick May Day (Grace Jones).
Zorin plans on getting a monopoly of the electronics industry—for what reason? It's not really clear whether or not he has any ulterior motive besides plain ol' greed. For this movie, his greed is sufficient because it is paired with his crazy tendencies.
Bond has to meet a woman named Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) who is somewhat of an expert on geology and tectonic plates. Let me just be up front and honest about this—Stacey Sutton is the most annoying Bond girl yet. She's helpless, whiny, and stereotypical. Her character's brain and the inherent blonde-ness of actions are big plot holes.
Still, John Glen pulls out some very impressive stunt work yet again and the movie is enjoyably mind-numbing.
A step back in the franchise, but not the worst Bond ever.

Score: ★★

Never Say Never Again (1983)

"Never Say Never Again" is the second unofficial Bond film—the first being "Casino Royale". What this means is that EON did not produce the movie. This picture had to have a special court order just for it get made. Sean Connery returned one last time as 007 in this, the only remake of the franchise.
"Thunderball" is one of my favorite Bond films thus far, perhaps my favorite. It's mindlessly fun, has a great production value, and is sensationally watchable. So I was skeptical to hear that "Never Say Never Again" is a remake of "Thunderball".
The two movies have a lot in common—that much seemed obvious—they both have the world tipping on the verge of nuclear war and both of them have scenes shot entirely under the water.
"Thunderball" was great because it wasn't afraid of the silence of water, it let the sharks and the action sequences speak for themselves. For as exciting as it was, much of it had no dialogue. "Never Say Never Again" is not keen to make that same decision. This film, spends most of its time in more exotic places above ground.
SPECTRE is back in force and they want to ransom a few nuclear missiles against the free world. They demand a whole lot of money in return for not detonating the bombs.
Bond has been out of action for quite some time. In training, he's not doing too terribly well; but he shrugs it off and claims that in real-life situations, he'd do better because of the adrenaline.
All those martinis, red meat, and white bread are taking their toll on our hero and he gets sent to a clinic where he'll, hopefully, be on the road to recovery.
At the place he accidentally discovers part of SPECTRE's plan and gets mugged by the stereotypical invincible man. But don't worry, he can't get knocked out in the first few scenes—he saves himself by throwing his own pee on the person (just don't ask).
This brings up a remarkable problem with "Never Say Never Again". It's ludicrousness, more so than any other Bond film, is just a turn off. It's not fun, it's just stupid.
When Bond finally comes face-to-face with his enemy, he fights him in a video game. It's somewhat anticlimactic, though the film tries its hardest to make something out of it.
Then we have some staples of the series like how Bond is simply irresistible to women. One woman (who somehow managed to eke out a Golden Globe nomination for her performance) is so desperate to be the best at everything that she makes Bond sign a confession stating that she was the best thing he'd ever had in bed—while she holds a gun to his head.
But that's not all, no, the sins of "Never Say Never Again" number far too many to keep score.
Yet there is still something to the film that it good. A man named Largo, who is running the operation is played by Klaus Maria Brandauer whose performance is note-worthy. He makes all other Bond villains seems cartoonish. He is so good and so convincing. Alas, the rest of the movie stinks.
Trying to prove that it's not "Thunderball", the film veers way off course several times, desperately pushing away from the other movie's plot line. This means that we get scenes that are way too long. Dance scenes, fight scenes, bed scenes—it all feel very unnecessary. 
As Q says to Bond near the beginning of the film: "I hope we're going to see some gratuitous sex and violence in this one!" 
"Never Say Never Again" is filled with bitterness and tries to truncate the Bond series where it lies. Lucky for us the film is forgotten and no one cared about it—otherwise, the film may have succeeded.

