Sunday, 19 October 2014

James Bond 007- A gregglesonfilm special presentation

'A pleasant evening...' 

With well over a year still left until Sam Mendes steps back in the ring to slug out the next (fingers crossed) classic in the seemingly ceaseless, serially splendid, (sometimes silly) space-spanning Spy-saga (GregglesOnFilm apologizes for its' infamously ill-idiomed, inevitably idiotic alliteration), we thought now might be a wise time to take a cheeky moment to celebrate 007 in all his timeless, classically hard edged, stylistically witty, British-to-the-bone glory. What makes a great Bond movie? The action? The locations? The girls...? Which is the best Bond film yet made? Who plays the role to perfection? What is it you love best about the old shagger himself?

I myself am a fan of almost all Bond films, but wouldn't consider myself a super-fan, nor someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of the movies. But as a film series goes, it is without question the biggest, the most enduring, the most consistently popular in film history. This is worthy of looking at in some small way.

I asked a handful of friends to give me their 10 favorite Bond films, their favorite 007 actor, and also favorite Bond theme song. Having compiled them together, with my own, they make an interesting read.

In addition to this, I asked an old friend - a renowned Bond aficionado and genuine authority on all things 007- to compose the main centrepiece to this post. What he delivered was a revealing piece full of insight, tidbits, humour and heart, from a writer whose passion for the subject is infectious.


What James Bond Means To Me?

By Sam Devereaux

Writer/Actor/'Creative type', Sam Devereaux

            I’m sitting in my office at home, working on some project or other. Out of my speakers blares the James Bond Theme. This particular version is the wonderful re-imagining of the theme created by George Martin for Roger Moore’s inaugural fling with the shoulder holster: Live & Let Die (1973). While John Barry’s 1962 arrangement will always remain the absolutely definitive version of Bond’s signature melody, I find myself thinking that I probably like Martin’s rock-heavy 70’s flavoured version 2nd best. Suddenly my 4-year-old son is at my side his face full of glee. “Daddy! It’s James Bond!!”

I should point out at this stage that my son has not been exposed to any of the, shall we say, full-on Bond adventures. I have sat with him while we watched Dr. No (1962) and that relatively benign yet hugely enjoyable Moore-led romp, Octopussy (1983). A fairly small sample of agent 007 and probably about as appropriate for 4-year-olds as Bond gets! Yet I was amazed that the familiar guitar sound is already emblazoned across his consciousness. Especially when you considered he spent a good hour of Dr. No asleep and at least half of Octopussy playing with Lego. Cubby Broccoli once famously referred to the Bond films as: “Sadism for the family!” With that thought rattling around my head I got to thinking about my own first experiences with James Bond and what the 007 legacy means to me personally.

            In 1984 I was myself 4-years-old. There was no Bond Movie in the cinema that year, not that my parents would have taken me. (Indeed, due to the excesses of 1989’s Licence To Kill and the infamous hiatus of 1990-93 I didn’t see my first 007 epic on the big screen until GoldenEye in 1995!) What there was in 1984 was an early evening showing of Moonraker (1979) on ITV. I freely admit that recollections of one’s very young life are normally spotty at best but that viewing of Moonraker was without doubt one of the most exciting and potent movie memories of my childhood (the other two ‘biggies’ being Star Wars and Raiders Of The Lost Ark)

Bond poised,  in Moonrakers' amazing boat chase scene
Sometime around the utterly absurd but sumptuously shot canal boat chase, probably about the time that 007 drives his BONDola across St Marks Square, my Dad scooped me up off the sofa: “Time for bed.” As if I could sleep after seeing all that! My tiny mind was likely swirling with images of exploding shuttles, 007 falling out of a plane without a parachute, Jaws, a rogue centrifuge and John Barry’s gloriously evocative, swooning score.
My parents’ house at the time had a tall staircase within easy view of the TV screen. It was here that I nestled myself as quietly as I could to secretly finish watching the adventure. My Dad says now that he knew I was there and chose to turn a blind eye. I like to believe that. A father recognized that a unique cinematic initiation was underway for his son and he was pleased to not interfere. I distinctly remember the space battle and Jaws saying, “Well, here’s to us!” I also remember the ending scene with Bond and Holly although I’m quite sure I had no idea what Q meant when he uttered the films best laugh: “I think he’s attempting re-entry sir.” 



Ok here are my lists.

Favourite Bond: Roger Moore

Top three Songs:
1.) Nobody does it better (Carly Simon-The Spy Who Loved Me) 
2,) Moonraker (Shirley Bassey-Moonraker) 
3,) All Time High (Rita Coolidge- Octopussy)

Top Ten Movies:

1,) Moonraker
2,) The Spy who loved me
3,) Octopussy
4,) From Russia with love                                            
5,) Dr No
6,) Tomorrow Never Dies
7,) On Her Majesty's secret service
8,) Goldfinger
9,) The World is not enough
10,) The Living Daylights

Why Moonraker?...

