Keeping the British End Up, Sir Roger Moore

IMG_2994You can’t be surprised or shocked when an 89 year-old man dies, but that doesn’t mean “Roger Moore died” was the last thing I thought I’d hear on Tuesday morning upon arriving to work. I also didn’t want to believe it. I had a similar reaction when Christopher Reeve died. “But Superman can’t die!” Neither can James Bond. Sir Roger Moore, knighted in 2003, apparently had cancer and according to his family, it was a quick battle once he was diagnosed. They also wanted to point to his work as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, a role he took on in 1991, as his greatest accomplishment. I aint going to argue. Saving the world for real is truly nobler then saving the world in blockbuster films. However, for me and millions of others, Roger Moore, to paraphrase the Live and Let Die (1973) poster, IS JAMES BOND.

I’ve been meaning to do my rankings; best Bond, best villain, best fight, best song, best car chase, best Foley artist to capture the sound of ice clinking in a glass, etc. for some time now. (Yes yes, and I need to write my SPECTURE review, back off man!) All those will come, someday. But let’s get this out now and here; as long time readers (and I thank all four of you) know, I’ve always had a soft spot for Moore as Bond. I’m not sure who the best Bond is? (wait for that list dear reader) But who is the best Bond is a question that, at the end of the day, is subjective with no right or wrong answer (unless your favorite Bond is Dalton, then you are wrong.) But what is not disputable, what is 100% fact; Moore is without question my favorite Bond. This is something I’ve been shy or embarrassed to express with passion or out loud at times, but it has always been the truth. And it turns out, I’m not alone! Look at what my favorite critic had to say about Moore. A.O. Scott hit on one of the reasons it’s always been Moore for me, those Channel 11 Saturday afternoon airings of Bond. (That, and my first movie theater Bond was Octopussy.) For me, watching those movies on TV, as a Gen Xer born in 1974, Moore was Bond and Connery was the other guy. If it was a Moore film on Channel 11, I watched. If it was a Connery film, I was disappointed and sometimes watched while other times my Legos won the afternoon. For me, Moore was funnier. Moore was more relatable. He was cool in the late 70’s Chevy Chase/Burt Reynolds kind of way. It’s that “yah, it’s all kind of a joke and we, me and you audience member, are in on it.” But not in an Irony in “” 90’s kind of way. It’s the “I’m the smartest guy in the room/never let them see you sweat” brand of cool.

Live-and-Let-Die-United-Artists-1973.-Six-SheetAll of the obits for Moore talk about how he brought a light touch or a raised eyebrow or a less serious, breezier tone to Bond. All that is true and it is his legacy. The man wore it well because it was him. Even the title of his 2008 autobiography “My Word is My Bond” is a pun. It’s why so many of us love him, but I think his natural charm and wit shadows the serious weight and heavy lifting Moore pulled off time and time again as Bond. Today, we take it for granted that any (white) male with a British accent can at least be considered for Bond. Not so in 1971. Picture someone else playing Dirty Harry or Indiana Jones (Shut up Shia Labeouf!!!) and you get the idea. Lazenby was such a disaster (at the time) that EON backed the Brinks truck up to Sean’s chateau while simultaneously eating major humble pie. Two years after Connery quit a second time, Moore successfully carried on the mantle of Bond, not by trying to be Connery, but by NOT being Connery. Without Moore, no Craig. The franchise would have died and been remembered, if at all, as a relic of the swinging 60’s, just like Matt Helm. Moore proved you could be your own Bond and still be Bond. He then ushered Bond through a second crises three years later when Harry Saltzman, one of the two masterminds of the series, split. Everyone questioned could Bond carry on? The answer was The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), a hall of fame entry. Then again, three years after that, the departure of Ken Adams and his crew. Almost as much as Connery, Ken Adams was Bond on film. The round room in Dr. No (1962), the volcano in You Only Live Twice (1967), the slanted Queen Elizabeth MI6 headquarters in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), the Mondrian control room in Moonraker (1979), M’s office forever; the look and feel of Bond was Ken Adams’ wonderful set designs. Moore’s films moved the franchise past that and opened up to different looks, the stripped down Euro spy intrigue of For Your Eyes Only (1981), the lavish over the top kookiness in Octopussy (1983), and on to the techno/sterile/sleek look of the Bonds of the 90’s and the aughts. Moore’s steady hand got Bond over all those bumps in the road so it could continue long after he himself was gone.