Score: ★★

Octopussy (1983)

John Glen has a knack for making the odd and bizarre seems plausible. Yes, we can all see that this Bond is one of the more far fetched of the series, but I was okay with this. From the circus, to the mountains, to India, to a floating 'island' populated entirely with beautiful women; there is much in "Octopussy" that seems completely and totally ridiculous.
On the other hand, the stunt work for this film is fantastic. The visual effects are all good (minus the animation of a clearly robotic octopus) and there is genuine peril to the film that many other films before have lacked. Loss of life is now given the full respect it demands and women are no longer just some play thing to be wooed (not to say that this movie spares the series of its sometimes more than slight chauvinism; but at least these females have an inkling of a brain).
James Bond by this time has had a large number of adventures and this movie is probably at the top of them because, unlike so many of the previous films (mysteries, action flicks, savior films, revenge stories), "Octopussy" feels like a journey and a quest more than any of the other sub-genres that the franchise has experimented with.
The movie begins with an unrelated prologue that gives way to some very precise sequences. Bond is at the race tracks and he's trying to infiltrate a foreign military by posing as a general. He intends to destroy a piece of technology that they have; but he gets caught. He's sexy helping agent distracts the men and a plane unfolds from the back of his car, then he's shooting off into the sky to safety.
Post monotonous and repetitive main titles (Maurice Binder just needs to quit already), James is told of a Fabergé egg. We see a clown sneaking out of East Berlin and being pursued by a man with knives. Stabbed in the back, the clown makes his way to the British Ambassador's house and crashed in, letting the jeweled egg roll out of his hand.
This clown was an agent of MI6 and they aren't taking his death that lightly. Putting Bond on the case and studying the Fabergé egg, they see that the expensive bauble is a fake. The real egg is being auctioned off in a few days and Bond must accompany a jewelry expert to try to see if the seller will show up.
Jewel smuggling is not something new to the Bond franchise. We have seen it before in "Goldfinger" and "Diamonds Are Forever"; yet John Glen brings something slightly Hitchcockian to "Octopussy". A scene in which the Fabergé egg is auctioned off brings back memory to the auction scene from "North by Northwest" though the two movies couldn't be more different.
Roger Moore returns yet again though this is hi next to last performance as the title character. He's calm and collected, much more intelligent than Sean Connery's rendition; but there a mocking uncaring to his character. John Glen brings out the best in him and this and the previous Bond have been the best with Roger Moore as 007.
Aside from the problem with the title, "Octopussy" brings fresh circumstances to the Bond series without being completely irrational. The conflicting bad guys are unnecessary as is the signature ways that some of the henchmen kill people.
Fun and entertaining, "Octopussy" does get weighed down with its own ridiculousness; but it makes a valiant effort.

Score: ★★½

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Ringing in the 1980s and bringing an end to a run of not so great Bond films, "For Your Eyes Only" is brought to life by a revenge story and though some of the antics of the film (including a lip syncing main title sequence and an electronica inspired score) don't quite hit the mark, the general feeling of the film is very fresh, very fun, and very entertaining.
That being said: don't pay attention to the prologue....it's just disappointing. The movie's opening shows us Number One of SPECTRE back in a wheelchair and his white cat. He seems determined to get Bond back ever since their last encounter in "Diamonds Are Forever"; but most of the references in the prologue are for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", which I find ironic. For being such a hated piece of Bond lore, it's certainly the most crucial to the vague story that meanders from film to film.
But a short helicopter ride later and the audience thinks we won't be hearing from Number One any time soon—but we've been wrong before.
Post main titles, Maurice Binder returning yet again to make them (they are getting really, really old. There's only so much you can do with silhouettes) we see a disguised British intelligence ship out at sea. The crew is making rounds, being efficient, and whatnot. The top of the boat looks like an average fishing vessel, one that remains in operation, no doubt to alleviate any concerns that arise about the boat. The fishermen accidentally catch an explosive mine in their nets and before they can do anything to stop it, it touches the boat—bam—instant crux for Bond.
On board the boat is a highly secure and completely irreplaceable piece of equipment called ATAC. Not having the time to destroy the machine, it remains in tact underneath the ocean surface.
It becomes a race against the clock for who's going to get to ATAC the other one first (oh, so punny).
MI6 hired a couple to find the sunken wreck before the Russians get to it, but they get killed in front of their daughter who vows revenge on her parents lives.
Bond gets sent to see if a man of certain mob connections may have anything to do with it. As with most Bond films, his first assumption is correct. But the daughter of the murdered couple has to save Bond's skin.
Bond leaves the long-haired beauty behind and travels to a snow-laden land to meet with a man who supposedly has intelligence that he needs. In this winter wonderland he meets a wannabe Olympic skater who seems like the virginal woman who will get deflowered by the time the credits roll—what we aren't expecting (oh, SPOILER) is that she pretty much will bang everything that moves (too crass?).
But the agents of evildoing are always one step ahead of Bond and they lead him on many merry chases.
"For Your Eyes Only" is directed by John Glen, who was an assistant director for "Moonraker". He throws as many visual wonders at your eyes as possible and it pays off handsomely. From ski chase scenes that involve motorcycles, to shark baiting with a twist, "For Your Eyes Only" is very much a fun film.
The villains are no longer silly creatures of the night with heavy makeup and fake accents, they are all cruel and devilish, to be taken seriously.
Perhaps the most notable thing that "For Your Eyes Only" does is that the bad guy of the film is not the big bad guy. He/she is still an underling; but it plays out better this way.
From snappy one-liners to pretty great action sequences, a little maturity and a little more severity this Bond movie makes me eager to see what happens next.

