Across the Bond

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Across the Bond: Quantum of Solace


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 25
// Matthew Razak
This is the end. Across the Bond has covered all 22 James Bond films and we're all the better for it. It's been quite a ride, and you'd think Xander and I would be all done with Bond, but that's the beauty of having this many...
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Across the Bond: Casino Royale


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 24
// Matthew Razak
Daniel Craig pretty much shut everyone up with this movie. Both Xander and I were doubters when the casting news first came out, but as you can tell from our writing below that didn't last long once we saw the film. Successfu...
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Across the Bond: Die Another Day


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 23
// Matthew Razak
I have a brilliant theory for you all this Across the Bond and Xander just pretty much hates Die Another Day. I can't say I blame him since he doesn't grasp my brilliant theory yet. Once you read it though you'll think, "Oh m...

Across The Bond: The World Is Not Enough

Oct 22 // Xander Markham
Xander Markham Like For Your Eyes Only, I respect The World Is Not Enough more than I like it. It tries to tell a story with greater focus on character, but is let down by clunky pacing and arbitrary action sequences. When first released out in 1999, I really liked it, but each subsequent viewing has dampened my enthusiasm. The ingredients are there for something special: the plot twist, itself almost uncharted territory for Bond, enacts out a sly reversal of expectations, making a villain out of one of the Bond girls. Sophie Marceau plays Elektra with a reserve which initially seems down to a natural resilience after being kidnapped as a girl, but is later revealed as the tactic of a devious manipulator out for revenge against the people who left her for dead. (The whole situation with her mutilated ear is just weird, though - what, Renard sent Sir Robert King his daughter's... earlobe?) It's not the most shocking twist, with the name alone pointing towards the fractured parental relationships - although technically she should have hated her mother, not her father - but Marceau finds the right balance between fragility and cunning to make both sides of the character work. It fascinates me how few people recognise her as the movie's main villain, perhaps forgetting Bond's realisation that she turned Renard's allegiances whilst in captivity, rather than the other way around. Perhaps it's a further credit to Marceau's performance that so many viewers choose to see her as a victim or manipulated accomplice, just as Elektra would have wanted. Her personal relationship with M rings a little untrue as one writerly convenience too many, but getting Judi Dench more involved with the plot was a welcome step towards her increasing prominence in later movies. The addition of John Cleese as 'R' is altogether less successful, with his cameo recalling the most tediously exaggerated gags from the Roger Moore era. The movie's schizophrenic nature is demonstrated by that scene being immediately followed by one of the series' most moving: the departure of the great Desmond Llewellyn's Q. While previous scenes between he and Bond found comedy in the antagonism between Q's curmudgeonliness and Bond's reckless playfulness, his farewell speech emphasizes the two men's shared affection. The sight of him being lowered into the depths of his laboratory (perfect last line: 'Always have an escape plan') is both eerie in the knowledge that Llewellyn died shortly after the movie's release - on my birthday, to make it personally that bit worse - and sweet for the delicacy of the humour. (It also deepens the connection between Bond and The Avengers [tv series] by echoing Emma Peel's equally devastating retirement advice for partner John Steed: 'Always keep your bowler on in times of stress, and watch out for diabolical masterminds'). Sad though it is, I'm glad the actor got to officially bow out on-screen and doubly so that it was alongside Pierce Brosnan, the Bond with whom he shared the most natural chemistry since Connery. It's just a shame the movie couldn't have been retroactively dedicated to him, so this article is instead. In memoriam, Desmond Llewellyn, 1914-1999. Also terrific is Robert Carlyle as Renard, technically the movie's henchman. As with Marceau, the twist's credibility relies upon the audience being able to believe there's another side to Renard than the cruel exterior, and Carlyle's cavernous eyes and wounded expression give a hint of sadness to a man who knows he is dying and is using his last days to do right by the only love he has perhaps ever known. The revelation of his impotence should seem trite, but is used as a clever shorthand to establish how Elektra manipulates him. It's the only significant scene Marceau and Carlyle share together, and the nuances of their respective performances imbue it with greater resonance than the blunt writing deserves.While Elektra's backstory and motivations provide the movie's real dramatic meat, the main plot feels excessively convoluted and struggles to establish any kind of storytelling rhythm. The movie's structure deploys a big action sequence for each element of Elektra's plan as Bond discovers it. To alleviate suspicions of guilt, she twice has Renard's men attack her pipeline: the first time, this causes a ski chase - just don't ask how she knew Bond would be there - and the second has Bond diffusing a bomb inside an oil pipeline. Renard collecting the bomb from Kazhakstan is another action sequence, as is Elektra's helicopters trying to eliminate Zukovsky to stop Bond discovering the pair's business agreement. This approach segments the movie and makes it seem as though story elements have been reverse engineered to justify the action sequences, leading to over-saturation. That they're shot with such a lack of flair only makes their perfunctory nature all the more acute. The only set-pieces which work are in the excellent pre-titles sequence, where Bond first escapes a Spanish bank - one of my favourite scenes in any Brosnan movie - and later chases an assassin down the river Thames in the slick, gadget-heavy Q boat. These feature the movie's best stuntwork and some striking visuals - Bond jumping out of a top floor window at the bank, then his boat tearing through London and emerging in the shadow of the then-Millennium Dome - and set a far higher standard for action than the rest of the movie is able to meet. The climactic fight with Renard aboard the sinking submarine feels particularly uninspired in comparison. Bond's only real purpose is to catch up with Elektra's intentions and then stop her at the last minute. Once again, the writers try to force some emotional resonance by having him get emotionally involved and betrayed by her - much as how such feelings were supposedly reignited with Paris Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies, only for her to be killed because of his investigations - and while it's too obvious to work much better this time around, at least Elektra's established powers of sexual manipulation give it greater credibility and Brosnan does some of his best work in their final scene as he tries to get Elekra to abort her plan. He certainly does better work than in the j'accuse scene where he pins her father's murder on her, with his line delivery seemingly oddly over-emphasized. In general, he gives a stronger performance than in Tomorrow Never Dies (including a well-handled allusion to Tracy), but remains a little too slick for his own good. He's given more to work with, and hints of vulnerability peek through at the right times, though still comes across as if acting Bond rather than becoming him.Such minor shortcomings are nothing once Denise Richards appears on the scene playing a nuclear physicist. The idea is faintly amusing at first in the audacity of its ridiculousness, but as with Tanya Roberts' Stacey Sutton in A View To A Kill, gets old pretty quickly once she refuses to go away. Like Zukovsky, returning from GoldenEye with the sole purpose of making