Everything he touches withers and dies (2008)

Attacked during an interrogation by a member of a mysterious organisation who had been posing for years as M’s bodyguard, James Bond (Daniel Craig) chases the traitor through the streets of Sicily, eventually overcoming and killing him. Discovering marked banknotes in Mitchell’s apartment, Bond is lead to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), an environmentalist showing undue interest in an apparently unremarkable area of the Bolivian desert. Saving Camille (Olga Kurylenko), his ex-lover, from an assassination attempt, Bond goes off the grid leaving M (Judi Dench) with no choice but to react — first dispatching Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton) to bring him in and then cancelling all of his credit cards. Reuniting with Camille, Bond follows a tip to the Atacama desert where he discovers Greene’s plans while Camille seeks revenge for her parents’ murders.

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Christ, I miss the Cold War (2006)

Having recently earned his 007 status, James Bond (Daniel Craig) sets off for Madagascar where he kills an international bomb-maker and — through a text message on the man’s phone — makes a connection to Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a terrorist financer wanted by MI6. Following the trail to Miami airport, Bond foils the attempted destruction of a prototype plane, costing Le Chiffre millions that he had previously invested in shares. Entered by M (Judi Dench) into a high-stakes poker game that the banker had organised in order to recoup his losses, and aided by accountant Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), Bond attempts to win the game so that Le Chiffre has no option but to seek asylum in exchange for information.

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Now There’s A Mouthful (2002)

Captured by the North Koreans after his secret identity is betrayed by a member of MI6, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is tortured for fourteen months for his part in the death of Colonel Tan-Sun Moon (Will Yun Lee). Freed only when the British Government trades him for Moon’s assistant Zao (Rick Yun) in a prisoner exchange, Bond finds his 007 status suspended by M (Judi Dench) and is forced to flee in order to complete his original mission and prove his innocence in the process. With the help of NSA agent Giacinta ‘Jinx’ Johnson (Halle Berry), he investigates British billionaire Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) after finding his insignia on an item owned by Zao. Following Graves to a demonstration of his Icarus technology in Iceland, Bond uncovers the truth about his capture in North Korea. Read more of this post

Welcome to my nuclear family (1999)

When the assassination of Sir Robert King (David Calder) raises concerns about the safety of his daughter Elektra (Sophie Marceau), who was previously held hostage for ransom by an ex-KGB agent called Bernard (Robert Carlyle), family acquaintance M (Judi Dench) dispatches her best man to protect the heiress. Arriving in Azerbaijan, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is able to save her from an anonymous hit squad who attack during a tour of the King pipeline. Seeking answers from Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane), Bond encounters nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) at a Russian base in Kazakhstan. Unable to stop Bernard from stealing a half-quantity of weapons-grade plutonium, they fake their own deaths in order to investigate the terrorist’s plot. Meanwhile, M is kidnapped as Bernard’s true motivations are eventually revealed. Read more of this post

Good morning, my golden retrievers (1997)

Armed with an encoder salvaged from an arms bazaar destroyed by the British military, head of the Carver Media Group Network Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) uses the device to manoeuvre the HMS Devonshire into Chinese waters, where the mogul’s ‘stealth ship’ sinks it and steals one of its missiles. With Carver’s own news reports suggesting an unprovoked Chinese attack, Admiral Roebuck (Geoffrey Palmer) deploys the British fleet leaving M (Judi Dench) with only forty-eight hours to investigate the real cause of ships sinking. When James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) arrives in Hamburg to explore Carver Media’s offices, he encounters old-flame-turned-trophy-wife Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher) and Chinese spy Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh).

Eon Productions’ James Bond franchise has seen some truly moronic moments over the years, be it death-by-bowler-hat or double-taking pigeon, but rarely has one film managed to house so many such instances as eighteenth instalment Tomorrow Never Dies. From the opening moments, as the British government and a Soviet arms bazaar take it in turns to shoot blindly at a nuke-toting L-39 Albatros, director Roger Spottiswoode (who, unsurprisingly, has barely been heard from since) continues to defy belief with a steady stream of set pieces that Daniel Craig wouldn’t touch with a quantum of solace. Whatever that might actually be.

