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

This is the third 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 third 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 and the subsequent six.  This is a review of the next five.

Tomo, with whom I can, and have, talked about movies for hours, is the guest critic.  He shares my level of passion for James Bond, which is to say he is quite a fan.  Our movie biographies are at the end.

“For Your Eyes Only” (1981)

Joe:     7/10

I watch “For Your Eyes Only” when I feel like watching “Schindler’s List” (1993) but I don’t want to feel depressed so a Bond flick feels like an uplifting alternative.  “For Your Eyes Only” is a Bond movie for the movie snobs.  The apologists point to how, after the lunacy of “Moonraker” (1979), this film went back to the roots of what made James Bond series great to begin with, by de-emphasizing overdone action sequences, de-emphasizing gadgets and de-emphazising one-liners.   I think the producers de-empahsized so much the film became sterile.  Yes, Carole Bouquet looks great as Melina Havelock, the Bond girl.  Yes, Greece looks beautiful.  Yes, the elegant action sequence on skis reminds you of the Connery days.  Yes, this is Roger Moore’s most serious outing as Bond.  Apart from the the beautiful women, all of these factors make FYEO the most unique entry “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969).  I’ve grown to appreciate this film over the years, but it doesn’t change the fact that the scale of the movie is so small.  Villains from Dr. No to Blofeld, Goldfinger to Stramsburg wanted to dominate the world or bring horrible fate to millions of people.  In FYEO, none of the villains are particularly intimidating and the ring leader’s scheme is stealing a British decoder.  It’s hard to get overly excited about a little, red box, and every single time I see this film, I wonder why Bond even gives a damn.  Doesn’t the world need saving?   This is a movie best seen with friends who go watch independent films at art museums because they’ll bring your attention to the beautiful cinematography, the well crafted fight sequences and some depth of the Bond character, particularly in the opening teaser.  The film accentuates the small things done well in the Bond franchise, particularly in the earlier films.  But small a 1980s Bond film should not be.  You may sleep right through the muted anticlimactic climax.

Tomo:      8/10

This is perfect start for me as “For Your Eyes Only” was the first James Bond movie I watched in my life.  Its predecessor, “Moonraker”, was a relative failure but this marks the first directional debut of John Glenn, who is my favorite. Action sequence is somewhat slow but still, a memorable performance by Roger Moore, and I love the ski scene where Roger Moore sends a white flower to M in his absence; shortly after beginning of shooting the film, Bernard Lee who had played M in previous James Bond films, passed away. I thought it was a good way to show respect to the actor.  Other notable performers include once-Oscar Nominee Chaim Topol, who plays Colombo, and Cassandra Harris, Mrs. Pierce Brosnan at the time of the movie.  By the way, two actors in the film will eventually kill themselves, Jill Bennet and Michael Gothard.  Both are great film legends. RIP

“Octopussy” (1983)

Joe:     8/10

“Octopussy” is one of those films where you look back and think, how did the filmmakers manage to ever pull this off?  There are so many preposterous things about this film that the entire project could have gone terribly off the rails.  The silliness begins with the teaser, in which Bond pilots a foldable airplane and strides into a rural gas station to refuel.  The plot involves a Favergé egg somehow leading to a detonation of a nuclear bomb in West Germany.  A major sequence involves James Bond running around the circus, dressed as a clown, trying to stop the bomb from detonating.  One of the villains is a war mongering Russian general played in excessively over-the-top fashion by Steven Berkoff.  Maud Adams, as Octopussy, is a recycled Bond girl, having been killed off nearly a decade earlier as Andrea in “The Man with a Golden Gun” (1974).  Yet despite all of this, I have a special place reserved for this movie.  It has a lot to do with Roger Moore, in his six outing, striking just the right note in being amusing; there are some unforgettably witty scenes in M’s office and at a Sotherby’s Auction.  John Glen, a veteran in the franchise but only in his second outing as a director, keeps a good pacing for the film, moving from London to India, then to East and West Germany.  This is a really light-hearted Bond whose tone is a lot closer to the disastrous “Moonraker” (1979) than the cult favorite “For Your Eyes Only” (1981), which only proves that any idea can be pulled off if done with elegance and style.  If “For Your Eyes Only” is a Bond replacement for “Schindler’s List,” then “Octopussy” is the Bond alternative for “Die Hard” (1988).

Tomo:     5/10

I would have scored 4/10 on this 13th installment of Bond film but 0.5 point to the Best James Bond Film song “All Time High” by Rita Coolidge and 0.5 point to the solid performance by French legendary actor, Louis Jourdan as Kamal Khan, film’s main antagonist. As a French movie lover, must say this is a wonderful choice and one of the best 007 villain.