annoying in-jokes and moaning about insurance, she's a product of part of the plot which feels like it should have been covered quickly and without fuss (is it really so vital we see how Renard got the bomb, and Elektra the submarine?) rather than lingered upon for the sake of cramming in a bit more action. To be fair to Richards, she does the best she can, but it's hard to imagine anyone excelling in such a one-note role and she's not much of an actress at the best of times. On the plus side, her ridiculous name was blatantly only contrived for the sake of the movie's hilariously inappropriate final line, which is so stupid it circles around to being fun again. While it somehow works that one time, the movie's baser impulses undermine its commendable efforts creating a pair of psychologically complex villains in Elektra and Renard, who seem to exist in a different, more intelligent movie than the one where Bond, Zukovsky and Christmas Jones spend most of their time dodging bullets and explosions for the sake of minor plot revelations. Unfortunately, when choosing the direction of the next movie, the producers expanded upon this movie's spectacle rather than story, a miscalculation so grave it would lead to the series' entire continuity being abandoned for a fresh start. Matthew Razak The World is Not Enough is a great example of how poor execution ruins really great ideas. There's so much in this movie that just screams greatness but comes out middling because everyone seemed to have lost their damn minds about direction, casting and screenwriting. The general plot is intriguing and has the right balance of spy thriller/Bond absurdity to work, Bond and M's relationship is developed further, there's a brilliant villain at play and the concluding fight is in a vertically sinking submarine, which could easily be one of the coolest fights ever. However, everything is executed so poorly that by the end of the film its all crumbling a part, with only a few strands of good to hold onto. Even those are pretty much obliterated by the film's now infamous closing line, "I thought Christmas only came one a year." Not even Roger Moore would have spouted a line that awful and the fact that they named an character Christmas Jones just so they could use it is even worse. It's a good concept lost in a muck of poor decisions. The worst decision? In fact the one thing that could have changed this film from bad to good? The casting of Denise Richards as nuclear scientist Christmas Jones. I can't even begin to fathom what they were thinking here, but it pretty much ruins the rest of the film in every way possible. Brosnan, who Richards looks far to young for, has to drivel out bad lines to her (the screenplay is piss poor and convoluted) and she can't work with any of them. Her inability to act ruins some key scenes and it appears that much of the role was written to fit her, which makes her myriad of conversations idiotic in the film. Had someone more believable been cast even the worst scenes would have functioned better and Brosnan wouldn't have had to act down to here. In case you can't tell she quite literally ruins the movie for me. Not that there aren't other problems that make the film work far worse than it should have, but whenever I think about TWINE all my ire goes to her.  It's even worse because the other Bond girl in the film, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), is brilliant. A fantastic twist on the classic Bond villain and the first woman to actually be in charge of an entire evil operation. For some reason in a film of cliches and poor writing she's fantastically developed and scripted an amazing execution of the classic megalomaniac Bond villain. While some the twists in her character could have been developed far better as a foil to Bond she's fantastic. Her belief that pretty much everyone loves her and that Bond would never kill her in cold blood is the perfect cap to her insanity, and yet is more subtly used than most Bond villains. Marceau is wonderfully cast as well, showing frailty when she needs to and then insanity as the character grows. Her final showdown with Bond where is she is positive that he won't kill her even though she's just tortured him nearly to death is one of the better moments in any Bond film, and definitely one of Brosnan's most personal. Say what you want about the harshness and cruelty of Connery, Dalton or Craig, but they've never shot a woman point blank in the chest. Bond and her relationship is one of my favorites. I'll also give credit to Renard, whose inability to feel pain and slow creeping death make for a really interesting character and a classic Bond henchman. Too much? Possibly, but he's enough fun to be enjoyable and Bond's comeuppance moment when he informs Renard that Elektra is dead is one of the final action sequences few saving graces. Unfortunately none of the other relationships in the film are up to snuff. We've already discussed Denise Richards, but Bond also has a very intricate relationship with M in this film. It actually starts off quite strong, giving us a deeper sense of M's personality than ever before, but once she gets kidnapped it kind of turns the character into a side show. M's respectability level drops at least a few hundred notches by the time the film ends despite her being in the field. It may just be a case of too much as the Bond/M relationship has always been a more subtle one (even in Fleming's books). Suddenly they're hammering it home like there's no tomorrow to the point that Judi Dench actually has to utter the banal line, "He's our best man, though I'd never tell him." It's blatantly obvious statements like that that take the film's interesting core concepts and ruin them with a all to cheesy and none to subtle screenplay. Another example of this is the return of Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane), who was some fantastic comic relief in GoldenEye, but becomes a full fledged character here. He doesn't really deserve to be. While enjoyable the screenplay keeps him far to comic, and pretty much ruins his death at the end. They could have brought him back and made him a bit more serious and pulled it off perfectly, but instead he stays humorous and scenes like Bond nearly drowning him in caviar go from iconically threatening to stupidly funny.  As for the action its hit or miss. Many people credit Die Another Day with pushing Bond too digital, but really it was Tomorrow Never Dies where the roots took place and they simply grew in TWINE. Other than an epic opening sequence involving a stunning boat chase and stunt on top of the Millennium Dome the action relies heavily on CGI. Bond's lackluster ski chase uses it here and there, the tube sequence is entirely CGI and his battle with the buzz saw helicopter (stupidest weapon ever) has it all over the place. And lets talk about the idiocy of that helicopter attack? The tree trimming buzz saws are established earlier in the film, but it makes no sense to have them show up there. The cutting in half of the BMW is cool to watch, but in the long run the saws are the weakest attempt at Bonds life ever. I know Bond villains use outlandish means to try to kill him, but this is just ridiculous. Apted does a decent enough job directing all this action, but in this scene and the final sub fight things just get too dumb to really work. What the hell are the rods they're shoving into the sub? Why do you cast Denise Richards and then put her into a white t-shirt and the soak her to the bone, but not truly give us one good wet t-shirt shot?  When TWINE is concentrating on its villain and Bond its a really solid movie with Brosnan doing some of his best stuff. Any time it steps out of this zone, however, it simply starts to falter and then fall. The plot is poorly handled on the whole and the screenplay is simply trying too hard at every turn to make it work. But really the problem is Denise Richards.
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An American and a Brit talk Bond
Brosnan's third Bond movie has compelling villains, a more complex and character-driven plot, but also Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist. Such miscalculations unfortunately undermine the whole movie, and both Matt and I ...

