Tuesday, October 30, 2012

For Your Eyes Only [1981]

After the cartoonish excesses of The Spy Who Loved Me and (especially) Moonraker, there was a perceived need for the Bond series to collect its breath a bit and go back to basics.  In some ways, this was a bold idea; maybe even a daring one, given how successful those cartoonish movies had been financially.  But risk be damned: Cubby Broccoli wanted to return to Ian Fleming, and return the films did.

For Your Eyes Only has been one of my favorite Bond movies for most of my life.  Will it stand up to the scrutiny that these reviews have brought?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Moonraker [1979]

By 1979, the James Bond series was quite hale and hearty.  The smash that was The Spy Who Loved Me had re-established the brand as one that was capable of mass global success; now, how to maintain the high?

The answer: outer space.  Seemingly prompted by the unprecedented success of Star Wars, EON Productions decided to jettison the plans to make For Your Eyes Only the next film in the series, and turned their attentions instead to the science-fictionally-conducive Moonraker.

The producers, of course, said that this would be less a case of "James Bond does science-fiction" than of "James Bond does science fact," but if you believe that, you believe silly things.  Speaking of which, remind me to tell you sometime about the wild night Maryam d'Abo and I shared back in 1994...

In any case, Moonraker was a truly out-there film, and remains such to this day.  How will that translate in terms of our trusty Double-0 Rating?

Let's find out.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Spy Who Loved Me [1977]

The Spy Who Loved Me was a massive hit when it was released in the summer of 1977 (and that's despite heavy competition from a little flick called Star Wars).  Roger Moore considers it to be the best Bond film he made; John Glen considers it the best of ALL the Bond films.  It currently holds an 80% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In other words, this is a widely-loved and respected film.

It's about to receive some rough treatment from yours truly, though.  Strap yourself in; this one is going to be a bumpy ride.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Man With the Golden Gun [1974]

For most of my life, if you had chanced to run into me on the street one day and stopped me to ask what my least favorite James Bond movie was, I'd have probably answered The Man With the Golden Gun.  That's changed over the past decade or so, as a quartet of other titles -- two that (the 1967 Casino Royale and Diamonds Are Forever) have been covered here already, and two (Never Say Never Again and Die Another Day) that won't come up for a while yet -- crowded it out at the bottom of the barrel.

I've been simultaneously dreading and anticipating this rewatch of Golden Gun, because I was very curious to see what my rating system determined.  I figured it was entirely possible it could reclaim its cellar-dweller status, or at least get close to it.

What I didn't expect was to discover myself enjoying the movie for perhaps the first time ever.  In retrospect, I'm not sure I ever paid all that much attention to the movie.  When I was a child, the movie confused me, partially because I somehow never managed to see it all in a single sitting, but also partially because the plot during the first act is more complicated than is typically the case with Bond movies.  In later viewings over the course of the next few decades I always mentally checked out when this movie came up in my Bond-viewing rotation, and I recall skipping it more than once; another time, I remember fast-forwarding through whole chunks of it.

In other words, I seem to have managed to make it all the way to 2012 without ever giving the movie its proper due.  Here, I think you will find that that mistake has been corrected.

This is not to suggest I have uncovered some sort of hidden masterpiece; that is not the case.  The movie has numerous problems, several of them quite severe; but it also has several extremely strong elements, and while it is still not going to make it onto a list of great 007 films, I can now definitively say that I like the movie.

Funny what reappraisal will do sometimes, isn't it?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Live and Let Die [1973]

The producers successfully reinvigorated the James Bond series with Diamonds Are Forever, but much of that movie's financial success seemed to be due to Sean Connery's return to the role of 007.  He had returned only for the one film, though, so despite the breathing room that return provided, the producers were once again in the unenviable position of needing a new leading man for their series.

They apparently flirted with the idea of Burt Reynolds -- Burt Reynolds! -- in the role, but eventually settled on Roger Moore, the former start of the hit television series The Saint.

