I've decided this will be a week of ranking random things! And to start? I'm ranking all the James Bond themes.
As a big fan of the franchise, seeing who they get to crank out the movie's theme song is always part of the fun because it's a real hit-or-miss with me. And here we go...
The original James Bond Theme (John Barry, Dr. No) — The fact that this is one of the most well-known pieces of movie score ever written (and has endured as such even to this day) is a testament to just how amazing it is.
Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings, Live and Let Die) — Quintessential James Bond movie theme song with all the complexity you'd expect from Paul McCartney. He started soft, building to a frantic assault on your brain... then dropped into a near-whimsical interlude before slamming forward again... then dropped into another interlude of strings and romance... before bringing it home with a bold crescendo of a finish. No theme song that followed captured the entirety of a James Bond story the way that this one did. In lesser hands, it would have undoubtedly been a mess, but that's McCartney for you.
For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton, For Your Eyes Only) — In many ways, this is my favorite James Bond theme song. Elegant, powerful, and sublimely beautiful in the way that it set the stage for the film. Lyrically, vocally, and musically is all came together to just work. This was the first James Bond movie I saw in a theater, which probably taints my feelings a bit, but I'm making no apologies for that.
Moonraker (Shirley Bassey, Moonraker) — This is the song that mires any list I make in controversy, because Shirley Bassey's other tracks (for Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever) are widely regarded as James Bond mainstays and far superior to Moonraker. I disagree. If anything, I feel that this is the song which best uses her immense talent to best service the James Bond aesthetic. Rather than plowing over the top of the music with her power, Bassey's restraint here allows the majesty of a soaring musical score to shine while still showcasing what makes her the Queen of Bond Theme Songs. If there's a misstep, it's the annoying "ting ting" of a triangle that should have been more subtle by at least half, but it's a small blot on an otherwise flawless track.
A View to a Kill (Duran Duran, A View to a Kill) — An exciting theme song opening with a pop flare that only a band like Duran Duran could give it, this is exactly what you want when you ask "the band of the moment" to write the opening track for your Bond movie. Despite being a song so obviously rooted in the 80's I honestly don't think it's badly dated by today's standards, which is quite an accomplishment.
Skyfall (Adelle, Skyfall) — It's weird. I love Adelle, the person, but don't care for her music much. Then Skyfall comes along... and she absolutely nailed it. So painfully Bond it hurts, this is how you you do it. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
The World is Not Enough (Garbage, The World is Not Enough) — On the surface, this seems like an odd match-up... I mean, Garbage? Really? But then you hear Shirley Manson's flawless vocals carrying you through a dream-like trance of a soaring orchestral score and you totally get it. What's so cool is that it breaks free of being boring with occasional punch and a fantastic finish that leads you right into the movie... which really should have been better than what we got.
License to Kill (Gladys Night, License to Kill) — Gladys Knight totally killing it as you knew she would. This is a beautiful, powerful song with some great vocal and musical moments which make it next-level stuff. The lyrics were perfect as well, feeling very Bond from start to finish.
Nobody Does it Better (Carly Simon, The Spy Who Loved Me) — The most secretly overtly sexual theme song in the entire Bond franchise, this is one of those songs that is both so very James Bond and the least Bond-sounding. It's probably that conundrum that makes me appreciate it over more appropriately-themed tracks on this list.
The Living Daylights (a-ha, The Living Daylights) — Seeing as how a-ha is one of my all-time favorite bands, it should comes as no surprise that I love this track. It's a beautiful song, and I think it was an imaginative way to reflect the themes in the movie (as all good theme songs should). But I seriously struggle a bit as to where it belongs on this list because it lacks the gravitas that songs need to work as a good Bond theme. Rounding out my top-ten felt "right" even though there are tracks below which feel more "Bond" to me.
Goldeneye (Tina Turner, Goldeneye) — Perhaps it was having to work the word "Goldeneye" into the lyrics which made this song not quite come together... but it's otherwise got a lot going for it. Like Tina Turner crooning over a sultry score that feels both retro and modern at the same time. Not quite timeless, but memorable enough to make me like it.