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Across the Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 19
// Matthew Razak
We're coming closer to the end of this epic undertaking of Across the Bond and as we do it seems Xander and my opinions have been diverging a bit, but for Tomorrow Never Dies were in almost complete agreement. Neither of...
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Across the Bond: GoldenEye


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 18
// Matthew Razak
I think I'll dub the entrance of Pierce Brosnan as Bond's entry into the modern era, though an argument could be made for Dalton. The fact that a six year hiatus was taken by the franchise really makes GoldenEye stand a ...

Across the Bond: Licence to Kill

Oct 17 // Matthew Razak
Xander Markham Licence To Kill is my fourth favourite Bond movie, propping up such esteemed company as Goldfinger, From Russia and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It's also the most divisive movie in the series, going much darker than any before or since. For those raised by the flippancy of a Moore or Brosnan, it's undoubtedly a culture shock and was the first Bond to be given a '15' certificate in the UK rather than the customary 'PG'. By today's standards it's ridiculously tame for that rating, even in the uncut version available on the more recent DVD / Blu-Ray releases. That said, this is still a Bond movie which sees the main villain whip his lover, Bond's oldest friend dismembered by a shark, a sleazy businessman's head exploding in a decompression chamber, and a henchman falling ankles-first into a rock crusher. Most of it is implied rather than explicit, but still a long way from Octopussy.I can understand those who yearn for more family-friendly fare from their Bonds, although as Timothy Dalton points out in the excellent documentary Everything Or Nothing, the character was never created for a young audience. Licence goes a bit further than Ian Fleming ever did in its violence, but not by much. Leiter's mutilation is a straight lift from the Live And Let Die novel, right down to the sadistic joke left with him as a warning ('He disagreed with something that ate him'). Fleming was perfectly happy detailing the nastier side of Bond's job, proven by how tame the torture scene in Daniel Craig's Casino Royale is compared to its prolonged equivalent in the novel, where there's no hint of such mitigating humour as the 'scratching my balls' line. In any case, Licence's violence is hardly needless: it establishes the stakes of a deeply personal revenge mission for Bond, and gives Sanchez credibility as a Latin American drug lord rather than pandering to the censors by paring him down, which by doing so would also have made inappropriate light of a very serious criminal problem. Is the underworld an appropriate fit for Bond to begin with? Well, Fleming featured the mob several times in his novels, with Bond getting a good beating from them in Diamonds Are Forever, and the Dalton movies are nothing if not timely. It sits perfectly well with me, although again, can understand if more casual fans find it excessive compared to what they're used to from the series.The most ridiculous argument is that the movie isn't 'Bondian' enough. Disregarding the Fleming influences already mentioned - and the Milton Krest character is named after a similarly brash American entrepreneur from short story The Hildebrand Rarity, who whips his wife in the manner Sanchez does his mistress Lupe this movie - the movie features some of the series' most spectacular and ambitiously staged set-pieces, all hitting the heights of badassery which Dalton made his trademark. The pre-credits sequence sees he and Felix capture Sanchez by 'going fishing' for his plane before it enters Cuban airspace, then skydiving to the chapel where Leiter is due to be married: a ridiculously cool way to enter a wedding. Later, Bond escapes an underwater death by harpooning a departing seaplane, waterskiing behind until catching it, then ditching the pilot and flying to safety. The climactic battle, meanwhile, takes place atop and inside a number of Kenworth tankers, which Bond systematically destroys in a series of elaborately staged stunts, including pulling a wheelie and avoiding a missile by tilting onto one side of wheels.The best thing about these sequences is how difficult it is to imagine Bond getting out of them, even though the pieces of his escape have been carefully laid out beforehand. Dalton's Bond takes more damage, physical and emotional, than his predecessors, but is good at his job because of his quick, rational thinking. Unlike Quantum Of Solace, which turned Bond into an uncharacteristic psychopath for half the movie, Dalton reacts to his friend's murder with a show of devastating, calculated professionalism. (Dalton's Bond would own Liam Neeson's Mr. Taken every day of the week). He's guided by a desire to see justice done, and doesn't just target the few men responsible but systematically plays out a plan to take down the whole organisation responsible for dismembering his friend and many more like him. He's burning with righteous anger, but never lets it impair his judgment: one by one, he brings Sanchez' lieutenants down, playing on the main villain's paranoia as his trap closes.Despite his exceptional talent for the job at hand, this Bond is unmistakeably human. Dalton is the best actor to ever play the part and has some lovely scenes leading up to Leiter's fate. Tracy gets a beautifully understated nod early on, foreshadowing Leiter's soon to be curtailed marriage and justifying Bond's anger at what happened to him also happening to his best friend. In the scene where he discovers Leiter's unconscious, dismembered body, Dalton takes a short breath to steel himself against having his worst fears confirmed inside the bodybag lying on the sofa, perhaps the finest moment of acting in the series. Dalton's Bond is often compared to Craig's, but Dalton is more fully rounded and always guided by an inherent morality where Craig can too often seem more preoccupied by his own issues than the job at hand. Don't get me wrong, Craig did stunning work in Casino, but while he brings back many aspects of Fleming's character, he's too often out of control - from M and himself - to be as close a match as Dalton. In the You Only Live Twice novel, where Bond is heavily grieving for his dead wife and handed an opportunity to avenge her, he rallies himself to channel his anger into getting the job done. That's Dalton all over.He's helped by a strong supporting cast. Davi's Sanchez has a fascinating code of honor deepening him beyond the one-dimension drug lord sterotype, always putting loyalty ahead of money. Benicio Del Toro (yes, that one) is terrifying as his enfant terrible sidekick Dario, who is unusually competent for a henchman and uses the actor's mad-eyed stare to great effect. Pam Bouvier is a standard all-action tough girl, but Carey Lowell plays her with enough sly humour to make her mark, even if her jealous streak is one of the movie's few bum notes. (The other is Bond's constant attempts to send his allies home, which gets tiresome after the second argument). Q gets some welcome time in the field, giving series legend Desmond Llewellyn his biggest role to date and leading to a hilarious sight gag where he discards a gadget with the same insouciance he so often criticised 007 for. Lupe Lamora's tortured moll shows a rebellious streak in the face of terrible consequences which makes her sympathetic rather than simpering, while crooked televangelist Professor Joe Butcher, played with joyful sliminess by Vegas legend Wayne Newton, is up there with the most Flemingian characters never actually created by the original author. Let's also not forget the Isthmus City presidente, who is played by Pedro Armendariz Jr., aka the son of the actor who played Kerim Bey in From Russia. Such touches are what make the movie such a delight for long-time fans. Licence To Kill was the last movie to pitch Bond to his original adult audience, and despite producing one of the top five movies in an esteemed series, its mistake was