New Articles on Den of Geek!

I’ve recently had the opportunity to write a couple of pieces for the amazing people over at Den of Geek. Hopefully this relationship will continue for the foreseeable future, but to find everything I’ve written for the Den so far you can click here.

Alternatively, I will be using this blog to curate all of my work which has been featured on other websites, just head over to the Other Stuff I’ve Written page for the full list.

For now though, here are my first two articles for Den of Geek:

Bond 25, and the untapped stories of the novels – Den of Geek
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Putting the film back into films – Den of Geek
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Keep checking back for more content!

Lots of Love,

Mark.

Top 5… Best Suits in Cinema

More or less since the dawn of celluloid, men’s clothing and the world of cinema have been intrinsically linked. Typically dressed by the world’s best tailors and fashion houses, Hollywood’s leading men act as a rich and diverse record of style throughout the twentieth century. As an enthusiast of both film and classic menswear, I’ve assembled a list of my personal top five suits in cinema. I can’t pretend that I’ve been in any way exhaustive or impartial – instead you’ll find a slim selection of my favourite suits to ever grace the silver screen.

5. Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959)

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Roger O Thornhill, New York ad man and victim of a mistaken identity, is one of Cary Grant’s most iconic roles. It’s fitting, then, that his wardrobe is similarly recognisable. This two piece, woven in a subtle grey and blue check, is worn for most of the film’s runtime, even as our hero is violently pursued by planes, trains, and automobiles. Blending American and British styles, this suit is a perfect example of late fifties tailoring, worn with panache by one of Hollywood’s most stylish men.

4. Michael Caine in Get Carter (1971)

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Get Carter was a landmark moment in the heritage of British gangster films, but also indicated a major transition in Michael Caine’s career, pitting him as a remorseless and vengeful London gangster, Jack Carter. Directly as he steps off the train in Newcastle, Carter’s suit clearly distinguishes him from his surroundings; the sombre, close-cut three piece is immediately distinct from the casual tweeds he encounters in the North. Tailored by the legendary Douglas Hayward, Caine’s suit makes few concessions to the fashions of the time, creating a sense of timeless style that remains as impressive today as in 1971.

3. James Stewart in Rope (1948)

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One of Alfred Hitchcock’s more overlooked films, Rope is never short on beautiful tailoring. Jimmy Stewarts’s Rupert Cadell, however, is a cut above his co-stars. The three-piece suit, crafted from a heavy wool and featuring large, peaked lapels, is a beautiful demonstration of late forties opulence. Other details include a pinned shirt collar, a classic but stylish touch which helps to establish Stewart’s character as a one of taste and refinement.

2. Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

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Steve McQueen was a man who looked good in more or less anything, and The Thomas Crown Affair is an effective demonstration of this fact. From business suits to casual knitwear, McQueen never fails to cut an elegant figure. His first suit of the film, however, is in a league of its own. This grey three piece, featuring a peculiarly straight-bottomed waistcoat, exudes an impossible level of cool. The list’s second example of Douglas Hayward tailoring, McQueen’s suit also illustrates how a relatively limited colour pallet can achieve eye-catching results

1. Sean Connery in Goldfinger (1964)

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The fifty-year history of the Bond franchise is littered with stunning outfits, but this three-piece example from Goldfinger surely remains Bond’s finest sartorial moment. Produced by Sean Connery’s usual tailor at the time, Anthony Sinclair, the Goldfinger suit is defined by its ageless appearance and superb detailing, from a subtle Prince of Wales check to the waistcoat’s notched lapels. Paired simply with a white shirt and navy knitted tie, the suit is an unfussy but masterful take on classic tailoring.

Every James Bond Film Ranked

As the longest running franchise in film history, the Bond pictures have had their fair share of ups and downs. Below you’ll find my ranking of all 24 James Bond films in the official Eon Productions series, from Dr No (1962) to Spectre (2015). Enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment with your own thoughts.

1. From Russia With Love (1963)

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From Russia with Love isn’t just the quintessential Bond film, it’s the perfect spy thriller. Only the second film in the series, From Russia With Love pinned down Bond’s signature style without finding itself bogged down in formula, focussed on a complex and believable cold-war plot. The 115-minute runtime is littered with iconic dialogue and action sequences, while the best Bond, Sean Connery, provides a relaxed and charismatic performance. Highlights include Bond’s fisticuffs with the psychopathic Red Grant and a visceral shoot-out in a Turkish gypsy camp. It simply doesn’t get better than this.

