FlixChatter Review: LAST CHRISTMAS (2019)

Directed by Paul Feig
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh and Emma Thompson

The holidays are upon us and along with that – holiday films. From “A Christmas Carol” to “Die Hard” and even to “Eyes Wide Shut”, the genre covers a wide spectrum of styles and there is always something, some motif, setting, style or narrative that makes it what it is and marketable this time of year. Paul Feig’s latest “Last Christmas” falls within the conventional side of this spectrum and appropriately so.

Emilia Clarke plays Kate, an aspiring and struggling singer living in London who also works as an elf in a Christmas store owned by Santa (Michelle Yeoh). Kate or Katerina (her Yugoslavian namesake) is a bit of a train wreck, borderline homeless, careless, irresponsible and jaded. Along comes Tom (Henry Golding), a stranger who happens to show up when she is at her worst but seems to melt her icy cynicism little by little. Slowly, she starts to turn things around, even with a hovering mother (played by Emma Thompson) obsessively doting on her.

To say any more would be revealing too much but Last Christmas reminds us of Bill Murray’s character turn/development in Groundhog Day, another holiday classic. Last Christmas follows the holiday template almost to a T in its predictability. However, Emilia Clarke’s performance is so charming that the movie succeeds in its intention. I’d forgotten she’d been Daenarys of Game of Thrones’ fame. Her comic turn as Kate is so natural and effortless that it’s enough to carry the film throughout the clichés, forced subplots, and feel-good story. We end up rooting for her through thick and thin. Clarke’s performance proves she’s not one-dimensional – a sign she will overcome being typecast, and hopefully more opportunities for complex roles in the future.

Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding and Emma Thompson are all merely there as supporting characters but there are some nice touches here and there. Last Christmas is cognizant of the times and reflects some of the political climate of today’s Europe and the western world. This is the world of Brexit and racism. Thompson (co-writer) and the filmmakers can be commended for at least trying to present a more realistic and diverse London.

The soundtrack is rich – filled with Wham! and George Michael classics. Michael’s song is the inspiration for the story and also a tribute to the late singer. Last Christmas is a cookie cutter of a film and not quite the classic it’s striving to be but it does have its heart in the right place. For some that might be enough.

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So did you get to see LAST CHRISTMAS? Let us know what you think!

Week in Review: Eye in the Sky (2016) and Netflix’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016)

WeekInReviewMar13

How’s your weekend everyone? Well, it’s another warm weekend so I spent most of Saturday outside w/ hubby. I had one press screening this week, Eye in the Sky, and thankfully it’s not another bomb like London Has Fallen.

It turns out to be a double Helen Mirren week with her latest film and one of the last three Sam Riley films I haven’t seen yet, Brighton Rock (2010). She had a pretty big part in the film and she’s wonderful as always. It’s gratifying to see him as the lead AND held his own against such a screen icon like Dame Mirren (review upcoming).

So here’s my reviews of the two I saw last week:

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Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare.

This is the kind of film I’d watch just for the cast. The main cast is chock full of British thespians I love: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Jeremy Northam and Iain Glen.

It turns out there’s more Austen connection as Colin ‘Mr Darcy’ Firth is listed as one of the producers! In any case, the film couldn’t be more different from a romantic period drama as it gets.

The film promos likens this to the nuclear war satire Dr Strangelove. Now, I wouldn’t say this has quite the impact of that masterpiece black comedy, but it certainly made us think about the cost of war in our times. With drone attacks becoming more prominent in recent years, and the fact that we can’t turn on the news and not hear about it, this topic is as timely as ever.

There are some genuinely tense moments in this cerebral thriller, and to use a military term, the ensemble cast fired on all cylinders and delivered a powerful performance. Dame Mirren is convincing as a conflicted military officer who had to navigate through such maddening protocols and bureaucracy in times of war. As the drone pilot, Aaron Paul perfectly conveyed his torment to balance his military duty and doing what is right. Glad to see Oscar nominee from Captain Philips Barkhad Abdi working again and though he didn’t have much lines here, the Somalian actor has quite a presence on screen.