perhaps not recognising how the movie character had expanded beyond the reach of his literary equivalent. You'll never hear anything but praise from me for the bravery of that attempt, though. Its supposed financial 'failure' also deserves to be put in context for those using it as a stick to beat the movie with: it grossed $156m on a $32m production budget, which puts it more or less in line with A View To A Kill. Secondly, MGM was undergoing some financial and executive instability at the time, leading to the movie opening into a summer minefield of Batman, Back To The Future Part III, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade and Lethal Weapon 2, all far bigger draws at the time than Bond. There were even problems behind the scenes with the advertising, with the then-MGM president discarding a whole planned promotional campaign. There was even a last minute title change from Licence Revoked due to the term being associated by American audiences with the loss of a driver's licence. Even with its more restrictive age rating, Licence To Kill had the misfortune of opening at a time when almost all the elements were against it. That it still went on to make such a notable profit deserves to be seen as an achievement in itself. Nevertheless, such circumstances compounded to delay the next Bond movie by a full six years, during which time Timothy Dalton departed for pastures new and the collapse of Communism and the Berlin Wall led speculators to suggest Bond might never return. If Dalton hadn't been there in the first place to take the character back to basics, perhaps they might have right. Fortunately, producer Cubby Broccoli disagreed, as did a man who had been waiting eight years for his turn with the PPK: Pierce Brosnan. Matthew Razak  So now Xander and I really disagree. While I can enjoy The Living Daylights pretty easily my tolerance for Licence to Kill is less so. It's interesting that many of the points that Xander brings up are pretty much the opposite of my opinion of the film and Dalton's portrayal. I'll start with what I like about the movie. It is Bond after all so I of course don't not like the movie. I am overjoyed that despite the not so overwhelming response to The Living Daylights (its box office wasn't awful, but crowd reaction wax mixed) the producers stuck to their guns by keeping Bond grounded and real. Having a knee jerk reaction would have completely ruined the franchise, and while I did think they went too dark it's definitely better than the alternative. The plot is once again based on pretty relevant current events, and keeps Bond a spy instead of a superhero.  The action is incredibly epic from beginning to end. This is easily one of the most impressive films both in terms of stunts and sequences. For a guy who only made two Bond films Dalton has some of the best, death defying stunts around. He'd already topped much of Moore and Connery with The Living Daylights action sequences and now his Bond hangs from a helicopter and literally fishes a plane out of the sky. Most impressive is the fact that they actually did this. They hung a man out of a helicopter and swung him around until he caught the tail of a plane. It's absolutely ludicrous and awesome at the same time. It's just a simply stellar opening for the film (that unfortunately leads into one of the worst credit sequence songs of the series). The crazy stunts don't end there as Xander details above, and the tanker chase is a brilliant twist on what is basically an old fashioned train heist action sequence (with more explosions of course). A tiny Easter egg from that is that when Bond is being shot at and the bullets hit the tanker the sound of the bullets plays out the Bond theme. Of course that little tidbit doesn't really fit the tone of the rest of the film and so while fun seems very out of place. That's what I'd call the entire film, really. It just feels really out of place in the Bond lexicon. It's so dark, violent and angry that most of the fun gets sucked out of it and my complaints about Dalton's Bond being too hard edged just get amplified. I'm in almost complete disagreement with Xander that the film is "Bondian" too. Yes, Fleming's Bond was very cruel, violent and down right mean at times, and yes many of parts of the film are actually taken from the books, but by this point "Bondian" had a complete different meaning from that found in the books. This is not the James Bond that James Bond was supposed to be and it just feels alienating for any fan of the franchise. Even with Craig's more violent and dark Bond there's still a wink and a nod that Licence to Kill is almost entirely missing. To be blunt about it I just don't think the movie is very Bond. I'm also not a fan Dalton's performance in this one, which I find a little too overwrought at times. I know Bond should be horribly upset by the events that occur, but I feel like Dalton pushes it too far and skips right to anger without ever looking back. There's just a tension about him that makes the entire character seem horribly stiff throughout the film, and it gets even worse when he's paired up with Pam Bouvier who doesn't seem to register against Bond's tough exterior. Giving Desmond Llewellyn more screen time is always a fun treat, but Dalton doesn't play off him so well and it just gets kind of awkward. More to the point Dalton is pretty much one revenge driven dimension the entire film. Yes, he's committed to his goal, and maybe that's what the Fleming Bond character would do, but it's detrimental to the film as a piece of entertainment. I'm not saying he should have returned to Moore era flippancy, but his one note anger just makes the film one note as well. I never get that great sense of satisfaction you get from a great revenge film when the bad guy finally kicks it when I'm watching Licence to Kill, and it's because everything is so one note. It's also because Sanchez just isn't that great a villain. I will definitely applaud the franchise for sticking to its guns on the serious aspect, but Sanchez just bores me. His cruelty seems almost forced, as if they were trying to say look how evil we can be instead of making an evil character. By the end of the movie I really don't care if he's alive or dead because he just hasn't earned my ire. Combine him with the completely weird and relatively stupid televangelist Professor Joe Butcher, hammed up horrendously by Wayne Newton (see what I mean by exact opposite of Xander), and you have a villain that falls flat. The entire sequence at Butcher's cult-ish church just feels dumb, and once again contrasts horribly with Dalton'sBond. It feels like a bunch of moving pieces that never really gel. I will give credit to Benicio del Toro as one of the most vile henchman we've seen, though it mostly has to do wit his creepiness in general than anything the film has him do. His fantastic performance here (and recently in Oliver Stone's Savages) actually make me dislike the movie a little more because it kind of takes him out of the running to play a main Bond villain and he'd simply be genius at that. Obviously that's not something they knew way back then, but it's still annoying. I'm coming down pretty hard on Licence to Kill it seems, but it's definitely not my least favorite Bond (Diamonds are Forever) and on occasions I'd prefer to watch it over a lot of other Bonds. The problem is that it just isn't that Bond for me. I will also point out, as Xander does, that the end of Dalton's run should not be attributed to Licence to Kill's "lack of success" as it did do well. Dalton probably would have returned had it not been for the facts Xander mentioned and the legal battles the franchise got caught in during the early 90s. I would have been happy to see him make a few more too as I think when a correct balance was struck he had the right stuff. But on to Brosnan!
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An American and a Brit talk Bond
And this is the Across the Bond that will cause Xander and I to have a brutal fight to the death if we ever actually are on one another's continents. We really, really don't agree on Licence to Kill, like to the point of me a...