2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

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Perhaps the most sorely overlooked Bond adventure, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service treats the spy with a maturity and a depth otherwise unseen until the turn of Daniel Craig almost 40 years later. The non-actor George Lazenby flounders somewhat in the central role, but he is elevated by arguably the best supporting cast in Bond history, as Telly Savalas provides the finest on-screen portrayal of Blofeld and Diana Rigg shines as the enigmatic Tracy di Vicenzo. With a water-tight script lifted directly from the pages of Fleming, director Peter Hunt delivers some of the most exciting action sequences of the franchise. In its final moments, the film packs an emotional punch that’s not to be missed.

3. Casino Royale (2006)

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After a decade of mediocrity, Casino Royale breathed new life into the world’s most famous spy. Re-invigorating the character for the 21st century, Casino Royale restored the series’ reputation for a post-Bourne, post-Austin Powers world. Daniel Craig gives a nuanced and fearsome portrayal of a young, reckless 007, taking Bond back to his roots with a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Fleming’s first Bond novel. More than forty years since the beginning, Casino Royale proved that Bond still reigns supreme.

4. Goldfinger (1964)

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Probably the most iconic and influential of all the Bond films, Goldfinger nailed the character and formula of the series as we know it today. Released at the height of Bond-mania, Connery had fully relaxed into the role by this point and gives a performance that is equal in parts deadly and charming. While director Guy Hamilton struggles to deliver truly exciting action sequences, he imbues the film with an irresistible sense of style and wit, resulting in a picture that has resonated with audiences for decades.

5. Skyfall (2012)

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Released to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise, Skyfall asserted the enduring relevance of the Bond character. Although the plot is often contrived, Skyfall makes up for it with an emphasis on character. Classic figures such as Q and Moneypenny were reintroduced and updated for modern audiences, while Javier Bardem appears as Roaul Silva, a villain hell-bent on a personal vendetta. Shot by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, Skyfall is probably the most beautiful entry in the Bond canon, with a sense of artfulness not typically found within 007.

6. The Living Daylights (1987)

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The first episode in Timothy Dalton’s all-too brief stint as 007, The Living Daylights brought Bond back to basics following Roger Moore’s departure. Dalton instils the character with a humanity and brutality rarely seen outside of Fleming’s writing. Meanwhile, the narrative is rooted in topical concerns of the day, placing Bond within the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The villains of the piece are somewhat lacking in personality, Bond’s eclectic mix of allies, both reluctant and otherwise, help to add warmth. Often overlooked, The Living Daylights is essential viewing.

7. Thunderball (1966)

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Following in the footsteps of the wildly popular Goldfinger, Thunderball went on to become the most successful Bond film, accounting for inflation, until 2012’s Skyfall. Dispatched to the Bahamas to locate two stolen nuclear warheads, Connery’s Bond continues to delight, alongside another first rate cast of supporting characters. Thunderball was an ambitious project, at times too ambitious. The action set-pieces take on an unprecedented scale, but lengthy underwater sequences often outstay their welcome. Nevertheless, Thunderball remains an exciting entry in the Connery era, with a high-stakes plot that remains relevant today.

8. Goldeneye (1995)

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Arriving six years after Timothy Dalton’s truncated run of films, Goldeneye was the first Bond to emerge into a world without the Soviet Union. Pierce Brosnan faced weighty expectations, as many doubted that the new 007 could compete against modern action blockbusters. Thankfully, Goldeneye delivered with aplomb, much thanks to the slick direction of Martin Campbell and Sean Bean’s performance as the vengeful villain Alec Trevelyan. Judi Dench makes her first appearance as M, and her censure of Bond as a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” remains a classic moment.

9. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

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The highest rated Roger Moore adventure on the list, For Your Eyes Only was also the actor’s most down-to-earth effort. Dispensing of the gadgets and absurdity that plagued Moonraker, this film saw Bond on the trail of heroin smugglers rather than a maniacal billionaire. The serious tone also allows Moore to deliver his most mature performance, pitted against a compelling female lead, Melina Havelock. Perhaps a little slow-moving at times, but nevertheless the closest Moore came to Fleming’s original hero.

10. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

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Alan Partridge called it “the best film ever made”, and The Spy Who Loved Me certainly has some stand-out moments. The pre-titles ski chase has a strong claim to being the finest opening of the series, and Carly Simon’s title song, ‘Nobody Does It Better’, remains a timeless classic. But while it’s a fun ride from beginning to end, I struggle to really invest in a film that refuses to take itself seriously. Some excellent sequences are occasionally denigrated by misplaced comic relief, often playing for laughs rather than tension. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to resist the larger than life charm of the film, particularly as events pick up during the action-packed finale. For fans of Roger Moore’s distinctive interpretation of Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me has everything you’re looking for – for everyone else, it’s well worth a watch.

11. Dr No (1962)

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It feels somewhat unfair to put the first Bond film below the top ten – after all, it did an admirable job of setting the template for the next fifty years of 007 and introduced the world to the talents of Sean Connery. It’s also full of some absurdly iconic moments: the first “Bond, James Bon”; Honey Rider emerging from the sea; and Bond’s icy exchange with Dr No over dinner. But the film itself simply isn’t as watchable as many of its descendants, limited by a minuscule budget and an unseasoned production team. Filmmakers and cinema lovers everywhere all owe a great debt to Dr No, but it’s most profound legacy lies in the greatness which would follow.

12. Licence to Kill (1989)

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Arguably the darkest entry in the franchise, Licence to Kill was a notable break from the Bond formula. Dalton’s second and last appearance as the spy is a personal story of revenge. The usual MI6 proceedings are dispensed with as Bond goes rogue, and therein lies both the film’s major strength and its weakness; while Licence to Kill works as an effective crime thriller, it feels distinctly generic, akin to a Die Hard or Lethal Weapon sequel. Although the gritty, sadistic edge of Licence to Kill is often welcome, Bond is most successful when he distinguishes himself from his peers.

13. Spectre (2015)

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The most recent Bond film saw the return of Bond’s nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and his eponymous criminal organisation, the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion. The second directorial effort of Sam Mendes, Spectre features some outstanding action and another superb performance from Daniel Craig. Unfortunately, the plot crumbles under its own weight during the final act, including the frankly embarrassing revelation that Blofeld is, actually, James Bond’s foster brother. With a wealth of world-class talent listed in the credits, there’s a pervading sense that a much better film lies beneath the surface, but Spectre has enough Bondian thrills to be worth the entry price.

15. Octopussy (1983)

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One of the more forgettable Bond adventures, Octopussy nonetheless has some excellent episodes – the second act, which sees Bond dispatched to East Germany, hits all the right notes of tension and excitement. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is somewhat less consistent and the action is often let down by some miss-timed comedy. Again, Octopussy saw the Bond producers reacting to change rather than provoking it, and many of the film’s India sequences feel reminiscent of Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Octopussy is an enjoyable romp with a few stand-out chapters, but as a whole the film is a bit of a jumble.

16. Quantum of Solace (2008)

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Quantum of Solace has been increasingly derided since its release, with some going as far as to rank it among the worst entries of the series. Admittedly, the whole film does feel somewhat rushed; action scenes are frenetic and choppily edited, and the dialogue in between has little room to breathe. However, there are clear flashes of brilliance throughout Quantum of Solace – with additional time to flesh out the script and a more competent director, it could have been a stellar entry in the series. I suspect that history will look more favourably upon Quantum; a flawed but unapologetic attempt to continue what Casino Royale had started.

17. You Only Live Twice (1967)

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The first Bond film to properly deviate from its source material, You Only Live Twice was filmed from a script by children’s author Roald Dahl, and the result is more or less what you would expect. It’s an impressive, larger than life spectacle, with some terrific action and stunning use of Japanese locations. Unfortunately, this grandeur comes at the expense of plot, which is a mess of idiocy, inconsistency, and contrivance. Connery also delivers a less than enthusiastic performance, clearly tiring of the role that had launched him into stardom. It’s undeniably fun to watch a team of ninjas storm a secret volcano base, just try not to think about it too much.

18. Live and Let Die (1973)

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Once a favourite of mine, Live and Let Die has slipped down the rankings as years have passed. There are scenes which still elicit a grin, such as Bond’s ingenious escape from a crocodile farm, and Moore does a good job in establishing his own, distinctive version of the character. However, the film feels bloated, and some peculiar dialogue and character developments leave many scenes feeling more awkward than tense (particularly the villain’s baffling demise). Clearly in his infancy, Moore’s Bond was yet to find a place in the world after Connery’s final departure.

19. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

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More or less the definition of mediocrity, Tomorrow Never Dies was the Bond franchise on autopilot. Much of the film is an exercise in Bondian box ticking, with some overly explosive action sequences thrown in. There’s nothing here to really offend – Michelle Yeoh and Teri Hatcher are competent female leads, and I’ll always have a soft spot for Jonathon Price as the media-mogul Elliot Carver. But Brosnan’s portrayal of Bond, and the film’s script as a whole, seems like a regurgitated amalgamation of what has come before, leaving little chance for the film to discern itself. Tomorrow Never Dies feels like greatest hits album, just with all the number ones left out.

20. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

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The Man with the Golden Gun is a picture with so much potential – Christopher Lee creates a classic villain in the form of Francisco Scaramanga, the world’s deadliest hitman, and his intense confrontation with Moore’s Bond hints at a far more interesting story. However, what should be an exciting cat-and-mouse plot is buried within nonsense about solar power and the real-world energy crisis. The dull narrative isn’t helped by action scenes that are devoid of tension and comic relief characters who evoke more cringes than chuckles. A few excellent scenes arise during the final act as Bond and Scaramanga finally come face to face, but it’s too late to save the slog that is the first hour and a half.

21. A View to a Kill (1985)

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Roger Moore’s stunt double has a good claim to being the star of A View to a Kill, as the 57 year old Bond looked just about ready to trade in his licence to kill for a free bus pass. In another bizarre bit of casting, Christopher Walken plays the villain of the film, Max Zorin (a performance which partially inspired Heath Ledger’s Joker), while pop star Grace Jones features as his henchwoman May Day. Both actors seem to have walked in from the set of another film, and no one really seems to know or care what’s going on. Even John Barry’s superb soundtrack feels like it belongs to something much more exciting. A mystifying experience all-round.

22. The World is Not Enough (1999)

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One of the most boring films ever made. Action is shot with all the deft and exhilaration of a Toyota advertisement, while the drama is about as well executed as an episode of Hollyoaks. The film actually takes some interesting risks with the Bond formula, personally implicating Judi Dench’s M within the plot, but the execution is so poor that it’s a chore to sit through. Robert Carlyle’s Renard must go down as Bond’s most ineffectual foil, while Denise Richards is laughably miscast as nuclear physicist Christmas Jones.

23. Moonraker (1979)

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I can understand why this film exists. The Bond producers clearly watched Star Wars take the world by storm and thought ‘we’ll have some of that’. But Moonraker represents the Roger Moore era at its absolute worst. The “comedy”, for lack of a better word, is incessant, and robs every scene of all possible intensity. Henchman Jaws returns from The Spy Who Loved Me and is more bumbling than ever, whilst Moore swaggers through the film with an eyebrow cocked and a quip for every scenario. The most insulting thing about Moonraker, however, is that some truly spectacular stunt work and music is wasted on this embarrassment of a film. By the time Bond gets into space you’ll wonder how it ever got this bad.

24. Diamonds are Forever (1971)

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Sean Connery demanded a record breaking amount of money for this, his last official Bond film, and made no secret of being in it for the cash. Badly aged and wearing the world’s worst wig, Connery looks more like your mate’s sleazy Dad than a suave superspy. With most of the budget having gone to the star, Diamonds Are Forever skimps on pretty much everything else, from the preposterous script to the pitiful special effects. Worst of all, Diamonds isn’t just a boring, uninvolving, gruelling state of a film, it’s actually quite offensive. The henchmen Mr Wint and Mr Kidd are two dated homosexual stereotypes, more suited to a Carry On film than a James Bond thriller. Most shockingly, this is the better Bond film to feature a diamond encrusted space laser.

24. Die Another Day (2002)

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An absolute car crash of a film. Watching Die Another Day is a bewildering, depressing experience, like walking in on your parents mid-coitus. I’ve struggled to pin down the exact moment that the film jumps the shark; is it the start of the Madonna title track, or when Bond stops his own heart in order to escape a hospital? Perhaps it’s John Cleese introducing an invisible car? What’s clear is that by the time Bond para-surfs a tsunami and flies a helicopter out of an exploding plane, you’ll have lost all sense of who you are or what you’re watching. There’s also a worryingly long sex scene between Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry, in which we appear to see Brosnan actually climax. Harrowing stuff.

Where next for James Bond?

With the next film years away and the future of the Bond series in question, it’s time to speculate where it could, and should, be going next…

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Copyright MGM/Eon Productions.

It’s a difficult time to be a Bond fan. Only a few months have passed since the release of the twenty-fourth film, Spectre, yet we have already been cast adrift, caught in limbo between film releases. Only the tiniest morsels of news are fed to us, either from tabloid reports or the ever-unreliable internet rumour mill. This time around the wait feels even worse, as Daniel Craig has become Schrodinger’s Bond, simultaneously returning for the next film and never coming back.