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The film is far from perfect though. The way the CDE (collateral damage estimate) factor is handled, involving a 9-year-old girl selling bread just outside the gate of the terrorist compound being targeted, feels repetitive. I feel like director Gavin Hood hits us over the head with it, as if the audience were to slow to get the moral/political implication of the drone attack if the girl became a casualty.

I’m not sure that Hood also nails the tonal shift between drama, action and humor as smoothly as he could, either. The biting satire he tried to emulate from Kubrick’s antiwar film seems lost and the film seemed to descend into a farce. Thankfully he had assembled a phenomenal cast who still made the film work.

Despite the flaws though, I still think Eye in the Sky is a provocative film that lingers long after the end credits. It’s worth a watch just for Mirren and Rickman alone. It was still tough to watch Mr. Rickman on screen in his last film role he’s completed. He certainly had the most memorable line in the end, the only way he could… “Never tell a soldier he did not know the cost of war.” The way he delivered that line sent shivers down my spine.

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016)

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Still mourning the death of Li Mu Bai, Yu Shu Lien returns to safeguard his sword, the Green Legend. Hades Dai, an underground warlord, sends his lieutenants to steal the sword , with plans to dominate the martial world. A young mysterious swords-woman and the hero with a past, Silent Wolf , comes to Shu Lien’s aid, together with a disparate band of warriors who still believe in the iron way of honor.

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This is the second movie to be released on Netflix at the same time as in theaters, just like Beast of No Nation. It premiered on Netflix two weeks ago but I hadn’t even seen its trailer. I also barely remember much about the first film, as this sequel is made 16 years after its release in 2001. I did remember that Michelle Yeoh‘s character Yu Shu Lien was in love with Chow Yun Fat‘s Li Mu Bai who died in the first film.

The legendary sword adorned with Jade gemstone once again is central in the story. Yu Shu Lien is tasked to guard it and it nearly cost her life when her carriage is attacked in the beginning of the film. The cinematography is absolutely striking from start to finish, just like The Assassin was from last year, but thankfully director Wo-Ping Yuen is not so indulgent in making the film more style over substance. Whereas that one seems too self-aware of its own beautiful imagery that it overpowers the story, this one actually serves the narrative well.

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I like how progressive this film is in terms of its treatment of women. Not only is Michelle Yeoh‘s character is a powerful woman and fighter, Natasha Liu Bordizzo‘s Snow Vase also has an intriguing character arc that’s pretty gratifying all the way to the end. Yes perhaps some of the acting, by Bordizzo in her debut role, and Harry Shum Jr. as Wei Fang, seem a bit stiff at times, but overall I think they fit their characters pretty well. The hint of romance also didn’t make me cringe, which is always a plus. Jason Scott Lee as the villain overacted a bit, though the hammy acting style plague most of the supporting cast as well.

Unlike the first film that’s shot in Mandarin, the fact that this is an American-Chinese production, the film’s shot in English and later dubbed in Mandarin. So it’s a bit jarring to hear Chinese-looking actors (some look obviously of mixed-heritage) speaking in various English accent, some American, some British. So I think that sacrifices authenticity and is also a bit distracting. I don’t know if that might explain the low rating (18% on Rotten Tomatoes) compared to the first one (97% RT score), which benefited from Ang Lee’s superior direction.

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It’s interesting to mention the Bruce Lee connection of the two main cast, as Jason Scott Lee played Bruce Lee in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993) and Donnie Yen played Bruce Lee’s master in the IP Man franchise. I wouldn’t let the low RT score discouraged you from seeing this though. Fans of martial arts films should be pleased with the Kung Fu action sequences. I ended up quite liking this, more so than The Assassin, even if it’s not perfect.

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So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen any of these movies, I’m curious to hear what YOU think. 

