We Aim To Please: Our January, Bond January Wrap-Up
January, Bond January has come and gone, and what a month it has been. We've seen every film the franchise has to offer, and then some, and now it's time to let Bond ride off into the sunset.
A corker of a Bond movie. Fun, imaginative, and with a great performance from Connery, this has gone on to become one of my favorite Bond movies.
Ash: The Living Daylights
This movie had the potential to be the greatest mix of a sleek Bond style and dark spy thriller but it ended up falling short. A great movie nonetheless that shows a darker Bond, it also features a compelling performance by Timothy Dalton - the Daniel Craig before there was a Daniel Craig.
John: Live and Let Die
Live and Let Die is the only Bond film to involve supernatural magical bad guys, and also the only one to give African American actors a wide variety of roles over just being the sidekick or the driver. It’s also got a particularly interesting villain and plot, not to mention the baller way that Bond takes out Kananga in the finale.
Chris: Licence to Kill
Timothy Dalton is my favorite Bond and it should come as no surprise that Licence was my pick for best of the month. Not only does it do the gritty Bond much better than anything Daniel Craig could even dream of, but it also keeps some of the humor of the franchise. Couple that with one of the truly intimidating villains of the series, a baby-faced Benicio Del Toro, and my favorite Bond girl you have my favorite Bond film of not only this month but of all time.
Ben: From Russia With Love
Sometimes the classics really are the best, and Bond is definitely one of the hallmarks of that fact. Though only the second entry in the series, Connery and company show just how quickly they can take to the material. It suffers from a very abrupt ending, but the ride there is the perfect Bond blend of class and daring action.
Maybe it’s just out of nostalgia, maybe it’s because it was the first movie I really identified with as a bond movie having been born in 1990. I loved that it was a perfect amount of zeitgeist camp—maybe it was because everyone had GoldenEye for N64 and lost friendships over that game. In any case, it was full of iconic and memorable set pieces! Also, the switch to Judy Dench for M was a interesting and successful idea.
Oscar: Sean Connery
He was the Bond that had it all and created it all: The suave guy, the killer, the seducer.
Ash: Timothy Dalton
The greatest Bond in cinema history will always be Connery, no one can dispute that fact, but for variety’s sake I’ll go with an actor who I think deserves more recognition for their efforts. A massive fan of Ian Fleming’s original Bond, Dalton tried hard to bring a grounded 007 to the silver screen, unfortunately he tried right after the ridiculousness that was Roger Moore. Such a jarring shift from techno-pop to grim-faced Bond could only end poorly. Both of Dalton’s Bond movies are absolutely worth the watch and really mix things up compared to the other 22 films.
For a longer rant, my The Living Daylights review goes pretty in-depth as to why Dalton was the perfect Bond, but also the most likely to fail.
John: Daniel Craig
While Connery is cool, and Roger Moore is an interesting addition when he isn’t actually beating up women, there’s no denying the grim badassery and physicality of Craig’s Bond. For a purely visceral, high octane Bond, there’s no substitute for Craig.
Side note: If there was a worst Bond Category it would go to Pierce Brosnan for making a Bond that deals with the same movie tone as the previous fun loving Bonds, but smiles even less often than Craig’s brooding Bond.
Chris: Timothy Dalton
Dalton was doing badass and gritty before Daniel Craig even got out of high school. He kills without thinking twice sometimes in truly graphic ways, and is still able to deliver a wry one-liner every now and then. He brings everything that you would want from Bond in the late 80’s along with having some of the overt sexism toned down which is something that I was never a fan of with Brosnan or Moore. He’s the best Bond to hit the screen and it always bums me out that he only got two shots at the role.
Ben: Sean Connery
He's the original, and he's still the best. Sure, Connery kicked off the most questionable parts of the Bond character, forming the “chauvinist spy” trope we all live with today, but, damn, he just knows how to fill the role, and nobody I've seen yet has done it better.
Sean: George Lazenby
I know, who!? But seriously, I thought he had all of the right elements of Bond and made him an emotionally complex character even before Dalton, whom would be my second favorite. Maybe it was just because he was only in one movie and I wanted more, especially considering the way On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ends. I’m glad he had his stand alone Bond adventure, and in my opinion you can’t compare the Bonds as they are generally a pretty good reflection of the time they exist in. Especially being the first to follow Connery, the handsome model-turned-actor will always be my personal favorite.
Best Bond Girl
Oscar: Vesper Lynd
Maybe I’m biased because I love Eva Green, but Vesper for me has been the most complex, and best performed Bond girl that has existed in the story, and probably one of the most memorable if not the most memorable.
Ash: Anya Amasova
A Bond girl worth remembering, Amasova is James Bond’s Russian counterpart in the Soviet Union. Despite some rocky moments in her acting, Bach delivers a well thought out femme fatale who gives Bond himself a run for his money.
John: Miranda Frost
As much as I hate Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, and find Die Another Day to be obnoxiously dumb, Rosamund Pike is the most independent and well defined Bond girl of the films I watched. She spends most of the film hating Bond, and ends up being a double agent for the North Koreans. Ignore the facts that she still sleeps with Bond, and that she’s only a double agent because her college boyfriend is the North Korean big bad.
