Archive for the ‘Film Reviews’ Category

Film Review ::: Thunderball

November 21, 2008

It’s safe to say that James Bond is back in action.

Sure, they said that about “Goldfinger”, but I believe “Thunderball” was far more exciting and more down-to-Earth than “Goldfinger” was. Of the films following “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love”, I also think that “Thunderball” was the film that could most closely relate to those two. By that, I mean, Bond seems like the Bond he was in those films, the locations are again stunning, we’ve got beautiful women, tons of danger, and the return of another bunch of ruthless SPECTRE agents.

The locations in this Bond flick were nearly as gorgeous as the places we saw in “Dr. No”. Sure, at first we’re stuck with Bond while he’s at the clinic- what could be beautiful about that location? However, as we move on to Nassau, there’s hardly an unattractive site. The water’s gorgeous, the beaches are beautiful, the hotel is high-end and comfortable looking, and the streets are swarming with plenty of people. Then, we even get a look at SPECTRE’s main meeting room- grand and diabolical-seeming, thanks again to Ken Adam.

Barry delivers another superb soundtrack, with plenty of themes that fit right in with the underwater scenes, beach scenes, and the beauty of the locations. We also get a few Bond themes, which also add Connery’s suave and stylish looks in the film. Not much to complain about here. My favorite piece is probably the Chateau Flight, which really enhances Bond’s pre-title sequence fight.

Emilio Largo- I see him as a Dr. No: 2.0. He’s certainly a well-respected SPECTRE member, and even has the high rank of #2. He’s a very serious man, even when he’s joking around with Bond. By the way he treats Domino, and his fellow SPECTRE henchmen, it’s pretty easy to notice that Largo will do anything to succeed with his plans and impress Blofeld.

I see Connery’s performance in this film as one step below his performances in “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love” . For me, they’re his top-notch performances… but his acting in “Thunderball” doesn’t fall far from them. Again, as he had in the past three pictures, he’s got that natural Bond style, look, and attitude. Having viewed all of the Connery films this week, to me, it’s safe to say that this man is the only classic cinematic James Bond. I don’t think anyone can replace him.

The girls in this movie were gorgeous. We had Domino, Fiona, and Paula. Unfortunately, we didn’t see Paula as much as the others; however she was a very pretty woman for Bond to be working alongside of. Fiona- definitely the best bad girl of the Bond series, and sexiest bad girl, too. Then, Domino- an innocent, nice girl, caught up in one big mess, in my opinion. The gorgeous Claudine Auger played the part well, and she was certainly a memorable Bond girl.

Rik Van Nutter played a decent Leiter, I suppose. It wasn’t great, nor atrocious. I certainly thought his Leiter could be taken more seriously than Linder’s from “Goldfinger”. It further proves that no Leiter was as great as Lord, though.

Aside from those aspects, “Thunderball” offers classic Bondian action, romance, humor, locations, plots, and characters. The overall plot of the film wasn’t too complex, and intelligent- much like the earlier films. The gadgets were kept to a minimum: Bond had the re-breather, which is probably one of the most useful Bond gadgets. The jetpack was good fun in the pre-title sequence, too. The rest of the gadgets seemed more like real spy gadgets- the watch, the camera, the tracking pill. I think they threw a realistic touch on the world of Bond gadgets.

There are a few choppy bits of editing in this film, however, it’s not anything to get worked up about.

Other than that, “Thunderball” makes for an excellent Connery Bond film, and is a superb addition to the series. While I hold “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love” higher than it, “Thunderball” is given a secure #3 spot in my Bond film ranking list. Also- perhaps Terence Young has to do with my liking of some of the early Bond films. I just thought I’d give him a nod here, as he’s my favorite Bond director.

9.5 / 10

9.5 / 10


Film Review ::: Goldfinger

November 18, 2008

The third James Bond film, which certainly does hold up as well as it’s predecessors did. However, “Goldfinger” makes for a good, fun, spy adventure.

While “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love” left us with some great villains, I don’t believe that “Goldfinger” topped them. However, Oddjob was a memorable henchman- not as superior as Grant was, but still a very intimidating man. “Goldfinger” seemed like a more laid-back and jokey villain. Perhaps this was because he had nothing to do with SPECTRE.

