James-Bond-Countdown

All 27 James Bond Movies Ranked by Tomatometer

You know his name. You got his number. Since 1962, James Bond has been the spy whose reputation precedes him: As international man of mystery, as guru of gadgets and espionage thrills, and as the agent who never encountered a boundary – country, or personal space – he couldn’t sneak across.

The Ian Fleming adaptations started with a bang: Dr. No remains among the best-reviewed of 007’s movies, bringing forth that first legendary era of Sean Connery suited up as the debonair rogue that women crave and men aspire to be in vain. Case in point: 1967’s Casino Royale had no less than six James Bonds within its spooferifous walls, none holding a candle to the Con’. The non-comic caper is the worst-reviewed James Bond movie, and was produced outside of franchise gatekeepers Eon.



As celebrated was Connery’s reign was – the late actor’s films occupy three of the top five slots on this list – the sun sets on every empire, and thus was ushered in the age of the Lazenby. A mild administration for George, yes, with only 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service released, though Certified Fresh.

Then it became time to move over for Roger Moore, who offered a lightly winking and intelligent Bond for those burned-out ’70s times. Three of his movies are Rotten, three are Fresh, and one is Certified Fresh. Not bad, and he even traveled into space.

In 1981, Connery came back for non-Eon Bond Never Say Never Again, just as HQ was hiring Timothy Dalton for the job. Dalton’s Bond: Cool and menacing, and his films The Living Daylights and License to Kill are praised by modern fans for their dark, grittier take on the spy game. It’s something Daniel Craig would pick up on in the future, but with a bigger budget and fewer a-ha theme songs.

Pierce Brosnan brought back the sophisticated sex appeal, as the best Bond in the not-so-greatest movies. GoldenEye was intoxicating Certified Fresh fun, while the three that followed are all Rotten.

After Austin Powers took the piss out of the franchise for a decade, Eon turned to resurrecting James Bond as the brooding, brutish hulk we have today. Casino Royale was a return to form, Daniel Craig’s sneer and occasional smile calibrated to the modern cynical viewer. Skyfall was likewise Certified Fresh, but there was not so much critical love for in-betweener Quantum of Solace and the most-recent Spectre of 2015.

Six years passed until No Time To Die, the longest wait between Bond movies. At 15 years, Craig holds the record for longest uninterrupted on-screen ownership of Bond, but Connery spread his appearances as Bond across 21 years. Now, we’re reaching into the classified files for every James Bond movie ever ranked by Tomatometer!

#27

Casino Royale (1967)
25%

#27
Adjusted Score: 28398%
Critics Consensus: A goofy, dated parody of spy movie clichés, Casino Royale squanders its all-star cast on a meandering, mostly laugh-free script.
Synopsis: This wacky send-up of James Bond films stars David Niven as the iconic debonair spy, now retired and living a... [More]

#26

A View to a Kill (1985)
38%

#26
Adjusted Score: 41947%
Critics Consensus: Absurd even by Bond standards, A View to a Kill is weighted down by campy jokes and a noticeable lack of energy.
Synopsis: After recovering a microchip from the body of a deceased colleague in Russia, British secret agent James Bond (Roger Moore)... [More]
Directed By: John Glen

#25
Adjusted Score: 43951%
Critics Consensus: A middling Bond film, The Man With the Golden Gun suffers from double entendre-laden dialogue, a noteworthy lack of gadgets, and a villain that overshadows 007.
Synopsis: Cool government operative James Bond (Roger Moore) searches for a stolen invention that can turn the sun's heat into a... [More]
Directed By: Guy Hamilton

#24

Octopussy (1983)
43%

#24
Adjusted Score: 46190%
Critics Consensus: Despite a couple of electrifying action sequences, Octopussy is a formulaic, anachronistic Bond outing.
Synopsis: James Bond (Roger Moore) may have met his match in Octopussy (Maud Adams), an entrancing beauty involved in a devastating... [More]
Directed By: John Glen

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 57462%
Critics Consensus: Plagued by mediocre writing, uneven acting, and a fairly by-the-numbers plot, The World Is Not Enough is partially saved by some entertaining and truly Bond-worthy action sequences.
Synopsis: Bond (Pierce Brosnan) must race to defuse an international power struggle with the world's oil supply hanging in the balance.... [More]
Directed By: Michael Apted

#22
#22
Adjusted Score: 60729%
Critics Consensus: A competent, if sometimes by-the-numbers entry to the 007 franchise, Tomorrow Never Dies may not boast the most original plot but its action sequences are genuinely thrilling.
Synopsis: Media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) wants his news empire to reach every country on the globe, but the Chinese... [More]
Directed By: Roger Spottiswoode

#21

Die Another Day (2002)
56%

#21
Adjusted Score: 62408%
Critics Consensus: Its action may be bit too over-the-top for some, but Die Another Day is lavishly crafted and succeeds in evoking classic Bond themes from the franchise's earlier installments.
Synopsis: James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is captured by North Korean agents and must serve a grueling prison sentence. He's finally released,... [More]
Directed By: Lee Tamahori

#20

Moonraker (1979)
60%

#20
Adjusted Score: 64395%
Critics Consensus: Featuring one of the series' more ludicrous plots but outfitted with primo gadgets and spectacular sets, Moonraker is both silly and entertaining.
Synopsis: Agent 007 (Roger Moore) blasts into orbit in this action-packed adventure that takes him to Venice, Rio De Janeiro and... [More]
Directed By: Lewis Gilbert

#19

Spectre (2015)
63%

#19
Adjusted Score: 77447%
Critics Consensus: Spectre nudges Daniel Craig's rebooted Bond closer to the glorious, action-driven spectacle of earlier entries, although it's admittedly reliant on established 007 formula.
Synopsis: A cryptic message from the past leads James Bond (Daniel Craig) to Mexico City and Rome, where he meets the... [More]
Directed By: Sam Mendes

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 68929%
Critics Consensus: Diamonds are Forever is a largely derivative affair, but it's still pretty entertaining nonetheless, thanks to great stunts, witty dialogue, and the presence of Sean Connery.
Synopsis: While investigating mysterious activities in the world diamond market, 007 (Sean Connery) discovers that his evil nemesis Blofeld (Charles Gray)... [More]
Directed By: Guy Hamilton

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 75406%
Critics Consensus: Brutal and breathless, Quantum Of Solace delivers tender emotions along with frenetic action, but coming on the heels of Casino Royale, it's still a bit of a disappointment.
Synopsis: Following the death of Vesper Lynd, James Bond (Daniel Craig) makes his next mission personal. The hunt for those who... [More]
Directed By: Marc Forster

#16

Live and Let Die (1973)
65%

#16
Adjusted Score: 69772%
Critics Consensus: While not one of the highest-rated Bond films, Live and Let Die finds Roger Moore adding his stamp to the series with flashes of style and an improved sense of humor.
Synopsis: When Bond (Roger Moore) investigates the murders of three fellow agents, he finds himself a target, evading vicious assassins as... [More]
Directed By: Guy Hamilton

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 70411%
Critics Consensus: While the rehashed story feels rather uninspired and unnecessary, the return of both Sean Connery and a more understated Bond make Never Say Never Again a watchable retread.
Synopsis: An aging James Bond (Sean Connery) makes an uncharacteristic mistake during a routine training mission, leading M (Edward Fox) to... [More]
Directed By: Irvin Kershner

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 77718%
Critics Consensus: With exotic locales, impressive special effects, and a worthy central villain, You Only Live Twice overcomes a messy and implausible story to deliver another memorable early Bond flick.
Synopsis: During the Cold War, American and Russian spacecrafts go missing, leaving each superpower believing the other is to blame. As... [More]
Directed By: Lewis Gilbert

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 75068%
Critics Consensus: For Your Eyes Only trades in some of the outlandish Bond staples for a more sober outing, and the result is a satisfying adventure, albeit without some of the bombastic thrills fans may be looking for.
Synopsis: When a British ship is sunk in foreign waters, the world's superpowers begin a feverish race to find its cargo:... [More]
Directed By: John Glen

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 77473%
Critics Consensus: Newcomer Timothy Dalton plays James Bond with more seriousness than preceding installments, and the result is exciting and colorful but occasionally humorless.
Synopsis: British secret agent James Bond (Timothy Dalton) helps KGB officer Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) defect during a symphony performance. During... [More]
Directed By: John Glen

#11

Licence to Kill (1989)
78%

#11
Adjusted Score: 81724%
Critics Consensus: License to Kill is darker than many of the other Bond entries, with Timothy Dalton playing the character with intensity, but it still has some solid chases and fight scenes.
Synopsis: James Bond (Timothy Dalton) takes on his most-daring adventure after he turns renegade and tracks down one of the international... [More]
Directed By: John Glen

#10

GoldenEye (1995)
79%

#10
Adjusted Score: 84370%
Critics Consensus: The first and best Pierce Brosnan Bond film, GoldenEye brings the series into a more modern context, and the result is a 007 entry that's high-tech, action-packed, and urbane.
Synopsis: When a powerful satellite system falls into the hands of Alec Trevelyan, AKA Agent 006 (Sean Bean), a former ally-turned-enemy,... [More]
Directed By: Martin Campbell

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 85360%
Critics Consensus: Though it hints at the absurdity to come in later installments, The Spy Who Loved Me's sleek style, menacing villains, and sly wit make it the best of the Roger Moore era.
Synopsis: In a globe-trotting assignment that has him skiing off the edges of cliffs and driving a car deep underwater, British... [More]
Directed By: Lewis Gilbert

#8
Adjusted Score: 87836%
Critics Consensus: George Lazenby's only appearance as 007 is a fine entry in the series, featuring one of the most intriguing Bond girls in Tracy di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg), breathtaking visuals, and some great ski chases.
Synopsis: Agent 007 (George Lazenby) and the adventurous Tracy Di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) join forces to battle the evil SPECTRE organization... [More]
Directed By: Peter R. Hunt

#7

No Time to Die (2021)
83%

#7
Adjusted Score: 105751%
Critics Consensus: It isn't the sleekest or most daring 007 adventure, but No Time to Die concludes Daniel Craig's franchise tenure in satisfying style.
Synopsis: In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace... [More]
Directed By: Cary Joji Fukunaga

#6

Thunderball (1965)
87%

#6
Adjusted Score: 93137%
Critics Consensus: Lavishly rendered set pieces and Sean Connery's enduring charm make Thunderball a big, fun adventure, even if it doesn't quite measure up to the series' previous heights.
Synopsis: Led by one-eyed evil mastermind Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), the terrorist group SPECTRE hijacks two warheads from a NATO plane... [More]
Directed By: Terence Young