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Across the Bond: The Living Daylights


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 16
// Matthew Razak
Dalton, Dalton, Dalton. Probably the most divisive Bond to date (aside from the madness that occurred when Daniel Craig was first announced) Dalton only got two tries at Bond before legal issues shut his tenure down. The...
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Across the Bond: A View to a Kill


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 15
// Matthew Razak
And with this Across the Bond reaches the end of Roger Moore's tenure as Bond. Some would say it went on too long, and by some I mean everyone even Roger Moore himself. The man is just old in this movie and it pretty much is ...

Across The Bond: Octopussy

Oct 12 // Xander Markham
Matthew Razak I always look down on Octopussy until I'm watching it. Then I remember that it's actually quite a thrilling Bond replete with big stunts, ridiculous gadgets, a unique villain dynamic and world tennis star Vijay Amritraj. I think it might be two things that throw me off each time. The first is the name, which clearly sounds either like some sort of B-grade monster movie or a really disturbing porn film. The name was quite controversial at the time, though the MPAA let it pass since it was the name of the Fleming short story (posthumously published in Playboy). By today's standards it just sounds kind of cheesy no matter how official it is. The second reason my mind instantly turns to Octopussy as a poorer Bond, despite it actually being quite enjoyable, is because this is the first film where Roger Moore is pushing it in the age game. Having recently rewatched the movie I will say he isn't too old yet, but is definitely damn close to crossing the line. He wasn't even supposed to play Bond again, but thanks to Connery returning in Never Say Never Again the producers decided that launching a new Bond actor was not the best idea at the time. So Moore returned, and while decently charming he's clearly getting on in age. In a move almost entirely uncharacteristic of the Bond producers they actually brought in an age appropriate woman for Moore. Maud Adams, who had already been a Bond girl in The Man with the Golden Gun, is definitely older than your average Bond girl, and makes Moore's age less awkward than in both the previous film, where they paired him with Bibi Dahl, or his next film, A View to a Kill, where he's so old his relationships with the far younger Tanya Roberst and Grace Jones is painfully awkward. Adams and Moore on the other hand have an incredibly easy going dynamic that works wonderfully, and it helps that she stays on par with Bond throughout the entire film. The movie could have gone a lot worse if she had to play an all out damsel in distress by the end of the film. Speaking of good dynamics, Bond and the film's main villain (let's not forget that Octopussy is technically a bad guy) Kamal Khan, played wonderfully arrogantly by Louis Jourdan, have a fantastic game of backgammon that puts a great twist on the classic scene of Bond gambling against the villain. It may in fact be Bond's best gambling scene simply because of its ending, with henchman Gobinda crushing the dice to a fine powder in his hand after Bond defeats Khan and demands he be paid in cash - a random demand that plays out later in a fun, but lackluster chase sequence.   Octopussy isn't perfect, however. It's goofy to an almost extreme extent. Gadgets like a fake crocodile for Bond to escape from Octopussy's floating island are ridiculous to the point of eye rolling, and the villains are less threatening than they should be. Khan is menacing for the most part, but never reaches the levels you want a Bond villain to, especially since he's put in such ridiculous situations. The idea of him hunting Bond like an animal is a great one, but the scene's execution, with him riding elephants and Bond encountering a tiger, is really just plain goofy. The film really kicks off in this manner too, with an action sequence involving a very small plane. While the action parts are quite thrilling (a common fact of Moore films) it's weighed down by bad site gags and a poor excuse for the action. Jokes like the plane being hidden in a fake horse's ass and Bond pulling up to a gas station turn what could have been a stunning action sequence into some pretty lame fodder. The sight gags continue in a mostly thrilling train fight scene that steals more from Westerns than Bond's previous train exploits. For the most part it's an impressive series of train stunts, but involves Bond hiding out in a gorilla costume and a few other gags that once again go a little too goofy. Then there's the closing action sequence involving all the acrobats from the Octopussy circus, a hot air balloon and Q. It's too ridiculous overall.   It's too bad too because behind all the site gags and jokes is an intriguing plot involving a rogue Russian general and plenty of Cold War tension. As the Cold War thawed it was clear that Russia couldn't be evil anymore, but rogue generals definitely could. Steven Berkoff's General Orlov is one of the more subdued psychotics Bond faces, but definitely works. His eventual death at the infamous Checkpoint Charlie is one of the better Bond villain deaths despite happening well before the end of the movie. The perfect example of the serious tension behind the glib nature of the film is Bond's defusing of a nuclear bomb (yes, another one) while dressed as a clown. At first glance it seems too goofy to be taken seriously, but winds up being the most intense bomb defusal in the Bond series. Thanks to Bond having to desperately plead to defuse the bomb, Moore's look of terror and anger that no one will let him near it due to everyone thinking he's insane and, in a strange twist, clown make-up making him look even more desperate, the scene turns into a thrilling moment despite the outward camp. It's hard to make a Bond bomb scene tense anymore, but it is pulled off in Octopussy.  If Moore had stopped here it would have been a fitting exit to his time as Bond. A great action movie, filled with a little too much fun, but still Bond at heart. What it does prove once again is that Moore can make any line work better than it should. While Octopussy is easily full of some of the worst of Bond's one-liners ("Toro. Sounds like a load of bull."), one line I can't help but laugh at it is when Bond escapes Kamal Khan's hunting expedition by hopping into a tour boat. A woman asks him if he's with the tour and Moore just absolutely nails the response: "No ma'm, I'm with the economy tour." I only wish this truly had been his last outing.  Xander Markham Octopussy is among the most unjustly maligned Bond movies, mostly by people who've read the title and assumed the worst. In fact, it's possibly Moore's best, with a reasonably original plot, some terrific action sequences, interesting characters and gorgeous cinematography. '80s India might have been impoverished in real life, but through Bond's eyes is an oasis of abundant colour and beautiful women in flowing saris. The middle period Bonds have a tendency to waste their exotic locations with perfunctory photography and camerawork, but this time around cinematographer Alan Hume does stunning work in giving Bond's adventure a distinctly Indian flavour. There's no doubt that the cheesy quips sidelined in For Your Eyes Only are given greater prominence here, but they are nowhere near as overused as in Moonraker or The Man With The Golden Gun. Moore unleashes a couple of clunkers, but proceedings are taken just seriously enough that the plot has clear dramatic stakes. Yes, Bond has a (completely nonsensical) alligator submarine, tells a tiger to sit and does an awful Tarzan cry while swinging through the jungle, but those are exceptions rather than the rule. The pre-credits sequence plays relatively straight and is fantastically exciting, with the punchline (Bond pulling up at a rural petrol station in his aircraft and asking the attendant to 'fill her up, please') more an amusing cap on the scene rather than obnoxious distraction. Yes, Bond later disarms a bomb dressed as a clown, but the scene is played for suspense rather than humour. A Roger Moore movie with a strong circus motif should be deeply concerning, but the movie mostly focuses on the more unsettling aspects of circus performance rather than the expected broad humour. As Matt notes, Octopussy is interesting for reflecting the changing sociopolitcal landscape of its time (bet you never thought you'd read that sentence), with the Cold War gradually giving way to détente and the main danger coming from those reluctant few unable to see past old prejudices. Casting Steven Berkoff as a Russian general is an invitation for hamminess and he doesn't let anyone down, laying on the exaggerated gesticulation and syrupy accent with gusto. He overdoes it - what do you expect, he's Steven Berkoff - but is a diverting contrast to the dispassionately devious Kamal Khan and his silent, Oddjob-esque right hand man, Gobinda. Khan is a fabulous villain and Louis Jordan has great fun mispronouncing 'Mr. Bund' and giving his character the cruel stately air befitting a disgraced Afghan prince. He and Moore bounce off each other very entertainingly because the characters share so many traits. Every encounter between the two is a gem, with each using carefully trained manners to veil their dislike and undermine the other. Bond's 'I intend to, Kamal Khan' riposte has become something of a catchphrase of mine. Gobinda doesn't get much to do other than stare menacingly and be physically imposing, but his Indian accoutrements make him a memorable addition to the henchman gallery. In one of the movie's best jokes, even he expresses concern when instructed to go and get Bond from the roof of an aeroplane in mid-flight. The second set of henchman, a pair of identical twin knife throwers called Mischka and Grischka, are among the series' most sinister. It is they who murder 009 in the story's instigating scene, hunting him through a dark forest until successfully launching a knife into his back before he can make his escape. Their red and black outfits and identical appearance double up the fear factor, an effect made even stranger by the hint of twisted affection between the sibling killers. The show's ringleader, Octopussy, is one of Moore's most complex female foils: she's a smuggler with a sense of decency, having isolated herself from the rest of the world but not quite ready to surrender to the immorality exemplified by Khan and his cohorts. In Bond, she senses a similar soul: a killer who does what he does for the right reasons. That he has to prove himself to her before she switches allegiance makes a positive change, and while she requires rescuing at the end, is entirely self-reliant and intelligent until that point. Some may complain that her team of female gymnasts is too ridiculous for its own good, but I find it silly in the entertaining rather than embarrassing sense, not to mention serving double time as a sly nod to Pussy Galore's former profession (as leader of an all-female team of acrobats) in the Goldfinger novel. It's the rare Moore movie where the women generally come across well, with the stunning but treacherous Magda using her sexuality to get the better of Bond. Let's all try and forget about Penelope Smallbone, though. The movie draws surprisingly heavily on Fleming, and not in the expected ways. The literary Octopussy is a short story collection, and two of its entries are clear influences on the plot. The brilliant auction scene at Sotheby's near the beginning is an adaptation of Property Of A Lady, where Bond attends an auction to spot an undercover KGB agent pushing up the price of a Fabergé egg to pay off a female mole in the British secret service. More interesting is how the movie essentially operates as a follow-up to the story of the same name. In Fleming's Octopussy, Bond is sent to bring home a WW2 officer who has eloped with stolen Nazi gold, but allows him the chance to commit suicide rather than face the humiliation of having his reputation dragged through the mud on trial. In the movie, Octopussy (the character) is the officer's daughter and trusts Bond because of the respect he paid her father. This intelligent use of the source material gives Octopussy some moving backstory informing her character's view of the world - it's clear where she gets her distrust of governments and law - and the nuances of her underlying morality. Octopussy isn't perfect by any stretch and has a bit too much campy humour, but is easily the most rewatchable of Moore's movies. For every blunder, there are three or four great scenes to make up for it: for one, the fight inside and above a moving train looks to have been a significant influence on Skyfall's opening action sequence. The characters are memorable and enlivened by terrific performances, with Vijay being in the top tier of Bond's non-mustachioed allies and his death genuinely affecting. Q gets to save the day and be swamped by grateful, lithe women, and though Rog is looking a little old in the tooth, at least the object of his affections is closer in age than the usual twenty-somethings and a worthy character in her own right.
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An American and a Brit talk Bond
Octopussy frequently gets dismissed because of its name, but is actually one of the strongest movies of the Moore era. Bond gets a complex and sensibly aged loved interest, the villain is as charismatic as he is cunning, ther...

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Across the Bond: For Your Eyes Only


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 11
// Matthew Razak
For Your Eyes Only might be the most forgotten Bond. Coming right after the massive Moonraker and right before the eye catchingly named Octopussy it didn't stand out much. It's also not reviled so people don't ...

