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James Bond 25 Countdown Marathon
Halfway through the series now...

Octopussy (1983)
Roger Moore was set to retire from Bond and the producers went as far as doing full screen-tests with James Brolin featuring other main 'Octopussy' cast members but when it was announced that Sean Connery was doing a rival film in the same year, EON got nervous and brought Moore back. They also re-hired John Barry to ditch the synths of the last film and do a traditional lush orchestral score, making maximum use of the classic Bond themes, which the rival film would not have the rights to. He collaborated with Tim Rice to write 'All Time High' for Rita Coolidge, one of my favourite title songs. The film is mostly set around India and features Indian tennis star and actor Vijay Amritraj as "our man in". He is clearly having a ton of fun being in one of these films, with an infectious smile and laughing at Bond's antics during the excellent Tuk-Tuk chase. Maud Adams is much less memorable as the heroine (they sadly decided against Star Trek actress Persis Khambatta, who was actually Indian) and Steven Berkoff is astonishingly awful as a rogue Soviet General.

The tone retreats back into some of the camp humour that was mostly avoided in 'For Your Eyes Only'. So we get misjudged moments like Bond using a crocodile-shaped sub, hiding in a gorilla suit and him doing the Tarzan call while swinging from vines. There is some awesome stuff too, like the thrilling micro-plane cold-open, a car being driven on train-tracks, the aforementioned Tuk Tuk action-scene in the packed streets of Udaipur and Roger sliding down the banisters firing an AK-47! The plot involving Fabergé eggs, Nuclear bombs, smuggling, circus acrobats and multiple enemy factions is all over the place. Michaela Clavell is introduced for a few seconds as "Penelope Smallbone", a younger assistant to the aging Moneypenny (Clavell's one and only appearance in the series). Robert Brown takes over the role of 'M' for the first time, with much success. He would play M until the series was re-booted with Dame Judi Dench in 1995. 'Octopussy' was one I saw on TV a lot as a kid, so I am pretty fond of it despite the flaws.

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Watched Spectre last night, maybe I'll do it backwards...:-)
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Never Say Never Again (1983)
Back in the 80s/90s 'Never Say Never Again' would be repeated in the UK as part of ITV's semi-regular "Bond Season" alongside all the other official EON films. As a child I didn't really notice all the off-brand features of the film, it had Sean Connery in it, it was a Bond movie... close enough. Re-watching now, they do stand out, plus of course it's a remake of 'Thunderball', so that's odd. Without the drilled EON stunt team, the action scenes are noticeably less impressive but to compensate the VisFX shots look more expensive and ambitious. Q is referred to as "Algernon" (except in one scene) for no obvious reason and is played as a very different character, Bernie Casey makes a great Felix Leiter though. Klaus Maria Brandauer's take on villain Largo goes beyond the typical gloating Bond arch-nemesis, into genuinely seeming psychotic. Laughing quietly to himself at jokes that only he can hear. Edward Fox wildly overacts as M, clearly collecting a paycheck. It's Directed by Irvin Kershner, with Cinematography by Douglas Slocombe, both hot off Lucas/Spielberg blockbusters, so I'm surprised to say the visuals are kinda bland. Sean Connery looks back in shape and isn't phoning it in like he did during 'Diamonds Are Forever'. They use his age to play the "You're a relic 007" angle, long before 'Goldeneye' and 'Skyfall' would do it. A mixed bag.

This time I watched Blofelds Cat's clever 'Never Say McClory Again' fanedit, which replaces Michel Legrand's score with classic John Barry themes and changes the opening and closing to match the look of the other EON films. It's the only way to watch this film.


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A View to a Kill (1985)
'A View to a Kill' marks the last outing for Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny and Roger Moore as 007, they were both approaching 60 at the time. It's also the point where Cubby Broccoli began handing over Producing duties to his daughter Barbara Broccoli and step-son Michael G. Wilson (who run the franchise to this day). It gets a bad rap for some reason but the mostly serious tone makes it one of the better Moore films in my book. There is plenty of proper covert spy stuff, gadgets to copy documents, a camera ring, spy shades, a lock picking device and swapping of code words. The stunts are top drawer like the one where Bond is shown jumping a car off a ramp, onto the top of a moving bus and off again in one continuous shot. There is also a base jump off the Eiffel Tower, a vertiginous finale atop the Golden Gate Bridge worthy of Alfred Hitchcock and the opening scene is crediting with popularising Snowboarding, which had never been shown in a film before. Patrick Macnee plays Bond's sidekick Sir Godfrey Tibbett, so we get fictional agents John Steed and Simon Templar on screen together. The bits where Moore is lording it over Macnee (who is posing as his valet) are really funny. Christopher Walken is of course terrific as the psychotic villain and Grace Jones makes an intimidating female "heavy" but Tanya Roberts' main heroine is introduced too late into the film and is a bit of a wet blanket on the last act. John Barry composes one of his best 007 scores, weaving the main theme from his and Duran Duran's credits song throughout.

