Everything Or Nothing (2012) – Stevan Riley

Everything or Nothing Quad James Bond documentary EPIX

Bond… James Bond.

I’ve been a fan since I saw the trailer for For Your Eyes Only on SuperChannel, and tried to buy a James Bond book for the road trip to New Brunswick, though my father did not approve.

Once we relocated to Bermuda and finally had to break and buy a VHS machine, I got to work my way through all the films, all of which I love passionately, some more than others. I’m also familiar with a lot of the behind the scenes stuff, because that’s the kind of movie geek I am. I’m passionate about how films get made, from the production design, to the stunts, to the politics that sometimes come into play when these films are created.

As such, there was nothing really new for me in this documentary, though I certainly did enjoy how Riley presented it all within an hour and a half, not to mention the interviews he got to fill it out! Nice.

There was the creation of the books by Fleming, the horrid television adaptation of Casino Royale, the joining together of Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to bring the film series to the screen.

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From there it’s a whirlwind romp through the films, some are completely glossed over without mention, though there are clips from all of them present throughout.

It mentions briefly the shooting of You Only Live Twice in Japan and Sean Connery’s decision to leave the series after that, the casting of George Lazenby and the mistakes off-screen that he made. Roger Moore talks about the worry he had following in Connery’s footsteps, as Saltzman and Broccoli fall apart.

The moment that Pierce Brosnan (who laughs at some of the ludicrous things that happened in his last Bond film) was so close to making The Living Daylights before Remington Steele was brought back for a final season.

Broccoli’s daughter, Barbara and stepson, Michael Wilson, stepping in to take the reins from their father to continue the epic series… and the battles with Kevin McClory over control of Thunderball and James Bond himself.

All of this is covered up to and including the 50th anniversary Bond film, Daniel Craig’s 007 in Skyfall.

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As a documentary, this thing could easily have run three hours, and been completely engaging, I point to the fantastic Never Sleep Again as a prime indicator of a brilliantly made behind the scenes documentary, and that only covered seven films and clocked in at 240 minutes!

Still, for true Bond fans, there isn’t going to be much here that you don’t know or haven’t seen before on the extensive extras that have been packaged with each film. Still, it serves as a brilliant introduction to the films for some who may be a little wary about them, or don’t know their history like die-hard fans.

Having said that, it certainly did fire up my desire to watch the films again, and even now, Doctor No is roaring away on my blu-ray player.

A series that after 50 years is still going strong, changing with the times, and the actors who have portrayed him.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a martini.

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The Rock (1996) – Michael Bay

rockMichael Bay finds his way back onto the 101 Action Movies to see before you die, and brings an impressive cast with him, in this, my favorite of his films.

With his usual pacing and editing, Bay makes a full-out action movies with a surprisingly sympathetic villain. Ed Harris plays General Hummel, who has lost too many men under his command to black ops, and wants the families and loved ones left behind taken care of by a government who owes these soldiers. After years of trying to play it by the book, he and a select group of former allies seize control of Alcatraz, the Rock, holding the tourists there hostage and threatening to launch a chemical attack on San Francisco.

The FBI sends in their own team, seen over by a SEAL in the form of Commander Anderson (Michael Biehn) with biochemist Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) in tow. But seeing as no one has ‘officially’ ever escaped from Alcatraz, they forcibly recruit a political prisoner who no longer exists, former MI6 operative John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery), the only one to ever escape the inescapable prison.

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Packed with an all-star cast including Tony Todd, David Morse (this man needs to be in more things!), Vanessa Marcil, John C. McGinley, John Spencer, William Forsythe and Claire Forlani, the film starts with a bang, and doesn’t let up until the final moments of the film.

There are explosions, chases and gunfights aplenty as Mason and Goodspeed try to beat the clock before the island prison is targeted for an air strike. The film is a rollercoaster ride, and is still a lot of fun, with a driving score by Hans Zimmer highlighting the action (this and Gladiator are probably my favorite of Zimmer’s scores).

