My Take by Jim Carl - June 7
When I read that 2012 was James Bond's 50th anniversary, I remember thinking that something was a little off. I could have sworn that Bond's first movie, Dr. No, was released in 1963, which would have made 2012 his 49th anniversary, but no, I read on IMDB that it was indeed 1962. That still didn't feel quite right to me. A little research later and I learned that---technically---I was right. Dr. No was delayed until 1963 in the United States because of the Cuban Missile Crisis, so 2013 is indeed his 50th anniversary if you're an American.
In July, we're hosting the James Bond 50th Anniversary Retrospective, and in anticipation of that series, I thought I'd share my favorite Bond films. Keep in mind that I was born in 1968 and came of age during the Roger Moore years. The gimmicks, one-liners, and gadgets were part of the lore. If you're a purist who loves Sean Connery, that's fine with me. It just means you're probably an even-older fart than me. My personal favorite is Diamonds are Forever, in case you're wondering. (In my defense, it had an awesome theme song...and I love that closing shot. And it aired about a 1000 times on TV when I was a kid.)
So here they are, my favorite Bonds, in order:
I wasn't a fan of Daniel Craig's first outings as Bond. I thought Craig was a good choice for the part, but the plots of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace underwhelmed me. All of that changed with Skyfall. Based on this one, Craig can have the role for as long as he wants. Here was the first movie in years that I paid full price to see three times in theatres. The last time that happened might have been 1986's Aliens. Amazingly, the entire movie worked for me. There are plenty of great reviews of Skyfall on the internet. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and read some of those reviews. If you accidentally stumble across a negative one, just know that critic is stupid and you should never read another word from them. I loved that Judi Dench was essentially the Bond Girl, and bravo for her. Even Javier Bardem (whom I've always found a bit overrated) was great as the villain. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but the film's theme about old school vs. new school resonated with me. (Just so you know, Old School is always better.) This was my favorite film of 2012.
THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)
This was the first movie I ever recorded onto VHS off HBO. It must have been 1980 and, in those days, blank VHS tapes cost $20 apiece (which is like $267 in modern currency for a twelve year-old.) Getting one as a birthday present was a very big deal. Everyone of a certain age has a story like mine about that special VHS which got played so many times that your parents threatened to unplug the VCR because of it. Surprisingly, all these years later, the movie holds up as a great Bond adventure. As Agent XXX, Barbara Bach is probably my favorite Bond Girl of all time. And Carly Simon's"Nobody Does It Better" still ranks as one of the best Bond songs in the history of the series.
This was the first Bond movie I saw in a theatre. I was ten years old and still remember that opening scene where the bad guys hijack that space shuttle off the top of an in-flight airplane...and then it explodes. Wow. I know Moonraker gets a lot of flack from Bond afficionados for being too campy and being a shameless cash-grab after Star Wars, but I don't care. This is a fun movie. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and this is one of those flicks whose memory hasn't diminished with time. It also has the distinction of being the first previously-used movie I ever purchased on VHS ($25 bucks in 1984).
And for some balance, here are my least-favorite Bond films:
QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)
I have no idea what's supposed to be happening in this movie. I think it's about the price of water in Bolivia...or something idiotic like that. Scenes are edited so quickly that it becomes a series of blurry movements, punctuated by gunshots. Was there even a Bond Girl in this one? I've sat through this mess twice. The second time to make sense of what I saw the first time, and it didn't help.
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1964)
The inclusion of this title on this list is sacrilege to most Bond fans, I know, but I watched this for the first time last March and was bored to death. Really, bored...to...death. This movie is basically two hours of waiting for Bond to realize that he's being played for a fool, and then there's a quaint fistfight in a compartment of the Orient Express, and then the credits roll. I suspect this is a generational thing, this love for Russia, but I have no angle of approach to this material. It's not a bad movie for its time, I guess, but it's also not for me.
DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)
This was the worst of the Brosnan years and it's a shame he left the series with this dog. Is this the one where he outraces a tsunami and has the invisible car? It says something that I consider myself a serious Bond fan, but those last Brosnan films get mixed-up in my head. The guy with the diamonds embedded in his face was plain stupid. Halle Berry was annoying; a thousand times better in 1996's Executive Decision. My favorite part of this movie was Madonna, and wow, I can't believe I just wrote that.