Tag Archives: James Bond

Sean Connery Still Number 1

 

American television and film have long had a love affair with British actors. As the quality of television writing has improved many film level Englishman have made a name for themselves(some for a second time) appearing on small screens across the pond. Actors like Hugh Laurie have used American tv as a stepping stone to American cinema.

The Q scores organization which considers itself “The recognized industry standard for measuring consumer appeal of personalities, characters, lisenced properties, programs and Brands.” Bi- yearly since the 1990’s, QScores.com has released it’s top British actors according to American consumers.

For the third time since 1998 Sir Sean Connery has come out on top. Despite not having made a film in 10 years, and spending the last 8yrs as a tax exile in the Bahamas the 83 year old Scotsman is number one. Connery endeared himself to the American arriving on the scene at the end of the “golden era” of Hollywood.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Connery’s breakout role as James Bond in 1962’s Dr. No lead to a type casting he would spend 25 years trying to escape (despite returning to the role twice). Connery’s second coming began in the early 1990s playing the aging action star and sage adviser in films like The Untouchables. Sean Connery’s last live action film role as Alan Quartermaine in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman was a fitting finale to a fantastic career. Quartermaine is road-weary and tired, ready to pass the torch to the next generation.

“Connery ranks among the top 10 Hollywood actors of all time,” said Henry Shafer of Q Scores. “Awareness of Sean Connery and his appeal was strong across the country and with all ages.”

Sir Anthony Hopkins finished second in this year’s results, followed by Liam Neeson,  David McCallum of  NCIS  and Daniel Day-Lewis. Dame Judi Dench is the highest-placed woman in the list at six, followed by Dame Maggie Smith at seven.

The complete Q scores top 20:

1. Sean Connery
2. Anthony Hopkins
3. Liam Neeson
4. David McCallum
5. Daniel Day-Lewis
6. Judi Dench
7. Maggie Smith
8. Daniel Craig
9. Hugh Laurie
10. James Purefoy
11. Benedict Cumberbatch
12. Robert Carlyle
13. Eamonn Walker
14. Colin Firth
15. Jonny Lee Miller
16. Jane Leeves
17. Kiefer Sutherland
18. Gerard Butler
19. Lucy Punch
20. Daniel Radcliffe

What is your favorite Sean Connery Role? Who do you feel is missing from this list?

 

 

 

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REB007T, or I Promise to Stop Writing About Skyfall

bonds

I just completed my fifth viewing of Skyfall. I have written about it and James Bond movies in general a few times Here, Here, and Here. As a lifelong James Bond fan, I am always excited by the release of a new film in this hallowed series, but Skyfall is something more. The 23rd film represents a turning point in the reboot series. The third film for a James Bond actor has always been the sink or swim moment. Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, even The World is Not Enough were showcases for the moment when the writers hit a  stride with the actor portraying 007. The stories in these films are written to showcase the unique attributes of each actor.

When it was announced that 2006’s Casino Royale would not only bring us a new Bond in Daniel Craig but also a reboot of the long running series, I had my doubts. Casino Royale and Craig were a pleasure to watch, but I was left wondering “where do we go from here?” The film had such momentum and excitement that it took repeat viewings to realize its flaws. The following film Quantum of Solace suffered none of the same issues; its flaws were right up front. Skyfall with its dark and humanizing storyline is something more. It seeks to re-reinvent not just the character, but the world in which he resides. It is a reboot within the reboot continuity.

This got me thinking about reboots in general. Unless you have made your home deep within a cave for the last 10 years you may be aware of the vast number of rebooted series showing up in our theaters of late. The list of films getting the reboot treatment in the coming year is staggering. Movies based on a prior film either in the form of sequels or reboots is staggering. Based on no particular fact or statistic,reboots account for all 98% of all  movies worth seeing this year.

Turning my thoughts back to the James Bond films, I wondered if Casino Royale was the only reboot. In examining the movies and comparing them to one another, it is evident that many of these 23 films could be considered reboots.

Take On Her Majesties Secret Service as an example. The only film in the series to star Australian actor George Lazenby was arguably the first reboot.