Die Another Day (Madonna, Die Another Day) — This song does not hold up as well as a James Bond theme should. It's badly dated by the autotune trickery, and I can't help but feel that Madonna had a much, much better Bond theme in her somewhere. Even so, I've always liked this track and felt the rabid criticism of it was unjustified. At least it tries to be interesting both musically and vocally, which is more than you can say for a lot of songs on this list. Sure, there are distractions dragging it down ("Sigmund Freud?!?"), but it paired very well with the Pierce Brosnan torture scenes it was played to.
Diamonds are Forever (Shirley Bassey, Diamonds are Forever) — Despite having the unimaginably powerful vocals of Shirley Bassey behind it, the lyrics and singing are a bit of a slog for me. Where this track really shines is in the music, which has some really great moments in there.
Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey, Goldfinger) — Yeah, yeah, I'm a heathen for having the most memorable of all the Bond theme songs not make my top ten... but it just doesn't "do it" for me. Bassey can belt it out with the best of them, but this was all power all the time with no subtle moments to make all that power feel as impressive as her other two takes on a Bond theme song. And that ending? Lord. So over the top as to be grating. I just don't get it.
You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra, You Only Live Twice) — This is such a beautiful musical arrangement that it pains me to drop it so low on my list. But the vocals just kill it. Nancy Sinatra didn't have the power to pull it off and the lyrics were forgettable.
Tomorrow Never Dies (Sheryl Crow, Tomorrow Never Dies) — Despite liking Sheryl Crow and finding the musical arrangement to be nice enough, this song doesn't work for me. It seems more disjointed than Live or Let Die, which is really saying something. As if that weren't enough, it's so sleepy and boring that you're nodding off before the movie even gets going.
Thunderball (Tom Jones, Thunderball) — Gag-inducing song with lyrics so awful that Tom Jones attempts to compensate by blasting them out in the most annoying way possible. ANY WOMAN HE WANTS, HE GETS! HE'LL BREAK ANY HEART WITHOUT REGRET! =insert eyeroll emoji= This was the only song on this list that I could not bring myself to listen to all the way through.
You Know My Name (Chris Cornell, Casino Royale) — Just awful. I still can't fathom how the first movie of the brilliant reboot of James Bond with Daniel Craig managed to be saddled with such a horrendous clash of lame rock stylings and dated vocals. The only thing that places it this high on my list is that I think they lyrics have something to say.
All Time High (Rita Coolidge, Octopussy) — This song starts out so subtle and beautiful, which leads you to believe that it's building to something. Except it never does. It dives into sleepy and boring tedium and never escapes. Maybe with someone like Shirley Bassey behind it this track could have broken free of what we got... but, alas, snoozefest.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (John Barry, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) — Despite being a musical number, the beautiful build-up feels very James Bond to me, and I can't help but wonder if some vocals would have elevated it past where it ended up, which is notable but not great. What was great? We Have All the Time in the World by Louis Armstrong, which was also in the film.
From Russia with Love (John Barry, From Russia with Love) — A very pretty musical arrangement, but kind of dour and boring too. A James Bond theme needs to slap you in the face and this one puts you to sleep.
The Man with the Golden Gun (Lulu, The Man with the Golden Gun) — If I had to sum up this song in one word it would be "irritating." Everything from Lulu's grating vocals to the inane lyrics were subpar.
Another Way to Die (Jack White & Alicia Keys, Quantum of Solace) — I don't get it. I like Jack White. I love Alicia keys. But put them together and you get this disaster. This is the film that followed the incredible James Bond reboot heading in an amazing new direction... and was a prelude for the movie being a major step down. Blargh.