Did I mention that in the above sequence James Bond is flying said fighter jet with his knees? Oh yes, he’s too busy being strangled from behind by his kamikaze navigator to use his hands, and must first ejected the assailant straight through the bottom of another plane before he can resume total control and – in the process – avert nuclear disaster, World War III and a particularly dismal end to one of Hollywood’s most iconic franchises, all in the name of Chinese broadcasting rights. And all this before Teri Hatcher can utter a single word. I’ve never been much of a fan of the reboot’s James Bourne, but at this rate he can’t strut out of the sea quickly enough.

But hey, it’s the 90s: the usual rules don’t apply. Providing you’ve drunk enough Sunny Delight to completely dumb your critical faculties, there’s still some fun to be had in this ridiculous little film. Brosnan remains a likeable presence as Bond, continuing to combine the best of his predecessors into a character you wouldn’t mind actually having to save the world with. Meanwhile, Michelle Yeoh is – as always – a pleasure as the series’ best approximation of a Chinese person, all karate-chops and high kicks as she takes on an entire kung-fu class, leaving Bond to pull occasional faces and deliver his inevitable double entendres from the safety of the sidelines.

He really is the worst special agent ever, continuously jeopardising national and world security as he blows his cover, gets caught and proceeds to haemorrhage government secrets. That said, the biggest problem with Tomorrow Never Dies – putting aside, for a moment, all of the medium-sized issues plaguing production – is Hatcher’s Paris Carver. A one-time love interest that we – the audience – have never actually heard of, she is supposed to generate sympathy and represent a stake in the narrative but falls short of being even remotely bearable. Even next to Jonathan Pryce atrociously non-threatening media mogul, she comes off worst of all.

This is the Bond I remember: a knowing wink, capable side-kicks and preposterous stunt-work as the franchise strives to be bigged, better and barmier than ever before. While two out of three might not necessarily be bad, without the cloak of boyhood nostalgia Brosnan’s Bond just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. A beefed up role for Dench’s excellent M aside, there is very little in Tomorrow Never Dies to compete with the better – or in many cases worse – moments of the 007 franchise.

Once again the pleasure was all yours (1995)

Believing himself responsible for the death of 006 (Sean Bean) during a raid on a Soviet chemical weapons facility, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) returns to London where he is confronted by a new M (Judi Dench) who wants him to promise not to go off on some pointless vendetta. Tasked only to investigate, he sets off for Monte Carlo to follow Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), a suspected member of Colonel Arkady Ourumov (Gottfried John) the Janus crime syndicate. He is too late to prevent Onatopp from stealing a prototype helicopter, however, and she uses it to massacre the staff of a control centre in order to acquire the access codes for the dual GoldenEye satellites. Teaming up with the sole survivor (Izabella Scorupco), Bond pursues Onatopp only to discover that she’s not working for who he thinks she is, but a far more familiar face. Read more of this post

FILM NEWS: Mendes shows off Skyfall while Craig shows off his issues

While this blog’s dealings with 007 are usually limited to last minute, end-of-month contributions to Incredible Suit‘s franchise-spanning BlogalongaBond, I could’t help taking to the keyboard with news that the first teaser for twenty-third instalment Skyfall is now online.

The film, which already looks infinitely better than 2008’s unintelligible Quantum of Solace, sees aspersions cast on James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) loyalty to M (Dame Judi Dench) when secrets from her past come to light. The footage itself can be seen below:

Taking in Turkey (the setting of the film’s pre-titles sequence), Japan, the highlands of Scotland and MI6’s headquarters in London, Sam Mendes’ Skyfall also stars Ralph Fiennes as Mallory, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny Eve and Javier Bardem as the film’s primary antagonist, “more than a villain” Raoul Silva.

Anyway, you didn’t bring your eyes all the way here for words; no, you’re here to watch the back of Bond and M’s heads as they stare at a hill. All yours!

