Counting Down to Gone Girl – Ranking David Fincher’s Films

As part of countdown to Gone Girl that’s out on October 3, and part Birthday tribute to David Fincher (he turned 52 in Sept. 28), I asked my pal Ted S. who’s a longtime admirer of the director to rank nine of his films since Alien in 1992. 

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David Fincher is one of the few elite A-list directors working in Hollywood today and he’s one of my favorites too. What’s so amazing was that he almost never became the filmmaker we know today. After the disastrous Alien 3, he got blacklisted by most if not all of the major studios at that time. If you own a Blu-ray set of the Alien movies, I highly recommend you watch the making of Alien 3, it’s one of the best behind scenes documentaries ever made. Long story short, everyone blamed Fincher for that film’s failure, even though it wasn’t his fault. But like he said, he’s young and stupid and he’s disowned the film ever since. I’ve decided to ranked all of the films that he directed (I’m excluding his music videos and TV work) from my least favorite to the best one.

9. Alien 3 (1992)

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I think many people will agree with me that this was his worse film. But you know what? Even if it’s a lame film in the franchise, it’s miles better than the awful Alien: Resurrection, heck I’ll even admit that I really enjoyed this one. Mostly because of Fincher’s visual style, Elliot Godenthal‘s excellent score and very good performances by the actors. The film should’ve never been made in the first place but everyone involved did their best to make it watchable. I think had it been made by another director, the film would’ve been unwatchable.

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

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It’s a bit too long and reminded me way too much of Forrest Gump. But it’s a still a very good film and of course it looks great. It’s one of Fincher’s films that I don’t feel the need to see it again anytime soon.

7. Panic Room (2002)

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I think this film might be his most underrated work and sort of forgotten by many people. Personally I thought it’s an excellent thriller with great performance by Jodie Foster and of course Fincher’s direction was top notch. You might not recognize the very young and boyish looking Kristen Stewart who played Foster’s daughter. This film also include one of the best opening credits I’ve ever seen, see it here:

6. The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

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I’ll probably get a lot of flak for saying this but I prefer Fincher’s version to the original Swedish one. Don’t get me wrong the original was good but I just prefer Fincher’s style and of course with bigger budget, the film looked spectacular. I guess after making a couple of light PG13 films, Fincher was itching to make another violent and dark flick and this one didn’t disappoint. The only complaint I have was the strange choice he made of letting his actors speaking either with weird accent or no accent at all. Daniel Craig spoke with his normal British accent while everyone else spoke with some kind weird Swedish accent, that’s just weird to me. This one also comes with a cool opening credits, very similar to the Bond flicks. Maybe since he cast James Bond in the film, he decided to include an opening credit like a Bond film. See it here:

5. The Game (1997)

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After the huge success of Se7en, there were big expectations for his third film. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver as many has hoped but personally I enjoyed the film very much. In fact, if not for the cop-out ending, I would’ve put this one up higher on my list. I was actually quite ticked off with the ending the first time I saw it. But after watching it a few more times, I learned to appreciate what Fincher was trying to do but I still can’t forgive him for including that lame ending. Michael Douglas was pretty great in the film though and even Sean Penn was quite effective in a small supporting role. If you have some extra cash and really like the film, do get the Criterion Bluray, it’s an excellent HD transfer.

4. Zodiac (2007)

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Fincher’s first film to have been shot mostly on digital and it looked spectacular! This was my second favorite film of 2007 behind No Country For Old Men, I can’t recommend it enough to people. Excellent performances by the actors, great writing and of course tight direction by Fincher. It’s one of the films that actually creeps me out, there were couple of scenes in the film that gave me goose bumps. One of the best films of the decade.

3. Fight Club (1999)

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So basically this was the film that catapulted Fincher into fame. Surprisingly though, the film tanked at the box office but became quite popular when it hits home video. It’s a little nostalgic but this film was the first DVD I ordered through Amazon and around that time, it’s the best DVD when it comes to picture, sound and special features. I must’ve played the disc on my first DVD player many many times. Of course when it came out on Bluray, I snatched it up fast. It’s a film that needs to be seen by all film buffs.

A little fun fact about the film, originally it was scheduled to come out in summer season. Fox executives thought it’s going to be an action picture and Brad Pitt has just became a big star, so they figured it would be a good summer flick. Well after Fincher showed them the early cut, they freaked out and released it in slow fall season.

2. The Social Network (2010)

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I have to admit that when they first announced a movie about Facebook was happening, I didn’t have much interest in it at all. Even after Fincher signed up to direct, I still wasn’t interest in seeing it. You see around that time, I was sick of Facebook, it seemed everyone and their grandmother was using it and I just didn’t care to see a movie about it. But at the urging of my friend, I’ve decided to give it a shot and boy I’m glad I went to see it. I was mesmerized by what Fincher has done with the story about the biggest social media site on earth. Instead of just showing how Facebook was built, he focused on the relationships between the people who were involved in building the site. Of course being that it’s a movie, many of the events happened were mostly made up or changed to make it more cinematic. Also, since I’ve been involved with many start-ups throughout my career, I appreciate how Fincher dabbled into the field that many people might not know or care about. Heck currently there’s a good drama involving the founders of a popular dating app called Tinder. Google Tinder and its founders and you’ll find some good reads.

Of course after the movie came out, many people who were involved in building Facebook said everything that happened in the movie never took place. Even Fincher said he wasn’t interest in telling the history of Facebook, he just wanted to tell a good story about friendship, greed and the eventual backstabbing.

1. Se7en (1995)

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After almost 20 years, it’s still one of the best thrillers ever made in my opinion. Heck, I’d rank this one higher than Silence of the Lambs. This dark and creepy tale of a serial killer who kills people base on their sin is a masterpiece. I can go on and on about why I love this film so much but if you’ve never seen it, then please see it as soon as you can! Some consider it a violent film but most of the violence happened off screen. And that ending, wow what an ending!

You can buy it cheap on Bluray, it’s an excellent HD transfer and I highly recommend it.

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So those are my favorite Fincher’s films in order, are you a fan of his too and do you agree with my ranking? Do share your favorites in the comment section.

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Weekend Viewing Roundup & 28 Days (2000) mini review

Happy Sunday everyone! It finally felt like Spring is actually around the corner here in my neck of the woods. The good news is we can forgo the long johns and parka, but we now have to put up with dirty cars as the roads and slushy roads from melting mountains of snow.

Well, no cinema trip this weekend but it’s been a great week as a film fan as I got to see Divergent two weeks early and also got to interview author Veronica Roth and cast member Ansel Elgort (who’d be starring with Shailene Woodley again in the upcoming drama The Fault in our Stars). I’m still transcribing the Q&A so stay tuned for it next week!

Here’s what I saw this weekend:

28 Days (2000)

A big-city newspaper columnist is forced to enter a drug and alcohol rehab center after ruining her sister’s wedding and crashing a stolen limousine.

I’m not exactly sure why we rented this movie but if you haven’t seen this yet and was curious to see Viggo Mortensen here a year before he became Aragorn, note that the actor’s billing on IMDb is misleading as his character’s screen time is so small it’s more of a cameo! Dominic West had more screen time than him as the obnoxious & drunk boyfriend of Sandra Bullock‘s character. Now I like Sandy and that’s one of the reasons I saw this, but even she couldn’t save the movie.

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I felt like the story could’ve been told so much better and have more depth to make it memorable. I’d say you’d like to see a movie about characters in a mental institution, I think you’d be better off renting Girl, Interrupted. I think making this subject matter and make it a comedy seems ill-advised. It’s not THAT funny to begin with and the serious moments just didn’t make any real impact. I think the one saving grace is perhaps Alan Tudyk as a gay German rehab patient. I wish he had more screen time as he’s hilarious and the movie seems to pick up every time he appears. Oh, there’s also Steve Buscemi who’s always watchable, but it’s a bit odd to see him playing it completely straight as the former-alcoholic-turned-counselor, it kind of seems like a missed opportunity, ahah. Oh, as for Mortensen, well he is practically wasted as a supposedly famous baseball player who has a knack for watching soap operas. Yes it sounds funny but it’s really not that hilarious as it’s being played in the movie as his character didn’t even appear in the soap re-enactment scene towards the end.