Writing’s on the Wall (Sam Smith, Spectre) — What a whiny pile of overindulgent shit. Not just the worst James Bond theme song ever, maybe the worst song ever. I cannot understand why people enjoy Sam Smith, as I don't think they can craft a tune to save their life. But plenty of people do, so I'm guessing it's just me? The only song on this list that I didn't bother to listen to because I already know I loathe it on every possible level. I still remember sitting in the theater in utter disbelief that this horrendous crap was blasting through the speakers. The stuff of nightmares. This is what's playing non-stop on the radio in hell. Cannot possibly come up with the words to even remotely describe how much I hate this track, which not only makes me lose my will to live, but also to never watch another James Bond movie again. Just dredging up my suppressed memories of hearing Writing's on the Wall is enough to make me wish I was never born. Or, if I were capable of clearer thinking while writing about such a travesty, that Sam Smith was never born. A song like this ends civilizations. Heaven only knows its very existence killed ours. Lord save us from the universe-leveling apocalypse which must surely be imminent. Or don't. We totally deserve to be wiped from all creation for allowing such a monstrosity to be unleashed on an unsuspecting universe. I hate this song. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it times infinity. Nay, even the infinite does not put my loathing into proper perspective. I hate it far more than that. This is multi-dimensional, timeless, all encompassing hatred which spans everything, everywhere, in realms both real and imagined. And those yet to be imagined. And those unimagined. Oh I hate this song so much.
In retrospect, I probably should have ranked the actual movies. Oh well. Maybe one day.
Even through the pain-medication-induced haze I was mired in, sleep last night was fitful.
Around 4:30am the pain medication wore off, so I reluctantly downed another pill in the hopes that I might get a bit more rest before having to go to work. Unfortunately, my body was not having it. Sleep is pretty much impossible when you can't get comfortable, and I was about as uncomfortable as I could be.
And so I turned on Netflix with the plan of distracting myself to sleep as the medication hit. The first thing I see? Hasan Minhaj has a comedy special out called Homecoming King. I love the guy on The Daily Show... really love the guy for his work at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner... and thought it was worth a shot.
It ended up being one of the best things I've seen...
Seriously. If you are a Netflix subscriber, stop reading this and go watch it. If you are not a Netflix subscriber, then start your free trial and watch it. If you have already burned your free trial, then bite the bullet and pay the $8 to watch. Because Homecoming King is everything you could want in a comedy show... funny, smart, painful, charming, hopeful, devastating, educational, sad, witty, and beautiful.
But mostly funny. Which was the vacation I needed right now.
Because the minute I turned off the TV and checked into The World... I saw coverages of the bombing in Manchester and that Roger Moore had died.
I've run out words when it comes to news of yet another terrorist attack. Except to say that I can't fathom the hatred that fuels somebody to bomb a venue that was filled with kids. It's a horrific act that has me wondering if this planet is quickly getting to a point that it's beyond saving. That any of us... even a terrorist... can do something like this... the case for humanity's continuing existence just gets weaker and weaker.
And then there's 007.
They say that the James Bond you like best is the one you grew up with. For me, that was Roger Moore.
Not that I knew anything about James Bond when I was a kid.
But then come 1977, Star Wars was unleashed on my 11-year-old brain. Needless to say I became completely obsessed, and was so hungry for more sci-fi space opera that I was tuning into anything that even hinted Star Wars. Including the James Bond film Moonraker in 1979. Which sealed my fate as a huge James Bod fan as well...
Yes, yes, I know Moonraker is not rated very highly in the Bond canon, but I loved it. I still do. I loved it so much that when VHS rentals were ushered in with the 1980's, my family would rent that giant VHS player so I could see all the Bond movies I had missed. Which, for me were Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, and The Spy Who Loved Me. I never much cared to see the Sean Connery films because Roger Moore was the Bond I knew.
Then we got more Moore with For Your Eyes Only (still one of my favorites!), Octopussy (not one of my favorites), and finally A View to a Kill (with the incomparable Grace Jones and a made-for-Bond-villain Christopher Walken!). And while I eventually grew to love Sean Connery's films... enjoy Pierce Brosnan's films... and rekindle my love of the ultimate spy when James Bond was reimagined for a modern world with Daniel Craig... Roger Moore will always be the James Bond to me. Say what you will about his take on the character, it was always entertaining.
