The Spy Who Loved Me

James Bond is back back back in his tenth adventure, this time being forced to team up with a Russian counterpoint, Agent XXX, on the hunt for a microfilm with information on some missing nuclear submarines.

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This review was originally written as part of my USA Road Trip for French Toast Sunday.

British secret agent James Bond (Sean Connery) has been assigned a mission to investigate a gold smuggler, Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe). However, as the investigation deepens and Bond becomes embroiled within the plot, Goldfinger’s plan leads to plans to break into the U.S. Gold reserve in Fort Knox. connery Continue reading

Top 10… Most Annoying Film Characters

I’ve been having a hell of a week. If you ever start thinking about moving house, just don’t, it isn’t worth the hassle. I won’t get into the sources of my strife, but let’s just say I’ve been party to some intensely aggravating people these past few days, and so I’m attempting to alleviate my frustrations by thinking about the even more annoying people that are out there that I could have come across instead (or may yet do).tumblr_lcg89rivMX1qd7rsjSometimes characters are supposed to be annoying – you’re supposed to hate them for getting the hero’s girl, or to justify why the lead girl just punched the guy in the throat – but other times some characters are just completely misjudged in terms of how they’ll stack up against Wolverine scratching a chalkboard. Oh, and whilst making this list I found a lot of times I was just writing “The kid from such-and-such”, and “The kids from so-and-so”, so my list of annoying children in film is an entirely different one, that may well come up again sometime soon. To be honest, that one could be a top 100 list, probably. I’ve also tried to limit the entries to one-per-actor, as sometimes I find characters annoying purely because of who is playing them. And I’ve shied away from characters who are irritating because they’re such antagonistic dick heads.
idharveyHonourable mentions:
So it turns out I’m fairly easy to annoy, and therefore I’ve got a hefty list of Honourable Mentions. Firstly, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) is horrendously annoying in the first few Harry Potter films, before he worked out his face could pull expressions that weren’t ‘petrified grimace’. Marty Gilbert (Harvey Fierstein), Jeff Goldblum’s boss in Independence Day, is also very annoying, but this is mainly due to his unbearable grating voice, but fortunately he dies fairly early on, so there’s not too much of him to endure. Then there’s Hart Bochner’s Ellis from Die Hard, who I never want to stop punching, and Clifton James’ Sheriff Pepper from Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun, somehow managing to be even more infuriating than Roger Moore’s Bond. Beth Grant’s character in Speed, Helen, the crazy woman who tries to jump off the bus, is also infuriating, but I’m going to give the award to Leah (Olivia Thirlby) from Juno, just for using such phrases as “Honest to blog.” They made me want to seriously harm that creature.juno Continue reading

Top 10… Movie Franchises

I’ve recently gone on record about two movie franchises, Star Trek and The Fast & The Furious, one of which I greatly preferred to the other. This got me thinking, and was the inspiration for this week’s list, my Top 10 Movie Franchises. Now, as always I’ve set myself some limitations. Firstly, I must have seen every film within the franchise. This immediately rules out the likes of Die Hard (haven’t seen number 5), Alien/Predator (haven’t seen Predator 2, can’t remember Alien 3 or Resurrection), Bourne (Legacy), Hannibal (Rising) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake and New Nightmare). I also didn’t include the looser franchises that simply take place in the same universe, for example the Avengers film, Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse, George Romero’s Blank of the Dead series or the Muppets films. I also took into account every film within each franchise, so just because a film happened to feature some true classics, if there were some stinkers in there too then that didn’t help its case for inclusion. The franchise also had to have a minimum of four films, as I’ve made a list of my top trilogies before. So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 movie franchises:

Honourable Mentions
Final-Destination-5There’s a lot of franchises out there! Seriously, there’s tons, more than I’d heard of, and I was shocked to discover some of the more longer-lasting movie sagas. Did you know there’s 30 Django films? I knew there were a lot of Carry Ons, but I didn’t think it was as many as 31, which is also the same number of Barbie films in existence (I’m guessing this doesn’t include Hotel Terminus). I’m most blown away, however, by the fact that there’s a Chinese series known as Wong Fei Hung, which includes a staggering 89 movies. 89! That, my friends, is insane. Anyway, I’ve barely seen any of these films (Django Unchained, Carry On Doctor) so obviously these can’t be in my Top 10.
No, this week’s two honourable mentions are the Final Destination franchise, and Police Academy. They beat out stiff competition from the likes of Shrek, Home Alone, Pirates of the Caribbean, Saw and the National Lampoon’s Vacation series, but if I had to pick my favourites then these two are them. Final Destination is one of the few horror series I pay much attention too – I’ve only seen the original Halloween, and have yet to see any Friday the 13th films – and I think this is due to the initially original concept of people cheating death, and being hunted down one by one to fix reality. It’s such a brilliant idea, and it means there’s no iconic killer who’ll end up as a parody of himself by the fifth film. Part four is easily the worst in the series – the premonitions don’t make sense and there’s some truly terrible CGI – but all the rest are at least decent, with number 2 being my personal favourite. I had a screenshot from the death of Rory as my background for a little while after seeing that film.
Police-Academy-police-academy-27137923-1920-1080Police Academy is an entirely different yet still occasionally just as ridiculous franchise, following the antics of a police training school that’s just dropped any requirements for entrants, meaning anyone of any gender, race, weight and ability can sign up and be trained. Yes, the sequels got a bit terrible after Steve Guttenberg dropped out, and the less said about Mission to Moscow the better, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had with the earlier films, the first one is a true 80s classic.
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A hard drive containing the identities of MI6 undercover agents is at risk of going missing, so James Bond (Daniel Craig) is trying to catch the thief in Istanbul, with the assistance of field agent Eve (Naomie Harris). When Bond is shot and presumed dead, his superior, M (Judi Dench), takes the blame, but when Bond returns from the grave, he must track down the files to save not only his country, but his boss.
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Top 5 Bond Actors

Today is the 50th anniversary of the release of the first Bond film, Dr. No. Also, I reviewed Casino Royale earlier this week (undeservedly voted the 56th greatest film of all time by Empire readers in 2008), and Skyfall, the 23rd official Bond film, is released soon, so this seemed to be the perfect time to do a Top 5 list related to Bond in some way. As much as I would have liked to have done a comprehensive list of my five favourite Bond films, villains, girls, gadgets, cars, locations, henchmen, lairs, guns and kills, I’m afraid I don’t know nearly enough about the series to do that, seeing as I’ve seen quite a few of the films only once, and many of them I can’t remember. I do know that my favourite film is Goldfinger, which also features my favourite henchman, Oddjob. Scaramanga is probably the best villain I can remember, or perhaps Max Zorin, but that’s mainly for the actors playing them. So instead of any of those lists, I’ve compiled my top 5 of the actors who have portrayed Bond onscreen in the main series (I’ve not seen the 1967 David Niven-starring Casino Royale). Seeing as there’s only six actors currently in the series, this was a pretty straightforward list to compile.

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Casino Royale

With the imminent release of Daniel Craig’s third outing as James Bond, Sam Mendes’ Skyfall (UK release October 26th), it seems like the perfect time to cross the film ranked 56th greatest film of all time by Empire readers a few years ago, Craig’s first Bond outing, Casino Royale.

Now, if you ask me, #56 is pretty high up, especially when you consider that Goldfinger, my favourite Bond movie, is 110 places lower at #166, and no other Bond movies made it onto that list (You Only Live Twice appears in the Empire 5-star 500). Even if you take into account Casino Royale’s proximity to the release of the list, made just two years later, it’s still pretty damn high. Apparently, it’s better than Lawrence of Arabia, Annie Hall, 12 Angry Men, The Great Escape and literally hundreds of other films that, in my opinion, are far superior. But then I didn’t compile the list (though I did vote on it, and not for this film), so who am I to voice the opinions of others?

