A View to a Kill (1985)


A new type of microchip has fallen into the wrong hands. Bond is sent to Paris to investigate shady industrialist Max Zorin, who's not only connected to this case, but also to some less than honest shenanigans at the horse races.

Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, he nails every broad with a pulse, including a handful of blondes, but more interestingly, Bond has his first gay experience... with Grace Jones. I don't think this is what they meant when they said "keep the British end up".

There's a chase through the Eiffel tower, a showdown with an airship at the Golden Gate bridge, and we finally get a freakin' decent title song with Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill"... Come on everybody: "Daaaaaaaance into the fire! That fatal kiss is all we neeeeeeed...!"


A blond Christopher Walken! He plays Max Zorin, who wants to control the entire world's production of microchips, and as part of his plan he wants to destroy Silicon Valley. He also cheats at horse racing. This one is diabolical.

Zorin's got a few interesting henchmen on his payroll, but the scariest one by far is Grace Jones. Shudder.


"Daaaaaaaance into the fire!" Sorry, had to do that one more time. Alright enough singing, let's get started on our final Bond adventure with Roger Moore.

A View to a Kill seems like a fairly simple, solid setup, but unsurprisingly Bond finds a way to muck it up again. Rather than conducting an investigation focused on the problem at hand - the microchips - Bond chooses to pose as a posh Brit (there's a stretch) and take a closer look at Zorin's passion for horse-racing. I say guvna, there must be something fishy going on here! Yes Bond, this horse-race thing definitely warrants every bit of your attention! Does anybody have 006 on speed-dial, so we can get the real case rolling?

The biggest problem with this film is that it's so underwhelming. The pre-credit sequence is another snowbound adventure, where Bond must escape while skiing, and it feels like we've done this 8 million times before! As for the insane bad guy who wants to corner a certain market, and does this by destroying the competition's supply... Isn't that more or less the plot of Goldfinger?

I guess I could see the movie working on some levels, if the filmmakers had put any kind of effort into the project. The Eiffel tower chase is sort of fun, but it's too brief. The following car chase is a rare inventive action set-piece, where Bond's car is destroyed piece by piece, but that sequence is also too brief. I could even see the whole "destroying the chips"-plan working, but why make it so cumbersome and complicated? In the final showdown Bond is trying to stop a bomb that will blow a hole in an old mine, which will release some water, which will cause an earthquake, which will destroy Silicon Valley and all the microchip companies, so Zorin can take over the market. Phew.

Keep it simple: Bomb will destroy Silicon Valley. Period. That's all you need. Come up with a clever way to place the bomb, give Bond an interesting mission to destroy it, raise the stakes by putting people we care about in harms way. Then it might have worked.

At least we finally get a really interesting actor playing the bad guy. Unfortunately Christopher Walken chews up the scenery like there's no tomorrow. Maybe he was just too young back then, if they had hired him today he would have walked away with the entire movie, before Roger Moore had time to put down his tea cup. Solid support from Patrick Macnee (of The Avengers fame) and Patrick Bauchau (from The Pretender and Panic Room) keeps the movie interesting, though. Even Alison Doody (that's the girl from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) shows up for a few scenes, and if you blink you'll miss a brief glimpse of a young Dolph Lundgren.

The best moment of A View to a Kill, though, comes in the final showdown, and features a young woman who's so blond the bad guy actually manages to sneak up on her and capture her... IN A FREAKIN' AIRSHIP! That must be the biggest laugh of the franchise so far. Not sure it was supposed to be.

And so we close the book on Roger Moore. I can't say I'll miss him. With him James Bond went from being an incompetent charmeur, to being an incompetent buffoon, and at 58 even Roger Moore knew he was getting too old for this sh*t. Too bad the producers didn't. Time to take a break from 007 now, but when we return to the series we'll be asking the REAL James Bond to stand up, please.


My Neighbours The Yamadas (1999)


This is the story about the life of the Yamada family. The father Takashi, who works too hard, the mother Matsuko, who is often distracted, the typical teenage son Nonoko, his little sister Noboru, and the grumpy grandmother Shige. We follow them on their way through life, through the good times and the bad, the ups and the downs, and everything in-between.


My Neighbours the Yamadas is not a film you should seek out, if you’re looking for something in the vein of classic Studio Ghibli masterpieces, such as Princess Mononoke (1997) or Spirited Away (2001). Literally every single aspect of this film is different from those landmark films. I’m going to say that again... Every single aspect is different.

There are two major issues at play here.

First of all there’s the style of the animation. To call it simplistic would almost be an understatement. What we’re dealing with here lies somewhere between stick figures and children's drawings. Apparently the story was originally a series of simple comic strips, and that shows. Many scenes play out with the characters surrounded by white space, while a few lines illustrate the room around them. The more complicated locations are often filled out by using sound, with peripheral characters as grey shapes that barely move. Then there’s the restrained color palette, resembling watercolors, rather than traditional colorful animation.

On an artistic level I can definitely appreciate this style, but at the same time I often found it distracting, because the animation never makes any effort to look the least bit real, while we’re expected to view the characters as real people, and the situations they go through as real life. That’s an unsolvable equation.