The film strayed from the first two Bond films in the aspect of equipment too. This is when Bond really gets a hold of some rather unrealistic gadgets- a car with an ejector seat, oil slicks, machine guns, and a GPS system. Though, the GPS seemed to prove how far Bond was ahead of his time, since we’ve just seen these appearing in cars rather recently. Of course though, these gadgets are pretty fun. I love the DB5- gorgeous vehicle, and after it’s used, we don’t really see much use of any other gadgets. Therefore, I think the presence of gadgets in the film weren’t too overbearing.

Goldfinger’s plot is rather grand and unrealistic. This is definitely the film in which the producers moved far from simple, intelligent, and realistic plots, to more unrealistic and massive plots. Though, I’ve always loved the idea of Goldfinger’s plot, no matter how impossible it seemed. The idea of tainting the gold supply at Knox, forcing people to buy from him, was quite smart.

The locations were interesting. Nothing too vibrant like Crab Key in “Dr. No”, but they were interesting. We saw some beautiful country land as Bond trailed Goldfinger, and we got a taste of some rural American locations- the “ranch” in Kentucky.

Barry’s score was excellent- nothing out of the ordinary. He captured the feeling of the film very well, and the use of the Bond theme mixed with the “Goldfinger” theme was great music to hear through out the score. My favorite piece of music is during the PTS, which includes the gunbarrel, and the espionage music for the scene following it.

Though Connery seemed like a natural Bond in the previous films, I could still sense it here- though he did seemed a bit laid back, in my opinion. He just didn’t seem to have as much of that energy and excitement as he did in the past films, for some reason.

Leiter was a disappointment. Alright- he seemed like a really nice guy in the film, but that actor was a bad choice. He seemed more like Bond’s American uncle than Leiter. It’s a real shame Lord wasn’t used again.

Pussy Galore was a decent Bond girl. Not anything really special, in my opinion, but decent. She had a certain attractiveness about her. She wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous like Andress, but there was something. And the chest of hers! Woooah!

The best scenes for me include the PTS and the finale. The PTS seemed so Bondian, with some classic spying, fighting, cigarette smoking, and romance. Not much more you can ask for in a Bond PTS. Then, the finale in the vault was great- the fight with Oddjob was pretty fun to watch.

My biggest problems with this film are Leiter and the gangsters. Actually, if they were modified in a way, I’d find this film a lot more enjoyable. Leiter should have been played by Jack Lord, as I mentioned- plain and simple. It would have kept the continuity, also. Then, the gangsters were just played by terrible actors. The only one who did an okay job was Solo. What a terribly written scene, in Goldfinger’s billiard room. “What’s with that trick pool table!?”“I want my money Goldfinger!”“So, PAY!”… Are you joking me?

Terrible. Actually, embarrassing to a certain extent. If I were showing a person their first Bond film, and chose “Goldfinger”- I’d probably fast forward through the gangster scene.

In summary, this film was rather disappointing when compared to “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love”. However, it’s not terrible. I just found it a little too unrealistic, and there were a few bits (like the gangsters and Leiter) that I just plain-old didn’t care for. That’s not to say that this isn’t classic Connery Bond, though- because it surely is. I think the good over-powers the bad in this film.

8.0 / 10

8.0 / 10

Film Review ::: From Russia With Love

November 18, 2008

Of any two consecutive films in the James Bond series, I think it’s safe to say that “From Russia With Love” can be seen as the sequel to “Dr. No”. I call “From Russia With Love” a sequel to “Dr. No” because of the obvious continuity hints in the story (Sylvia, references to Jamaica, and Kronsteen suggesting No’s revenge); also, Young directed both of the films, and I think his certain style carries from “Dr. No” to “From Russia With Love”. Had EON decided to utilize Jack Lord in the films following “From Russia With Love”, then perhaps the continuity could have carried on; however, they didn’t do that, and be strict on continuity, there’s no way the other Leiters were up to standards with Lord’s Leiter.

That said, “From Russia With Love” is an example of classic Cold War Bond. When people say Cold War spy film, my mind heads straight towards “From Russia With Love”.

I can see “From Russia With Love” as a step-up on “Dr. No” in many ways. But also, it preserves some of the qualities that made “Dr. No” so fantastic. First, we’re given another simple, yet highly intelligent plot. “SPECTRE plans to lure James Bond into stealing the Soviet decoding machine, and unknowingly deliver it into their hands. In the process, Agent 007 is to suffer a humiliating and disgraceful death.” Like it’s predecessor, “From Russia With Love” also contains more intelligent and even brute agents, improving on the first SPECTRE agent we met in “Dr. No”. Kronsteen and Klebb certainly make for very interesting characters and, together with their boss- Ernst Stavro Blofeld, they create a well-thought-out and devised plan; it wasn’t something thrown together, spur of the moment, and certainly SPECTRE had a good reading of Mi6’s mentality, giving them an upper hand, I’d say.