On the other hand, all this time does give us more opportunity to speculate. The producers of the Bond franchise, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, have a lot of decisions to make about where to go with the series, especially following the lukewarm reception of Spectre in certain critical circles. A new approach is desperately needed if the series wants to remain a brand leader, with fresh blood on the writing team, in the director’s chair, and maybe even with Bond himself.

Personally, I’d like to see Daniel Craig return for a final film, just to give himself the chance to go out with a bang and conclude the Blofeld/Spectre can of worms that they’ve so clumsily opened. But recent events, including Craig’s less than enthusiastic remarks, have made such an outcome increasingly unlikely. And if Daniel Craig’s heart isn’t really in it, perhaps that’s for the best.

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The original drawing of James Bond, as commissioned by Ian Fleming.

So if Dan’s out, who should replace him? This is the area that gets the British press really excited; rarely a month goes by without a new, exclusive story about the next actor to take on the role. Tom Hardy has asserted that he’d “smash it out of the park” if given the opportunity, whilst Poldark star Aidan Turner reportedly “had talks” with Bond producers just last month. Meanwhile, Tom Hiddleston has spoken cagily of the role as an “extraordinary opportunity”, and even Peep Show’s Olivia Coleman was suggested as an April Fools’ choice by the Daily Mail. One name that refuses to go away is Idris Elba, revealed to be the favoured choice of Sony Pictures Chairman Amy Pascal in 2013. It’s been a discussion so overwrought that the actor himself has claimed that he “can’t even talk about it anymore”. Elba’s candidacy for the role has been elevated much thanks to apparent controversy of casting a black actor as James Bond. It’s quite a ridiculous debate, but has incensed a lot of anger on the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the internet.

Despite all this sound and fury, Idris Elba isn’t going to be James Bond. Much like another bookies’ favourite, Damien Lewis, Elba is simply too old. He’ll be 44 this year, and assuming that the Bond films will continue to run on three year cycles, that doesn’t give him much time before he has to hang up the holster. As much as I may like Idris Elba, I don’t think any of us want to see a repeat of Roger Moore’s geriatric turn in the dinner jacket, who typically seemed a step away from cashing in his licence to kill for a free bus pass.

Many of the popular younger choices are also unlikely – Henry Cavill, for example, already has an iconic character to his name and a schedule full of DC Universe sequels. If you’re the betting kind, you’d be wise putting money on thirty-something British actors without any hectic franchise commitments over the next decade. Indeed, if Daniel Craig’s casting is anything to go by, the next 007 may well come out of nowhere.

My personal choice would be the legendary Michael Fassbender. The German-Irish actor has already proven his suave credentials with Inglourious Basterds and the recent X-Men films, and he has the cruel, ruggedly handsome appearance of Bond as he is described in the novels. Unfortunately, it seems doubtful that an actor as busy and prestigious as Fassbender would tie himself down to a series of Bond films, and there’s been a distinct lack of buzz around his claim to the role. Nevertheless, a man can dream.

Looking at the most probable names currently in circulation, Aidan Turner certainly seems an attractive prospect. He’s demonstrated his diverse acting chops in a number of television appearances recently, but is yet to find a major, starring role on the big screen, which would likely make him one of the cheaper options for the film’s investors. He’s also youthful 32, which puts time on his side if he’s keen to beat Moore’s record seven films in the official series. My girlfriend likes him too, so it would at least make my life easier during the inevitable repeat viewings. Tom Hiddleston isn’t a million miles off either, and he’d certainly bring some star power and an existing fan base to the role. But I can’t help but feel he’s a little too obvious and a little too Brosnan – it would be disappointing to see the producers making such an obvious choice.

Beyond the casting of James Bond, the rest of the personnel need to be accounted for. Ideally we’ll see the return of the recurring cast of MI6 characters, with Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Wishaw as Q, and Naomi Harris as Moneypenny. Behind the camera, however, a change-up is seriously needed. The writing team needs a comprehensive overhaul, with the talentless Neal Purvis & Robert Wade jettisoned for good. Towards the ends of last year, rumours spread that the production team had contacted Mad Men writer Matthew Weiner to work on the next Bond instalment (which, despite the claims of the Daily Express, is not going to be set in the 1960s). Although this news should be taken with a grain of salt, such a move would be hugely welcome, choosing a writer with proper dramatic credentials and none of the fanboy-baggage that plagued Spectre’s derivative script.

