Friday, December 19, 2014

Bond Buzz Word: Spectre

To celebrate the announcement of Bond 24 or Spectre, Bond aficionado Brad Hansen (Commander Bond) of Visual Space Productions did a wonderful job editing together scenes from Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds are Forever that feature the evil secret organization, SPECTRE. SPECTRE, or Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, has been around for a long time and was led by the kitty-petting maniacal villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Before Bond fans ask what happened to George Lazenby and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Hansen's trailer focuses specifically on the 1960s/70s Connery's interactions with Blofeld and SPECTRE. It was nicely done and I hope you'll give it a watch and share with your Bond friends...

Spectre popped up this week with the announcement of the Belvedere Vodka partnership as the official vodka of the upcoming James Bond film. The company created two limited edition bottles, which were showcased at London's Film Museum on December 15th. 

Belvedere and James Bond Partnership Announced

The first is the MI6 which gives nods the 007's headquarters by switching inks (green ink is used by MI6 officials to sign documents) and etching the bottle with the MI6 building, replacing the Belvedere Palace. Sadly, this limited edition will not be available to buy in your local shop; Belvedere is gifting them to Bond aficionados and charity auctions only. 

Belvedere Vodka Presents MI6

The second vodka is the 007 Silver Saber, which will be available next year and will have a limited distribution. These bottles will have a built in LED so that the bottle lights up, which I really want to see! Since filming has only recently begun, it isn't known what "role" the Belvedere vodka will play. However, the association with the Bond franchise should see a boost in sales for Belvedere. 

Silver Saber will light up Bond aficionados

Other Bond items in the news this week included the brief, and quickly sold out issue 28 of mi6 confidential magazine featuring Daniel Craig in his 007 uniform on the cover. I ordered my copy in a bundled offer with issue 27, sporting a cover of The Man with the Golden Gun Roger Moore, Maud Adams and Britt Ekland. At the moment, MI6 Confidential is offering a set of 007's "banned" trading cards from Somportex that were originally released in 1964, but pulled a year later due to their controversial images of bikini-clad ladies. There were some signed back issues of the magazines as well, but those have already sold out. 

Did you get issue 28 ordered? 

The last bit of news this week happened over at the official 007 Bond shop. They advertised they had 100 of the Hot Wheels collectible of James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 that graced Goldfinger. Now a little backstory about this collectible. It was offered at San Diego International Comic Con this past July where at some point during the four-day event, I happened to be at a booth across from where they were selling Hot Wheels collectibles. Unfortunately I didn't know about this limited edition collectible until that moment, and I was bummed because it was the only toy that was sold out - figures! I was hoping to scoop it up with this announcement, but darn if I wasn't too slow and missed out again! 

I'll end with a parting shot of the collectible from Youtube poster Diescastic...I'm green with envy!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bond 24 Announced!

The official Bond 24 announcement was made today around the world, and we can now begin referring to the 24th Bond film by its official title Spectre. For those who are new to the Bond franchise, the word Spectre or SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) refers to a global terrorist organization led by arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The organization debuted in Ian Fleming's novel Thunderball (1959) and was featured prominently, referred to in passing or implied in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, For Your Eyes Only, and Never Say Never Again. Ownership of SPECTRE and its agents were part of an ongoing litigation battle that began in 1961, however by late last year, Eon Productions' parent company (Danjaq, LLC) had finally settled the issue and full copyright rights were returned to the franchise, setting up the opportunity to pit SPECTRE and Blofeld against a 21st century James Bond. As a Bond aficionado, I am excited for what this may mean for Bond in the next installment due out October 23, 2015 for UK audiences and November 6, 2015 for American audiences.

Sam Mendes will return to direct the film written by John Logan, with collaboration from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Thomas Newman returns as the composer (he is phenomenal!), and Hoyte van Hoytema (Let The Right One In, The Fighter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Interstellar) will assume cinematography duties. 