Chris: Pam Bouvier
She holds her own against Bond as a CIA agent and a skilled pilot in the film. Not only does Bond not bed her in the film, but you also never see her in the classic “damsel in distress” role that so many other Bond girls fall into. Not to mention she rocks that “I just came out of Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love music video” hairstyle which always gets me going.
Ben: Mata Bond
Sure, she's just loosely a “Bond girl” in the classic sense, but she eschews all the weaknesses inherent in the true arm candy, even in a spoof. She's smart, clever, sexy, and just generally a hell of a lot of fun on screen, really bringing up the weaker parts of 67’s Casino Royale.
Honorable mention to Jill St. John as Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever. She's close to breaking the mold, even under Connery's bravado, but doesn't quite rise to the same level.
I can’t say enough how much I love the camp of this character. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Isabella Scorupco before, but I loved her in this movie. It was the first time I felt like I saw an appropriate reaction to being strapped to exploding devices from a Bond Girl in the series, and it perfectly matched the camp that Brosnan brought to Bond. Special shout out to Grace Jones:GOD I LOVE YOU, MAY DAY!!!
Oscar: Franz Sanchez
Unafraid to get his hands dirty, and purely cruel and frightening, this was one of my favorite villains in Bond lore.
Ash: Karl Stromberg
A billionaire psychopath obsessed with underwater civilization and creating a new Atlantis, Stromberg is effectively a carbon copy of every supervillain in the Bond universe concerned with destroying the world. The only difference is he’s got a marine twist on things. Compared to the villains in the other movies, Stromberg stands out mainly because of his original gadgets and introduces the famous Jaws as his henchman.
John: Kananga/Mr. Big
Yaphet Koto plays a man who poses as two separate criminals, heading both the supply and the distribution ends of the drug dealing chain. It’s also interesting to note the style of the villains. The real Kananga is a well spoken and thorough super criminal. Meanwhile Mr. Big, his ghetto persona that deals with the racist white people is stereotypical, intentionally playing off of the presumptions of the man.
Chris: Franz Sanchez
What else can you say other than Robert Davi is the man and at times, overshadows Dalton as Bond. He’s one of the few Bond villains who actually gets his hands dirty along with being a formidable threat for Bond throughout the film. He has his cronies cut a man’s heart out, he engages in a eighteen-wheeler chase with Bond down the side of a mountain, and he sports an iguana on his shoulder in many scenes of the film. He’s the epitome of 80’s drug lord done right and matches Bond punch for punch throughout the film.
Ben: Charles Gray as Blofeld
Again, the classic villain in rare form. He's loud, menacing yet still intriguing, and a true match for Bond, himself. Plus, he wants to make a space laser out of diamonds! That's just fantastic!
Sean: Max Zorin
Even though he played a more subdued version of his scary bad guy self, the way he develops and evolves into a mass-murdering sociopath by the end, is extremely effective and makes him the most memorable to me. He totally carries A View to A Kill and steals the show, but I’m okay with it.
Catchy as hell, this is one of the songs that has best stood the best of time.
Ash: "You Only Live Twice"
A perfect Bond song, Sinatra’s voice seduces you better than Connery himself. Her voice captures the essence of 007 perfectly, wrapping you in the soft velvet vocals and slick melodies. One of the greatest Bond songs ever sung and covered by just about everyone, from alt-rock bands to Shirley Bassey herself.
While the theme song for Live and Let Die is probably the most famous Bond theme, having been written by Paul McCartney and performed by Wings, the fame of the tune does the film a disservice, as the scenes in which the melody’s pace is altered to fit the tone of the movie draw the viewer out of the film. "Skyfall" on the other hand serves as a suitable tone for a bond film, with vocals that echo back to the old school Bond themes instead of trying to make a house music version like Madonna’s theme from Die Another Day.
Side not: There is a massive number of theme songs made for Bond films that never got used for whatever reason. One such theme that really makes my feet tap is the "Thunderball" theme by Johnny Cash. It’s a wholly original tone for a Bond song, and it has the classic feel of some of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits.
Chris: "Another Way to Die"
Unfortunately for Bond, every couple years they try to revisit Shirley Bassey’s performance of the Goldfinger theme with a newer female singer and similar song. Honestly, it’s the 21st century and they’ve done it so many times that every new rendition just falls flat for me. Jack White and Alicia Keys on the other hand delivered one of the best Bond themes this side of "A View to a Kill" by Duran Duran. The success of a Bond theme song for me is always measured by if I can listen to it outside the main film and it still hold up, and “Another Way to Die” hits the bullseye for me on all counts. It’s criminally underrated as a Bond theme song but hey, sometimes you gotta be unconventional and the song is nothing if not.
Ben: “Diamonds Are Forever”
In its classic style, "Diamonds Are Forever" just so perfectly encapsulates what one thinks of when they envision a Bond theme. It's sultry, multi-layered in meaning, and just REALLY gets stuck in your head. I'm a fan of Paul McCartney or Jack White's takes on an opener, but since I didn't review either of those, I have to give it to the truly iconic rendition.
Sean: “You Know My Name”
This song is badass and it’s so cheesy at the same time. Chris Cornell totally gets away with those slight Nickelback vowel sounds, because it’s such a slick melody. I like how it sort of betrays the tropes of the typical Bond song, with a coy “You Know My Name” it totally represents the new cold and unamused bond we get in Casino Royale with the hunky brooding Daniel Craig.