Not that Roger Moore defined himself by the character he played. He spent decades working with UNICEF and other children charities. He also used his celebrity to fight against animal cruelty, and is credited with getting foie gras removed from British store shelves (a food born out of horrendously inhumane treatment of ducks and geese).
The weekend may be ending, but the fun is just beginning because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Bond? Oh Lord. Worst. Bond. Theme. Ever. Seriously... who saddles James Bond with this whiny shit? I cannot believe that the same director who used Adele's amazingly powerful masterpiece Skyfall in his previous film would follow it up with this crap... AND I DON'T EVEN LIKE ADELE!
My expectations are running very high for Spectre, but listening to this mind-numbing drivel has me seriously questioning why. Hell, if Mendes wanted a song called Writing's On The Wall for his movie, I'm sure OK Go would have been happy to re-work their vastly superior song...
Ugh. Just ugh.
• JELL-O! Leave it to The Slo-Mo Guys to crank out yet another entertaining video...
Everything really IS better in slo-mo!
• Restless. Absolutely gutted that Catherine Coulson, "The Log Lady," has passed away just as they were finally getting around to filming new Twin Peaks...
She has one of my favorite character introductions of all time...
You will be so very missed in the upcoming Twin Peaks revival. Rest in peace, ma'am, the owls are quiet at last.
After reading my take on the latest James Bond feature, Skyfall (which I said was "one of the best"), I was asked "Well, if this wasn't THE best... which movie IS your favorite?"
The easy answer is to toss out Goldfinger or From Russia with Love... maybe Dr. No... but the truth is that I didn't know. And since your favorite James Bond films probably says a lot more about you than what toothpaste you use, I wanted to think on it.
And so I did. My ranking of all twenty-four films follows.
Goldfinger. It's quintessential Bond in every possible way. You've got the famous original (Sean Connery) battling one of the best villains in the franchise (Auric Goldfinger!) with the most famous henchmen (Oddjob!) and the perfect Bond girls (Pussy Galore! Jill Masterson!) and a Bond-worthy plot (attack Fort Knox!) and a Shirley Bassey power theme song (HE LOVES ONLY GOLD! HE LOVES GOLD!). This is everything James Bond is in a single film, which is why it tops a lot of "Best of Bond" lists... including this one.
Casino Royale. After years of fumbling, the entire franchise is rebooted with Daniel Craig finally bringing back James Bond as a force to be reckoned with. I am the first to admit that the film does drag a bit... with too much emphasis being put on a card game that is more like a rulebook for Texas Hold'em Poker than a vital story element... but just about everything else is exactly what you want in a 007 film. The contemporary plot was driven by money manipulation, but didn't end up as boring as it would seem. On the contrary, the action was gritty and real in a way that the franchise needed to stay relevant in today's more brutal, less elegant world. I know it's probably heresy to say so, but Craig became my favorite James Bond after just this one outing. The theme song You Know My Name by Soundgarden's Chris Cornell was a rockin' kick to the head, and exactly what was needed for the first film in a new James Bond series.
From Russia with Love. It's been said that this film is the closest to the original James Bond novels. Having never read them, I don't know if that's true, but I do see the film as a much grittier take on the character than we're used to. The plot is Cold War relevant, with 007 having to assist with the defection of a Soviet asset. Unfortunately for Bond, he also has to deal with SPECTRE, who is hell-bent on revenge because he killed Dr. No. The result is a movie that predates the gimmick-laden films that would follow, and relies on smarts and action to tell one of the best 007 stories (indeed, many people name this as their favorite). It also has some of the most memorable moments, including Rosa Klebb with her deadly shoes and that classic slugfest on top the Orient Express. A part of me wants to give the theme song a break because it's from a different era, but Matt Monro's efforts here seem painfully boring to me here in 2013.