636311334049037233-AP-Britain-Roger-Moore-ObitAbove all, I think Moore, as the longest tenured Bond, doesn’t get credit for playing more shades of Bond than any other before or since. Yes, all six Bonds can be broken down to one word summations; Connery is the tough Bond, Craig is the brooding Bond, etc. In this way, Moore becomes the goofy Bond. These one word umbrellas are, of course, totally unfair. One of the coldest, most merciless kills in Bond history happens in For Your Eyes Only when Moore, ice in his veins and fire in his eyes, runs up approximately 2 quadrillion stairs to push a car and terrified passenger over a cliff. None the less, saying Moore is the goofy Bond or campy Bond or tongue in cheek Bond is not wrong. But take a step back and look at how far apart 1973’s Live and Let Die is from 1985’s A View to A Kill. And then consider everything in-between. Again, in the simplest terms, the Moore era Bond films were more or less chasing and attempting to cash in on the most recent trends in movies and therefore whiplash inducing in their varied tone and style. This was not Moore’s doing but was a strategy EON took on at the time. In very broad stokes, Live and Let Die is the blaxploitation/ red neck revenge Bond, Golden Gun is the Kung-Fu/ environmentally woke Bond, Spy Who Loved Me is the cold war capital B Big Bond, Moonraker is the Star Wars Bond, For Your Eyes Only is the back to basics small b bond (with a side of 1980 winter Olympics thrown in), Octopussy is the Indian Jones Bond, and A View to a Kill is the technology paranoia Bond. Moore filled the various demands of all these different Bonds with a breezy easy. He didn’t bend to these films, they bent to him. He keeps it all grounded and most importantly… keeps it Bond. That’s not easy, Dalton lost Bond in Licence to Kill (1989), the American cop show Bond. Moore however, could do it all and still be charming as hell. Jump on alligators heads? Sure! Knock a 7 foot guy named Jaws on the head with stones from the pyramids? Can I wear a tux! Shoot freaking lasers in freaking space? Anything for king and country! And what was he not down for? He hated when he was asked to manhandle actresses, Maud Adams in particular. Did he end up doing it? Yah, but he fought against it and likely got the director to tame down the scene as a result. Yet another proud accomplishment in the Moore era moving past Connery.

gun-1Moore always said he had a limited ability to act and that Sean was the best Bond. Perhaps. But Moore was my Bond, the Bond I grew up with, and the reason I fell in love with 007. I think I’m done apologizing for that from now on.

R.I.P Sir Roger. For me, nobody does it better.

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Bond is Back in Books

FullSizeRenderHello all and happy holidays! I hope everyone is enjoying your eggnog, be it shaken or stirred. Just a quick Bond programming note for those who maybe interested. Warren Ellis, as good as a writer as there is working in comics today, has teamed up with Dynamite to bring fans everywhere a new book titled “Ian Fleming’s James Bond!” This is an “official” use of both the Fleming and Bond name. Add Ellis into the mix and it’s certainly worth a look-see. So far the story is a grounded, street level look at our hero. He’s Bond, with the suits and the drinking (and smoking!) and globetrotting and connections in high and low places but he is much more a man on a clear mission then he’s been in the films in the Craig era. The book is not concerned at all with what Bond is thinking or feeling, just what he’s doing. The story is still unfolding and plots can change on a dime in comics but so far it’s not some megalomaniac with global ambitions Bond is fighting but some kind of terrorist group (maybe?) funding them selves by selling a lethal drug, which is killing off London’s artist and youth. There is also a shady international corporation CEO who I’m sure will come into play down the road. The storytelling is breezy with heavy jolts of violence (a Ellis signature) and the art is slightly retro in the best way. James’ “look” is not like any of the film’s stars but if you had to pick you would say he is drawn like Lazenby filtered through Cary Grant. This movie star of yore look along with a simple, non-fussy, color palate and straight forward physical action gives the whole affair a swinging London (not to be confused with the cartoon psychedelic look of Austin Powers), cold war feel; a vibe in line with the original Fleming novels. Anyway, this is not going to uproot your understanding of Bond as a character or blow your mind in anyway but it’s a nice throwback to a simpler, lighter Bond that stands in stark contrast to the heavy, serious, world-building that is going on in the films at present. If you’re up for 22 pages a month of some fun Bond adventures, it’s worth your $3.99. They are only two issues deep with #3 hitting stands in the gun-1new year so you have plenty of time to catch up and jump on board if interested in more Bond in your life and lets face it, who isn’t?

