Three Second Movie Review: James Bond Series (Part II)


This is the second in the “Movie Review in Three Seconds” series of the blog.

The idea is simple. In the spirit of Siskel & Ebert, I, along with one guest critic, review several movies on a scale of 1 to 10 with a short commentary that is no more than a paragraph. It’s movie review for those with ADD, which is to say that it’s a movie review we would all want to read.

The scale works as follows:

  • 0 is movie that goes on your list of worst of all time
  • 1 is a movie that you could barely finish
  • 2 is a movie that’s a painful experience
  • 3 is a movie that’s just bad
  • 4 is a movie that had its moments
  • 5 is a movie so mediocre you can’t decide whether it was good or bad
  • 6 is a movie that was worth the price of admissions (however much that may have been)
  • 7 is a good movie
  • 8 is a movie you’d encourage your friends to see
  • 9 is a movie that goes on your favorites of all time
  • 10 is a movie that goes on your list of best of all time

This is the second installment in reviewing what I consider to be the greatest cinematic accomplishment in history: the James Bond franchise. I, along with a guest critic, already reviewed the first five films. This is a review of the next six.

My guest critic this time is my buddy Jason, who is quite the movie snob. He loves to disparage me for liking “Taken” (2009), a film I rightfully loved. Our movie biographies are at the end.

“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969)

Joe: 8/10

OHMSS is a special film in the franchise. It’s got a lot of “only”s. It’s the only film to have George Lazenby play James Bond. It’s the only film in which Bond gets married. It’s the only film in which Bond cries. It’s the only film in which Bond breaks the fourth wall. It’s also a film that’s vastly underrated, mostly because of Lazenby. The problem with Lazenby, who was a model with no acting experience prior to the film, isn’t that his performance is bad, although it’s a fair critique to say he lacks the screen presence of Connery. Rather, he failed because he never tried to establish his own brand of Bond in the way others who came after him did. Thus, it’s impossible not to draw comparisons of Lazenby’s Bond to the actual James Bond, a comparison Connery will always win. But there’s nothing in Lazenby’s Bond that makes you say, “that’s not Bond,” which is more than I can say about Daniel Craig the Thug. Once you get over Lazenby–and people should–you realize the film is one of the strongest in the series. The action sequences are universally entertaining, highlighted by a chase sequence on skis that’s capped by a remarkable avalanche scene. It’s hard to believe that this was filmed in 1969 and put the painfully fake-looking parachute-off-an-iceburg scene of “Die Another Day” (2002) 30 years later to shame. Diana Rigg, as Tracy Di Vicenzo, gives one of the strongest performances as a Bond girl. In fact, the scenes with Rigg and Lazenby provides the best moments. Blofeld returns as the villain, although Telly Savalas’s performance as Blofeld is weaker than Donald Pleasance’s in “You Only Live Twice” (1967), who was more menacing. It’s a solid, even if not the strongest, outing in the series.

Jason: 9/10

Lazenby isn’t Connery, but he got lucky by getting to be in one of the best Bond movies of all time. The number one, absolute reason this movie stood out is the basic premise of putting Bond for a good portion of the movie on top of a mountain with 12 hot, sexy girls (Guys who dream of being Bond (ex. Joe!!!!) were definitely wanting to be him in this movie. Also, the setting in the Swiss Alps was a pleasant change of scenery to see in a Bond film (It felt that Bond was on an island or in the ocean in every past movie i.e. “Dr.No” (1962), “Thunderball” (1965), “You only Live Twice” (1967)). The skiing action sequences and the bobsled scene were entertaining and became a staple in future Bond films. Bad things I noticed in the movie were Blofield not recognizing Bond even though they met in the last movie (Wikipedia says that it was a continuity error that was purposely ignored by filmmakers. Hmm, Jason says that’s utterly lame), Blofield’s inane plan for amnesty, and Bond and Tracy surviving a massive avalanche (really kind of impossible). Lastly, his relationship with Tracy made this movie very special due to seeing a different emotional side of Bond (which was never duplicated until Daniel Craig’s “Casino Royale” (2006) in my opinion). The tragic ending was also very heartbreaking and the audience can feel for Bond’s emotion of sadness for the first time in the film series.

