Tag Archives: James Bond

The 58-Year Mission: “Nobody Does It Better,” reviewed for The Washington Post

DR NO briefing

I was a big fan of Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’s two-volume Star Trek oral history The Fifty-Year Mission, so I fairly leapt at the chance to review Nobody Does It Better, their new oral history of the James Bond movies, for the Paper of Record. It’s not as illuminating or contradictory as their Trek books, though I was delighted to find some comments from my pal Matt Gourley within its (seven! hundred!) pages.

My Lazenby Moment: I’m on today’s episode of James Bonding!

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I’ve wanted to be a guest on James Bonding, the podcast hosted by 007 “lovers, not experts” Matt Gourley and Matt Mira, since the first episode appeared four years ago. (The topic was Dr. No, 007 No. 001, and the guest was Paul F. Thompkins.) I’ve plugged the show on Pop Culture Happy Hour and on Filmspotting. I owe Gourley and Mira a debt of gratitude for getting my girlfriend interested in watching Bond movies by poking fun at them in the loving way that only a true fan can. Beyond that, I’ve been a huge admirer of Gourley’s work on his other podcasts, I Was There Too and Superego.

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From the Streaming Service That Brought You The Handmaid’s Tale, Something Completely Different in Becoming Bond

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It’s a strange coincidence that Sir Roger Moore, 007 No. 003, died only about 48 hours after the premiere of the very funny Hulu documentary Becoming Bond, about one-and-done 007 George Lazenby — who, incredibly, landed the most sought-after role in showbiz (circa 1968) with double-oh-zero prior acting experience.
I’ll never get tired of this real-life story. And the Bond flick that resulted, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, is in my Bond Top Five, way above of any of the Moore entries. Anyway, I wrote about all this for the weekend crowd. And I fan-casted Matt Gourley, again.

I wrote this piece quickly, and it occurred to me only after I’d send it off to my editor, the great Linda Holmes, that I might’ve mentioned the passage of the documentary wherein Lazenby explains the discovery that turned him from a failing salesman into into a successful one. He might’ve been talking about acting.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Alien: Covenant and Veep

ALIEN: COVENANTMy pal-for-life Glen Weldon is Down Under this week—like Quigley, like Jackman, like Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee—but I was glad to be part of a reduced Pop Culture Happy Hour panel along with host Linda Holmes and regular Stephen Thompson to dissect the messy but fascinating prequel-sequel Alien: Covenant and to marvel at how the political satire Veep has stayed so strong for six seasons. At the end of the episode, I give a little love to little-loved—by me, anyway—replacement 007 Sir Roger Moore, who passed away this week at the age of 89. You can hear the full episode here or embedded below.
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Why Any Viewing of the 148-Minute SPECTRE Now Takes at Least Three Hours

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I suppose if you haven’t seen SPECTRE (or at least Skyfall) and Hail, Caesar! (or at least one of its trailers) this won’t make much sense to you.

James-Bonding with Kempenaar & Larsen on Filmspotting No. 563

Underheralded 007 flick "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," from 1969, starring adequately-heralded 007 George Lazenby.

It’s been a few years since I sat in on an episode of Filmspotting, the great Chicago-based radio show and podcast devoted to dissection of movies new and old, famous and obscure, foreign and domestic. But now I can reveal that earlier this week, founding host Adam Kempenaar sent me a highly classified diplomatic cable inviting me to join him an regular co-host Josh Larsen for the Top Five segment of this week’s SPECTRE-themed show, devoted to Favorite Bond Things. I regret only that I did not refer to Diana Rigg’s character from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by her full name, Contessa Teresa Di Vincenzo.

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What’s in an Acro-Name? The Weirdly Punctuated History of S.P.E.C.T.R.E.

I went D.E.E.P. on the H.I.S.T.O.R.Y. of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. for this Atlantic essay chronicling the tortured-acronym-loving cabal’s bizarre contributions to the James Bond literary and film franchises. Anyone with enough interest in the Bond flicks to stick with this thing for nine paragraphs won’t be surprised by the SPECTRE spoiler found therein, but consider yourself duly warned.

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The Ties That Bond: SPECTRE, reviewed.

My NPR review of SPECTRE, definitive Bond Daniel Craig’s 004th appearance as 007, is up at NPR now. The fourth time around has been a trouble spot for every prior Bond — witness 1965’s Thunderball, 1979’s Moonraker, and 2002’s Die Another Day — and Craig is the fourth actor to reach film No. 4 in the role. Before I saw SPECTRE I was convinced I wanted one more Bond flick from him; not I’m not so sure.