Yes, the film has Bay’s trademark, no shot longer than 5 seconds editing (actually I’ve heard for this film, the average shot length is 2.7 seconds!), but it is still a great film to watch. From the Humvee chase through San Francisco to the bath room massacre to the approaching air strike the film doesn’t give you a chance to catch your breath.

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It’s fun to watch Connery and Cage banter as their relationship develops, but there’s never any doubt that Mason could snap Goodspeed in half if he felt like it. Mason is reserved cool, while Goodspeed is wired and a little intense, and it plays for the duo perfectly.

It’s raucous, loud, over-the-top, and it’s still a lot of fun, this was the first in a string of action films that Cage made, he followed it up with Con Air and then Face/Off, and as much as I enjoy the other two, and Face/Off is coming up on the list, this is probably my favorite of the Cage action trilogy.

One could blow this off as another Bay summer action film, but with the casts’ pedigree behind it, it’s definitely worth a look!

What’s your fave of the Cage action trilogy of the 90s?

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The Hunt For Red October (1990) – John McTiernan

the-hunt-for-red-october-movie-poster-1990-1020196499Tom Clancy’s techno-thriller, which I remember reading back in grade 9, when my friend Michael introduced me to it and after that, every Christmas until I 1989, I would receive Clancy’s new novel in hardcover for Christmas, was put to film by John McTiernan. Coming off of the incredible run of success that Predator and Die Hard had given for him, McTiernan turned his eye to the bringing Jack Ryan to the screen.

Alec Baldwin plays the incarnation of CIA analyst Ryan in this entry on the 101 Action Movies list, but it is Sean Connery who delivers the stand out performance.

I love this film – this was one of the movies that I would put on all the time when I was working in a video store, its dialogue heavy, and I would just wander around delivering the lines in time, and working on my Sean Connery impersonation (see the Ladies of Seed episode of The Mind Reels for THAT!).

baldwinJack is called from his home in London, where he lives with his wife (Gates McFadden – the only woman in the movie but for a stewardess with any lines!), back to Virgina, and the CIA when a new submarine that can run virtually silent is launched from Russia under the command of Marko Ramius (Connery).

Ryan is called in to figure out Ramius’ motivations as he captains the Red October into the Atlantic and completely disappears… is he defecting? Is he starting World War III?

The cast is packed with familiar faces, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Scott Glenn, Timothy Carhart, Richard Jordan, Joss Ackland, Tim Curry and Stellan Skarsgard, and each of them is given their moment.

samIn fact, after Jurassic Park, I think this is my favorite role for Sam Neill, playing Ramius’ friend Vasili Borodin, he’s kind of quiet and reserved, and the scene he shares with Connery during the Crazy Ivan is one of my favorites.

As both American and Russian forces rush to find Red October before the other, politics are played out behind the scenes as Ryan presents his info to the Security Council and ends up having to go out into the field to prove his theory.

conneryThe claustrophobic environments of the submarines help to raise the tension throughout the film, which keeps building until the final showdown with the Red October, with Ryan trying to stop a missile launch that would plunge the world into war.

All of it is underscored by Basil Poledouris’ stirring music and choral a soundtrack that got a lot of play on my walkman when I finally tracked one down! (soundtrack that is not a walkman).

Scott Glenn’s Mancuso (my fave role for him outside of Silverado and The Right Stuff) and Connery’s Ramius are perfect mirrors of one another, calm and smart commanders who can think, and out think their enemies.

The Thor’s Twins sequence is wonderfully fantastic, the way the dialogue cracks, as orders are given, tensions rise, and at the center of it, maintaining his own count, and inner map, Ramius, quietly giving orders, and outmaneuvering his pursuers. Brilliant.

octoberThis is a film that in the wrong hands could have come off as cheap, and hokey, but the effects work (the Red October sub was filmed on a smoke-filled stage, and was never filmed in water) is top-notch, the actors all bring their A-game, and the details and the tech all have the ring off authenticity.