Well, mostly for nostalgic reasons really, it's my first memory of Bond. Christmas 1982 saw Moonrakers' TV debut (a new Bond film on TV was a big deal in those days) and henceforth I became fascinated by the world of 007. This 11th addition has everything a great Bond film needs to be....a John Barry score, Shirley Bassey song, gadgets, stunts, women, villains and a stunning location in Rio de Janeiro. I love the Rio stuff, the visuals from Sugarloaf mountain and its subsequent cable car action sequence with the unforgettable Jaws is quite ludicrously brilliant!. My favourite scene is when Bond arrives on Concorde in Brazil, it is the essence of glamour, sophistication and charm, a sequence richer than a lottery winners stash of Swiss chocolate! Roger Moore oozes style, charisma and is simply wonderful in this film, this is his interpretation of Bond at its best! Although I would admit 'The Spy who loved me ' is arguably the greater movie,  this 1979 adventure is certainly the most ambitious attempted and will always be my favourite and most enjoyable to watch.


            As I alluded to earlier, Star Wars and Raiders Of The Lost Ark were (and still are) a big deal for me. There was one thing that agent 007 had though that, for my young mind, trumped every other cinematic icon of the era: James Bond is British! 

In today’s connected, globalized world it is difficult to convey the extent to which Bond was capable of reinforcing and indeed, for a child, instilling a sense of what Britishness is. Now without delving into the history of Britain’s decline as an imperial power too deeply, or indeed taking too great a scholarly interest in the virtues of a little boy hero-worshipping a man who is effectively a high-functioning sociopath, it is safe to say that 007 made us little Brits in decline feel like we were still ultimately the one’s to clean up everyone else’s mess!
            During the turbulent 1980s, as my young mind absorbed first Roger Moore’s and then (the criminally underrated) Timothy Dalton’s exploits with the Walther PPK, it was tremendously reassuring to feel that Bond was out there making it all better and doing it with British style. One could argue that in our collective consciousness we Britishers resent the notion that we only survived World War II because the Americans finally got their act together and bailed us out.
I believe this insecurity is very obviously present in the way that almost every pre-Daniel Craig Bond film openly mocks the American characters for their ineptitude and idiocy. 

Sheriff J.W Pepper
Whether we’re talking about the smooth British official who calmly tells off the arguing Russian and American delegates during an early scene in You Only Live Twice (1967) or Felix Leiter seemingly always one step behind Sean Connery’s 007 or indeed the patently ludicrous cartoon character that is Sheriff JW Pepper in Live & Let
Die and The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) there is always a sense that it is the smooth, calm, intelligent Britisher who will show these dumb Americans the way. For a boy immersed in the Hollywood and McDonald’s culture of the 1980s, Bond was a completely luminous beacon of national pride. You Yanks might have more money then us and better TV than us and we prefer your fast food but damn it, we’ve got James Bond!  

(As an aside, it is because of the above that I believe anyone from my generation would have squealed just a little bit louder in delight at the unmatchable sight of Daniel Craig’s 007 escorting the Queen herself to the Olympic Opening Ceremony of London 2012. Via helicopter and parachute naturally…Top that!)




Favourite Bond - Pierce Brosnan
He was my first bond and captured the suaveness and almost invincibility I like without being as camp as Roger Moore.

Favourite song- Diamonds are forever

It had to be a Shirley really but a very hard decision overall (would be better to do a top ten for this!)

Ok, my Top Ten Bond Films...

10= Dr No
9= Tomorrow never dies
8=  From Russia with love
7=   Live and let die
6=   For your eyes only
5=   Casino Royale
4=  The world is not enough
3=  On her Majesty's secret service
2=  SkyFall
1=  Goldeneye   (Because, come on, Sean Bean...)

                          As far as I am aware there are only two major film series that invariably begin in the same way no matter what installment you are watching. In the case of the Star Wars saga there is the story-so-far crawling across space accompanied by John Williams majestic Rebel Fanfare. It is said that George Lucas wished to begin Star Wars (yes Star Wars not A New Hope!) with the shot of the escaping Rebel cruiser being pursued by that stunning Imperial Star Destroyer. Pesky Hollywood union rules decreed that all films must begin with a title sequence of some sort so Lucas hit upon the idea of a Flash Gordon style opening crawl to get round the union rules and an iconic moment in cinema history was born. 

The 'Goldfinger' gun-barrel
The so-called Gunbarrel shot that heralds the opening of (almost) every James Bond film is no less iconic and would also seemed to have found itself opening each 007 epic more or less by accident. Bob Simmons, the stunt man who first performed the famous walk and shoot into the gunbarrel was actually creating just one small moment of the poster-paint like title sequence to Dr. No. For reasons that have never been made explicitly clear it was decided, presumably by director Terence Young, to use Simmons gunbarrel shot at the beginning of From Russia With Love (1963). Perhaps it was to provide some stylistic continuity between the new film and it’s predecessor? John Barry created some scoring for the short sequence (there had only been a few sound effects in Dr. No) and a moment that sets Bond films apart from their competitors was set, gloriously, in stone.

The Gunbarrel is, in my opinion, a totally essential part of the ritual of a James Bond film. It doesn’t matter whether 007 is being played by a new hand or an old favourite, whether the director is exciting or maddeningly obscure, whether the singer hired for the title song is loved or loathed. 
'Diamonds Are Forever' Gun barrel

'Goldeneye' gun barrel
No, the Gunbarrel is the essential element in setting the mood and, most crucially, bringing the established audience on side. A good Gunbarrel (Diamonds Are Forever) relaxes the nerves and reassures the audience that what they’re about to see will be classic 007. A daringly different Gunbarrel (Licence To Kill) can excite the audience’s interest and open their minds to unexpected departures from the established formula. A Gunbarrel that misses the mark (GoldenEye) can set the audience on edge and it will take a good film from there on in to restore the purity of the ritual (again GoldenEye!)