I can’t say I recommend this one unless you’re a die hard Sandra Bullock fan. But I wish I had rewatched While You’re Sleeping instead.

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2 out of 5 reels


I also re-watched a couple of old favorites this weekend …

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I LOVE this romance drama by Mexican director Alfonso Arau. Yes Keanu Reeves seemed an unlikely romantic lead but I think he’s lovely in this movie and has a nice chemistry with Italian/Spanish actress Aitana Sánchez Gijón. I’ve always admired the gorgeous cinematography, it turns out it was the work of recent Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki! I still love this movie, it’s one of my fave unconventionally-romantic movies!

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Daniel Craig‘s fantastic intro to the Bond franchise has become one of my all time favorites. It’s still the one to beat out of the three he’s done so far IMO. The action, the scenery and the music are all superb, plus it features my fave Bond girl Vesper Lynd. I’d rather see Eva Green here than in the 300 sequel, and based on Ted’s review, good thing I skipped the movie.

… and a new-to-me Wes Anderson movie released seven years ago:

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I’ve been curious to see this one for some time, but after seeing Keith’s review on Friday I thought I’d rent it this weekend. As I was writing my review of Grand Budapest Hotel, it gives more perspective into Wes Anderson’s filmography. Stay tuned for my review of both of his movies later this week!


So what did you watch this weekend? Thoughts on the movies I mentioned above?

FlixChatter Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

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Greetings, all and sundry!

Having enjoyed a brief respite from double features and the career and filmography of Walter Matthau. I return refreshed and relaxed from a rather intriguing sojourn around The Sundance Channel. Indulging in their wares and finding their menu to be of very high and discerning quality. Providing all three delectable courses of the original, much written about and critiqued “Millennium Trilogy“of films.

Centering around a disgraced journalist. Mikael Blomkvist. Desperate to get his and his magazine’s reputation back after a three month sentence and large fine for losing a libel case in 1992 against financier and billionaire, Hans-Erik Wennerström. Taking on a job of historic research in the case of a girl who has been missing since 1966. And in need of someone who is better at over turning ancient rocks and investigating than he is. Someone with mad skills, who has already hacked into his laptop.

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Lisbeth Salander, by name. (Marvelously subtle and underplayed, Noomi Rapace!) Possessing a more than tragic past. Institutionalized and judged mentally incompetent since childhood for trying to immolate her abusive, wife beating father. Lisbeth has inner demons writ indelibly large. An ultimate Outsider with very few social skills, because she has never had time to develop them. Living hand to mouth from a monthly, miserly stipend provided by a sadistic sick puppy of a guardian and lawyer, Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson. As fat and ugly on the outside as in!). Lisbeth seeks to be free. And is not above using means fair, foul or underhanded to achieve it.

Though to aid in achieving it, Lisbeth needs a better paying gig than her present one of providing Cyber Security, cameras and the like for people and businesses above her social standing. One that can utilize her voracious appetite for knowledge, histories, research, all things digital. And her photographic memory.

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Her meeting with Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist. Brooding, hungry and oddly ruggedly handsome) and those proposing the “Historic Whodunnit?!” involving a missing girl from the 60s goes about as well as expected. With Lisbeth unearthing and presenting tidbits about the secretive, well do do Vanger family in question. As well as some naughty bits of gossip about the company footing the bill. Not exactly a match made in Heaven. But one that intrigues and pleases Blomkvist.

Lisbeth dives deep into research. When not arranging another assignation with Bjurman for dwindling funds from a recently purchased and secreted digital camera. Which is used to great value as the lawyer goes a bit Medieval in regards to his sexual proclivities.

Meanwhile, Mikael travels far outside Stockholm to the Vanger estate .About ten minutes away from the small island town of Hedestad, which hasn’t seemed to have evolved into the 21st century. All rustic as hell and lovely to look at. But basically, the dark side of the Moon in regard to technology, tower signals and anything else a investigative reporter may need. Oh, there are people to interview. The Vanger family. The missing girl, Harriet’s Anti Semite brother, Martin (Played to creepy, arrogant perfection by Peter Haber). And older, even more vile cousin Cecilia (Marika Langercrantz, who should be adorned in National Socialist gray or black). Who has no time for people in general. And even less for Mikael. Speaking in roundabout riddles and non answers as journals and photo albums and other documentary grist are offered up for Blomkvist to digest.

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Lisbeth has been equally busy dissecting Harriet’s diary. Where she finds a loose thread to tug. That opens up a skein of other missing and murdered girls dating back to the 1950s. All with Jewish names. That fits with pronounced and underlined verses from Leviticus. And allows some time for Lisbeth to get some substantial payback on her guardian, Bjurman. Arranging a meet that finds Bjurman tasered, seriously restrained and at the mercy of his and the state’s vengeful ward. Lisbeth lays down the new ground rules while tattooing Bjurman’s chest with the message” “I am a sadistic pig and a rapist”.

Bjurman is to open up all access to Lisbeth’s collected trust. And only glowing reports about her “progress” are to be made to his higher ups. Period. No negotiation. And Bjurman will be monitored to make sure his new tattoo is NOT removed. Or she will be back!!!

Satisfied for the moment, Lisbeth travels to the Vanger estate to fill in Mikael on her progress regarding Harriet and the earlier missing girls. Mikael talks to the town’s retired police detective and learns about “Children’s Day” in 1966. The last time Harriet was seen alive. Mikael rents a flat from which a group of photos conating Harriet and other girls were taken that day. And Lisbeth sets up video security on their estate digs. When not backtracking Wennerström’s finances, diversifications and slowly revealed, many off shore accounts. With that information put aside, Lisbeth gains access to the archives of the Vanger family businesses. While Mikael focuses on Martin’s reclusive brother, Harald. Who, along with Martin shared an unsavory reputation around Hedestad. Deeper investigation reveals a time line that not only includes Martin, but his long deceased father, Gottfried.

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Harald is looking more and more like the guilty party. And Mikael breaks rather clumsily into his home. Harald intervenes and Martin arrives like the cavalry to save Mikael’s bacon. On the way back to Mikael’s digs. Mikael talks a bit too much and his words come a bit too close to home. Martin drugs Mikael. Drags him back to his well equipped basement to indulge in his own murderous form(s) of adult entertainment. While Lisbeth returns back to the estate. Finds Mikael missing. Checks the video feed and sees Martin carrying something large and body like into the night’s shadows a short time earlier.

While Lisbeth hurries to Martin’s house. Mikael finds himself bound. Suspended and choked from the basements low ceiling. Listening to Martin detail the number of young girls killed by at first, his father’s. And later, his hand. Martin waxes so poetic and nostalgic about the people in numbers he can’t remember. Lisbeth slinks downstairs and catches Martin between the shoulder blades with a seven iron. Gets a few licks and kicks of her own in before Martin runs away.

Lisbeth frees Mikael and gives chase on her motorcycle after Martin’s disappearing Land Rover. Weaves in and out of traffic until Martin catches the corner of a semi trailer full of lumber. That sends the Land Rover careening and tumbling. And leaves Martin pinned upside down and helpless behind the wheel as gasoline drips onto licking, flickering flames as Lisbeth draws close and watches…

As with all decent films and long running evening soap operas. All is revealed in the last fifteen minutes. Yes. Harriet went missing after the Children’s Day celebration. Though the photo of so much attention is of Cecilia’s younger sister, Anita. Also young, blonde and beautiful. Who helped Harriet escape the sexually abusive hands of her recently murdered (Boat oar upside the head. Drowning) and disgusting father, Gottfried. And the lecherous habits of young Martin. Who had witnessed the event.

Blomkvist tracks Harriet down in the wild open Outback of Australia. Having lived for years under Anita’s name. Harriet fills in the details of the rapes and abuse of her at familial hands while flying back to Stockholm. And a reunion with the only decent Vanger on the planet. Her uncle, Henrick.

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While Blomkvist is tying up loose ends. So is Lisbeth. Traveling to banks far and wide in a blonde wig and high fashion. And raiding them more than enough for a full blown, no holds barred investigation of Wennerström’s corporate graft and corruption. All duly noted by the little seen (In this film. Much more in later tales) staff of Millennium magazine. Capitalizing on details and sensation and putting themselves in a higher strata than before.