#5

Skyfall (2012)
92%

#5
Adjusted Score: 108066%
Critics Consensus: Sam Mendes brings Bond surging back with a smart, sexy, riveting action thriller that qualifies as one of the best 007 films to date.
Synopsis: When James Bond's (Daniel Craig) latest assignment goes terribly wrong, it leads to a calamitous turn of events: Undercover agents... [More]
Directed By: Sam Mendes

#4

Casino Royale (2006)
94%

#4
Adjusted Score: 105576%
Critics Consensus: Casino Royale disposes of the silliness and gadgetry that plagued recent James Bond outings, and Daniel Craig delivers what fans and critics have been waiting for: a caustic, haunted, intense reinvention of 007.
Synopsis: After receiving a license to kill, British Secret Service agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) heads to Madagascar, where he uncovers... [More]
Directed By: Martin Campbell

#3

Dr. No (1962)
95%

#3
Adjusted Score: 101096%
Critics Consensus: Featuring plenty of the humor, action, and escapist thrills the series would become known for, Dr. No kicks off the Bond franchise in style.
Synopsis: In the film that launched the James Bond saga, Agent 007 (Sean Connery) battles mysterious Dr. No, a scientific genius... [More]
Directed By: Terence Young

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 102214%
Critics Consensus: The second James Bond film, From Russia with Love is a razor-sharp, briskly-paced Cold War thriller that features several electrifying action scenes.
Synopsis: Agent 007 (Sean Connery) is back in the second installment of the James Bond series, this time battling a secret... [More]
Directed By: Terence Young

#1

Goldfinger (1964)
99%

#1
Adjusted Score: 104451%
Critics Consensus: Goldfinger is where James Bond as we know him comes into focus - it features one of 007's most famous lines ("A martini. Shaken, not stirred.") and a wide range of gadgets that would become the series' trademark.
Synopsis: Special agent 007 (Sean Connery) comes face to face with one of the most notorious villains of all time, and... [More]
Directed By: Guy Hamilton

As we all settle in to stay at home and socially distance ourselves, the planet has been given a unique resource not often afforded in the modern world: time. With no place to go, what shall we do with this new abundance of free hours? Time to finish that book you have had on your bedside table? Maybe take an online French class or learn to play an instrument? Time to binge every series that ever was? Or perhaps, like us, you’re thinking of all the films you wished you’d seen but never had the time to before.

Maybe one of those epic movie franchises that seemed too daunting to jump into late in the game – don’t ever admit you’ve never seen an MCU movie, ever – or a series of which you’ve caught a few entries but want to fill in the gaps. Fear not  we have you covered with our Epic Franchise Movie Binge Guide. Read below as we break down some of the most beloved long-running movie franchises – like The Lord of the Rings, Mission Impossible, or the granddaddy of them all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and tell you the best way to approach watching them, how long the binge will take, and which titles you can skip. Because hey, even all the time in the world may not be enough time to make you sit through A Good Day to Die Hard.

Disagree with our picks or have a suggestion for a franchise movie binge? Let us know in the comments. 


The Lord of the Rings

What is it: The film adaptations of the fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, set in ”Middle-earth,” the fictitious medieval land where elves, men, dwarves, wizards, and hobbits co-exist, often not so peacefully. Over the course of several films, we follow hobbit Bilbo Baggins and later his young heir Frodo Baggins as they go on adventures and battle against the forces of evil. 

How many hours: Extended editions: 20 hours 30 minutes; Theatrical cuts: 17 hours and 12 minutes.

Starts with:  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)  

Ends with: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)  

Best way to watch: Some would argue the second trilogy – though the first by story chronology – from Peter Jackson was an unnecessary and bloated cash grab that should be avoided at all costs, but we have a better suggestion. We suggest you begin with the LOTR animated film from 1978, which will give you all the events of the films in a quicker and to-the-point format. Then, if you are compelled to see the best of The Hobbit live-action series, we would say check out the standard edition of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which is the best of the three. We would also suggest you try to watch the extended editions of the original live-action LOTR series – they are more than worth it for the extra content. This recommendation would make for a shorter, 16-hour watch, which could be broken up easily over two days. 

Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. The Two Towers and The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King standard editions are streaming on Netflix.


Marvel Cinematic Universe

What is it: The 23-film saga that chronicles the epic adventures of various superheroes, based on the comics first distributed by Marvel and its subsidiaries. 

How many hours: 50 hours and 3 minutes.

Starts with:   Iron Man (2008)  

Ends with:  Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Best way to watch: Not surprising for a franchise that grossed over $22 billion at the global box office, but Marvel Studios’ 23-film, decade-long opus is quite watchable as is. Some folks would have argued in 2010 that Avengers: The Age of Ultron is a skippable mess, but as we detail here, it is essential viewing to truly appreciate the first four phases of the saga that culminated with Avengers: Endgame. Sorry for those looking for a shortcut, but watching it all is worth it. Viewing all 23 movies straight through, without breaks, however, is not the way to do it.

Instead, we suggest you go in release order and complete each day as follows: day one after Avengers; day two after Ant-man; day three after Black Panther; and finish on day four with Spider-Man: Far From Home. If you’ve previously watched the MCU and are looking to watch it in a new way, use our guide here to watch in chronological order based on the events of each film. If the thought of 50 hours of superheroes is still too intimidating for you, but you want to understand enough to get by, watch these character introduction films (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy) and these team-up films (Civil War, Winter Soldier, Avengers, Ultron, Infinity War, Endgame). Once you have finished that, check out our Oral Histories of the MCU, in which the directors, producer, and casting director who worked on the epic franchise break down all the behind-the-scene secrets.

Where to watch: FandangoNOW, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. All of the films save The Incredible Hulk and the Spider-Man films are streaming on Disney+. The Avengers: Infinity War and The Avengers: Endgame are streaming on Netflix; and Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, and Thor are streaming on Amazon Prime.


Die Hard Franchise

What is it: Follow John McClane, a police detective who seems to be a magnet for maniacal criminals no matter which city/structure he is in, and proves to be a tough man to kill.

How many hours: 10 hours and 14 minutes.

Starts with:  Die Hard (1988)

Ends with: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Best way to watch: The original Die Hard is so beloved that many argue it’s the greatest action film ever made – or maybe the greatest Christmas movie, but that is a debate for another day. The film and its follow-ups have a loyal fanbase, and though the second and third entries pale in comparison to the first, we still say they’re worth a watch. The fourth film, Live Free or Die Hard, is a true return to form and, frankly, it’s where you should stop unless you are a true completist. The series’ most recent film, A Good Day to Die Hard, is the only PG-13 entry on the list, and without McClane’s iconic “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf–ker,” there’s really no point pushing play.

Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discounted Bundle), Amazon,  iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance are streaming now on CinemaxGoLive Free or Die Hard is streaming on the Starz app.


The Fast & Furious Franchise

What is it: Follow Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew, which he calls his family, as they shift from illegal street-racing criminals to heist experts and then finally emerge as a new crime-fighting unit that tackles the world of espionage.

How many hours: 15 hours and 57 mins. 

Starts with: The Fast and the Furious (2001)

Ends with:  Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

Best way to watch: As Dom and everyone in the Fast franchise says – quite often – this is about family. So, if you’re looking for something to skip, it’s hard to imagine who you’d want to kick out one of the family – though, let’s be honest, 2 Fast 2 Furious is definitely not Dad’s favorite. Without Vin Diesel, that entry can barely call itself a Fast and Furious movie, and the 2009 series soft reboot, Fast & Furious, is not much better and an easy call to skip, as well. We would caution against skipping third entry Toyko Drift; its charms are significantly more than its 37% Tomatometer score would suggest (something we wax about in our book Rotten Movies We Love). Not to spoil anything, but when we finally get Fast 9 in 2021, you’ll need to have seen Tokyo Drift to understand everything fully – check out #JusticeForHan after you finish the series, and you will understand. 

Where to watch: FandangoNOW, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Hobbs & Shaw and Fast Five are streaming on HBOnow; Fast 6 is streaming on FXnow.


Rocky Franchise

What is it: Follow Philly underdog boxer-turned-champion, Rocky Balboa, as he battles various fighters in the ring, as well as his own issues outside of it, and later trains the next generation of champions.

How many hours: 14 hours and 55 minutes. 

Starts with: Rocky (1976)

Ends with:  Creed II (2018)

Best way to watch: This one’s real simple: trust us and skip Rocky V. Just pretend it didn’t happen; we’re pretty sure Sylvester Stallone did. 

Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, VuduGooglePlayRocky Balboa is streaming on the Starz appCreed II is streaming on Hulu and Amazon.


Harry Potter / Wizarding World Franchise

What is it: The franchise based on JK Rowling’s phenomenally successful novels follows the adventures of Harry Potter, an orphan-turned-famed wizard, the evil He Who Must Not Be Named, and the Wizarding World they inhabit.

How many hours: 24 hours and 6 minutes. 

Starts with:   Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Ends with:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

Best way to watch: As this is a British series, allow us to put this as politely as possible: Fantastic Beasts is simply not quite on form. The first entry is saved by Eddie Redmayne and mesmerizing magical effects; the second entry is the first and only Rotten flick from the Wizarding World and very skippable at this stage. The original seven films are near perfect, but if you wanted to pass over The Chamber of Secrets you wouldn’t miss much – you won’t be too confused later in the series. (Though if watching as a family, this is one the kids tend to like.) If you follow that suggestion, you can finish the entire series in one day.

Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlayFantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is streaming on HBONow.


X-Men Franchise

What Is It: Follow Professor Charles Xavier and his X-Men as they try to save the world and the lives of their fellow Mutants. Professor X and co. work with, and sometimes against, mutants like the powerful Magneto, Wolverine, and the wisecracking mercenary Deadpool.
How many hours: 21 hours and 43 minutes.

Starts with:   X-Men: First Class (2011)

Ends with:  Logan (2017)

How to watch: The critics will tell you that both X-Men: The Last Stand (the third of the original films) and X-Men: Apocalypse (the third of the rebooted, second-gen films) are shells of their brilliant predecessors. And with the last X-Men film to enter theaters, Dark Phoenix, disappointing on the Tomatometer and at the box office, you should essentially skip any film that has anything to do with Jean Gray’s Dark Phoenix. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is admittedly a hard watch to suffer through, but you kinda have to just to appreciate the brilliance of Deadpool and its sequel, if only for what they did differently with the character. Every film that character is in after Origins highlights why Ryan Reynolds was born to play the “Merc with a Mouth.”

