Zoolander 2

Really, really, ridiculously disappointing.

The Assassin

There are martial arts movies and there are martial arts movies. The Assassin isn't either.

Batman v Superman

A bold, mature exploration of myths and epics - followed by a two-hour mess.

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BlogalongaBond: For Your Eyes Only (1981) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 30 December 2011 07:26

For Your Eyes Only, opening credits - title

BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 turns up.


I make a point of always trying to watch a film to the end, even Horrid Henry: The Movie. But with For Your Eyes Only, I did something rare: I stopped watching. Out of sheer boredom. For the rest of Christmas, Roger Moore’s smug face taunted me from his DVD over the top of my turkey with a reproachful wink. (Timothy Dalton would never do that.)

A casual jog after Moonraker’s sprint through fountains of spraying crap, For Your Eyes Only tried to scale things back and give 007 something more down-to-earth to deal with. It begins this grounded approach by killing off Blofeld with a remote-controlled helicopter while 007 makes jokes about his hair. 

A fresh start for the franchise? Not quite. Instead, the 12th entry in the series is the one thing worse than laughable: it’s completely forgettable. There's a lost encryption device, a woman wanting revenge, a young girl ice skating... Even with impressive stunts, a bobsleigh set piece and a neat Citroen car chase, it couldn’t be more boring if you recited the plot in the middle of a lecture about the Eurozone crisis hosted by Orlando Bloom.

Returning to the DVD a few days later, I discovered I couldn’t remember what was going on. I was sure that at some point in the last 30 years someone had made a film called For Your Eyes Only - and that I had definitely watched it - but for the life of me couldn’t remember a single thing about it. A lot like Quantum of Solace.

Ok, that’s a lie. I can remember one thing: the theme song. Beginning with Bill Conti’s titular five-note fanfare of gentle synth pop, it buried into my brain like an advert for Lenor fabric softener, quietly calling out at 3am: “You must keep watching…”

Clearly someone out there thought it was a good song – alongside Live and Let Die and Nobody Does It Better, it’s one of the few Bond songs to be nominated for an Academy Award (allowing the film to be called “the Oscar-nominated For Your Eyes Only”). Conti did a decent job, then, of rousing the awards voters. How did he replace John Barry to successfully create such a crucial element in the Bond formula? Well, it turns out he had this informational pamphlet in his pocket – an up-to-date version of which I coincidentally found in my DVD box.

Here’s a guide to writing a Bond song...

BlogalongaBond: Moonraker (1979) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 18 November 2011 10:52

Moonraker title - BlogalongaBondBlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 turns up.

Moonraker. The film that actually manages to make less sense than its meaningless title song. No-one knows what a Moonraker is. Or what it does. Or how anything can go “like the Moonraker goes". And no-one really cares.

Following The Man with the Golden Gun – the Moonraker of 1974 – it fell to Lewis Gilbert to fart out this turd of unscientific cackwaffle. And so we got Moonraker – the Moonraker of 1979.

A film more concerned with sex, one-liners and lasers than anything resembling a plot, Christopher Wood spent his time shoehorning in references to The Magnificent Seven and Close Encounters of the Third Kind rather than writing a script. And it shows. Boy, does it show.

Jumping from one incoherent action sequence to the next, Richard Graydon and Jake Lombard’s stuntwork is astonishing stuff, but doesn’t offer any emotional pay-off. Every time Bond escapes a life-threatening situation, you’re not elated or even a little bit relieved. Instead, you end up stabbing yourself in the face with a plastic fork, shouting “WHY WON’T YOU DIE?”

It’s no surprise then, that the one redeeming aspect of Moonraker is the fact that it ends. After the introduction, in which Roger Moore falls out of a plane without a parachute and (spoiler) DOESN’T die, the 126 interminable minutes are begging for a decent finale. Or any finale at all. And Moonraker almost manages it – in many ways, it’s the most famous ending to a Bond film of all time.

Which is why I wasn’t surprised to find this informative leaflet in my special edition DVD box set. Right next to the rubber tube and canister of carbon monoxide.

BlogalongaBond: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 29 October 2011 16:45
BlogalongaBond The Spy Who Lived Me Title

BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 turns up.

Glang. Glang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang. 

Given the existence of Alan Partridge's BlogalongaBond entry, there's almost nothing left to say about The Spy Who Loved Me. Easily the best of the Moore era, the 1977 epic of silly proportions has nothing to do with Fleming's book (a fascinating female-narrated tale). Instead, it follows You Only Live Twice and throws everything at the screen, from spectacular ski stunts (see George Lazenby's guide to skiing) to submarine-eating tankers and underwater cars.

But alongside the nonsense, (BAFTA and Oscar-nominated) director Lewis Gilbert fashions some impressively serious moments. There's the eerie sequence in the Pyramids, where ancient architecture is overlaid with green lights and loud synths, and the bit where Bond snaps about his dead wife, Tracy. At another point, he casually knocks a guy off a building without hesitation - an unexpectedly cold move that almost tricks you into thinking Roger Moore is a good 007 - providing you've never seen any of his other Bond films.