The Gunbarrel is also a clue as to the nature of that other essential component in the 007 ritual: The Score. That twenty seconds of music is arguably more important in setting the tone of the film then any other part of the traditional teaser. That clue as to the type of Bond Score that is waiting for us can have such a strong influence on one’s appreciation of the film it accompanies that, just like reverb on a vocal microphone, it can hide a multitude of sins!

Composer David Arnold
When I sat in the Odeon Leicester Square in December 1997 awaiting the opening of Tomorrow Never Dies, I distinctly remember my heart beating loudly in my ears such was my excitement, not just about the film, but about newly installed composer David Arnold’s first crack at the music. The stunningly original Gunbarrel that preceded not just a classic 007 score but also an endlessly fresh and inventive one immediately lifted Pierce Bronsnan’s second and (I feel) best Bond epic into the all time top 10. It also covered up the somewhat flimsy writing in the 3rd act! Flimsy writing, due to a truncated production schedule and creative disagreements, that arguably robbed the 18th Bond film of the chance to take it’s place as the greatest of all. Fortunately Arnold’s scoring remains inspired to the end. Even 17 years later, Tomorrow Never Dies remains the Bond Score I would take to a desert island, such is its flirtation with Bondian aural perfection.



Top 10 Films

10. Licence To Kill (1989 dir. John Glen)

Oddly enough the film criticised at the time for being too dark now wouldn’t look out of place amongst the more recent ones. Love the momentum of having it be a personal vendetta and when I first saw it as an impressionable youth the more grisly elements (Sharks! Exploding bloke in the pressure chamber!) made it just that much cooler. Robert Davi is excellent as the menacing villain and the final tanker chase ranks amongst the series best set pieces.

9. For Your Eyes Only (1981 dir. John Glen)

Yes, Roger Moore was getting slightly too old at this point (and the scenes with the teenage ice-skater are a tiny bit uncomfortable) but I’ve always loved this one. Perhaps because it’s unusual in a Bond film in that it isn’t immediately clear who the villain is (Julian Glover and Topol are both great as the two candidates), or the lovely Carol Bouquet, or the awesome mini chase. Also has the brilliant moment when Bond kicks the assassin off the cliff – a moment of Connery-esque coldness largely absent in the Moore era. Oh and talking parrots are always funny.

8. Goldfinger (1964 dir. Guy Hamilton)

The iconic one – Aston Martin, razor-tipped bowler hat, Pussy Galore, ‘do you expect me to talk?’ Although my favourite moment is when Bond emerges from the water in a wetsuit and strips off to reveal an immaculate tuxedo. If perhaps not as thrilling as other entries in the series it makes up for it with sheer cool.

7. Casino Royale (2006 dir. Martin Campbell)

After the invisible-car fiasco of Die Another Day an overhaul of the series was thoroughly needed, especially post-Bourne. Dialling back on a lot of the series conventions but keeping the glamour and action (the free-running/crane chase scene is outstanding), it’s a slickly enjoyable job. Director Martin Campbell deserves credit for making a poker game as exciting as any action set piece

6. GoldenEye (1995 dir Martin Campbell)

One of the most relentlessly balls-out enjoyable of the series, from the ace opening stunt to the giant satellite finale. Sean Bean, Famke Janssen and Alan Cumming are all great and the tank chase which destroys half of St. Petersburg would make a Top 10 Bond Set Pieces list. Might be one place higher if it wasn’t for Eric Serra’s awful electronic score.

5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969 dir. Peter Hunt)

Yep. The Bond film that’s it been cool to knock for years is actually one of the best. The action sequences (ski chase!) are outstanding, largely due to the installation of long time series editor Peter Hunt in the directors’ chair, Diana Rigg is a strong contender for best Bond Girl ever and Telly Savalas is a terrific Blofeld. But this was the film where Bond shows an emotional vulnerability and is all the better for it. Would have been a strong contender for the top if not for the zero charisma of George Lazenby and the “this would never have happened to the other fella” line, a cheap gag that even the last couple of Roger Moores never stooped to. It’s terrific otherwise.

4. From Russia With Love (1963 dir. Terrence Winter)

A straightforward spy thriller for sure – Bond races against SPECTRE to find a gizmo! – but executed with pure class. Connery at his best – funny, charming and menacing as Bond survives on his wits alone, the most complicated gadget is the briefcase with secret compartments! Who would have thought a woman trying to kick Bond in the shins would be so terrifying? Also the train sequence is just brilliant, the tense exchange between Bond and Robert Shaw’s henchman which then explodes into one of the best hand-to-hand combat scenes in any film. Ever.

3. The Living Daylights (1987 dir. John Glen)

Dalton’s first entry is an absolute corker. The action is terrific (the dangling out of a plane fight is still breathtaking today), there’s good chemistry between Dalton and Maryam D’Abo and the Pretenders-listening henchman Necros is one of the series best. The twisty post cold war plot is immense fun too and after the disaster of the last two Moore entries it’s refreshing to have a Bond capable of doing his own stunts! It’s only the functional but unmemorable villain that’s keeping this out of the Top 2.