For Your Eyes Only. Yes. Yes I know. Most people consider this to be another Roger Moore flop that strayed from the original Bond formula too far (even though it was designed to be just the opposite). But I think that's the reason I like it so much. It's an entirely different take on classic James Bond that's done really, really well. And it was the first Bond I saw in a movie theater, so it kind of rings nostalgic to me in that respect. The location shooting in such locations as Greece, Spain, and Italy featured some really cool visuals and epic stunts that define the series, and that formed a base for a good story to be told. Basically, 007 is trying to recover a computer with deadly security consequences for the entire world. Along the way Bond hooks up with a revenge-minded Melina Havelock, whose deadly mission both helps and hurts his own. Couple all that with a flawless performance by Topol, not to mention one of my favorite theme songs (Sheena Easton!), and this movie deserves a lot more respect in the Bond universe than it gets.
Dr. No. As the first "real" James Bond film to come out of Ian Fleming's novels, all the visual stylings of the character were invented here. Including the iconic intro sequence looking at Bond through the barrel of a gun. The plot revolves around Dr. No and his ties to SPECTRE (which would propel the entire film franchise for decades to come) and his plot to sabotage an American Project Mercury human spaceflight launch. Along the way we are treated to many of the things that would become staples of the character, including the original "Bond Girl," Honey Ryder, as played by Ursula Andress. Honey emerging from the ocean in a white bikini is probably one of the most famous Bond moments in history, and that scene alone would put the movie in my top ten. Fortunately, there was a lot more going for it, pushing Dr. No up to #6. The theme song here was THE James Bond theme song, which is timeless and flawless in a way that most movie tracks can only dream about. A pity it ran short and they filled the remainder of the opening with a bunch of crap, including Three Blind Mice.
The Spy Who Loved Me. Okay, I admit that part of my nostalgia for this Bond installment is due to the masterful opening credits with Carly Simon belting out Nobody Does it Better, but that was only the beginning. The insane story involved villain Karl Stromberg wanting to destroy the planet so he could start an entirely new civilization under the ocean. As Bond investigates, he runs across a Russian agent working to stop Stromberg's mad plan. But... uh oh... she's also the wife of a Russian spy that Bond killed in the movie opening. Drama! Probably the thing most people remember from this film (other than the theme song) was an appearance by classic Bond villain Jaws, a ruthless killer with a mouth full of metal. Overall, this was a really good Bond film that cemented my love for the character... even though I saw it after both Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only.
Die Another Day. When Pierce Brosnan took over the role of James Bond, I was ecstatic because I had long thought he was perfect for it. Much to my shock and horror, I ended up thinking he was ill-fit for the role. He over-intensified absolutely everything, and could never capture the casual cool that is a trademark of the character. Every line was delivered not with the winning confidence of the world's foremost super-spy, but as a desperate life-and-death gambit. Like he was wound too tight or something. Ironically, it was Brosnan's final film, Die Another Day, where he finally seemed to calm down and inhabit the character. Or maybe I was just transfixed with Halle Berry being the best "James Bond" in years... talk about casual, cool, and confident! The plot was a good one and revolved around a power-mad North Korean general wanting to eradicate South Korean defenses so he could invade. The theme song was an auto-tune mess by Madonna, but it had a throbbing electronica feel and I still liked it (much more than Madonna's terrible cameo in the film).
Moonraker. This film has one thing going for it that ranks it a bit higher than it probably should be... the world-domination plot is about as Bond as it gets. Yes, injecting the Space Shuttle into the story was an obvious attempt to get a jump on the actual missions that were coming up two years later and to cash in on the Star Wars phenomenon, but I didn't think it was done badly at all. Bond girl Dr. Holly Goodhead was a beautiful, refreshingly competent update from the usual eye-candy, and villain Hugo Drax was classic Bond all the way. As if that weren't enough, the movie was beautifully shot in locations like Venice and Rio de Janeiro, featured some killer visual effects, and had an amazing theme song by Shirley Bassey! Hell, it's James Bond in space! What's not to love?