Happy holidays 007 fans and best of luck in the New Year.

Snap-review: SPECTRE

IMG_1821Hello Bond fans! Been a while since I’ve posted and it’s wonderful to see all of you again. Not much has happened in the past year that I can recall. In fact, only three significant events come to mind. First, my dear friend Tom and his wife Lesley had a little baby boy so congrats to them! Second, the mighty mighty Mets made it all the way to the World Series and came damn close to winning it all. They blew leads in the 8th once and in the 9th twice, but who’s counting! We’ve all moved on right, right? Right. And the third big event, why the release of Bond 24, AKA SPECTRE! Along with quite a few of you ($73 million worth of you in America alone) I shelled out my $14.75 this weekend for big screen Bond experience and I will now dutifully report on what I … experienced. As I did with Skyfall (2012) three years ago (Three years!?!?!? Jesus I’m getting old) I will not give SPECTRE the full Blog James Blog/ martini glass rating treatment until the home video release. This is so I can re-watch bits for close study and so I don’t give away any spoilers for those who have yet to make it to the theater. So, on with the official, spoiler free, Blog James Blog, snap-review of SPECTRE. Enjoy.

SPECTRE is a throw-back in the best sense of the word. Blofeld returns, in the person of Christoph Waltz, for the first time since Connery tussled with SPECTRE’s #1 in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) (I’m not counting the For Your Eyes Only (1981) open) and the Bond universe is better for it. (And GTFO of here right now if you’re acting like you didn’t know. We knew last year, just scroll down two posts…) The Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion has come a long way since the 70’s and this film sets the table perfectly for the tentacles of the shadowy organization that “is everywhere” to weave into the fabric of our surveillance reliant 21st century. The return of the “gun barrel” open telegraphs this will be the first Craig Bond in what I would call the “classic” style. Gone is the heavy psychological torture that has defined Craig’s take on 007. In its place we see Craig in the “world is my oyster” and “gadgets, gears, and guns boys and their toys” mode. In other words, Craig finally loosens his tie and has some fun. This isn’t a full 180 degree swing back to Moore era Bond but a more of a slight tack left into bemused Connery “You must be joking” mode. Twice do we get the wide-eyed, disbelieving stare from locals as they watch Bond pull of an impossible feat, a staple from “classic” Bonds that fits right into this new adventure. It’s not to say there are no stakes, SPECTRE is involved after all so you know the world is in peril, but it’s more of the “you-have-three-minutes-to-save-the-girl-from-the-ticking-timebomb” variety (with some cool funhouse/horror lite elements thrown in for kicks.) To my mind, it’s a logical course correction after the emotionally heavy and quite dark Skyfall. Not that that film was a downer or a drag. It was a ton of fun in its own way and it’s one of the best Bond films because it pulls of the near impossible high wire act of being heavy without crushing Bond or the audience. But I think it’s a trick that can only be pulled of every once in a while (On Her Majesties Secrete Service (1969) comes to mind as the other time this worked for Bond.) To continue down the “heavy, dark” path would be to sinking into Nolen Dark Knight Rises (2012) territory, or worse, Dalton Bond, and suck all the fun out of the thing. (Not to mention, we can only kill M once.) No, SPECTRE doesn’t have nearly as much on its mind as Skyfall but that is not a bad thing. Sadly, SPECTRE falls short of its predecessor in the looks department but boy howdy does it have its moments. The opening shot plays as an apology for the slash and hack that was Quantum of Solace (2008). From there we get a cat and mouse game played in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebration that makes for a stellar pre-credit sequence with a “you are there” immediacy. Along the way we also get a car chase through Rome complete with Craig delivering Han Soloesque “It’s not my fault” lines when the car gadgets malfunction; not one but two secrete bases, one on a snowy mountain top and the other in a desert crater; a fantastic silent villain with a signature kill move; and a train (we love trains!) winding gun-1through the desert sands like a 20 car long snake. Blog James Blog was also thrilled to see Q and Moneypenny in expanded roles and Ralph “Don’t call me Ralph” Fiennes settling quite nicely into M’s storied leather chair. And Waltz, well, let’s just say Blofeld’s back baby, and while this may be Craig’s last spin in the Aston Martin, we hope #1 and his white, furry, friend stick around for years (and films) to come.