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The Living Daylights (1987)
'The Living Daylights' just might be my favourite movie in the franchise. It gets the formula mixed just right, as serious in tone as the later Craig-era but Bond is still allowed to be fun (and funny) when it's appropriate. Timothy Dalton plays 007 with a cold suppressed fury, exemplified by the way he first delivers the "Bond, James Bond" line, terse and understated, like his 007 hasn't got time for that sh*t. The cold open is a cracker, the 00s under attack as they parachute onto the Rock of Gibraltar. It's refreshing to see the younger virile Dalton actually doing some of the stunts himself, after Roger Moore's often phony back-projection efforts. Alec Mills' Cinematography is total class, these films have rarely looked better. I'd forgotten how effective the romance with Maryam d'Abo is, a girl hasn't cut this deep into Bond's heart since Tracy. The scene they share at the funfair is beautifully played, you can see the steely exterior Dalton puts on the character melt away, forgetting his troubles. Then you see how the death of a fellow operative while he was having that fun causes Bond to put the emotional armour back up. It's a portrayal a lot deeper than most of these films go.

Interestingly Pierce Brosnan was announced as the new Bond, which led to NBC not letting him out of his contract on 'Remington Steele' as planned, which led to the Bond offer being withdrawn and so 'Remington Steele' was cancelled. Bad luck for Pierce, good luck for Dalton, although it worked out in the end. The subplot involving Bond teaming up with a dashing Osama Bin Laden proxy (played by Art Malik) to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan looks somewhat different now, than I'm sure it did then. John Terry is a fairly forgettable Felix Leiter, so he would be replaced in the next film. Caroline Bliss is alright as Dalton's new Moneypenny but she's not got the same flirty spark as the actors before and after. Sadly Walter Gotell was ill, so he couldn't do more than a brief cameo as General Gogol (the last of six appearances as the character), so a new KGB chief called General Pushkin was devised. John Rhys-Davies does a wonderful job as always but it would have had so much more impact for it to have been Gogol. Bond gets perhaps his sexiest car from Q, a gorgeous tricked-out black Aston Martin V8 Vantage with lasers and missiles (I've seen it at a museum). John Barry pulls out all the stops for his final score for the series. 'The Living Daylights' is the last Bond film to have a stunning fully painted poster (by Brian Bysouth)... it's bland Photoshop from here on out.

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TLD is class, easily my favourite in the series.
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(01-02-2020, 12:00 AM)Problem Eliminator Wrote: TLD is class, easily my favourite in the series.

1 point to Gryffindor!

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btw... a minor criticism I had of TLD was the almost comically large sniper rifle Bond uses in the first mission (like a Manga or videogame gun). I always thought it looked like a fake movie prop but no it's apparently a real and obscure rifle, the Walther WA2000 (point of criticism no more):

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Wikipedia: "Only 176 were built due to its high cost, making it one of the rarest and most sought production firearms ever made." It goes for as much as $75k, so lord knows how much the actual one from the movie is worth.
Likewise, the "rocket guns" from You Only Live Twice were also real, called Gyrojets.  Their explosive bullets were not an accurate depiction of what they did, though.
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Licence to Kill (1989)
For Timothy Dalton's second and sadly final outing as 007, they go all 'Scarface' 1983, pitting Bond against Robert Davi's Sanchez, a sadistic South American drug lord. This latest viewing gave me renewed respect for one of the most focused scripts/stories in the franchise, James quits MI6 and goes rogue on a rage fueled vengeance quest, with minimal globe trotting and no subplots getting in the way. However, I've always had a problem with quite how comparatively nasty and mean spirited the film is and my mind hasn't been changed. Felix Leiter (played with real warmth once more by the recently late David Hedison) gets maimed by a shark after his new bride is implied to have been raped to death on their honeymoon (and in her wedding dress), we see Sanchez whip his girlfriend, Bond gleefully feeds a traitor to a shark, forces a henchman into a mincing machine and later burns a villain alive, the corpse of one of Bond's friends is pictured hooked up like a piece of meat, we see a guys head exploding 'Scanners' style and Sanchez drops a man into a propeller blade. I don't think there is another film in the series that has anywhere near this much violence and certainly not without cutting away from it. It's not fun anymore.