Prose and Retcons, or Don’t Fear the Rewind, or Mulligans’ Wake

“Well, everyone knows Ripley died on Fiornia-161. What this ALIEN movie presupposes is… maybe she didn’t?”

I have a long, long “Exposition” essay up at The Dissolve today inspired by (uncertain) reports that District 9 director Neill Blomkamp’s upcoming Alien movie may be a ret-con scenario that undoes the events of 1992’s Alien-little-three, or Alien Cubed – anyway, the one where Ripley died. The piece is about retconning in fiction in general, and why it doesn’t much impair my ability or inclination to suspend my disbelief at all.

If you’re quite comfortable in your chair, and you’re stout of heart and nerdy of temperament… Onward!

WaPo Book Review: One Lucky Bastard: Tales from Tinseltown

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“Passion without pressure” is how Roger Moore describes the kissing technique he says in his (second) memoir that Lana Turner taught him in 1956, a century or so before he replaced Sean Connery as 007. Gross. This poor girl. Gross.

Roger Moore was 45 when he made his first debut as James Bond ­ — older than Sean Connery, who’d played the role in five films before he got fed up and abdicated, then was coaxed back and quit a second time – and approximately 110 by the last the last of his seven appearances as 007 12 years later. On the DVD extras for Live and Let Die, his 1973 debut as the superspy he and no one else refers to as “Jimmy” Bond, Moore tellingly bemoans the “30 minutes of daily swimming” he endured to develop the not-particularly-athletic physique he displays in the movie. In the three Bonds he made in the 80s, he rarely looked hale enough to survive a tryst with one of his decades-younger leading ladies, much less a dustup with punch-pulling henchpersons like Tee Hee or Jaws or May Day.

Such was the strength of the Bond brand: Audiences would buy that this guy, who looked and acted like the world’s most condescending game show host, was an elite assassin, as long as he looked good in a tuxedo. Which just happened to be Moore’s primary, not to say only, skill.

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Musical Advent Calendar: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1969

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

The soundtrack album for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the once-reviled 1969 James Bond film that’s enjoyed a critical reappraisal among fans in recent decades, isn’t a Christmas record, true. But the film, which starred George Lazenby — a handsome and hardy but unengaging Australian model with no prior acting experience — in his single appearance as 007, is set at Christmas.

Its soundtrack features some of the best music in the entire 50-year franchise. You’ve got John Barry’s kinetic opening title theme (reprised in Brad Bird‘s The Incredibles, among other places). You’ve got its elegiac love theme, “We Have All the Time in the World,” with lyrics by Hal David, beautifully sung by Louis Armstrong.

And as I discovered only weeks ago, you’ve also got Nina‘s (whose?) “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?”

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Skyfall-In: The Education of Sam Mendes

THUNDERBALL (1965)

I wrote about Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, over at NPR Monkey See. The piece is basically my apology to director Sam Mendes for having expected him to screw this thing up.

Gently Mendes-dissing line I wish I’d written: In his Skyfall review at Grantland, Zach Baron described Mendes as “taking a break from plastic-bagging the American Dream in Revolutionary Road and American Beauty to shred the enduring illusions of his native country instead.” Continue reading

Wherein I return to Pop Culture Happy Hour, and everyone attempts a Schwarzenegger impression except me.

James Bond, in DR. NO (1962) and SKYFALL (2012).

I was delighted to appear on Pop Culture Happy Hour again last week. (Listen here, you.) The show’s A-topic was movie action heroes, inspired by the publication of Arnold Schwarzengger‘s memoir Total Recall (which I’d only half-read prior to taping, on account of its 624-page girth and the fact I’m reading it in tandem with Salman Rushdie‘s equally substantial memoir Joseph Anton) and, I thought, Taken 2 (which I haven’t seen, and won’t, unless it turns up on Encore Action at 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday eight months from now).

If they’d asked anyone but me to come discuss this topic, I’d have been crushed like Sarah Connor crushed the T-800’s microprocessor-controlled hyperalloy endoskeleton in a hydraulic press.

It turns out that the first half of Arnold’s book is a lot less annoying than the second half.

Happily, Taken 2 did not come up at all.

624 pages!

I’d come prepared to talk about the evolution of the cinema action hero: How the men (usually) of violence, reluctant or not, whose adventures fill seats around the world grew out of a conflation of the gangster pictures that dominated the 1930s and the westerns of the 40s and 50s. In 1962, James Bond arrives onscreen; by 1969, Bond one-timer George Lazenby is watching Telly Savalas (in his sole appearance as one of the series’ recurring characters, cat-loving Bond nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld) break his neck on a low tree limb during the film’s climactic fight atop a bobbing bobsled (!) and observing, “He’s branched off!” Continue reading