A Fisti Recast-athon: The Devil Wears Prada, Gravity, and Michael Clayton

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Now THIS is a blogathon I can’t wait to take part! Andrew over at A Fistful of Films blog just had a brilliant idea for a recast-athon, similar to what I did here but this time with a slight twist. I’ll let him explain in his own words…

Here is my issue with Hollywood. It seems like these talented women (the men have it much easier) are either relegated to minority-necessary casting (like, we NEED a black actress in this movie because the character is a slave) or they get shoved onto television, where they flourish in short-lived TV shows that the average cinephile has probably never heard of.  It is very rare that a top rate director is going to use an actress of color in a role that doesn’t call for one. Obviously, there are a lot of biopic nominations going on all over the place, but taking those out…look at some of these roles and tell me if they couldn’t have been filled by an actress of color.

  • Nina Sayers (Black Swan)
  • Nic (The Kids are All Right)
  • Cindy (Blue Valentine)
  • Megan (Bridesmaids)
  • Tiffany (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Cheryl (The Sessions)
  • Dolores (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Jasmine (Blue Jasmine)
  • Ryan Stone (Gravity)
  • Ginger (Blue Jasmine)

So here are the RULES:

1)  Pick an OSCAR NOMINATED performance given by a white actress that didn’t require a white actress (no biopics here, even though Todd Haynes taught us that you don’t need to be the same race or gender to play a real life person).  This performance can come from ANY film year.

2)  Pick an actress of color who could have been a great fit for the role instead of the one cast.  Keep in mind the time of release and chose actresses who were working at that time. So, in other words, don’t select the role of Calla Mackie in 1968’s Rachel, Rachel (played by Estelle Parsons) and suggest it be a great fit for Naomie Harris, because, well, she wasn’t born for another eight years.

3)  Explain WHY that actress would have made a great fit.  Plead her case.  Let’s tell those Hollywood casting directors what they’re missing.


I LOVE this idea! I often think the same thing too that a lot of these roles could’ve easily been done by so many non-white actresses. I love that Drew focuses on actresses as non-white MALE actors certainly do get it easier than the female counterparts. It’s a shame really as there are SO many talented & beautiful actress of color out there who remain so underutilized. So here are three actresses who I think could’ve given an equally good performance in these Oscar-nominated roles:

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Angela Bassett as Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada)

BassettMirandaPriestlyI have always been a big fan of miss Bassett. In fact, I have sort of a girl crush on her from Waiting To Exhale. She obviously epitomizes a strong, perceptive, no-nonsense woman but she has a certain vulnerability as well that make me think she’d be great as Miranda. Bassett is nine years younger than Meryl Streep, but I don’t think age is an issue here. In an era where Lucky Fashion Magazine’s editor in chief and Banana Republic’s creative director are of Taiwanese and Korean descent respectively, why not have a Black woman play a Fashion Mag editor in the movies?

I think Bassett would rock the role with her dramatic chops, and she also has a playful side and a rockin’ body that’d look phenomenal in high fashion. As Meryl portrays Miranda less as a sadistic monster of a boss but more of a fierce/demanding figure, I think Bassett can do the same given her naturally-likable persona.

Bonus: It’d be cool to see gorgeous British actress Naomie Harris in the role of Andy Sachs, the naive college grad who moved to NYC and lands a job as Miranda’s co-assistant.

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I’ve been impressed by Naomie in 28 Days Later, Skyfall and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and I’d LOVE to see her in more prominent roles. She’s even more beautiful than Anne Hathaway but I think she could be made up to look more like the girl-next-door.

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Michelle Yeoh as Ryan Stone (Gravity)

YeohRyanStoneWhen I first saw the trailer of Gravity, I was a bit surprised to see Sandra Bullock as Biomedical engineer Ryan Stone on her first space shuttle mission. She just wasn’t the actress I had in mind in the role, though she did a great job in the end and I think her Oscar nomination was well deserved. Now, I read that Natalie Portman was originally the first choice for the role, but heh, if only Hollywood would think outside the box once in a while. I think an actress who’d suit the role nicely is Michelle Yeoh. It’d somewhat coincide nicely the fact that in June 2012, Chinese space pilot Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman in space.