A View to a Kill. I'm probably going to catch some shit for this film being being in my top-ten, but come on! The villains are CHRISTOPHER WALKEN AND GRACE JONES and the theme song is an awesome track by DURAN DURAN! Yeah, the Nazi-super-child computer-chip world-domination plot was a bit out there. And, yeah, Roger Moore was too old to really do the story justice (opposite Tanya Roberts!) in his final 007 flick. But, ZOMG!, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, GRACE JONES, AND DURAN DURAN!
Thunderball. SPECTRE is up to their naughty hijinks yet again... this time stealing some nuclear bombs to terrorize the earth. Probably most famous for having 007 in a jetpack during the film opening, Thunderball seems to be a love-it or hate-it affair with Bond fans. While I do love it overall (it's Connery, after all), I find big portions of it to be extremely boring. Still, it does have a lot of trademark action and those killer underwater battles going for it. The theme song, crooned with almost gag-inducing drama by Tom Jones is one of my least favorite (ANY WOMAN HE WANTS, HE'LL GET! HE WILL BREAK ANY HEART WITHOUT REGRET!).
Quantum of Solace. It's unbelievable how Daniel Craig's Bond could have such a huge clunker in-between two amazing Bond entries (Casino Royale and Skyfall), but here it is. Overall, it's not a bad film... just a huge mess that made it difficult to enjoy what good bits were there. The theme song was another mess entirely, taking two artists I like (Alicia Keys and Jack White) and somehow delivering something totally sub-par.
Tomorrow Never Dies. I can appreciate the concept of a media mogul wanting to terrorize the world in order to make headlines for the news outlets he controls... we see that in the real world every day... but it didn't hold enough weight to anchor a James Bond film in any serious way. Even when that mogul is played exceedingly well by Jonathan Pryce. About the only thing that kept this film from floating away completely was the sublime presence of Michelle Yeoh as Chinese super-spy Wai Lin. The theme song was sung beautifully by Sheryl Crow (with a vocal range I didn't even know she had), but was ultimately boring and predictable ("Martinis, girls, and guns! It's murder on our love affair!").
Goldeneye. As I mentioned in Die Another Day, Pierce Brosnan fell far short of my lofty expectations as James Bond, and his first turn at 007 is replete with reasons why. CIA agent Jack Wade (confusingly played by The Living Daylights villain Joe Don Baker) said it best when he called James a "stiff-ass Britt"... because Brosnan's every word felt stiff, forced, and overly dramatic. A complete departure from the smooth, classy Remington Steele take I was expecting. The plot was good enough (rogue Russian colonel Arkady Ourumov gets control of the all-powerful GoldenEye satellite)... the casting was good (Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp, and Dame Judi Dench's first film as M!)... and the score by one of my favorite musicians (Eric Sera) was top-notch... but it just didn't come together as well as it should have. On the plus side, we did get Tina Turner belting out the theme song this time around, and she killed it.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service. This is that infamous Bond movie with one-off 007 George Lazenby who stepped in when Sean Connery wanted too much money. He then went on to dis James Bond and declare he'll never do another one, which was a big "fuck you" to fans that makes me not like this film as much as I could have. Indeed, it's Telly Savales' Blofeld and Diana Rigg's all-too-short Mrs. James Bond that make me like it this much. Anyways... this is a decent story with a bitter ending that gave us All the Time in the World, so it's not all bad.
The Man with the Golden Gun. Christopher Lee was the perfect choice for the titular villain in this Bond outing, but there were simply too many absurd clichés to push this film to where it needed to be. Hervé Villechaize as "Nick-Nack" was bad enough, but kung-fu schoolgirls and other attempts to inject comedy where it doesn't belong sabotaged what could have been a really good 007 movie. Still, it did have some exotic location shooting in Thailand which was cool. The theme song was pretty bad, aiming for fanciful frenzy and energy, but ultimately falling flat.
The World is Not Enough. Utterly forgettable Pierce Brosnan flick thanks to a boring plot about blowing up a pipeline (or whatever), not to mention the casting of Denise Richards as nuclear physicist(!) Dr. Christmas Jones. About the only thing I enjoyed from this film was the fantastic theme song by Garbage... Shirley Manson's haunting vocals oozing over a creeping melody set the stage for a much better movie than what we ended up getting.