Watching in the order of events is the best way to approach things if you don’t want to be confused by the time travel that happens later in the series. That order is: First Class, Days of Future Past, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix, X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine, Deadpool, Deadpool 2, Logan. If you leave off the aforementioned weakest entries (The Last Stand, Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix) you can complete the entire series in one day.

Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. X-Men: Days of Future Past and Deadpool are streaming on FXNowX-Men Origins: Wolverine is available to stream on the Starz app. 


Jurassic Park Franchise

What is it: In these films, we welcome you to Jurassic Park, a theme park – and eventually various associated islands, mansions, West Coast cities – where dinosaurs have been genetically recreated to walk the Earth alongside humans. Over the course of series we watch as that combination invariably doesn’t work out well for the humans.

How many hours: 10 hours and 1 minute.

Starts with:  Jurassic Park (1993)

Ends with:  Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Best way to watch: This was a subject of contentious debate among the RT staff: some thought the Jurassic World part of the franchise is unwatchable, while others had strong takes on Jurassic Park 3 and The Lost World. As this is only a five-film series so far, we compromised: Watch them all and make your own determinations. Either way, we all agreed that the original Jurassic Park is a bona fide classic, and if you haven’t seen it, please remedy this injustice as soon as possible. It only takes a day to watch them all. 

Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is streaming on CinemaxGo.


Mission Impossible Franchise

What is it: Watch secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his crew of talented spies as they battle the world’s most dangerous criminals along with the bureaucracy of his own organization, the IMF. The films are based on the 1960s television show.

How many hours: 13 hours and 3 minutes.

Starts with:   Mission: Impossible (1996)

Ends with:  Mission: Impossible -- Fallout (2018)

Best way to watch: It’s apparent after six films (with a seventh on the way): Tom Cruise really likes playing Ethan Hunt. And with every film, Cruise looks to top the jaw-dropping stunts from the last. Still, there is a stark contrast between the first three films and the rest, in regards to quality and scope. Many will tell you the second film, directed by John Woo, and the third, directed by J.J. Abrams, are the weakest of the set, but they’re still thoroughly enjoyable and feature some truly astonishing stunts – so we suggest you watch them all. And thankfully this is not – yes, we’re gonna say it – impossible to do in one or two days. 

Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Mission Impossible: Fallout is streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu; Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation are streaming on FXNow.


James Bond Franchise

What is it: James Bond, MI6 intelligence officer and international playboy, charms women, thwarts terrorist plots, and sips a shaken martini in well-tailored suits. Based on Ian Fleming’s iconic novels.

How many hours: 55 hours and 11 minutes.

Starts with:  Dr. No (1962)

Ends with:   Spectre (2015)

Best way to watch: For completists, we recommend you start with the Connery films on day one, then do a day of Timothy Dalton, David Niven (the satire Casino Royale from 1967), and George Lazenby’s films, adding one or two of Roger Moore’s. Finish with Moore on day three, then do a full day of Pierce Brosnan for day four, and end the series on day five with Daniel Craig. If that’s a bit too daunting, you can break up the films we suggested for one day across two days instead. If you’re looking for a few to skip, we’d suggest A View to Kill and Octopussy. We’d also suggest you skip Never Say Never Again, as it is a shadow of Connery’s older work; Moonraker is only enjoyable for how laughable it is; and there’s not enough vodka on earth to make The World is Not Enough a good time. Quantum of Solace is another one you can miss, but at least watch the opening scene – it’s fantastic.

Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, Itunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day are streaming on NetflixQuantum of Solace and Casino Royale (1967) are streaming on HBONow.


Star Trek Franchise

What is it: These are the stories of the USS Enterprise, crafted for the silver screen. Watch Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and later Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) as they lead their crews to the furthest reaches of the universe on a peacekeeping mission to discover new worlds. The films are based on the Star Trek television series and its subsequent spin-offs.

How many hours: 25 hours and 17 minutes.

Starts with:  Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Ends with:  Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Best way to watch: At the risk of angering the original series Trekkies, the first film – Star Trek: The Motion Picture – is simply not very good (it’s 42% on the Tomatometer). The same can be said of The Final Frontier. When we shift into The Next Generation part of the franchise, the series starts off strong but fizzles with Star Trek: Nemesis. We suggest you should skip those four. When you start the reboot franchise, some would advise you to skip Star Trek: Into Darkness, which was much maligned by the fandom but which we say is worth seeing for Benedict Cumberbatch, if nothing else. As far as ordering your binge, watching the series as the films were released is the way to go. Begin with the first set of films featuring the original series characters, followed by the films centering on the cast of The Next Generation, and finish with the reboot films that started in 2009. If you are skipping films following our advice, the new order is original series (The Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, The Voyage HomeUndiscovered Country), followed by the Next Generation films (Generations, First Contact, Insurrection), and finishing with the 2009 reboot films (Star Trek, Into Darkness, Beyond).

Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Star Treks 1-6, First Contact, Insurrection, and Generations are streaming AmazonStar Trek: Into Darkness is streaming on FXnow; and Star Trek Nemesis, First Contact, Generations are streaming on Crackle.


Thumbnail image: yParamount, Paramount, courtesy of the Everett Collection 

(Photo by © Warner Bros.)

Neil Blomkamp is reassembling RoboCopJoaquin Phoenix is getting his own Joker movie, and Robin is about to lead the Titans on streaming. That’s the great thing about our favorite characters: they’re never really gone – someone new can always bring them back. But how many of these adaptations really capture what we love about our favorite characters? And which adaptations do it best?

To find out, we took a deep look at 15 characters who have had at least five different versions of them made, and which have current or upcoming adaptations on the way. For some who’ve had dozens (thanks to public domain), we stuck to the 10 most famous versions. If a role was just recast during the same series – as opposed to a wholly new take – we counted them together. For each character, we also found their highest Tomatometer-rated portrayal – the ultimate arbiter of which version is the best (and likely the ultimate argument-starter among those who disagree!).


RoboCop

(Photo by © Orion/courtesy Everett Collection)

Number of RoboCops: 6

All the RoboCops: Original Trilogy (Peter Weller/Robert Burke), 1988 animated series (voice of Dan Hennessey), 1994 RoboCop TV Series (Richard Eden), RoboCop: Prime Directives TV series (Page Fletcher), 2014 RoboCop (Joel Kinnaman), Neil Blomkamp RoboCop (TBD)

The Best RoboCop: RoboCop (1987) 90%

No surprise, the original 1987 RoboCop is still rated highest. But we would never bet against Neil Blomkamp giving that version a run for its money.

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite RoboCop


The Joker

(Photo by ©Warner Home Video)

Number of Jokers: 17 and counting

10 Most Famous Jokers: ‘60s TV Series (Cesar Romero), 1989 Batman (Jack Nicholson), Batman: The Animated Series including Mask of the Phantasm and crossover films and series (voice of Mark Hamill), The Batman (voice of Kevin Michael Richardson), The Dark Knight (Heath Ledger), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (voice of Jeff Bennett), Suicide Squad (Jared Leto), The LEGO Batman Movie (Zach Galifianakis), Joker Origin Movie (Joaquin Phoenix), Martin Scorsese-Produced Joker Movie (Leonardo DiCaprio)

The Best Joker: Batman: The Animated Series

At 97%, Batman: The Animated Series edges out even The Dark Knight’s 94% if we judge versions purely by Tomatometer. Morgan Jeffery of Digital spy praised the show’s voice cast, saying, “On top of its beautiful visuals and vocals, Batman also boasted a tone far more adult than one might expect from a comic book cartoon.” Hamill’s Joker is so acclaimed that he continued voicing him in many animated incarnations. However, as live-action Jokers go, Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal is hard to top. Will Phoenix or DiCaprio do it?

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Joker


Batman

(Photo by © Warner Bros.)

Number of Batmans: 17 (including a radio show) and counting

10 Most Famous Batmans: ’60s Batman TV series (Adam West), The Batman/Superman Hour/Super Friends (voice of Olan Soule), Burton/Schumacher film series (Michael Keaton/Val Kilmer/George Clooney), Batman: The Animated Series through Justice League Unlimited (voice of Kevin Conroy), Batman Beyond (voice of Will Friedle), The Dark Knight trilogy (Christian Bale), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Diedrich Bader), Gotham (David Mazouz), DCEU (Ben Affleck), LEGO Movies (voice of Will Arnett), The Batman (TBA)

The Best Batman: Batman Beyond 100%

Batman earned his highest Tomatometer score in the futuristic Batman Beyond with 100%. EW’s Ken Tucker said, “The new, black-winged, red-blooded Batman on display Saturday mornings will have you pouring a steaming mug of coffee and shouldering aside any nearby children to catch all the fresh fun and action.” In the live-action realm, Christian Bale’s Dark Knight trilogy is the most consistently Fresh Batman series with a high of 94% for The Dark Knight.

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Batman


Robin Hood

(Photo by © Lionsgate)

Number of Robin Hoods: Dozens

The 10 Most Famous Robin Hoods: 1922 Robin Hood (Douglas Fairbanks), The Adventures of Robin Hood (Errol Flynn), Disney’s Robin Hood (voice of Brian Bedford), Robin and Marian (Sean Connery), Time Bandits (John Cleese), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Kevin Costner), Robin Hood (Patrick Bergin), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Cary Elwes), 2010 Robin Hood (Russell Crowe), 2018 Robin Hood (Taron Egerton)

The Best Robin Hood: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) 100%

With 100%, Errol Flynn is hands-down the most acclaimed Robin Hood. Not bad considering Rotten Tomatoes didn’t exist yet in 1938! But our critics still respect the classic, with Village Voice’s Elliott Stein commenting, “Movie pageantry at its best, done in the grand manner of silent spectacles, brimming over with the sort of primitive energy that drew people to the movies in the first place.”

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Robin Hood

Mulan

(Photo by ©Walt Disney Pictures)

Number of Mulans: 15

The 10 Most Famous Mulans: Hua Mulan Joins The Army (Hu Shan), Lady General Hua Mu Lan (Ivy Ling Po), The Saga of Mulan (Bai Shuxian), Disney Mulan franchise (voice of Ming-Na), The Secret of Mulan (uncredited voice), A Tough Side of a Lady (Mariane Chan), Mulan: Rise of a Warrior (Zhao Wei), Once Upon a Time (Jamie Chung), Live-Action Disney Mulan (Liu Yifei), Alex Graves-directed Mulan (TBD)

The Best Mulan: Mulan (1998) 86%

Since most of the Chinese film and television productions of the Mulan story weren’t available to international critics, the Disney Mulan currently wins on the Tomatometer by default. Film Journal International’s Wendy Weinstein wrote, “it is in the subtlety of its characters’ ‘acting’ that Mulan excels” and it does have an 86% Fresh rating. We have every hope for the upcoming live-action renditions, too.