This is one of my favorite submarine movies of all time, along with Das Boot…

How about you?

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Diamonds Are Forever (1971) – Guy Hamilton

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER1Sean Connery returns as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007, his last official appearance as James Bond. Never Say Never Again is a remake of Thunderball which was released by Warner Brothers, so it doesn’t count as canon. Sorry.

This entry on the 101 Action Movies list follows James as he works to foil S.P.E.C.T.R.E.’s latest villainous plan, using diamonds smuggled out of African diamond mines, and installed on a massive satellite which channels energy through them, in a dangerous, highly focused beam of energy.

The action takes 007 across the globe, as the film picks up with his hunt for Blofeld (Charles Gray this time around, not to be confused with his appearance in You Only Live Twice)to extract revenge after the events of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. From there, 007 becomes embroiled in the diamond scheme, posing as a smuggler, Peter Franks, to follow them to their final destination, from Holland to Las Vegas!

bondcaseConnery seems to be a little tired of the character at this point, though still imbues 007 with charm and fun, sometimes almost verging on self-parody as things get really wacky in Las Vegas, as he meets Plenty O’Toole (named for her father perhaps? Lana Woods) and is assisted by Tiffany Case (Jill St.John).

The assassins Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) are a lot of fun, being the film series first openly gay characters. Bambi (Lola Larson) and Thumper (Trina Parks) are also a lot of fun, and really lay into Bond when he shows up at the elusive, and hidden Willard Whyte’s (Jimmy Dean). He`s been spirited away and Blofeld has taken over his empire, basically kidnapping a man who hasn`t been seen in the public eye for years. Blofeld is using Whyte`s empire to build and launch his weapon, which when demonstrated wreaks worldwide destruction.

There are gadgets, Q (Desmond Llewelyn), Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and yet another Felix Leiter (Norman Burton). There is also a nice car chase down the main Vegas strip (which includes a major film gaffe, fixed by a well-placed sound effect and a tilt of the camera – you’ll know it when you see it).

troubleTiffany Case is one of my least favorite Bond girls, nowhere near as bad as Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) in The World Is Not Enough, but she just doesn’t appeal to me, and Plenty, well, she’s just vacuous.

Q gets out of the office this time around and gets to try out some of his own gadgets while helping 007 out in the casinos.

John Barry gives us another awesome score, I`ve always enjoyed his work, and Shirley Bassey returns to belt out the title track.

There’s a silly moon buggy chase, mafia thugs, Vegas shows, and opulent set design. I quite luck the climax of the film on Blofeld’s oil rig, Bond’s mountaineering on the outside of the White House as well as the tag with Wint and Kidd. There are a number of fun moments throughout the film, but of all of Connery’s entries this is probably his weakest, but it’s still better than Moonraker…

What is your favourite Connery Bond film?

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The Anderson Tapes (1971) – Sidney Lumet

anderson_tapesMr. Sean Connery appears on the 101 Action Movies list again, this time on the other side of the law, as the likable Duke Anderson, sans hairpiece, a safe-cracker, fresh from a ten-year stint in prison, who is about to dive back into the only world he’s known, only to find it’s changed in this film from Sidney Lumet, based on the novel by Lawrence Sanders.

Returning to New York, with fellow ex-con Pop (Stan Gottlieb), Anderson sees that everything has changed around him, there are security cameras everywhere, and we, as the viewer see that everyone is being watched and recorded by one party or another. But just because Anderson sees it, doesn’t mean he gets it. He’s still very much an old-school criminal.

Falling in with his old girlfriend, Ingrid (Dyan Cannon) in her plush, upper-class apartment building, Anderson begins to scheme.

