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Zardoz Zed Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman, John Alderton, Sally Anne Newton, Niall Buggy, Bosco Hogan, Jessica Swift,

Zardoz: when a ‘brutal’ unintentionally enters ‘the vortex’ he poses a major threat to the peaceful sanctuary, which is ruled by immortal ‘Eternals’. This my friends is drug-induced 1970s sci-fi on a scale you’ve probably not experienced before. The initial five minutes consists of a floating disembodied head explaining the set-up, then a massive talking stone head that vomits guns and ammo in exchange for grain… and the rest of the film is even weirder. If you’ve ever seen this unexplainable photo of Sean Connery in thigh high hooker boots, wrestling undies, bandolier belts, and a double-whammy ponytail / mexican bandit ‘tache combo, this is where it’s from. If you hadn’t seen that before, I can only apologise. On one hand the film muses over some high-brow questions about mortality, sexuality, philosophy, religion – and references films from 2001 to The Wizard of Oz. On the other hand you’ve got a nearly-nude anti-hero trying to make sense of his trippy surroundings, erection stimulus experiments, gratuitous boob shots every five minutes, and hordes of bored zombie pensioners milling around in tuxedos. Some of the special effects and camera trickery  – like the projecting rings/floating heads etc – are great, even by today’s standards, yet other moments – like a hammy ‘learning montage’ – are beyond kitschy and laugh out loud terrible. Zardoz is the hardest kind of film to rate: it’s intentionally camp & outlandish; and deliberately indulgent, unruly, and confusing – to the point where it feels like nobody (stars, director, writers) really knew what was going on. The one thing it did get right is hitting the cult jugular; whether you love it, hate it, or are simply confused by it, Zardoz is a film that really has to be seen to be believed.

Score: 6/10
Real Score: WTF/10

Zardoz Dream Machine Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman, John Alderton, Sally Anne Newton, Niall Buggy, Bosco Hogan, Jessica Swift, Zardoz Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman, John Alderton, Sally Anne Newton, Niall Buggy, Bosco Hogan, Jessica Swift,

Zardoz Blu Ray Menu Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman, John Alderton, Sally Anne Newton, Niall Buggy, Bosco Hogan, Jessica Swift,

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The Rock: when some miffed ex-military seize Alcatraz and aim chemical rockets at San Fran, a SWAT team is sent in to the save he day. Unlike most run-of-the-mill action films this is genuinely intense in parts, and has a substantial story – particularly the bad guys cause, which makes you question if it’s wrong to be rooting for them. Connery plays a blinder, reprising the James Bond role (great article here) and owning every scene he’s in with all the best lines. Cage does his crazy/comedy acting that somehow fits the tone of the film perfectly, and you couldn’t hand pick a better bunch of bad guys if you tried. The only downside is that there are some ridiculous attempts at comedy that fail terribly, and undermine / cheapen the film. Despite that little niggle, It’s almost incomprehensible that Michael Bay used to make films this good. Brilliant 1990s action affair. Ahhhh, Nicolas Cage and his green balls…

Score: 8.5/10

Diamonds Are Forever: After killing off two Blofelds in the pre-title credits Bond is sent to investigate a diamond stockpiling scheme that turns out to be far greater and more dangerous than anyone initially thought.

Ahhh, now we know why Connery came back to the role...

Returning to the role, Connery looks crazy-old here; wild eye brows, a massive chest wig and a little jowly on the cheeks. This is supposed to be the world’s most effective spy, not someone’s lazy uncle on an early retirement jolly! Despite clearly going through the motions Connery still has a sparkle in his eyes.

This is what a perfect spy looks like!! I'm 1/2 way there!!!

The promiscuously gay henchmen Mr Wint and Mr Kidd are genuinely freaky and despicable characters that give me the willies (!!) – like two halves of one person they work exceptionally well together, bounce dialogue between themselves and have some morbidly dark Bond-style quips. They are also the ultimate in over-elaborate and protracted Bond deaths.

Not everyone rates these guys, but they are menacing and memorable

The main setting here is America (namely Vegas), but it’s a pretty grotesque characature – everything’s in excess, the lights are bright, and the glamour’s slapped on, neon signs, casinos, cabaret, muscle cars… no stereotype is left untouched.

Another run-of-the-mill day in 'Vegas

Being the third actor to play Blofeld Charles Gray tries his best to put yet another spin on the character; adding sophistication, arrogance (and cross-dressing) but there wasn’t much he could do placed in this ridiculous situation. It also adds weight to the notion that Blofeld is a chameleon-style master of disguise, and at the forefront of plastic surgery!

