Author: Jake Del Toro

An Age Old Question.

“What’s your favourite Bond film?”

This is usually the first question someone will ask when they find out you are a Bond fan. Most will have an answer ready to give. I’ve often found that people can answer this without really thinking. We know what our favourite Bond film is, or at least we have two or three films that occupy the top spot and the answer may vary at any given time.

Among Bond fans you often find that people have a list of the Bond films in order of preference, I am one of these fans. My list, up until last week, looked like this:

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Earlier this week I was hit with the feeling that I must update my list. Bond fans, especially ones who love lists, will get this feeling from time to time and when it hits there is nothing that can be done to stop it. Usually this will involve looking over the existing list and musing endlessly about the position of Goldfinger or postulating that Moonraker is too high, or not high enough! The films will be jiggled round until a satisfactory order has been achieved. Then ten minutes later you will realise that you actually prefer Dr. No to For Your Eyes Only and will change it again. After a few hours the list will be done but you won’t sleep that night because you are still trying to convince yourself that Casino Royale  is better than On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Okay, maybe that’s just me but it provides some sort of idea of this endeavour.

This time as I pored over my list I realised that I had not watched all the films in years, three I had watched recently (The Living Daylights, The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only) but I have not watched the vast majority in 5 or 6 years, possibly longer. This would not do at all, I decided that I must watch all the films before I tackled my list. For some reason I have decided to watch them out of order, to mix it up a bit. Next came a new dilemma; which film do I start with? I quite fancied starting immediately so I got out the Blu Ray box-set and set about trying to pick a good starting point.

I was discovered an hour and a half later by my wife, sitting on the floor with my knees pulled to my chest, rocking backwards and forwards singing Goldfinger. I am hopeless at choosing something to watch. I have probably wasted entire days trying to pick films; it’s quite frustrating. After a quick fix of tea I realised that I must leave this decision to chance. I wrote down all the film titles on slips of paper and put them in a hat. I will be picking the names out over the coming weeks until I have watched them all. Then I will redo my list. At the time of writing I have watched Licence to Kill, The Man With the Golden Gun and A View to a Kill. It’s actually quite exciting to see what comes out next. I’m hoping for a Brosnan film next.

I must add, my list is pretty pointless, the top 5 will likely stay the same, as will the bottom 5 and the order in between those is entirely arbitrary. I just like lists, particularly Bond themed lists.

Once I have watched them all I will post my new list with a little reasoning behind my choices. Keep an eye on Twitter (@QBranchPodcast) to see which films come out of the hat.

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SPECTRE

SPOILERS BELOW! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

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I will say from the off that I enjoyed SPECTRE, really enjoyed it. It grabbed me by the balls and hardly released it’s grip at all. I saw it twice over two days following the release and both times I left the cinema beaming.

Having had time now to digest it fully there are a few things that have been troubling me. Not enough to spoil the experience but they have been playing on my mind. What follows is going to sound overtly negative but that is unavoidable and does not represent my feelings as a whole. I will finish with what I would love to see happen at the start of Bond 25 which I think would excite some Bond fans.

First of these problems is the Blofeld reveal. The film is almost hamstrung by this revelation, what should have been a fantastic return of a classic villain is resigned to a twist that the world has known about for a long time. The producers would have been better served just admitting upfront that Waltz was Blofeld. The sub-plot involving Bond’s adaptive father and step-brother is so undercooked that it feels superfluous. Had the return of Blofeld not been so obvious then this may have added a nice air of mystery to the film but as Blofeld was the worst kept secret in Hollywood history the pay off has no impact at all.

Secondly, some of the action scenes were a little flat, particularly the car chase through Rome. There were some nice moments but as a whole it felt like an advert rather than an impromptu chase between two people wanting to harm each other. The cameras are positioned to show the cars in their best light but the cars should not be the focus here, Bond’s driving should. The older films featured some great chases involving cars that would not necessarily be associated with Bond; A View to a Kill and Octopussy spring to mind. The chase felt a bit sterile as a result. We should have seen one of these cars destroyed and both at least heavily damage.