He’ll pull a caper. He’ll rob the entire building, while it’s mostly empty over a holiday weekend. He recruits his protegé, simply referred to as Kid (Christopher Walken in his first major role) as the tech, Tommy Haskins (Martin Balsam) a flamboyant antique collector who tours the apartments to decide what should be stolen.

connerywalkenThrough it all, they are under surveillance, though none directed specifically at them, there’s a boyfriend listening in on Ingrid, the IRS listening in on the mafia who are backing Anderson’s play. Not to mention all the security cameras that see everything.

Anderson goes ahead with the caper, but no sooner does it begin when the film gives us flash-forwards, interviewing the victims as we see bodies being carted out in the background.

We know now that things are going to go drastically wrong, but it’s how that we don’t know.

Despite a very short run time, an hour and a half, the film has a number of characters, and everything interweaves nicely, there is Anderson and his group, private investigators, IRS agents, and a police task force that slips into the building while Anderson is robbing it, and of course the folks being robbed, including an elderly lady who thinks it’s all great fun, and a young paraplegic who is more clever than he’s given credit for.

robberyIt’s a very nicely paced film, and it was highly enjoyable seeing Connery slipping away from his role of 007, though he’s about to return one more time in the next film on the 101 Action Movies list. It was also awesome to see a very young Christopher Walken, who is always enjoyable every time he appears in a film.

Anderson is too old-school to completely realize how much everything has changed around him, and he makes a very basic mistake in the robbery, which of course leads to the complete foul-up of the crime.

I wasn’t a big fan of the film’s score, created by music legend Quincy Jones, but the rest of it I quite enjoyed, especially watching how it all begins to fall apart.

And, we may as well get comfy in the 70s, where the late 70s and early 80s were amazing for the realm of science fiction, the 70s saw some brilliant action movies, I can’t wait to see what comes next!

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On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – Peter Hunt

ohmssO.H.M.S.S. is a welcome addition to the 101 Action Movies list. I still stand by my belief that if this one had starred Sean Connery as Ian Fleming’s James Bond, then this 007 adventure would have been his best. It has Bond falling in love, and was brave enough to end on an incredibly tragic note.

It did prove that the series could survive another actor taking over the role.

This time around, the role of James Bond (offered to both Roger Moore, and a very young Timothy Dalton) went to Australian model/actor George Lazenby.

Lazenby’s Bond is a little different from Connery. The rough edge is gone, but there is a toughness under the frilly tuxedo shirts, and he’s a little self-effacing, his line in the pre-credits adventure, “This never happened to the other fellow,” is a classic. He also did a large portion of his own stunts!

lazenbyThe film also reveals a little bit of Bond history, with the family motto, to be used later as a film title, The World Is Not Enough.

The plot is decidely 60s super-spy fare, the notorious Blofeld (played this time around by Telly Savalas – though Donald Pleasance in You Only Live Twice was my favorite), posing as a lord, has hypnotized lovely ladies from all over the globe, who, upon receipt of the activation signal, will unleash a deadly poison on the world!

Bond posing as Sir Hillary Bray, travels to Blofeld’s hideaway under the guise of investigating the villain’s genealogical claims.

As always trouble find Bond, and he has to survive on his wits, as there are almost no gadgets in the film at all.

The first half of the film, sees the introduction of Bond’s love interest, Tracey (The Avenger’s Diana Rigg), and the film actually takes it’s time, or as much as you can in an action movie, to allow the romance to develop. It’s fun to see a different side to Bond, the vulnerable man under the edge, something Daniel Craig’s Bond has broght back with his incarnation.

dianaTracey, is the daughter of a mafioso, Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), who supplies Bond with Blofeld’s location, and 007 drops everything to race off after him, returning to his wooing ways as he bed-hops from lady to lady in the Alps hideaway.

The story really kicks into high gear with Tracy’s return to the film, rescuing 007 in a car chase, and then a ski chase, racing before an oncoming avalanche! When Tracey is captured, Bond and her father, lead an all-out assault on the mountain-top, racing to stop Blofeld’s angels from activating, and rescue the girl.