Score: ★★★

Moonraker (1979)

Given the success of the first "Star Wars" movie and the never ending need to take the Bond franchise to places it has never been before, we travel back to space for "Moonraker". For a movie that begins as strongly as this one does, it takes a certain level of skill to ruin it completely and for that skill we have director Lewis Gilbert. Perhaps he shouldn't share full credit for ruining this movie, that could also go to screenwriter Christopher Wood...but I digress.
At the movie's opening, as is becoming the modus operandi for the Bond films, we start with something bad. An airplane with a space shuttle on its back (reminding us of the opening scenes from "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb") is speeding along, traveling towards an unnamed destination, presumably America. Two men pop out of secret compartments and hijack the space shuttle, taking off at high speed, leaving the plane obliterated.
MI6 hears of this catastrophe and M decides that he needs his best man on it, 007. Bond, meanwhile is in a place making out with a sexy stewardess who pulls a gun on him and announces his unfortunate and inevitable demise. But our plucky hero will not be shut out so easily and the stereotypical fight inside a place going at top speed occurs....naturally.
What then ensues is a terrific free-fall fight. Bond, a red shirt guy, and Jaws from "The Spy Who Loved Me" (ugh) plummet to the ground while wrestling over a parachute. It's pretty amazing stunt work, but then it ends in a comical transition to the main titles.
Shirley Bassey is back again to sing the title song (does she ever leave?) and Roger Moore returns yet again.
For as much as the Bond franchise has already managed to do, it's still fun to see what new things they can pull from their hats. In this movie, it's a very strong woman. Wow! That's remarkable! Yes, even Bond thinks so and when he's first introduced to Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) he doesn't think about saying "a woman" like he's a caveman and she's the first female specimen that he's encountered.
But she's unshaken by his rudeness and his consistent need to seduce her—don't worry, the seduction happens late on a cable car that is plummeting to the ground while Bond and Goodhead are being harassed by Jaws...it's really not any better than it sounds.
She gives Bond the tour of the space facility where Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) makes his Moonrakers...the same kind of ship that was stolen off the top of the airplane. Bond is here to sniff out any rats, and MI6 suspects that there are many here.
Drax, the bad guy—who's surprised?—orders that Bond be taken care of; yet, as always, it's the most inconvenient way ever that the henchmen use to knock Bond down and out. In this movie, it's a G-force machine.
"Moonraker" started to lose steam when Jaws was reintroduced; but it gets even weirder when we have to have a romance between Jaws and a little blonde girl who happens upon him crawling out from wreckage that Bond left him in.
Oh, and I think 7-Up may have been a sponsor...if you've seen the movie, you know what I mean.
Drax is an evil enough bad guy and he's got some great one-liners—ever the poet, he'd rather muse about a situation than kill Bond.
Bond and Goodhead make their way up into the heavens; but will they be soon enough to save earth from a crippling disaster.
Most Bond villains in the past have had a God-complex, but Drax is on a whole new level. It would have been great if we had gotten to see out bad guy get fully utilized—he doesn't, but that's keeping with tradition.
I really hope that we have seen the last of Jaws; because I'm not sure how much more I can take. This movie is full of logical holes and plot inconsistencies.
"Moonraker" rakes something in, but it certainly isn't the moon.