The sixth film was the first without Sean Connery in the role of Ian Fleming’s master spy. It begins as more of an “anti-reboot” showing us all things Bond to ensure we don’t think this is a different character but the same one simply played by a different actor. Various movie props from the previous films are pulled from the desk as a sub theme from Dr. No is played. The credits sequence is simply a martini glass on which are shown key action scenes from previous bond movies, though the producers are careful not show Connery’s face.

This never happened to the other fellow Property of Eon productions

This never happened to the other fellow
Property of Eon productions

Roger Moore’s first outing, Live and Let Die, is a complete 180. Several minor aspects seen in each film are removed. Bond does not go to MI6 headquarters, Q is absent, Bond smokes cigars instead of cigarettes, drinks bourbon instead of martinis. Moore had a gift for comedy far beyond Connery’s one liners. He could deliver a joke with a straight face and react as straight man to anything he observed, and this was written into all of Moore’s scripts going forward.

Reboot number three came after Moore’s 7th and final film A View to a Kill. The film, like many of Moore’s later endeavors, suffers for two things: Moore was so old at the time of filming that his hair had to be thickened every day and the comedy is over the top. Somewhere halfway through Roger Moore’s run as Bond the slapstick got out of control. Enter Timothy Dalton.

Dalton was a Shakespearean actor by trade. His interpretation of the character ran away from the Montypythonesque (that’s a word, right?) to his core–his dark, brooding core. Dalton saw Bond as troubled by the life he has chosen to lead and the sacrifices he has made for queen and country. Dalton also brought the literary version of Bond to the big screen, focusing more on Fleming’s work as apposed to simply doing an impression of his predecessor. Dalton’s films were not critically received, and at the end of his two film run, the series went on hiatus for 6 years.

When Pierce Brosnan took up the mantle for 1995’s Goldeneye, the fourth reboot, he had an advantage. The writers had taken all of the aspects that made a great Bond movie and placed them in a modern world. The audience-pleasing special effects and the return of the gadget-a-minute approach made the Brosnan era visually stimulating. Still, by the time Bond surfed a tsunami and drove an invisible car, it was time for another reboot.

Bringing us back to Casino Royale. Rebooting this long running series over the last 50 years has been more than simply swapping out leading men. Each time James Bond seems to preserve his core while responding to audience demand. With a reboot every six films or so, we have to wonder where they might go next.

Maybe to space?

No, they did that already.

Maybe the bottom of the ocean?

No, they did that… twice.

Where ever James Bond may be headed next, you can bet I will be along for the ride.

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I Wanna See Daniel Day Lewis in That

Already thinking about the 85th annual Academy Awards? Well first, that is just sad; and second, let me sum the coming awards onslaught up in a single word: Lincoln!

Best picture: Lincoln; best director: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln; best actor: Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln.

Only two people in history have had more written about them than our 16th president: Jesus Christ and William Shakespeare.  I cannot think of a film that has had more written about it than this year’s Abraham Lincoln biopic. Likewise, Daniel Day-Lewis has seen more press and acclaim for his short body of work than any actor in recent history. He inhabits a role often spending a full year getting into character. Day-Lewis is 55 and has only a handful of starring roles because of his intense approach to preparation.

In honor of Day-Lewis’ coming pile of trophies for Lincoln, I give you five roles I wish he would play:

Image property of RoyOrbison.com

5.  Roy Orbison

I am a huge fan of Orbison’s work. His vocals are unmatched in the pop rock music pantheon. Few people bother to develop the range that he possessed.

Orbison was also a dark, reclusive person, always hidden just below the surface or behind his ever present dark sunglasses. Roy Orbison has yet to receive the biopic treatment; many of his Sun Records cohorts already have. Though Day-Lewis is already two years older than Orbison was when he died in 1988, I think he could pull it off.

4. The Saint/Simon Templar

Please, if you have not already, try to forget Val Kilmer and the 1997 flop of an action romance that was The Saint.

The Saint was a master of disguise and a quick thinking con man who could create an  identity out of thin air. He walked the line between hero, spy, sleuth, and criminal.