2. You Only Live Twice ( 1967 dir. Lewis Gilbert)

From the breathtaking opening (spaceship hijack!) to the much-imitated-never bettered finale as ninjas storm a volcano base, this is just brilliant. The Japanese setting adds a welcome mystical element, John Barry’s score is quite possibly his best and Ken Adam’s sets are amazing. Donald Pleasence’s creepy Blofeld is great. And then there’s the helicopter battle, the iconic pool of piranhas, and the scene where Bond fights The Rock’s grandfather. Oh and did I mention that it ends up with NINJAS attacking A VOLCANO? Brilliant.

1. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977 dir. Lewis Gilbert)

But then in the end it had to be this one. The first Bond film I ever saw (the Jaws-hiding-in-the-wardrobe scene was so terrifying I wouldn’t open a wardrobe for weeks afterwards) and still the one I enjoy the most. It’s just full of superb moments, from the definitive pre-credits stunt, to the superb pyramids cat-and-mouse scene with Jaws fading in and out of darkness. Barbara Bach’s KGB agent Anya hits the right balance of sexy and capable, Curt Jurgens is a splendidly sinister villain and then there’s Jaws. Before his ill-advised Moonraker return tuned him into a parody, he’s genuinely menacing here. Both the gadgets and the humour (“Egyptian builders!”) are present without overwhelming the story. And with all due apologies to Aston Martin fans but the swimming Lotus is the best Bond car ever.


This was arguably harder than the film list…

3. Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey
Had to have a Shirley Bassey in here somewhere and this is the best one. Superb arrangement by John Barry (full credit to the excellent horn section), lyrics that actually have something to do with the film and Ms. Bassey’s brassy delivery.

2. Live And Let Die – Paul McCartney and Wings  
A rare Bond song that isn’t at the same pace from beginning to end, it’s the light and shade of this that makes it cool. Of all the more action based Bond themes (honourable mentions to Chris Cornell and Duran Duran) this is the one that makes you feel like springing into action. Not even the slightly naff lyrics can dent this one.

1. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – John Barry
Have I cheated? Possibly. But it’s over the opening credits so in Bond lore I’m counting this as a song. It’s a superbly crafted piece of spy music that quite frankly doesn’t need lyrics, it’s exciting and sexy all at the same time. The producers liked it so much they bumped Louis Armstrong to the end credits.


Sean Connery. 

I really wanted to be controversial and put Timothy Dalton here. But the truth is undeniable; while Dalton brought the toughness, Moore the charm and comic timing and Brosnan was cool it was Connery who brought all the aspects together perfectly. Equally at home with a quip (“he got the point.”), a fight scene or seducing a woman, he really epitomised the character in a way none of the others, good as they all were, have managed to.


There has only ever been one James Bond film that I actively disliked. I’m not talking about the misconception that is Never Say Never Again (1983) or the stylish gibberish that is the original Casino Royale (1967). In both of those unofficial 007 adventures I can find some merit; whether it’s Connery’s indomitable insouciance or the truly excellent sight of David Niven in a Bond film. I am instead talking about the underwritten oddity that is Quantum Of Solace (2008). With the benefit of hindsight and some candid comments from Daniel Craig we now know that the 22nd 007 epic was hopelessly compromised by the infamous 2007-08 Writers Guild Of America strike. The fact that the film was made using virtually a first-draft script explains much of why such a stylishly shot Bond adventure contained so little substance, so little…Bond! When the film began without the traditional gunbarrel I immediately started having misgivings. Let me stress that I loved the omission and explanation of the Gunbarrel’s origin in Casino Royale.

In Quantum Of Solace, leaving it out just seemed like a statement from a production that was actively keen to alienate its core audience. For me, the film carries on in that vein, simply becoming less and less like a Bond movie as the dark brooding dialogue scenes and brutal action sequences mount up. That said, it’s not a totally horrible film. There is one, excellent redeeming scene midway through proceedings. Bond getting drunk on a plane and baring his soul to Mathis was a skillful evocation of many an introspective scene in Ian Fleming’s original novels. Sadly that moment stands alone. When a very truncated gunbarrel finally appeared at the end I distinctly remember saying out loud in the cinema: “thank f**k for that!” Such was my relief that the producers had actually remembered that Agent 007 was the star of the film!

            My disappointment at Quantum Of Solace was compounded by the interminable wait for James Bond to return. Four years passed for me to contemplate why I’d disliked Quantum of Solace so much. I wondered about what I want from my 007 fix. What does this franchise mean to me? I found myself thinking that what I enjoyed most about Bond besides the stunning production values, terrific guest stars and glorious, glorious music was indeed the image of British masculinity embodied by 007 himself. James Bond was a look at my country and heritage through a sparkling, rose-tinted lens. Being a British man is oftenlicence to be disliked, sometimes hated and even openly mocked by millions around the world. Yet 007 is stylish, determined, fights the good fight, looks good while he’s doing it and never quite takes himself seriously. In other words something a young Britsher unsure of his cultural identity can aspire too. The humour is key. Without the cocked eyebrow or loaded comment Bond is just another killer who could have come from anywhere. It was this more than anything that failed Quantum Of Solace. Bond is humourless and in the end colourless. The humour not only humanizes the character it also provides him with lashings of the qualities that we prize so highly in British culture: self-deprecation, sarcasm, the desire to take nothing about ourselves too seriously (while being deadly serious about the job in hand!) This is to say nothing of Daniel Craig’s excellent comic timing, which provides a welcome and effective contrast to his otherwise steely, visceral performance.







