October 10, 2009: The letters have been pouring in requesting more film reviews by yours truly (meaning me). A child of alcoholism, I'm always looking for ways to be liked, so I'm happy to accommodate my loyal readers -- the three of you -- and offer another offering of my utterly valueless opinions. (See, now that's the dysfunction talking!)
In an effort to form my own son's opinions and set him straight on the road to manhood -- straight manhood, mind you, not the gay kind -- over the summer I introduced him to every James Bond movie in the official series. We even watched the George Lazenby one ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service") which sucked like Telly Savalas's singing, and every Roger Moore (I think there are 17; he played Bond well into his 80's.). Being something of an authority on Bond -- I've read each Ian Fleming story at least three times and can even play the Monty Norman theme on guitar -- I thought I'd offer a concise appraisal of the catalogue.
To begin, I'd have to name "Thunderball" as the quintessential Bond film, firing on all cylinders, save its awful title track by Tom Jones. Sean Connery is at the top of his game and still has enough hair to dominate the role. It's consummate kitsch in technicolor, and also a very full adventure with lots of glib lines. (Of course, none could beat the last line of "From Russia, With Love," when Bond, after having nearly been booted to death by Klebb's poison shoe, remarks, "She's had her kicks!")
That said, I have to give the nod to Pierce Brosnan as the best Bond. He hit a mixture of suave control and formidable action-film athleticism that can't be matched. I understand that Connery is still the consummate father of the film role (and I'll always love his Bond), but Brosnan really took it to another, higher level. I'm sorry he only made the four films. Moore does an adequate job, but overall he's too self-conscious and continually falls back on a vaguely unsympathetic sarcasm he clearly lifted from Cary Grant (who was never unsympathetic to viewers). Timothy Dalton wasn't as bad as everyone says, but ultimately he had very bad hair, and sometimes that's enough to put someone on the Black List. Daniel Craig's dour brutality is an interesting take, but even by the books' standard, he's much too taciturn. (I love his two movies, but somehow I don't completely consider them Bond films in the pure sense.)
Among other films, "Dr. No" is a personal favorite. I guess I remain something of a closet racist, but it just cracks me up when Quarrel rolls his eyes in primitive fear. I also love "Live and Let Die" (the first film I ever saw, as a 6-year old at a drive-in in Florida; I was mesmerized!) "Diamonds Are Forever" was much better than I remembered, as were several of the Moore films. The heroine in "For Your Eyes Only" is probably my favorite -- a lovely Carole Bouquet who plays a believable strong ally. Olga Kurylenko may be the most gorgeous, even with that mammoth scar on her back in "Quantum of Solace." Halle Berry, of course, remains a goddess, but I found her a bit annoying in "Die Another Day" and kept hoping she'd get an arrow through her back.
Among the villains, nobody was better than the great Geoffrey Holder as "Live and Let Die's" Baron Samedi. Grace Jones is certainly among the worst in "A View to a Kill." The best theme song is undoubtedly "The Man with the Golden Gun" sung by the great Lulu. (Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" is a close second.) Sheena Easton's awful "For Your Eyes Only" is a Bond embarassment, and the producer that sanctioned that shameful ballad should have his groin distended without anaesthesia.
I could go on, but suffice it to say that James Bond movies rock, even the crummy ones (excepting "Secret Service," which would have been 10 times better if it had merely consisted of two straight hours of Lazenby taking a bath in pudding).
One technical note is that Fleming's Bond would have never handed M the disrespect he regularly does in recent movies. The real M would have pierced Bond's testicles with a marrow spoon and left to dine at Blades. I'm not sure what my point is, but it's late and I have to end these reviews somewhere!