Sledging down a hill on a cello case was less ridiculous than the 'moon buggy'

Overall, Diamonds goes back to Dr No territory, with a greater emphasis on conspiracy and clandestine activity than super-crazy action or zaney schemes. The master weapon isn’t unveiled until the end, along with the only big action set piece on the oil rig; which wouldn’t be complete without a goon shouting instructions and ultimatums over the PA system. As a Bond film, this one’s pretty middle of the road.

He's a... wheelie good driver *sorry*

Score: 5/10

 

 

Once again Bond saves the world and wet's the girl

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: Blofeld, again, but with hair!!! Lets Bond play with the master computer though – fail!!! 5
Henchmen: intelligent weirdos couple – experimental and effective. Bambi/Thumper acrobats – rubbish. 7
Bond Girl: Plenty O’Toole – Annoying but amazing / Tiffany Case – Also very hot. 7
Action: Lift Fight / Moonbuggy Chase / Vegas Car Chase / Oil Rig at end. 6

As a Scot, there's olny one answer to the question: "Who's your favourite James Bond". So long Connery!

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You Only Live Twice: as USSR and American space ships disappear above the sea of Japan, and US-Soviet tensions reach boiling point only one spy can get to the bottom of this…

Commander Bond PUNK's his colleagues

No doubt inspired by the space race, the opening credits are out of this world. Then WTF – Bond gets killed! This is the first film where the emphasis and scale of the action is pushed to the next level; there’s a board room fight with the sumo wrestler; large dock fight with all the sailors moving up to the roof; an aerial dogfight in Little Nellie; Ninja trainign camp, and storming of the secret volcano lair…

Little Nellie - Such a cool autogyro. Real too!

Japan is the backdrop of this and plays a large part in the story; it’s represented pretty well – a fine balancing act between the (then) cutting edge technology and the historic & traditional. Also, Japanese James Bond = Lloyd Christmas.

"We got no food, no jobs - our Pets' heads are falling off!!!"

This also has one of the most unforgettable real sets of any film, in the hollowed out volcano lair with full-scale control room, launch pad, monorail, helipad. Such a great achievement for Pinewood studios.

This mammoth set would all be CGI today!

Other than a couple of long-ish story sections – like the marriage – this is a top-drawer Bond flick, with plenty of action, a gripping story and just a little bit of ridiculousness – making it oh-so easy to spoof in the likes of Austin Powers.

Score: 7.5/10

First look at Ernst Stavro Blofeld - another plan to start WWIII foiled

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: Ernst Blofeld – Head of SPECTRE and legendary original megalomaniac. 8
Henchmen: Mr Osato – Old Businessman / Ronald Rich – Red Rip-off. 3
Bond Girl: Ginger Helga – Looking good pre-piranha  / several Japanese wimin. 6
Action: Too much to mention. 8

although the at the door sign reads "Beauty Parlour" this is a sumo match!

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Thunderball: A NATO bomber carrying nukes ditches in the sea prompting a ransom from SPECTRE and 7-day ultimatum – and James Bond is the only person with a lead.

Ciao... Seeing double vision

Thunderball is a pretty shocking follow-up to Goldfinger, with almost zero memorable – let alone iconic – scenes /or lines. It’s also punctuated with too many lengthy and boring underwater set-pieces, peaking with a battle that goes on forever and lacks any audio element.

What's that sound? Nothing...

The only vaguely famous scene would be the card game in the casino with one-eye’d Largo. As far as villains go, Largo is pretty poor, but his main henchman – straight-edge Vargas, takes the piss: what a pitiful baddie. I almost felt sorry for those two.

Aye aye cap'n

If Thunderball’s good for something it’s showing us deeper into Bond’s psyche – he blackmails and forces himself upon women,  will sleep with absolutely anyone, does whatever it takes for King and Country, and is so reckless that he doesn’t care who’s life he endangers!

Bond getting ready to pump for information

The most memorable scene is the ridiculously sped-up projections at the end, genuinely laugh out loud material – yet Thunderball won the Oscar for best SFX. It’s a bit of a car crash for a Goldfinger follow-up and far, far, far too long given how little happens.