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Mulan


Tinker Bell

(Photo by ©Walt Disney)

Number of Tinker Bells: Dozens

10 Most Famous Tinker Bells: 1924 Peter Pan (Virginia Browne Faire), Disney’s Peter Pan/Return to Neverland (Silent), 1960 Peter Pan (stage light), Hook (Julia Roberts), Peter Pan (Ludivine Sagnier), Neverland (Keira Knightley), Tinker Bell film series (voice of Mae Whitman), Peter Pan Live (CGI), Once Upon a Time (Rose McIver), Live-Action Tinker Bell (Reese Witherspoon)

The Best Tinker Bell: Tinker Bell (2008) 90%

Tinker Bell’s solo movie is even fresher than the original Disney Peter Pan, and subsequent sequels are Fresh too. The L.A. Times’ Michael Ordona wrote, “To its target audience, it will be another self-empowerment fable with loads of imagination and colorful, painterly images (and a keen marketing blast for Disney fairies).” The 1924 film is praised unanimously by a handful of critics, so it’s worth seeking out.

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Tinker Bell


Superman

(Photo by © The CW)

Number of Portrayals: 16 (including radio)

10 Most Famous Superman: Live-action serials (Kirk Alyn), Superman and the Mole Men + The Adventures of Superman (George Reeves), Superman: The Movie through Superman Returns (Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh), Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (Dean Cain), Superman: The Animated Series (voice of Tim Daly), Smallville (Tom Welling), Warner Animation Superman films (voices of Adam Baldwin, Kyle MacLachlan, Tim Daly, Mark Harmon, James Denton, Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Matt Bomer, Sam Daly, Alan Tudyk, Jerry O’Connell, Benjamin Bratt), DCEU (Henry Cavill), Supergirl (Tyler Hoechlin), Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (voice of Nicolas Cage)

The Best Superman: Superman: The Movie (1978) 94%

You never forget your first Superman, so the franchise that began with Christopher Reeve’s 94% Fresh Superman: The Movie remains the most acclaimed. As recently as this May, The Times UK’s Ed Potton called Reeve “manlier and steelier than recent portrayals by Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill.” John J. Puccio of Movie Metroplis (appropriate name) said of Reeve “the casting department found someone with just the right charisma to pull it off.” Recently, Tyler Hoechlin’s portrayal of Kal El on a few episodes of Supergirl earned new raves. Digital Spy’s Morgan Jeffery says, “Tyler Hoechlin is the best live-action Man of Steel since the sorely underrated Dean Cain hung up his tights.” TV Fanatic’s Stacy Glanzman agrees that Hoechlin “nailed it.” Give him a few more seasons and see if he can catch up to Reeve!

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Superman


James Bond

Sean Connery as James Bond

Number of Different James Bonds: 006

All the James Bonds: “Casino Royale” episode of Climax (Barry Nelson), EON Film Series (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig), Casino Royale comedy (Peter Sellers, David Niven, Woody Allen), “The British Hero” episode of Omnibus (Christopher Cazenove in re-enactments), Never Say Never Again (Sean Connery), James Bond Jr. (voice of Corey Burton)

The Best Portrayal: Goldfinger (1964) 99%

It’s the long-running EON films version of the character, obviously. At its height, these films scored a 97%. Roger Ebert remarked of Goldfinger and the franchise, “it is a great entertainment, and contains all the elements of the Bond formula that would work again and again.” Now, whether you pick Daniel Craig or Sean Connery as your favorite from this version…we’ll let that debate continue among Bond fans.

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite James Bond


Hulk

(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Number of Portrayals: 13 including Marvel animated guest appearances

10 Most Famous Hulks: The Marvel Super-Heroes (voice of Max Ferguson), The Incredible Hulk TV series (Lou Ferrigno), The Incredible Hulk animated series (voice of Bob Holt), The Marvel Action Hour (voice of Ron Perlman), The Incredible Hulk (voice of Neal McDonough), episodes of Iron Man: Armored Adventures (voice of Mark Gibbon), Superhero Squad Show (voice of Travis Willingham), Hulk (Eric Bana), MCU (Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo), The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes through Avengers Assemble and appearances on Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man (voice of Fred Tatasciore)

The Best Portrayal: Marvel's the Avengers (2012) 91%

With a 92%, The Avengers‘ incarnation of Hulk smashes the rest – and the MCU version as a whole, including Ed Norton and Mark Ruffolo’s tale,s has a Fresh average of 81.8% . The animated Earth’s Mightiest Heroes scores higher even than The Avengers, but with only five reviews, we’re still giving the title to the MCU’s Hulk Matt Brunson of Creative Loafing said when reviewing The Avengers, “The scene-stealer is Ruffalo, who provides Bruce Banner with a soulfulness missing in the portrayals by Bana and Norton.” Even CNN’s Tom Charity singled out the Hulk among other Avengers, saying, “Never underestimate the entertainment value of the Hulk Smash.”

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Hulk


Spider-Man

(Photo by © Columbia)

Number of Spider-Man: 16

The 10 Most Famous Spider-Men: The Amazing Spider-Man (Nicholas Hammond), Spider-Man (voice of Christopher Daniel Barnes), Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (voice of Neil Patrick Harris), Ultimate Spider-Man and LEGO Marvel (voice of Drake Bell), Sam Raimi Trilogy (Tobey Maguire), Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2 (Andrew Garfield), Turn Off The Dark (Reeve Carney and Justin Matthew Sargeant), LEGO Spider-Man (voice of Jackson Buffington), (MCU/Homecoming (Tom Holland), Into the Spider-verse (Jake Johnson and Shameik Moore)

Best Spider-Man: Spider-Man 2 (2004) 93%

With a peak at Spider-Man 2’s 93%, the Sam Raimi trilogy remains the most critically acclaimed Spider-Man films (Holland’s appearances in Captain America: Civil War and Homecoming comess close though.) AP’s Christy Lemire praised the series when reviewing the second film: “The web-slinging sequences are bigger-better-brighter-faster than the already spectacular ones in 2002’s Spider-Man, and at the same time, the film’s smaller emotional moments are denser, richer and more resonant than those in the first.”

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Spider-Man


Jughead Jones

(Photo by © The CW)

Number of Jugheads: 7

All the Jugheads: Radio show (voices of Hal Stone, Cameron Andrews and Arnold Stang), The Archie Show and spinoffs (voice of Howard Morris), The New Archies (voice of Michael Fantini), Archie’s Weird Mysteries (voice of Chris Lundquist), 1976 Archie pilot and ’78 special Archie Situation Comedy Musical Variety Show (Derrel Maury), Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again (Sam Whipple), Riverdale (Cole Sprouse)

Best Jughead: Riverdale 84%

Riverdale has a series Tomatometer score of 88%, crowning Cole Sprouse as the best Jughead. It’s also the only take who’s been reviewed enough to have a Tomatometer score, but we have a feeling this CW fan favorite would likely win against his animated competition even if the data was there.

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Jughead 


He-Man

Number of He-Men: 5

All the He-Men: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (voice of John Erwin), Masters of the Universe (Dolph Lundgren), The New Adventures of He-Man (voice of Garry Chalke and Doug Parker), 2002 series (Cam Clarke), New Live-Action Film In Development

Best He-Man: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe 100%

Boy, did all the Tomatometer critics grow up on the weekday afternoon cartoon in the ’80s, or what? Well, this one may still be up for grabs if they make a really cool live-action movie, but for now the original cartoon is the master. Nerdist’s Rosie Knight puts it in perspective saying, “Beloved for many reasons. There’s the notoriously rushed production… giving it a unique and charming look. It’s also revered for its vision of a kid friendly techno-barbarian landscape.”

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite He-Man


The Punisher

(Photo by © Netflix)

Number of Punishers: 6

All The Punishers: 1989 The Punisher (Dolph Lundgren), Spider-Man: The Animated Series (voice of John Beck), 2004 The Punisher (Thomas Jane), Punisher: War Zone and Super Hero Squad Show (Ray Stevenson), Netflix series (Jon Bernthal), Avengers Assemble episode “Planet Doom” (uncredited)

Best Punisher: Marvel's Daredevil: Season 2 (2016) 81%

Bernthal remains the only certified Fresh Punisher, and his stint on Daredevil season 2 bested even his own series (though Marvel’s The Punisher is still Fresh). New York Observer’s Vinnie Mancuso singles out Bernthal’s haunted portrayal, “Jon Bernthal is the perfect Punisher because there is zero fun in his performance.”In reviewing Daredevil‘s second season, Aggressive Comix’s Steph Cozza adds, “The Punisher is the true MVP here.”

Poll: Vote for Your favorite Punisher


Godzilla

(Photo by © Toho Films)

Number of Godzillas: 9

All the Godzillas: 31 Toho Films, Hanna-Barbera Godzilla, Godzillaland, Godzilla Island, 1998 Godzilla, Godzilla: The Series, Nike commercial with Charles Barkle, Legendary Films’ Godzilla, Netflix Godzilla

The Best Godzilla: Godzilla (1954) 93%

With a 93% for the classic Gojira and seven more Fresh movies in the franchise, nobody’s done Godzilla better than Toho. The Washington Post’s Stephen Hunter put it best in 2004 when he said, “Its images of the destruction of the cities is far more powerful than in American films, where the cities are trashed for the pure pleasure of destruction, without any real sense of human loss.”

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite Godzilla


King Kong

King Kong, 1933

Number of Kongs: 9

All the Kongs: 1933 King Kong and Son of Kong (stop motion animation), 1966 King Kong animated series, King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes, 1976 King Kong (voice of Peter Cullen) and King Kong Lives (Peter Elliott), Kong: The Animated Series and Return to the Jungle, 2005 King Kong (Andy Serkis), Kong: King of Atlantis,  Kong: King of the Apes (voice of Lee Tockar), Legendary King Kong (Toby Kebbell)

The Best Kong: King Kong (1933) 98%

Certified Fresh at 98%, the original 1933 Kong is still King (its sequel, rushed into release later in 1933, not so much). Robert Ebert explained why it still works nearly a century later, writing that “there is something ageless and primeval about King Kong that still somehow works.”

Poll: Vote for Your Favorite King Kong


There are many more characters who’ve been portrayed over and over again. Who are your favorites? Tell us in the comments.

 With over fifty years of Bond villains, we thought it would be fun to see who is the fan favorite. Take a look at the poll below and cast your vote. Don’t see your favorite listed? Let us know in the comments! Also, head over to Twitter to enter for a chance to win The Ultimate James Bond Collection and Spectre on Blu-ray.