The second big issue is the story. There isn’t any. Well, perhaps that’s not fair. What I mean is that this is merely a series of disconnected vignettes or sketches. There’s no overall plot, just a collection of situations, divided into random chapters, with nondescript headlines. The situations primarily deal with the traditional family fights we’re all familiar with, and most of them are grounded in reality, but the film embarks on a few selected flights of fancy as well. Some scenes are funny, some are merely goofy. There are some sweet, gentle observations, side by side with bigger issues. In one scene the parents fight about house work, in the next the son races to pick up the phone, when his little sister announces that there’s a girl on the line, while his mother and grandmother attempt to listen in. That sort of stuff, but then suddenly we get a scene like the one where the grandmother puts on a hard-hat and picks up a bat to go out and yell at the local motorcycle gang!

Does the film succeed? Absolutely! It perfectly captures the bittersweet nature of family life, and it does so in a decidedly unique style. Did I enjoy the film? No, not really. The animation style put me off, and the lack of a coherent story made the film hard to sit through. Despite a few good chuckles and a handful of awwws, this was a very episodic and uneven experience for me.


My Neighbours the Yamadas was not my cup of tea, but I can definitely see how some viewers could appreciate the simple style of the animation, which removes all bells and whistles, to focus squarely on the characters and the story.

If nothing else, there’s a certain comfort in knowing that your family is as crazy as all the other families out there. Including the animated ones.

Thanks to Optimum Releasing and Edith Chappey for making this review possible.


Never Say Never Again (1983)


Bond looks different. Again. And yet familiar. The story seems familiar too. Something about the sinister SPECTRE organisation high-jacking two nuclear warheads, intent on blowing up the world, so they can rule over the rubble. Or something.

Of course Bond also flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, who looks different, and he nails every broad with a pulse, including a blond therapist, a feisty henchwoman, a voluptuous beach babe, and Kim Bassinger in her prime.


SPECTRE. Wow, so they're back... It's like deja vu all over again.

Max von Sydow plays Blofeld, in three shots. There must be a ton of material on the cutting-room floor, because it doesn't make any sense. We don't even get to see his reaction to the final showdown. He just disappears from the story! Actually the most prominent bad guy is Largo, aka. No. 1, played by Klaus Maria Brandauer, a sexually frustrated millionaire with inferiority issues, and a couple of nukes. Now that's scary!

There also a nasty henchwoman, called Fatima Blush. Yes, I also read that as bush, when I read it fast.


Right off the bat this Bond movies feels odd. There's no classic Bond bulls-eye intro, no Maurice Bender credit sequence, we do get an unbelievably bad theme song, so it's not like we're on completely foreign ground.

Shoehorned in between Roger Moore's two final Bond films, the existence of this irregular 007 adventure deserves a brief explanation. This is a so-called unofficial movie, meaning that it's not part of the official James Bond cannon. It exists only because of legal issues regarding Thunderball, resulting in producer Kevin McClory securing the legal rights to the Thunderball story, and all characters that appear in it, meaning that he could potentially remake that movie until the end of time, without fear of prosecution from the "real" Bond producers. McClory should have gotten the rights to a different story, because Thunderball didn't really work the first time around, and since everything about this film is inferior to the original, we're not exactly on to a winner.

Since this is not an official Bond, naturally they couldn't get Roger Moore for the lead, so instead they went back to Sean Connery, and asked him to reprise the role he abandoned with much glee 12 years ago. God knows how much they payed him to do this, but he doesn't look nearly as tired, as he did in his previous Bond film, though he does look considerable older. At 53 he just can't pass for a spiffy super secret agent any more, assuming he ever really could. Connery's return to the role is not helped by the fact that the plot starts off with an attack on some sort of bad guy stronghold where Bond is killed. Luckily this turns out to be a training mission, but it's not really a confidence inspiring opening, by any stretch of the imagination.

After this follows an unbelievable stupid scene where a preposterously unfair M, played by Edward Fox, orders Bond to a hippie health spa, because his eating habits are bad. Really? This is how you want to establish your cool secret agent? By having a guy tell him off, for eating too much red meat...? Are you serious? Moments later Bond loses the last bit of street cred, when he's reduced to smuggle caviar and pate into the spa, in a hidden compartment in his suitcase, and eat it in secrecy in his room. Come on people!

Never Say Never Again is dead on arrival. It takes forever to get going, and when it finally does it's quite unimpressive. The film plays out without a single memorable scene. There are no big set-pieces, no cool action scenes, not a single clever line, and all the characters are forgettable. The story plods along, painfully slow and disjointed (so was the original, you'll recall), resulting in an uninspired, dull, mumbling film that should never have been made.

Ironically, the only thing that could have saved Never Say Never Again, was if somebody had just said "never!"


Octopussy (1983)


James Bond must discover the truth behind the death of 009, and so he's off to investigate - wait for it - a Faberge egg. That's an expensive, very gay, gold egg to you and me. Bond must go to India to follow a guy who bought the egg at an auction. Nothing less than our way of life is at stake here. Honestly.

Of course Bond also flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, who's looking so uncomfortable at this point that they've hired a young assistant for her, so Bond can flirt with her too. Naturally Bond nails every broad with a pulse, including a high class blond bimbo, and the exotic titular brunette. And in what can only be classified as Roger Moore's finest hour, Bond sneaks into a secret palace in a crocodile mini-submarine. Yes, a sub that looks like a crocodile.


