Archive for October, 2012

Ranking the Bond Movies: #9 – Thunderball (1965)

He always runs, while others walk…”

Da na NA NA na na!

Who doesn’t love Thunderball? It’s one of those quintessential Bond films. It has a bunch of scenes that have become hallmarks of the franchise. Plus — man — all those underwater scenes… perfection.

My only issue with Thunderball was that some of the sequences were kind of weak compared to other films of the franchise (specifically the Connery era, since that’s pretty much all that’s left on this list. We know it’s better than most of the Moore films, so it comes down to comparing it to the other Connery films). Of course, others were some of the strongest of the franchise, like that underwater battle. But other scenes — the final showdown on Largo’s boat, the opening sequence, that Mardi Gras chase — they’re just kind of weak to me. I just don’t enjoy this as much as the other eight films left on this countdown.

So really my only issues with the film are when I rank it among the others. Otherwise, I love the film.



Pic of the Day: “I don’t believe that story about Josey Wales.” “You don’t?” “No, sir, I don’t. I don’t believe no five pistoleros can do in Josey Wales.” “Maybe it was six. Could’ve even been ten.” “I think he’s still alive.” “Alive? No sir.” “I think I’ll go down to Mexico, and try to find him.” “And then?” “He’s got the first move. I owe him that. I think I’ll try to tell him the war is over. What do you say, Mr. Wilson?” “I reckon so. I guess we all died a little in that damn war.”

Ranking the Bond Movies: #10 – Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

This is kind of a cop out, I know. Quantum of Solace is almost definitely the better film. But I just can’t put that one in the top ten. And I’m still playing my hunch that Skyfall is going to be a top ten film. So this really a temporary thing. Assuming Skyfall makes top ten, what’ll happen is, this’ll drop to #13, Quantum will be #12, and what #9 is (don’t want to spoil it just yet) will be #10. And all will be right with the world.

That aside — I really like this movie. It’s probably Connery’s most ridiculous Bond film. But for some reason it’s very enjoyable to me. Maybe it’s because I love the location of Vegas, I love the Slumber, Inc. section, I love Tiffany Case, I love that Blofeld is in it, I love that Vegas car chase (not the moon buggy chase). It definitely doesn’t hold up as well as Quantum of Solace does, and I probably should have that here, but, like I said, it’s a temporary ranking anyway.

I don’t know — there’s just something about Connery’s Bond movies that just feels right.



Pic of the Day: “He was growing into middle age, and was living then in a bungalow on Woodland Avenue. He installed himself in a rocking chair and smoked a cigar down in the evenings as his wife wiped her pink hands on an apron and reported happily on their two children. His children knew his legs, the sting of his mustache against their cheeks. They didn’t know how their father made his living, or why they so often moved. They didn’t even know their father’s name.”

Ranking the Bond Movies: #11 – Quantum of Solace (2008)

Quantum of Solace will always be a tricky film for me, because it’s very much dependent on Casino Royale. In many respects, it can stand alone as its own film, but you really don’t get the dramatic impact of the film without having seen its predecessor.

Now, it’s a great film. It really is. It has everything about Bond, and for being the shortest entry in the franchise, it sure has its fair share of action. And it’s definitely a film I’d watch more than maybe the ranking suggests. But — I don’t know — it just doesn’t feel like a top ten Bond film for me. It feels like a #11.

It would be impossible to argue that it isn’t a top ten film. Mostly I’m sort of hedging my bets by putting it here, in the hopes that Skyfall completes a sort of trilogy in the series (or leaves this alone as a pseudo-sequel to Casino Royale. Either way, it’s gonna do one or the other) and ends up itself being a top ten film. In that case, my ranking of this one ends up all right.

So it’s not like I don’t think Quantum of Solace isn’t a top ten Bond film, it’s just — we’re in a weird position at the moment, where I really need Skyfall to let me know where I’m going to rank this one. I need to know where it fits in the series first.



Pic of the Day: “Ready? Okay, when we get outside and we get to the horses, whatever happens, just remember one thing… hey, wait a minute.” “What?” “You didn’t see Lefors out there, did you?” “Lefors? No.” “Oh, good. For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.”

Ranking the Bond Movies: #12 – Licence to Kill (1989)

It took Timothy Dalton two tries to get it right, but that’s okay. I actually don’t feel bad admitting he’s my least favorite Bond. Mostly because I don’t like the way they handled the character during his two films. But this time, unlike with The Living Daylights, they got it right. To the point where it makes me wonder what would have happened if legal problems didn’t derail the franchise for six years after this (though they kind of needed to happen, since the franchise needed that period to catch up to the times).