[socialpoll id=”2329464″]

1967CasinoRoyale1

Like similarly Texas-sized opuses It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Cleopatra, and 1941, the 1967 James Bond spy spoof Casino Royale is notable primarily for its magnitude. It’s distinguished by its Spruce Goose-like size as well as its Spruce Goose-level sleekness and effectiveness. It was less a film than a universe unto itself. Nearly a half century later, it’s still remarkable that enough money and willpower existed in the world to get such a gaudy, endless parade of star power, production values, and dizzying, dazzling eye candy onscreen in one ridiculously overstuffed extravaganza. This is true even if Casino Royale often feels like a one-joke movie whose single gag is, “Isn’t it crazy how much money we’re wasting?”

But Casino Royale also took up a lot of cultural space because it was, and remains, inextricably linked to the James Bond franchise, an institution that has ferociously held on to its central place in the pop culture landscape longer than just about any ongoing franchise. It was the first big cinematic adaptation of the Bond series released without the participation of producer Albert R. Broccoli, although it was less a straight adaptation than a spoof that used the bare bones of Ian Fleming’s story as the springboard for a terminally dated goof.

The 2006 Daniel Craig version of Casino Royale, which reinvented and reimagined the series, stood out in part because it swung as hard in the direction of grim, grounded seriousness as its quasi-predecessor did in the loopy realm of anything-goes screwball comedy. It benefited from a clear-cut authorial vision, one much bolder and more distinctive than had ever been associated with director Martin Campbell before. But the 1967 Casino Royale feels like it was assembled by an international team of highly paid, highly confused professionals who had no idea what anybody else was doing and precious little interest in how their jagged, weird little contributions would serve a whole that seemed to be steadily slipping away from the filmmakers even before production began.

DavidNiven2

Casino Royale feels like it was assembled by an international team of highly paid, highly confused professionals.”

Casino Royale feels like an anthology film comprised of four or five discrete segments from different filmmakers with different aesthetics that were frantically refashioned into a narrative film at the last minute. That’s not too far from the truth, as the film has a starting basketball team’s worth of credited directors and an army of uncredited script doctors. It’s as if the producers decided the way to create the greatest, most decadent feast in cinematic history would be to invite the greatest chefs in the world all to collaborate on one massive meal, conveniently forgetting the old cliche about too many cooks spoiling the broth.

But on to the film itself. In one of Casino Royales many intriguing-in-theory, hopelessly muddled-in-execution conceits, its primary James Bond is actually a very proper English gentleman (a Sir, even, in his majesty’s secret service) played by David Niven, who has retired from active duty following a career of extraordinary achievement to enjoy a peaceful existence ruled by classical music, gardening and extreme propriety.

Sir James Bond reluctantly agreed to let the Queen use his name and number (and license to kill, it would follow) for the sex fiend immortalized by Ian Fleming in his novels and the Broccoli-produced films, and is none too happy about being associated with someone of such low moral character.

In this case, casting is destiny; Sir James Bond is essentially the persona Niven perfected over the course of his career: droll, wry, the very picture of bone-dry British wit. He stutters and stammers but he’s a wiz in a pinch, as evidenced by the fact that an international coterie of bigwigs, including characters played by William Holden, John Huston and Charles Boyer, seek him out when the sinister entity known as SMERSH is liquidating top secret agents from around the world.

Niven’s Bond is initially reluctant, but he ultimately ends up spearheading MI6’s campaign against SMERSH. To confuse the enemy, Bond seizes upon the novel notion of renaming all of the agency’s operatives in the field “James Bond” and assigning them all the code number “007,” even the women. For the purposes of Casino Royale, David Niven is James Bond, and Peter Sellers is James Bond as well, and even Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet), Bond’s daughter with legendary female spy and seductress Mata Hari, enters the family profession as another James Bond in an endless sequence rich in exotic, lush sensuality yet almost utterly devoid of jokes.

Sellers plays world-famous baccarat expert Evelyn Tremble, who is recruited to square off against Le Chiffre, a sinister heavy (no pun intended) played by Orson Welles, in a high stakes battle of wills at the card table. In a somewhat curious strategy, the famously prickly and unpleasant Sellers decided that the way for him to stand out opposite the high-powered likes of Welles and Woody Allen (who previously tangled with Sellers on the set of What’s New Pussycat and engendered his eternal contempt and hatred by being funnier than him) would be to eschew comedy altogether and deliver a straight-faced performance, where he’d show Niven a thing or two about what it meant to play a dashing continental gentleman of action. So a popular favorite for funniest man alive decided to buck expectations and play it completely straight in one of the biggest comedies of all time. It was a bold, if perverse, choice, but Sellers compounded the curiousness of his involvement with the film by bolting before his scenes were finished, leaving the filmmakers to scramble and figure out a way to coherently end their film without the participation of a man who, with the possible exception of Niven, could rightly be said to be its star.

PeterSellers1

“Sellers seems to make a deliberate choice not to be funny.”

Sellers at least seems to make a deliberate choice not to be funny; the rest of the cast arrives in the same place by accident, and often through furious and furiously wasted exertion. For a film committed to excess in all its forms, Casino Royale is peculiarly short on actual gags. Because the James Bond movies delight in winking at audiences as they lovingly recycle the franchise’s tropes, a parody of James Bond almost by definition would come across as a parody of a parody, a spoof of a spoof, a goof of a slightly different, slightly more straight-faced kind of goof. Accordingly, Casino Royale feels like a Mad Magazine parody of itself. It’s not an encouraging sign that the film’s idea of a risque Bond girl name (“Giovanna Goodthighs,” played by a young, pre-stardom Jaqueline Bisset) is less outrageous than actual Bond girl names like Pussy Galore.

For all of the smart and talented people who worked on Casino Royale, there is no animating intelligence uniting its disparate strains. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster whose stitches fall apart, leaving behind only a surreal tangle of severed limbs on the ground. The actors and filmmakers all seem to have their own conception of who James Bond is and how he functions in the world, and these conceptions clash violently with each other when they engage with the others at all. And the behind-the-scenes craziness bleeds onto the screen constantly. Characters are introduced then abandoned for endless stretches of time, only to come back just as nonsensically. Sellers’ Tremble simply disappears late in the film, at which point Woody Allen (who is entertaining because he’s a young Woody Allen, albeit not as entertaining as he’d be in just about any other context around this time) takes over as a manic evil genius with a diabolical plan to kill all men taller than him so he can turn the world into his harem.

All of this barely controlled chaos climaxes with an endless fight involving the main characters, and Native Americans, and cowboys, and just about everyone else in the world (including George Raft for some reason), which suggests that the filmmakers ultimately gave up on providing any kind of coherent, satisfying ending at all, and simply gave themselves over to the random insanity of the movie. The ending plays out as if the best single stage direction the film’s world-class brain trust could come up with was: “Craziness ensues.”

Native007

“The behind-the-scenes craziness bleeds onto the screen constantly.”

Casino Royale is rich in all of the qualities that do not make comedies funny. It has enough sexy women to stock Playboy clubs in the major cities of the world and substantially more stars than there are in the heavens. It has enormous sets that would look better lovingly photographed and collected into a coffee table book on a surrealistic 1960s go-go set design than relegated to the background of a comedy whose laugh-per-dollar-spent ratio rivals 1941 for sheer waste in pursuit of non-comedy. I would rather admire that coffee table book while listening to Burt Bacharach’s score than have to endure this clattering contraption’s screaming psychedelic sound and frenetic motion.

Casino Royale is a lush opus full of Oscar-worthy production values, particularly a costume department whose gorgeous get-ups for exotic lovelies dazzle the eye even as they leave the funny bone untouched. It’s paradoxically way, way too much in every sense, and not much of anything at all. It’s a whole lot of movie, and one big cinematic headache.

There is a tendency in our culture to honor things disproportionately just for hanging around. In a world full of fleeting and ephemeral phenomena, we honor resilience. Familiarity may breed contempt, but it sometimes breeds affection as well.

In that respect, Casino Royale is like a crappy version of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree that has always been there for me at various points in my life to let me down. When I was a kid obsessed with James Bond, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, crazy comedies and sexy girls in revealing outfits, I was disappointed to discover that Casino Royale somehow managed to combine these irresistible elements in an eminently resistible package. As a teenaged cinephile I was intrigued to see how the fascinating sensibilities of Welles, Allen, Sellers, Huston and behind-the-scenes (and uncredited) contributors Ben Hecht, Billy Wilder, Joseph Heller and Terry Southern came together, and I was frustrated to see that when these incredibly distinctive entertainers collaborated, they did so in a way that negated both their personalities and their brilliance.

Finally, I re-watched Casino Royale for this piece through the prism of both the mania for Spectre and my own childhood and adolescent nostalgia for this big, dumb, Day-Glo burst of uber-kitsch; I was disappointed yet again. This elephantine curio stubbornly refuses to transcend the muddled, mercenary nature of its creation and evolve from an ugly and confused duckling (albeit one with great clothes) into a beautiful cult swan.


My Original Certification: Rotten
My Re-Certification: Rotten
Tomatometer: 29 percent


Follow Nathan Rabin on Twitter: @NathanRabin

Bond, James Bond is back. His 26 movies over 53 years have created a long legacy of international espionage, daring escapes, stellar gadgets, and, yes, beautiful women. Celebrate the release of Spectre with our 50 favorite Bond girls throughout history.

 

 

I end my epic journey today with a writeup of Quantum of Solace, the follow-up to 2006’s Casino Royale that continues the story of a heartbroken Bond out for revenge.


Quantum of Solace (2008) 64%

QuantumOfSolace1

Well, here we are. After 24 whirlwind days in the world of James Bond, I’ve come to the final movie thus far in the franchise, Quantum of Solace. It’s been a remarkable experience, and I’m actually kind of sad it’s over, but all good things must come to an end. Brace yourselves, and be warned that while I’ve kept this writeup spoiler-free, you may still want to refrain from reading it until after you’ve seen Quantum of Solace.

I’ve mentioned here and there over the course of this series that watching all of these Bond films has helped me to understand the film universe of 007 on a much deeper level. There are things that I’ve come to expect from a James Bond movie, regardless of who the actor was and during what era the movie was produced. These things are the tried and true elements of the Bond persona, and while one may argue this persona has strayed heavily from its source material, one cannot deny that the silver screen Bond has established a sort of mythology all his own. I think some of you can see where I’m going with this.

Casino Royale effectively upended this mythology and sought to establish a new identity for 007. Not only was he rewritten to be darker and more ruthless, but the transformation was made complete by the controversial casting of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Daniel Craig, arguably less dashing than his predecessors but with a rugged face more suited for the brutal killer Bond would become. At the same time, Casino Royale retained a bit of charm, a pinch of humor, and enough of the familiar conventions that I had come to know and love as distinctly “James Bond.”