Well, let's see. The biggest bad guy would have to be the absurd Russian general, who wants to blow up a nuclear device, thinking that will make the West cut down on their military forces, which would enable him to conquer Europe in a week with a dozen tanks. Or something.

Then there's the evil Prince Kamal Khan, who wants to get his hands on the previously mentioned egg. Oh, and kill Bond too. There's an evil henchman with a turban. And another evil henchman with a yo-yo saw blade thingy.


If the juvenile title isn't a big enough giveaway, the plot sure is. Bond has reached the nadir of his decrepit existence, and I'm confident it can't possibly get any worse. I mean, he's chasing a freakin' egg! AN EGG! What the hell is wrong with you people? You've got a super-cool agent, the world is your stage, you've got guns and gadgets, all the babes you could possibly want, and yet you decide to tell a story about a freakin' egg! Unfortunately that's not even half of it, because every single aspect of this film is broken. Everything is stupid.

I've talked about Bond's inadequate agent skills before, but this time he's captured even before the opening credit sequences. He's caught red-handed planting a bomb. The guy can't even plant a freakin' bomb. Of course he escapes, and then how does he make his getaway? By using a small plane hidden behind a fake horse-ass in a fake trailer, I sh*t you not! And then what happens? He RUNS OUT OF FUEL! All this, mind you, is still in the pre-credit sequence.

The thing is, the plot of a good action movie can actually be pretty bad, as long as the action is good. Unsurprisingly the action is beyond pathetic in Octopussy. Everything is played for laughs, too bad nothing is funny. Take the big market fight. Bond faces off against a couple of bad guys at your classic chaotic Middle Eastern market. He steals the blade from a sword swallowing conjurer to take care of one adversary, he throws another on top of a bed of nails, he tip-toes inelegantly over a bunch hot coals, and so on. Every confrontation is funny gimmick, every moment a clever little visual pun, it's exhausting. Later, during another unimpressive chase scene Bond swings through a jungle, and for some reason a retarded sound guy thought it was funny to add Tarzan's classic "scream" from the old movies to the soundtrack... I literally punched myself in the face.

But the coup de grâce to this fiasco is the big showdown. Now, let me be clear about this: Unless you're doing a circus film, you should never have a showdown that takes place in a circus. The showdown in Octopussy should be about stopping a nuclear device from killing hundreds of people and starting a war, but instead Bond stumbles around in a circus arena doing pratfalls, while DRESSED AS A CLOWN. It's unbelievable.

Did I mention that Octopussy is the name of a mysterious woman, who's the leader of a cult of circus women on a secret island? And that after Bond's circus debut all the cult girls band together and use their circus tricks to catch the bad guy, at which point Bond arrives in a hot air balloon to save the day?

Did I mention that Bond also dresses up as a gorilla at one point?


Laputa Castle in the Sky (1986)


Laputa: Castle in the Sky is the first feature from Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli, and the third feature from its master Hayao Miyazaki, and if you have no idea who or what I’m talking about, rest assured that this is a good place to start.

The story is set in a kind of alternate reality. Alternate, but not that farfetched. It’s a place where Jules Verne would feel at home. A place where man rules the sky, much more so than we do even today, but at the same time it’s a place where technology can co-exist with a magical sense of adventure.


Young Pazu lives in a picturesque mountain town and works in the local coal mine. One day an unconscious girl floats down from the sky and lands, literally, in his arms. The girl, Sheeta, is being chased by a number of nefarious people. A group of pirates, the military, and some shady government suits. But why? It's all got something to do with the blue crystal she carries on a chain around her neck, the same crystal that appeared to make her almost weightless when she fell from the sky.

Pazu brings Sheeta to his shack and the two of them quickly connect. Alas, there’s no rest for the wicked, or the profoundly innocent for that matter, and soon bad guys show up at Pazu’s doorstep to get their hands on Sheeta, and more importantly, the crystal. And so our heroes run, and the adventure can begin.

What follows is a perilous chase at breakneck speed, which takes the young couple across the mountains, through the mines, and most importantly into the air. Meanwhile we learn about the legendary flying castle of Laputa, and we learn that Sheeta may know more than she’s letting on.


There’s something kind of comforting about this movie’s combination of wide-eyed innocence and a darker, deeper motif. It’s a juxtaposition mirrored in one of the memorable images from the film: As we watch a giant battle airship emerge from the clouds we’re filled with a sense of wonder and awe, but moments later the fascination gives way to a disturbing question: What could this deadly machine be used for?

The reason I find this comforting is that it reminds me that a film can be more than one note. These days, mostly for marketing purposes I guess, it seems like every film gets a simple label - but you can’t put a simple label on Laputa, because it’s more than just one thing.

There’s the magical adventure, the search for the titular castle, which takes us to the skies on a wild ride, but there’s also the dark mystery behind Laputa, the sinister government plot, and the questionable characters that take part in both. There’s the action aspect, full of elaborate chases and battle scenes. Next to that, though, there’s the subtle and tender relationship between our two young heroes - something we can almost call love.

As the story progresses we continually switch between opposites, in a very satisfying way. One moment we get scenes like the one aboard the pirate ship, when Pazu and Sheeta find themselves the unlikely partners of that shady bunch, and Pazu is put on lookout duty in the crows nest. Of course Sheeta sneaks up and joins him, and as they cuddle up together under a warm jacket, they share their hopes and fears for the future, while all the stone cold pirates listen in on the intercom with misty eyes.