You Only Live Twice. The theme song was a pleasing but drowsy rendition by Nancy Sinatra that works okay, but could have (should have?) been much more. Which is pretty much what I feel about this gadget-infused take on Bond. The story is confusing and crazy, involving SPECTRE, rockets, and a plot to start World War III. About the only memorable thing I took away from this movie (which I haven't seen in years) was the exotic Japanese locations and outlandish scenarios. Everything else is a forgettable blur.
License to Kill. Timothy Dalton's second and final 007 flick has two things going for it. First of all, the theme song by Gladys Knight was pretty darn good. The other thing was that the story had a very different Bond being all manipulative and devious, which I loved. The problem being that Dalton shitted all over it. He was an awful, awful James Bond. In my fan-boy fantasies, I picture Daniel Craig stepping in and totally owning the script, elevating the film much higher in my list. But that's not what we got. Instead we get a third-rate drug kingpin takedown flick with actors that felt like they'd have a hard time getting cast on a television show. After this we got Pierce Brosnan as 007, which was a huge step up... but not quite the slam-dunk I was hoping for...
Never Say Never Again. This cash grab by an aging Sean Connery can be safely ignored since it's not an official Eon film production, but that's not its greatest sin. No, that would be that it's a remake of a Bond flick that Connery had already done... Thunderball. All that being said, this is not the worst James Bond film because it did feature brilliant casting and a really good director who knew how to push all the right buttons. Among the best was Fatima Bush (Barbara Carrera), whose deranged bad-girl villainy was worth the price of admission. The theme song this time around was pretty but forgettable, and felt more like a lounge act than anything else.
Diamonds are Forever. Sean Connery was lured back to Bond by a massive payday after skipping out on the previous installment, but his heart just wasn't in it. The plot is about diamond smuggling, but it really doesn't matter... this by-the-numbers Bond installment was pretty forgettable, including the theme song by the otherwise amazing Shirley Bassey.
Live and Let Die. Maybe it's because I thought the whole blaxploitation genre was a bad fit for a James Bond flick, but I just could not get into this film. That's surprising considering we have a truly great theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings, Jane Seymour, and a pretty good two-two-two-villains-in-one idea (played brilliantly by Yaphet Kotto). But we also have some truly corny moments and characters (including the horrific Sheriff J.W. Pepper), along with a laughable voodoo-themed drug plot that felt like it would work better in a cheesy porn flick. So, no, I was not impressed with Roger Moore's first outing as Bond, and thought this feeble attempt to cash-in on the blaxploitation gravy-train to be pretty much crap.
The Living Daylights. Hmmm... what do I remember about this one? Well, a-ha sang the incredible theme song brilliantly. And I think this was Timothy Dalton's first bland, dull, lifeless, Bond entry. Ooh! And there was a girl with a cello and drugs on camels... or something. Blergh. You know you're in trouble when the only thing you liked best from the film was the theme song. But it's not the first time (see: Live and Let Die).
Octopussy. Ye gads. Just as I absolutely fucking hatedStar Wars II: Revenge of the Sith when Chewbacca broke character (and universe) by doing the "Tarzan yell" as he swung through the trees, I fucking hated Octopussy for the same reason. It's meant to be funny but it's tragically stupid, and sucks you out of the film you're watching. As if that weren't enough for me to take a shit on this Bond installment, 007 dresses up AS A FUCKING CLOWN! Absolutely everything in this film... from the nonsensical plot to the cliché-laden characters and story... is dreadful. Whomever pitched the idea of James Bond joining the circus should be shot. The icing on the cake was the theme song by Rita Coolidge, All Time High, which was a sleepy, boring ballad that started the film off with a snore.
And that's a wrap. My hope is that Daniel Craig (who is contracted for two more films) will continue doing amazing things with James Bond before the inevitable passing of the torch. Time will tell, but looking at the latter half of this list has me dreading that day.