Major cast appointments have been confirmed with today's announcement as follows: 

Daniel Craig as Bond. James Bond.  
As the sixth actor (Eon Productions only) to portray the British agent, this will be Craig's fourth film. The first three were Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall

Ralph Fiennes as M
Fiennes returns after being introduced in the closing minutes of Skyfall as the new M, replacing Dame Judi Dench, who had filled the role in GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall

Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner
I am very happy to see Kinnear is returning as Bill Tanner, M's Chief of Staff. Tanner has been portrayed by four actors, including Kinnear, and has appeared in six films - The Man with the Golden Gun, For Your Eyes Only, GoldenEye, The World Is Not Enough, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall - and Spectre will make the seventh.  

Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny
Harris returns after being introduced in Skyfall as the new Miss Moneypenny, and is the fourth woman to play the personal assistant to M. I do hope that unlike her predecessors, Harris will have more screen time. 

Ben Whishaw as Q
Whishaw returns after being introduced in Skyfall. The character Q (Quartermaster) has featured in 20 of the 23 Eon produced Bond films, most of those appearances were by esteemed Desmond Llewelyn before his passing in 1999. Whishaw had a huge hole to fill and honestly, he did a brilliant job of it! 

Andrew Scott as Denbigh
Scott is a new character to the franchise and was presented as part of the MI6 team in the announcement. You may recognize Scott from another very popular British literary based franchise: he was Moriarty in BBC's Sherlock. He's such a fantastic bad guy -- how will he do as a Bond ally? 

Lea Seydoux as Madeleine Swann
Seydoux is beautiful and has a fresh look about her which reminds me of British agent Strawberry Fields from Quantum of Solace as portrayed by Gemma Arterton. Some of Seydoux's recent films include The Grand Budapest Hotel, Blue is the Warmest Color and Midnight in Paris

Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra
Another gorgeous woman, Italian actress Monica Bellucci may be remembered from her roles in The Whistleblower, The Brothers Grimm, Matrix trilogy, and Brotherhood of the Wolf. I do wonder if she will be a formidable henchwoman in Spectre....

Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser
Although many of us became acquainted with Waltz in his amazingly cool and calculated portrayal of Standartenfuhrer Hans Landa in the 2009's Inglourious Basterds, he has actually been making films since 1979. If his performance as Landa is any indication, he is going to give Javier Bardem's Silva a run for his money in Spectre

Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx
Coming off Guardians of the Galaxy as Drax the Destroyer earlier this year, I think that Bautista will likely become one of those memorable henchmen, joining the ranks of Oddjob in Goldfinger, Red Grant in From Russia with Love and Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

Jesper Christensen as Mr. White
Christensen will return as the villainous, Mr. White from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. This man seriously needs more screen time! 

And last, but certainly not least, the Aston Martin DB10 was unveiled at the beginning of the announcement, commemorating a 50-year collaboration. The DB10 a beauty, but I'm still partial the DB5 featured in Goldfinger. 

Please note: All images found on Wikipedia or through Google Images. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

James Bond Aficionados Gather for Comikaze Panels

I was quite excited to find that there would be two panels featured at Stan Lee’s Comikaze last week at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The first was held Friday evening titled Battle of the Bonds…James Bond and the second was on Saturday afternoon, titled 50 Years of James Bond – How Did He Become a Legend? Both panels had overlap of panelists and were moderated by Jessica Tseang.

Panel Host/Moderator, Jessica Tseang
Which Bond Does It Better?

The Battle of the Bonds…James Bond follows on the success of prior panels of the Robins and the Doctors and the goal is dissect each Bond to determine which one is the greatest Bond.