There is so much for Day-Lewis to explore in this character! He could make Simon Templar something more than a James Bond or Jack Ryan ripoff.

3. The Shadow/Lamont Cranston

A very flawed Shadow feature film was made in 1994 starring Alec Baldwin. The character of the Shadow reaches all the way back to 1931 and has been said to have helped influence the character background of Batman. The Shadow has the power to cloud men’s minds; he can make them see things that aren’t there, and he can make himself appear invisible.

Think of this as the opportunity to see an understated superhero flick; less explosions and more cerebral warfare. Day-Lewis could do for the superhero genre what Gary Oldman did for the secret agent.

2. Mike Hammer

Mike Hammer was played most notably by Stacy Keach in the TV series of same name. Micky Spillane’s private investigator has seen no shortage of screen time. Hammer is a tough, sarcastic lady killer.

Film noir is in need of a savior, and I can think of none better than Day-Lewis to rescue it…along with any damsels in distress that show up along the way. Adding depth to this forgotten genre is certain to bring about more Oscar gold.

1. Fighting Jack Churchill

Probably the best forgotten hero of WW2 is the eccentric Jack Churchill. The British soldier was known to charge into battle carrying a claymore (Scottish broad sword) and was the only person in that conflict to kill an enemy combatant with a bow and arrows. Churchill, who was no relation to the Prime Minister, often played a song on the bagpipes before charging into battle.

If Day-Lewis were ever to make a WW2 picture, he would need the outsider perspective of a character like Jack Churchill. This could be the one action film that would make sense for such a fine actor.

 

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Chillin’ Like a Villain -Lots of Skyfall Spoilers

A Bond film is only as good as its villain.

After all, what is the point of having a protagonist like James Bond if the opposition is uninteresting and easily defeated? Javier Bardem’s recent turn as number 1 baddie in Skyfall has been critically acclaimed and praised by James Bond aficionados. As Raoul Silva, Bardem embodies the psychotic and diabolical legacy of the greatest foes of her majesty’s secret service.

He has a seemingly unending war chest:

Whether building an underwater city or a space station, paying for a private army or buying off government officials, taking on James Bond is an expensive prospect. Throughout the series, it’s clear that going up against 007 is a game for the 1 percent. As a cyber terrorist, Silva certainly fits the bill. He has the ability to bring down a nation’s economy or devalue its currency utilizing only a few keystrokes. Silva certainly has the resources to keep him in private island status… and a real private island.

He has a personal vendetta:

Image property of MGMUA

Previous vendettas range from wanting to kill Bond himself to destroying all of western civilization. The constant among Bond villains is that they have (at least in their minds) been wronged, and they intend to get even in an elaborate fashion. The antagonist’s passion for destruction must be greater than Bond’s desire to stop it.

Feeling abandoned by the government he once proudly served and placing all of his hate solely on Judy Dench’s ‘M’, Silva is out for vengeance. Plots against the head of the British Secret Service are nothing new; in the novels, the concept of getting even with “M” goes all the way back to the Kingsley Aims penned story Colonel Sun. This device is also used in the film The World is not Enough.

He has a physical deformity:

Dr. No had metal hands. Blofeld had that scar on his face. Scaramanga had a superfluous papilla…an excess mammary… a third nipple.

This one is not a hard and fast rule, but it applies more often than not. Silva has what may be the best deformity in the series: his jaw was dissolved by hydrogen cyanide. The reveal in Skyfall was among the most disturbing moments on film.

Image property of MGMUA

His determination results in disregard for human life:

It seems to be a given that once the mistress of the villain falls prey to Bond’s charms, she will be killed. Often the body of the “Bond Girl” will be left on display. Silva very unceremoniously dispatches his mistress by shooting her in the head and leaving her lifeless body chained to the granite feet of a statue. This is, of course, done to inform us that he is a stone cold killer and is only keeping our hero alive because he needs him.

So how does Bardem’s Silva stack up against the best of the worst from MI6’s rogues gallery? In the sadistic Silva, we see new blood. Is he the end result of Bond’s lifestyle? Gone are the elaborate death traps and super secret hideouts. The plan is not executed from an observation room, but  instead it is instigated in person by Silva. There are no henchmen with special abilities or equipment. There are no poison tipped shoes or giants wearing metal teeth.