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Who’ll be behind the camera this time?

Of course, with Sam Mendes almost certainly gone for good, a new face is required in the director’s chair. Although much of the Bond fandom is calling for the return of Martin Campbell, the helmsman behind Godeneye and Casino Royale, I think we can aim a little higher than that. Whatever one thinks of Sam Mendes, he was at least a director that brought his own creative vision to the franchise and appeared to be more than the dull journeymen we’ve been dealt for much of the series’ recent history.

Ideally, three names come to mind when filling the director’s spot for Bond 25. The first, and probably most optimistic, is Christopher Nolan. He’s made no secret of his love for the James Bond films in the past and has paid direct homage to them multiple times, perhaps most notably during the snowy climax of 2010’s Inception. When asked about his chances of directing his own Bond film, the 45-year-old has been cagey, asserting that “it’s not a no, but it’s not a yes”. Nolan might be a little too expensive and a little too controlling for the folks at Eon Productions, the company behind the 007 films, but the opportunity of combining Nolan’s name and the Bond brand would surely be too great to pass up.

Looking elsewhere, there are a number of smaller scale directors with the necessary abilities to helm a Bond film. Last year Denis Villeneuve was acclaimed for his crime-thriller Sicario, which highlighted his deft hand for action in addition to character drama. He’s also been very vocal about his admiration for the James Bond films, stating that he’d “love to do a James Bond movie one day”. Taking a more left of field approach, Atonement director Joe Wright would also be an interesting choice. 2011’s Hanna illustrated that he could direct action compellingly, and his penchant for long takes lends his films an artistic flair that often elevates quite pedestrian material. Although his recent catalogue has been somewhat hit and miss, with a quality script he could create an exciting and visually distinctive Bond film.

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A simpler time, when you always knew what you were getting. Copyright MGM/Eon Productions.

With the cast and crew dealt with, the fundamental question facing Bond 25 is what direction to take the film in a broader sense. Do we go for a stripped back, Casino Royale style spy thriller, or continue to incorporate more absurdist and humorous elements in the vein of Skyfall and Spectre. I’ve always preferred the films that stay closest in tone to the realistic, cynical edge of Fleming’s novels, and would welcome a return to such a style. But I’m not really averse to a more whimsical quality, and with the immense popularity of the Marvel and Star Wars brands recently, that certainly seems to be the direction that Hollywood is going. While Spectre is a film I love dearly, it’s confused tone was undeniably an issue; it was a film that wanted to have its cake and eat it, often acting like a Moore style romp against a surprisingly gritty personal story, and the final product just felt a bit muddled. As long as we don’t have any more Fiat airbag gags, we’re moving in the right direction.

More than anything, however, the producers need to scale down the budget and reassess what it is they are trying to do with Bond films. Skyfall’s unprecedented, billion-dollar success came in a perfect storm that has proved impossible to replicate. James Bond should be, first and foremost, an espionage thriller. It is not an action franchise, and it has no place competing with blockbuster superhero films and sprawling, Hollywood mega-sagas.

If Casino Royale taught us anything, it’s that when in doubt, go to Fleming. In stripping the series back to the core elements and reassessing what made Bond great, the franchise was able to make itself relevant again. References to old films are fun, but if you’re just drawing attention to iconography that was done better before, the result is a film that can’t stand on its own two feet. Likewise, bogging the films down in personally motivated stories and inter-connected plot threads only makes Bond’s world feel heavily contrived. Bond 25 should obviously pay respect to what came before it, but be bold in blazing its own trail.

These are just a few of my thoughts as a long term, and probably unhealthily obsessive, James Bond fan. In a world where big-budget action franchises are only growing larger and larger by the day, I want Bond to show everyone else how it’s done, not limp along in the rear. 007’s fertile heritage consists of industry leading stunt work, special effects, set design, and most importantly, writing. A film is nothing without a taught, intelligent script, and that’s what Bond will need if he’s going to thrive for another fifty years.

Top Ten… Movie Endings

We are living in an age of lists, so I thought it was only appropriate that I threw my hat into the ring. Below you’ll find my top ten film endings of all time. I don’t intend for it to be exhaustive; I’m only human and I haven’t seen everything, but I hope you’ll enjoy this selection of the movie finales that I have found most impressive, or the ones that have left the greatest impact upon me. Selecting just ten was more difficult than I imagined, and there are an awful lot of brilliant conclusions that I had to leave out. A few honourable mentions include; Citizen Kane (1941), The Godfather (1972), The Shining (1980), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969), The Wicker Man (1973), The Searchers (1957), The Italian Job (1969), and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).