Across the Bond: Moonraker

Oct 10 // Matthew Razak
Xander Markham  Following the success of Star Wars, the decision was made to send Bond into space in one of his most unabashedly ridiculous movies to date. There's something inherently exciting about rockets and space travel, but it's a tough sell for a series like Bond. Yes, the gadgets are frequently overcooked and the villains exaggerated, but there's something about actually taking the character into outer space feels like a step too far. That said, the same can be said of the Earth-bound sections of the movie too, which feature such eye-rolling sights as Bond driving across Venice square on a gondola-hovercraft hybrid while pigeons do double-takes, then later conveniently landing right outside the villain's top secret lair whilst abseiling over the Amazon. These are just the worst examples in a movie overflowing with such contrivances (a sexy helicopter pilot is later revealed as illiterate for the sake of a dismal one-liner) and overwrought 'comic' situations. There's some good stuff in Moonraker, but mostly confined to individual scenes: the spectacular pre-credits stunt, a staple of the Moore era, involves Bond getting thrown out of an aeroplane without a parachute, then freefalling to catch up with an enemy who does have one. It's a brilliantly filmed sequence, taking two weeks and eighty-eight jumps to get right, and even the dodgy rear-projection work behind any shot of Roger Moore and the unnecessary appearance of Jaws can't spoil it. The centrifuge sequence is also terrific, managing to create some tension even through the distraction of Roger Moore's primly composed visage getting ravaged by G-force. The zero-gravity bits on Drax's space station are pretty cool, because zero gravity always is, and the final scene features one of the all-time great cheesy Bond one-liners: upon activating a direct visual feed to Bond's escape shuttle, the Intelligence services get a good eyeful of he and the appropriately named Holly Goodhead going at it. 'What's Bond doing?' M exclaims in outrage. 'I think he's attempting re-entry, sir!' is Q's immortal reply. It's not for those minor pleasures that I have a secret affection for Moonraker, though. It's really all about Michael Lonsdale's Hugo Drax. Lonsdale plays the part with a wonderfully condescending sneer, and gets all the movie's best lines. 'JamesBond, you appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season' is a villain line par excellence, and Lonsdale makes every syllable count. Lonsdale's performance actually adds an extra layer to the character, instigating a theory I've long held about Drax: his entire scheme, to poison the earth and later return to repopulate it (fnarr), is motivated by boredom. Think about it: this is a guy rich enough to have an entire palace brought brick by brick from France to California, and only prevented from doing the same with the Eiffel Tower due to being denied an export permit. When Bond appears to apologise for his government losing a Moonraker shuttle, Drax instructs his Generic Asian Henchman to kill him, even though there's absolutely no reason to consider Bond a danger at that point. Drax is evidently an enormously intelligent man, so why make such an obvious blunder? Answer: he wants Bond to come after him. Lonsdale gives Drax the countenance of a man for whom life holds no more surprises, whose riches allow him to indulge his every whim, and who is vastly more intellectually gifted than anyone around him. Having Bond on his tail is a challenge, which explains why he persistently refuses - in an even more overt manner than the many villains which have gone before him - to try and kill Bond in anything but the most ridiculously circuitous ways. 'Mr. Bond, you persist in defying my attempts to create an amusing death for you,' he states. Poor old Drax. He just wants to be entertained, and if the human race isn't going to do that for him, he's going to wipe them off the face of the Earth and spend his remaining days boning hot women to repopulate an entire planet. While never stated directly in the movie, only supported through Lonsdale's performance and a certain interpretation of the character's lines and actions, my Moonraker Theory is how I choose to see Drax and his relation to the plot, and is pretty much my favourite villain motivation in any movie, ever. There's no other logical way of explaining why Drax is doing what he's doing, and it makes the movie much more entertaining to watch it from that perspective. Despite the title, the Ian Fleming novel is one of the more grounded, with much of the book closer in tone to detective fiction than the heightened thrillers making up the bulk of the Bond canon. The movie has nothing in common with it except the presence of a villain called Drax, which is par for course for the majority of the Roger Moore era. Interestingly, significant chunks of the novel were later used in heavily altered form for Die Another Day, whose plot also revolves around an entrepreneur's supposedly altruistic technological venture turning out to have more devious intentions. The movie's villain, Gustav Graves, also shares a fair bit in common with Fleming's Hugo Drax. Don't let that put you off the novel, however: Die Another Day's fatuous sci-fi excess are all its own, and there's no sign of anyone called Jinx. The plot sees Bond invited to investigate the death of a security officer at the launch site of esteemed scientist Sir Hugo Drax's Moonraker rocket project, intended as a nuclear deterrent protecting Britain against its Communist enemies. Though Drax is considered above suspicion, Bond and his ally Gala Brand (whose name has never been used in the movies as the producers thought it sounded like a sausage) find strange inconsistencies between his story and that being fed to the government, leading to the grand reveal that Drax isn't intending to use his rocket to protect Britain, but destroy it. His reasons for wanting to do so are fantastic, but you'll have to read the novel (or the Wikipedia page, I suppose) to discover them for yourself. As with any of Fleming's novels, it attracted some controversy, this time for an early scene where Bond drinks a mixture of champagne and benzedrine (speed) to humiliate Drax in a rigged card game. The sequence is one of Fleming's most memorable, a marvellously executed coup de théâtre where Bond explains the nature of his ploy at the beginning, allowing readers the pleasure of experiencing the trap slowly close on its insufferably arrogant prey. Even without having a clue how Bridge is played, it's a fantastic sequence, all kicked off by a similar vein of snobbery to From Russia With Love's 'red wine and fish': despite Drax being a decorated member of high society, M believes he may be a villain because he's suspected of cheating at cards. Matthew Razak  If They Spy Who Loved Me is the perfect execution of the Bond cliche then Moonraker is the reason people hate cliches. The Spy Who Loved Me was obviously a success (because it was awesome), and as Xander pointed out Star Wars was a success too. Logic dictates that putting the two together would also be a success, and that's exactly what they did. Xander notes the ridiculousness of sending Bond into space, but what is actually ridiculous is that Moonraker is the exact same movie The Spy Who Loved Me... but in space. This is the James Bond equivalent of what happens when they run out of ideas for a horror film series, and enjoyable for almost all the same reasons that the likes of Jason X are. Please don't misunderstand. When I say Moonraker is exactly the same movie, but in space I mean it. It's not just the overarching plot that duplicates TSWLM, it's almost every aspect. Let's just do a quick list here: we've got the obvious things like Hugo Drax trying to create a new perfect world exactly like Karl Stromberg was trying to do, but underwater; we have an at first standoffish spy from a rival organization in the form of Dr. Holly Goodhead replacing Agent XXX; we've got Jaws returning as the main henchman. It goes deeper than just stealing the exact same plot, however. Bond's site gags are almost exactly the same, but bigger. Note the aforementioned gondola coming out of the water to drive on land is the exact same gag as the Lotus Esprit doing the same thing in TSWLM. Moonraker doesn't stop at stealing from its direct predecessor either. In one of the films better non-action segments Bond goes pheasant hunting with Drax, and the scene is fairly reminiscent of Thunderball's classic skeet shooting scene. That is until the brilliantly delivered response to Drax's "You missed." as Bond has shot the assassin in a tree instead of the bird -- another brilliant delivery of a one-liner by Moore. It's almost as if they took the screenplay for TSWLM sharpened up the villain, put in a rocket ship and hoped no one would notice they made the exact same movie two times in a row. The great thing is that it worked. Moonraker would be the top grossing Bond film until (not accounting for inflation) until GoldenEye landed. People loved it back then and the merchandising must have been insane. Of course not everything is the stolen. Drax is easily one of the best written Bond villains, and on a great line delivery basis far outstrips even Telly Savalas' Blofeld. It's hard to not enjoy almost every scene Drax is in, and the subtle (or not so subtle) word play between him and Bond is some of the best in the series. It's actually pretty rare that the villain gets to be on par in terms of charm and wit, but it makes for a Bond confrontation that is so much better than the films where the villain is just plain evil. However, I can't say that Drax makes Moonraker fun enough to become one of my favorites. While the action is stellar and the entire concluding sequence on the crumbling space station a fantastic technical feat I'm always distracted by how insanely ludicrous it all is. I'm a big proponent of ludicrousness in Bond, but launching into space and shooting lasers just crosses whatever made up line I've made for myself when it comes to Bond. I'm also not a fan of the Bondgirl here. Dr. Goodhead, despite attending my alma mater, is just too flat for the film. Whereas Agent XXX may have lost her character, Dr. Goodhead never really has one, though Bond and her's scene in which he discovers all her gadgets is quite fun. Despite having one of the most outlandish names since Pussy Galore the character does almost nothing during the film except get into trouble. Thankfully being dull isn't as bad as being one of Moore's idiot Bond girl from previous films. She's not infuriating, she's just not that interesting. Bond in space was an all out bid and pretty damn epic, but it's almost completely lacking in originality. You may argue that the Bond films do that in general, but that means you haven't watched enough. One of the great things about the Bondmovies is that they constantly change. For me the thing that most annoys me about Moonraker is that it's a Bond that changes nothing. Yes, the stunts and special effects are new and stunning, but it doesn't try to move Bond in any different direction and it doesn't even try to hide the fact that it isn't. Not all of Moore's future films were the most original concepts, but they at least didn't copy the film directly before them so damn closely.
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An American and a Brit talk Bond
Bond in space! When you just keep getting bigger and bigger going to space has to happen eventually, right? Well, maybe not. Possibly some space restraint could have been applied. After all Moonraker does make it look li...

