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You Only Live Twice Review


Excellent
One of Bond's bigger outings from the early days of the franchise, You Only Live Twice begins with Bond (Sean Connery) faking his death to relieve himself of some of the heat of his enemies and culminates with a showdown against nemesis Blofeld (the progenitor of Dr. Evil) in a phony volcanic lair/rocket base being invaded by ninjas, which are on Bond's side. Blofeld's plot is hijacking spaceships while they're in orbit... for unclear purposes. Got all that? The plot itself is protracting and quite confusing for a Bond film, ultimately just a distraction from one of Bond's most memorable adventures, complete with Q arriving with a helicopter in a box. Tons of fun, really, and Donald Pleasence as Blofeld is inimitable.

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On Her Majesty's Secret Service Review


Very Good
George Lazenby took Bond's reins from Sean Connery in this sixth 007 outing, an unfairly oft-maligned film that, while distinctively different than the rest of the series, is still quite fun to watch. Where to begin? The love story? Lazenby has an honest to god love montage with Diana Rigg, playing a mobster's daughter, who he later teams up (and actually marries) with to track down Blofeld (now played by Telly Savalas), who got away in You Only Live Twice. He finds Blofeld living on a mountaintop, running a clinic for women with allergies(!)... which is naturally just a front for nefarious ends to destroy the world's economy though mind control. Oddly, Blofeld no longer recognizes Bond, who's dressed in a kilt as a geneology researcher... which may all account for the film's lackluster reputation.

It's a big movie, with good stunts, virtually no gadgets, plenty of fisticuffs, and maybe more sex than any of the series' other installments. Even Lazenby is not half bad, though he pales in comparison to Connery, who would return for one more run as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever.

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Moonraker Review


Good
Most rational observers agree that Moonraker is without a doubt the most absurd James Bond movie -- definitely of the Roger Moore era and possibly of all time. And it's exactly that ridiculousness that makes it so enjoyable. Here we have a villain (Michael Lonsdale) who builds a giant space fleet with the goal of living in his secret space station while he poisons all humans on earth (he's building a "perfect" society) -- and he wears a suit the entire time, even while flying his Moonraker spacecraft! Bond's adventures are suitably globetrotting -- and of course, this is the only film where he actually got to go into space, thanks to his cohort, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles). In addition to the unforgettable Jaws (Richard Kiel), the film features what might be the best double entendre ever, this one from Q as Bond is seen coupling with Holly in low-grav as he orbits the earth: "I think he's attempting re-entry!" I'll say.

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Thunderball Review


Very Good
The first big Big BIG Bond movie, complete with a boat that separates into two pieces, an underwater war, Baccarrat, no fewer than four Bond girls (all of whom found their voices dubbed-over by the same actress), and at least one clever witticism delivered by Connery every five minutes. It's too long and doesn't make any sense at times, but it's a real jaw-dropper (especially for 1965). Crudely remade as Never Say Never Again in 1983. Bond fans should look for the DVD, which features 8 theatrical trailers, 3 making of documentaries, and 2 commentary tracks. Wow.

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Live And Let Die Review


Very Good
A true guilty pleasure among Bond films. Who can forget a young Jane Seymour as Solitaire, a psychic held captive? Or Clifton James as Louisiana Sheriff Pepper, the most colorful character the Bond series has produced? Or Tee Hee and his mechanical arm? Or Geoffrey Holder (the voice of 7-UP) as the evil Baron Samedi? Or the best theme song ever (by Paul McCartney and Wings)? Certainly not me, though I had to be reminded that this was a Bond-gets-drug-smugglers story. But the early-'70s pop culture exudes throughout this flick. It's certainly a unique entry into the Bond oeuvre (not to mention the first appearance of Roger Moore.)

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From Russia With Love Review


Extraordinary
The defeat of the titular arch-villain in the Bond series' inaugural Dr. No provides the fly in From Russia with Love's revenge-motivated ointment. Seeking to mete out payback on James Bond (Sean Connery) for eliminating their best and most evil megalomaniac, the global terrorist organization SPECTRE attempts to lure in the super-spy by using a Russian decoding machine as its dangling carrot.

As everyone knows, a piece of machinery isn't enough to set Bond into action. You need a piece of something else, and SPECTRE finds it in the form of Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), a beautiful cipher clerk in the Soviet secret service who's got the goods on the decoder. Under instructions from the über-evil Rosa Klebb (the fabulous Lotta Lenya), a SPECTRE operative posing as a Soviet official, Tatiana agrees to her mission: To put out the signal that she wants to defect to the West, and that she's willing to smuggle the decoder too, provided that Bond escort her safely through the Iron Curtain.

Continue reading: From Russia With Love Review

From Russia With Love Review


Extraordinary
The defeat of the titular arch-villain in the Bond series' inaugural Dr. No provides the fly in From Russia with Love's revenge-motivated ointment. Seeking to mete out payback on James Bond (Sean Connery) for eliminating their best and most evil megalomaniac, the global terrorist organization SPECTRE attempts to lure in the super-spy by using a Russian decoding machine as its dangling carrot.

As everyone knows, a piece of machinery isn't enough to set Bond into action. You need a piece of something else, and SPECTRE finds it in the form of Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), a beautiful cipher clerk in the Soviet secret service who's got the goods on the decoder. Under instructions from the über-evil Rosa Klebb (the fabulous Lotta Lenya), a SPECTRE operative posing as a Soviet official, Tatiana agrees to her mission: To put out the signal that she wants to defect to the West, and that she's willing to smuggle the decoder too, provided that Bond escort her safely through the Iron Curtain.

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The Fourth Angel Review


Good
Presumably postponed after 9/11 spooked studios and canned after Collateral Damage turned out stillborn, The Fourth Angel arrives on DVD and revisits a theme much like Arnold's movie: Man's wife and daughter killed by terrorists in hijacking gone bad, man goes vigilante when the government does nothing about it.

Jeremy Irons plays Jack Elgin, the unlikely Goetz in this tale, at first distraught and then angry enough to devise meticulous plans to get vengeance on the plane's hijackers who shot his family members so callously. Elgin at first proceeds rather predictably, hunting down the terrorists thanks to tip-off info from people sympathetic to his cause, and then the feds (led by Forest Whitaker, though we're in in England... never mind all that) start to close in. But wait: Is Elgin being set up by someone else who wants the thugs dead?

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Live And Let Die Review


Very Good
A true guilty pleasure among Bond films. Who can forget a young Jane Seymour as Solitaire, a psychic held captive? Or Clifton James as Louisiana Sheriff Pepper, the most colorful character the Bond series has produced? Or Tee Hee and his mechanical arm? Or Geoffrey Holder (the voice of 7-UP) as the evil Baron Samedi? Or the best theme song ever (by Paul McCartney and Wings)? Certainly not me, though I had to be reminded that this was a Bond-gets-drug-smugglers story. But the early-'70s pop culture exudes throughout this flick. It's certainly a unique entry into the Bond oeuvre.

Lolita (1962) Review


Excellent
When a character's name enters the language as a general descriptor of a similar person, you know you're dealing with a classic. Lolita is exactly that film -- and the story of one man's obsession with his stepdaughter is so well-known it scarcely requires explanation. If you've never seen the original, you need to, and soon. While it's far too long at over 2 1/2 hours, these characters are so juicy and delicately balanced (this was 1962 and pedophilia was hardly accepted on film) they're a true must-see. Remade in 1997.
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