With all of this in mind, I also had certain expectations when I finally took my seat to watch Quantum of Solace, but again, my expectations were thoroughly challenged. I don’t want to get into specific details, because I’m not a film critic, and I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who has yet to see the film. But while I generally liked the movie, I enjoyed it for very different reasons than Casino Royale, and truthfully speaking, I was left with somewhat of a bittersweet aftertaste.

First of all, QoS is action packed. And I mean wall-to-wall, relentless, grimy, cathartic action. The very beginning of the movie plunges the audience into a high octane car chase, the pre-credit spectacle, and the remainder pauses only briefly to expand the plot. It wasn’t always easy to tell what was going on, what with the jittery camera work, but every knuckle to the jaw resounded with a visceral crunch, every gunshot popped with fury, and every fall to the ground vibrated through my back. Bond is just as ferocious, thrusting his body into countless perilous situations and emerging victoriously with an intense glare on his face and a smattering of dirt caked onto his clothes.

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However, aside from a couple of allusions to the Bond franchise (including an obvious homage to Goldfinger), the movie suffers from a lack of signature Bond elements. Though the gadgets, one-liners, massive lairs, Q, and Moneypenny were also absent in Casino Royale, that film still felt like a Bond film because of the nature of its characters and the structure of the story. Quantum of Solace, on the other hand, sports a relatively straightforward script and, despite the promise of a continuing revenge plot, one gets the sense its plot points exist solely to provide context for the explosive action sequences. Bond is also more stoic than ever, with precious few lines of dialogue and little development of his character beyond “I’m pissed off, and someone’s gonna pay!” Whether or not it’s more faithful to Ian Fleming’s novels is moot; because the 007 of the silver screen had been established for forty years, I think it’s somewhat understandable for some fans to be distraught over this.

But this is the double-edged sword. I gained a greater appreciation for Casino Royale after having watched all of its predecessors; this is not necessary to enjoy Quantum of Solace. It’s a hard-hitting action movie that doesn’t require one to be a die-hard Bond fan to indulge in its visceral thrills, so I think fans of action flicks in general will be able to appreciate it on some level, despite it having a thinner plot and no deep connection to the previous installments. This is pure adrenaline, and if that’s all you’re after, it may suffice. If you want more than that, you’ll probably be disappointed, and those simply looking forward to James Bond wreaking havoc will have a better time.

I’ve enjoyed being able to experience all these films with you all, and I never expected to engage you as much as I did in discussing these films. From Dr. No to Quantum of Solace, a whole new universe was opened up to me, and I now have an affection for these films I never would have had before. Thanks for following along with me these past few weeks, and for those of you who have asked if we’ll do this again: yes, based on all of your support for this series, we are currently discussing doing another one, though nothing is finalized.

On a final note, also due to comments many of you have made, here are a few favorites (ane one least favorite) of mine:

  • Favorite Movie: Dr. No
  • Least Favorite Movie: Die Another Day
  • Favorite Bond Actor: Sean Connery
  • Favorite Bond Girl: Tracy di Vicenzo
  • Favorite Villain: Jaws
  • Favorite Car: 1963 Aston Martin DB5
  • Favorite Song: “Live and Let Die” – Paul McCartney and Wings

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Daniel Craig is the new 007, and he is one determined agent. He’s grimy and dark, but stylish and sensitive. And he’s really good at killing people.


Casino Royale (2006) 94%

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I am going to be honest here: the first and only time I saw Casino Royale two years ago, I was underwhelmed by it. Yes, I had certain ideas in mind about what Bond was like, and when Daniel Craig was chosen as the new 007, even I balked and thought, “I can’t see how he fits into my perception of James Bond.” When my friends all returned from a viewing, however, and told me how much they loved the movie, and how incredible Craig was, I decided I would give it a chance. At the time, I was disappointed, and I don’t honestly recall why. I also retained very little from that movie, which is a testament to how little I cared for it. So, when I re-viewed it last night, I was blown away by how wrong I was.

Initially, I completely forgot that Casino Royale was meant to be a reboot of the franchise, so when the opening scene makes mention of Bond just recently being granted “double-0” status, it immediately jogged my memory. Similar revelations would occur later in the film when Bond “acquires” his classic Aston Martin DB5, and when he meets Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) for the first time — since I finally had some context, I reacted to this meeting with a giddy, “Ohhh, that’s Felix Leiter!” This was a giddiness I didn’t experience the first go-round, and it would characterize several moments throughout the film for me.

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There were some things I noticed in Casino Royale that recalled elements from the series as a whole, and these were again things I didn’t pick up on without the full context. First of all, while the early parkour chase scene was incredibly shot and choreographed, it demonstrated a continuance of Bond’s habit of recklessness, as he not only destroys an entire construction site in Madagascar, but also storms into the grounds of an embassy and shoots an unarmed man on camera. Next, there’s also the disposable mistress-of-a-bad guy who he beds for information and who ultimately gets iced. Then, there’s the sophisticated nemesis who’s not only asthmatic but also sports a freaky eye that “weeps blood.” I don’t point these out as flaws; on the contrary, they are dutiful homages to the franchise that reassure us we are indeed seeing James Bond, however different in tone he might be, and I was able to appreciate them in a way I couldn’t when I first saw this movie. When Bond puts on a tux for the first time, for example, and his theme music rises in the background, I cracked a warm smile.

Then there’s the Bond girl, Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd, who plays a crucial role in the film and provides the kind of sexual tension only a few other Bond girls have been able to manage. Her conversations with Bond were some of the most fun dialogue in the movie, and her role was written convincingly enough that when Bond eventually falls for her, I bought it wholesale. The twist at the end adds an even deeper level to her character, making her one of the best Bond girls, period, if not the best.

I also enjoyed M’s role in Casino Royale. Every time I thought to myself, “Gee, that was careless of him,” or “There goes Bond’s libido again,” M pretty much echoed my thoughts and spat them directly at Bond herself. She plays the voice of reason in the movie, and she let me know that the writers were aware of many of the things I’d seen in the previous Bond movies and that this new Bond was bucking the system anyway. This only further reinforced the idea that Bond does not live in an alternate universe of loose logic and no consequences; he simply doesn’t care, and he’s going to do whatever he damn well pleases anyway. In other words, Bond is a badass.

Daniel Craig makes an intimidating 007, but he is not without humor, and Casino Royale isn’t all blood and brooding. The action sequences are all pretty impressive, though some are better than others, and they are spaced out nicely by important plot elements that are engaging to watch in their own right. However, I thought Le Chiffre was a so-so villain, and I can understand some of the criticisms I’ve heard about this movie taking inspiration from the Bourne series. But I don’t fault the makers of Casino Royale for wanting to take Bond in a new direction, because it feels more in line with what modern moviegoers are looking for in an action film. Audiences are smarter and more discerning now than ever, so it makes sense to reboot the franchise with material that hits harder. With all of this in mind, be sure to come back tomorrow for my thoughts on Quantum of Solace.

Favorite line: “Now the world’s gonna know you died scratching my balls!”

Favorite moment: I loved the parkour chase. I thought it was breathtaking even the first time I saw it, and rewatching it last night was no different.


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We come to the end of the Pierce Brosnan era, and he exits the Bond universe in a flurry of silliness.


Die Another Day (2002) 56%

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When I went to the video store to pick up my last two rentals in this series, the guy ringing me up said, “How are you gonna rent Die Another Day and Casino Royale at the same time? Casino Royale was off the hook, but Die Another Day has an invisible car!” With that over-the-counter assessment in mind, I set off to embark on the wild ride that is Die Another Day, the final Pierce Brosnan installment and one that would yield more scribbles in my notebook than any other thus far.

The opening action sequence is the first one in a while that failed to impress me. There are hovercrafts and exploding diamonds, and it was novel (if not ridiculous) to see Bond surfing his way onto a North Korean beach, but it wasn’t very exciting. It’s also the first time we don’t see Bond escape at the end of the preliminary scenes, and as the opening credits roll by to an awful Madonna song, we see glimpses of Bond’s life in captivity, slowly transforming into Robinson Crusoe. When the song dies down and a scraggly Bond is trotted out before a North Korean general, you almost expect him to be carrying a volleyball with a face painted on it.

Usually, I can forgive lapses in logic if the execution of the story is strong enough to merit it, but this was not often the case in Die Another Day. Take, for example, the first encounter that Bond has with the central villain, Gustav Graves (played by Toby Stephens). Graves is practicing a bit of fencing in what appears to be a fancy private studio when Bond comes strolling in — we’re not even clear how either of them got here, as the last scene has Graves on his way to meet the Queen, with Bond standing in the audience as Graves drives away. Bond sidles up to the fencing instructor, played by Madonna, and after a mere exchange of names, she offers to introduce him to Graves. Why? Who knows?

Then, after the ensuing introduction, Graves and Bond engage in a friendly fencing match — okay, fine. But after Bond ups the ante with a controversial diamond from Graves’s company, Graves insists they raise the stakes, fence with real swords, and choose a winner based on who draws blood first. They do so, and everyone simply watches for about 5 minutes before Graves’s assistant steps in and stops the fight. This makes absolutely no sense. If I walked into a private gun range where Bill Gates was engaged in target practice, then challenged him to a duel at twenty paces with live ammunition, and nobody did anything to stop us, that MIGHT come close to what took place in the aforementioned scene.

If you can, with good conscience, chalk these up to subtle, innocent oversights, then consider what else Die Another Day offers. There’s the poorly constructed set pieces that look like they were built by high school drama teams in their garages; there’s Q branch’s incredible leaps in technology, like a seamless virtual reality battle simulator and the infamous invisible car; there’s Bond surfing on a tidal wave caused by a collapsing glacier; there’s Graves’s ice palace and electrified Nintendo Power Glove. I’m sorry, but when did they bring Joel Schumacher in to direct a Bond movie?

And what about the acting? Well, in all honesty, it wasn’t that bad, but there also isn’t a whole lot of opportunity for actors to emote in any of these Bond films. The “acting” here mostly consists of thinly veiled (emphasis on “thinly”) double entendres, lots of scowling, some screaming, and a few lines of expository dialogue. What’s sad is that, even with such a simple script, there is still room to screw it up, which Halle Berry (as Jinx) does on numerous occasions. Now, this might be personal bias, but I wouldn’t place Berry much higher than Denise Richards, and I never have, Oscar win notwithstanding. I have never thought she was a great actress, and she did nothing to convince me otherwise in this movie, so it was pretty much par for the course.