“Diamonds are Forever” (1971)

Joe: 7/10

“Diamonds Are Forever” is a film that has a lot of good scenes that doesn’t work as a whole. There are a lot of witty one-liners and a good action sequence through Las Vegas. It’s fun watching Bond pretend to be a dealer to infiltrate a diamond ring. Sean Connery returns, but the Bond in DAF is noticeably different from the Bond from the earlier films. Connery plays him much softer and lighthearted, very much like Roger Moore who followed him. This tone is surprising because the film begins with Bond seeking revenge for the killing of his wife. And that’s part of the problem. If you remember that this film came right after OHMSS–and you have to because that’s how the film begins–Bond is too nonchalant about the events of OHMSS, especially because Blofeld returns once again as the chief villain. Jill St. John s Tiffany Case is fine as the Bond girl, but the movie feels like it could have used more of her. What’s disappointing about this film is that the first half in which Bond is investigating the stockpiling of diamonds in South Africa is strong. The plot carries forward with brisk pace and entertaining (although mistake-ridden) action sequences. Then it gets silly once Bond realizes Blofeld is behind the scheme, making the climactic action sequence lack tension. In fact, tension is lacking throughout this film although it is the film that should have been most serious. Sean Connery just looks like he wanted to have fun. I had fun, too, but kept on wanting more.

Jason: 7/10

This movie had so much potential because it’s Bond in Vegas baby! Unfortunately, I thought it came up rather flat due to its slow beginning, no Bond playing cards in a casino (opportunity missed!), and a lame anticlimactic ending in which Bond takes control of a crane, attaches Blofield’s mini sub pod with it and swings it in the building (Really? That’s it? Blofield, one or the greatest Bond villain of all time and that’s what you do to defeat him in this film?) I also disliked the rather easy access by multiple countries (USA, Russia, China) leaving their nuclear missiles out in the open to be easily hit by a laser satellite made up of diamonds in outer space. The best parts of the movie were definitely the car chase in the Vegas strip and Tiffany Chase (who looked really hot in the movie due to the fact that she was wearing practically nothing throughout it). Overall, It felt that Connery was going through the motions in this movie, but Connery is James Bond and that helped this movie get a higher rating.

“Live and Let Die” (1973)

Joe: 5.5/10

“Live and Let Die” is a weird entry in the series. Roger Moore takes over as Bond yet he already feels right at east with the role, unlike Brosnan who gradually settled into it. The gadgets are underplayed (Q doesn’t make an appearance), yet it’s not an annoying omission like the shown-off, but unused BMW in “Goldeneye” (1995). The plot is lame–something about vodoo and taking down a drug lord–and the villains are forgettable, but the Bond girl, the fortune-teller Solitare, played by Jane Seymour, is subtle, attractive and leaves a lasting impression. International locale is a staple of Bond films, but for Americans, the scenes in Alabama and Harlem hit very close to home. Sending Bond to where he’s least expected could have been awkward, but it’s subtly funny (after all, a Brit, walking around in a suit in the black neighborhood of Harlem, is naturally funny) to make it work due to Moore’s lighthearted depiction of Bond. The movie has no high points, but it has no low points. Bland is the best way to describe this film, which isn’t good. But it isn’t a bad Bond film either. The shortness of this review and the median rating perfectly sums up the film I feel least passionate about, one way or the other, in the entire series.

Jason: 5/10

Roger Moore was the “fun Bond” and brought light, campy, enjoyable moments to his films. However, in this movie, these moments couldn’t help it at all. First, the movie‘s premise is something I could rather care less. The Bond’s “villain” as I pictured it should always be about worldly, diabolical goals (by causing World War III, destroying the world, extorting loads of money from countries etc.) Dr. Kananga’s overall scheme to just take over the New York heroin market from the mafia was too small scale an evil plot for me. This movie also had major racial overtones throughout the movie, although Dr.Kananga as a black villain was a nice change to see rather than having all white villains like Blofield or Goldfinger continually in every movie. This movie did have definitely good parts, especially the speedboat chase (more on this in my later reviews of future Bond films) and Jane Seymour was a very pretty girl in this movie. But overall, I was mixed; I guess the plot themes of blaxploitation (definitely not the good stereotypes) and the NY heroin market was just not my cup of afternoon British tea (But that’s how the 1970s rolls I guess!) .

“The Man with a Golden Gun” (1974)

Joe: 6.5/10

“The Man with a Golden Gun” would be wholly forgettable if it weren’t for the villain. Quite frankly, the plot involving the energy crises is irrelevant and the film doesn’t even try to develop it. I would boldly state that Bond isn’t even the most interesting character of this film. Consider: Frances Scaramanga, the man with the golden gun, has the coolest gadgets (a flying car, pieces of golden personal items that build into his gun), gets the best woman (Andrea Anders, played by Maud Adams, dies once Bond gets involved with her) and carries the opening teaser before the credits (reminiscent of the wonderful “From Russia With Love” (1963)). Christopher Lee plays Scaramanga perfectly, quietly and subtly, yet strong when he’s on screen. Bond knows he’s out there, but doesn’t see him. The director, Guy Hamilton, does a great job of showing Scaramanga in the right moments in scenes with Bond (especially when Bond doesn’t see Scaramanga). Roger Moore is fine as he settles into the role and the karate school scene, in typical Moore fashion, is actually rather funny. But the sole purpose of the entire film is to build towards an inevitable showdown between Bond and Scaramanga and it does so without tension or suspense. The film, therefore, rises or falls on the quality of the climactic sequences, and in that front, the film delivers. In contrast to the rest of the film, the showdown is captivating. I knew Bond was going to kill Scaramanga, but I nonetheless felt suspense. How Scaramanga meets his end was satisfying, not an easy thing to do when the entire fils is riding on it. But how good can you say a film really is when it essentially consists of the teaser opening and the climax (albeit executed very well) and the rest of the film is a time filler that can quite frankly be skipped without missing much. TMWAGG is a good film, but not because of Bond. And I simply can’t get over that.