The cold-open action sequence is incredible, featuring Bond hooking a plane out of the air and then parachuting in with felix in time for the latter's wedding. It's so badass. I loved the semi-meta scene where one of Sanchez's underlings is trying to explain to his enraged boss how Bond made another miraculous escape and he realizes he is in trouble because 007's exploits don't sound believable. I also liked the feeling that James is making things up as he goes along, improvising, using his cunning. A very young looking Benicio Del toro looking like a total psycho gets one of his first roles as the top henchman. I'd forgotten how stunning Carey Lowell is as Bond's love interest and action sidekick. The bits where Moneypenny and Q help Bond out behind MI6's back are kinda charming. 'Licence to Kill' is the end of an era in many ways, the 16th and last Bond film Produced by Cubby Broccoli and the last of five Directed by John Glen. Legal and financial troubles at parent studio MGM would stall production on the next film for 6-years. Then we're into a different post 'Jurassic Park'/'Terminator 2' FX-blockbuster 90s world with a new M.

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GoldenEye (1995)
He might not be quite my favourite now but Pierce Brosnan was "my Bond", 'GoldenEye' was the first one I was old enough to see at the cinema, my friends and I watched it to death on TV and VHS and we played the classic N64 game until out thumbs needed plasters. If 'The Living Daylights' was a near perfect example of a "realistic" Bond film, 'Goldeneye' is a near-perfect example of the fantasy end of the spectrum, just the right amount of outlandish fun to keep Bond feeling cool. Brosnan was born to play Bond, he's got Connery's suave sexiness, Moore's cheeky charm and Lazenby's anger. It's sad that this first movie was Brosnan's high water mark, IIRC the other three decline in quality exponentially. This is the first film to introduce Judi Dench as M, Robbie Coltrane as Valentin, Joe Don Baker as Jack Wade (a new character), Samantha Bond as Moneypenny and Michael Kitchen as M's adjutant Bill Tanner (now a regular character in the franchise). This was also the first Bond film without Producer Cubby Broccoli and the first Produced entirely by his daughter & son-in-law Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Considering how popular 'GoldenEye' and 'Casino Royale' are with the fans, it's surprising Director Martin Campbell hasn't done more. He succeeds in bringing the franchise up to date, with more gunplay and action packed violence as Bond mows down hundreds of faceless henchman with an AK-7, blows up everything in sight and rides round in a T-55 tank. This time I appreciated the way Bond girl Natalya (Izabella Scorupco) is shown to be a proficient character in her own right. Using her wits, knowledge and confidence to find and outfox Boris (her own mini-nemesis outside of Bond's vendetta with Trevelyan). Felix Leiter is replaced in the Brosnan era with Jack Wade, a brash unsophisticated CIA agent. I probably prefer him to Leiter because he has more personality. I wonder why he was introduced, perhaps it's down to the ongoing legal dispute over 'Thunderball' (which included the Leiter character), so the producers wanted a brand new CIA sidekick that only they owned.

As is often the case with Bond re-launches, Eric Serra's score makes maximum use of the classic themes. Sean Bean, Famke Janssen and Gottfried John make a terrific and threatening trio of villains.  Janssen's sex-maniac sadist 'Xenia Onatopp' character rides that line of campiness perfectly. On the down side, some of the model shots look a bit 'Thunderbirds', too much fuss and comedy is made of M now being a woman (cringe) and Desmond Llewelyn (Q) is looking decrepit and blatantly reading his lines off a card. Also this is where some of the overly aggressive product-placement begins with one scene existing purely so show Bond driving an ugly looking BMW Z3 convertible.

Wow this vintage trailer is good!:

I found this fun video featuring a mini-version of the film re-dubbed with the N64 game soundFX:

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