Though we know he cannot succeed, we believe he could. That is the genius of Bardem’s Silva and what ranks him among the best villains in the Bond series.

Who are some of your favorite James Bond villains?

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The Rise and Skyfall a New James Bond Era — Spoiler Free

Image Property of MGMUA

It has been 50 years since Dr No introduced us to James Bond. Since then, Ian Fleming’s master spy has been portrayed by six actors in 23 films. Skyfall, the most recent entry in the 007 cannon, has a lot to live up to, as does the current Bond actor, Daniel Craig.  After the lukewarm reception of Quantum of Solace, Skyfall is a make or break moment –not just for Craig but for the future of the entire franchise.

The character of James Bond has always existed just beyond the plain of reality. He’s a man who jumps out of helicopter, wins a mid air fistfight, and lands in the backyard of a beautiful woman, never breaking a sweat and without a single hair out of place.

Craig’s Bond is different. He gets beaten; he gets bruised; most importantly, he bleeds. He lacks the lighter side of the Roger Moore era. He is a killer, cold and calculating.

This time around, we see Bond with scars and all. He is visibly and mentally shaken; he is almost human.

Skyfall is about resurrection. The world has changed. The spy game is no longer about one nation attempting to learn the actions of another. The enemies of a nation are nameless, faceless, and never do their dirty work in person.

Is espionage even relevant in the information age? Does England need James Bond?

image property of MGMUA

Choosing a woman to play the character of M was a big deal in 1995. Dame Judi Dench was a fantastic choice for the role of Bond’s boss. She has been the perfect foil to the Bonds of both Brosnan and Craig. In fact, she was the only thing carried over into the reboot series.

The problem for Dench’s M during the Brosnan era was that there was nothing for her to do. What was the point of showcasing an empowered woman if she spent each film sidelined or kidnapped?

In Skyfall, we see M in all of her glory. Her leadership is on display and her back and forth with Bond provides many of the lighter moments in the film.

On the surface, the movie seeks to destroy the past. Many treasured relics from the bygone era are brought onscreen just long enough for us to wave goodbye. Several are reborn into this reality, most notably the character of Q. The meeting between Bond and the new quartermaster is dripping with homage and reverence for the past, while at the same time celebrating the new.

Skyfall brings to a close your father’s James Bond. In many ways, it cleans out the closet. It takes the dusty keepsakes out one last time, dwells for just a second, then packs them away for good. What we are left with is a new Bond for a new world. A Bond that has confronted his own demons, as well as those of England, and emerged to defend Queen and Country no matter what.

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Best of the Best: The Roles of Sean Connery

Sean Connery, star of more than 90 feature films and television programs, has retired from acting. This is not news. It happened almost ten years ago. I miss his work…a lot. From his superstardom of the 60s to the strange sci-fi films of the 80s and his resurgence in the 90s and beyond, Connery, to me, was always awesome. His performance would often outshine the other actors in a movie and often outshine even the movie itself.

With that in mind, I bring to you my top 5 favorite Sean Connery roles.

 

5. Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez – Highlander (1986)

The original Highlander actually made sense. The sequels really muddied the waters, but the original is a pretty good flick. Connery is a Scotsman by birth playing an Egyptian pretending to be a Spaniard. He is immortal, a master swordsman who seeks out other immortals to teach and train them for the final battle known as The Gathering. Connery makes by far the best entrance in film history.

 

 

4. Jim Malone – The Untouchables (1987)

This appearance is by far the best entry in the wise old man/mentor category that marked the twilight of Connery’s career. He teaches a group of accountants to be cops and (spoiler) gets shot up like Sonny Corleone for his trouble. Pity he could not teach Kevin Costner to act, but hey, he is only one man.

 

 

 

 

3. Professor Henry Jones – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

If Indiana Jones had a father, he would be James Bond. However, Connery played the father of our favorite now-Disney-owned adventured much differently than we expected. Though Connery is only 12 years older than Ford, they played father and son flawlessly. My greatest enjoyment comes from watching Connery unsure of how to throw a punch and frightened by guns.