Cyber-Attacks and Leaked Intelligence

thor-movie-character-posters-new-4A commenter wrote over the holidays (Merry-merry to everyone by-the-by) asking for Blog James Blogs reaction to the sentence “Idris should be the next Bond.” What the Internet is treating like a Christmas gift from the movie gods may very well be something else. Lets unpack this. Much like Bond’s briefcase in From Russia With Love (1963), not all is what it seems …

  • Idris is Idris Elda, the 42-year-old London born actor best know for his TV roles in “The Wire” and “Luther.” He is also beloved as the 100% badass Stacker Pentecost in Pacific Rim (2013) and, most important to fan boys, intergalactic gatekeeper Heimdall in the Marvel Movie Universe. He also happens to be a black man. This last bit, sadly, becomes more important then all the other stuff, because it’s 2014.
  • Sony co-chair Amy Pascal in an internal email intended to be seen by whoever it was being sent to and no one else wrote the sentence in question. Thanks to the Sony leaks, we now know about the sentence but not much else. I have yet to see who was meant to be on the receiving end of this email (I’ve heard possibly Barbara Broccoli but have not seen that confirmed. If anyone knows different please post below in the comments.) We also don’t know when this was sent or what was said in the rest of the email. Was it responding to the Internet rumors that popped up about Idris playing Bond way back in 2013? Was it a brainstorm on what should be done when Daniel Craig’s two-picture deal expires? Was it a movie executives “12 things I want for Christmas list” which also included the lines “We should make the Breaking Bad movie with Walter as a zombie,” and “We should pass a law barring Tim Burton and Johnny Deep from ever working together again,” and “We should start a francize where Seth Rogen and James Franco go on to kill every unhinged strongman in the world including Vladimir Putin, Bashar al_Assad, and Mayor Tom Ford. I mean, just look how much publicity we got from The Interview!”

    Blog James Blog's pick for the next Bond

    Blog James Blog’s pick for the next Bond

  • We know very little about how EON casts their films. As far as the public knows in the past the current Bond stepped down before the search for the new one got underway. I also wonder how much power Sony or Pascal has, if any, in casting Bond. I would think at this point EON gets the first and last word on who will play 007. Also, what if SPECTRE (2015) makes one billion dollars? I’d think there would be an effort made to get Craig back in the saddle.

Right, so I guess what I’m say don’t pen Mr. Elda in for Bond #7 just yet; too many unknowns at this point.

Now, all that said, if we are playing What if… then hell yah! Idris is badass actor with major chops, he looks great even when wearing that ridiculous Heimdall get-up, and he has the perfect British accent to deliver both tough guy threats and quip happy puns. And most deliciously, Idris + Bond = All the right people pissed-off for all the reasons that prove they are gun-1insufferable assholes. And by the by Rush, only one out of the last six Bonds was Scottish, so me thinks there maybe something else your upset about ….

Happy holidays everyone and best of luck in the New Year.

SPECTRE will return

SPECTRE2“We had to destroy the myth because [the Austin Powers movies] f**ked us. I am a huge Mike Myers fan, so don’t get me wrong, but he kind of f**ked us, made it impossible to do the gags.”