Beware, spoilers below!

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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You might think I’m talking about the opening of the Ark scene, when a bunch of Nazis have their faces melted off by the might of God. But no, I’m talking about the last thirty seconds of the film, and that shot. Having been recovered by Indiana Jones, the Ark of the Covenant is sealed away and buried within a vast government facility, never to be seen or opened again. The effect is accomplished through an ingenious matte painting, and it manages to brilliantly conjure a sense of both intrigue and humour. Its mystery may have been diminished somewhat by the misjudged opening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but it remains a powerful and thought provoking end to an excellent film.

  1. Roman Holiday (1953)

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Roman Holiday is arguably the definitive bitter-sweet ending. As much as we may wish that Princess Ann and Joe Bradley could give two fingers to the world, run from the palace, and be together forever, their separation was always inevitable. As she goes back to being a princess, and he a reporter, they are left with nothing but a few candid photos and cherished memories. In a film full of celebrated images and scenes, none is so lasting as the sight of Gregory Peck strolling towards the camera, an ironic smirk on his face, as he leaves the princess behind forever.

  1. Casablanca (1942)

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Drama, romance, suspense – the ending of Casablanca has it all. It’s a scene that has become almost laughably iconic, a symbol for tragic love itself. The brilliance of this ending is that it’s exactly the opposite of what the audience wants to happen; it’s a harsh, realist picture of love in a time of adversity, an ending that says, sometimes, love can’t conquer all. Painful to watch, it exists as a testament to the unmatched chemistry between Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. Director Michael Curtiz shot this iconic ending without a finished script and unsure of how he even wanted it to end. Watching Rick and Louis walk into the mist, I think you’ll agree that he made the right choice.

  1. Raging Bull (1980)

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An aged and overweight Jake LaMotta stares at himself in the mirror, quoting On the Waterfront as he prepares for his next stage show. He psyches himself up, straightens his bow tie, and steps out of the dressing room. Once the screen has cut to black, Raging Bull closes with a quote from a biblical passage, specifically John IX, 24-26, followed by a tribute to Martin Scorsese’s mentor, Haig R Manoogian. An extract reads “ ‘Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know.’ / the man replied. / ‘All I know is this: / once I was blind and now I can see.’ ” It’s an ending that has stuck with me profoundly, ever since my first viewing. Having just seen the sum of this man’s life, we are forced to ask if it is really our place to judge. Indeed, seeing LaMotta backstage is a reminder that he is, above all, a man, as complex as he is formidable. And that’s entertainment.

  1. Bicycle Thieves (1948)

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Bicycle Thieves is a relatively low-key film; the tale of a man, Antonio Ricci, and his young son desperately searching for his stolen bicycle in post-war Rome, in which bursts of emotion are rare and potent. In the film’s final moments, Antonio’s exasperation boils over as he attempts to steal an unattended bike, only to be caught and condemned as a thief himself. When his son’s pleading causes the mob to let Antonio go, the pair disappear into the crowd, holding hands and unsure of their future. It’s a forlorn picture of life in Italy’s war-torn capital, giving a captivating and very sympathetic face to what was mass human suffering.

  1. Planet of the Apes (1968)

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It is difficult to consider the original Planet of the Apes now without thinking about the ending. It’s shock factor has largely worn off, as the final shot has become probably the most iconic image from the film – parodied in The Simpsons and showcased on the cover of the DVD. Nevertheless, the final, shocking discovery of the film – that the planet in question is, in fact, a post-apocalyptic Earth – is an excellent and unexpected twist. Playing on contemporary fears of nuclear annihilation, the closing image of a destroyed Statue of Liberty and Charlton Heston’s infamous cry of “Damn you! God damn you all to hell!” still resonates powerfully today.

  1. The Godfather Part II (1974)

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It was difficult choosing between the endings of the first two Godfather films, but the second entry just tops the first upon repeat viewings. With all of Michael Corleone’s enemies lying dead, including his brother, Fredo, the film flashes back several years to the morning of 9 December 1941, the day of the attack upon Pearl Harbour, and Don Vito Corleone’s birthday. The younger Michael’s patriotic dedication, and resentment of his family, draws a powerful contrast against his later, tragic descent into a murderous and patriarchal figure. However, the flashback also highlights Michael’s continued isolation; in 1941, his idealism had left him shunned, sitting alone at the dinner table. Years later, Michael remains a solitary figure, despite all his efforts in the name of family. Now greying at the temples, he continues to exist as an outsider to all those who loved him. A powerful and inspired juxtaposition.