Yeoh is actually two years older than Bullock at 52, though both look at least 10 years younger than their age. I always think of the former Miss Malaysia is hugely underrated, despite having churned out great performances in Crouching Tiger, Sunshine, Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies and recently, The Lady.

I think her martial-art training and dance background would help with the rigorous physicality required for the role. She also has the dramatic chops to pull off the quieter moments of desperation that Stone encounters when she was all alone in space. I really think Yeoh would’ve done a wonderful job in the role and the film would’ve had an ever bigger International appeal given her popularity in Asia.

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Viola Davis as Karen Crowder (Michael Clayton)

ViolaDavisKarenChowderI had put down miss Davis in this role before I saw her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them where she played a tough but compassionate NYU professor. But now I’m more convinced she’d have been awesome in the role. As she is now playing yet another sharp-witted character, a tough-talking, shrewd defense attorney/law professor in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, you know she would be perfect as the general counsel of an agricultural conglomerate.

I think Hollywood might be reluctant to cast an actor of color in such an unsympathetic role, but I think it’d be a challenging and fun role for someone of Davis’ talent. Chowder is ruthless and even callous, willing to take a life when her cause demands it. But she’s also suffering from a mental breakdown and tough she appears tough and in control in the outside, on the inside she is crippled with anxiety and fear. Though I LOVE Tilda Swinton’s Oscar-winning performance, I can totally see Davis pulling off such an inner conflict with aplomb. Davis’ adept use of subtle body language as well as her magnetic screen presence would also work wonder for such a role.


What do you think of my recast-athon picks? If you were to do your own recasting, who would YOU pick?

007 Chatter: Best and Worst Bond girls of each Bond actor

In anticipation for Bond 23, a.k.a. Skyfall (view trailer) coming on November 9th, 2012, Ted and I are starting a new monthly series called 007 CHATTER… look for it sometime in the first week of each month.

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.

Two and a half months away until Skyfall arrives so the countdown continues. This time my pal Ted and I set our sights to the Bond girls! They’re as essential to a Bond movie as his Walter PPK, and they have quite an enduring appeal. Once a Bond girl, always a Bond girl. I subscribe to IN STYLE magazine and within the 600+ pages of the September issue is a segment on guess what, Bond girls!! It marks the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No. I like the intro they wrote:

It’s the most exclusive sorority in the world — a sisterhood of desire, bikinis and deadly weapons.

I also saw this amazing info-graphic created by CableTV.com that shows every single Bond girls from the 23 Bond movies, yes including Skyfall.

Click to see the full infographic

Well, not every Bond girl is cut from the same cloth however, so here’s our picks of the best and worst from Connery all the way to Daniel Craig [we purposely skip George Lazenby’s single Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service]. I do think that Diana Rigg as the ONLY Bond girl that the playboy super-spy married would belong in the BEST list.

So here we go:

TED’s LIST

BEST WORST
Connery Honey Ryder Tiffany Case
Moore Solitaire Mary Goodnight
Dalton Pam Bouvier Kara Milovy
Brosnan Natalya Simonova Christmas Jones
Craig Camille Strawberry Fields

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Sean Connery

It’s a challenge to choose the best and worst Bond girls from all of Connery’s films, but I believe many people will agree with my choices.

Best: Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder in Dr. No – the scene where she emerged out of the beach is still the best intro to a beautiful woman ever filmed. I instantly fell in love with her as a young teenager and maybe it’s the reason why I tend to date blonde ladies with curves 🙂

Worst: Jill St. John as Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever – In my opinion this was one of the worst Bond films ever produced and it has probably the worst Bond girl in Jill St. John. Her is a perfect example of damsel in distress, even she spent most of the movie in a bikini, I just found her character annoying.

Roger Moore

Let’s face it most of Moore’s Bond films were pretty dreadful but many of the Bond girls were quite beautiful.

Best: Jane Seymore as Solitaire in Live and Let Die – The first time I saw this film and her character appeared on screen, I thought she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I think she’s only the reason why I can watch this Bond flick again and again. This was one of the worst Bond films ever made.