Jason: 7/10

The basis plot for this movie was to have an energy crisis and mix it with a a really cool assassin. Scalamanga was one of the best villains (a great concept too, an assassin that just wants to kill 007) for the Bond series. He has a worldly, evil goal of obtaining the “Solex” through multiple assassinations with his Golden Gun (one of the best parts of the video game “Goldeneye”; one shot from the gun kills a person. It was fantastic!) and selling the first viable solar energy plant to the highest bidder (extorting money from countries, check!). Unfortunately, they were several terrible parts of the movie that brought this movie down sadly. The movie has another long Speedboat chase again (Seen it already in the last movie). The sheriff from “Live and Let Die” (1973) was back also for comedic purposes, which I understood is what the producers were going for, but it did not bring anything positive and just killed the whole spy vs. assassin, danger aura completely that the movie possessed (Also, the car with attached wings did not help enhance that danger mood either). Lastly, there were some really dumb Bond girls in previous movies (ex. Tiffany Chase), but Goodknight had to take the crown because at least Tiffany Chase and the rest of those girls weren’t supposed to be a freaking British spy (I just made the assumption here that a British spy should have a little bit of intellect in espionage, a novel
premise). Thankfully, the producers made up for it in the next Bond movie.

“The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977)

Joe: 9/10

“The Spy Who Loved Me” is not only the best of the seven starring Roger Moore, it’s also one of the best in the series. It’s got a Bond girl, Russia spy XXX played by Barbara Bach, who’s not only hot, but who plays an instrumental role in the plot. The two villains are the best since the early Connery era; Karl Stromberg, played by Curt Jurgens, reminds you of the intellectual Dr. No and Jaws’ supernatural ability to stay alive is a fresh spin (apart from Blofeld, a major character in his own right, no villain has survived the past film). One of my all-time favorite gadget, the submarine car, appears in this film. The action sequences are not overdone but well executed; the sequence in the nuclear sub is probably the best since OHMSS’ ski scene. The plot about Stromsberg’s desire to destroy the world so he can create an underwater utopian society is not as gripping as “From Russia With Love” (1963) but is sufficiently entertaining; what makes the plot work are the strong performances by all the actors and the brisk pace at which director Lewis Gilbert keeps the film moving, which gives the film a really contemporary feel. But what makes the movie so great is Roger Moore, who plays Bond with the right balance of seriousness and his trademark lightheartedness. For humor, take a look at the scene where XXX and Bond are trying to escape from Jaws in a van. For serious, take a look at the scene at the bar where XXX broaches the topic of Bond’s deceased wife (Moore is actually very good at playing Bond seriously–he does this again at the beginning of “For Your Eyes Only” (1981)–but I suspect he enjoyed playing the lightheartedness more because that’s the side he perfected). Moore also plays Bond more tough than usual–there are many memorable fight scenes with Jaws–perhaps the consequence of playing the character more seriously. I can’t find much fault in this film. I love it because it’s consistently very good in all aspects. If you’re going to watch only one film from the Moore era, watch this one.

Jason: 9/10

This was definitely one of the best Bond movies and Roger Moore’s best one. The villain Stromberg had a insane plan for world annihilation by causing a nuclear World War III between US and USSR in order to make an undersea “Atlantis” world for him to rule. He thus stole two nuclear submarines. All I got to say is this was such a ludicrous plan, I absolutely loved it, count me in! In addition to this, the character Jaws was such a cool henchmen in this movie (He was then ruined in “Moonraker” (1979), but oh well…) and I also loved the homage to “From Russia with Love” (1963) with the train scene. Lastly, but most importantly, the Russian spy, Anya Amasova, played really well off James Bond in this film. She wasn’t the stereotypical dumb Bond girl (BTW Joe doesn’t like those type of Bond girls in his Bond movies also!) or even worse, a inept British spy (Freaking Goodknight, I’m still bitter!). Just a well done Bond classic.