The final battle is fantastic, the stunts are intense, everything looks fantastic, and the mountainous backdrop makes it all look fantastic. It just keeps ratcheting up and up, until a final bobsled chase between Bond and Blofeld.

The heroes win, but as we see with the final frames of the film, only for so long…

Lazenby as Bond is ok, it would have been interesting to see what he would have done in a second or third feature, but as it was his only outing we’ll be left to wonder that.

Diana Rigg on the other hand, is wonderful as Tracey, a combination of fiery and vulnerable. She is the perfect match for Bond in this film, and she does a great job with what could very well have been a somple part.

tellyO.H.M.S.S. is a big sprawling film that continues to make James Bond larger than life, and the only film, until Casino Royale to really let a different side to 007 come onscreen for any length of time (but for a moment in The Spy Who Loved Me).

For me, it’s actually in my top 10 Bonds, and is always fun to watch! John Barry’s score, and title music is wonderful, and Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All The Time In The World,” is completely at home sharing the more emotional side of 007.

What do you think of it?

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Thunderball (1965) – Terence Young

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007 is back in his biggest adventure yet and the 101 Action Movies brings me one of my favorite Sean Connery Bond films. For me, this one has it all, exotic locations, scuba diving (something I haven’t done for years, but still love), Connery being suave and cool, banter with Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and my favorite Bond Girl, Domino (Claudine Auger, sigh).

conneryThis was the longest running Bond at the time, clocking in at 130 minutes, and it’s all up there on the screen, and never seems to flag. Part of that is the stunning underwater photography, the climax of the film is a giant underwater battle with watersleds, harpoon guns, rogue sharks, and James Bond kitted out with a super scuba tank, outfitted with a propeller to give him some added speed.

The evil S.P.E.C.T.R.E. organization is up to its dastardly ways, stealing two atomic weapons from a downed test flight, and are holding the threat of using them over the British government. They demand an outrageous amount of diamonds for their safe return, or they’ll set them off.

James Bond (Connery) is assigned to hunt down the mastermind behind the operation, Largo (Adolfo Celi) and stop him. He uses Largo’s kept woman, Domino to get closer to his target and eliminate him.

The film is filled with a bevy of beauties, including the one at the health club, Patricia (Molly Peters), Bond’s partner, Paula (Martine Beswick) and the film’s Bad Bond Girl, Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi), not to mention Domino. It’s a wonder Bond has time to save the world!

But save the world he does, using the plethora of gadgets Q provides him with, and his own wits. As expected he’s always a gentleman about it as well. Even when he’s joining Largo for lunch, and they are both aware of who the other one is, and their plans, they all play it very gentlemanly and above-board, much more sporting that way.

I delight in this film, Bond just seems to be having so much fun, he’s never ruffled, and of course, he’s just undeniably cool.

claudineAnd of course, there’s Claudine, a curvy, pouty French brunette. Sigh.

The locales give it a luscious travelogue look, but the action sequences are undeniably Bond, big, explosive, and tons of stunts. As mentioned they underwater work is fantastic, and nothing on that scale had been seen before on the screen.

It’s also the first Bond to be shot in CinemaScope  sweeping the image out to be, well, more cinematic, more epic. By comparison, as fun as the first three films, this one looks and feels so much larger than the previous films. And of course, it is, the budget is bigger, the film is longer, and there is so much more going on.

Celi seems to be enjoy being the nefarious Largo, dueling verbally and finally physically with Bond. Fiona, is immune to Bond’s charms, though neither seems to be too bothered about using the other, and their banter is a lot of fun, whether it’s in the bathroom, the bed, or in the car.

Terence Young has made a sprawling action adventure epic, putting Ian Fleming’s enduring hero through his suave paces. The film also marks the 3rd actor to play CIA agent, Felix Leiter in 4 films, Rick Van Nutter. There have only been two actors to play Leiter so far more than once, David Hedison (Lice and Let Die, Licence To Kill) and Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace).