We also get truly chilling scenes, like the one where the shady government agents have captured Sheeta, and she’s shown the remains of a wrecked robot that fell from the sky, the clue that told the government Laputa might be real. The robot looks like the ones we know from the old Fleischer Superman cartoons (mirrored as well in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)), and we get the feeling that any moment the giant metal creature could wake up and tear everyone to pieces.

Slowly the mystery expands and the true scope of the story is revealed. When we finally arrive at Laputa - I'm sure that's not a spoiler - the place looks breathtakingly beautiful, and yet sad. The theme about the dangers of over-reliance on technology, or perhaps that technology will inevitably destroy us all, creeps into the story, and once again the Jules Verne inspiration becomes clear. Remember Captain Nemo’s musings on the maturity of Man and his inability to handle the sophisticated power-source that pushes Nautilus effortlessly through the water?

Despite several story lines and a sometimes complicated backstory, the film very rarely has to resort to cumbersome exposition, the images often speak for themselves, and despite the heavy themes, the film itself seems light on its feet.

Needless to say the animation is gorgeous. Every time I get my hands on one of these old school hand-animated films I'm amazed at the artistry on display. I watch with bated breath as a metal monster claws its way to freedom through a sea of hand drawn fire, or when a flying fortress is blown into a billion pieces, which falls to the ground, each meticulously guided by a true artist with nothing but pencil and patience. But the quiet moments deserve some recognition as well. Whenever we’re flying, across the vast beautiful sky or through billowing clouds, I’m in awe. THIS is what animation was created for - to make the mundane magical, to bring fantasy to life. I hope this type of old school animated movies never go the way of the cave paintings. Computer animation can be a wonderful thing, poetic and beautiful even, but hand drawn animation can do something truly unique.


Laputa: Castle in the Sky is released in a Blu-ray/DVD combo by Optimum Releasing in England.

The disc features both the original Japanese audio, with English subtitles, and an English dubbed track. Of course you should always go with the original track, but sometimes the dubbed track can be useful when you watch a film the first time. Yes, I know, purists will probably consider it blasphemy, but I’ve had experience with this. I couldn’t get through more than 20 minutes of Satoshi Kon’s Paprika (2006), the first time I saw it. The story was too complicated and the visuals too dense. When I gave it another shot, I chose the English track, and suddenly it was much easier for me to take it all in. When I go back to the film, I’ll definitely use the Japanese track, but I needed the English dub to get all the way through the first the time.

The disc also features some storyboards, promotions videos and some interviews. It’s quite brief, but I found the 3-4 minute clips of Miyazaki explaining his inspirations for the story to be just what I needed.

As for the image... Well, I have to say, this Blu-ray looks absolutely stunning! The images are clean, with great colors, but they didn’t seem to be digitally manipulated to obscure all the organic flaws of classic animation, they were all right there, in crystal clear high-def. Admittedly animation is a very forgiving genre, when it comes to Blu-ray or DVD, but for a hand drawn film from 1986 this seems perfect to me.

I do hope Optimum gets around to releasing Spirited Away (2001) and Princess Mononoke (1997) on Blu-ray soon. I'd sure love to revisit them.


Laputa: Castle in the Sky is a lot more accessible than other Ghibli films I’ve seen, like Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). It feels more classic in nature, and less weird. I'm not sure today's overstimulated kids can sit still long enough to make it through this film, but they should.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky is a beautiful film, both in terms of its images and its spirit. You can’t say that about many films these days.

Thanks to Optimum Releasing and Edith Chappey for making this review possible.


The Easter Marathon 2011

Easter is coming up and that means it's time for another film marathon. Did you forget what the film marathons are all about? Read the intro to the last Easter Marathon.

As always, we're going to watch four films, but I'm doing something a little different this time around. In this marathon you'll get to chose between two films in four categories.

Without further ado, here are the movies...


FILM #1: The Creature Feature

Beetlejuice (1988) vs. Dragonheart (1996)

We open the marathon with a bit of fun.

Beetlejuice deals with a recently dead couple and their attempt to discourage anyone from moving into their old house, by haunting it and hiring the "people exorcist" Beetle Juice.

This was the film Tim Burton did just before he hit the jackpot with Batman in 1989. It features a perfectly loony mix of typically weird Burton designs and ideas, plus his ongoing fascination with death. Burton had not yet embraced the goth look that would define his later projects, consequently this film is more colorful and more fun than many of his other works, and it's full of wonderful, odd old school effects, which just add to the quirky feeling.

Dragonheart is bit more classic. Even though it's located smack in the middle of the CGI revolution of the '90s, it feels almost '80s-like in story and mood. You could easily imagine this film being done in the middle of that decade, when there was a resurgence in the fantasy genre, or perhaps it could have been done by Disney in the '60s? After all, the story of a dragonslayer who strikes up a friendship with the last remaining dragon, to fight an evil king, is the stuff of fairytales, so it would be a perfect fit with the Mouse House.

Of course, back then they wouldn't have been able to do justice to the spectacular creature at the heart (pun!) of the story, and it really is spectacular! Coupled with Sean Connery's husky voice the dragon is easily the most fascinating aspect of the film.