Thirdly, Mr. Hinx was severely underused. Despite his all to brief appearance, Dave Bautista has created a memorable henchman but I really wanted a final showdown with him at the end of the film. The fight on the train is up there with the best fights in the series for me but to kill him off here was almost criminal. Just as we are getting to see how much of a beast this guy is he gets punked and killed off, albeit in a rather amusing way. Imagine though as Bond is given the countdown to the destruction of the old HQ not only does he have time against him, Mr. Hinx is also pursuing and trying to stop him. Missed opportunity there.

Lastly, the ending. Although it is not definite, the ending strongly hints that this version of Bond is done and the implication that Daniel Craig will not return was pretty strong. If that is the case why then do you set up Blofeld’s return here? They bring back this classic villain and go as far as to keep him alive at the end of the film, surely this implies that he will return. To do this and immediately follow it by waving Daniel Craig off into the sunset was a little jarring. If this is Craig’s last then that ending will be deeply unsatisfying in years to come, perhaps on a par with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

However, it could be a genius ending if the following happens in the Bond 25 Pre-title sequence:

Bond 25 opens a few months after the events of SPECTRE with Bond and Madeleine Swann marrying (you know where this is going don’t you?!). They drive off to start a new life together, a few miles down the road their car is ambushed and Madeleine is killed. Bond is injured but makes out Blofeld and an unknown woman driving away. Cue credits.

In closing I’d just like to say that I absolutely adore SPECTRE, it currently sits at number 3 in my list of Bond films in order of preference. Time will tell whether it stays there but one thing is for sure, James Bond Will Return.

On the Face of it

THIS POST CONTAINS SPECTRE SPOILERS BUT NOTHING BEYOND WHAT IS REVEALED IN THE TRAILER!  IF YOU ARE AVOIDING SPOILERS COMPLETELY THEN DO NOT SCROLL DOWN. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like most Bond fans, yesterday I woke up with a huge feeling of anticipation as the first full length trailer for SPECTRE was released.  I watched it as soon as I was able, then watched it again, and again, and again… you get the picture.

So many things leap out at Bond fans; nods to Baron Samedi, the DB5, M’s office, the Nehru jacket, the white jacket, a proper Q Branch scene and THAT music cue. After countless watches something has caught my attention. More accurately the lack of something has interested me a great deal.

One of the photos from the set of SPECTRE that has been plastered all over Twitter and many other news sources is one of Christoph Waltz sporting some fetching motion capture dots on the right side of his face.

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This led to speculation that his character would be sporting some nasty scars on his visage. In the trailer we see his face twice; first with a well placed shadow where the motion capture dots were positioned which added to the mystery of a potential scar:
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But then we see this:
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No scar! This has set my speculation glands into overdrive.

We know that in a GQ interview when asked if he was playing Blofeld he replied, “That is absolutely untrue, that rumour started on the Internet, and the Internet is a pest. The name of my character is Franz Oberhauser.”.
I think he’s telling truth. I would suggest that for the entire duration of SPECTRE the Waltz’s character will be called Oberhauser. He will be shown to be the head of SPECTRE but won’t be revealed as Blofeld until the next film.
At the end of SPECTRE, Oberhauser will sustain significant facial injuries and will require heavy reconstructive surgery. In Bond 25 we could see Waltz’s Blofeld sporting a huge scar but it also opens up another possibility. Recasting.
Blofeld is a massive character in the Bond series so imagine setting up his return in SPECTRE only to have Christoph Waltz turn down Bond 25, it’s a potential disaster. This could be deftly averted if a plausible reason for a change in appearance is set up now. He has form for changing appearance too, and not only in the films. His appearance is radically different between his first two appearances in the novels.

This is pure speculation of course. It could be that Waltz is not Blofeld at all, time will tell. But it would be a crafty move by the film-makers to set up what could either be Blofeld’s scar or a legitimate reason for the character looking drastically different.

Volcanoes at the Ready!

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Last night in this Daily Mail article it was heavily suggested that Bond’s nemesis Blofeld will be returning to screens in Bond 24 and will be played by Christoph Waltz.

When the casting of Waltz broke my immediate thought was that he’d be a great Blofeld.

Having pondered it further I thought it unlikely. Waltz’s star is shining brightly in Hollywood right now and I felt it unlikely that he would be playing a character who would probably span several films. It seemed more likely to me that his character would be a one-off. If Waltz really is to be Blofeld then it could be the case that he is only in one film of course but given the history of the character one would hope he would be a recurring villain. Daniel Craig is contracted for one more film after Bond 24 so perhaps a Blofeld storyline would be a great way for Craig to bow out.

