Richard Maibaum

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Licence To Kill Review


Bad
Timothy Dalton's second (and final) Bond outing is mainly memorable for nothing in the film itself. The title, Licence to Kill, was a change from the original Bond story, Licence Revoked, when it was revealed that a large percentage of Americans didn't know what "revoked" meant. And then there was the issue of whether to spell the first word "licence" or "license." Ultimately less was said about the film, which is one of the least successful Bond movies ever at the box office, especially in adjusted dollars. The problem? The story isn't very Bond-like: He leaves MI-6 for most of the film to avenge best bud Felix Leiter's death at the hands of a drug kingpin while canoodling with Carey Lowell, a poor Bond girl choice if ever there was one. A cameo by Wayne Newton pushes the film into full-on kitsch, and many feared the series was dead after Licence's poor showing. It would be six years until the next film, GoldenEye, the longest period without a Bond release since the series began in 1963.

Aka License to Kill.

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The Living Daylights Review


Good
The casting of Timothy Dalton as James Bond in this 15th entry into the adventures of 007 is widely considered a classic mistake: Dalton isn't suave like Sean Connery or even Roger Moore. It's hard to explain, but he's too outright mean and gruff, and he doesn't come across with the sly sense of humor that, in my opinion, is essential in a good Bond. The vehicle he has to work with in The Living Daylights isn't exactly stellar, tagging along with a European cellist (Maryam d'Abo) as he unravels a KGB plot to kill MI-6 agents. The settings are on the lackluster side (Afghanistan?), aside from one notable sequence which gives Bond a trip down a snow-covered mountain in the Bond girl's cello case.

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A View To A Kill Review


OK
At age 58, Roger Moore turned in his action hero togs after this final outing as Bond. A View to a Kill is at least better than Octopussy, but it's so absurd as to make for a less than perfect time. The good news: Christopher Walken is a classic (if obvious) Bond villain, determined to flood Silicon Valley so he can corner the market for microchips. There's a bit of silliness about doped horses and some questionable science behind this plan, but it's all in good fun. Tanya Roberts is a classic Bond girl. Grace Jones, well, she's something else entirely.

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Octopussy Review


Weak
Hardly Mr. Bond's finest hour. This oddball adventure (apparently a conflagration of two different Bond novels) has poor Roger Moore dressed as a clown in a gypsy circus, attempting to outsmart an enemy by (gasp) outbidding him at an auction, and, in its worst moment, stumbling through a Halloween-decoration cobweb as he's attacked by a spider in the Indian jungle. Despite some fun moments (the villain's henchman has an awesome yo-yo made out of a circular saw blade), Octopussy isn't just embarassing to say out loud, it's also a nearly outright-dud for the Bond franchise. The plot unravels when we discover that it's all a ruse to start World War III (courtesy of a rogue Russian general), and Maud Adams, who doesn't appear until more than halfway through the film and has very few scenes, doesn't really work as the titular bond girl (this is actually her second Bond appearance). For completists only.

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The Man With The Golden Gun Review


Very Good
Christopher Lee always makes for an exceptional video. It's just too bad that it had to be in The Man with the Golden Gun, which ranks as one of James Bond's more absurd outings, involving a maniacal genius (Lee) who's assassinating folks and has Bond next on his list. Bond thus goes after this Scaramanga and uncovers the usual mega-weapon plot, this time featuring... wait for it... solar power. The theme song by Lulu (sample lyrics: "Love is required/Whenever he's hired/He comes just before the kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiill") is original and a great example of high camp, much like the rest of the film. It's all gaudily good, right down to Hervé Villechaize(!), bikini-clad Britt Ekland, and the inimitable Clifton James as the vacationing Sheriff J.W. Pepper (introduced in Live and Let Die), who tags along for a bit.

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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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Diamonds Are Forever Review


OK
While it's fun to wax nostalgic over Sean Connery's final appearance as James Bond (drawn out of retirement from the series for a presumably fat paycheck), it's still unfortunate that the film he appeared in is more than a little bit embarassing. Jill St. John is one of the least effective Bond girls: She's beautiful, but shrill and helpless (her scream of "Eeeeee!" during a fistfight in the film's final scene is one of Bond's noteworthy lowlights). The story is borderline moronic: Blofeld (now played by Charles Gray in his third incarnation) steals a load of diamonds in order to arm a laser-shooting satellite, to achieve, of course, world domination. How's that all work? No idea, and when we actually see his creation in orbit, it's laughable.

On the other hand, Connery is fine, as are some of the film's villains (hippie bodyguards named Bambi and Thumper), and the inimitable Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint, who, while entertaining, certainly didn't do much for Hollywood's respectful treatment of homosexuals. The Las Vegas setting (for much of the film) is unfortunately and unintentionally cheesy, as well. It's fun at times but overall one of the most hopelessly dated 007 flicks ever.

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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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For Your Eyes Only Review


Very Good
As unlikely an adventure as James Bond has ever taken, For Your Eyes Only is one of the better Roger Moore vehicles, thanks to a script that overflows with exotic locales and extreme adventures for our hero to undertake. Eyes features Bond's best ski sequence (from slopes to ski ramp to lodge dining table to bobsled run), one of the best underwater moments (with Bond and his lady friend tied to a boat and dragged through a coral reef), and some of the best Bond-girl skin seen to date. Carole Bouquet even proved to be one of a very few Bond girls who could act, and it's refreshing to see Bond restrain himself from Bibi (Johnson), a young figure skater oblivious to everything but athletics and sex. The "stolen encryption device heading for Moscow" plot is a throwaway, but the real standout is Bond's steeled attitude: his mind clearly renewing his "license to kill," giving us Roger Moore at his most vengeful.

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Goldfinger Review


Essential
The iconic James Bond movie, this third entry into the franchise is rightly heralded for offering the perfect blend of action, adventure, gunplay, fisticuffs, gadgetry (that Aston Martin!), romance, derring-do, and just about everything else. Bond's outtings take him across Europe and eventually to U.S. shores, on the trail of Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), a maniac who wants to corner the gold market... with a plan to break into Fort Knox. Even though the ultimate plot is a little on the silly side, Bond's co-stars (Oddjob, Pussy Galore) are among the series' most memorable characters, with Fröbe perhaps its greatest villain. Numerous scenes in the film -- most notably Goldfinger's aborted execution of Bond via laser beam-to-the-crotch -- have become cinematic classics. Don't miss the DVD commentary track, it's incredibly insightful: I had no idea that Gert Fröbe spoke no English and was completely dubbed over.

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Richard Maibaum

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