 

 

2. King Arthur – First Knight (1995)

So someone had the bright idea to make a King Arthur movie that removes the magic and mysticism from the story. The focus is placed on a forbidden romance between a vagrant swordsman and the wife of the King. Yeah, it sounds super boring. Wait…what if we cast Sean Connery as King Arthur? Okay, okay I can watch that. This film suffers for a lot of things; casting Connery is not one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

1. James Bond – From Russia With Love (1963)

If you ask someone who their favorite Bond is, and they answer with any name other than Sean Connery, they misunderstood the question. Anyone who reads my work with regularity knows I am a big James Bond fan. It could not have been much of a surprise what was waiting at number one on this list. So why this film over Connery’s other 5 cannon outings as 007? The later films become a tad too gadget driven, and Dr No, this films predecessor,  lays down more back story than character focus. From Russia With Love is the story of a lone warrior trying to prevent WW3 and stay alive in the process. Connery plays the role of everyone’s favorite spy with pure bravado and swagger. A lack of gadget focus gives us the opportunity to see more of Connery’s wit, which is his true contribution to the character.

 

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I Owe it All to James Bond

Aashish950 at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a hero.  Since I was twelve, I have wanted that hero to be James Bond.

James Bond made a reader out of me. The stories held my attention and led me to discover other authors. Watching Dr. No at 13 was the first time I remember saying “that’s not how it happened in the book.”

James Bond has taught me so many wonderful things:

James Bond made me better at research:

At the point I discovered Ian Fleming’s master spy, the material was almost 40 years old.  In order to understand some of the references, I was forced to do some research.  Some old school pre- Internet research! In books!!  The work required an understanding of not just WW2, but the events surrounding it and leading to the Cold War.  Also, I needed an understanding of life in the ’50s and ’60s (in England no less).

James Bond helped me to embrace technology:

The books are hardly as gadget driven as the films, but the gadgets still play a role.  What is the same in both is the protagonist’s complete dislike and distrust of tech.  From the Walther PPK (Bond preferred the Beretta) to the famous jet pack in the film version of Thunderball, Bond always felt the Quartermaster put too much faith in the tools and not enough in the builder.  Still, it is often using the two in conjunction that allows Bond to live to fight another day (or Die Another Day as it were).

James Bond helped me to develop a personal sense of style:

always found his Bond a bit stiff
{By Jeremy from Leuven, Belgium (Ireland – London Trip) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons}

The tux, the cars, the cigarette case and gold lighter, monogrammed shirts, cuff links, etc. made me wonder  if it is the clothes that make the man. I am not sure.  What I can say is James Bond is an individual.  The novels dedicate pages to descriptions of the spy’s clothing and clothiers.  In the films, this gets a little lost in trend sometimes but never for too long.  Bond always returns to what works for him, and that is what he has taught me.  I am hardly the best dressed man in every room, but I always have a shine on my shoes (which are only brown if I am wearing brown… mostly).  I am the best dressed man in most rooms.

James Bond taught me to seek the simplest solutions:

Really, it was James Bond villains that I have to thank for this pearl.  If you intend to solve a problem, be direct. Be direct like a bullet to the head. Not indirect, like a laser-cutting-device attached to a trap door leading to shark tank on top of a volcano filled with swords.  Run straight at the problem guns blazing.

I am not sure I would tell my son to seek his answers in the fiction of a bygone era. I want him to be himself.  But, there are plenty of habits I am glad I did not pick up from Fleming’s work.

Then again, think about the beautiful women, fast cars, and….on second thought, be James Bond, son. Always be James Bond.

 

 

 

 

 

{Featured Image: Caroline Bonarde Ucci [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons}

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New Skyfall Trailer!

We at The Cool Ship love James Bond. We were more than a little excited when we saw that this trailer released today.

What do you think?

Is there any way Ralph Fiennes is a good guy? Is James Bond going full Batman? A new Q?!

Check it out. Be excited.

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