Audiences responded, and worldwide the new movie was an even bigger success than Diamonds Are Forever had been.

How will it fare when faced with the Double-0 Rating system, though?

Let's find out.  It surely can't be worse than Diamonds Are Forever, the current cellar-dweller.  Can it...?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Diamonds Are Forever [1971]

On Her Majesty's Secret Service was a box-office disappointment (it performed reasonably well worldwide, but in America brought in only about half of what the previous film in the series You Only Live Twice, had done, and about a third of the earnings of Thunderball before that).  As such, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman scrambled to make a recovery, lest the franchise as a whole go down the toilet.

Amazingly, this led them to hire an American actor for the role.  John Gavin was actually signed and ready to go, but then fate intervened and provided an opportunity for Sean Connery to return to the role he had made famous (and vice versa) for one final fling.

I may as well tell you now: this is perhaps my least favorite film in the entire series, so if you happen to be a big Diamonds Are Forever fan, this may prove to be bumpy going for you.

I suppose we'd best get it started; soonest begun is soonest finished, and all that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Her Majesty's Secret Service [1969]

Going into this project, if you asked me what my favorite James Bond movie, I'd have told you it was either On Her Majesty's Secret Service or Thunderball, depending on what side of the bed I woke up on that morning.  One of the things I've been most curious about in using this Double-0 Rating system is to find out whether that opinion would be reflected by the scores I assigned.

After blogging the results up to this point, Thunderball currently holds the lead spot.  So where will On Her Majesty's Secret Service fall?  Let's find out.

(1)  Bond ... James Bond
The general public probably still thinks of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (to the extent they think of it at all) as "the one starring that one guy who never showed up again."  This is simultaneously understandable and unfair.  After all, the Bond series as it has developed over time has featured several actors who have been inextricably linked with the role for a period of years, and so people can be forgiven for not quite remembering who George Lazenby is.  On the other hand, is that reason to dismiss him?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You Only Live Twice [1967]

About two months after the release of the spoof Casino Royale -- and about a year and a half after the titanic success of the previous film in the series, Thunderball -- the fifth 007 adventure starring Sean Connery hit movie screens around the world.

In some ways, the Bond phenomenon had peaked with Thunderball; that film's sheer size and scope were so large, and its reception so massive, that to do anything other than try to top it must have seemed like lunacy.

As a result, the Bond producers did virtually everything they could think of to make sure that topping Thunderball was exactly what happened.

Did it work?

In my opinion, it definitely did NOT work.  A lot of Bond fans hold this film near and dear, but I am not one of them; for me, this is the point at which the series began its slide into mediocrity.

That's not to say there isn't plenty here to enjoy, though, so let's take a trip to the Far East and see how the Double-0 Rating System stands the journey.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Casino Royale [1967]

By 1967, Bondmania had reached -- and, perhaps, gone past -- its peak.  Thunderball had been a massive success, and in an attempt to grab some of that cash that was evidently lying around at the bottom of Bond fans' pockets, Columbia decide to launch a second series of Bond films.  They owned the film rights to the original Ian Fleming novel, Casino Royale, and put an adaptation of it into production.

Somehow, it all ended up as a bizarre comedy somewhat in the style of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

For obvious reasons, this version of Casino Royale is not considered to be part of the actual James Bond series, but many Bond purists object to the notion of it being considered a James Bond film in ANY way.  My view of that is simple: it was an adaptation of the Ian Fleming novel, produced by people who had EVERY legal right to do so.  It IS a James Bond film; how the film turned out, tonally and in terms of its content, is irrelevant to that fact.  And after all, it is arguably a stricter adaptation of its source material than is, say, The Spy Who Loved Me, and you don't see anyone trying to claim that that film shouldn't be counted as a Bond movie.

So, for the purposes of this blog, yes, the '67 Casino Royale counts.

But what does it count for?

Read on and find out.