Saturday, 26 May 2012 Written by Ivan Radford
BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Skyfall arrives in November.
Pierrrrrce BROSnan! That was how they introduced 007 on the highly underrated Muppets Tonight (see here for a wonderful Brosnan-fire-eating anecdote). But before that he had an even better introduction. No, not that 1987 Diet Coke ad: GoldenEye, one of my favourite Bond films.
Taking its cue from Dalton’s James Bond-goes-rogue tradition, GoldenEye was a gritty outing for 007 with a liberal sprinkling of Roger Moore, an update smartly centered on the Anglo-Soviet aftermath of the Cold War. The result stayed true to Fleming's character (and the series' ludicrous 1970s-esque stuntwork) but positioned him firmly in the 1990s.
At least 90% of that was down to casting Sean Bean as the bad guy. One of the few other 00 agents we actually get to know, Alec Trevelyan is one of the best Bond villains in the whole canon. He’s menacing, he has a good line in pop psychology and he gives Brosnan a chance to define his twinkly-eyed 007 by wreaking some personal revenge.
Where GoldenEye succeeds is keeping the balance between serious and silly. Giant EMP-firing satellite in the sky? Silly. Russian dominatrix who squeezes men to death with her thighs? Sexy, but ridiculous. Unlike Moore or Die Another Day, though, the silly is never out of control – even Q’s scene, which sees Desmond Llewelyn snort with laughter, is balanced out by Judi Dench's steely turn as M (even if she does recycle the same old "personal vendetta" dialogue).
A three-dimensional bad guy, a rounded 007, a spot-on storyline, a cracking Bond theme song by Tina Turner/U2 and some superb action? Director Martin Campbell deserves a lot of credit: GoldenEye is just the entry the franchise needed after six years of confused waiting. Especially when we came so close to Kevin I-own-the-rights-to-Thunderball McClory doing yet another Never Say Never Again-style remake in 1990, starring Brosnan (called Atomic Warhead).
But GoldenEye is arguably most famous for giving the series something it never had before: the chance for the audience to pick up a gun and join in. Yes, GoldenEye 007 on the N64, which set the standard for film-based video games by joining the two rival mediums together with flawless precision. In fact, Rare's radical creation has never been bettered by a film game tie-in, let alone a general FPS - certainly not a Bond one, at least.
Yet 007 games have become as much a staple as the already-extensive list of brand names and merchandise associated with the franchise. So what made GoldenEye 007 so special? This informative pamphlet which I found in my DVD case explains it all…
Thursday, 17 May 2012 Written by Ivan Radford
The Skyfall poster has now been revealed. And we can all clearly see that the film will follow Daniel Craig's James Bond as he is shrunk down to microscopic size and fired out of the barrel of a gun, probably aimed at Bérénice Marlohe's breasts - his sexiest and most perilous mission yet.
Anyway, enough of that. Here it is. Marvel at its simple beauty.
Friday, 16 March 2012 Written by Ivan Radford
BlogalongaBond. One Bond film a month until Skyfall arrives in November.
Roger Moore is gone. Long live James Bond. That's the response of any sane 007 fan now that Old Eyebrows out of the frame. In his place, someone new. Someone young. Someone with hair. Someone with manly sideburns. Someone... Welsh. Someone called Timothy Dalton.
It's surprising just how much of a difference one actor can make. You see, no matter who's wearing the Bond shoes, this is still a John Glen film - and the A View to a Kill, Octopussy and For Your Eyes Only helmer is still churning out the same old thing. So too are stalwart Moore-era screenwriters Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum. It's no shock, then, that within a few minutes of the opening credits (featuring a title song that rivals Duran Duran's previous effort), James Bond has already scaled a cliff, driven a jeep off the top of it, wrestled a man for a parachute mid-air, landed on a speedboat somewhere in the ocean and picked up a hot girl. He even says a joke at the end.
But you know what? At no point does any of this stupid nonsense feel camp, cheesy or silly because unlike Moore's affable granddad figure, Dalton's secret agent has a sense of a danger - a cold edge that he balances perfectly with a twinkling smile. Not since Connery has there been such a finely-tuned mix of debonair and ready-to-detonate. Timmy gives the whole spy thing a gravitas sorely missing from the last seven movies.
And thank goodness for that. Because his stunts are as ridiculous as ever, from diving out of the back-end of a plane to ice-skating in an Aston Martin V8 Vantage round a frozen lake - blowing up lots of things in the process.