Score: ★★

Hustling up those Oscar nominations

Once again, the Oscars have rolled around. From last year's shocks and surprises (mostly in the directing category), this year is pretty darn bland. No picture has the chance of winning the most Oscars, because "Gravity" and "American Hustle" lead the nominations with 10 apiece.
Instead of complaining about the shut-out of "Upsteam Color", you should just assume that I wanted it nominated for everything.
Here's the full list as well as some of my thoughts:


12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street

Fruitvale Station

As much as people lost interest in both these pictures, there was hype about them sneaking into the nominations...I guess not. Also notable is the omission of "Inside Llewyn Davis".


Chiwetel Ejiofor for "12 Years a Slave"
Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Christian Bale for "American Hustle"
Bruce Dern for "Nebraska"
Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club"


Joaquin Phoenix for Her
Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips

Though I haven't seen the movies yet, it's a surprise to not see Phoenix or Hanks on the list.

Amy Adams for "American Hustle"
Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine"
Sandra Bullock for "Gravity"
Judi Dench for "Philomena"
Meryl Streep for "August: Osage County"

Amy Seitz for "Upsteam Color"

I knew I said I wasn't going to; but come on! She was perfect! Anyways, the surprise here is Meryl Streep's nomination. Also not included is Greta Gerwig for "Frances Ha".

Barkhad Abdi for "Captain Phillips"
Bradley Cooper for "American Hustle"
Jonah Hill for "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Michael Fassbender for "12 Years a Slave"
Jared Leto for "Dallas Buyers Club"

Daniel Brühl for "Rush" and Jake Gyllenhaal for "Prisoners"I'm a fan of their performances anyways. No real shocks here though.

Sally Hawkins for "Blue Jasmine"
Julia Roberts for "August: Osage County"
Lupita Nyong'o for "12 Years a Slave"
Jennifer Lawrence for "American Hustle"
June Squibb for "Nebraska"

Sarah Paulson for "12 Years a Slave"
It's easy to get overshadowed by Nyong'o performance by Sarah Paulson was so chilling in this film.
Also, how did Jennifer Lawrence managed to charm her way into a nomination?

Alfonso Cuarón for "Gravity"
Steve McQueen for "12 Years a Slave"
David O. Russell for "American Hustle"
Martin Scorsese for "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Alexander Payne for "Nebraska"

Spike Jonze for "Her"
Woody Allen for "Blue Jasmine"

Paul Greengrass also got snubbed, but that's not a real shocker.

"American Hustle"
"Blue Jasmine"
"Dallas Buyers Club"


"Before Midnight"
"Captain Phillips"
"12 Years a Slave"
"The Wolf of Wall Street"

"The Croods"
"Despicable Me 2"
"Ernest & Celestine"
"The Wind Rises"

Pixar is shut out.

"The Broken Circle Breakdown"
"The Missing Picture"
"The Hunt"
"The Great Beauty:

"Blue Is the Warmest Color"

The controversial Palme d'Or winner seemed destined for Oscar gold, considering the success of last year's winner...I guess not.

Emmanuel Lubezki for "Gravity"
Bruno Delbonnel for "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Phedon Papamichael for "Nebraska"
Roger Deakins for "Prisoners"
Philippe Le Sourd for "The Grandmaster"

Emmanuel Lubezki for "To the Wonder"

"12 Years a Slave"
"American Hustle"
"Captain Phillips"
"Dallas Buyers Club"


"12 Years a Slave"
"American Hustle"
"The Great Gatsby"

"American Hustle"
"The Great Gatsby"
"12 Years a Slave"
"The Grandmaster"
"The Invisible Woman"

"Dallas Buyers Club"
"Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa"
"The Lone Ranger"

"American Hustle"

After completely dropping the ball last year with excluding "Cloud Atlas" from makeup and hair, it's no surprise to see the Academy skip over the only Oscar "American Hustle" deserves to win.

John Williams for "The Book Thief"
Steven Price for "Gravity"
William Butler and Andy Koyama for "Her"
Thomas Newman for "Saving Mr. Banks"
Alexandre Desplat for "Philomena"

Alex Ebert for "All Is Lost"
Hans Zimmer for "12 Years a Slave"

Not only did the Academy omit Zimmer's sensational work, they also missed the Golden Globe winner.