Each panelist represented a Bond:

  • Barry Nelson, David Niven and Ian Fleming played by Dr. Travis Langley (author of Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight)
  • Sean Connery played by Steven Jay Rubin (author of The James Bond Films: A Behind the Scenes History and The Complete James Bond Encyclopedia)
  • George Lazenby played by Malcolm McNeill (international law attorney)
  • Roger Moore played by William O’Neill (artist, initial creator of Hurricane Entertainment comic book, Chassis)
  • Timothy Dalton played by Robert Short (actor, visual effects)
  • Pierce Brosnan played by Zack Beseda (
  • Daniel Craig played by Vito Lappicola (Comics on Comics)

Panelists (l-r): Dr. Travis Langley, Steven Jay Rubin, William O'Neill, Malcolm McNeill, Robert Short, Zack Beseda
Panelists (l-r): Robert Short, Zack Beseda, Vito Lappicola and Moderator, Jessica Tseang

Bond. James Bond

Which actor has played the suave secret agent the best? Each panelist discussed the fine points of their respective actors. Langley started off the battle by saying that book Bond was the best out of all of them because Fleming’s books were the blueprint for all the filmic Bonds. Representing Sean Connery, Rubin explained that Connery was a relatively unknown actor when Dr. No released in 1962. There was a coolness about him and he appealed to both men and women.

McNeill stated that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service George Lazenby had an impish way about him and he had a sense of humor. For example, Lazenby’s Bond steals the centerfold out of the Playboy he was reading during the photocopier scene of OHMSS. McNeill also felt that Lazenby’s delivery of lines was excellent.

Roger Moore’s The Spy Who Loved Me was O’Neill’s first with regards to the Bond franchise. Moore represented “big budget Bond” and who was able to pull off a humorous/serious Bond. This balance was an important asset that helped save a failing franchise. Short said Timothy Dalton had read all of Fleming’s Bond books because he wanted to bring filmic Bond back to his literary roots. Dalton conveyed “great depth and conflict and explored the gritty side of Bond,” according to Short. However, the 1980s audience was not ready for Dalton’s interpretation.

Beseda’s first Bond was Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye, so was Brosnan was the automatic favorite of Beseda’s. Lappicola stated that Daniel Craig “made Bond relevant and brought him into the 21st century.” And, Craig had also read the Fleming books as well as trained for the physical demands of the role, bringing a sense of realism to the spy.

Langley represents a trio: Barry Nelson as Jimmy Bond from the CBS version of Casino Royale (1954), David Niven as James Bond in the 1967 filmic version, and of course the man behind the spy, Ian Fleming; Rubin as Sean Connery

Best Gadgets and Memorable Women

Every Bond film follows a particular formula since Dr. No that of course includes women to get Bond into trouble and gadgets to get him out of a tight spot. Going down the line of panelists, each expressed what gadget stood out and which women were the most memorable during their respective Bond eras.

Representing Nelson, Langley said that this Bond didn’t need gadgets to overcome evil and his lady of the hour was Valerie Mathis. Then turning to Niven’s Bond from the 1967 release of Casino Royale, Niven’s mustache was his best gadget and of course, he had Mata Hari! In the books, Langley stated Bond’s best gadget was his hair. For example, he would use strains of his hair as a trap to see if anyone had entered his room. And Langley felt that Vesper Lynd was the most memorable from the books.

Connery’s Bond had the Aston Martin DB5, but Rubin said it was the briefcase in From Russia With Love that he felt was the best gadget. As to women, Rubin cited Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore and Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder, but for Rubin, it was Thunderball’s Domino, played by Claudine Auger, because of the close relationship that she and Bond develop through the course of the film.

McNeill stated Lazenby’s ingenuity was his best gadget and of course Diana Rigg’s Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo. True, Lazenby only had the one film, but in OHMSS, much time was given to develop the relationship between Bond and his girl. And, it was the only woman that Bond married.

Rubin and O'Neill
O’Neill said it had to be the Lotus Esprit S1 car that converted into a submarine The Spy Who Loved Me as the best gadget Moore had from amongst his movies. Although O’Neill loved the name Holly Goodhead, it was Maud Adams’ Octopussy for the win. He cited her maturity as an excellent match to Moore’s Bond.

Short picked Dalton’s Aston Martin as the best gadget and while he felt that Maryam d’Abo had a great story arc, Short’s heart was with Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora in Licence to Kill. Beseda said he thought Brosnan’s laser watch was the coolest gadget and although he quite liked Halle Berry as Jinx, it was the red head, Natalya Simonova played by Izabella Scorupco that got his vote.