“Moonraker” (1979)

Joe: 3.5/10

“Moonraker” is crap, but it’s crap in a very offensive way. We know that the producers intended to make “For Your Eyes Only” 1981) rather than “Moonraker,” because they announce as such at the end of “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977), the predecessor of “Moonraker”. Yet they saw how blockbuster Star Wars did at the box office and decided they needed to capitalize. So they shamelessly remade “The Spy Who Loved Me” in space. And make no mistake, this is a remake that shows the worst of Hollywood in its laziness and lack of imagination. The plot is the same as “The Spy Who Loved Me,” but replace the character “Stromsberg” with “Drax” and the word “underwater” with “space.” Jaws appears again to wreck all sorts of havoc that he already did in “The Spy Who Loved Me,” only this time he falls in love with a girl who would probably be attractive had it not been for the glasses, a silly development. Even sillier is Roger Moore, who borders on the bafoon with relentless one-liners and unintimidating screen presence. The Bond girl, Dr. Goodhead played by Lois Chiles, is a NASA astronaut who could have been a major plot driver but is instead relegated to an utterly forgettable role, due to no fault but the script. But the worst part of the film is the absolutely preposterous ending. Not only does Bond follow Drax and Jaws into a space station, there ensues a battle in space involving an army of presumably NASA astronauts armed with laser guns. I guess NASA had astronauts on stand by at any moment just in case war broke out in space with the Russians. There have been a share of ridiculous action sequences in the series over the years–if I have to watch the parachuting off an iceberg scene from “Die Another Day” (2002) again, I may have to stab myself in the eyes–but James Bond in space stretches the tolerance of even the most enthusiastic Bond apologist. To be sure, the film, with its international locale and Moore’s ownership of the role in his fourth outing, feels and looks like a Bond film–which is why I confess to enjoying certain parts. The direction and photography aren’t bad, either. It’s actually not a horrible action flick considered without context. But I hate this film because the producers and writers didn’t even try to make a good Bond film. I’m overly generous with the rating only because any watchable Bond film is worth watching. Sadly, the series has done much worse (see “A View to a Kill” (1985) and “Die Another Day”).

Jason: 4/10

The producers were like, we need Bond in space so they all came together and made this horrible movie. Drax is another irrational villain who’s ridiculous rich apparently and spend his ridiculous money for the sole purpose to try making the perfect race (apparently all you need are skinny people who exercise) by killing everyone in the world with nerve gas, letting all those skinny people procreate on a space station (bringing them there with multiple rockets from different parts of the world, which apparently can be coordinated pretty easily; this is what I learned in this movie), and ruling over them like a God. Well, this crazy plan by Drax is similar to Stromberg’s so guess what, I actually love this idea for a Bond movie. So why the low rating? Because this movie was terribly executed. First of all, this movie got not one, but two boring speedboat chases (a gondola with a motor engine and a speedboat). Really? Speedboat chases for the third movie and let’s just put two of them in there just in case! I guess Roger Moore couldn’t do any other stunts except drive a boat with people chasing him around or maybe it was a lot cheaper to ruin boats in the 1970s. I do not know, but can the audience see something different perhaps? Also, there is not any real plot to move this movie along in multiple parts of the movie so to fill up that time, the producers came up with the idea of , “hey, lets just have the once awesome henchmen Jaws try and fail feebly to kill Bond and Goodhead three times” (It was sad to watch). Lastly, the space action sequence was laughable to say the least and that blatant ripoff of the end of “Star Wars” was just horrible to watch. This movie could have been one of the greats, but failed miserably in the end.

_______________________________________________________

About the Critics

Joe loves going to the movies to have fun, not to be educated. The first movie he saw in theatres was either “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1933) or “Speed” (1994), although common sense tells you the former must have been first. He likes action films that have enough explosions but not so much to make you feel numb. He loves dramas with inspiring stories acted well but is picky with the comedies. He thinks most science fictions are misses, while rarely watches horrors. He thinks there is a must-see film in every category–even in horror (“Cube” (1997)), romantic drama (“The Notebook” (2004)) or children (“The Sandlot” (1993)). His favorite actors are Tom Hanks and Matt Damon while favorite actresses are Jodie Foster and Anne Hathaway. He hates Russell Crowe and, much more so, Renée Zellweger. His favorite directors are Clint Eastwood and M. Night Shyamalan. But above all, he loves James Bond.

Jason is a movie snob.  He hates “Taken” (2009) because the exciting action scenes are beneath him, but he loves artsy films that no one sees even though he doesn’t understand them. His all-time favorite film is “Citizen Kane” (1941), a black-and-white snoozer that was revolutionary for its time–which only a person who grew up during World War I can appreciate. He makes a special exception for his disdain of mass commercial films for the James Bond series.

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