“A View to a Kill” (1985)

Joe:    2/10

“A View to a Kill” is a terrible Bond film which travesty, I had hoped, would last an eternity.  Then the producers made “Die Another Day” (2002), saving this film from the dweller of ultimate stink.  The high point of the film is the opening  action sequence in the snow, proving that even at its worst, the franchise does a good job with ski scenes.  The teaser is followed by the opening credits featuring a memorable title music by Duran Duran.  After that, there is not a single noteworthy moment in this film.  Nothing works.  Roger Moore is too old to be convincing as a superactive British spy and his one liners are neither witty nor clever.  Christopher Walken, the only Academy Award winner to ever play a Bond villain, is a dud as Max Zorin; he’s supposed to be a madman, but he’s simply creepy in a very unpleasant way.  Silicon Valley is Zorin’s target in an evil scheme to wreak havoc in the microchip industry, but this storyline is just a vehicle to pull the painfully unentertaining movie forward.  The only memorable gadget is the robot that Q uses to stalk Bond in the shower with Stacey Sutton, the obligatory Bond girl.  Sutton, played by Tanya Roberts, is quite possibly the most annoying female character ever to appear in the Bond series.  She screams and screams and screams and, just in case Bond didn’t hear her, constantly yells, “James!”  I kept on wishing that Bond wouldn’t save her from every stupid situation she gets herself into so that her incessant screaming would end with her death.  The CG effect of the crucial climax, where Sutton hangs from the Golden Gate Bridge, is so poor I felt like I could see the green screen behind Roberts as this scene was filmed.  I’ve sat through at least four showings of “A View to a Kill.”  Even I, the great Bond apologist, cannot sit through another.

Tomo: 4/10

Very forgettable film with really weak plot and also marks the last endeavour by Roger Moore as James Bond. Action is rather slow and Bond Girl, played by Tanya Roberts, plays like one total bimbo…although I feel that it was such a waster of her beauty. Christopher Walken is the first Academy Award Winning actor to play in the James Bond film, thus delivers certain prestige to the film.

“The Living Daylights” (1987)

Joe:    6/10

“The Living Daylights” is a bland film.  Maryam d’Abo as the Bond girl is bland, the plot about a defecting Russian spy who really isn’t defecting is bland, and the forgettable villains, led by Jeroen Krabbé as General Georgi Koskov, are bland.  But the blandest of all is Timothy Dalton in his debut as James Bond.  All actors who have played Bond (apart from Connery, who defined the role) needed a couple of movies to settle into the role, but Dalton in “The Living Daylights” at times seems out of character.   Undoubtedly, this was due in part to the fact that the script for the movie was written with Pierce Brosnan in mind; Brosnan was offered the role but could not take it on due to his commitments on the television show Remington Steele.  Dalton is perhaps the most trained actor to ever play the role of James Bond, but there is a gap between the tone of this film, which isn’t as ridiculous as in “Moonraker” (1979) but isn’t as serious as in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) either, and Dalton’s serious portrayal of the British spy, which gap is even more stark coming off the heels of Roger Moore’s lightheartedness.  The film could have used a much more menacing villain and leveraged the Soviets to add some tension, which is sorely lacking throughout the movie.  This is not a bad film since director John Glen again provides good pacing and action sequences are solid, but there is nothing memorable.  “The Living Daylights” is the first James Bond movie I ever saw, but I can definitively say that this film is not the reason why I became an obsessive fan of the series.

Tomo:   7/10

This film introduces Timothy Dalton as the fourth actor to play James Bond, and he delivers solid performance and believability as the British secret agent.  He is dark, tall, handsome and very close to the image described by Ian Fleming in the original novel.  The story evolves around KGB’s policy of Smiert Spionam, Death to the spy.  (This is the first Russian word I have learned and I freaked off some Russian classmates by saying this).  Action scenes are fast and exciting enough, accompanied by a great soundtrack, probably one of the best.

“Licence to Kill” (1989)

Joe:  8/10

“Licence to Kill”‘s underappreciation is second only to “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969).  Timothy Dalton’s second outing as Bond is better than the first since the script allows him to play the darker, lonelier James Bond that comes more naturally to him.  The movie was a flop at the box office and it’s quite possible that moviegoers rejected this as too much of a departure from the Bond they were used to in Connery, Lazenby and especially Moore.  The plot, which involves Bond going rogue to revenge the attack on his CIA friend, is distinctly personal, accentuating Dalton’s style but also making the film refreshing.  There are two Bond girls with different personalities, attractions and roles but the movie does a good job of working the two into the narrative.  Q plays the most active role in the series by actively helping Bond on the field rather than simply handing off gadgets to Bond.  The villain, Franz Sanchez played by Robert Davi, may not be the most menacing, but he and Bond interact far more often than in other films.  The interplay of trust and revenge is developed convincingly by Dalton and is a major highlight of the film.  The action scenes are modest but well-executed and entertaining, which is preferable to absurdities of “Moonraker” (1969) and “Die Another Day” (2002).   The movie may not have been popular because it doesn’t feel like other Bond movies, but what makes this film good is the quieter style in which Dalton plays Bond and the plot whose scale is not global but personal.  I urge everyone to see this film, if only to increase its limited fan base.

Tomo:   5/10

Very dark and serious 007 film, last effort by Timothy Dalton who almost look like cold-blood serial killer. However the story is kind of weak and so is Robert Davi, who plays Sanchez, film’s main villain who is too cool to be disliked, although Bond’s personal vendetta is understandable.


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, Renee Zellweger.  His favorite directors are Clint Eastwood and M. Night Shyamalan.  But above all, he loves James Bond.

Tomo loves European classic nouvelle-vague and suspense and psychological drama.  His favorite actor is Benedict Cumberbatch, and believes him to be the next ideal James Bond. His favorite actresses are Cameron Diaz, Amy Smart, and Amy Adams.  One day Tomo will direct his own film and already working on script.  Tomo Honda will return.



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