"Happy" from "Despicable Me 2"
"Let it Go" from "Frozen"
"Ordinary Love" from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"
"Alone Yet Not Alone" from "Alone Yet Not Alone"
"The Moon Song" from "Her"

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"
"Captain Phillips"
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
"Lone Survivor"


"All Is Lost"
"Captain Phillips"
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"
"Lone Survivor"


"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"
"Iron Man 3"
"The Lone Ranger"
"Star Trek Into Darkness"

Who would have guessed "The Lone Ranger" would get more than one Oscar nomination?

"The Act of Killing"
"Cutie and the Boxer"
"Dirty Wars"
"The Square"
"20 Feet from Stardom"


Perhaps the biggest Oscar snub this year is the omission of "Blackfish". The most popular documentary in years and full of stunning archive footage just wasn't enough.

"Facing Fear"
"Karama Has No Walls"
"The Lady in Number 6"
"Prisoner Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall"

"Get a Horse!"
"Mr. Hublot"
"Room on the Broom"

"Aquel no era yo"
"Just Before Losing Everything"
"Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?"
"The Voorman Problem"

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Roger Moore returns again—was there any real doubt?—as 007, a man who now has to face a villain who could just be the best Bond baddie yet. Opening to a submarine that runs into trouble, we are introduced to the idea (once again) of possible nuclear warfare. Someone somewhere in the vastness of the earth is using a new form of technology to track submarines. What they are doing with them, we don't know yet. What is clear is that MI6's aquatic defense is going down the drain.
The Russians have lost a submarine as well, soon the submarine crisis becomes the top priority for MI6 and they need their best man on the job. James Bond is currently in the middle of a session in foreign studies (you know what I mean), when he is summoned to MI6 headquarters; but he has to have a ski chase scene before that which culminates in a pretty amazing stunt.
"The Spy Who Loved Me" has no hesitancy to make references to other Bond movies, proving that the theory of "James Bond" just being a pseudonym passed from one agent to another is completely wrong. The heartbreak and melancholia of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" is briefly touched on before we get back to gas cigarettes and cars that turn into boats.
The official tenth film "The Spy Who Loved Me" demonstrates that the franchise has pretty much done everything before. We've had explosions, we've had odd bedroom conversations, snakes, planes, helicopters, fast cars, thievery, invincible side kicks, and third nipples...I'm still not over that.
But there is room for something new in the Bond movies. We meet a female spy, Russian Agent XXX (Barbara Bach). She is ruthless and sexy; but don't worry because she's a horrible driver—a fact that evokes a very snide remarks from Bond. In some scenes she is every bit Bond's superior; but most of the time, she's just another dame that the Bond machine has to plow through before it reaches its next movie.
Sent off to investigate the disappearing submarines, Bond has to find the device that is allowing this mastermind to find the subs...which is much more complicated than it sounds.
He ends up in the desert, riding on the back of a camel dressed in white as Maurice Jarre's amazing score from "Lawrence of Arabia" kicks in. This is fine and quite an impressive homage, but it makes me wonder how the movie managed to eke out an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score.
Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens) is this film's poison and he is deliciously evil. He does seem a little too similar to Number Two from "Thunderball"; but hey, it's a drastic improvement over the bad guy from "The Man with the Golden Gun". 
Lewis Gilbert directs the tenth Bond, coming back from a long absence (he directed the fifth piece as well). It's not a great achievement of cinema by any standards, but it does somewhat revive the sagging series.
That being said, there are serious issues with this movie. Probably my biggest qualm was one of the bad sidekicks, a lumbering man with metal teeth who is known only as Jaws (Richard Kiel). It proves another thing about the movie—it rides off the success of the films that have come prior to it. True a steel-toothed character does appear in Ian Fleming's novel of the same name; but the name was changed from 'Horror' to 'Jaws'. "Jaws" (the sensational Spielberg flick...released in '75) was currently the largest blockbuster of all time and "Lawrence of Arabia" was one of the biggest hits at the Oscars in recent years. Playing it safe, we get a movie that barely registers above mediocre.
The chase scenes, the incredible sets, the explosions, and Roger Moore's comical indifference make this film somewhat enjoyable.
For a movie that has a great villain, it doesn't show much of the bad guy, instead focusing on the giant, toothy hit man.
Sadly "The Spy Who Loved Me" is a movie that's full of barking and lacking in the biting.