Anyway — I really like Licence to Kill. The first time I watched these films, I came out of them really liking this, and thinking, “Well, it’s Timothy Dalton, so I bet most people just consider his two films as “whatever.” Just two forgettable entries between the three more prominent Bonds (and everyone just forgets Lazenby entirely). But when I watched it, I went, “Wow, this is actually really good. And then two years passed, and all I really remembered about it was that I enjoyed the film and that it had that awesome Sorcerer ending to it. I thought that maybe I was overrating the rest of the film purely because of the end sequence. But actually — the rest of the film holds up.

I like how grounded the film is. This film might be one of the closest films to the Daniel Craig era than any of the post-1970 films. The gadgets are pretty realistic, the story is definitely realistic, and for the most part, it’s grounded in an emotional story rather than action scenes. And I really liked that about it.

There are a lot of things I like about this movie, but I’ll save them for the article itself. Just know that while a lot of people might think to overlook this film, it’s actually one of the better Bond movies of all time. It’s kind of a shame I couldn’t put this as a top ten, but on the bright side, it’s actually a really solid #12. It’s better than all of the films that came before it on this list, and, while I can’t say it’s better than the next 11, it does have a very comfortable place just outside the top ten, and, to me, that’s all right.



Pic of the Day: “You don’t have to do me no favors, pappy.” “If I was doing you a favor, I’d let ’em hang you right now and get it all over with. But I don’t want you to get off that light. I want you to go on, being a big, tough gunny. I want you to see what it means to have to live like a big, tough gunny. So don’t thank me yet, partner. You’ll see what I mean.”

Ranking the Bond Movies: #13 – Live and Let Die (1973)

I really like Live and Let Die. When I watched it the first time, I had it really low on my list. Like, #17 low.  But then when I watched it this time, it was a huge breath of fresh air. This movie was so much fun for me the second time. Because it’s so grounded in the 70s. Easily Roger Moore’s least ridiculous film. It’s also one of the least ‘Bond’ Bond movies there is, which is saying something.

Roger Moore has an interesting arc as Bond — his last three movies, we can all agree, are not great (though I enjoy A View to a Kill for various Walken-related reasons), but his first three (in reverse order) — there’s The Spy Who Loved Me, which is clearly his best. And there’s Man with the Golden Gun, which is pretty great, on the whole, and is a very different plot for Bond, in that it’s mostly about his showdown with Scaramanga. That’s the focus of everything. It doesn’t have the same pacing as a regular Bond movie. And then there’s this. The whole thing practically takes place in New York and Jamaica, has a (mostly) believable plot, and most importantly — it has flavor.

This movie has flavor. That’s what separates it for me. That’s the reason why I rank this as highly as I do. Everything about this movie just feels rich with flavor. It’s like a thick gravy compared to For Your Eyes Only‘s thin broth. I can’t make an absolute claim that it’s actually any better than the two films I have ranked directly below this, but for me, I enjoy this one more, at least in my mind, because it has those elements in it (New York, Solitaire, things like that) that I really like. So while I’m aware I’m probably overrating this a bit — I enjoy what I enjoy. And I enjoy this movie.



Pic of the Day: “And Frank?” “Frank sent us.” “Did you bring a horse for me?” “Well… looks like we’re… looks like we’re shy one horse.” “You brought two too many.”

Ranking the Bond Movies: #14 – The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

I really like this one. I like that it’s not a standard Bond plot. Think about it — what’s this movie about? No world domination, no nuclear warheads, no assassinations — a world-class assassin’s mistress wants out, so she brings the only man the assassin respects enough as an adversary into his path, leading to an eventual showdown between the two. That’s the plot. Sure, there’s that solar thing as an added thing, but mostly this film is about Scaramanga vs. Bond. And I really like that.

This film has problems, though. I’ll admit that. As an entire film, it’s probably not as good as The World Is Not Enough. But I really like the interplay between Scaramanga and Bond, and I like that the structure isn’t typical Bond. Or, even if it kind of is, it doesn’t feel like a regular Bond movie. And I like when things break from the norm, structurally, especially Bond.

This film is pretty much one of those solid, middle-of-the-pack Bond films. It has problems, but it also has moments of greatness, and is thoroughly entertaining throughout. It’s not bad, and it’s not in that great section, but it’s definitely in that solid section right in between.



Pic of the Day: “I’ll see you in hell, William Munny.” “Yeah…”

The Box Office Report – October 26-28

Last week, in Box Office…

I completely forgot about this article. I’m totally tuned out to whatever’s out until Skyfall. It’s really bad.

Paranormal Activity 4 opened to $29 million. That’s encouraging. They had to have expected 35-40, right? So I’m happy. They only spend $5 million on these movies anyway, so it’s not like they’re hurting for profit.