Now. What Makes This Film Good?

A director, Neils Arden Oplev whose pedigree is nearly solidly television. Taking on a rather large and sweeping story of an original novel by Steig Larsson (Whose original title was: Men Who Hate Women). And giving it the maturity and attention to detail and often graphic and off putting topic like this demands. And yes, this is “Adult Material”. And may not be everyone’s cup of tea as deeply buried stones are unearthed, turned over and their brutal, vile histories revealed.

GirlWithTheDragonTattooLisbethInto this morass steps Noomi Rapace‘s Lisbeth Salander. Her arms tucked in close in defensive solitude. Her head down, often under a baseball cap and hoodie when plying crafts better made anonymous and near invisible in a crowd. Sometimes maintaining a forward leaning posture when reading her notes and half expecting a challenge. Keeping her inner demons in check through body language subtle and pronounced. Lest those demons escape through her appendages and fingertips. Ms. Rapace is an absolute wonder to watch. As she holds the camera’s attention and allows you to glimpse those demons.

Michael Nyqvist is no slouch either. Far less worldly and much more blue collar than Daniel Craig in the later, David Fincher directed, American version. Looking more like a failed, former boxer or rugby player than a investigator and newshound. Who makes mistakes. Sometimes says too much when he shouldn’t. And not enough when he should. Helping cinematographer Eric Kress keep an even strain and tension in the slow excavation of viable names, locations and dates from the obfuscations of those he’s interviewing.

Attention must be paid to the dialogue and its subtitles as well as the full pallet of less than friendly, desirable and arrogantly untouchable Vanger family. And the pompously smug bureaucrats who briefly interface and believe they hold sway over Lisbeth. Their day of reckoning occurs later in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest.

What Makes This Film Great?

A story worthy of a top budget and A-list director told on a smaller, more manageable scale. With the deft and liberal use of darkness, shadows and cramped cityscape in and around Stockholm. With an added layer of isolation when trekking out to the island city of Hedestad. Where the Vanger family lords over all and prefers that their secrets remain secret.

The film also plunges deep and sloshes around with the patent patriarchy instilled in a culture separated from most. And never being called on their behavior and never been told “no!”. And even with a running time of 152 minutes. One might think patience is a requirement. Though with superior editing by Anne Osterud, time flows smoothly, seamlessly and only a minimum of lost time and over long scenes. All moved briskly along with original music by Jacob Groth.

Extremely high marks to Tusse Lande, Jenny Fred and Cilla Rorby for casting so many well made up evil and dressed people. And, as with any origin story in a series of stories. Those mentioned here will also figure prominently in The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest.


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews


Thoughts on this film? Let it be known in the comments.

007 Chatter: (Ian) Fleming’s Bond – The James Bond of the original novels compared to the 007 movies Part 2

Welcome to another edition of 007Chatter!
Just because Skyfall has been released in the US now, doesn’t mean we can’t continue talking about Bond. So this is the second part of Marcus’ post where he compared the Ian Fleming’s Novels to the Bond Films. In this post, Marcus takes a closer look at what is going on inside Bond — his relationships to the two important women in his life provide a great contrast to his movie image.

Check out PART I if you haven’t already.

Thanks again to Marcus Clearspring for these two-part posts!
Check out his movie blog Cinesprit and his writing blog.

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My introduction to Bond movies were double features at our small town cinema. Two Bonds on the big screen for half the price of one blockbuster ticket in London. Once I discovered that deal, I was eagerly opening the weekly listings to see when the next double feature was showing. Like most people who were happy with the movies, I wasn’t really aware of the books. Then I discovered several Bond books on the family bookshelves which changed my view of the Bond character completely.

Only five of the movies really follow Fleming’s novels closely. Dr No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. All the first movies made, with the exception of You Only Live Twice, which mixes in so much new stuff that it greatly differs from the novel.

The novel would be difficult to adapt to the screen. The first one hundred pages consist largely of Bond and Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese Secret Service, talking about cultural differences between British/Western ways and Japanese/Asian perspectives. The final showdown does not take place in a hollowed-out volcano as in the movie. You Only Live Twice is an exception, a very strange novel in many ways. The final showdown is quite literally fantastic. Definitely to be recommended if you are open to a different kind of 007 narrative.

In general, the movies liberally mix and match individual scenes and characters from the novels. The best example is Live and Let Die. The movie has very little to do with the novel except for Bond chasing Mr. Big’s drug ring and visiting Harlem. However, some of the most memorable action scenes from Live and Let Die are mixed into other movies. For example, the scene in For Your Eyes Only with Bond and Melina, the woman  with the crossbow, being dragged as shark bait behind a boat.

Then two scenes in Licence to Kill. The one where Felix Leiter has been fed to sharks and has a classic Fleming line attached to him saying “He disagreed with something that ate him“. The other is when Bond breaks into the warehouse belonging to Crest. The scene is much longer in the novel and has far more suspense. As I said in my first post, its surprising that many action scenes are more engaging in the novels.

I’d like to focus on two topics which generally put Bond’s character in a negative light. His relationship to women and the perception from the movies that he’s merely a blunt instrument, an assassin with no introspection. Both topics are different in the novels.

There is a common perception that Bond is a misogynist and only sees women as “disposable pleasures.” Particularly for the movies of the 1970s that is often true. The phrase, I believe, is from Fleming’s Casino Royale and quoted in the movie. However, in the novels, I would argue that’s only a setup by the author to get Bond more emotionally involved.

It’s like in romantic comedies and dramas. In the beginning, the male or female lead declare to their best friend how they are totally finished with serious relationships because men/women are so awful. We all know that’s a setup, that they will hook up at the end with the person they disliked the most in the beginning. The greater the distance created, the greater they can fall in love later on. I think Fleming does this too. Only, it’s not served as a fluffy romance, so many people don’t seem to recognize it behind the rough and tumble macho disguise. Why else would Fleming have Bond literally call  himself a misogynist, then have him fall in love? Bond gives a simple explanation. It’s because he has never met a woman he could have an interesting conversation with. Surprising insight, if you only know the movies.

Bond only falls in love twice in the novels. That is with Vesper in Casino Royale and Tracy in On her Majesty’s Secret Service. Vesper, the sphinx, is the first woman he can talk to with ease. Tracy, a woman with “issues”, becomes Mrs Bond.

These are some of the most fascinating parts in any of the Bond novels. It’s this very tough character, an assassin, being caring and tender, able to relate to another person. Mixed with action and imminent danger this delivers a great result. It goes far deeper than the stock “hero getting the girl” because Fleming adds so much interior to Bond’s character.

Bond’s introspection is what sets him apart from many other action heroes. He will question what he needs to do and what he has done. He will ponder the moral and ethical sides of his actions, question the service he works for. There is an entire short chapter in Casino Royale, where, while recuperating in the clinic, Bond speaks to Mathis about his job, pondering whether he should quit. He questions whether his actions are any better than those of the villains he hunts. Some interesting thoughts and answers from Mathis which are worth reading and thinking about.

One thing to keep in mind is that the novels were written in the 1950s and obviously do not reflect what’s considered politically correct today (see note below on Live and Let Die). It’s a post World War II era. The onset of the Cold War.

Here’s a brief personal ranking of the novels.

Best:

  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  • From Russia with Love
  • You Only Live Twice
  • Dr No
  • Thunderball
  • Goldfinger

Mediocre:

  • The Man with the Golden Gun
  • Live and Let Die*

* Caution: “Live and Let Die” contains many racial references considered highly offensive today.

Weak:

  • Diamonds are Forever

Special mention:

The Spy Who Loved Me is an exception in the series, written entirely from the perspective of a woman. James Bond only has a short appearance. You can’t really count it as part of the normal Bond novels. It is interesting though and I plan on re-reading it.

There would be lots more to say. I can only encourage anyone interested in Bond, to check out the novels and discover a depth of character not present in any of the movies to date.


So that concludes the two-part post on how the Ian Fleming’s Bond books compare to the Bond movies. 