Apart from the technical brilliance and Roger Moore's surprisingly good performance, The Spy Who Loved Me brought something else iconic to the 007 franchise: Jaws. Richard Kiel's towering villain adds a much-needed sense of danger to events. Even at an interview at Birmingham's The Electric cinema a few years ago, he was intimidating. And that was after he gave someone in the audience a hug.

So it wasn't a surprise to discover this informative pamphlet in my The Spy Who Loved Me DVD box...

BlogalongaBond: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 24 September 2011 12:20

The Man with the Golden Gun title

BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 turns up next year.

It's 1974. Moonraker doesn't exist yet. But Guy Hamilton doesn't let that stop his own attempt at making the worst Bond movie of all time. And he's astonishingly successful, producing a solid gold piece of turdy cackwaffle. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Man with the Golden Gun - The Moonraker of 1974.

The worst part of watching the film? Knowing that they had a great book to base the whole thing on. Adaptations don't have to stick to the words on the page, but when a novel is ready-made for a film treatment, why create something inferior from scratch?

Published posthumously in 1965, Ian Fleming's thriller was a proper old-school spy yarn. It saw an old, out-of-shape Bond return from his MIA status after You Only Live Twice's failed mission. Dazed, confused, and convinced he was a Japanese fisherman, Bond was swiftly taken in by the KGB, brainwashed and sent back to London to assassinate M.

Whether Fleming finished it before dying or not, it's a corker of an opening that begs to be made into a film - why Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz chose to leave it out of the script is a source of constant bafflement. His brain unscrambled, Bond is assigned to track down Francisco Paco "Pistols" Scaramanga, last seen somewhere in the Caribbean. Not because Scaramanga sent a bullet to MI6 (NONSENSE NONSENSE NONSENSE) but because M reckons he's the right-sized kind of target for 007 to get his mojo back.

What follows is 150 pages of 007 sitting around a half-finished hotel, working his way into Scaramanga's inner circle and waiting for the chance to shoot him. With this ridiculously brilliant source material in mind (perhaps my favourite of Fleming's Bond books), I was unsurprised to find this informative pamphlet addressed to Albert R. Broccoli in my DVD case...

BlogalongaBond: Live and Let Die (1973) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 20 August 2011 19:09

BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 turns up in November next year.

Not content with cheesifying James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever, director Guy Hamilton returned once again to take the formula established by Goldfinger to unnatural extremes with one of the worst films in the entire Bond canon: The Man with the Golden Gun.

Before that, however, he made Live and Let Die. And it was quite a lot of run really. If by fun, you mean camp, silly and obviously made in the 1970s.

How can you deduce its 1973 vintage? Well, aside from the clothes, the Paul McCartney & Wings theme song and the fact that it stars Roger Moore as 007 (before his one-liners completely took over the scripts), Live and Let Die is marked out as a product of its time by the number of Afros wandering around on set.

Of course, these Afros are attached to people. And these people are, more often than not, black. It was clearly a great step up in equality for black actors to be seen playing parts that weren't just Henchman#3 or Man who Sails Boat. With its entertaining use (or perpetuation) of blaxploitation stereotypes, you could almost say Live and Let Die was the first truly politically correct film of the decade. Which is why I wasn't surprised to find this empowering pamphlet in my special edition 007 DVD box.

BlogalongaBond: Diamonds are Forever (1971) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Sunday, 17 July 2011 09:02

BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 in November 2012.

Ah, the 1970s. The decade when Bond lost its way. Bringing back Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton and the familiar (i.e. old) face of Sean Connery, EON did a complete U-turn away from the daring notes of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Instead of character and gritty violence, they ramped up the jokes - but these aren't good jokes we're talking about. These are the kind that your drunk aunt tells at a wedding, which you can just about tolerate until she starts joy-riding a moon buggy across Vegas.

Yes, Diamonds are Forever is the film that sees 007 become boring, the one-liners become unbearable, and Blofeld become a woman. Then, halfway through, it turns out the film isn't about diamonds anyway; it's about a giant laser in space. (They could have at least given it a title that made sense, like Lasers Are Forever.) The glitzy garbage is almost enjoyable on a trashy level, but it's best summed up 15 minutes in, when Bond hides from an enemy by pretending to make love to himself in a dark alley. This is what Britain's top spy has come to. It almost makes you look forward to the arrival of Roger Moore. If, you know, it wasn't Roger Moore.

Naturally, this shiny pile of neon-covered bilge comes with two of the most laughable villains of the entire Bond series: Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. Bizarrely, these two hitmen are never seen taking instructions from anyone - the closest they get to an employee seems to be providing regular business for Morton Slumber's funeral parlour, which is a front for Blofeld's diamond smuggling ring.

With this ludicrous subplot in mind, I wasn't surprised to discover this pamphlet in the box of my special edition Diamonds Are Forever DVD...

BlogalongaBond: On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 25 June 2011 08:10

BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 in November 2012.