Overall, I thought this was an absolutely ludicrous and unnecessary addition to the Bond series. It felt like they hired the writers of the James Bond Jr. cartoon series to pen the script for Die Another Day because everyone else was too busy working on movies that actually required some logic. However — and this is a big “however” — if you’re able to turn your brain off completely, or if you’re the type of attention-deficit viewer this movie was obviously aimed at (and which I can be from time to time), it will certainly keep you occupied for a couple of hours. It’s silly, it’s inane, it’s excessive, and sometimes it’s even downright stupid, but when you break it down, it pretty much follows the same formula shared by many of the Bond films, so if you rent it, you know what you’re getting into anyway.



Favorite line: Zao: “Who sent you?” Jinx: “Yo momma.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is quality dialogue.

Favorite moment: There’s a touching scene at the end when Graves reveals his true identity to his father, the aforementioned North Korean general. The audience already knows this, and as the general enters the room, Graves is standing with his back turned to him. He turns to face his father, but all suspense is ruined when we see he’s wearing a ridiculous pair of goggles to match his Power Gloves. I actually laughed out loud.


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The World Is Not Enough continues Bond’s signature antics with nothing particularly new to offer. I didn’t think it was as bad as some have said, but it probably wouldn’t make it into my top 10 either.


The World Is Not Enough (1999) 52%

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Twenty films in, and my affection for James Bond only grows. The first thing I want to say before I begin is that I absolutely love the James Bond theme music. As the gun barrel spiral zeroes in on Bond in the intro before The World Is Not Enough, we hear a slightly updated version of the music, and not only is it an iconic tune, but it’s just great music, period. It’s a testament to John Barry’s talent that the same music could be used for every Bond movie, with few changes, and still sound great; it never gets old. I can’t say the same for some of the theme songs that have accompanied a few of the films, but while I’m not a Sheryl Crow fan, I thought her song for Tomorow Never Dies actually wasn’t too bad, and Garbage’s song for The World Is Not Enough was even better.

It seems they’ve finally settled Brosnan comfortably into the role of 007, as evidenced by the first handful of scenes. The pre-credits opening again sets the standard impressively high for action throughout the movie, with its improbable boat chase and freefall from a hot air balloon. Once placed in physical therapy for his injuries, Bond also recalls his skeevier days by sleeping with his doctor in exchange for a clean bill of health, allowing him to return to active duty. Then we have the obligatory Q Branch scene, albeit a sad one, as Desmond Llewelyn seems to be bidding us farewell as Q. I really loved his character, but I understand his need to pass the torch, as he was starting to resemble a muppet. I’m happy with the choice of John Cleese as his successor, though his introduction signals the beginning of a goofier Q than we’ve come to know, and I’ll definitely miss Llewelyn.

I was pleased with the idea that Sophie Marceau’s character, Elektra King, was one of the two central villains. This is, more or less, what I was referring to a few movies ago when I speculated how neat it would be to incorporate a female nemesis. I suspected early on that she was playing Bond for a fool, but there was enough intrigue in the plot to make me question my decision once or twice. Her counterpart, Renard (played by Robert Carlyle, who I like) was sufficiently menacing, but I thought he was somewhat underused. Unfortunately, while Marceau and Renard are both great actors, in my opinion, to have both of them share bad-guy duties ensured that neither of them really shone as the true villain.

The action, as I’ve mentioned, was very good yet again, though I’m noticing a few things. First of all, there are key elements that a Bond movie must have to be a Bond movie. At first I identified these elements simply as motorized chases, but I’ve come to expand on that. The chase must be either in a car or in a boat, and in the rare case will incorporate a chopper. Secondly, there is the option of having a winter sports chase, typically on skis, that results in at least one enemy falling to his or her death (on a side note, all rich people are expert extreme-skiers). Lastly, the final battle must always be so long that it becomes laborious and unexciting, which was the case for me in TWINE.

I am enjoying watching the relationship between Bond and the new M develop. Judi Dench’s M is a very different M than that of Bernard Lee. While Lee was constantly shaking his finger at Bond and treating him in much the same way that Q did, like a father giving his son a noogie, Dench plays the role with a much more serious tone. In addition, I believe TWINE is the first Bond film to involve M in the plot significantly, and I think this helps to elevate her character beyond a simple paper pusher sending Bond out on all these crazy missions.

Having said all of this, there is nothing particularly notable about The World Is Not Enough. It’s fairly typical, as far as Bond films are concerned, and nothing new or particularly earth shattering is introduced. And, of course, it had its faults; there’s Bond throwing out puns and one-liners like there’s no tomorrow, and there’s the casting of Denise Richards – I didn’t have a problem with her claiming to be a nuclear scientist, but I did have a problem with her atrocious acting, and even this isn’t something I haven’t seen before. To be honest, I took very few notes while watching this movie, because there wasn’t a whole lot to remark on. Overall, I was underwhelmed, and while the production quality of the Bond films has increased dramatically over the years, I feel that they’ve lost something in the way of charm, and with only two more films to watch, I find myself more drawn to the earlier installments.

Favorite line: “He’s no atomic scientist.” — Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones (what is this, a blaxploitation film?) when Bond is discovered impersonating a scientist. Oh the irony…

Favorite moment: It’s a sentimental one. I almost choked up when Bond turned to Q and said, “You’re not retiring any time soon… are you?” and Q descended out of view, saying, “Always have an escape plan.” You’re my boy, Q!


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Brosnan returns as 007 in Tomorrow Never Dies and blows up a lot of stuff. At least, that’s what I remember the most.


Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) 56%

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I found Pierce Brosnan enjoyable as James Bond, and thought GoldenEye was pretty good. I made a comment yesterday about how I noticed every first film from each of the actors to portray 007 has been of a higher caliber, and it makes sense. If you’re going to introduce a new actor, you want to present him in as palatable a way as possible, with a tighter script, exciting stunts, impressive set pieces, and pretty women. I felt that Tomorrow Never Dies was a decent follow-up to GoldenEye, and I came to another realization of mine about the Bond films as a whole.

Specifically, I realized that what prevented me from enjoying some of the older Bond films — and what simultaneously entertained me — was the fact that the production quality of those films was a bit dated. If you’re going to make a grand spy thriller with larger-than-life scenarios and characters, you need to have the budget and the technology to make it look real. While I’m sure the special effects were convincing for audiences at the time, as someone who’s watching them now for the first time, I found that they were just passable, if not hilariously obvious. Now that the Bond films have entered the 1990s and beyond, I’m starting to see a more impressive quality in them, and it’s helping me to forgive some of the other faults.

The biggest bone I had to pick with Tomorrow Never Dies was the sinister premise at the heart of the story. A media mogul (Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver) is willing to risk nuclear war between two world superpowers, just so that he can obtain “exclusive broadcasting rights in China for the next 100 years?” Come on, now. That’s absurd, even by Bond standards. Sure, one could argue that this simply proves how insane Carver is, but that would be kind of a copout. I think it’s more accurate to say that after 18 movies based on the same formula, the idea people were just running out of ideas.

Having said that, I thought the action scenes were well done, even thrilling at some points, and I think that’s very important for any movie that thrives on its action. Bond is as destructive as ever, and the police never seem to be around when baddies are committing such atrocities as flying a helicopter, blades angled to the ground, through a crowded pedestrian thoroughfare. Similarly, when Bond essentially breaks into Carver’s headquarters and starts blasting away at the employees there, we conveniently forget that he’s the one trespassing, and every time a scientist or paper pusher hits the floor, we cheer. But to his credit, Bond really kicks some tail, and that’s really all we want to see anyway.

Refreshingly, the women are again more than mere eye candy or reasons for Bond to flex his romantic muscle (no pun intended). I suppose that’s arguable when it comes to Teri Hatcher’s Paris Carver, but her relationship with Bond is convincing enough for me. The more impressive one is Michelle Yeoh who, like Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me, holds her own just as well as Bond does. She’s got her own gadgets, her own hi-tech hideout, her own arsenal, and her own set of combat moves to rival him. She makes a nice partner for Bond, and it would be neat to see her as a recurring collaborator for him, much like Felix Leiter. I’m fairly certain that doesn’t happen, but I think it would have worked.

As for the villain, I like Jonathan Pryce but I didn’t like him in this role. It’s difficult for me to see him as a villain in the first place, but I think he suffered even more from the ridiculous premise. It’s hard for me to take him seriously when he’s menacingly wringing his hands about tricking England and China into destroying each other so he can… get ratings. His henchman, Stamper, is a beast, like a genetically manufactured superman. But he doesn’t do much aside from the ordinary henchman duties, so he’s not particularly fun to watch.

Overall, I thought Tomorrow Never Dies was okay. The best thing about the movie was its action sequences, which were all very spectacular and well constructed. The acting was by-the-books, as were the story and the villains, so there weren’t any surprises, bad or good. Brosnan is definitely less cheeky than Roger Moore, but he retains some of the charm of Connery, and just a smidge of Dalton’s ruthlessness. Back when this came out, I probably would have gotten excited about it, enjoyed it in the theater, and promptly forgotten about it soon after.

Favorite line: “Pump her for information.” — M says this to Bond about Paris Carver. Nuff said.

Favorite moment: Michelle Yeoh is captured by Stamper and brought before Carver. When she attempts to strike out at him, Carver does his best kung fu impersonation, which goes on for a couple seconds too long, and then spits out, “How pathetic.” Yes, indeed, how pathetic.


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After two gritty films with Timothy Dalton as 007, Pierce Brosnan resurrects the series from a 6-year sleep with 1995’s GoldenEye. I liked the film, and I felt it was tightly produced. Read on for more.


GoldenEye (1995) 79%

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The opening of GoldenEye sets a rather thrilling tone for the rest of the movie, and it continues the trend of incorporating mind-boggling stunts at the outset of each Bond film. The leap off the edge of the dam is exhilarating, and Bond’s subsequent break-in to the weapons facility is convincingly executed. Now that we’re officially in the mid-90s, the production quality is top notch and, unlike many of the previous entries, holds up relatively well compared to the action we see today.

Pierce Brosnan exudes the same kind of charisma that Roger Moore did, except that Brosnan is a little smoother and a little less stiff. All traces of the Dalton Bond seem to have disappeared here, and the first quarter of GoldenEye definitely felt like a return to the old Bond formulas. In fact, in the traditional chase scene wherein Bond meets Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp, we see him driving his classic Aston Martin DB5. And with Onatopp, we also have a return to the suggestive female names.

Later on, we’re introduced to the new M, played by Judi Dench. Allusions to her “predecessor” are made in passing, and the villain, Janus (Sean Bean), a former MI6 agent himself, mentions the fact that the “new M” is a woman. I think this was an effective transition from one M to another, and since Judi Dench is so good in the role, it didn’t bother me at all.