I suppose this means that the end is sight. With 16 Bond films down and only the Brosnan and Craig eras to go, it really doesn’t feel as though we have long to wait at all. In the meantime, however, you can expect my Golden Eye review in the next few days.

Skyfall is scheduled for release on 26 October, 2012.

He disagreed with something that ate him (1989)

Assisting Felix (David Hedison) in the capture of drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) before delivering his friend safely to his expectant bride (Priscilla Barnes), James Bond (Timothy Dalton) is preparing to leave after the wedding when he hears of Sanchez’s daring escape. Finding Della dead and Felix missing, Bond sets off on Sanchez’s trail without the backing of MI6, having resigned when they forbade him from pursuing his vendetta. With only ex-CIA agent Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) and a holidaying, off-duty Q (Desmond Llewelyn) to help him, Bond – haunted by the similarities to his own wife’s murder – seeks revenge on the man responsible for Della’s death – a man who has found a way of dissolving cocaine into petrol in a bid to sell it, undiscovered to Asian drug dealers.

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Correct, you should have brought lilies (1987)

When General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies), the new head of the KGB, is believed to have revived an old program known as ‘Smert Spionam’ (Death to Spies), James Bond (Timothy Dalton) is dispatched to Tangier in order to kill the Russian before any more of his colleagues can be targeted, following the assassination of 004 during a routine training exercise. Gaining their information from a defector named Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) who was himself apparently targeted by a gun-wielding cellist, Bond tracks down the musician, Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo), only to learn that she is in fact Koskov girlfriend. When ally Saunders (Thomas Wheatley) unearths information that instigates the defector, and not Pushkin, in the plot to kill Bond, 007 comes into conflict with the true spy-killer, Koskov’s henchman Necros (Andreas Wisniewski).

OH THE RELIEF! After seven months of watching Bond putrefy under the weight (and age) of Roger Moore’s franchise-consuming eyebrows, it is impossible not to feel somewhat rejuvenated with this, the fourteenth James Bond movie and the first to star Mr. Pricklepants himself, Timothy Dalton. From the moment he first spies danger amid the world’s most lethal game of paintball, it is clear that everyone involved, not just the icon himself, has earned a new lease of life. Gone are the killer animals, the pantomime villains and the barely disguised stunt doubles. There’s barely even any rape.

I feel almost embarrassed to have enjoyed A View To A Kill so much, because this, John Glen’s fourth entry in the series, is so clearly the better movie. While that last film might at best have been a guilty pleasure, this is a Bond movie to champion in daylight, in public, one that is played straight but not without humour, intricately plotted but not unintelligibly convoluted and action packed without being acting-light. While Dalton might lack Connery’s charisma and physicality, and Roger Moore’s…er, well, charm, he compensates with a believability and intelligence that marks him out as the first incarnation of 007 to actually convince as a secret agent, completely despite his delightfully devil-may-care attitude.

Dalton’s Bond is likeable, surrounded as he is by friends rather than merely antagonists, escorts and the odd comic sidekick. His relationships in The Living Daylights are unusually interesting; Bond’s growing respect for Saunders is genuinely touching, while his sparring with a newly revamped (and now sassy) Ms. Moneypenny (Caroline Bliss) introduces a warmth and mutual respect that was missing from Lois Maxwell decidedly more measured and, it has to be said, tragic performance. That’s not to say he doesn’t live up to Bond’s reputation as a Casanova, it’s just that there is more to his personality this time around than innuendo and libido alone. Maryam d’Abo is thus excused from swooning duties, enabling her to take a refreshingly active role in the film’s plot.

With a set of central performances, then, that stretch to slightly more than ‘shooty face’, the audience can invest in the action in a way that has rarely been possible before: the stunts actually meaning something. As such, when 004 is killed during the training-exercise-gone-wrong that comprises the film’s pre-titles sequence, the death impacts in a way that the previous fatalities never really managed. Perhaps the film’s best sequence, in which the assassin – dressed as a milkman – systematically kills his way through a supposed safe house, even manages to top a daring aerial battle which sees Bond and Necros sparring high above the Afghan desert whilst suspended precariously from the back of a plane.