Before I continue my now-trademark tirade of negative comments, I should probably point out that this is a very good film. It served as a much needed shot in the arm for a franchise left face down and drowning on a CGI-wave of Pierce Brosnan’s swarm and Madonna’s atrocious Die Another Day theme song. In a post-Bourne world it established itself as a gritty reboot, taking Bond away from the ludicrous gadgets and back to the basics of hand-to-hand scrapping in a public bathroom, whilst still retaining the sheer spectacle of fighting on top of not one crane but two. Every aspect of classic Bond is present, from the impossibly slinky and easily-bedded women to a nefarious villain with a silly name and mild physical deformity (Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre, with a scarred eye that weeps bloody, and asthma to boot). Yet everything feels a bit more real, a bit dirtier and scuffed around the edges. And this description is none more fitting than of Craig’s Bond himself. Yes, he looks impeccable whether wearing an immaculately tailored dinner jacket or a pair of swimming trunks that apparently make my girlfriend’s mother go all weak at every possible joint, and he’s always got a quip ready in his back pocket, but this is a Bond with flaws and imperfections, all to aware that the men he is up against may be more than his match.

Take the early scene in Uganda, for example. Here, Bond must chase down and apprehend a suspect to obtain the passcode on his mobile phone, yet unfortunately said miscreant (Sebastien Foucan) is rather adept at long-distance sprinting, free-running and jumping off things that are ridiculously high up. Whilst he bounds around without a care in the world, remaining relatively scratch free, Bond is always a fair way behind, getting progressively beaten up and always opting for the easier route – hopping into a JCB digger or shoulder-barging through a wall rather than leaping through an uncomfortably small window. Here is a Bond who doesn’t need to show off when no-one is looking, he just wants to get the job done, and at whatever cost.

I’ve always had a bit of an issue with Bond films. I’ll gladly watch any of them, even Quantum of Solace if there’s nothing else on, but the plots are usually a bit labyrinthine for me, which is only to be expected if they want to make each film different. I’m not quite sure of the main motivations in Casino Royale, but I’m fairly sure it’s got something to do with the stock market, although the basic point is that Bond infiltrates an extremely high stakes poker game with a $150,000,000 pot, in order to prevent Le Chiffre from winning it and doing something bad with the proceeds. Everything else is fairly superfluous. I’ve read elsewhere that setting most of a Bond film around a poker table is nothing short of sacrilege, but I found those parts to be fraught with tension and often interspersed with enough action to suffice, even if the film made poker out to be a game that only deals in the most improbable card hands ever. There’s a nice running commentary provided by Bond’s accomplices, Vesper Lynd and Mathis (Eva Green & Giancarlo Giannini), but I didn’t think it was that necessary to have so much exposition, considering how dumbed-down the game was.

There were some very memorable set pieces, with the cold open of Bond achieving his double-0 status and the parkour escapade being particular high-lights, though I also enjoyed the stairway scuffle later in the film, showing how Bond had improved his jumping-and-punching skills from earlier. The testicular-torture scene may have gone a little too far, but it was well-handled and didn’t make me feel as squeamish as it could have done, and it’s more than compensated for by the various little moments of humour, and the record number of car rolls a little earlier. 

I approved of the expansion upon the relationship between Bond and M (Judi Dench), whose involvement in this franchise has cemented her presence as something of a British icon, and the rumours that this repartee has been increased ever further in Skyfall excites me no end. Bond is always at his best when bouncing off a superior – best seen with Desmond Llewelyn’s Q, and his utter, barefaced cheek clashes perfectly with Dench’s no-nonsense style. 

Though the last act may drag a little – the film clocks in at 138 minutes – the pace is fairly consistent throughout. There’s a lot here for Bond fans – more in-jokes than I remembered – and plenty for newcomers too. It may not be my favourite Bond film, but it definitely breaks the top 10, and maybe even the top 5.

Choose film 7/10