How does Bond keep control of the vehicle through all of this? Well, he obviously had this educational pamphlet with him:
Tuesday, 10 January 2012 Written by Ivan Radford
You may recall last summer, when we took film journalism to new
lows heights with some exclusive on-set photos for The Dark Knight Rises. Or the beginning of 2011, when our never-before-seen Sherlock Holmes 2 on-location photos from Hampton Court Palace shocked literally tens of internet users. Now, we've managed it again with some amazing, and very revealing, pictures from the Bond 23 shoot in London - taken during a walk home from work last Friday, when I stumbled across the secretive Skyfall crew in Trinity Square.
If you're a movie fanatic, you've no doubt seen on-location images from upcoming blockbusters before, with blurry unofficial snaps of actors and props prompting wild speculation over plot details. None of that here. Oh yes, these Skyfall photos are so spoilerific and brilliant that I've even had to break out the SUPER MEGA EXCLUSIVE headline again. Here we go, folks. We're about to attempt re-entry.
Read on for the Skyfall on-set photos...
Friday, 30 December 2011 Written by Ivan Radford
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...
Monday, 03 October 2011 Written by Ivan Radford
Director: Oliver Parker
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike, Gillian Anderson, Dominic West
Have you seen those adverts starring Rowan Atkinson’s incompetent secret agent? No, not the ones currently plastered all over UK buses – the original Barclaycard skits from the 90s. It’s rather impressive that 20 years on, people are paying to see the same James Bond spoof on a big screen. What’s more impressive is that after the generally likeable and harmless first film, this pointless sequel isn’t actually that bad. Well, it’s better than Quantum of Solace anyway.
Saturday, 20 August 2011 Written by Ivan Radford
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.
Sunday, 17 July 2011 Written by Ivan Radford
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...
Saturday, 25 June 2011 Written by Ivan Radford
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...
Friday, 03 June 2011 Written by Ivan Radford
You may have missed it, but last week saw the release of the new James Bond book. It's called Carte Blanche, it's written by Jeffery Deaver and for some reason, they've decided to make it a modern reboot of 007. Because Ian Fleming's novels have obviously been ruined by their period setting all these years.
Fifty pages in and I've already had to deal with things like "iQPhones" (yes, really), apps and the mention of Oakley sunglasses every two paragraphs. Oh, and Bond is now a 30-year-old Afghanistan war veteran. That's not James Bond. That's Jason Bourne. If he tweets anyone using his iQPhone, I'll shove a pair of Oakley sunglasses up his Q branch.
It doesn't help that I was fixing my sister's computer at the time. Trying to make them both better, I rebooted one, while repeatedly hitting the other with a hammer. Neither helped.
It's not that reboots are necessarily a bad thing. Casino Royale did an expert job at updating Bond, but kept the character faithful to the novels - a jarring transition for Roger Moore fans, but one that re-established 007 as a sexist bastard using Fleming's own backstory. Of course, even that reboot didn't quite go to plan. We ended up with Quantum of Solace.
But why pass the writing baton on at all? Sebastian Faulks' Devil May Care was a cracking read, which echoed Fleming's style (to varying success) and preserved the author's chronology. Plus it had a man with a monkey hand playing tennis - something every good novel needs.
Of course, there's always the chance that Carte Blanche could turn out to be brilliant by the end. Until then, all I can think of is another fictional series that's clearly in need of the Jeffery Deaver treatment...
Officially endorsed by the estate of Enid Blyton, Jeffery Deaver could reboot The Famous Five instead. (For anyone wondering, The Famous Five is a lot like The Secret Seven. But there are five of them. And they drink more lashings of ginger beer.)
Titled Five Go Phone Hacking, Deaver's reboot could be a modern thriller about four children (and a dog) who uncover a dastardly corrupt plot to hack the UK's answering machines using iPhones and apps. And Oakley sunglasses. Julian would be an Afghanistan war veteran, Dick would be a crack addict, Anna would be a teenage girl with an unwanted pregnancy and George would be unemployed and on benefits.
Timmy the Dog would be a robot.
Deaver could even write the film version as well, starring Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper. The only condition? It HAS to include the Famous Five theme tune:
For all those would like to see Jeffery Deaver reboot The Famous Five, you can contact him at his website, where you can also see a video of him at the launch of Carte Blanche standing next to a female stunt biker and a sports car.
What other series would you like to see rebooted by Jeffery Deaver? The Faraway Tree, relocated to Baltimore and starring McNulty off The Wire? Noddy, about a politically correct cop who falls into a coma and wakes up in Toyland in the 1970s?