GregglesOnFilm chooses his James Bond...

The search for 'My favourite James Bond' was/is a difficult one. Of the 6 actors applicable, I initially managed-fairly naturally-to whittle it down to 4. Thankyou, and goodnight to (the not as bad as people think ,yet still the weakest) George Lazenby,  and the tough, serious, action based scowling of the (perfectly decent, but not quite 'it') Daniel Craig.

I was then able to cull Pierce Brosnan, but don't ask me how I managed to do it, because he didn't really put a foot wrong. If there is one tiny chink in his armour, it does, at times,  feel a bit like his is a Bond who knows he is on camera, striking all the right poses, and as good as he is, that is something Bond doesn't need to do. Even in his eyebrow raising peak, Roger Moore always made me believe in the character, rather than the actor.

And then there were 3...

With the 80's being bombarded with a huge number of definitive action heroes and, now, classic template action movies, it might be fair to admit that 007 was struggling slightly to remain relevant and keep apace with the likes of John McClane, Martin Riggs and basically anything with Arnie in it. (Personally I would've quite enjoyed seeing a Schwarzenegger Bond villain...)

So it is with no understating that I say that Timothy Dalton was a minor miracle. A bold choice by Cubby Broccoli-a man who knew what he wanted, and got it, in the end- Dalton takes to the role as if it were a brand new idea, written especially for him. As is noted elsewhere, the grit and tough approach adopted by Daniel Craig has a very clear descendant in Dalton. Most of what Craig does, Dalton did first.

                         It is no coincidence that one of the very best of the 23 (and counting) Bond films so far is one of his, indeed both of his films have an edge not seen in most others in the canon. But here we must make eliminations,  so let's site a slight awkwardness at delivering the trademark one-liners (note just how few there are in his films) as his reason for dismissal.

'How dull'. 'So predictable', I hear you cry...
Yes. Sorry. I didn't mean to, but I have ended up with the age old 'Connery versus Moore' debate.

Sean Connery was the first. To many, he remains the only true Bond, bringing the chatacter so vividly to life, with such style and grace, a flair for the action and a droll delivery of the one liners.

Roger Moore IS Bond to many people my age. I grew up with his films on telly. Every time they showed a Bond film, it always seemed to be one of his. Sunday afternoons could be happily spent lying on the sofa watching Roger wrestling with Jaws, costume changing his way to victory in the fun house of Dracula, or delivering (quite better than any other 007) a sure fire laugh out of one ridiculous situation or other.

But, wait...didn't Connery excel at line delivery too? He did, yes. And physically,  Roger doesn't quite measure up when it comes down to the real business of beating up bad guys, at least, when compared to Sean.

              But Moore was so charming, even when in combat. No mean feet. His Bond really had you rooting for him, feeling every punch, kick and sumo hug along with him. And strangely, even in the later films, Roger didn't feel to me like he was too old to play the part, but I don't feel that way watching Connery in Diamonds Are Forever, or dare I say, Never Say Never Again.

So, I don't think I can choose...

The suits! Who kills it in the tux...? They both do!

Erm... Who looks cooler? Connery.

Who keeps you smiling through 120 minutes of film? Moore.

If ANY of the Bonds were to fight each other, there would be no winner. Think about it. There just wouldn't be. None would allow themselves to lose. Not. Ever. They always always AWAYS find a way.

So I guess it comes down to this; Who, when you are strapped to a chair, with a laser nearing your dangly bits- whilst being lowered into a tank of flesh-eating sea monsters- do you want to see running up behind Blofeld, certain they are gonna overpower the henchmen, shut off the nuclear launch, save the day,  make a quick quip at the villains expense, kiss the girl, and still have enough about them to do it all again if required?

Well, Sean Connery.

Oh. There you go then.


          When I took my seat next to my wife at a small, arty cinema in Wimbledon, braced for whatever Skyfall was going to through at me I have to admit I was worried that “my 007” might have been consigned to history permanently. I knew I thought the world of Craig and I just hoped that Sam Mendes could steer the franchise back on course.
For a film that also opens minus the traditional gunbarrel, Skyfall could not have mirrored my experience with Quantum Of Solace more fulsomely, more triumphantly. Skyfall proved that no matter what, James Bond is always contemporary. His value is timeless. To quote the GoldenEye trailer: “It’s a new world, with new enemies and new threats. But you can still depend…on one man!” The film could not have utilized Daniel Craig any better. His swaggering yet vulnerable performance the ultimate distillation of the legacy left him by Messrs.’ Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan.  Skyfall is undoubtedly a masterpiece, one that will rightfully take its place among the top 10, perhaps top 3 James Bond films of all time. When I ask myself the question: why is Skyfall so good? I may as well ask myself: why do I still love watching James Bond films 30 years after my initiation with Moonraker?

I believe that Skyfall is the shining embodiment of everything that, to me, makes 007 different and refreshing and endlessly enjoyable: James Bond, a Secret Service Agent who is licenced to kill uses his often contradictory qualities of suave charm, ruthless ingenuity and unmatched determination to single handedly rescue the free world from a larger than life threat thereby reminding us that one man can indeed make a difference…particularly if he’s British. 

So what about the list leanings of a Bond connoisseur such as Sam himself...?