Lappicola rounded out the group and said Casino Royale Vesper Lynd was the most memorable and best gadget for Craig’s Bond? Well, Lappicola was pretty adamant that it was Bond’s penis, which surprised panelists and audiences alike.

No Bond, I Expect You to Die

One thing that audiences can always count on is a worthy adversary for Bond to triumph over by the time the ending credits roll. Into the third round, Langley said Niven had Woody Allen, Nelson had Peter Lorre and in Fleming’s novels, it was definitely Blofeld. Rubin picked Auric Goldfinger, played brilliantly by Gert Frobe, because it was a cool plot. McNeill felt that Lazenby’s nemesis was Connery’s shadow but then added that it was of course Telly Savalas’ Blofeld, while O’Neill chose Jaws, the lumbering henchman with a mouthful of steel capped teeth played so well by Richard Kiel, because like Moore’s Bond, Jaws was portrayed with seriousness but with a touch of humor too.

Short looked behind the screen and felt that Dalton’s nemesis was Harry Saltzman and Beseda said it was James Cameron’s Titanic since Tomorrow Never Dies released the same year, 1997. And not too surprising and most heartily agreed with Lappicola’s pick, Javier Bardem’s Silva from Skyfall.

O'Neill and McNeill
Holy Cow, Batman vs Bond?

Since this panel was being broadcast, Tseang fielded a question from her virtual audience in which the following question was asked: Who would win in a fight, Batman or Bond? The answers were hilarious and sublime. Langley said that Bond would easily beat Batman in drinking and venereal diseases. Rubin figured both could duel it out by engaging in battles via all of their various vehicles (cars, planes, boats, etc.). McNeill figured Bond could win by sleeping with Catwoman while O’Neill suggested Bond would use humor to defeat Batman. Short turned to cards, Baccarat of course! Beseda said Bond would “out audition Val Kilmer” while Lappicola said Bond and Batman would team up to fight Blofeld.

Best Bond Tune and What Each Actor Brought to Their Bond

By now, the panelists were really getting into the heat of battle -- could any other battle be considered fun and silly? The panelists and audience were having a good time. Langley said that since both of his actors had roles that were not recurring, he skipped that part of the question and related that Goldfinger had the best music.

Rubin described Connery as bringing a cat-like grace to his performances of Bond. John Barry’s music was superb and Rubin’s favorite was You Only Live Twice. McNeill felt that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had the best music and that Lazenby’s lanky frame and doing most of his own stunts brought much to his Bond role.

“Moore looked good in suits,” according to O’Neill as well as having great facial expressions that added to his performance. O’Neill smiled as he added that his favorite song was Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better. Short thought Dalton facial expressions, like Moore, had lent to his performance.

Beseda thought Brosnan brought some color – a tan – to Bond while Lappicola said Adele’s Skyfall was best song. As to what Craig brought to Bond? Lappicola said Craig had created a Bond where audiences questioned whether he was a good guy or a bad guy working for the good guys.

Short, Beseda, and Lappicola
The Best and Worst Bond

At some point in any conversation about Bond, the question will come up: If you had to choose, which would be your favorite Bond film? And which film totally misses the mark? The panelists weighed in.

Rubin’s best was Casino Royale (2006) while he felt A View to a Kill was the worst. McNeill’s best was a tie: Craig’s Casino Royale and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and worst was The Man with a Golden Gun. O’Neill thumbs up Goldfinger but gave thumbs down to The Man with a Golden Gun citing it looked more like a television movie rather than a theatrical film.

Short’s pick for best was OHMSS while A View to a Kill and The Man with a Golden Gun were tied for the bottom. Beseda’s best was Skyfall and worst was The World Is Not Enough. And Lappicola gave Skyfall high marks for the fighting, but overall, OHMSS was the best in his eyes.

Can We See That Again?!