This is my preferred version of this story, the 1983 remake, which is not considered canon, as it was released by United Artists/MGM competitor, Warner Brothers, Never Say Never Again, which saw Connery’s final return to the role that made him a legend.

John Barry has another fantastic score, especially in the final underwater acts of the film, which feature no dialogue but a driving soundtrack of orchestration and sound effects.  The title track, set against silhouettes of diving beauties is belted out by Tom Jones, and is probably one of my least favorite tunes, I quite like Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill, and a-Ha’s The Living Daylights – but hey, I love my 80s tunes.

Like the poster says, it’s the biggest Bond of all… (at least until the next one, and the next one, and… well you get the idea).

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From Russia With Love (1963) – Terence Young

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I love the Bond films, so it was really no surprise to me that a number of them would start to pop up the further I got into the 101 Action Movies list.

Of the early James Bond films, From Russia With Love is closest to the source material penned by Ian Fleming. Sean Connery, the quintessential 007 is perfectly at ease in the role now, after his first outing in Dr. No and exudes a calm, relaxed cool that tells you he can handle anything the fiends at S.P.E.C.T.R.E. throw his way.

jamesThis time out, Bond is drawn into a more traditional spy thriller, MI6 has learned that a woman, Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) is willing to deliver to the British a lektor decoding machine, if Bond himself comes for it, apparently she claims to be in love with him, though she’s actually working for Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), whom she believes is still working for the Russian government. In the end, they are all pawns in S.P.E.C.T.R.E.’s game to push the western and eastern worlds that much closer to war.

Every step of the way, Bond is shadowed by an agent waiting to kill him and snatch the lektor for S.P.E.C.T.R.E, the intimidating assassin, Grant (Robert Shaw), which leads to a brilliant fight sequence within the confines of a train car.

Bianchi is lovely as Romanova, first following her assignment, and then, as it happens, actually falling in love with Bond, choosing love over country.

grantUnlike later films in the series, the gadgets are at a bare minimum, a kitted out brief case with cash, knives, a collapsible rifle and an explosive device, all introduced for the first time by Major Boothroyd (Desmond Llewelyn), referred to from the next film onward, as Q.

The film also introduces one of my favorite musical pieces, John Barry’s 007 Theme, which appears in 5 Bond films (From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker) after the James Bond Theme.

From Russia With Love serves as a great introductory point for anyone looking to see the best of the early Bond films, the story is well-crafted, the characters are developed, the locations are lovely, and it takes its time in the telling, in an enjoyable way.

Our gentleman spy gets caught up in a showdown at a gypsy camp, a boat chase, and as mentioned the fight between he and Grant on the train. There’s a bit of blackmail as well, as Bond and Romanova are recorded the first night they spend together.

boatThis is Connery’s Bond at the height of his cool, though Goldfinger perfects it, and my favorite of his is just a little further along on the list.

This is Bond without tons of glib remarks, there are a couple, and an involving story.

I love all the Bond films (yes, there are even moments I like in Moonraker) but this one is probably in my top 10, maybe even my top 5. I’m looking forward to seeing what other ones show up on the list.

What are your favorite Bond films and moments?

Who’s your favorite 007?

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The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman by Vic Armstrong

VicCoverI first heard the name Vic Armstrong in a television special called Great Movie Stunts & The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark back in 1981. I was 10 or 11 when the special first aired, and I remember watching it in our house while we were living in Kingston.

Even at that age, I was already intrigued by how the magic of movies was created, in my estimation, knowing how something was done increases my appreciation for it.

The special not only covered the incredible stunts that Raiders brought to the big screen, it gave a brief history of stunts from the dawn of cinema, and introducing me to one of the most famous stuntmen of all Yakima Canutt. He was amazing!