Argo, on the other hand, dropped only — wait for it — 15.5%! — and made $16.4 million. They’ve made their budget back on this one in theaters, and I couldn’t be happier. (Still haven’t seen it yet, though.)

Taken 2 dropped 40% and made another $13 million, which makes sense. They’ve made $100 million here off a $45 million budget, so good for them.

Hotel Transylvania made an even $13 million for the weekend. 25% drop. They’ve made $118 million here as of Monday, and honestly, good for them. The film wasn’t terrible, even though it wasn’t particularly great. (Too much of that modern animation bullshit. Pop culture references that won’t hold up past 2013.)

Alex Cross only opened to $11.4 million, which is a shame. But I haven’t seen it yet, so maybe it’s terrible. But they only spent $35 million on it, so maybe they’ll pull out a profit on it. I root for these movies that have smaller budgets, even if they end up not being very good. (more…)

Ranking the Bond Movies: #15 – The World Is Not Enough (1999)

I’m conflicted about The World Is Not Enough. I enjoy the hell out of it, but for some reason, some parts of it just don’t sit right with me.

It’s one of those ones where, when I look at it on paper, all the checkmarks are there for a good Bond movie. And yet — it’s not quite there for me. I don’t know. It doesn’t quite finish the job. I think it’s an accumulation of a bunch of little things that seem curious to me — like M’s behavior throughout the film. Maybe it’s me having been spoiled from the Craig films, but it’s almost as if they didn’t know what to do with M for Brosnan. Her behavior from GoldenEye to this to Die Another Day (since she’s barely even in Tomorrow Never Dies) shifts drastically. It’s just confusing to me that she would randomly act this way. And then there’s the whole Elektra business, which, on paper, works completely and makes her one of the better villains for all time. But watching it — I don’t see it. I haven’t quite been able to figure out what it was that doesn’t quite work for me, but there’s something.

It’s just a bunch of stuff like that. I want to rank this film higher, but I just can’t. It just feels like it’s only just pretty good. (And notice, I’m not even mentioning Denise Richards. That doesn’t even bother me.) I was tempted to put it a little higher because it’s modern, and watches easier than the ones I ranked ahead of it, but I actually enjoy the other ones more. I’ll probably watch this one first (mostly because I grew up with it), but as a franchise film, it doesn’t work for me as well as some other ones.

But clearly it’s head and shoulders above all the ones ranked below it. That’s really all that matters. All that other stuff is about putting a number on it. Simply as a film, it’s a really good one.



Pic of the Day: “You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?” “No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Ranking the Bond Movies: #16 – Moonraker (1979)

I feel like this is a pretty contentious film within the Bond franchise. Some people love this film, some people hate it. I, myself, enjoy it.

My thing about the Bond movies is — I don’t like when they’re just another action movie with Bond put over it (Tomorrow Never Dies) or when it seems like they’re hardly trying because it’s a by-the-numbers Bond movie (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy). I want something that makes it enjoyable to me as a Bond movie. And with A View to a Kill, that was Christopher Walken. For Moonraker — it’s Jaws. The fact that so much of this movie is basically Bond and Jaws having a bunch of showdowns and chases is pretty great, and is a great substitute for all those scenes that slow down all the later Moore films. (Seriously, think about all the films he made after this — they’re all so slow, and the henchmen are horrible.) That’s what keeps this film interesting to me.

Plus, I don’t mind them being in space. I really don’t. I don’t even mind that, in order to cash in on the space and sci-fi craze, they copied the basic villain plot from The Spy Who Loved Me. I just want something that’s interesting to me as a Bond fan. And what I see is a classic Bond plot, a classic Bond progression (some parts, like the Venice section, don’t work at all, but him on Drax’s estate is all classic Bond), a return of an all-time great franchise character, and some gorgeous images along the way (and space, which to me, works as a location. It’s not like it’s completely out of the realm of this franchise to do something like this. The only things that fall flat are the obvious moments that are trying to be Star Wars).

I don’t really see much downside to this movie. Clearly it’s not a franchise best, but it’s completely serviceable, ranging on good. I would honestly put it over every movie I ranked below this, every time.

moonraker-title-card (more…)


Pic of the Day: “Joe, you’re under arrest.”

Ranking the Bond Movies: #17 – A View to a Kill (1985)

I had a feeling about A View to a Kill. When I saw it the first time, I knew I liked it more than its reputation would suggest. Going in this time, I figured it would drop a bit. I knew my opinion on the first watch was probably influenced by Walken, so I figured this would suffer a bit of a drop. But honestly — this still pretty much ended up in the area it was at last time. The only difference is that other films climbed up on my list, so this didn’t drop so much as it fell by default.