Blofeld’s inclusion in Bond 24 also throws open the possibility of another return, SPECTRE! In the past Blofeld was the head of the Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence Terrorism Revenge and Extortion so his return could also see the return of his organisation. We have previously had a big criminal organisation in the Craig era, Quantum featured in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace and their story arc never reached a conclusion. It could be that Blofeld is now planted as the head of Quantum to tie loose ends up but the Bond fan in me really wants to see Bond battling SPECTRE again. After all it has been 43 years since we have seen them officially. And what about the cat?

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Episode 5 is here!

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Jake and David take an in depth look at Fleming’s first James Bond novel Casino Royale

Listen here:

Alternatively download the episode on Itunes or by clicking here
Don’t forget to leave an iTunes review!

The article about Fleming and sexism mentioned in this episode can be found by clicking here:

Thoughts on Daniel Craig

When I first saw Casino Royale I didn’t know what to think. Part of me loved the action and the new direction the films were headed and another part of me was pining for the old formula. I was genuinely nonplussed and remained that way until my second viewing, after which the film rocketed up to the top of my favourite Bond films list, supplanting On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I came to really love Casino Royale and I still do (although On Her Majesy’s Secret Service has reclaimed top-spot), it’s an excellent film in it’s own right and is up there with the best of the Bonds.

Because I love the film so much I have not often stopped to think of what I think of Daniel Craig’s take on the character. I always say I love Craig as Bond but lately I have been questioning this. Owing to the fact that I love all of his films (yes, even Quantum), I automatically associate my love of his films with a love of his portrayal as Bond. I do have, or had, a few reservations about Craig’s Bond as follows:

He lack the raw magnetism of Connery.

He lacks the effortless cool of Connery, Moore and Brosnan.

His one liners, with one exception*, come off a little stiff – *”That last hand… nearly killed me”.

While undoubtedly attractive, he lacks the good looks of Connery, Moore and Brosnan.

It was while thinking of these reservations that I realised that I was not really being fair. Why should he have to measure up to the other Bond actors. Such comparisons are a little trite. It is particularly unfair on Craig as his Bond is a completely new Bond, he may be the same character but he is operating on a completely different timeline and Daniel Craig is the first actor since Connery that is afforded the luxury of a completely fresh start. As I came to realise this, my reservations vanished, to me they simply don’t count or matter in the slightest. His Bond is a new Bond and future actors operating on this new timeline should be judged against Craig.

Given the direction the ‘old style’ films were heading, Craig’s portrayal was a brave one and quite a gamble. The creation of the utterly stupid websites in protest of Craig’s casting stand as proof of this gamble but it paid off spectacularly. Not even the most ardent of Daniel Craig supporters could have dreamed that Casino Royale would turn out the way it did, not only was it not a complete failure, it is held up by many as the best film in the series.

In the past we have seen many great individual character moments and on occasion a film with a genuinely interesting character arc, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service being the best example, but all too often the character is lost among the action. An over emphasis is placed on the set-pieces to the point were the central character almost doesn’t matter and the some of the worst films in the series are nothing but set pieces strung together by poor dialogue. This is were Craig stands out, his first two films, and Skyfall to a lesser extent, place the character front and centre and take him on an incredible journey from awkward killer to ruthless double-0 agent. This would not be possible without Daniel Craig’s performance as 007. We see him go from earning his 00 status in Casino Royale, where killing is difficult – “Made you feel it did he” – to the point where he kills without emotion mid way through Quantum of Solace. By the end of the film though he regains some humanity and becomes less of a stone cold killer and more of the charming yet ruthless agent we all know and love. This is shown through his refusal to let Greene die in the fire and his leaving Vesper’s boyfriend alive at the end of Quantum of Solace. The old films were tied to a rigid formula that, while exciting, did not really allow room for the character to breathe fully. The rebooted series is doing just that and in Daniel Craig we have the right man for the job.

After much consideration I came to realise that I do love Daniel Craig as James Bond and  while he isn’t my favourite of the Bond actors, Connery takes that honour, he runs a very close second just ahead of Dalton. The problem we have now is that with each new film released and with large gaps in between them comes the realisation that he is not going to be Bond forever and it will be interesting to see the direction the series takes when he is no longer part of it.