James Bond: The best Bond girls

Diana Rigg’s Countess Tracy Di Vicenzo tops the list of the superspy’s ladies

Ah yes, the Bond Girl: She signals glamour, danger and sizzle, though the very term itself smacks of the chauvinist attitude toward women that’s dogged the series since the Sean Connery days. But if the line between sexy and sexist was often crossed, it just wouldn’t be a Bond film without the added charms of a buxom babe or two (or three) to fall into the arms of Britain’s top secret agent. James Bond, after all, is an expert in foreign affairs — of all kinds. The best Bond girls offer more than just sex appeal — they’re allies or enemies in the fight against evil, and sometimes both.

The Best
There’s a good case to be made for Miss Moneypenny, the patient secretary at MI6 who constantly flirted with Bond but never seemed to capture his undivided attention. But the ultimate Bond Girl has to be the Countess Tracy Di Vicenzo, 007’s love interest in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” played by Diana Rigg. Why? Because of all the women who’ve passed through the life of James Bond, she’s the only one who actually got the playboy philanderer to make a commitment and marry her.

The Worthy
Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress): When she rose out of the surf in a white bikini in front of an amazed Connery in “Dr. No,” this shell-collecting bombshell with a taste for revenge single-handedly created the whole concept of a Bond Girl.

Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman): This “Goldfinger” pilot was the first of Bond’s female co-stars to equal him in brains, skill, and confidence — all of which made her one of Bond’s most formidable foes — and allies.

Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach): Bond discovers that Mother Russia has a lovely — and deadly — daughter, when he teams up in “The Spy Who Loved Me” with this Soviet spy with the improbable codename of Agent XXX.

Vesper Lynd (Eva Green): When the Bond series rebooted with “Casino Royale” in 2006, Daniel Craig’s more human, damaged take on Bond was matched by his beautiful but complex and tragic companion.

Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh): This Chinese spy from “Tomorrow Never Dies” played by martial-arts star Yeoh was a real kick to the head — mostly for her foes.

Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen): Long before Janssen went bad as the Dark Phoenix in the “X-Men” movies, she showed she could do crazy-evil in “GoldenEye” as a sex-crazed assassin whose thighs were deadly weapons.

May Day (Grace Jones): Sexy-dangerous punk rocker Jones, who had already appeared nude on one of her album covers, took a turn in “A View To A Kill” as a steroid-pumped villain who switches her allegiance to Bond when she realizes her lover, evil mastermind Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), is perfectly willing to kill her too.

Elektra King (Sophie Marceau): Bond’s women have often been treacherous, but his “The World Is Not Enough” co-star turned out not only to be evil, but the movie’s megalomaniacal chief villain.

Jinx (Halle Berry): When Berry appeared in “Die Another Day,” there was talk of spinning off her own series of adventure movies. Then came “Catwoman.” Oops.

The Worst
Christmas Jones (Denise Richards): For sheer ridiculousness, there’s nothing that beats “The World Is Not Enough” casting Richards as a nuclear physicist — let alone one who inspired one of James Bond’s most shameless sex puns: “I thought Christmas only came once a year.” Groan.

Originally published Nov. 10, 2008 on msnbc.com. Read the complete article.

James Bond: a tune-worthy superspy

007 series has produced some of the most well-known themes in cinema

It’s a long-established tradition in Bond movies: First, the slam-bang opening action sequence, and then a quick cut to the opening credits — almost always filled with scantily clad dancers gyrating while the theme song is belted out (most often by Shirley Bassey, who holds the record with three theme songs to her name). The Bond series has produced some of the most well-known themes in cinema history. Three received Academy Award nominations, while several more hit the Top 10 charts.

The best
The first two Bond movies, “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love,” introduced two now-ubiquitous pieces of music used in every movie afterward: The slinky, guitar-driven “James Bond Theme” by Monty Norman, and John Barry’s “007 Theme,” the more orchestral tune often used in chase scenes. But “Goldfinger,” the third film, topped them both with Shirley Bassey’s bold, brassy song, perfectly capturing the spirit of Bond, especially its early-1960s incarnation. It’s swinging and glamorous in a jet-setting, Vegas-y way, and set the template that many of the subsequent themes followed. Sing it with me now: Gooooold-FIN-gaaah!

The worthy
James Bond Theme”: Written by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry for Bond’s debut film, “Dr. No,” it played over the now-iconic Bond-walks-across-a-gunsight sequence. Fitting the Caribbean setting of “Dr. No,” it also included a bongo sequence and a calypso version of “Three Blind Mice.” (It makes more sense in context, trust us.)

Thunderball”: Who better to ooze machismo the James Bond way than another 1960s U.K. sex symbol, hairy-chested Welshman Tom Jones?