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Weekend Roundup and The Whistleblower Review

Happy Tuesday, folks! Well, Minnesota weather is all but predictable and this weekend alone we seem to have gone through two seasons within a matter of 48 hours! On Saturday it was a balmy 69 degrees — people out driving their convertibles and walking in shorts ‘n sandals. There’s even a tornado touch down in a town next to mine, which is unheard of in November! But by the time Sunday rolls around, cool cold wind sets in and by Monday morning, wind chill factor is in the single digit, plus there’s a coating of snow on my way to work [sigh]

Photo courtesy of Startribune.com

I count myself blessed that I didn’t live anywhere near a hill like this one in Ramsey Street in St. Paul! There were a ton of accidents this morning as people were slippin’ and slidin’ down the icy road.

As for movie watching, well it ended up being the weekend of Mr and Mrs Daniel Craig. I saw Skyfall on Friday night and on Saturday I saw a movie starring Craig’s wife Rachel Weisz called The Whistleblower. The two played husband and wife in the the thriller Dream House and got married soon after. I think Weisz is gorgeous enough to actually play a Bond girl, I wonder if she’d ever considering it though. I mean that’d be something we’ve never seen before in the history of Bond movies, seeing a husband and wife playing Bond and Bond girl!! Anyway, thanks to Amanda who told me in the comment section of my rant post that this film has now become available to rent.

Now on to the review…

The Whistleblower (2010)

A drama based on the experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who served as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia and outed the U.N. for covering up a sex scandal.

Despite the stellar cast, for some reason this movie is rather obscure. I don’t even know if it ever got a theatrical release, seems like it went straight to dvd after it premiered in various film festivals. It’s too bad as it’s a decent film that deals with an important subject matter most people don’t know about. It’s heart-breaking to learn about the human trafficking and forced prostitution happening in Bosnia, especially when it’s done by the security people contracted to protect those people.

This film is deliberately done like an investigative journalism without much flair. The ‘raw’ quality is likely due to its shoe-string budget, but I find it fitting given the subject matter. In fact, I feel that the lack of ‘beauty’ in this film makes us focus on the story more, there’s not pretty scenery or manipulative music to distract us, it was just the characters and what’s happening to them. The living condition these girls are subjected to is appalling and heart-wrenching, but nobody is willing to stand up for them. In a way it’s a David vs. Goliath story told in a matter-of-fact manner.

Rachel Weisz is excellent as the sympathetic police officer who’s in over her head trying to do the right thing. She could be too strikingly beautiful for this role, but somehow they manage to make her look quite plain here. I’m glad she took on an important role despite this being a low profile project. The film doesn’t portray Bolkovac as a flawless saint, but she’s certainly heroic in risking her job and her own well-being going after such a protected organization. The supporting cast is top notch, we’ve got Vanessa Redgrave, Monica Bellucci, David Strathrain, and Benedict Cumberbatch who sadly wasn’t given much to do.

Despite the powerful, ripped-from-the-headlines story, the slow pacing and some unnecessary subplots such as Bolkovach’s romance with a colleague drag the film down. It could be due to director Larysa Kondracki’s lack of experience, as I feel that it could’ve been a much more intriguing film than what it was. Overall, it’s truly a difficult film to watch, the tone is staggeringly bleak which makes it even more depressing. The violent scenes are pretty brutal, there’s one particular scene that is so barbaric that it’s painful to watch. Yet the violence is not meant to be ‘entertainment,’ but to show just the kind of extreme brutality and injustice happening in our world.

What’s most depressing is that these atrocities are still allowed to continue as the perpetrators are not persecuted due to diplomatic immunity. That said, I’m glad they brought this story to light and it’s always inspiring to see regular people standing up to those who can’t defend themselves. Despite its flaws, I’d recommend this film, it’s really quite eye-opening.
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Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Well, that’s my weekend roundup. How ’bout you, seen anything good?

FlixChatter’s Double Review: SKYFALL

It’s no secret that this is one of the top five 2012 films both Ted and I have been anticipating. Nice to see that the world seems to have been ‘gripped’ by Bond fever, as Skyfall has grossed over $500 million worldwide since it opened in the UK on October 26, and nearly $90 mil in its opening weekend here in the US.

So, with all the buzz and our own feverish excitement over its release, does this movie live up to our expectations? Well, read both Ted and my review below:

Ted’s Review

After a four year absence, Bond is back on the big screen and I think it’s maybe the best Bond film ever. Daniel Craig is back as 007, Sam Mendes stepped in as the man in charge behind the scenes, he brought in his usual team to work on this latest Bond film, including the great cinematographer Roger Deakins and the always excellent Thomas Newman as the new composer.

The film starts out with a spectacular chase scene involving Bond and a new agent played by Naomi Harris, they’re after a hard drive containing the names of MI6 undercover agents all over the world. They failed and Bond is presumed dead. A few months later, MI6 agents are being kill off one by one and M (Judi Dench) is being question by Security Chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a great addition to franchise in my opinion. Mallory suggested that M should think of retiring because she might lose her step when it comes to the intelligence business. Of course M refused and she wowed to find who’s responsible for these agents being kill off. We then see Bond living in some tropical beach, drinking and sleeping with a beautiful woman. He later learned that other agents are being murder and decided to come back to MI6 and wants to know who’s behind these killings. Since he’s been gone for so long, Bond is out of shape and not as sharp but M sent him out to the field anyway.

I don’t like to go deep into the plot in my review so I’m going to highlight what worked and what didn’t in the film.

Let’s start with what I thought work great in the film:

Daniel Craig and Judi Dench: This is a more personal Bond film and both Craig and Dench did a marvelous job in their respective role. Craig now really owns the Bond character, in this film he’s not the super hero agent we’re used to seeing. He’s a drunk, he gets hurt and he didn’t always save the girl. In an interview, Craig said he really want to bring the character more to reality and so he went and read some of Fleming’s earlier Bond novels. To me he really nailed what Fleming was going for in those novels. Dench played a prominent role in the movie and believe it or not, she was actually the Bond girl in this film. Her performance was the best in the series and I was glad she appeared in the film as much as she has.

Sam Mendes, Roger Deakins and Thomas Newman: When Mendes was hired to direct this film, I was a bit skeptical because he’s never directed an action film before and when a more artsy director took over the franchise, it doesn’t always turned out well. The World Is Not Enough was directed by an artsy director and it’s one of the worst Bond films ever. But I was wrong, Mendes did a great job. Like what Brad Bird did with M:I-Ghost Protocol last year, Mendes decided to bring the franchise back to the old school style while infusing some 21st century action sequences. Speaking of action, Mendes was able to build up a great suspense before showing those awesome action sequences.

I particularly liked the sequence in Shanghai where Bond went after an assassin, the scene was set in a high rise building and the way Mendes staged it was so suspenseful and when Bond finally went mano-a-mano with the assassin, I got goose bumps. I loved that sequence. Since this film marks the 50th anniversary of the franchise, Mendes decided to throw in some homage from the previous Bond flicks. From Oddjob in Goldfinger, Bond jumped on top of an alligator, exploding pen and so on; Bond fanatics will get a kick out seeing those scenes, I know I did.

Of course Mendes can’t do it alone, with his right hand man Roger Deakins doing the shooting, this may be the best looking Bond film ever. Seriously every scene in this film was so gorgeous to look it. The film took place mostly in London and the way Deakins captured the look and feel of that city, I felt like I was there. Also, I always felt London is one of the best cities to capture on films, (NYC is my favorite in case you’re wondering). If you get a chance to see it on the real IMAX screen, I highly recommend you do that. Mendes and Deakins decided to open up the film’s usual aspect ratio of 2.39:1 to 1.90:1 to take advantage of IMAX’s tall screen. It was such a pleasure seeing this gorgeous film on the best format, can’t recommend it enough.

Last but certainly not least is Thomas Newman’s theme, the soundtrack’s more epic and fit the film so well and yes the Bond theme is finally play during the movie not after like the previous two films. Mendes said in an interview that Nolan’s The Dark Knight was a huge influence on this film so some might think the soundtrack kind of similar to that film. In fact if I didn’t know Newman was the composer, I would’ve thought it was Hans Zimmer.