Score: ★★½

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

A nipple. Yes, that's right, a nipple—that's the grand entrance of "The Man with the Golden Gun". Ah, but don't worry, it's not just any nipple; it's a pale grey, disgusting looking third nipple belonging to none other than Christopher Lee. This is seen within the opening minute of the film. This nipple gets its own close-up...I guess it had to sleep with the director too (oh, so naughty).
Anyways, I think this sums up the biggest problem with "The Man with the Golden Gun"; because if a nipple is the big entrance, you know that there are huge problems lying further on down the road...and you'd be remarkably right.
Post-nipple close-up, we see Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) lounge on the beach with a beautiful woman who towels him off seductively. Then we have his midget butler named Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize) who appears to be trying to knock his master off. Hiring a shady looking dude with a gun, Nick Nack instructs him to wait in the bedroom for Scaramanga.
Once he's inside, Nick Nack starts playing God via a panel of uber-controls that allow him to do pretty much everything. Scaramanga gets trapped inside with the hired gun.
The bedroom converts into a circus sideshow, complete with house of mirrors and everything. The hired man gets corralled into walking down flights of steps, turning certain corners, etc. etc. Scaramanga has to get to his gun before he becomes dead; but he does and it becomes clear that this has just been killing-Bond training.
Cut to main titles.
Bond (Roger Moore again) enters quickly and learns that a man named Scaramanga has sent MI6 a little present: a golden bullet with Bond's number carved into it. MI6 sees this as a threat and since Scaramanga's identity is completely clandestine, they have nothing to go on. M suspends Bond who is so anxious to get back on secret-agent-ing (totally a word) that he decides that only path left for him is to track down Scaramanga himself and meet the killer head on.
Scaramanga had a thing for gold (not that we've seen that in a Bond villain before...sarcasm, of course), he has a golden gun, hence the title, and he shoots exclusively with golden bullets which cost a fortune to make. 
Bond knows that if he wants to find Scaramanga he's got to find one of the bullets...which takes him about five minutes. This bullet is found lodged in the navel of a pretty dancer at the night club....of course. Bond removes the bullet with his mouth...I just...I just....just no. After accidentally swallowing the golden nugget and then setting off for a pharmacist and then, no doubt, excreting the bullet, 007 finds out the maker.
Then it's just a hop, skip, and a jump closer to Scaramanga.
There are some heavy logical issues in "The Man with the Golden Gun"...like how Scaramanga has a life size dummy of Bond in his freak show when he supposedly never met the man. Then there's the motive, which is paper thin, and the script itself.
When the most exciting thing that happens is a karate school going berserk for absolutely no reason, you know the movie's in trouble. Sure, you could argue the whole karate school thing; but it would bring up the biggest hole in the movie (and perhaps the series): why don't people kill Bond when they have the chance? If you could count the number of times that people got the drop on our dear gentlemen spy, you'd be weary before you got to this movie. Why is it that at gunpoint, our villains must calmly explain their whole plan and decide to dispatch Bond in some elaborate way that has twenty-seven ways it could mess up? Why?
But moving on...Bond has to save the world again; but from what, I can't remember...does he even have to save the world? What happens in this movie?
It's not very memorable.
Scaramanga is the lowest of the Bond villains yet, clinging to hope because he has a nifty gun.
"The Man with the Golden Gun" is by far the worst Bond movie yet, stealing from each movie prior to it and adding uselessly stupid characters.
John Barry returns for the score (I approve) and Guy Hamilton is back (I don't approve) for the last time (I approve).
What it boils down to is the reappearance and that freakin' annoying redneck caricature from "Live and Let Die". Apparently audiences found him funny. I did not. Instead of a cameo, he gets remarkable screen time, filled with racist slurs, curses, and unfunny physical humor.
"The Man with the Golden Gun" ends horribly, in fact it's pretty dreadful the whole way through. Then again, it all started with a nipple, so what were you expecting?

Score: ★½