Another bit I liked about the movie is no over-the-top gadgets, once again. The briefcase was a really brilliant piece of equipment, holding a rifle, some coins, a knife, and of course- the bomb that would explode if opened incorrectly. I wish the Bond gadgets would have stayed as simple as this, instead of getting progressively unrealistic as the films went on.

Note: the pager Bond uses while he’s with Sylvia. I think this technology just goes to show that Bond was way ahead of his time.

These type of evil schemes aren’t what you really see anymore in the Bond films. Looking at the more recent Bond films, Bond sort of gets in the way, messing up the villains’ plans, while in these early films, SPECTRE has the one-up on Bond, and have a lot of control of what goes on during his mission.

Though I thought “Dr. No” had more beautiful locations, “From Russia With Love” surely doesn’t disappoint. First, we have SPECTRE Island- quite an interesting location, to say the least. Then, the most interesting to me was Istanbul. The shots of Hagia Sophia were beautiful, and it was just wonderful to see the streets of Istanbul- I liked these shots in the film so much that it really makes me want to be in that location. Seems like a great place. Later on, we follow Bond all across southern-central Europe, mainly on the train. I loved the train scenes, and the occasional glimpses out the window that we’d get. The location used when Bond is in the truck escaping was great, too; an isolated part of the country, with vibrant green grass on each side of the long dirt road. Very simple, yes; but, enjoyable.

I’d say that John Barry’s soundtrack corresponded with the actual film perfectly, more so than any other soundtrack in the series. Certainly, Barry had made more interesting scores as the years progressed, but the music for “From Russia With Love” really captured the essence of the locations, the plot, the Cold War, the tension, the thrills, and the adventure.

As mentioned, the villains in this film are as diabolical, witty, and evil as Dr. No was. Again, there’s not any bullshit going on with these baddies- no games with these early SPECTRE agents. I previously mentioned Kleeb, Kronsteen, and Blofeld, but really wanted to discuss Grant here. Grant’s probably the greatest henchman of this franchise. Quirky ones, like Oddjob, NicNac, Xenia, and etc. show up later in the franchise; however, Grant seems to be the most realistic and brute of henchmen, who also plays an important part in the main plot of the film. Robert Shaw did a perfect job with him. He was a robust, muscular, handsome, witty, and psychotic character, all at the same time. Another no bullshit baddie. He carries out his orders perfectly, doesn’t hesitate to kill, and comes within a fingernail-width of completing his mission.

In my “Dr. No” review, I mentioned that Connery was a natural James Bond actor. This film is no different. He still seems like he’s not even acting, and carries out all of his acting brilliantly. This man is certainly the real deal when it comes to James Bond actors… Daniel Craig and Timothy Dalton sure comes close, though.

Kerim Bey proved to be a very loyal and likable ally, too. Pedro Armendariz did a great job acting as him, especially if you consider the illness and pain he was dealing with. Certainly was a shame to see Bey die in the film, because he was just such a great ally- and a damn shame about Pedro Armendariz’s tragic condition that led him to commit suicide.

Tatiana was a very beautiful Bond girl, much like Andress. She even had an alternate mission, which puts the depth of her character above Honey Rider, in a sense; considering Honey really had no intention of helping Bond find Dr. No. There are some parts in which I think Tatiana came off as a weak character, but it was later made up for. So, really no complaints with Tatiana. I think Bianchi played her well, and she was certainly another gorgeous addition to the series.

My favorite scene in this film has to be the train fight. There aren’t many henchman v. Bond fights in the series that can match up to this. The claustrophobia of the cramped train rooms and the dimmed lighting really added to the suspense and thrills of the fight. Plus, Grant was such a built henchman, I’d say that the fight was in the air (if I had seen this movie back in 1963). It seemed as if Grant had the upper hand for a bit, but of course, Mr. Bond is victorious. Great fight, though.

As with “Dr. No”, there isn’t much bad to this film.
Actually, I didn’t notice any continuity errors- but then again, I don’t pick apart a film just to see how many flubs it has. Then, there’s the so-called “mistake” at SPECTRE island, where the noise in the training area doesn’t start until Klebb gets there. I don’t see this as a big deal at all, and it’s never bothered me.