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Across the Bond: The Spy Who Loved Me


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 09
// Matthew Razak
Across the Bond has been trucking right along and we find ourselves now at Roger Moore's The Spy Who Loved Me. Below you will find me discussing one action sequences for as long as I've discussed most of the other movies in t...
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Across the Bond: The Man with the Golden Gun


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 08
// Matthew Razak
Often heralded as the worst James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun definitely has it problems. In this edition of Across the Bond we definitely are happy to tell you about them. It's one of those times where s...
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Across the Bond: Live and Let Die


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 05
// Matthew Razak
Roger Moore arrives! The entrance of the longest tenured Bond into the series kicks of with Live and Let Die. Moore jumped right into the character tackling him with his own style instead of trying to live up to Connery. It w...
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Across the Bond: Diamonds Are Forever


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 04
// Matthew Razak
Across the Bond comes now to the first "bad" Bond film, in which old Sean Connery is old. While I'm loathe to say that any Bond film is a bad movie because Bond is awesome, it's hard to defend this one very much. Xander is a ...
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Across the Bond: On Her Majesty's Secret Service


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 03
// Matthew Razak
The first passing of the Bond baton was between Sean Connery and then relatively unknown actor George Lazenby, who auditioned for the role by dressing up in Connery's classic suit from Goldfinger and charging into the auditio...
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Across the Bond: You Only Live Twice


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 02
// Matthew Razak
We come now to a moment that Across the Bond had to inevitably come to. You Only Live Twice is really the first Bond to just go all out crazy-go-nuts. Completely ditching the story in the book and throwing in ninjas and ...
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Across the Bond: Thunderball


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Oct 01
// Matthew Razak
I think we've come to the first film that Xander and I don't fully agree on. I'll admit to Thunderball being watchable, but I find its pacing and and plodding make it one of the Bonds I don't go back and watch that often...
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Across the Bond: Goldfinger


An American and a Brit talk Bond
Sep 28
// Matthew Razak
And so we come to it. The film that launched Bond as we know it and turned the series into a phenomenon. Goldfinger is a movie almost everyone of a certain generation has seen, and those not of that generation shoul...

Across the Bond: From Russia with Love

Sep 27 // Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak From Russia with Love is my favorite Bond, though it isn’t the most “Bond” of the Bond films in terms of what the franchise became. While Goldfinger really started Bond as we know it, it’s From Russia with Love that best combines a hard-edged Bond with great action and an appropriate level of gadgets. In fact, when watching Goldfinger right after From Russia with Love the jump to ejector seats from a crafty, but plausible attache case is particularly ludicrous. The simpler gadgets are more in line with the Bond of the first two films, though. I just love how harsh Connery is throughout From Russia with Love, and the screenplay is easily one of the strongest. Even the one-liners come off strong -- a far cry from the cheesiness that followed. There’s a lot of good going on here, from the obvious insinuation that Bond has a threesome with to wild gypsy women to his Turkish contact Kerim Bey womanizing so hard he makes Bond’s antics look subdued. Then there’s Robert Shaw’s Red Grant, who pretty much defined what a Bond henchman should be. The movie is sharp and well-paced, and one of the only Bond film that actually feels like a legitimate spy movie. But the best aspect has to be that the Bond girl’s unwavering love for Bond is actually written into the story as a set up to catch Bond. Sure, her later head-over-heels infatuation with Bond is something we would only accept in a Bond film, but it works because it is a Bond film. Of course no discussion of From Russia with Love would be complete without talking about Bond and Grant's fight in a train car.  I just got the chance to see this on the big screen, and after years of being told that the fight was amazing, I finally understood why it was. It’s tightly shot and cut magnificently. On the big screen it packed a punch I’d missed watching it at home. Even in today's action world of highly choreographed fights and super charged punches there's something almost primal about this scene. Fights like this weren't done this well for years to come after it, and it's one of the ways Bond helped shape what we know as action cinema. I know I’m the American here, but I also have to point out how Bond’s suspicion of Grant as a spy comes from the fact that he orders red wine with fish. If there’s one thing that separates Bond from other spies it’s interactions like this, and it’s just so British. Xander Markham Red wine with fish is one of my favourite lines in the Bond series, not least for Sean Connery's look of utter disgust at himself for not immediately shooting his dinner guest in the face for such a disgraceful cenatory faux-pas. Each actor brings something different to their Bond, and though in no way supported by anything in the movies, I like to think of Connery's interpretation as a slightly working class/blue collar version of the character, a man whose manners and tastes have been learnt rather than inherited, making him slightly self-conscious about them. (Roger Moore, in contrast, was the aristocratic Bond). It also demonstrates one of From Russia's less frequently acknowledged qualities, its wonderful sense of humour. From Bond's hints at a dirty trip to Tokyo with M, to Kerim Bay's majestically filthy one-liner after his mistress begs him to come to bed ("Back to the salt-mines") and Bond's riposte when entering Kerim's office the following morning to find the back wall destroyed and the mistress run away ("Found your technique too violent?"), it's easily one of the most quotable Bonds, despite rarely being given due credit.The movie follows the plot of Ian Fleming's novel quite closely, though there are a few interesting differences. The 'red wine with fish' line is a movie creation, despite being as perfect as anything Bond's creator ever came up with. Donald 'Red' Grant is given a lot more backstory, with the first third of the novel dedicated to how he came to be chief executioner for SMERSH, the Russian secret service. (In the movie, he works for criminal organisation SPECTRE, which only entered Fleming's canon with Thunderball). Grant is set up as the anti-Bond, and has the pointless but sinister characteristic of being at his most dangerous and feral under a full moon. Rosa Klebb is also characterised more precisely as a sadistic torturer who uses her repugnant sexuality to extract information. She's hinted at being bisexual - the novels' sexual politics are very much of their time - and first appears in front of Tatiana wearing lingerie, making some rather blunt advances. ("Turn off the light my dear. [...] We must get to know each other better."). Fleming tactfully describes her as looking like 'the oldest and ugliest whore in the world'. From Russia was hurried into production after John F Kennedy named the novel as one of his top ten, and with the cast and crew having cut their teeth on Dr. No, the key elements of the formula were already in place and the source material so strong (one of Fleming's best, which is saying something) that the resulting film is not only the best movie in the Bond series, but one of the most accomplished, well-rounded action movies ever made. The final third is as explosive as any modern release, swapping between trains, trucks, boats and helicopters, with each sequence offering something different, but equally exciting. The only thing missing is Fleming's cliffhanger, where Klebb succeeds in stabbing Bond with the poisoned blade in her shoe, yet the movie probably works better as a self-contained piece, despite the final scene's hilariously dismal back-projection.The movie even offers a bit of series continuity by having SPECTRE target Bond as a result of his killing Dr. No. Sylvia Trench also makes a return appearance, intended to be a recurring character - whom Bond was possibly intended to marry in On Her Majesty's Secret Service - before finding no place in Goldfinger. If anyone states Quantum Of Solace was the first direct sequel to a preceding Bond movie, be sure to correct them before their ignorance extends to ordering the wrong wines. A few other trivia notes: the novel's title has a comma after Russia where the movie's doesn't. One of the gypsy fighting girls is played by Martine Beswick, who previously appeared as a dancing shadow girl in Dr. No (having auditioned for a main part) and later as Paula in Thunderball. Anthony Dawson, Professor Dent in Dr.No, plays Blofeld here (although the voice is dubbed), and his right hand man is Walter Gotell, who later portrayed General Gogol throughout the Roger Moore / Timothy Dalton eras. Finally, the insanely charismatic Mexican actor Pedro Armendáriz (Kerim Bey) committed suicide shortly after From Russia was released, having been severely ill at the time of filming, but his legacy lived on when his son was cast as a corrupt South American presidente in Licence To Kill. The Bond 'family' has been pretty tight knit over the years, yet even twenty-two iconic movies down the line, From Russia marked the moment when all the elements came together to produce a genuine masterpiece of its time and genre.
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An American and Brit talk Bond
Our next film in Across the Bond is the next film in the series (cause we're going chronologically), From Russia with Love. Xander and I don't differ too much on this one, as we both think it represents the best Bond has...