Vic Armstrong is the modern day Canutt, but also an accomplished action director. Whether you know the name or not, you know his work, Armstrong has done stunts for James Bond movies, he doubled Christopher Reeve as Superman, and of course Indiana Jones, amongst countless others, he’s had an unparalleled career, working for some of the best and brightest, and by his own admission, some of the not so great.

vic armstrong.jpgI was very happy to dig into his autobiography, from the moment that I had stumbled upon it at my local Chapters I wanted it. But what with Christmas coming, I knew I would be better off asking for it. Christmas came around, and Vic’s book went right to the top of my pile.

From his early days working with horses, a love he’s fostered all of his life, he got involved in films, and made a name for himself as one of the most professional and talented men in the business. It’s amazing to read some of the things he’s done, jumping out of a helicopter 35 feet above the side of a mountain with nothing but a life jacket to cushion the fall.

He’s done falls, fights, transfers (in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – he’s the guy who does the jump from the horse onto the tank – a distance of 18ft!)… He’s worked with the biggest names in the business, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Robert De Niro, Robert Downey Jr. Van Damme, Angelina Jolie, Donald Sutherland, Liam Neeson, and J.J. Abrams. He won a technical Oscar for his creation of the fan descender, used in high jumps, and he’s the only action director/stuntman to have a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.

vicHis book is a highly enjoyable read, and had me constantly shaking my head in amazement, chuckling at something outlandish, or sympathizing when I read   about an injury to him or one of his mates.

As an action director, he crafted and shot the ice car chase in Die Another Day, the helicopter chase sequence in Mission: Impossible III in addition to countless others. He crafts incredible sequences, and it’s thrilling to read how they were designed.

It’s an amazing story of a brilliantly lived life, from starting out, to making it a family business. The tales he tells are so entertaining, and as always, simply give me more appreciation for the magic of movies, not only his work as a stuntman, but the work of all of them.

If you love behind-the -scenes books and love the magic that brings movies to life, you owe it to yourself to read this one – it’s incredible.

Vic Armstrong is one of those people that I would be absolutely gob-smacked to meet, that being said… Mr. Armstrong if you read this, and you ever get to Toronto, Sue and I would love to have you on our show!

Until then, I’m gonna be watching some of my favorite adventure movies again, and watching the work of not only Vic but his fellows with a whole new level of appreciation…

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Music To Spy To – Scoring 007

I love movie soundtracks! I’ve been enchanted with them, since I realized that I could have a Star Wars soundtrack of my very own, and play it over and over again. This was in 1978, and it wasn’t really the Star Wars soundtrack by the AWESOME John Williams, it was the album Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk by Meco. Didn’t matter, I played that record over and over again. The next one I got, wasn’t until 1980, when I was introduced, for the first time to the masterful composer, John Barry. I bought the LP for The Black Hole, a score that is still one of my favorites and if I’m not humming and whistling John Williams tunes, or a Bond music cue, then I’m probably whistling something from that score.

So it should come as no surprise that I have all the James Bond soundtracks.

Much like the films, they are all good in their own ways, and always evoke my memories of their respective films. And on the day that I get to see Skyfall, this evening in IMAX (CANNOT WAIT!!) I thought it would be nice to take a look back at the scores and songs that have made played us to 007′s 50th Anniversary!

The two most prominent names amongst this select group who have composed music for the Bond films are John Barry and David Arnold.

And of course, Monty Norman for creating the original theme, which he’d originally written for a musical.

Barry was there from the get-go, he scored the first 7 Bond films, giving each musical cue the flavor of its location, interweaved with the James Bond theme, the 007 theme he penned, as well as the themes from the film’s title song (something that is worked into each Bond film). He established the tone, balancing tension and fun, and used sweeping scores to heighten the action and the locations.

The first 7 films have some great opening numbers as well, Shirley Bassey belting out Goldfinger (the first of the Bond films to have a song featured over the classic opening title sequence – it was also the film that perfected the pre-title action sequence), I love Nancy Sinatra’s You Only Live Twice, and the fact that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service went back to a bold, brassy instrumental title song.