What didn’t work:

Javier Bardem and the Bond girls. My complain with the franchise is that it never has a truly great villain and unfortunately that trend continues. Some critics said Bardem’s Silva is the best Bond villain ever and I strongly disagree with that; sure he’s menacing and probably the most grounded villain in a Bond film; he’s not planning to take over the world or destroy it, he just wants vengeance. But I thought he’s underused and the showdown between him and Bond was kind of anti-climatic. I was hoping for a fist cuff showdown like in From Russia With Love but it never happened.

The Bond girls in this one wasn’t used like in other films. As I mentioned earlier M was basically the Bond girl, so the two lovely ladies weren’t in the film that much. But you can bet Naomie Harris will appear in the Bond franchise in many years to come.

Those are my only two complaints, otherwise it was just a great action film and again I believe it’s one of the best, if not the best Bond film ever. I’ll for sure be seeing it again on the big screen a few more times.

Some people complained that the climatic showdown was too much like Home Alone meets Strawdogs, well it’s a fair comparisons but I’d like to give my personal opinion of that sequence and its title. If you haven’t seen the film, I recommend you don’t read any further because it contains spoilers.

The film’s title refers to Bond’s birthplace and in a way it’s his battleground. To me, it represents a place where M hires a infant James into the secret service and as irony has it , this is the place where it all comes down for a rebirth of 007 and demise of M. You see Casino Royale was a reboot of the franchise and Skyfall is the reboot of 007 himself, when the new M asked Bond near the end of the film if he’s ready, Bond reply with a resounding yes and so we’re now back into the normal Bond template. Is that a good or bad thing? We’ll have to wait and find out what the filmmakers will give us in the upcoming Bond films. If the Bond producers hires another quality director to direct the next one, then I’m sure we’ll get another great Bond film. I know that Chris Nolan and David Fincher are free and I’m sure they can make a great Bond flick. Hey a fan boy can dream right?
– review by Ted S.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Ruth’s Review

Some of the best Bond films start out with an exhilarating opening sequences, and Skyfall follows that tradition. Bond is on a mission in Turkey to recover a stolen hard drive containing a list of nearly all undercover NATO agents in terrorist organizations. Soon Bond and fellow field agent Eve get into a massive car/motorbike/foot chase, wreaking havoc all over the place as Bond often does, before he jumps on top of a moving train. It all seems like a typical 007 action stuff… that is, until the super spy himself actually gets shot and falls into the water. It’s no spoiler as it’s all over the trailers and TV spots, often preceded by Judi Dench’s M shouting to Eve, ‘Take the bloody shot!’

Presumed dead, Bond is free to retire on some island somewhere, but his holiday is short-lived when he learns that MI-6 headquarter has been attacked, both in the physical and cyber world, prompting his return to England. The message in M’s hacked computer repeatedly says ‘Think on your sins,’ which seems to suggest that this attack is a personal one. Just how personal? Well, it’s best for you to find out on your own. Let’s just say that Bond’s loyalty to his boss is tested beyond what he could ever imagine and the mission has become very personal for him, too.

There are tons to appreciate in this film, thanks to a first-rate team starting with the Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes and his team of writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan. The sharp script allows for a thrilling action, snappy dialog, and just the right amount of whimsy without resorting to copious one-liners.

I think it’s great that since this year marks the franchise’s 50th anniversary, Skyfall is one of the most personal Bond films ever as it touched upon who he was before he became the secret agent we’ve come to know and love. I always enjoy seeing the more ‘human’ side of our super spy, it certainly makes for a thrilling and also poignant story. Daniel Craig is even more confident in his third outing, but he also has the right amount of vulnerability to balance that grit, which adds more depth to Bond the way Timothy Dalton did with character two decades earlier. Clearly people are much more ready for such an interpretation now.

As we’ve been talking about Bond villains as part of the 007 Chatter series, suffice to say that Raoul Silva will NOT end up in the WORST list. Though the personal vendetta motive of the villain is hardly groundbreaking, it still feel fresh thanks to Javier Bardem‘s performance. Creating a genuine tension between Bond and his villain is no small feat as we’ve seen it so many times before. Yet the encounter between the ever-so-creepy Silva and Bond is quite fascinating, what with the homoerotic intimidation that treads between sinister and amusing.

My favorite part in the film is the relationship between Bond and his boss, M. They’re not always in the best terms as you could tell in their blatantly snarky banters (remember M once called Bond ‘a sexist, misogynist dinosaur!’), but it’s obvious they respect and care for one another. I tell you, it’s the Bond producers’ best casting decision ever to have an acting juggernaut Dame Judi Dench play that role, and Mendes makes the most of her amazing talent. No doubt this is the meatiest role ever written for M in the entire Bond history, you could say she’s the co-star of this film given the large amount of screen time. Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw as Q and Albert Finney makes up the stellar supporting cast, making this the best cast in the James Bond series to date!

Whether this movie will be the best Bond film ever is arguable of course, but it could easily be the most picturesque Bond film ever, thanks to (yet another) Oscar-nominee Roger Deakins. He created one glorious, picture-frame-worthy shot after another, starting with the very first one of Bond’s silhouetted figure entering a building in Turkey. The scenes in China, especially the fight scene in a Shanghai skyscraper with the electronic billboard as a backdrop is breathtakingly gorgeous. The lush scenery in the Scottish Highlands is one of the major highlight as Bond returns to a place from his past.

So, how do the two Bond girls fare? Well, Eve definitely belongs in the BEST Bond girl category. I really like Naomie Harris as the smart and strong field agent. She’s bad ass but still has a feminine and flirty side. She’s a knockout too, especially in that gold dress in the Macau casino. Unfortunately, I’m not too fond of Bérénice Marlohe‘s Sévérine. Yes she is beautiful to be sure and that dress she wears at the casino shows off her killer figure. But her overacting makes me squirm, I think the dialog between her and Bond is the weakest part of the film. Good thing she didn’t have much screen time to drag the movie down further.

Final Thoughts: Well, looks like the ever-so-lucrative 50-year old franchise is going stronger than ever. Skyfall is not just a good Bond film, it’s a good film, period. I think Sam Mendes and co. did a smashing job in creating a 21st century Bond movie that strikes a nice balance between high drama and high octane action. I certainly welcome a more emotional Bond film, and I’m glad Mendes is not afraid to give us that.

So to answer the question whether this film lives up to my already-lofty expectations. The short answer is YES, though I think I still rate Casino Royale as the best one amongst Craig’s Bond films so far.

4.5 out of 5 reels


So what are your thoughts of Skyfall? Did it meet YOUR expectations?

007 Chatter: Musings on Bond Villains and Top 7 Picks

It’s the last day of the Bond month, the 50 year anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No, which opened in the UK on on October 5, 1962. These 007 posts are also part of the Skyfall countdown which will open on November 9 here in the US! As I don’t cover the horror genre on this blog, I figure it’d be fitting to do a post on those wicked Bond villains on Halloween.

Special thanks to Raul Marin of The Movi3 Lounge for this guest post!
Three of his picks actually match my own top five I posted two years ago :D


Just as the day turns to night, the month celebrating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise comes to a sudden end. However, this is only the beginning of more to come! There is another film to look forward to in a few days, as Daniel Craig will once again play the iconic role in Skyfall.

As we all anticipate this next film with great excitement, I invite you to think about the villains that we have seen in the franchise over last 50 years. There are six men who have had the pleasure of playing this amazing role. They have dazzled us with their strength, charm, and bravery to save the world against impossible odds. Before we can appreciate the amazing acts of this extraordinary British agent, we have to recognize the worthy adversaries he has encountered before saving the world. Before you can have a hero, you need a villain that can challenge him or her to overcome adversity. After winning many battles, you become a hero with your good deeds and amazing courage. When life is on the line, there has been no one better than James Bond to save humanity from chaos and destruction. The beauty of this franchise has been that someone with the talent and abilities of Bond has been needed to bring down the most dangerous and criminal-minded villains on the planet.

The role of villains in this franchise is something special. To put this in a better perspective, Bond has what it takes to be a devastating villain in any film. He is a strong, determined, and fearless agent that will do what it takes to save the world. The villains on the other hand, use their abilities and resources to establish world order and domination under their control. They also share the same characteristics as Bond. Which brings up a great point: it is not about the strengths and abilities that you have; it is about what you choose to do with them. Since we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of this incredible franchise, it is only fitting to recognize the seven best Bond villains. Of course, there have been many villains throughout these 23 films, but there are seven in particular, who went beyond the expectations of a great villain.