FILM #2: The Monster Hour

The Monster Squad (1987) vs. Fright Night (1985)

The next choice is between two 80's movies, aimed at the, let's say, "younger crowd".

The Monster Squad would be a great double bill with The Goonies (1985), because it's got the same sense of adventure. A bunch of kids discover that Dracula is "alive" and well, and has brought back a bunch of classic monsters, so he can take over the world. Naturally they must stop him!

You can't go wrong with a clever script, co-written by wünder-screenwriter Shane Black. Add to that the sheer joy of watching the old Universal monsters stumble around in an urban setting. They really don't make movies like this anymore, both in terms of mood, story, style and size. It's great fun, and a little bit scary.

Fright Night is slightly more scary. It's got a wonderfully simple premise - "what if a vampire moved in next door to you?" - which makes for a great, paranoid, but slightly goofy urban horror story. It's not entirely without bite, though. There are a few dicey moments, when young Charley must watch both his mother, girlfriend and best friend fall prey to the beast next door!

The film also features some fantastic monster effects, the kind that could only be done in the 80's. Watch it before the upcoming remake will force you to refer to this as "the original".

FILM #3: The Hunter with a Heart

The Killer (1989) vs. Blade Runner (1982)

Time to get a bit moody, with two lonely assassins.

John Woo's seminal The Killer is a wonderfully operatic take on the classic "killer with a conscience"-story. Chow Yun Fat plays the titular hero, who accidentally blinds a lounge singer during a job, but wows to help her get back on her feet, and get her some essential eye surgery.

The heroic bloodshed genre, made famous by the late 80's and early 90's films of Hong Kong, has never been more perfectly realized than here. Every frame is brimming with style and every scene has a strong emotional core. Hollywood's modern action movies could learn a lot from this.

Blade Runner is equally seminal in its own right.

A visually stunning take on the future where a disillusioned detective, played by a deliberately uncharismatic Harrison Ford, must track down and kill four "synthetic humans".

At its heart this is just a simple detective story - some would call it pedestrian - but it's elevated to new levels by director Ridley Scott's dense and realistic depiction of a decrepit Earth of the future, full of uncannily familiar elements, all of which seems to be a flashing warning of things to come.

FILM #4: The Madman Murderer

The Shining (1980) vs. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Time to get chilly and more than a little freaked out, as we end the night with a choice between two truly classic films.

A family moves into a remote hotel, to take care of it during the winter. Dad goes nuts, then gets homicidal. It's a family film, then. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining may not stick very close to the Stephen King novel, but who cares? Kubrick sure didn't, and in the process he created a very unusual horror movie, which still works today. Few things are more frightening than Jack Nicholson's off the rails performance, and that ending will leave you chilled to the bone.

Modern filmmakers working in the horror genre these days are incapable of creating the kind of slow, deliberate descent into madness we're witnesses to in The Shining, they are too busy cutting. They should sit down, watch this movie, and learn.

By comparison The Silence of the Lambs is perhaps a bit more mainstream than The Shining, but it's no less frightening. A spiffy young Jodie Foster hunts serial killer Buffalo Bill and gets assistance from incarcerated psychiatrist and serial killer Hannibal Lecter.

With all the C.S.I. and Criminals Minds shows on TV these days, the hunt for serial killers has become a bit stale, luckily The Silence of the Lambs draws its mojo from the scenes between the innocent young girl and the shrewd, cannibalistic older man. They are still as electric today, as the first time we saw them.



So there you have it folks. Pick one film in each category, watch them during a single day, and report back with your results. It really is that simple.

As for me, I think I'll pick Dragonheart, Fright Night, The Killer, and The Shining to watch. It's going to be epic. I can't wait!



For Your Eyes Only (1981)


A British spy ship sinks off the coast of Greece, carrying with it an ATAC transmitter. This device is used to send launch-codes to submarines and such. If it should fall into the wrong hands, the result could be catastrophic. Bond is dispatched to discover who killed the man responsible for the recovery of the device.

Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, but nails surprisingly few broads during the course of this film. Only one! He even turns down a perky, blond skater, barely 20 years old! What the hell is wrong with him?!


Nobody! All we get is some random Greek smuggler who wants to sell the ATAC to the Russians. There's a boatload of thugs, though, including a silent, but deadly, blond dude, and Charles Dance shows up too!


Ah yes, the Bond we know and hate is back. If story is king, then Bond resides in a republic. An extremely important coding device has been lost, does Bond attempt to find it? No, he's on a mission to find the guy, who hired the guy, who killed the guy, who was going to locate the device. No, you read that right. And while he's off on this tangent, the device is lying in the wreck of a ship, free for anyone to find. Please. To top off this insult to agents everywhere, Bond seems more like he's on a cosy vacation than on a mission. He's strolling around in Greece, tasting the local cuisine, talking casually with a few contacts.

The film also wastes a dumbfounding amount of time on a completely superfluous subplot, featuring the ice-skater Bibi. As much as I enjoy watching this perky little thing rub herself up against Bond, this part of the story is utterly useless, and in an already slow and aimless film, it's positively painful.