Top 5 Bond Songs

5. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

My personal favourite of the great ShirelyBassey’s 3 Bondian efforts. It’s an outrageous number full of John Barry’s best, brassy orchestration, a fantastic bass line and the most suggestive lyrics of any Bond title song. Urban myth has it that lyricist Don Black told Bassey to perform it as if she was singing about a penis! Harry Saltzman hated it because he felt it went too far. Fortunately (and not for first time) Cubby Broccoli knew better.

4. We Have All The Time In The World (1969)

Easily the most beautiful and poignant sing written for a 007 film. It’s so heartfelt and romantic that it seems hard to believe it could find a place in Bond’s cold, cynical world. But that’s precisely why it works! It’s a little window into what might have been for James Bond had his bride not been cruelly murdered. The fact that it was the great Louis Armstrong’s final performance before his death in 1970 just makes it even more emotional.

3. A View To A Kill (1985)

The 1980s were not a great decade for 007 title songs. For the most part feeble, pop efforts were the order of the day. With the title track for Roger Moore’s swansong, Duran Duran captured everything a Bond song should be about and brought it bang up to date. The track is a superb, over-the-top, frenetically paced explosion that almost single handedly lifts the film from a fading effort to many peoples secret favourite. I still get goosebumps thinking about the thumping synth lines mixed with Maurice Binder’s neon visuals.

2. Goldeneye (1995)

When Pierce Brosnan strapped on the shoulder holster the experimental efforts of hard-edge Timothy Dalton were quickly buried. Goldeneye had to remind audiences of what 007 was all about.  Boy, did Bono & The Edge deliver! Tina Turner pounds out a stunning, smouldering vocal for a barnstorming tune that teased and thrilled and sent our expectations through the roof. Fortunately Goldeneye was a terrific adventure to wrap around one of the very greatest Bond songs.

1. Live & Let Die (1973)

Paul McCartney’s rock-voodoo epic is for me the greatest James Bond theme tune. Still fresh today Live & Let Die manages to capture the hyperbolic tension and excitement that goes hand in hand with the best 007 music. At the same time he and George Martin produced a track that is still, more than 40 years later, stunningly original. The irony is that when Martin played a demo of the track to Harry Saltzman, the producers first response was: “Great! Now who are we going to get to sing it?” Martin’s dry response: “Er, Harry…you’ve got Paul McCartney.”

Top 10 James Bond Films

10. Octopussy (1983)

A much underrated 80s Bond film. Its blend of exotic Asian action and intense cold war intrigue makes it a real treat for the 007 connoisseur.  Maud Adams returns superbly (and uniquely) to 007 action in the title role and this is one of the very few films in which Moore was allowed to play the character as a little older. It’s arguably his best performance in the role. Witness his scene on the train with the wonderful Steven Berkoff and then tell me Roger can’t act!

9. Casino Royale (2006)

When Pierce Brosnan mysteriously hung up the shoulder holster in 2004 few had high hopes for Daniel Craig, myself included. Yet what a debut he produced! The pre-credits sequence alone would make Craig’s performance one of the very best. The fact that Martin Campbell delivered his second top notch Bond around that performance was the icing on the cake. A superb adventure that’s as fresh as it is steeped in Bond tradition.

8. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

There are many who dismiss Golden Gun as the worst 007 film. If Box Office numbers were the only judge then perhaps they’d be right. Such criticism fails to acknowledge the great Christopher Lee as one the best Bond Villains of them all. Refined from Fleming’s thin, gun toting homosexual into a dark, elegant mirror image of 007 himself, Lee’s Scaramanga single handedly puts this film into the top 10. A mighty performance that Moore clearly relished playing against.

7. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Pierce Brosnan’s debut in Bondage was a glorious breath of fresh air. Yet the film was not without fault (the appalling score by Eric Serra was the main offender!) On his second outing Brosnan delivered arguably his best performance and Roger Spottiswoode directed a beautifully slick and propulsive adventure. In fact, if the whole film sustained the breathtaking level of the first 45 minutes it would have been a contender for the number 1 slot.

6. Licence To Kill (1989)

It’s all too easy to dismiss Timothy Dalton’s Bond these days. But make no mistake Dalton was a superlative 007. It is cruel that he was denied the chance to add to his meager tally of two adventures. Especially after the bold and thrilling effort that was Licence To Kill. Everything the franchise is doing today it owes to that dark, gritty adventure. Indeed where would Craig and Javier Bardem’s Skyfall Performances have been without Dalton and Robert Davi’s turns in Licence To Kill?

5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

The OHMSS novel was Ian Fleming’s finest effort. So it is fitting that Peter Hunt’s film version sticks closely to the source text. Perhaps the only Bond film to capture Fleming’s world with true authenticity and, before any naysayers chime in, the effort succeeds because of George Lazenby not in spite of him. We can only wonder what might have been if Lazenby had got his head straight and made a few more. His Bond had far more potential than he gets credit for.

4. Goldfinger (1964)

The film that launched a phenomenon. Goldfinger is a cracking adventure and still the film that all other Bonds are judged by. It’s also perhaps the only Bond film that is better than the novel on which it’s based. Connery clearly loved making this one and it shows in every frame of his glorious performance. With a film this good it’s small wonder that all of Sean’s subsequent appearances as 007 were such a disappointment to him. The high water mark of the series.