With a new Bond in Roger Moore in 1973, Paul McCartney and Wings took center stage to give us a wicked cover tune, later savaged by Guns & Roses. Taking over scoring duties for this film was Beatles producer George Martin.

Barry returned for The Man With The Golden Gun, not my least fave Bond film, but one of them. He continued to pop in and out of the series, scoring Moonraker (my least fave), Octopussy, A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights (two of my fave Barry scores).

The Spy Who Loved Me, quite possibly Roger Moore’s best Bond, along with For Your Eyes Only, featured a score by Marvin Hamlisch. Heavily influenced by the sounds of the late 70s, not quite disco, but definitely a bell-bottomed, do the hustle feeling to it, and brought is the classic, Nobody Does It Better, crooned by Carly Simon.

For Your Eyes Only featured a switch up again, and is probably the most dated scores of all the Bond films, I have a hard time believing it worked at the time, it doesn’t always work now. Bill Conti, who gave us the Rocky Theme, took the musical rins on this one, and it just doesn’t feel 007 enough, although it does have the sexy Sheena Easton singing the title track.

A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights featured decidedly 80s bands, but all Bond films tend to be somewhat reflective of their time, and these two films, because they were so 80s, are my favorite, featuring title tracks by Duran Duran and a-Ha respectively.

Licence To Kill. sadly Timothy Dalton’s second and last Bond film, featured a darker, revenge based storyline, and the darker score by Michael Kamen (who also scored the Lethal Weapon films as well as a gorgeous score for Highlander) suits it perfectly. I do find the Gladys Knight title track a little tiresome.

Then there was the long wait until 1995, and the introduction of a new Bond, Pierce Brosnan. This time out, U2 superstars Bono and The Edge penned the title track, which Tina Turner kicks the hell out of. The film’s score is a little unusual, and very electronic. There are pieces I love, especially the pre-credit teaser, and staff I don’t, but Eric Serra (The Fifth Element) definitely put his mark on the film.

Finally, the man who had apparently been campaigning for the chance to score a Bond film for years, even to the point where he released an album of updated title tracks and instrumentals from the series called Shaken And Stirred, David Arnold became the series composer.

Like Barry before him, he worked in concert with the artist chosen to sing the film’s title track, weaving it in and out of the film. Arnold scored the three remaining Brosnan films working with Garbage, Sheryl Crow and Madonna tp bring some undeniably Bond songs.

We had to wait another 4 years for Bond to be reborn on the screen in the form of Daniel Craig in the brilliant Casino Royale (it’s a cop-out but this is undeniably my fave Bond film. Connery may have essayed the role and may be the Best Bond, but Craig perfected the character).

David Arnold was right there to launch the character anew, as Chris Cornell belted out the title track, You Know My Name. Casino Royale is an interesting Bond film in that we do not hear the Monty Norman theme until the last moments of the film, which is also when Craig finally delivers the immortal piece of dialogue we all practice in the mirror (we do right?) “Bond.. James Bond.”

Craig and Arnold are back for Quantum of Solace featuring Jack White and Alicia Keys sharing vocals on Another Way To Die. I believe that watched on its own, the film is ok, not great, but when watched back to back with Royale it works incredibly well.

This evening I’ll be seeing the new Bond film, Skyfall, and David Arnold isn’t around this time. This time, Thomas Newman (Green Mile, American Beauty, Wall-E) is bringing is the music that will carry Bond throw the moments of the film. The film also features one of the strongest female vocal performances since Goldfinger, as Adele belts out a brilliant title track.

I spent most of the day at work yesterday listening to the score, and I’ve come down very firmly on liking it a lot, I don’t know it all backwards and forwards yet, and can’t hum or whistle it beyond the title track and Bond theme, but I expect it’ll be added to my repertoire soon enough. Newman sounds like he had a lot of fun recording this one, and just let it loose and had went all out.

I’m looking forward to seeing how music and image match up this evening…

I’ll let you know tomorrow.

What’s your fave Bond song? Bond movie?