There’s even a book dedicated to the evil masterminds of the Bond franchise

It is not enough to simply have the role of a villain in a film; it is something that should be earned in the eyes of the director and the audience. What makes these seven villains stand out more than the rest are a couple of characteristics; mainly the possession of power. In their respective films, there is no question of the power, influence, and authority that they have over the people that work for them, and the fear they have caused in the world because of that. Another characteristic that they all share is style. This can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but the reality is, they each demonstrate their personalities with great charisma, elegance, and even a sense of humor. Above all, they each demonstrate a relentless, diabolical, and cold-hearted hunger for killing Bond, and destroying whatever gets in the way of their dreams.

Many, if not all, villains in this franchise have had evil henchmen whose jobs are to make killing Bond easier them. They may not be complete villains, but if you still cringe at their presence on screen, they have done their job well. Jaws and Oddjob did the best jobs of that in my humble opinion. Soon, Javier Bardem will add himself to the list of actors that have graced fans everywhere with their on screen presence as a villain in Skyfall. It may be too early to say that he belongs among the best, but there is certainly great excitement and expectation for him to be among the ranks of the most evil men that Bond has had to face.

It is with great pleasure that I list my top seven Bond villains:


Dr. Julius No (Dr. No) – played by Joseph Wiseman

Hugo Drax (Moonraker) – played by Michael Lonsdale



Frank Sanchez (Licence to Kill) – played by Robert Davi



Aris Kristatos (For Your Eyes Only) – played by Julian Glover



Le Chiffre (Casino Royale) – played by Mads Mikkelsen



Emilio Largo (Thunderball) – played by Adolfo Celi



Red Grant (From Russia With Love) – played by Robert Shaw




Special Recognition:

  • Jaws – Moonraker, The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Oddjob – Goldfinger


Now your turn! Who are YOUR picks of top Bond villains?

007 Chatter: (Ian) Fleming’s Bond – The James Bond of the original novels compared to the 007 movies Part 1

October is Bond month as the producers are celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No, which opened in the UK on on October 5, 1962. In addition to the Skyfall countdown, here at FlixChatter we are taking an in-depth look into the world’s most popular movie franchise and its origins.

Special thanks to Marcus Clearspring for this two-part posts in comparing how the original novels of Ian Fleming compared to the Bond movies.

Check out Marcus’ movie blog Cinesprit and his writing blog.

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Fleming’s Bond

When you think James Bond, you probably think Martinis-and-bikinis, “shaken not stirred” and of course “Bond, James Bond”. The James Bond of the movies is a kind of superhero. However, Ian Fleming’s original novels show far more depth of character and certainly no superman. He may actually have a few things in common with some of the darker superheroes, only he has no superpowers. Although he has gadgets, they rarely spring him from danger in the novels.

The complete collection of Ian Fleming books – photo courtesy of ebookee.org

Fleming’s Bond is a character with doubts, who is vulnerable and expresses his fears. The most extreme example is when Bond falls into a long depression for several months after the death of his wife Tracy. The story begins with Bond visiting her grave, and his boss M back at the office, telling Bond to shape up or ship out. This is the beginning to Thunderball in the novel. Bond is not sent to the health clinic to work undercover. It’s an ultimatum. He goes there because he is too depressed and out of shape to work. He discovers the bad guys by chance. It is surprising how dark the beginning is, but it’s also very memorable.
The movies have so far never portrayed Bond like this. We saw him place flowers on his wife’s grave in For Your Eyes Only, but that was followed by an action-comedy sequence with Blofeld at times so camp it was close to Austin Powers. The Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again had Bond sent to the clinic because he was supposedly out of shape, but that was all. It too was upbeat, almost comedic, with no mention of any other trouble.

The possibly closest portrayal of Fleming’s Bond in the movies for me is Timothy Dalton in Licence To Kill, and to some extent Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. As of the Daniel Craig era you can imagine the producers using a downbeat opening like in Fleming’s Thunderball because attitudes have changed. It’s okay now for Bond to be vulnerable and the story to have some gravitas. When they tried that with Timothy Dalton in Licence To Kill, audiences were not yet ready. It was 10-15 years too early.
Fleming’s Bond is always focused and very rarely distracted. There’s a scene in Goldfinger where Bond sees a pretty girl in an open sports car and is tempted to follow her. Then he smiles and mutters to himself that he needs to keep shadowing Goldfinger. You may recall that scene from the movie. It’s an exception in the novels rather than something you would expect, as you do in the movies. Likewise, you won’t find scores of bikini-clad girls sunbathing around swimming pools. No five-star hotel concierge greets Bond after several years by name and announces that a Martini is waiting. Not in the books.

What makes Fleming’s Bond so interesting?

[ruth’s note: I found this illustration by Gabriel Hardman above from this site, inspired by this description from Fleming’s Casino Royale novel: As he tied his thin, double-ended black satin tie, he paused for a moment and examined himself levelly in the mirror. His grey-blue eyes looked calmly back with a hint of ironical inquiry and the short lock of black hair which would never stay in place slowly subsided to form a thick comma above his right eyebrow. With the thin vertical scar down his right cheek the general effect was faintly piratical.]
There have been many new authors who have written Bond novels since Ian Fleming. Make sure to start at the source, with the real deal. There may be some good 007 novels by other authors but I have not heard of any to surpass Fleming’s originals. When I refer to “the novels” from here on, I mean solely Ian Fleming’s books.
What I find particularly interesting in Fleming’s novels is the way we get to see and feel everything that Bond does from inside Bond’s head. That’s a totally different perspective to the movies. We get a multitude of thoughts and emotions racing through Bond’s head. Doubts, strategies, fears, next moves. All this is mostly told as a running commentary.
Many action scenes in the novels are better than in the movies. I know that sounds odd because movies are normally better at action than books, but this is one of Fleming’s strong points. A good example is the car chase in Casino Royale. It has far more detail and suspense than the movie, which only shows Bond catching up, then the final rollover of his car. The novel manages to put you inside Bond’s head, with him in the driver’s seat, following his every move and thought. He sits there thinking about how Vesper got herself caught. Complaining about her and worrying at the same time as he shifts gears and his thoughts race. These are some of the best moments in the books because you get both the internal and external action.
I would never have thought it could be exciting the way someone shifts gears and moves along serpentine roads, but it is the way Fleming writes. I know someone who used to drive rallies and they thought Fleming’s descriptions were great. Especially if you are bored by the fast cuts of current movie chases which abbreviate so much, you will appreciate the detailed and engaging way Fleming writes his action scenes.

Focus and Purpose

The fight scenes are full of precision and purpose. Often brutal, but never for show. Bond often considers each move in advance. However, not as in many movies where the hero recites a bunch of moves to show off how easy it’s going to be and how cool he or she is. If there’s any comparison in movies, Fleming’s Bond takes the approach of a Clint Eastwood type character. Someone who gets straight down to business when he has to and takes the shortest, most effective route without any showing off.
The skiing scenes in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are another great example. The movie’s ski scenes are great due to Willy Bogner’s amazing photography, but the novel has the advantage of putting you inside Bond’s skin as he tries to escape from Blofeld’s mountain lair.

The movies are glamorous, mainstream action entertainment. The books get inside Bond’s head and under his skin. It’s a very different perspective. It’s the main reason to read the books. In the next post I’ll take a closer look at what is going on inside Bond. His relationships to the two important women in his life provide a great contrast to his movie image. His introspective side shows how critical, and at times cynical, Bond can be of his own job.


Well, that’s it for Part I. Is there anything you miss in the movies, or which you think might be better in a novel?

007 Chatter: Discussing the enduring appeal of James Bond

In case you didn’t know, October is Bond month as the producers are celebrating the UK premiere of Dr. No on October 5, 1962. So, as part of Bond’s 50th Anniversary, I thought I’d invite two of my friends and fellow Bond fan Michael from It Rains… You Get Wet and FC’s staff Ted S. to discuss the enduring appeal of this ultra-popular franchise. Now, on to the Q&A…
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What’s your first introduction to the world of 007? Did you read the Ian Flemming’s books?