Across the Bond: Dr. No

Sep 26 // Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak What’s always impressed me so much about Dr. No is how absolutely sure about itself the entire film feels. Maybe it’s just because I’ve always looked at it in retrospect, but Dr. No doesn’t seem to be establishing Bond norms it already seems to be in them. Yes, some things are missing like an opening action sequence, but it’s still Bond. A lot of series after a re-watch  of the first one have the feeling that they’re getting into the swing of whatever the series became. It’s as if Bond came in mid-swing. No better example of this is present than the opening sequence, which introduces Connery as Bond without any other context like he’s the most badass man in the world. Of course Connery’s pitch perfect, dead pan delivery of “Bond. James Bond.” is what truly sells it. Which brings us to Connery, who may not have been Flemmings first choice for the role, but was definitely the only actor until Dainel Craig came along to actually have that truly dangerous edge to him. Connery’s performance in Dr. No seems almost effortless, especially in comparison to his later films where it was obvious he was less and less enthused in the role. Here, without the ever escalating budgets and massive sets, Connery seems quite simply the smoothest man ever. I’m obviously not down on the bigger more overblown Bond that comes in the future, but there’s definitely something pure about Connery as Bond in Dr. No. I think that constraint is also wonderfully present in Ken Adam’s set design in Dr. No. Adams designed many of the best known Bond sets, and they just kept getting bigger and more amazing with each film. In Dr. No, however, due to the fact that much of the film isn’t in an overblown villain base and probably because of budget his set designs are much simpler, yet still stunning. This might be best seen in the scene where Professor Dent picks up the tarantula to kill Bond. The room really makes very little sense, but it’s so striking and compliments the fear that Dent is feeling. It’s not the big sets he’d become famous for, but it shows off the skill he had in creating a sense of space. It’s just impressive how Bond Dr. No is. Xander Markham These early movies stick closely to Ian Fleming's source material, but due to their relatively low budgets – even in 1962, a million dollars wasn't a particularly princely sum in filmmaking terms – also represent the few occasions when the novels are more spectacular than their adaptations. In the novel, Bond fights a giant squid, and the eponymous Doctor is smooshed under a pile of guano. For anyone who claims Craig's movies reflect the source material for being po-faced and serious, check again: Fleming had a definite taste for the absurd, but never descended into the wink-wink camp that blighted the worst of the Moore-era movies because he wrote it all with a straight face. The Dr. No movie keeps the tone low-key for the most part – be thankful producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman didn't go with the first draft of the script, which called for Dr. No to be played by a monkey - although there are traces of Fleming's sense of humour in Bond's dry wit, which is fully formed out of the gate, if noticeably colder than in later iterations. If anything, the character is more fun for being slightly despicable: I love how he nonchalantly has Miss Taro arrested after spending the day bedding her. All he needs her to do is call her contact in No's organisation, but though he's putting his life in danger, willingly surrenders to her attempts to make him stick around before bunging her in a police car when he's had enough. Bond's attitude to women has softened over the years, and while that makes him more appropriate for the times, also makes him less interesting. Bond first and foremost exemplifies a kind of post-rationing hunger (for fine food, tailoring, women...) which, these days, has mutated into a kind of hyper-consumerist narcissism. Yet there's a clear sense, especially in the later novels, that Bond indulges himself out of recognition that his life could end at any moment. By making him more considerate towards his conquests and less sophisticated in his tastes (particularly in the Brosnan years, where he verged on metrosexualism), the basis for his cynicism and everything-or-nothing attitude is lost. The scene immediately following Taro's ungallant arrest, where Bond sits in wait for No's assassin, is a rare instance of Bond biding his time, and the sight of him calmly playing solitaire with a silenced pistol by his side is a far cry from the whizz-bang-whallop of later movies. It's a realistic demonstration of Bond's fearsome efficiency: he sets a trap, then waits for the villain to ensnare himself. You get the impression Bond knew Dent's gun was empty all along, but was waiting for an excuse to execute him. Bond isn't a psychopath – in Fleming's novels, he's very much conscious of being a licenced killer, although too professional to let it affect him – but gets on with his job and kills people when he has to. Compare that to Tomorrow Never Dies or Quantum Of Solace, where he effectively goes on killing sprees, and it demonstrates the understated elegance of the characterisation in these early movies and Fleming's novels. As the first movie in a fifty-year old series, countless essays could be written about Dr. No and how it laid the tracks for what was to come. Relatively little has been said about how perfectly the writing underlying Sean Connery's flawless performance defines its hero, though. This and From Russia offer the purest representation of Fleming's Bond ever put on-screen.
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An American and a Brit talk Bond
Xander Markham and I are a little bit obsessed with James Bond. This entirely healthy and completely normal preoccupation with a fictional character has led to debates and discussions of much import. We've decided to bring th...







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