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In fact, the acting all around is pretty solid in GoldenEye. Onatopp is a little excessive at times, and Alan Cumming is surprisingly unconvincing as a super hacker (you’d think he’d fit perfectly in a role like that), but I really felt everyone else delivered. Even Izabella Scorupco, who plays Natalya Simonova, eventually proves herself, after the first half of the movie had me thinking she’d be another one of those disposable Bond girls we hardly remember. There’s also another new Moneypenny, and while she’s fine in her 5 minutes on screen, the attempts to recreate the sexual tension that existed between Lois Maxwell and Sean Connery or Roger Moore fell far short. They weren’t clever or witty so much as cold and even a little acerbic.

The sinister plot at the heart of the story is somewhat unimportant, but Sean Bean and Famke Janssen make a mean pair. Onatopp’s rather unique “skill” is… interesting, if a bit silly; I pictured her threatening to squeeze the life out of Professor X and screaming, “Call me… the Thighmaster!” And Sean Bean, well, he’s yet another one of those actors who just looks like a bad guy; I think it’s his beady, scheming eyes. He’s quickly offed (par for the course, really) in the first few minutes of the movie, but his name shows up second in the opening credits, so it’s clear he’ll come back into play at some point. And when he does — as the film’s central villain — he’s convincing enough to make his ridiculous motives sound genuine, unlike, say, Drax, who just looked like he spent a lot of time reading Marie Claire and snacking on popcorn chicken.

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In general, the action was put together very well, I thought. There were moments of utter chaos that harkened back to the recklessness of Roger Moore’s Bond, particularly during the tank chase (side note: if you’ve ever wondered if you can drift in a tank, the answer is yes), but for some reason, I reveled in the mass destruction. The set pieces were impressive, and the fistfights were choreographed well, especially compared to the early 007 films. I think these were elements that really blossomed with the Dalton films, but here it’s quite apparent that a lot more money was spent on hardware (tanks, choppers, etc.) and special effects.

Overall, I thought GoldenEye was a tightly crafted Bond movie. I’ve obviously learned by now to suspend my disbelief to enjoy these, so I had few qualms with continuity or logic here. The story, while not the most creative, moved along at a pretty even pace, which kept me engaged for the most part. And seeing Brosnan operate as Bond really shed light on precisely how grim Dalton was in the role, which is not to say that was a bad thing at all. I think it’s fascinating to see what each actor brings to 007, and I look forward to what else Brosnan can offer.

Favorite line: “No, you’re supposed to die for me.” — Perhaps Janus had some encounters with Goldfinger during his MI6 days.

Favorite moment: Bond and Simonova are trapped inside a stolen chopper as missiles are about to destroy them. In a desperate effort to escape, Bond starts swinging his head furiously, attempting to press buttons with his forehead. Eventually he finds the Eject button, but the imagery was hilarious.


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In his second and final Bond film, Timothy Dalton continues to portray a serious Bond. Find out whether or not I would miss him.


Licence to Kill (1989) 78%

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While there are some nutty elements in the opening scenes of Licence to Kill, it’s immediately clear that this would be a darker film. Timothy Dalton returns for his second and final turn as James Bond, surveying every situation through cold, narrow eyes, and the central villain, Franz Sanchez (played by Robert Davi, aka the guy who also tried to kill the Goonies) makes a menacing debut, executing his girlfriend’s lover-on-the-side and brutally whipping her for her transgression. So when the scene ends with Bond and Leiter parachuting down to Leiter’s wedding ceremony, the shift in tone threw me off.

But once that’s over and Maurice Binder’s trademark opening credits roll through, we dive right into the story, and more violence ensues. Temporarily captured for drug trafficking, Sanchez manages to escape by paying off a DEA agent and subsequently raids Leiter’s home, murders his wife, and feeds Leiter to sharks. When the latter took place, I found myself visibly disturbed, not because the scene was particularly gory, but because I was shocked at the possibility of Leiter being killed. He survives, luckily (and yes, unrealistically), and when Bond is denied the opportunity to go after Sanchez, he storms off to embark on what amounts to a revenge story.

This is a striking departure from the plots of previous Bond films, which mainly focused on sinister masterminds with ambitious plans for world domination. Licence to Kill, despite the international intrigue it eventually develops, is pretty much about Bond on a rampage to fulfill a personal vendetta — more evidence of the pure justice that Dalton’s Bond seems to embody. And to be honest, I thought that was kind of cool.

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Also, I liked the idea of Bond presenting himself as an ally to Sanchez in order to get closer to him; I thought that this storyline played out realistically. When I wondered what would happen when Bond and Dario (a very young Benicio Del Toro), one of Sanchez’s henchmen, later ran into each other again, the results were also realistic. In fact, this movie had me in its clutches for most of its duration because I felt that the smattering of classic Bond camp was, for once, welcome relief from the gritty plot.

Robert Davi was excellent as Sanchez, I thought. He’s one of those actors who seems to play villains with a certain relish, like he enjoys being sadistic and manipulative. Though he doesn’t have a particularly imposing physical presence, he makes you believe he’s capable of evil things. He might not punch you if you insult him to his face, but he’ll smile and wait two weeks until you’re attending your daughter’s college graduation and send three thugs to gun down your entire extended family while you’re celebrating. Unfortunately, I didn’t think much of Talisa Soto as Sanchez’s woman, Lupe; Carey Lowell — while only slightly more convincing as an actress — at least made the bravado of Pam Bouvier fun to watch alongside Bond. And it’s nice to see Q, lovable old fart that he is, scuttling around and taking more of an active part in the story.

The story lost steam when Wayne Newton appeared as a cult leader, complete with a pyramid HQ set piece. In a film that seemed relatively grounded in reality and violence, the final scenes felt very out of place to me, and what could have been a great movie ended up being just good. After an hour and a half of plotting, double-crossing, and manipulation, the last thing I wanted to see was an 18-wheeler doing a wheelie and Wayne Newton fleeing from an exploding pyramid with a bag of money in his arms. It’s not that I don’t think Bond should be campy; I just don’t think it worked so well here.

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Favorite line: “Looks like he came to a dead end.” — Bond says this about a double-crossing DEA agent who’s been skewered by a forklift.

Favorite moment: Late in the movie, Lupe bursts into the hotel room where Q and Pam are preparing to leave the Bahamas, and when she confesses to Pam that Bond spent the night with her, Q rolls his eyes and breaks up the inevitable catfight. I just like that Q is sort of a (grand)father figure to Bond. I can picture him feeding pigeons and giving butterscotch candies to little kids.


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Today we come to the fourth actor to play 007, Timothy Dalton. I found his portrayal to be very different from those of his predecessors, and I liked him in the role.


The Living Daylights (1987) 74%

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With the Roger Moore era now at a close, I was eager to see what Timothy Dalton would do with 007. I believe my childhood perception of James Bond’s image came from Dalton’s portrayal of Bond, even though I never watched either of his films; The Living Daylights is the first Bond movie I personally recall opening in theaters, and his look was immediately recognizable to me. Plus, after Moore’s elderly antics in A View to a Kill, I was ready for a fresh face.

I knew, of course, that Dalton was the next Bond, so his first appearance on screen wasn’t the big dramatic reveal it could have been. What did surprise me was that, despite my expectations, the opening scenes of The Living Daylights were pretty standard fare. Another impressive skydiving sequence begins the festivities, and then it jumps right into the action. After the mysterious killer Bond is pursuing drives an exploding jeep off a ramp and into the ocean, we find Bond climbing aboard a yacht, where a scantily clad woman on a cell phone is telling someone how she wishes for a “real man.”

But as the movie went on, I began to see the stark difference between Dalton and Moore. In fact Dalton was very different from Connery, too. Moore was obviously a more jolly Bond, if smug, dropping one liners left and right and prancing about more so than strutting; Connery was a smooth-talker, arrogant and commanding, but honestly kind of a jerk. Dalton, however, is stoic, with an ideal face for scowling, and he seems less flippant, less coy. With Dalton’s Bond, what you see is what you get, and I liked that. Whatever it may imply about my own personality, I felt that, of all the Bonds so far, Dalton is the one I’d probably get along with the best. Because, you know, I regularly pal around with British spies.

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With the end of the Moore Era also came the end of Lois Maxwell as Ms. Moneypenny, so I want to say something about her. I really liked her as Moneypenny. Throughout the series, I believed that her interactions with 007, as brief and sporadic as they were, reflected a unique chemistry that was seldom found in the Bond girls he went to bed with. In fact, very early on I determined that Moneypenny would have made the perfect wife for Bond, if he ever settled down. Of course, Tracy Di Vicenzo changed all that, and I actually sympathized with the melancholy Moneypenny at their wedding. But Lois Maxwell has been replaced by Caroline Bliss, and she doesn’t quite achieve the same rapport with Bond. I shall reserve final judgment on her until I see more of her.

While Dalton himself was a more serious, heart-on-his-sleeve 007, The Living Daylights wasn’t without its measure of camp. The chase sequence in his new Aston Martin (the most beautiful Bond car since his DB5, in my opinion) includes an enemy car getting sliced in half by a laser, as well as Bond dragging a cabin across a frozen lake before gunning it and bursting through its doors. The end of that scene, to top it off, has Bond and his female companion, Maryam D’Abo’s Kara Milovy, escaping down a snowy slope on a cello case. But there are only a few such scenes, and Dalton never winks at the audience, so to speak, like Moore did; his demeanor seems to say, “I know this looks ridiculous, but I have a mission to complete!”

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Overall, I really enjoyed The Living Daylights. Perhaps some of you were right in guessing that after 7 Moore films, I’d find Dalton to be refreshingly somber. But aside from his personality, I also felt that Dalton’s Bond acted more like a spy here, squeezing information out of Kara Milovy and utilizing misdirection as effectively as his exploding key fob. You could also sense palpable frustration and anger at times, which made Bond a bit less godlike and helped ground the film. Overall, I would say I’d rank this in the upper tier of Bond films so far, and I’m looking forward to Licence to Kill.

Favorite Line: “Stuff my orders!… Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.” — Bond says this to his partner when he’s questioned about deliberately missing a sniper shot at Kara Milovy. This happens near the beginning of the movie, and it was the first indication to me that Dalton would be a different kind of Bond.

Favorite scene: Towards the end, as Bond is attempting to steer a rogue plane down a runway, Kara comes running up from behind and hugs him, grasping his head and muffling his face. Bond is visibly annoyed and you can hear him say “Kara!” in a tone that implies “Get the hell off of me! Can’t you see I’m trying to fly a plane here?”


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