Michael: I have my mother’s younger brother, my uncle, to thank for the introduction to the world of OO7. He took me to the movie theater, decades ago during my childhood, for my first ever James Bond film, which turned out to be the third in the series. I’d not heard of the character, nor had I ever read any of Ian Fleming’s novels to that point in time. I wouldn’t read my first Bond book for a couple more years, when I turned teen. That first novel would be From Russia With Love.

Ted: I think it was my father who introduced me to the Bond films, he used to watch them when we were living in the Far East, I was pretty young then.

I read many of the Bond novels, couldn’t name them all but the first one was Casino Royale, I started reading the books after I saw the films.

Ruth: I’ve got to admit I never read any of Ian Fleming’s novels [gasp] I got my first introduction to Bond through the movies, which I’m guessing most people are in my camp. I might take up one of the novels at some point though, I might start with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.


What’s your earliest experience watching a Bond movie? What age and which Bond movie?

Michael: I was age 11 when I saw Goldfinger, and I documented this particular memory in a TMT from last November.

Ted: I don’t remember when I first saw a Bond film but I think it was in my early teens, the first movie I saw was Dr. No and the scene that I always remember was the introduction of Ursula Andress‘ character when she walked out of the water and in that swimsuit, I was instantly in love with her. It’s reason why I tend to date voluptuous women. :)

Ruth: I think I was in Junior High when I first saw a Bond movie. I can’t remember the exact movie though, my memory isn’t as good as Michael’s ahah, but I think it was a Roger Moore movie, perhaps Moonraker? So I grew up watching Moore’s Bond movies and to this day, his movies are still fun to watch for nostalgia’s sake.
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This Guardian article said … the key to Bond’s evergreen appeal is that, as well as some enjoyable nostalgia, he delivers the reader a harmless slice of old-fashioned adventure in a readily digestible form.

What do you think about that? Now what appeals to you most about the Bond franchise?

Michael: I think there is some validity to that, but I think there’s more to it. The Ian Fleming novels and short stories that employed the character created a rather iconic niche, primarily with men, when they first came out. The hooks (espionage, gadgets, and sex) being rather obvious. Heck, even JFK read them. Here’s the thing, though. When the character and series were adapted to film, well, both men AND women discovered a lot to their liking. So much so, the appeal became instantly more universal from that point (with Dr. No) forward.

To such a degree you can ask just about anyone, no matter their gender (or age), who is their favorite Bond, or what their favorite flick is, and they will have an opinion. And in 50 years, it’s likely to be long-standing.

Ian Fleming with Connery on a Bond movie set

Ted: The reason I love the Bond franchise is because it’s a fantasy for most if not all men want to live, saving the world from the bad guys; dates beautiful women, wear expensive suits and drive super expensive cars. Travel all over the world and eat at fancy restaurants. It’s pure escapism.

Ruth: I think there’s certainly an escapism aspect that makes Bond movies so fun to watch. I mean, real spies are likely closer to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘s George Smiley, so they don’t lead a glamorous life, driving fast cars and wooing women all over the world. What appeals to me most is the adventure and awesome scenery we’ve come to expect in each film. I get to live vicariously through his globe-trotting lifestyle fighting bad guys!

As a woman, obviously there’s also a certain eye-candy element to the franchise, I mean Bond is the quintessential dream guy. I mean he’s good looking, stylish, sophisticated, etc. and what girl hasn’t dreamed of being swept off their feet by a man who obviously knows how to woo a woman, even if it’s just for one night! ;)
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How many Bond movies do you own and which one(s) do you watch most often? If you have a Bond memorabilia, do share!

Michael: All of them, for sure, via the Ultimate Edition volumes on DVD. My Blu-ray collection is far from complete, though. My wife can back up  those statements, and perhaps not happily, since she has to live with me (and them) ;)

Ted: Currently I have about 8 or 10 on Blu-ray, I’ll be adding to my collection once more comes out on BD next month. The ones I watched often are Casino Royale, The Living Daylights (on DVD), License To Kill, Thunderball, From Russia with Love, For Your Eyes Only, Tomorrow Never Dies, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (on DVD) and Quantum of Solace (yes I really like this film).

I just bought The Living Daylights and Tomorrow Never Dies on Blu-ray this week so now I have 12 Bond films on that format.

I’m picking up GoldenEye and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service later this weekend and then my Bond collection is complete. I don’t want to get the complete collection because I couldn’t sit through some of the awful ones like A View to a Kill, Live and Let Die, Diamonds Are Forever and so on.

Ruth: I actually don’t have very many of them: I only have Octopussy, For Your Eyes Only, The Living Daylights on DVDs and Casino Royale and Licence To Kill on Blu-ray. That’s it!

I know that over the years my brothers and I probably have bought the same movies several times over in different format, starting with those darn VHS! I’m glad I haven’t bought any of the DVD sets though, as I’m hoping to get those glorious 50th Anniversary Blu-ray set one of these days! I know there are some awful Bond movies I don’t like in that collection but I figure I can watch the special features on them, I’d think those are still fun to watch. Speaking of memorabilia, I wish I could get a hold of all those GQ Bond issues below, and this book on the making of Licence to Kill!


Who’s your favorite Bond actor and why? Feel free to rank the five Bond actors if you so choose.

Michael: It’s who it has always been since that one night back in January of 1965. Sean Connery. I do agree with you that someone like Timothy Dalton was closer to the character Ian Fleming devised and wrote about. But, it’s still Sean blessed Connery for God sakes were talking about! I firmly believe he’s been the most charismatic of all the actors who’ve portrayed this character on film. Plus, he had an aura of physicality that matched his persona (best evidence of that would be the classic fight on the train between him and Robert Shaw as ‘Red Grant’ in From Russia With Love and John Kenneth Muir’s recent piece on The Top Five: James Bond Fight Sequences). This facet only recently approached by another — that someone being Daniel Craig. In other words, Sean remains the yardstick all others are measured against (at least by those of us a certain age, that is).

 And since you asked, here would be my ranking:
1. Sean Connery
2. Daniel Craig
3. Timothy Dalton
4. Pierce Brosnan
5. Roger Moore

Ted: This is kind of a tough question for me, as for film version of Bond I’d have to go with Connery BUT I believe Timothy Dalton is truer to what Fleming wrote in his novels.

My Ranking:

  1. Sean Connery
  2. Timothy Dalton
  3. Daniel Craig
  4. Pierce Brosnan
  5. Roger Moore

I don’t think we can really judge Lazenby since he’s only appeared in one film.

Ruth: Anyone who’ve read this blog long enough knows who my all time favorite Bond is ;) In fact I just paid a tribute to him just last Friday. I think as time goes by I like Dalton more and more, and perhaps the fact that he’s so criminally-underrated makes me like him more. I mean he epitomized what I envision a super spy would be (and apparently he’s what Fleming envisioned in his books, too): gritty but NOT thuggish, sophisticated and confident without being cocky, relentless yet loyal to a fault, and his Bond appreciates a beautiful woman but not in a lewd way. Plus he’s just so darn good looking! I mean he’s the ONLY Bond that makes my heart goes pit-a-pat, not to mention Dalton is the tallest Bond with the BEST voice.

I could go on and on but here’s my rating:

  1. Timothy Dalton (natch)
  2. Daniel Craig
  3. Sean Connery
  4. Roger Moore
  5. Pierce Brosnan

Note: I’m not saying I dislike Brosnan, as I like his first two Bond movies. It’s just as time goes by, his portrayal of Bond just seems too cocky to me that it rubs me the wrong way. Plus his Bond movies seems to be the most sexually vulgar (especially his sex scene with Halle Berry) that I find repulsive. Moore might be whimsical but his movies have nostalgic value to me so I just can’t put him as least favorite Bond.


What would you like to see in future Bond films? Or in other words: What’d be your ideal Bond movie be?

Michael: This is both an easy and hard one to answer. Easy because of the likes of actors like Idris Elba, Karl Urban, and your favorite Gerard Butler. Hard due to the fact that someone else, totally unknown to us all, will arrive somewhere down the line and make the iconic role their own. The point is, it’s the character of OO7 that makes the series. What’s obvious is that not one actor has carried the series for all of five decades. It’s Bond that is the brand.