Diamonds Are Forever”: “Goldfinger” singer Shirley Bassey returns to belt out another classic, this one echoing Marilyn Monroe’s wise words: Men might not be reliable, but jewelry will never disappoint.

Live And Let Die”: Paul McCartney teams up again with Beatles producer George Martin to rock up the Bond soundtrack with one of McCartney’s best Wings-era tunes.

A View To A Kill”: This slick, synthesizer-driven theme by British poster boys and fashion plates Duran Duran perfectly brought Bond into the age of 1980s glam. The Bond filmmakers tried to capture that lightning with A-Ha’s “The Living Daylights,” but achieved only fizzle.

Nobody Does It Better”: Carly Simon’s song from “The Spy Who Loved Me” shows how to make a Bond ballad sultry and sexy without following the Bassey template.

The Man With The Golden Gun”: Of the several Bond themes that tried to re-create the Bassey magic without Bassey herself, Scottish singer Lulu’s Roger Moore-era tune fared best.

Die Another Day”: Madonna brings Bond to the dance floor on this techno-driven track; not entirely successful, but an interesting try at something different.

The worst:
All Time High”: Rita Coolidge’s theme from “Octopussy” was probably intended to have the same soft-but-sexy punch as Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better,” but just proved the latter title correct — it’s mere elevator music, and doesn’t even seem to be about Bond all that much.

Originally published Nov. 10, 2008 on msnbc.com. Read the complete article.

For James Bond, one line says it all

The superspy franchise is packed with perfect one-liners

One of James Bond’s signature characteristics is his eternal readiness with a quip in the face of danger — often a casual aside as he’s walking away from the body of someone who’s just tried to kill him. His two most well-remembered quotes are by now part of the formula: The suave-yet-macho introduction “Bond, James Bond,” and that eternally sophisticated drink order, “martini, shaken not stirred.”

Of course, Bond doesn’t always get the best lines. In particular, the irascible gadget maker Q — who provides 007 with his high-tech spy gear and is inevitably disappointed when the rough-and-tumble of Bond’s fieldwork winds up destroying his carefully crafted machinery — gets more than his share of zingers. And the villains get their digs in, too, though Bond usually has the advantage of the last word (and the last bullet).

The best
It’s spoken not by Bond, but villain Auric Goldfinger, a confirmed madman whose streak of gruff practicality leads him to break out of the spy-movie convention of keeping the hero captive to get information out of him, thus allowing an opportunity for escape later. Instead, he prepares to cut Bond in half with an industrial laser, leading Bond to ask “Do you expect me to talk?” The irritated Goldfinger replies: “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.

The worthy
Q, dryly explaining what Bond and Holly Goodhead are doing up there in that satellite in space: “I think he’s attempting re-entry, sir.

George Lazenby as Bond, breaking the fourth wall in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” to comment wryly on his taking over the role from Sean Connery: “This never happened to the other fellow.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld, after murdering a henchman who failed him in “From Russia With Love”: “Twelve seconds. One of these days we must invent a faster-working venom.

Blofeld in “Diamonds Are Forever,” on the importance of choosing the right target for your death ray: “The satellite is at present over… Kansas. Well, if we destroy Kansas the world may not hear about it for years.

M, bemoaning the sloppy work of modern-day Double-0 agents in “Casino Royale”: “In the old days if an agent did something that embarrassing he’d have a good sense to defect. Christ, I miss the Cold War.

M, exasperatedly answering Bond’s query about who would possibly want to have him killed, in “The Man With The Golden Gun”: “Jealous husbands! Outraged chefs! Humiliated tailors! The list is endless!

Bond, seeing Q’s demonstration of an acid-filled pen in “For Your Eyes Only”: “Wonderful for poison pen letters.

Bond, after killing Kananga by forcing an expanding air cartridge down his throat in “Live And Let Die”: “He always did have an inflated opinion of himself.

Bond, after killing a villain with a spear gun in “Thunderball”: “I think he got the point.

Hugo Drax, the lead villain in “Moonraker,” sneering after capturing his MI6 enemy: “Look after Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him.

Bond shows good taste in vino, but questionable taste in music, in “Goldfinger”: “My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!

James Bond, after electrocuting Oddjob in “Goldfinger”: “He blew a fuse.

Willard Whyte, the Howard-Hughes-like character in “Diamonds Are Forever,” upon discovering that one of his employees has actually been trying to kill him: “Bert Saxby? Tell him he’s fired!

Slideshow: Bond through the ages Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint, after trapping Bond inside a crematorium in “Diamonds Are Forever” to be burned alive: “Heartwarming, Mr. Wint.” “A glowing tribute, Mr. Kidd.

Bond, answering the question “what do you think you’re doing?” when he’s discovered sleeping with Russian spy Agent XXX, in “The Spy Who Loved Me”: “Keeping the British end up, sir.