3. Skyfall (2012)

The 50th anniversary Bond extravaganza came off the back of the first and to date only, truly poor 007 film. The fact that we had to wait four years after the confused mess that was Quantum Of Solace to see it only increased expectation. Fortunately Sam Mendes and the films terrific cast delivered a Bond adventure of rare quality. Simultaneously action packed and intensely intimate Skyfall finally established Craig as a great Bond and reminded us that when it comes to action adventure, Nobody Does it Better.

2. You Only Live Twice (1967)

While not as good as Goldfinger in purely cinematic terms, YOLT is perhaps the most important Bond of all. Almost every cliché and convention of the 007 franchise was either invented or realized perfectly in Bond’s Japanese adventure. From the look of Blofeld (Dr. Evil anyone?) to the outrageous Volcano base (realized without optical effects) to John Barry’s glorious score (the series best?) Everything about YOLT is sumptuous and iconic. The fact that Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay just adds another extraordinary dimension to this Bond epic to end Bond epics.

1. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

More than any other 007 film before or since TSWLM will go down in history as the one that saved the franchise. Rocked by Harry Saltzman’s departure, repeated re-castings of the lead role and a decline in production values, the Bondwagon was in serious danger of falling off the road in 1976. Fortunately Cubby Broccoli decided that the best line of defence was attack and threw the kitchen sink at TSWLM. Thank goodness he did because Moore’s 3rd adventure has everything: sets, girls, great music, action, adventure, gadgets, cars, memorable villains and a sense of infectious fun that underpins all the best Bond adventures. Roger’s finest hour, for me the pinnacle of 007’s cinematic opus and the main reason we’re still watching new Bond films today.

Favourite James Bond

Roger Moore 1973-85

Always an underrated actor, Roger not only had charisma to burn and remarkable staying power (considering he played the role until he was 57), he also did emphatically what many had said was impossible: filled Sean Connery’s shoes. Yes, there are some who never really ‘got’ Roger’s lighter touch. But to suggest he was a paper-thin Bond is just plain ignorant. I doubt any of the other 007s could have played some of Moore’s dramatic scenes better than he did. What is certain is that nobody made Bond movies as much fun as Roger did. You somehow always knew that when Roger was wearing the shoulder holster you were going to be smiling when the credits rolled. If Daniel Craig owes much of his gritty interpretation to the groundwork laid by Timothy Dalton then the entire franchise can thank Roger Moore and his golden eyebrows for the fact that the 007 films series even still exists today. He was fresh and original and for me at least, nobody did it better. 



 Not too many details yet on the currently untitled next installment, but we know some things. According to
'In the Sam Mendes-directed Bond film, tentatively called Bond 24Bautista is set to play Hinx, a henchman and assassin. Original casting document described the character as very physically fit, and revealed that the character would be engaging in several fights with James Bond, once again played by Daniel Craig.
Bautista has yet to confirm his involvement. Bond 24 is scheduled to begin shooting in December, and is set for a Nov. 6, 2015, release. In addition to Bautista’s casting, rumors suggest that Lea Seydoux has been cast as a new femme fatale.'
All very intriguing, but not a sausage on storyline yet. We shall have to wait and see. 
I for one can't wait.

Sunday, 7 September 2014



by gregglesonfilm reviews writer - Tom Baynton

On Sunday 3rd August Toshio Suzuki, Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli’s general manager, went live on Japanese television to announce that the 29- year old studio would be indefinitely halting production of feature films. Instead they would now be concentrating on managing copyrights and a merchandise empire based on their 20 previously produced works. The subsequent outpouring of grief across the internet does justice to what a significant loss to animation this is, to the Eastern world this is the equivalent of Disney stopping film production to concentrate on running their theme parks.
So why now? The main problems facing the studio are twofold. First and foremost is that Hayao Miyazaki, the company’s very own Walt Disney, has retired at the age of 73. The shadow Miyazaki casts over Ghibli is immeasurable – think of the studio’s best known works, (Totoro, Spirited Away), and he was the genius behind all of them. Ghibli’s co-founder, Isao Takahata, has produced some of its less typical, more interesting works such as the dramatic Grave of the Fireflies and the beautiful nostalgic piece Only Yesterday but at the age of 78 he can hardly be viewed as the future of the studio. It was Yoshifumi Kondo who was initially given that role but after making just the one film – the brilliant Whisper of the Heart – he tragically died of an aneurysm. Miyazaki’s son Goro then started working but his fist film, Tales of Earthsea, is generally regarded by fans as the studio’s worst and whilst his second, From Up On Poppy Hill, was much better its box office was poor. The second problem is that in a world dominated by CGI animation Ghibli still uses the hand drawn process, which is proving ever more costly. Sadly the box office of recent outputs has been in decline, with only this year’s The Wind Rises getting much attention and then that mainly because it’s Miyazaki’s final film.
Studio Ghibli was founded by Miyazaki and Takahata in 1985, naming it after an Italian aeroplane (Miyazaki is a flight nut, The Wind Rises being a biography of a Japanese aviation designer). Their debut was 1986’s Castle in the Sky but it was with the following year’s My Neighbour Totoro that the studio had its first major hit (also giving it it’s mascot in the titular giant woodland spirit.). Ghibli remained largely unknown outside of Japan however until 1996 when Disney bought Princess Mononoke for distribution in the USA, although the release was endlessly delayed amid conspiracy theories that Disney were deliberately suppressing it, terrified that it would overshadow their own recent output. It was eventually released in 2000 to great acclaim, and the studio followed it up with Spirited Away – still viewed by many as their masterpiece.
My own relationship to Studio Ghibli began at the Prince Charles Cinema in 2003, when I went to a screening of Spirited Away when it was still largely known as “that Japanese cartoon that beat Lilo and Stitch to the Best Animated Film Oscar”. Two and a bit hours later I was addicted to the blend of simple mythology, gorgeous animation, spiritual attitude and quirky comedy which Ghibli does so well, and I’ve been a fan ever since.  
If there was one scene from any of their films that sums up everything I love about them, it would be the train journey sequence from Spirited Away. Finally leaving the bathhouse in which the majority of the film has been set, out heroine Chihiro and the ragtag crew of spirits and animals which have become her companions travel through a spirit world. Dialogue free and beautifully scored by regular composer Joe Hisashi, it’s a trip along a flooded train track which only hints at the other worlds lying beyond the various stations.