My opinion of this film is the same, if not higher, than the first time I saw it. I really like this one. It’s a little on the slow side, in terms of pacing, but on the whole, this is a great movie. I think it works very well, has memorable characters, memorable moments — of course it’s not one of the best Bond movies ever, but in terms of the Roger Moore films, I think this is definitely okay. It definitely has some stupid moments that are the hallmark of the Moore years, but on the whole, I think you can do a lot worse for a Bond movie.

Also — the tandem of Christopher Walken and Grace Jones alone makes this more interesting than at least four or five other Bond movies. I think this is a very underrated movie in terms of people’s perception of it. As a Bond film, it’s just okay (hence the ranking), but even at 17, a film can still be underrated.



Pic of the Day: “Shane! Come back!”

Ranking the Bond Movies: #18 – Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

For some reason, this was the only Bond movie of my time (my time being the Brosnan and Craig eras) that I hadn’t seen before I watched all the Bond movies right after I graduated college. I’d seen all the other Brosnan films, but for some reason, not this one.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. I remember seeing it the first time, having in the back of my head that it was one of the stronger films, but when I saw it, I went, “I didn’t really love that,” and I had that moment we all kind of do when we’re late to the party on something other people love and we don’t have that reaction. Usually it’s (unless you’re being spiteful) to keep quiet and don’t say anything and sort of go along through silence. I just — didn’t love the film. It was okay. I liked parts and all, but the whole thing just didn’t grab me.

Then, when I watched it this second time (with a better grasp on Bond and what I like and dislike about the franchise), I really firmly decided that I didn’t much care for this movie. Mostly it’s from the top down. I don’t like the plot, I don’t like the villain, I think the Bond girl is terribly wasted and could have been anyone. I think they don’t use M nearly enough. I think the action sequences are just okay. I think the henchmen are generic. Really the only things I liked about this film are the opening sequence, the car park chase, and The Doctor. And even the first two, not so much.

This film is just generic to me. There’s really nothing to differentiate it from other Bond movies except for the fact that it’s recent, so it’s more watchable than something like For Your Eyes Only. It’s not a bad movie, I just don’t really care for it all that much.



Pic of the Day: “I want you to round up every vicious criminal and gunslinger in the west. Take this down. I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers, and Methodists!” “Could you repeat that, sir?”

Ranking the Bond Movies: #19 – Die Another Day (2002)

I’m actually a little bit surprised this ended up here. At first glance, I’d have said this woud go #22 or #21. And when Living Daylights dropped down in there, I was certain this would be #20. But no — it ended up here. In retrospect it’s not too surprising, but still, you’d think this would be a lock for bottom three.

The reason I put this higher than For Your Eyes Only is because I see a good movie here. There is actually a potential good movie here. And in execution, there’s even a passable movie here. The real problem with this is that there’s too much stuff in it. The chases are extended and unnecessary, the dialogue is horribly written, and Halle Berry is probably the most miscast Bond girl in franchise history. It’s rare to have someone who can act in the role of a Bond girl, since they’re typically given ridiculously bad dialogue. You’d think a real actor could make that stuff work, but no, she only makes it sound worse.

The film is just so overdone it teeters on the point of ridiculousness. And then you think about what the first twenty minutes of this movie are like, and you go, “Man, they really could have done something good here.” Bond in a North Korean prison, getting tortured, going out to find who the traitor is — how the fuck do you end up with invisible cars and a Korean guy becoming a white guy?

There’s no way you can honestly tell me this movie belongs anywhere outside the bottom five Bond movies of all time. It’s just not very good amongst the other films of the franchise. The real shame is that they had a chance here to make something good. And they fucked up the end game.



Pic of the Day: “Well, you’ll have to forgive me, my kitchen ain’t in operation yet, but I could take you up to the restaurant up there if you’re hungry enough.” “I’m hungry enough I could eat a bloody horse.” “Well, at Sheehan’s place you probably will.”

Ranking the Bond Movies: #20 – For Your Eyes Only (1981)

This is another film people don’t often think of when you think of the worst Bond movies of the franchise. I thought it was only going to be #19 myself. I knew it wasn’t very good, but I thought, “It has to be better than Die Another Day.” But you know what — I don’t know if it is.

The issue with this film is that it’s just pretty flat. It’s not actively bad, the way Octopussy is, it’s just flat. There’s not much of interest in it, and the plot is really simple, and they don’t include enough other stuff to make it more interesting. Normally if a Bond plot is simple, they add a bunch of other elements to it to fill it out. Here — not so much. Plus there are all sorts of little things in it that don’t help, which we’ll get to in the synopsis.

It was a close call between this and Die Another Day for #20, but ultimately I felt that Die Another Day did things too much, whereas this didn’t do things enough. This could have been a better Bond movie. That should have been a better Bond movie. That’s the difference. I’d rather you try and fail than not try at all.