The above quote came from a still-wet-behind-the-blonde-Bond-ears of Daniel Craig in 2005. It was his colorful way of explaining why his Bond would be “darker” and “less silly” then the quip happy (Moore) or unintentionally hysterically over-earnest seriousness (Dalton) of Bonds in the past. The quote makes sense. For years after Mel Brooks’ undisputed masterpiece Blazing Saddles (1974) no one would dare make a Western. Saddles surgically dissected every trop in the genre to the point that even a man riding a horse into town would cause audiences to laugh. (“What did he say?” “He said the sheriff is near!”) While Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) is no Blazing Saddles, Myers and crew do a rather good job of making SPECTRE in large and Blofeld specifically into one big gag. I’m sure there are many raised on Powers that can’t watch Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice (1967) without blowing soda through their noise. But here we are, December 2014, and Christmas, at least for this Bond fan, has come early. Thanks to official announcements and Sony email leaks in the past week we now know that next year Bond will be back in SPECTRE (2015)!

I love SPECTRE. I love Blofeld as the Joker to Bonds Batman; the nemesis he can never get. The move to bring back one Ernst Stavro Blofeld now makes perfect sense, and not only because we are far enough away from Austin Powers and Mike Myers is currently serving a life sentence in movie jail (Possibly for parole in 2024). Call it the “Marvel Factor.” I think Broccoli and brother-in-law Wilson see Bond world building possibilities and want some of that sweet Marvel movie action. I could be wrong but we are kind of starting with a clean slate… again. New M in the old office, Moneypenny and Q are now on the board and ready to play, why not get some serialization going where Blofeld can build up a bullpen of baddies (numbers 2 thru 34) and dispatch them over a multiple film run? I mean, even the title suggest the beginning of something very different. From here we could go SPECTRE: Winters Solder or SPECTRE: Mocking Jay Pt.3 or even SPECTRE vs. SHIELD; may the best anagram win! OK, perhaps not but what I’m trying to say is I couldn’t be more jazzed about the return of the most classic baddie in the Bond canon and I look forward to SPECTRE being a major player once again. I just have one, itsy bitsy, issue. Lets talk Waltz.

Love me Christopher Waltz. If you have a soul you do too. Is he going to make an amazing, fantastic, magnificent, top three Bond villain? You’re God damn right! The man can freeze your blood by drinking a glass of milk for crying out loud.

Hans_Landa_drinks_milk

Yes, he’s going to kill it. So why, Oh why, has his character been listed as “Franz Oberhauser,” the alleged son of Bond’s climbing instructor and mentor Hannes Oberhauser? Look, if that is who is going to be OK. But doesn’t this smell a hell of a lot like “NO! Benedict Cumberbatch is not playing Khan in the new Star Trek II, not the Wrath of Khan (2013). He is playing Commander John Harrison, cross our heart, hope to die, stick a Klingon Kut’luch in our eye.” Man I really hope Broccoli and co. are not pulling the same crap. I want Waltz to be Blofeld, you want Waltz to be Blofeld, Waltz wants Waltz to be Blofeld and guess what? I’d be willing right here, right now, to put down a sizable bet that Waltz is Blofeld. I just wish they would come out and tell us. EON, you can admit that “Hey, we saw The Zero Theorem (2013) (what, you didn’t) and said immediately, that our Blofeld!” What’s wrong with that? This cheep JJ Abrams crap is beneath Bond and Broccoli. It backfired for Trek, big time. Look, Waltz is our new Blofeld and he is going to be perfect.

zero_theorem_photo-1024x556One last casting note, Dave Bautista, he of Drax Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) fame, has been listed in the cast. Do I smell another strong silent henchman out of the Oddjob, Jaws, Necros school? Oh how I hope so…

Bond is currently firing on all cylinders. With Mendes returning, Hoyte Van Hoytema shooting, Waltz as Blofeld (right? Right!), SPECTRE in the internet age, and the fact that EON followed Blog James Blogs advice and took more then two years between projects, I’d say everything is lined up for another stellar Bond outing. Now, lets see if Broccoli, Blofeld like, can wrestle that $300 million dollars from Sony.

gun-1A quick Blog James Blog programing note; I noticed to my horror and shame it’s been a year since I’ve posted. How time flies. This is the kick in the butt I needed. As much as it pains me, I will finish Never Say Never… and get it up soon. Thank you for you patience.