The pre-credit sequence is also useless. Bond is kidnapped by Blofeld, who we almost forgot was still running free out there. He's in a wheelchair and laughs maniacally all the time, but we never see his face. Unfortunately for him Bond takes control of a helicopter, picks up Blofeld and drops him into an industrial chimney. Done. I was almost flabbergasted. Clearly the producers knew they had a loose end in Blofeld, they didn't want to deal with him anymore, so he's killed off in this ridiculous, unceremonious manner.

In terms of action and drama this film is roadkill. First of all, Bond travels to a ski resort. Really? That's a new one. Of course this means we get the inevitable ski chase. Haven't we done that a million times already? Later in the film we get an impressive climbing sequence. Impressive, because it's so excruciating slow, and unbelievably incompetent. Turns out, Bond can't climb either. If you thought Bond was out of place in Harlem, you should see him hanging on to a cliff-side for dear life, with the death-grip of a condemned man.

The single good action scene in this dull fare is the exploration of the sunken ship. I don't understand why the whole film wasn't built around this element. Bond and a hot chick enter the wreckage. They're attacked! There are sharks in the water! We get a short, but great fight scene, between two mini-subs, The Abyss-style! It's pretty cool, and they clearly build the whole set in a tank, and they have the subs and everything. Why not make this element - Bond physically getting his hands on the illusive device - the centerpiece of the story?

I always enjoy reviewing films from the 80's, because it's so easy to determine how good they are, by comparing them to landmark films of the decade: Try this on for size: For Your Eyes Only was released 1 year after The Empire Strikes Back, same year as Raiders of the Lost Ark, and one year before Blade Runner. Why does it look like it's 30 years older?

Maybe it's because of scenes like the one where Bond learns an important clue from - wait for it - a parrot. Yes, an actual parrot. That's not even the worst part. The worst part is the scene where Margaret Thatcher is having a conversation with said parrot, believing it to be James Bond. Yes, you read that right too.


Moonraker (1979)


Bond goes to outer space! When a space shuttle on route for England is hijacked in mid-air Bond is sent to California to investigate Drax Industries, the manufacturer of the spaceship. Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, but not as much as usual. He does nail every broad with a pulse, including NASA Scientist Dr. Goodhead, a gorgeous brunette pilot, who works for Drax, and a Brazilian chick.

In the final act Bond heads off into space.


Hugo Drax, who basically wants to create a Noah's Ark in space, full of really hot people, and kill off the rest of the Earth's population. His vicious attitude, and his disdain for all things British, makes him really creepy. He's got a creepy sword-wielding Asian henchman on his payroll, and he hires Jaws, the creepy giant with the metal teeth from the prevous film, to take out Bond.


From the spectacular opening scene - the space shuttle hijacking - Moonraker moves at a brisk and refreshing pace. Bond is thrown out of a plane without a parachute even before the opening credits roll! The globetrotting investigation takes Bond to the waterways of Venice, the carnival of Rio, the waterfalls of the Amazon, and yes, eventually into outer space. In a rare case of lucidity the investigation actually stays on target throughout the film, using that "finding a clue and following it"-technique we talked about in previous reviews. Perhaps that's why the silly antics don't bother me as much here, as in earlier films, and trust me the silly antics are REALLY silly here.

The gondola chase through Venice must be the worst offender here. Bond is almost killed by a henchman who pops out of a coffin in a funeral procession! When he realizes his life is threatened he turns the gondola into a speed boat at the push of a button, and later the boat drives UP ON LAND! Naturally Her Majesty's Secret Service has a land-going-speedboat-gondola ready in Venice, should an agent ever need one. Right! And it doesn't matter how many ladies Bond has nailed, he can't possibly look cool in such a machine. Bond loses all the street cred he saved up earlier in the film, when he is almost killed in a big a centrifuge thingy. The kind they train astronauts in. That's a pretty cool scene, by the way, we can actually see Roger Moore's face distorted by G-force!

I don't think I've mentioned this in any of the other reviews, but can I just point out how appallingly bad the rear projection shots are in the Bond movies? Every time we get a big action sequence, where the whole thing is obviously done by stuntmen 20 years younger than Bond, there's one or two quick glimpses of the actual Bond actor pretending to be a part of the scene, shot in a studio in front of a screen showing an incredibly shaky shot from the stunt sequence. It's almost laughable how unconvincing this is, and yet there's at least one sequence like this in every Bond. Are these shots fooling anybody? Where they EVER fooling anybody?

The success of Star Wars forced the producers to think outside the box, so that's the reason the last half hour takes place in outer space. I don't actually mind this sequence. We get space shuttles, a space station, zero gravity scenes, it's all very impressive. Inevitably the giant space battle between two teams of astronauts with freakin' laser guns seems a bit forced, but luckily the visual effects throughout this sequence are surprisingly well done.

If The Man with the Golden Gun is commonly referred to as Moore's most disappointing film, Moonraker is usually laughed off a the most embarrassing and ill conceived attempt to stay current. I will say this: There's a distinct possibility that original 007 creator Ian Flemming was spinning in his grave, when this film was revealed to the world.

Yes, Moonraker is a completely silly film, but I must admit I absolutely love it. Chalk it up to my fascination with Star Wars, if you must, but if it was up to me Bond can (and should) go into outer space any time he wants. As long as he stays out of Harlem, I'm fine with it.