In summary, this was a worthy sequel to “Dr. No”. Connery still plays Bond brilliantly, Tatiana is another quality Bond girl, Kerim Bey was a memorable ally, and SPECTRE proves to be cold and diabolical, once again. I think both of these films deserve a perfect 10, just because they’re pure classics, and we’re never going to see another Bond film like them again.

10 / 10

10 / 10

Film Review ::: Dr. No

November 17, 2008

There’s a word that describes this film well: classic.

James Bond’s first film adventure, and one of his greatest!

Many people classify this as a boring/dull Bond film, and I believe it’s very under-rated. Sure, Bond’s not flinging gadgets around, running through stealth boats with armed guards after him, or driving a bobsled around the Alps; however, that may be the best part about the film. Most of the film is pretty simple- even the general storyline is, for the most part. Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate what is causing interference with American space launches- during the mission, we’re given romance, classic action, some espionage, and thrills. Plus, Connery is just oh-so-cool in this film, and Ursula Andress is stunning.

The locations used in the film are very vibrant and gorgeous to see on screen. The colors of Jamaica really pop out to the audience, especially on Crab Key. While Bond, Quarrel, and Honey roam around the jungle, through swamps and rivers, I’m just amazed by the visuals. The water falls are gorgeous- so gorgeous, it makes me wish I was there to swim around in them. The sand is perfect on that beach. The locations are just so great, it really made me want to be there. No complaints at all.

As for the music, I’ve got various opinions. The soundtrack, in my opinion, is hardly interesting- the actual album soundtrack, I mean. It contains some catchy, jazzy / Jamaican-style tunes, but really doesn’t relate to the scenes in the film at all. “Dr. No’s Fantasy” on the soundtrack seems like a dance tune you’d see in an Elvis film that takes place in Hawaii. However, in the film, I feel that the music was used quite accordingly. I used to have a problem with the James Bond theme playing too often. Now, I don’t think it was play too much at all. Just right, and stylishly, also. Cues from “The Island Speaks” were worked in well, too. The dramatic and suspenseful James Bond theme orchestral (which I don’t think is on the soundtrack) also fits well with the scenes like the finale, when complete chaos is taking place in No’s base of operations. The final cues of the film really stick in my head, though. The very orchestrated version of “Underneath the Mango Tree”, as we see the lone boat in the ocean, and the titles “The___End”, placed uniquely around the boat. Again- classic.

Dr. No is definitely one of the more “down to business” villains of the series. He’s an incredibly intelligent villain, and somewhat intimidating. There’s no joking around, and no BS games with this baddie. He’s probably one of my favorite SPECTRE agents, next to Grant and Klebb. You can certainly understand why SPECTRE avenges his death in the sequel to this film- just because he was such a great villain amongst the SPECTRE organization. Dent was also an interesting character, with probably the most well-done death of the whole franchise. “… And you’ve had your six…” [boom… boom]. What could I describe that with? Classic works.

As I mentioned, Connery is wonderful in this film. It’s almost like Connery isn’t even acting, and instead, just doing everything naturally. A natural James Bond, if you will. That’s what I love about his films. The only other guy I can see this with is Craig, which is why I hold these two actors so high up on my Bond actor list.

No’s base of operations at Crab Key was certainly an ace job. Another thumbs up to Ken Adam. The aquarium, No’s dining room, and No’s laboratory, are all part of a quintessential Bond villain lair. When I think a Bond villain hideout, No’s base is one that comes to mind.

Though the film is riddled with great scenes, one that has always been my favorite took place during the finale, as the base is ready to explode. As Bond is searching for Honey, he trips up an anonymous guard, and exclaims, “Where’s the girl!”

The guard doesn’t know, and therefore, Bond punches him in the face and carries on. That’s classic James Bond, in my opinion

Alright. So that covers a lot of the good stuff. Where’s the bad?

Good question- where is the bad in this film?

That’s the thing. There hardly is any.

Besides a few minor continuity or prop errors, there’s really nothing to complain about with the actual film. Sure, the soundtrack wasn’t my favorite, but the way they incorporated the music into the film worked. So, I can’t even complain there.

All in all, Connery is superior, Andress is gorgeous, and Wiseman proves to be a formidable foe. The locations are vibrant, and the plot is smart and simple. This film was a perfect foundation for a series that would last for over 40 years, and counting.

10 / 10

10 / 10