With Sean Connery officially too old and bored with 007, it was time for a new, younger Bond, someone with all the charisma of an Australian model. Enter George Lazenby, everyone's fifth favourite James Bond.

Sticking closely to Fleming's original book, On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a notable departure from the formula that erupted into silliness with You Only Live Twice. Dawdling around for its epic 140-minute runtime, OHMSS covered everything from dodgy hypnotism and brilliant, character-building romance to kilts and Telly Savalas' earlobes.

But Peter Hunt's Bond film brings something far more exciting to the franchise than a sneaky glimpse of George Lazenby's inner thighs: skiing. After hanging around in the Swiss Alps for 90 minutes, Hunt suddenly hits us with six minutes of glorious snow-bound action, which are so brilliant that the series spent years scrambling to repeat such superb set pieces. Which explains why I found this letter inside my DVD box:

Dear Mr. Lazenby,

I've always been a big fan of your work, ever since I first saw you in those Fry's Chocolate adverts - you're easily my fifth favourite James Bond.

In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, I loved your hunky physique, sexy kilt and the way you said "That never happened to the other fellow!" but your skiing skills really raised my eyebrows. Could you teach me how to ski? It might come in handy one day...

Yours with eyebrows raised,

Roger Moore (aged 47 - I really am this old)

Inevitably, this instructional pamphlet was underneath...

BlogalongaBond: You Only Live Twice (1967) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 27 May 2011 15:13

BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 comes along in November 2012.

After Thunderball's underwater bilge, Bond faced a challenge: how do you top nuclear weapons and sharks? The answer: go to Japan.

It's a bold move, which distracts from the same old formula with exotic scenery, fat men throwing 007 through paper-thin walls, and Bond's impressive Japanese linguistic skills.

"You forget, Moneypenny, I got a first in Oriental Languages at Oxford," says Sean Connery, before going on to spend the entire film speaking in English. With a thick Scottish accent.

But while Bond's How to Speak Japanese guide would be an easy read (Step 1: Look like Leonard Nimoy), You Only Live Twice did something far more important for the Bond franchise. Not only did it show Blofeld's face for the first time (spoiler: he looks like Donald Pleasance), it also gave Bond's nemesis a new home: a hollowed-out volcano. And that volcano became one of the most iconic images associated with 007. 

Which would explain why I found this authentic Japanese haiku sitting inside the box of my special edition You Only Live Twice DVD:

Blofeld, you are cool.

Your volcano rules. Tell me

how to build one too.


And, inevitably, underneath that haiku was an instructional pamphlet that went a little something like this...

BlogalongaBond: Thunderball (1965) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 23 April 2011 16:00

BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 turns up in November next year.

We all know Thunderball is a bit of underwater guff. Yes, the ocean fight sequences were groundbreaking and bad girl Fiona Vulpe (Luciana Paluzzi) is a steaming hot sex crumpet, but let's be honest: Terence Young’s third Bond movie is a load of watery cackwaffle.

So it’s no surprise that a remake came along in 1983. While Roger Moore was dipping his fingers into Octopussy, Kevin McClory was following through on his lawsuit against Ian Fleming/United Artists over the origins of the Thunderball screenplay. The result? Never Say Never Again.

The new take on the Thunderball story (SPECTRE steal nuclear weapons and hold the world to ransom) turned out to be a box office success, taking $160 million - better than Thunderball’s $141m. So just in case someone else comes along wanting to make a few bob by tampering with the official Bond canon, here’s what Never Say Never Again teaches us about how to remake a Bond film.

BlogalongaBond: Goldfinger (1964) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Sunday, 20 March 2011 10:17

BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 turns up in November next year.

It's time to turn our attention to Goldfinger, the third and most definitive of the Bond series. By this point, people knew what to expect from a Bond film and with Guy Hamilton establishing the franchise's formula, everyone was getting curious. Especially about Honor Blackman's feisty little minx, Pussy Galore.

Which would explain why this note was found inside my DVD box...

Dear Ms Galore,

I'm an actress looking to get a break in showbiz and thought I might try my pretty pink fingernails at a Bond movie. As one of the most iconic vaginas into which 007 has attempted re-entry, what are your tips for being a great Bond girl?

Yours sexually,

Tits McGee

And by some crazy random happenstance, this educational pamphlet was right beside it...

BlogalongaBond: From Russia with Love (1963) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 26 February 2011 11:20

BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Bond 23 turns up in November next year.

Last month, we looked at Dr. No's Guide to Being a Bond Villain, which taught all Blofeld wannabes how to take over the world without any hands. Now we look at Getting to Know James Bond.

After the success of Dr. No, director Terence Young had to follow up with the second entry in what would become a stellar franchise. The key to doing that? Developing 007's character.

At its heart, From Russia with Love is a straight-forward spy thriller, but away from the gadgets and volcano lairs, the 1963 sequel is in many ways a metaphor for the secret agent himself (if by "metaphor" you mean "flimsy excuse for a blog post").

Let's take a look at the defining characteristics of Ian Fleming's secret agent, as represented by From Russia with Love...

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