The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)


A British and a Russian submarine disappear without a trace. The worst part is: They were carrying nuclear missiles. James Bond is dispatched to investigate how the subs' tracking systems were compromised. Meanwhile his Russian counterpart, the gorgeous and deadly Major Anya Amasova aka Agent Triple X, has received a similar mission. Though they initially work against each other, eventually the two agents must pool their resources to discover the culprit.

Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, he nails every broad with a pulse, including a gorgeous conniving blond, an Egyptian chick, plus the aforementioned major. To add drama to the mix Bond also nails the major's lover in the pre-credit sequence, though in an entirely different meaning of the word.

This is the film that features the coolest gadget Bond ever possessed. The sexy white Lotus, which can turn into a submarine at the push of a button.


Sinister industrialist Karl Stromberg, who wants to cause a nuclear war, so we'll all be forced to live under water. Easy for him to say, he's safely hidden away in his spider-looking submersible headquarters. Did I mention he's also got a tank with a shark in it?

This movie also marks the first appearance of the henchman Jaws. He's the giant with the metal teeth.


The first act of The Spy Who Loved Me is rather shaky. The usual clumsy Bond investigation we're used to. Badly written, badly staged, just bad. There's a scene were Bond and the major sneak into the back of a bad guy's van. While they're waiting for the car to reach its destination they sit casually and talk in completely normal voices! Weren't they supposed to be hiding? Isn't the bad guy sitting 6 feet away, within earshot? It doesn't help the film that the credit sequences at this point have become almost laughable. Naked ladies prancing around are hard to mess up, but credit designer Maurice Binder manages to do so. Some of these images are beyond Austin Powers absurd.

There's also too much humor in the first part of the movie. Here's the thing about humor in an action movie: It's very tricky to get right. If done wrong it can seriously undercut the action-scenes, so you no longer fear for the character's lives. Plus, this type of humor is rarely all that funny to begin with, because we're not dealing with a real comedy.

When the major and Bond are forced to join up the plot slowly begins to make sense. They finally find themselves face to face with the bad guy, and they learn about his preposterous plan, and we get a clear idea about the scope of the story. This confirms my point that Bond is far better suited for these types of international crises, where the stakes are really high, because even though Stromberg's plan is rather childish, we get the sense that he most definitely will succeed, and that it will be VERY bad for all of us, if Bond can't stop him.

The Spy Who Loved Me feels like a big movie, and it looks big too. Stromberg's HQ is just massive. When seen from the outside we're treated to some very impressive model shots, while the inside of the craft must have been one of the biggest sets constructed at the time. Even the action-scenes work in this film, especially a rather inventive car chase, where Bond and the major are being chased by every motorized transportation know to man.

Roger Moore has stepped up his game this time around, he looks way more serious, and it's clear that Bond understands the gravity of the situation. Don't get me wrong, he's still got time to flirt, but he doesn't seem quite as distracted as he was during past missions. The scene where he must dismantle a nuclear missile while a tight deadline is looming is a showstopper. Moore's third outing in the 007 universe is not only watchable, but one of the best entries of the series so far, even though it takes a while before it really gets going. The film eventually finds its footing, and a solid one at that. The action sequences are cool, the story works, and for the first time we can take James Bond seriously as a secret agent.

A funny moment occurs at the end of the credits: "James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only", it says. Actually, no. Star Wars was released the same year as this movie, so the Bond producers had to cash in on the moviegoers' fascination with space. 007's next adventure would take him to the stars.


The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)


James Bond learns that notoriously secretive, $1 million per hit assassin Scaramanga (played by Christopher Lee) has got a bullet with his name on it. Instead of simply waiting, Bond heads out into the world to find Scaramanga first. The chase takes him to China and Macao, and also involves a new energy saving technology. Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, but he nails almost no broads in this film, he's just too busy, even though cute little blond agent Goodnight (Britt Ekland) practically throws herself at him.


Oh dear. No one is looking for world domination. Well, there's some talk about cheap energy, but no bad guy stroking a cat, no satellites with lasers, nothing. Just one guy who wants to kill another. That's fairly disappointing. In fact, the most sinister person here is Scaramanga's manservant, the midget, Nick Nack.


Generally considered one of the worst Bond movies, this is still far better than the previous film, and most of the Connery ones. Unfortunately that doesn't say much. The central plot certainly has merit, and could have worked if it had been done right.

What we needed was a stone cold face-off between two men at the height of their craft. The film should have been a series of increasingly intense duels, culminating in the ultimate mano-a-mano battle. That would have been a great film. But we get none of that here, instead we get a fumbling, bumbling story, where Bond's previous case, involving a new energy source, is suddenly linked to the assassin who, it turns out, had no idea about the threat against Bond, because he didn't send it! Scaramanga wasn't looking for Bond at all!

One could argue that the film fumbles the ball in the very first minute with the pre-credit introduction of Scaramanga. You see, one of his identifying marks is a third nipple. So of course we need a shot of a shirtless Christopher Lee with three nipples. There are few things less scary than the sight of a guy with three nipples, just saying. Next up we get to see how Scaramanga keeps sharp between jobs. Rather than a cool obstacle course that could push him to the max, physically, Scaramanga has created a ludicrous fun-house with mirrors and puppets, where he can lure other assassins in, confuse them, and kill them with ease. That's just dumb!