A great film first, and a refreshingly well-rounded addition to the James Bond franchise second, The Living Daylights makes the most of its newly acquired thespian to flesh out a character that to this point was little more than a collection of trademark quips and ticks, best known for the cars he drives and the gun he carries. With Pierce Brosnan’s technological excesses now only one film away, it’s nice to finally know that the character has the necessary wit and cunning even if he rarely gets the chance to use them.

A little restless, but I got off eventually (1985)

As two cinema icons prepare to depart the franchise once and for all, there is one question on everyone’s lips: will Lois Maxwell finally roger Moore? With MI6’s Viagra supplies now running dangerously low, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Fresh from the recovery of a microchip from 003’s Siberian grave-side, James Bond (Roger Moore) returns to London where Q (Desmond Llewelyn) identifies the artefact as a product of Zorin Industries. Dispatched to Zorin’s (Christopher Walken) estate in Chantilly, France under the suspicion that the industrialist is fixing horse races, 007 narrowly escapes an attempt on his life by Zorin and his second in command, May Day (Grace Jones). When he discovers that, despite previous allegiences with the KGB, he has gone rogue, Bond teams up with State Geologist Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) in a bid to stop Zorin from flooding Silicone Valley through a series of artificial earthquakes.

Having grown tired of Roger Moore’s increasingly decrepit form over the previous six Bond movies, I was prepared to wish good riddance and be done with his arched eyebrows and ridiculous tan trousers once and for all. What I certainly wasn’t expecting was A View To A Kill, a startlingly strong entry in the 007 franchise that finally strikes the perfect balance between credibility and camp, getting underway with one of the most stylish title sequences yet. As you might have guessed, one’s work as Devil’s Advocate is never over.

I’m not even completely certain what it was that I enjoyed so much about it; after all, it boasts the same ski tricks, car chases and aerial acrobatics as every other Bond movie reviewed so far. While we might be spared the usual shark pools and metal-plated henchmen, this is still by-the-numbers stuff, even if it does endeavour to combine the characteristic components into an original story. With its release met with strong box office but crippling criticism, I seem to be alone in my enjoyment of this fourteenth instalment.

Unlike previous entries which have either gone out of their way to dress the character up as a recognisable human being or given in entirely to the double-taking pigeons and crocodile hopscotch, James Bond is neither required to tone down or save the world by destroying an enemy space station. Zorin and May Day are far more interesting than the usual pantomime perpetrators, Christopher Walken stripped bare of gimmicks and left instead to play the psychopath he has cultivated across his career, aided by the first plot in a while that doesn’t disappear up its own arse.

Of course, the majority of the film is utterly preposterous, with a sequence in which one character is murdered by plastic butterflies, a submarine that is for all intents and purposes not disguised as an ice berg and an ever-changing rosta of look-unlikes taking over from Moore for everything more strenuous than ascending stairs. But the goofs are as intrinsically Bond as the dazzling stunt-work and jaw-dropping sets; I can forgive a plot that posits “geological locks” and a laughable escape by half a car when the characters are this well drawn and the narrative so unusually intelligible.

Not that there aren’t actual flaws, there are. While May Day might be everything that Jaws most definitely was not (watchable), the film’s other female lead is an affront to not only the movie but Hollywood in general. Tanya Roberts cannot act, she can’t even react; she wears the same expression and holds the same tone whether she is trying to seduce the walking dead or contemplating her near-inevitable death in a burning elevator. The accent doesn’t help either, drawing unflattering comparisons to the comedy hick police officer from a few films back.

On the whole, however, A View To A Kill is perfectly enjoyable, exciting even, boasting a finale that is steeped in actual tension as Bond, Zorin and an axe battle it out atop the Golden Gate Bridge. Throw in a satisfying conclusion to May Day’s character arc and bullet wounds actually bleed and you don’t even notice the second-rate euphemisms peppering the script – until you try to pick one for your title, anyway.