If these reports of ceasing production do turn out to be true – and since this article was begun there have been several counter reports claiming that Suzuki was mis-translated and that the pause is only temporary, even hinting that Miyazaki himself may come out of retirement – then it really is a great loss not just to animation but to cinema itself.


5. Only Yesterday (1991 dir. Takahata)

Very different from what you’d usually expect from Ghibli, the film is the tale of a woman looking back on her childhood and wondering if she’s lived up to the expectations of her childhood self. Simple yet wonderfully done.

4. Princess Mononoke (1996, dir. Miyazaki)

A sweeping fantasy epic of gods and nature with action to rival any blockbuster. Visually inventive and complex (along with the arm-lopping scene this is not one for younger children), this is thrilling stuff.

3. Whisper of the Heart (1995 dir. Kondo)

The only film by the sadly missed Yoshifumi Kondo, on paper Whisper of the Heart could be any high-school comedy – girl discovers boy has always taken a book out of the library before her and tries to find out more about him – but Kondo’s sure touch elevates it into something tender and moving. Kind of like an animated Amelie.

2. My Neighbour Totoro (1988 dir. Miyazaki)

Two girls move to the country with their father in order to be closer to their sick mum, discover a whole variety of magical creatures and run around a lot. That’s pretty much all there is plot wise, but the film endures as a beautiful ode to playing outdoors, and to childhood itself (the kids are essentially dealing with their mothers illness although this is crucially never overstated.). Initially double-billed with the much darker Grave of the Fireflies in Japan, Totoro endured to become one of the most loved children’s films of all time.

1. Spirited Away (2001 dir. Miyazaki)

A family get lost whilst journeying through the woods and stumble upon another world, where ultimately it’s up to the daughter to rescue them all from a witch’s curse. That barely scratches the surface of what’s going on here, as Miyazaki hits his creative peak with an endless parade of memorable characters and worlds, all beautifully animated. Funny, moving and dark in places (the witch is genuinely a bit scary) this remains arguably the studios masterpiece. Not least for having a magical comedy team of a large hamster and a tiny bird that has to carry it everywhere. 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Begin Again review

Begin Again (2013)
  -  Comedy | Drama | Music

REVIEW BY GREG CLARKE@gregglesonfilm

From the director of 'Once', comes a film about a guy and a girl brought together through their mutual love of music. So the comfort zone may not have been broken through, but all the better for us.

The heart and soul, and real love for music are as present as you could wish for, and it's as easy to love the 'not quite anti-hero' (is that a new thing?) in Mark Ruffalos' man - child Dan as it is to be drifted contentedly along by the Once-esque batch of songs Knightley and Co give us. The songs don't quite hold a candle to those in Once- a film it can't escape in terms of comparison- but are good enough that you can invest in the joyous notion of 'music au naturel' this film promotes. Not even the slightly grating often wildly incorrect guitar miming from Knightly (impressive here as Gretta, a songwiter who follows a boyfriend from Blighty to the Big Apple) can put you off leaping head first into the vibe. She is continuing her trend of getting better and better with age, and the indie-feel of movies like this (also see 'Last Night' from a few years ago) seem to where she comes into her own.

As her boyfriend, in his acting debut, is the cleverly cast Adam Levine of Maroon 5 fame, who impresses in a role not immediately capable of more than a couple of dimensions, but is allowed a little more room to shine later on, and really seems comfortable on screen. Potential for a crossover career there..?

More than able is the very impressive supporting cast of James Corden (you sort of wish he had much more screen time) as funny but untalented pal Steve, Hailee Steinfeld (herself an Oscar nominee at just 13 for True Grit)adorable as Dans' daughter and wannabe guitarist Violet, Catherine Keener (underused fairly criminally, but great as usual) as ex-wife Miriam, Mos Def (wonderful, yet reigned in, as Ruffalos' record company partner) and even CeeLo Green as a sort of 'CeeLo Green' type- extremely likeable.

What director Joe Carney seems to do so well is to offer up to kindred spirits the notion that music will enrich your soul, enhance even the daily banalities (try listening to an epic favorite song on your headphones and see what gravity it adds to people passing by, simply living their lives), and even give you a decent starting point for adventures and relationships exciting and new.

Long and short of it is, if you love music, you'll enjoy this film.