The rest of the film is hit and miss in terms of what works and what doesn't. Moore looks a little younger and a little less creepy than in the previous film, but once again demonstrates how inept he is in a close quarter fight. This guy is a trained agent? Really? One step forward, one step back.

The Secret Service's headquarters in the East is located in a half-sunken ship. The wreck is leaning to one side, but the interior has been modified to compensate for this, a really original and inspired piece of production design. Unfortunately the film also contains two incredibly unoriginal and uninspired action-scenes: A long boring fight at a karate school and another boat chase, virtually identical to the one in the previous film. One step forward, three steps back. And here's the real kicker. The utterly stupid redneck cop from the previous film is on vacation in China, and joins Bond in a car chase. Make it stop!

James Bond again comes off like a talentless playboy hack, a guy you wouldn't trust with a potato gun, much less matters of national security. In this film he even drops his freakin' gun at THE most crucial moment, and to make matters worse he doesn't even have the best gadget. That honor goes to Scaramanga, who can turn his car into an airplane!

We also learn a shocking, unpleasant truth about Bond. Turns out that 007 can't even hot-wire a car. What a prissy Brit.


Live and Let Die (1973)


James Bond looks different. Again.

The deaths of three agents put Bond on the trail of a nasty, heroin dealing, leader of a small Caribbean island. So he heads to Harlem, New York and New Orleans to investigate. Of course Bond also flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, he nails every broad with a pulse, including his first black woman, played by Gloria Hendry, a fresh-faced Jane Seymour, and an adorable tiny Italian thing.

There's a speed boat chase, Bond has a magnetic watch that can deflect bullets (which is not possible, according to Mythbusters), and we get the first title song that's actually any good.


Pimp-looking drug baron Kananga who thinks that giving away a lot of free heroin will somehow put everyone else out of business, allowing him to take over the entire North-American market. He's assisted by a smiling pimp-looking henchman with an iron claw, several regular pimp-looking henchmen, and the entire population of Harlem. In fact every black pimp-looking person in sight seems to work for him.


So Roger Moore takes over the iconic role of James Bond. How do we feel about that? We hate it.

Moore was 46 when the film came out, and he looks it. He's clearly seen better days, and it's more than a little creepy when he jumps into bed with one young beauty after another. The problem isn't all the things the filmmakers have done to make Moore different than Connery - and they've done quite a few - the problem is all the things that make him seem like a butler, rather than a secret agent. God, he just looks so damn British!

A man's got to know his limitations, so when this stiff Brit stumbles into Harlem and - wait for it - doesn't blend in, he can't be surprised! He just can't. It makes him seem like an idiot. Bond is so far out of his element here that he couldn't look more ridiculous, even if he tried. Of course the bad guys immediately catch him! Why wouldn't they? He's the only white guy in a ten block radius! Unsurprisingly Bond is once again nearly killed several times, and once again only escapes due to sheer luck. Why didn't they change THAT part of the story?

Then there's the plot. Heroin dealing in America is hardly a job for Her Majesty's Secret Service. They justify it by including the deaths of a few British agents, but it just doesn't sit right. On top of that we're dealing with Voodoo, and superstitious nonsense like Tarot cards, which is just not worthy of Bond. Don't get me wrong, Voodoo can be extremely scary, but the way they treat it here, just makes it seem like a joke. Oh, look what the simple-minded black folks believe in, isn't that cute?

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the film in general just seems extremely racist to me. It could just be the fact that every black person in sight dresses like a pimp, and they are ALL involved in drug-dealing.

In the later years inventive action-sequences, with a touch of humor, became a staple of the Bond franchise. That seems to start here. At one point Bond attempts to escape a bunch of pimp-looking henchmen by stealing a small plane, but of course he doesn't just fly away, oh no! He drives around the airport, disabling the cars one by one. The sequence could have worked if the simple solution wasn't so obvious... Get the hell out of Dodge, you're on a freakin' plane, genius! Later we get a speed boat chase. That might have worked too, but for some reason we leave Bond during this chase, to follow a bunch of clumsy, racist, redneck cops, as they struggle to catch up with the boats. An odd choice, and a scene more fitting for Cannonball Run. The sequence is also too long, it just becomes boring by the end.

When the biggest drama in a cool action movie with a secret agent is a moment when our hero is almost bitten by a very small snake, you're in trouble. If the course charted by this film is anything to go by, the continued adventures of James Bond, by way of Roger Moore, will be a world of hurt. For the viewers that is.


James Bond Marathon II: The Moore Years

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Gee whiz, I sure wish there were more films about James Bond, because the first seven were so freakin', flippin' good. I just want to keep going!"

Well, you're in luck. I now present to you: "James Bond Marathon II: The Moore Years".

This marathon will feature the seven James Bond films starring Roger Moore, but it will also include Sean Connery's unofficial return to the role, in 1983's Never Say Never Again. Yes, I know, purists don't consider it part of the real  Bond series, but I couldn't care less.

The movies we'll be watching are:

Live and Let Die (1973)
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Moonraker (1979)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Octopussy (1983)
Never Say Never Again (1983)
A View to a Kill (1985)

First review will go online tomorrow and then there'll be a new one every other day or so. There's nothing Moore to say (sorry), so in the words of the great man, whose films we are about to devour...

"The headless chicken can only know where he's been. He can't see where he's going."