  1. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

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The only appearance of a Bond film on the list, the ending of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was not only a break from the series’ tradition, but a genuinely risky move for a franchise so steeped in convention. 007 had defeated the villain, destroyed a mountain-top base, and fallen in love. But this isn’t where the story ends; as Bond and his new wife, Tracy, drive off into the sunset, a botched assassination attempt leaves Tracy with a bullet in her skull. Instead of pursuing the villain, a tearful Bond cradles his dead wife and tells a passing policeman “It’s quite alright… We have all the time in the world.” Although now an iconic moment, it must be remembered how genuinely shocking such an ending would have been in 1969, depriving audiences of the triumphant conclusion that had become standard. It remains a travesty that subsequent Bond films would abandon this gritty approach for years to come.

  1. The Third Man (1949)

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The closing shot of The Third Man lasts for around two minutes, neither moving an inch nor cutting a frame as our hero, Holly Martins, stands waiting at the roadside for the heartbroken Anna to emerge from the horizon. As she walks past Holly and out of his life without so much as a glance, the camera lingers excruciatingly, forcing us to share in his pain and solitude. Although a desperately sad conclusion, there’s a wry humour in Holly’s resignation, as he lights himself a cigarette and tosses away the match. Anton Karas’ melancholy music perfectly complements Graham Green’s gorgeous photography, providing for a profound and lasting image.

  1. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)

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The final sequence of The Good, the Bad and The Ugly is not only one of the greatest endings of all time, but one of the best examples of film making – ever. It plays out with almost operatic grace, a perfect blend of music, cinematography, acting, and direction. This concluding chapter begins as Tuco desperately bounds across a graveyard, searching for a buried hoard of gold, while Ennio Morricone’s Ecstasy of Gold swells in the background. It ends as three title cards contrast the fates of the titular gunslingers; one dead, one alive, and another on horseback with four bags of treasure. Sergio Leone weaves a scene that is both beautiful and unbearably tense, perfecting the western as only he could.

Sir Ken Adam, 1921-2016

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Dr Strangelove, 1964.

It’s an oft-repeated truism that Ken Adam had a greater claim to the success of the early Bond films than Sean Connery. His sets gave an other-worldly and luxurious charm to situations and characters that would otherwise have appeared mundane. He ignored convention and crafted spaces that were impossibly grand and fantastically beautiful. And yesterday, at the age of 95, he died.

Ken Adam’s death came as a particular shock to me, especially a day after the loss of legendary music producer George Martin. Both of these men created art that has become very dear to my heart. Ken Adam’s sets were an inspiration to me as a child – he built worlds where anything seemed possible and relished in the magical potential of cinema. From the huge, cavernous SPECTRE base in You Only Live Twice, or the super-tanker interior from The Spy Who Loved Me, Adam’s buildings defined many of my formative years. It is thanks to this German-Jewish refugee that my love for James Bond, and cinema as a whole, was nourished. It is unlikely that without him this blog would even exist.

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You Only Live Twice, 1967.

As I grew up I was able to appreciate Adam’s work in more complex films, particularly in collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick, and it is here that you will find his finest achievements. The war room from Dr Strangelove has become an iconic symbol not only within cinema, but as an image of the cold war in all its insanity. The production design in Barry Lyndon, another Kubrick production and one of my favourite films, has a sense of authenticity and immersion that is un-paralleled. It was for this film that Adam won his first of two Academy Awards. He should have won more, but at least we may be glad that his art received proper recognition within his lifetime.

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Barry Lyndon, 1975.

Outside of cinema, Ken Adam was a courageous, warm, and impressive individual. He was one of the few German citizens to serve in the RAF during the Second World War, helping to bring about the end of a regime which forced him to leave his homeland. In interviews and articles, Adam’s passion for life and cinema shines through above all else.

Writing this short piece, I’ve found myself fighting back tears. I can’t help but feel foolish; crying about the death of a 95 year old I never met and probably didn’t have very much in common with. But perhaps this, more than anything, illustrates a life well lived. Surely our greatest wish is for our brief existence to have meaning for others, and Ken Adam’s time on Earth certainly meant a lot to me.