Sadly, the hour was quickly coming to a close, the panelist began reminiscing about their favorite Bond scenes. For Lappicola, Moore running across the alligators post haste is unforgettable. In The Spy Who Loved Me, skiing off the side of a mountain was, at the time, a big stunt for Bond and a defining one for the industry, according to O’Neill. Rubin shared his favorite: Bond and Grant fighting in the confines of the train cabin.  Short cited the parkour scene in Casino Royale and McNeill thought Bond getting pushed out of the plane without a parachute as suspenseful. Short added that many stunts were in the pre-CGI days, so there was someone really going through that situation!

And, in the end, which Bond triumphed? Somehow, I don’t think it really mattered, because getting to talk Bond for an hour was a win-win for everyone!

Battle of the Bonds: Rubin, O'Neill, Langley, McNeill, Short, Beseda, Lappicola, and Tseang

 Evaluating The Longevity of Bond 50 Years On

It’s been over 50 years since Sean Connery announced to the world that he was Bond… James Bond in Dr. No. Saturday afternoon Langley, Rubin, McNeill, and Short were joined by Brad Hansen (many will know him online as Commander Bond), as Tseang returned as the moderator for the second Bondian panel.

Tseang started the hour by asking the panelists why has James Bond remained an enduring and relevant popular culture icon. Hansen said that Bond had consistent elements that had been proven successful, a formula that worked. Langley added that the outlandish and melodramatic villains are what audiences have come to expect, while McNeill explained that there is a “familiarity” factor to Bond, a vulnerability that resonates with Bond’s fans and solicits nostalgia.

50 Years of Bond: Short, Rubin, McNeill, Langley, Brad Hansen, and Tseang
Rubin stated we needed to return to Ian Fleming’s novels, which were written in 1950s depressed London in order to understand that the stories conveyed a sense of escapism that makes “Bond perfect for another 200 years.” While Bond films obviously attracted men, Rubin added that women would go the Bond films too because the movies were considered family entertainment.

Short brought up that Bond is a “family-owned business” that established a certain sensibility to that runs throughout the franchise. There is no other series quite like it. The second generation of the Broccoli family have been able to maintain the standards set back in the 1960s. Broccoli and Wilson are deftly able to re-invent the franchise’s movies to include current mores or topical issues while still providing Bond in the “same wrapper.” Tseang added that the “wrapper” that audiences have come to recognize include music and Bond Girls.

The films are often reviewed as a whole or grouped by the Bond actor, however McNeill suggested looking at each film individually, to analyze each from a historical context. Short concurred by mentioning themes of chemical warfare, oil, water, and the Middle East. Rubin shared that since the franchise has rights to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. again, he said he would not be surprised if the organization pops up in a future film. McNeill agreed.

The conversation lingered on Craig’s second Bond outing, Quantum of Solace, which typically has audiences puzzled since it is quite different from Casino Royale. Hansen explained that this film was supposed to be part of a trilogy, however it didn’t perform well at the box office so Skyfall went a different direction. McNeill said he had recently watched the two films again and felt that psychologically the two films are interconnected.

Panelists for 50 Years of Bond...Do I hear 50 more? 
If You Could Have a Do Over

The panelists were asked that if they could have any of the Bond films remade, which one would they want to do over?

  • Langley – Dr. No
  • McNeill – The Man with the Golden Gun
  • Hansen – Diamond Are Forever (he suggested having Bond motivated by revenge)
  • Rubin – You Only Live Twice

The hour was rapidly up, but that did not end the dialogue about Bond. The panelists and many of the audience members met and chatted at length for many more minutes about upcoming Bond 24, favorite Bond moments and films outside in the hallway. Bond is most assuredly alive and well after 50 years on film. 

Post Script. I had a fantastic time meeting all these James Bond aficionados at Comikaze and I wanted to take a moment to thank them for sharing their insight into the Bond franchise and the actors behind the spy who has endured in our collective hearts for so long. And a very special thanks to Jessica for all of her work setting up and moderating both panels! 

Me with the lovely Jessica Tseang, panel host and moderator

A real pleasure of the weekend, meeting author Steven Jay Rubin!

Me (goofy and needing to practice my Bond pose!) with Brad Hansen, the man behind Commander Bond!