Superbowl Halftime Shows aren’t really music. There are exceptions, of course, but it’s more of a showcase. And boy, was last night a showcase. As in, that was borderline pornographic. I have no doubt parents were horrified. But admittedly, it was a really, really good performance. Like the rest of my friends, I was pretty impressed with everything given their age and ability to groove. I see you, J Lo. Waiting for Tonight is undoubtably a banger. You’re wrong if you think otherwise.
But it makes my point, which is – halftime shows are for the masses, it’s entertainment. I’ve been told they used to be better, but what do I know. I’m there for the game, because it features the Pats most of the time this century. Kurt won’t be happy about that but it had to be said. For the record, my favorites of all time were Prince (obviously, playing Purple Rain in the first rain in probably Super Bowl History) and Tom Petty. I’m a sucker for the classics and tend to lean away from the Pop, mass-produced sounds that get cranked out regularly these days. But I digress.
This year though, it gave me time not caring about the game to win some money and, most importantly, pay attention to everything else. Namely James Bond, and the final installment of Daniel Craig’s tenure. If you didn’t see the ad, check out the trailer on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIhNsAtPbPI
So there’s a new James Bond movie coming out, and holy hell. No Time to Die indeed. Looks pretty electric. I am a die-hard fan, I will admit. My brother and I have been receiving box-sets of James Bond films since I was 6. Not to toot my own horn, but I was a master at James Bond Scene It. We watched the films religiously in car rides to games and the mountains on the weekends. We could quote most of the good ones. Why did we love these films? It was something the whole family enjoyed, providing a combination of action, adventure, drama (for mom), and comedy in a way that made you forget it was ever corny. Maybe was the combination of loving action films and a taste for the dramatic. But besides this admitted obsession, I will explain why James Bond films are incredible, regardless of the corniness.
It all started with Mr. Connery. Well, there was one before that but it sucked. Sean really kicked it off. And Sean Connery is the stud of all studs. He has this swagger and a kick-ass accent that really makes you swoon. Even as dudes we can acknowledge that talent. Goldfinger might be the best Bond ever, certainly the best villain and intro song. Seriously, look up the song it’s awesome. And a girl named Pussy-Galore was in the film. That is rightly absurd, but it works somehow. Not sure how they got away with that, though. Goldfinger as a villain was funny, cunning, and half-dangerous. In the way you actually respect him, but know he’s probably going down. “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” Impressive cinematics, a highlight on Fort Knox and Kentucky Downs, a 1v1 golf-off for tens of thousands of dollars (which Bond wins casually), and Mr. Bond equipped with a Wather PPK to silence the bad guys. It’s god damn classic. Corny, indeed. But classic and timeless. I keep going back every year.
Roger Moore wasn’t the best. And I think its because he wasn’t good at conveying emotion. You never really got the sense he felt he was in danger, and that’s fine because its Bond. But it really takes the excitement out of the film for me most of the time. I was a big fan of a View to a Kill. Golden Gate bridge + blimp – if you’ve seen it you know what I mean. He certainly had his moments. Timothy Dalton was actually pretty good, he just was handed some lame scripts. License to Kill was great, though – a realistic villain (which doesn’t come often) in Sanchez, and a hard-nosed script that feels more like Scarface than your typical Bond cuisine. Variety is so important in these films. But Dalton really didn’t get the screen-time overall to get to know him enough. Pierce Brosnan had some amazing scenes, but often took himself too seriously. Regardless, definitely my #3 favorite. Goldeneye is easily one of the best Bond films ever, featuring Sean Bean as the rogue agent. Boromir is an excellent casting here, and he actually is so similar to Bond that it makes you question who is bad and who is good. As in, is MI6 actually the hero it claims to be? Morally ambiguous moments in these films build the intrigue. The World is Not Enough is also excellent for its wild plot, creepy villain in Robert Carlyle, bond girl excellence and my favorite intro song. Finally, Craig is excellent, and my favorite with Sean, partly because these films came out when I was old enough to appreciate them, but really because I love Craig as an actor. He embodies the cool, suave, and thrilling British secret-agent mentality in every way, but he brings out the humanity in the role in a way others at times failed to do. He manages to sneak in humor here and there, along with the uncanny ability to actually ACT like he is in danger. That vulnerability is often missing, and Craig manages to insert it in so well. It makes you feel like Bond may not be the invincible figure you had once thought, but rather much more a human being. It allows you to connect with him more, regardless of the fact I work in marketing and he’s a secret agent. I loved him in Layer Cake (check this out if you haven’t yet) and more recently in Knives Out, although the film was a 6 at best overall.