If I could somehow manipulate the space-time continuum, I’d remake one particular James Bond film from the 60s to produce my ideal Bond movie. I’d have Sean Connery star in what I and others consider to be the best story of the entire series, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I mean, Connery paired with who I consider the best Bond girl ever, Diana Rigg. There’d be no words to suffice.

Ted: I would love to see someone like David Fincher or Chris Nolan directing a Bond film. Bring his character more to reality and well make the film quite violent and brutal; I know that will never happen since the franchise is so lucrative for the studio, they will never risk doing a hard R-rated Bond film.

Ruth: I know we’re supposed to let bygones be bygones… but just looking at the poster below I found the other day, well, ideally Dalton gets to do one more Bond movie! I’d have LOVED to see him in something like Casino Royale where he gets to display his gritty as well as vulnerable side.

But ah well, I better learn to just let it go. Now, for the future, in line with what Ted said, I’d like to see quality directors tackle a Bond movie and put a fresh spin to it whilst still keeping the elements of a Bond film we’ve come to know and love. I don’t know if making it more violent is the answer, I mean it could still be PG-13 but have a really intriguing storyline that puts Bond in a different light somehow.

Well it’s more like a fantasy Bond movie… that is to see Clive Owen, someone I’d have liked to see as Bond, play a Bond villain. For once it’d be nice to see a Bond villain who might look as cool as the super spy himself, ahah. He’s in my actors wish list I’d like to see as a Bond villain.

Another fantasy of mine would be seeing Dalton himself as a Bond villain, that’s never been done before but I think he’d be perfect. And also Alan Rickman, as he could easily play an elegant baddie like Moonraker‘s Hugo Drax. I’d LOVE to hear him utter the words “So long, Mr Bond” in that iconic voice of his! :D



Thoughts on seeing Daniel Craig in at least five more Bond films AFTER ‘Skyfall?’ Is this a good idea you think or should the producers find someone new after say, 5 years?

Michael: I’ve certainly enjoyed Daniel Craig as the most recent incarnation of Bond. But, I think an actor can overstay their welcome in the role (cough *** Roger Moore). More than two more, beyond Skyfall, and that might be too much ;)

Ted: I wouldn’t mind seeing Craig in one more film but after that the producers should look for a new actor, get a new face and have that actor create his own version of Bond.

Ruth: I definitely think Craig should just do two more Bond movies after Skyfall, tops. As much as I like him, I feel that he already looks so old now that I can’t imagine five years from now. We might get another Never Say Never Again conundrum that Connery faced when he looked more like an AARP rep than a suave super spy!

So yeah, my take is: I want to see a fresh face in a few years. Anyone on this list (save for that guy in the show Revenge) would be a fine choice in my book!


We hope you enjoyed reading our Bond Q&A. Now we turn it over to you… what are your thoughts about this franchise’s enduring appeal?

007 Chatter: Seven Things I’m Excited about Skyfall

This was originally written back in June inn anticipation for Bond 23, a.k.a. Skyfall coming on November 9th, 2012, Ted. Well, today is the day so I think it’s fitting to resurrect this post as I’ll be seeing SKYFALL tonight!

I’ve also added a new category for this, so click on 007 Chatter on the category drop-down menu for all Bond-related posts.

Well folks, in lieu to a Bond list or review, this month’s 007 chatter is a quick update on the upcoming Bond 23, Skyfall. I’m obviously excited for this movie, hence my 007 Chatter [which will continue post the movie release btw] and I’ve also bought the latest EMPIRE magazine with Daniel Craig on the cover. He looks dashing and cut with that Tom Ford suit, floppy ears notwithstanding :)

EMPIRE got to visit director Sam Mendes and crew to the Pinewood Studios where they were filming. Mendes revealed that “Casino Royale woke me up again to the possibilities of Bond. It seemed for the first time to be a real person in a real situation.” I definitely agree that Martin Campbell did a smashing job rejuvenating that franchise and Craig’s gritty, no-nonsense performance was right for the time. I’ve always been a believer that Timothy Dalton was ahead of his time as he would’ve garnered the same kudos had his Bond films were released a decade later.

Anyway, here are just 7 (+1) Things I’m excited about Skyfall based on that article, on top of all the awesome things one can expect from a Bond movie, such as exotic locations and all the action stuff of course.

• Not only has Mendes assembled an awesome Oscar-caliber cast, he’s also got an amazing crew for his film. Most notably cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose work in Road to Perdition, The Village, etc. are absolutely beautiful, so we can count on Skyfall being a gorgeous looking film. In fact, EMPIRE itself admitted that the scene of Bond’s arrival scene in Shanghai below as one of the most beautiful Bond scene they’ve ever seen.

Chris Corbould, the SFX expert who did Chris Nolan’s Batman films and Inception, will be doing the special effects work on Skyfall. Mendes praised his work in those movies and he realized how important it is to get the action right in a Bond film. At the same time, being a director known for his dramatic work, Mendes also knows that all the actions means nothing without a compelling story, “Thrills and action are what’s necessary here, and that’s what I intend to supply, as well as a kind of emotional engagement that maybe you haven’t seen before in Bond. You’ve got to give him an arc, not just a mission.”

Javier Bardem as Bond villain Silva. Most people know Bardem can do menacing, but he told MTV that his character is more than just Bond’s enemy, “I think the character — it’s complex — he’s not an easy guy. He’s not only a villain, it’s more than that, hopefully, that’s what we tried to achieve.

I really think Bardem will be a formidable foe for Bond and the Oscar winner will likely bring something fresh to the table than what we’ve seen in any Bond villains of the past. I think if he has some history with Bond it’ll make it more complex and threatening rivalry than simply a deranged maniac trying to rule or destroy the world.

• We will see Craig’s more playful side as Mendes suggests that the film is ‘more playful than the last two’ as in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, with more nods to classic Bonds like Goldfinger. Considering how dark and dull ‘Quantum‘ was, a lighter tone in Skyfall is definitely welcome, I mean Bond has got to have brawns AND wit!

• Two of Bond’s trademark elements are back: The Aston MartinDB5 will return, after being replaced by BMWs and FORD Mondeo (??) in previous films. Of course this new one Craig will be driving will be more fully-equipped than ever now that Q is also back!

Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

Yep, the gadget guru is back in the form of a younger but certainly just as talented Ben Whishaw. The actor’s got indie cred with films like I’m Not There and Bright Star, but he’s also been in Knight & Day and Layer Cake, the latter perhaps is the connection to the Bond film as it starred Daniel Craig?

• The saying ‘clothes make the man’ seems like words that James Bond lives by. So the producers naturally hired the perfect man for the job,TOM FORD as the designer of choice. Skyfall’s costume designer Jany Temime is working with the American fashion icon in coming up with the dapper but fluid look of Bond, “They wanted that the suits moved with him and he does have a great body so it would be a pity not to show it. Check out the video journal below on their style inspiration:


Gorgeous, but kick-ass Bond girls! You know I can’t stand lame, whiny or ridiculously implausible Bond girls like Tanya Roberts and Denise Richards [sheesh, even typing her name makes me cringe!] So I definitely welcome the casting of relatively unknown beauties like Naomie Harris and French/Cambodian Bérénice Marlohe. I’ve never heard of the latter, but Harris was good in 28 Days Later and she projects intelligence and strength on top of being drop dead gorgeous.

Location. Location. Location. It’s not just a real estate mantra. I think Bond producers realize that the exotic location are part of the Bond films’ charm. Check out the production videoblog below that takes us behind the scenes of some of the film’s major shooting locations, including China and Turkey.

I’m also glad to see Bond’s home city being featured prominently in Skyfall. As quoted by MTV blog, Craig said, “Sam and I wanted to make it British… And it’s not some flag-waving thing that either one of us is interested in. It’s just about basing Bond in Britain…It was very exciting just to get out on the streets and show London for what it is. We made it look very beautiful and very dark and sinister at times, but it’s Bond’s home.” 

I LOVE London! It’s one of my favorite European cities out of over a dozen I’ve visited all my life! From the trailer I think Mr. Deakins has captured the city beautifully!


Ok, so those are just some of the latest updates on Skyfall. Are you as excited about this movie as I am?