Worst: Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun – Another bad Bond flick, unfortunately it also have one of the worst Bond girls. Ekland’s character is another damsel in distress and not much else.

Timothy Dalton

He’s only done two Bond films so this one was easy to choose.

Best: Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier in License to Kill – She’s a sexy lady who can fire a shotgun and flies an airplane. With her long legs and beautiful eyes, yeah I’m in love with her.

Worst: Maryam d’Abo as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights – I hate to keep repeating myself but again her character is another damsel in distress and not much else.

Pierce Brosnan

He starred in four Bond films, two good ones and two very bad ones.

Best: Izabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova in GoldenEye – I think her character is more of a sidekick to Bond than just another eye candy. She actually helped Bond get out of trouble in some tight spots.

Worst: Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough – I mentioned this on an earlier article so I’ll mention it again: Denise Richards played a doctor, Denise Richards played a doctor! Richards’ so unbelievable in this role that I have to wonder if she’d slept with the producers to get the job!

Daniel Craig

He’s the current Bond and so far we’ve only seen two of his films but here are my best and worst.

Best: Olga Kurylenko as Camille in Quantum of Solace – I’m sure many people would’ve gone with Eva Green in Casino Royale but I like Olga better. She and Bond had the same agenda and will do whatever it takes to get it. I really dug the scene where she told Bond what happened to her family and then Bond apologized to her for messing up her attempt at killing General Medrano.

Worst: Gemma Arterton as Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace – I don’t even know why the filmmakers decided to include her in the film, she served no purpose whatsoever to the story. Maybe halfway through filming, they realized they only have one pretty girl so they had bring in another one just to please the audience.

RUTH’s LIST

BEST WORST
Connery Pussy Galore Kissy Suzuki
Moore Octopussy Stacey Sutton
Dalton Pam Bouvier None 🙂
Brosnan Elektra King & Wai Lin(tie) Christmas Jones
Craig Vesper Lynd Camille Montes

Sean Connery

I have to confess that my memory of Connery’s Bond films are a bit hazy, and I had just seen Dr. No for the first time recently.

Best: Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger – Not only does she have THE most memorable name in the history of Bond girls, she also has one of the best introduction. Bond’s response “I must be dreaming,” always makes me laugh, I mean it’s just perfect! She’s also a pilot and knows Judo, and though there are hints that miss Galore is gay, Honor Blackman said in the Bond Girls Are Forever documentary that she played the role as if she had been abused in the past.

Worst: Zena Marshall as Miss Taro in Dr. No – Since I just saw this recently, it’s still fresh in my mind. I can’t stand it when Hollywood used to employ Caucasian actress to play an ethnic character. In this case she’s supposed to be a Chinese girl and Zena was made up with heavy eyeliner to make her eyes appear smaller [roll eyes] On top of it, her character is just lame. I’m glad Bond girls have come a long way since then, well most of the time anyway.

Roger Moore

I grew up watching Moore’s Bond films so I remember them fondly. Though I prefer the grittier Bond like Dalton and Craig, Moore’s Bond flicks are guilty pleasures for me. They’re preposterous fun!

Best: Maud Adams as Octopussy in Octopussy – The film is kind of a guilty pleasure of mine, but I really like seeing a Bond girl not only get the title role but she’s also a powerful business woman who’s beautiful as well as shrewd. Swedish-born Adams is the only Bond girl (besides Eunice Gayson as ‘Trench, Sylvia Trench’) who appears in two Bond films. I quite like the way she speaks, sounds seductive and elegant, without sounding like a bimbo.

WorstTanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton in A View To a Kill – For a geologist, Stacey just doesn’t seem that bright to me and unlike Maud, the girlish way Tanya talks annoys the heck out of me. It’s a terribly-written Bond flick to begin with, and having her as the Bond girl certainly doesn’t help matters. She doesn’t seem able to do single darn thing without Bond’s help!

