Thursday, 15 August 2013

Nick's Top Ten Bond Films List (Part 1)

When anyone mentions the name “James Bond” the first thought in my mind is not the iconic lines, the action packed scenes, the gadgets or even the many Bond girls. Instead I reminisce about my Dad recording all the old Sean Connery and Roger Moore films shown on late night terrestrial television on VHS every week for me and brother to watch. As a kid, each and every Bond film I watched was a mesmerising and exhilarating experience that really captured my imagination. This early fixation elevated Bond above the likes of Star Wars and it soon became my favourite series of films of all time. However by the time I was a teenager and after seeing The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day, I came to realised not all was what it previously seemed. In addition to watching the endless reruns on the Sky 007 channel, including the 1967 version of Casino Royale and the Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again, there are definitely some films in the series that are much better than others. Therefore I have decided to pick my personal “Top Ten James Bond Films”.

Now before everyone shoots me down I would like to explain why Skyfall, which won praises from critics and fans alike last year, does not make my personal top ten. First of all the plot is essentially just a mash up of narrative elements from other films. The NOC List from Mission Impossible, the makeshift defences of Home Alone and various elements from it’s own franchise which leaves the film rather unoriginal and uninspired. This then leads on to one of my main problems with Skyfall which is that it isn’t really a James Bond film. Instead it delves into the tedious relationship between Bond and M. In fact, Skyfall is more an M film than anything which unfortunately ruins the quintessential essence of Bond and the franchise, similar to my thoughts of The Dark Knight. Furthermore the likes of Naomie Harris as Ms Moneypenny and Bérénice Marlohe fail in their roles as “Bond Girls”. Lacking both screen-time and chemistry with Daniel Craig, neither gave a memorable or charming performance. Oh and don’t get me started on Adele’s theme song, let’s just say even I can rhyme every last word.  

10:  Dr No 

The first James Bond film in the franchise and the first appearance of Sean Connery would probably not make most people’s “Top 10 Bond list”. The main villain Dr No is shortsighted and the film suffers from inconstant pacing. But we mustn’t overlook that the film brought us such memorable lines as “Bond, James Bond” and “Shaken not stirred”. The film plays very much into Ian Fleming’s original style of writing in the franchise. The exotic locations, the beautiful women and martini’s are all played out in a rather tense story of espionage and intrigue.

9: Live and Let Die 

As I previously stated I don’t like Roger Moore’s portrayal of James Bond; camp, unfunny and his over-reliance on gadgets. He isn’t ruthless or brutal enough to be the cold hearted and promiscuous character that is James Bond. However his debut film did have some positive elements including a great set of vehicle chases; the motorboat and the bus. It also has some notable henchman in the form of Tee Hee with his pincer arm and the immortal Baron Samedi with his sinister laugh, which made up for the rather average nature of Dr Kananga / Dr Big as the main villain. In addition Jane Seymour as Solitaire is one of the more beautiful Bond girls and thankfully has some semblance of purpose, other than eye candy in the film. 

8: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 

Okay, I admit George Lazenby is probably the worst actor ever to play James Bond in history, though Roger Moore is only marginally ahead of him. But the great story and the performances by Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas make up for Lazenby’s weak performance. I particularly like the decision to make Savalas a more serious and threatening portrayal of Blofeld instead of Donald Pleasence’s dubious one. Along with the beautiful settings of Switzerland and the heart-breaking ending, this was a Bond film that left an endearing impression. 

7: From Russia with Love 

The second film in the franchise introduced us to some of the most recognisable and ubiquitous characters including Desmond Llewelyn’s Q and Bonds’ main arch villain Blofeld. More importantly it launched the notion of  “henchman” into the Bond series with Red Grant, played brilliantly by Robert Shaw. His confrontation with Bond is one of the more intense fight scenes any of the Bond films. From Russia also builds up more of the humour and suaveness from Dr No which is a result of Connery growing into the role. We are also introduced to the first Bond gadgets in the form of the attache case with the compact sniper rifle. From Russia arguably became the film that sparked the audiences’ appreciation for what made a true Bond film. GoldFinger would come to reinforce and personify this. 

6. Tomorrow Never Dies 

The second Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan definitely carried on from where Goldeneye left off. Though the “Murdochian” villain’s plot of starting a war between China and Britain just to gain first media coverage is quite stupid and unrealistic, the film still has its highlights. One of which is the Bond girl portrayed by the excellent Michelle Yeoh. Here she’s a much more serious supporting character that manages to match James Bond’s wits and expertise. In addition it includes the remote control car which produces one of my favourite Bond car set pieces as well as the one Bond villain that always brings a smile to my face, Dr Kaufman, with the best line “Did you call the Auto Club?”    


Saturday, 10 August 2013

RespawningCouch Podcast: Audio Review: Only God Forgives

This week: Jack and Nick review Nicolas Winding Refn's new film Only God Forgives. But it soon becomes apparent that they've got differing opinions, and some angry ones. 

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