Bond, after electrocuting a would-be assassin by throwing a lamp into a bathtub in “Goldfinger”: “Shocking! Positively shocking!

Bond puns shamelessly in bed with Christmas Jones in “The World Is Not Enough”: “I thought Christmas only came once a year.

Bond, after killing Xenia Onatopp in “GoldenEye” by crushing her to death, ironically her own preferred way to kill people: “She always did enjoy a good squeeze.

Bond, using his high-powered magnetic watch to unzip a lover’s dress in “Live And Let Die”: “Sheer magnetism, darling.

Bond, sleeping with his foreign-language instructor in “Tomorrow Never Dies”: “I always enjoyed learning a new tongue.

The worst
Blofeld’s bizarre instructions to his hypnotized victims in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”: “I’ve taught you to love chickens, to love their flesh, their voice.

Originally published Nov. 10, 2008 on msnbc.com. Read the complete article.

James Bond villains: In 007′s world, Jaws is more than a shark

The ‘Spy Who Loved Me’ baddie is the best James Bond villain

In any long-running series, a hero is only as memorable as the villains he goes up against, and James Bond is no exception. The superspy’s chief nemeses tend to be would-be world-conquering megalomaniacs, epitomized by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the leader of terrorist organization SMERSH. But many, if not most, of the most memorable villains tend to be the ones closer to Bond’s own pay grade: The henchmen, hired killers and thugs who duke it out with 007 mano a mano in the field — people like Oddjob, the tough-as-a-brick chauffeur of Auric Goldfinger who sported a bowler hat that could cut off the head off a marble statue.

The best
Jaws (Richard Kiel): The metal-mouthed bruiser in “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker,” was comically dumb and terrifyingly monstrous — you could literally drop a building on him without killing him. His unique steel dentistry could bite through cables and deflect bullets, but proved vulnerable to magnets. When he found love with a pigtailed girl in “Moonraker,” Jaws changed sides, saved the day, and won Bond’s respect.

The worthy
Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe): The title villain of “Goldfinger” planned to boost his own wealth by turning the entire U.S. supply of gold at Fort Knox into a pile of radioactive molten slag. But his true evil ran even deeper: He cheated at golf!

Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray, Max von Sydow, Anthony Dawson, Eric Pohlmann, John Hollis, Robert Rietty): The head of terrorist organization SMERSH, the cat-keeping Blofeld was Bond’s repeated foe in seven movies, either as a direct antagonist or simply the shadowy figure ultimately pulling the strings behind the scenes. (Not to mention the inspiration for Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil.)

Oddjob (Harold Sakata): The short, stocky Korean chauffeur and caddy of Auric Goldfinger, played by pro wrestler and Olympic weightlifting silver medalist Sakata, was a deadly hand-to-hand fighter and incredibly strong. But watch out for that deadly razor-sharp bowler hat.

Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee): A high-priced assassin who charges one million dollars per kill, the mysterious lead villain in “The Man With The Golden Gun” has three nipples and a custom-built pistol that he assembles out of a pen, cufflink, cigarette lighter and cigarette case.

006 (Sean Bean): “GoldenEye,” the first of the post-Cold War Bond movies, had a singular problem: Who are the bad guys now? Their answer: Bean, as quite literally Bond’s opposite number, another of MI6’s deadly Double-Os gone rogue.

Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya): The ruthless SMERSH double agent from “From Russia With Love” had quite the kick — thanks to the spike concealed in her combat boots.

Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder): A voodoo practitioner with apparently supernatural powers, the “Live And Let Die” henchman unnerved even his boss, the drug smuggler Kananga (Yaphet Kotto).

Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd (Bruce Glover and Putter Smith): This pair of creepy ne’er-do-wells (and unfortunate gay stereotypes) from “Diamonds Are Forever” outdid even Bond in the department of making terrible puns after committing terrible deeds, quipping “Heartwarming” and “a glowing tribute” after shoving Bond into a crematorium.

Karl Stromberg (Curt Jürgens), Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), Max Zorin (Christopher Walken): Taking their cue from the grandiosely insane plans of Auric Goldfinger, these bad guys from “The Spy Who Loved Me,” “Moonraker” and “A View To A Kill” plotted massive destruction for their own crazy schemes. Stromberg and Drax both want to kill off the entire population of the Earth and start over with new civilizations in their secret bases undersea or in space. Zorin, on the other hand, was a little more practical: All he wanted was to destroy Silicon Valley.

The worst
Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce): Sure, it was hard to find a suitable Bond-level villain after the end of the Cold War, but “Tomorrow Never Dies” offered up a bomb: A media mogul whose plan to start a war to increase the market share of his TV news empire. The plot was so risible that the filmmakers even had to take a moment during the movie itself to point out how absurd it was.

Originally published Nov. 10, 2008 on msnbc.com. Read the complete article.

WordPress Themes

Spam prevention powered by Akismet