I really liked this film, even though I thought the story was kind of small for a James Bond flick. The villain isn't out to conquer the world or cause mass destruction or steal tons of money... he just wants to kill M. It makes for a more personal movie, I guess, but kind of one-note...
And now a few SPOILER-FILLED notes from this long-time James Bond fan...
While I love Adele the person, I am not a fan of her music. Can't stand it, to be honest (and I fucking hate... hate her big hit Rolling in the Deep). But her theme song for Skyfall is spot-on. It has a very James Bond retro feel, but is thoroughly modern in its approach. It is so good that it makes me want to give her music another chance. Maybe
That being said, I found the opening credits a bit convoluted and overdone. They started out promising (and very Bond), but ultimately end up a big-ol'-toss-in-the-kitchen-sink mess.
As I mentioned, this film is absolutely gorgeous. The cinematography is stunning at every turn, and the film truly is a work of art in that respect. The assassination scene in Shanghai is the most eye-popping bit of film I've seen in quite a while.
Daniel Craig so totally owns the role of James Bond in this film that it makes me almost forget that Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and George Lazenby ever inhabited it. He's damaged and broken in a way that you'd really expect James Bond to be in order to act like he acts and do what he does.
When I saw the movie on the airplane the first time, I was really annoyed by Javier Bardem's baddie character, Raoul Silva. He seemed so flighty and non-threatening. Now that I've seen it on a screen considerably larger than 6-inches (with a sound system that actually works), I was blown away at just how chilling and subtle his performance was. Different for a Bond villain, but not in a bad way.
SPOILER! As good as Ralph Fiennes is as an actor, I am finding it inconceivable that the next Bond film won't have Dame Judi Dench as M in it. She was absolutely magnificent in the role, and made it her own in a way that few actors could. From a story standpoint, I know why they did what they did... but I still think it was a very stupid move that will ultimately hurt the franchise.
SPOILER! The post-end-game twist of making field agent "Eve" actually be "Eve Moneypenny" was a clever one. But here's the thing... they made such a big deal over the idea that "being an agent in the field isn't for everyone" as a foreshadowing to Eve leaving the field to sit behind a desk... but, holy shit, Moneypenny was fucking awesome in the field! She kicked ass in the opening, and was balls-out fearless in following her orders. What a shame.
SPOILER! It didn't help that they made Moneypenny so brutally hot. She made for one smokin' secret agent!
SPOILER! First they made M a woman in GoldenEye. Then they made Felix Lighter black in Casino Royale. Now they've made Ms. Moneypenny black as well. And while I applaud the franchise's efforts to embrace diversity, I have to question whether flipping genders and races of established characters is the most compelling way to do this. Why not create memorable, fascinating, original characters for women and persons of color? Like Halle Berry's awesome "Jinx" from Die Another Day? Why not give us a baddie who's a black woman, for example? Because, seriously, how amazing would Angela Bassett be as a Bond villain? Just so long as you don't make her Blofeld.
SPOILER! When I first saw that the new Q was a young kid, it made perfect sense. Boy genius on the cutting edge of tech? Sign me up? But how fucking stupid did he turn out to be? Not only did he NOT confiscate M's laptop so he could scrub the virus and try to track it back to its source, he plugged in an unsecured laptop into MI6's local network?!? No IT tech guy smart enough to be running Q Branch could possibly be this idiotic.
SPOILER! I am conflicted over the big reveal of Bond's back-story. On one hand, it completely screws the character when a key piece of his composition... his "mysterious past"... is no longer mysterious. On the other hand, Bond seems a little more "real" now. I can't decide if it was worth it.
All things considered, this is one of the best Bond films in the series. If there's anything coming up short, it's shoehorning the whole "politics of MI6" into the story. The courtroom drama was neither interesting or necessary. In fact, I'd argue it actually worked against the story.
When it comes to the next film in the franchise, I sincerely hope that we're going to get a globe-spanning criminal mastermind that pushes the stakes to a new level for the new James Bond. Daniel Craig hasn't really had that yet, and he deserves it. Well, either that... or the return of Jaws!