Timothy Dalton

My favorite Bond somehow got a bad rap for being way ahead of its time… and also for being the least promiscuous of them all [in the 007 universe apparently it’s a bad thing] as the film comes out in the age of AIDS and safe sex.

Best: Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier in License to Kill – I like her spunk and as a CIA agent, she definitely doesn’t need Bond’s help to take care of the bad guys. I like the fact that Bouvier has her hair cut short when Bond hints that she needs a makeover. She looks sexy and in control in that sparkling dress and bright red lipstick, no wonder Bond did a double take when he saw her!

Special Honorable Mention: Talisa Soto as Lupi in License to Kill. As the girlfriend of Bond villain Sanchez, no doubt Lupi is pretty much just there for eye candy. But I think she’s quite memorable and she definitely looks stunning in that red lace dress at the casino.

Worst: None. Controversial I know but I quite like ALL of Dalton’s Bond girls.

I know people don’t like Maryam d’Abo as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights, but to her credit, I don’t think she’s as much a weak Bond girl as people think. The more I watch this movie the more I grow fond of her, yes even her delirious cooing to Bond “You were fantastic. We’re free!” to which Bond replied, “Kara, we’re inside a Russian airbase in the middle of Afghanistan!” But then she redeemed herself and proves her mettle when she’s left behind with the Mujahideen, fighting her way to finally get into the plane with Bond. I also like that she’s the only Bond girl who actually has a legitimate career as a concert cellist.

Pierce Brosnan

I enjoyed the first two of his Bond flicks, but the last two leave much to be desired. Now that I think about it, I’m not too keen on Brosnan’s style as Bond either. He’s just way too smug for his own good, but he does have some terrific Bond girls cast in his movies.

Best: Sophie Marceau and Michelle Yeoh (tie). I can’t pick which one I like best between these two. I like Sophie’s elegance and her background as an heiress who falls for her kidnapper is quite intriguing. The film is crap yes, but I have a soft spot for Sophie as a Bond girl. Michelle is one of those tough girl who could practically kill Bond with her martial arts skill. I like her earlier chase scenes between her and Bond in Carver’s secret lab in Hamburg, Germany.

Special Honorable Mention: Famke Janssen as Xenia Onnatop in Goldeneye. She’s more of a Bond villainness but I think she deserves a mention as who could forget the cigar-smokin’ beauty with killer thighs? I’ve always liked Famke, especially as Dr. Jean Grey in the X-Men movies. I can’t believe she’s now relegated to a damsel-in-distress role as Bryan Mills’ ex-wife in Taken, you’d think after such a bad-ass role she could almost get a role as a female superspy!

Worst: Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough – Even with our ‘suspension of disbelief’ radar turned on at full force, it’s still hard to take in someone who looks and talks like Denise Richards, dressed in tank top and short shorts, as anything requiring an advanced degree, let alone a nuclear scientist!! Plus, Bond’s quip at the end about ‘Christmas only comes once a year’ is just sooo cringe-worthy!


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Daniel Craig

Though Craig’s only got two movies so far, but one of his Bond girls has become one of my favorites Bond girls of all time. We’ll see how Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe would fare when Skyfall is released.

Best: Eva Green as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale – I just love her from the moment she appeared on the train to Montenegro. Her banter with Bond is one of my all-time favorite scenes, and not just from a Bond movie. Vesper is no bimbo, but she’s also more than meets the eye. Eva plays Vesper in such a bewitching way that it’s easy to see why even someone like Bond who could have any woman he wanted would give it all up just for her.

Worst: Olga Kurylenko as Camille in Quantum of Solace – Sorry Ted but I just don’t like this movie and though Olga is beautiful, she makes for a boring Bond girl to me. Yes she’s got her own personal vendetta so she has no time to make love with Bond, and that’s completely fine by me, yet she just isn’t a charismatic character. It’s not her fault though, I think the film is just poorly-written.



Well that’s our list. I’m sure every Bond fan has their own pick of best and worst Bond girls, so let’s hear it!