Score: 2.5/10

Now pay attention 007

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: Largo, one eyed sailor – Number 2 – just following orders. 5
Henchmen: Ginger Fiona / Straight-Edge Vargas – the worst henchman ever. 2
Bond Girl: Bikini girl Domino / Spa Worker Patricia. 4
Action: Tranny fight / Boat Chase / Scuba War. 4

Vargas does not drink... does not smoke... does not make love... loser

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Goldfinger: 007 is sent to investigate a gold-smuggling operation, but uncovers a much larger plot involving Fort Knox, a nuclear bomb, lethal gas, and a lot of gold bouillon…

Epidermal Suffocation - debatable, but iconic!

It’s impossible to do justice in such a short review, but Goldfinger is  cinematic gold (!!). It’s crammed end-to-end with iconography, from unforgettable imagery through to the timeless – but slightly cheesy – script. The opening scenes where Bond stealthily snorkels behind enemy lines and blows up a secret base (the first proper pre-credits mini mission) sets the tone for Goldfinger, and from there on in the story thunders through until Bond’s capture, when it slows down until the raid on Fort Knox.

Aston Martin - arguably Bond's true sweetheart

Despite almost every scene being recognisable, some of the highlights are; the Aston Martin debut – packed with gadgets, Golf playoff (should be boring!), / Pussy Galore, scuba gear to white tux, ‘shocking’, Laser Scene “Do you expect me to talk”, ticking nuke, Auric and his Gold fetish, explosive decompression, hundreds of collapsing soldiers, Oddjob and his hat, gold body paint…

Goldfinger - Star of the show

Random Task - Oddjob and his current hat

It’s also the pinnacle of Bond’s unbelievable sexist streak – when he condescendingly explains to his female colleague: ‘run along dear, man talk’ then proceeds to give her a massive slap on the arse. They just don’t make ’em like that these days!

As Felix stares on... wrong on so many levels

Another interesting aspect is that of all the physically dominating, power-hungry, and certifiably insane Bond villains we’ve seen over the years, it’s a small, fat (& dubbed) – and in the end, greedy -German that sits up there with the best of them. Despite the film’s greatness some questions are best left unanswered, like why is there a mass of asian labour in the middle of Kentucky? or how did such rubbish gangsters ever make it big (“What’s this?” “Who’s that!?”).

Perhaps the single still that sums up the franchise

The final product is an unforgettable, and near-perfect blend of the two themes that make Bond films great; mystery-thriller and large-scale action. Fantastic as a stand-alone film, and one of the highlights of the franchise.

Score: 8/10

Pussy Galore - proof that even lesbians digg Bond

TOP TRUMPS

Villain: Auric Goldfinger – Golf, Gold and laser-loving menace. 9
Henchmen: Oddjob – Silent but violent. 9
Bond Girl: Pussy Galore / Masterton Sisters – three’s a crowd. 8
Action: Car chase, opium explosion, golf, long Fort Knox fight. – 7

Still haven't seen a game of golf this tense

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From Russia With Love: James Bond must assist a Soviet Defector, while watching his back as SPECTRE are out to avenge the death of Dr No.

Bond and Bey - an espionage dream team

First appearance of Ernst Stavro Blofeld - Number 1

As with Dr No, this film expands on several more recurring themes in the series; most notably Q Branch and the gadgets, pre-title action (although technically a mini mission), and Red Grant – the first of Bonds larger-than-life opposite numbers – and more generally ‘henchmen’ carrying out the grunt work on behalf of the main villain. More than anything else From Russia is quite the sexist film, with crass lesbian overtones, full-on belly-dancing credits, a ridiculously overlong scantily-clad girl fight and continual put-down of the women – what happened to the ladykiller from Dr No?!?

Tatiana Romanova - Bond Girl and defecting agent

For me this film is summed up by “Trains and Tunisia”, as it takes around an hour for anything substantial to happen. Unfortunately, Bond doesn’t even make it to Russia (Cold War tensions were high at the time), yet the film’s full of Terrible Russian – and English – accents. For being one of the most celebrated and highly rated films I personally don’t think that there’s much to like in From Russia, and that the majority of the film is mediocre and forgettable.

Score 4/10

Red Grant - the first of many muscelmen

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: Rosa Kleb – looks mean, pointy shoes but killed by the Bond Girl! – 5
Henchmen: Red – benchpressing benchmark for super-strength bad guys / Footnote for chess Grandmaster – 7
Bond Girl: Tania – Hot Russian – 8
Action: Train fight, helicopter, Boat Chase – 3

The main weapon - "she got her kicks"

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