Incredible cinematography, insane clothing choices, Michael-Bay-esque (before Michael Bay was born) explosions and gunfights, and sex appeal. What more could you ask for? It’s one of the longest-running movies series, and for good reason. They spare no expense when it comes to these films and it is apparent and incredible at times.
Undoubtably, there have been a few duds in there. Thinking recently, Spectre was a disaster. Even though it had Christoph Waltz, one of the finest foreign actors working in cinema today (who has an Oscar record to show for it), the corniness far outweighed the intrigue. It had the stunts, the action, the cinematography that makes the series, but it lacks dearly in consistency. They focused too heavily on the “wow” factor that they forgot to focus on the character that brought us there in the first place: Mr. Bond. To be honest, it was a bond film that abandoned its core of being interesting in favor of attempted woo-ing. Craig is a perfect casting, and actually makes Bond seem human in his performances. But it doesn’t work here for a variety of reasons. Roger Ebert, who is my favorite movie reviewer, said it best: “At least when Tom Cruise offers similar defenses the “Mission: Impossible” movies (the latest of which has a plot not hugely different from this one’s, come to think of it) it’s meant to be ludicrous and frothy, not freighted with righteous woe.” The film takes itself way too seriously and forgets to add the air of intrigue that brings you through a Bond film and keeps you thinking about it for days to come. Die Another Day was similarly awful – particularly bad castings throughout.
Casino Royale is a 10/10 film for me. Daniel Craig’s first showing had me going from the first scene, jumping from crane to crane after a rogue bomber in Africa. This culminates in Bond shooting his way through and nearly blowing up an embassy, showcasing his abilities and disregard for the rules from the first take. It draws you in and keeps you there for its near two and a half-hour runtime. Eva Green as Vesper is as near perfect a casting as you’ll find, and she brings out an actual humanity in bond that really is unseen up until that point throughout the series. Bond always has this veil of masculinity that comes down when he falls for her. I’m not a romance type of guy, but it really works here. It made you actually care when she double-crossed him (sorry, spoiler but you should have seen this one already). It was a range of emotion. You have Bond almost dying from a poisoned drink mid-poker game to sailing on a boat in honeymoon-style in Venice. To that end, the cinematography is again, exceptional. Mads Mikkelson is likewise a perfect villain (and an exceptional actor): dangerous, intelligent, and unstable. The perfect fold to Bond in many ways. The film gives you exactly what Bond fans are looking for: a well-designed plot with a variety of locations to visit, carried by Craig’s stone-cold killer performance, and aided by perfect casting choices along the way.
I’ll list my top ten, in order:
- Casino Royale (10/10)
- Goldfinger (10/10)
- GoldenEye (10/10)
- Diamonds are Forever (9.5/10)
- Skyfall (9.5/10)
- SA View to a Kill (9/10)
- From Russia with Love (9/10)
- The Living Daylights (8.5/10)
- License to Kill (8.5/10)
- The World is Not Enough (8.5/10)
What is it about Bond movies that I love so much? I think because deep down a lot of us, myself included, want to be Mr. Bond. I’ve had fantasies since I was very young about taking down the bad guys, infiltrating Russian terrorist organizations, saving the class from attackers, you know what I mean. I’d imagine many young boys have similar thoughts when watching this content. Seeing a guy so invincible, irresistible (for the women), and so cunning walk out of gunfights like it’s nothing made you envy that life. Even though, the life of Bond is undoubtably stressful (lots of time away from home, people trying to kill you constantly, etc.) – no doubt a normal man would have died by the second film at best. But at age 10 you don’t really piece that together. All you know is the man is a total badass. And at that age, even people over 18 are cool. Imagine what some ambiguously aged, secret agent, super-hero looked like. Get the idea?
I’m not usually a fan of surreal action films. I don’t like corniness really. But when it’s classics like this, I can’t resist. It’s like Back to the Future, you know. It’s definitely cheesy at times, but it does it better than anyone else. And Bond undoubtably does spy action films better than anyone else.