The 007 Files: You Only Live Twice

You Only Live Twice, released in 1967, marks a few firsts in the Bond franchise. First Bond not written by screenwriter Richard Maibaum. First Bond directed by Lewis Gilbert, who would return later for two Roger Moore entries. First Bond where we finally see SPECTRE head Blofeld. First Bond film not to be released after only a year – 007 fans had to wait an entire year and a half for this entry.

It also marked what audiences believed would be an extremely substantial last. During filming, Sean Connery announced that his fifth 007 appearance would be his swan song. Of course, this piqued the interest of filmgoers who wished to see his last 007 performance. Not that You Only Live Twice needed the extra attention. After Goldfinger and Thunderball‘s massive grosses, audiences were more than ready for the next outing.

You Only Live Twice has quite the straightforward premise: SPECTRE steals spacecraft from the U.S. and U.S.S.R. in order make them both believe they’re messing with each other in hopes of starting a global war. This is all, of course, the brain child of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who we see for the very first time here in full. He’s played by Donald Pleasance, who many of you may know for his later role as the psychiatrist tracking down Michael Myers in Halloween series. Much like with the original villain Dr. Nowe don’t actually see Blofeld until quite late in the film. Unlike Dr. No, the character of Blofeld will appear in more than one 007 entry.

The opening sequence shows the American spacecraft hijacking and then moves on to 007 getting killed. What???? Well, we think (not really) that’s what happened until after the opening credits, but it turns out Bond was just faking his death so he could be sent on his mission to Japan without SPECTRE following his every move.

Nearly the entire picture is set in Japan and we get a taste of Japanese culture, 007 style. There’s sumo wrestlers. There’s a school of ninjas that Bond has at his disposal. We even get the appearance of Bond having to go undercover, which means he must looks more Japanese. Of course, this seems to consist only of Bond’s hair being dyed just slightly darker.

Bond’s gadgets this time around include a tricked out helicopter and a cigarette that kills you right away.

It’s hard to watch You Only Live Twice today without chuckling at its clear influence of another British super spy, Mr. Austin Powers. Even more than From Russia with Love, this may be the film that influenced Mike Myers the most. When we do finally see Blofeld, his uniform is the one that inspired Dr. Evil’s and the two share a striking resemblance to one another. Blofeld’s lair happens to be a hollowed out volcano.

Speaking of the hollowed out volcano, my previous posts haven’t done enough justice to Ken Adam’s work as production designer on the Bond films. You may not think of set design immediately when thinking of 007, but the work of Adam has inspired film for 50 years. His sets are amazing, from Fort Knox in Goldfinger to the volcano lair here. Adam would also work with Kubrick in Dr. Strangelove and Barry Lyndon. The guy is a master and he excelled at the great details of making Bond sets look immaculate. The final showdown at the volcano site shows his fine work.

You Only Live Twice is unique because there’s two main Bond girls. For the first half, it’s Aki, a Japanese agent played by Akiko Wakabayashi. She meets a rather unfortunate end when some poison meant for Bond ends up in her mouth instead of 007’s. For the second half, we have Kissy, played by Mie Hama who must act as 007’s wife as part of his cover. The character of Kissy is unique because she manages to actually turn down Bond’s sexual advances, something we don’t see too often. It doesn’t last long though.

Bond fans may remember one particular bit of trivia about this picture: the screenplay is by Roald Dahl! Yes, that Roald Dahl. The children’s author who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and many other classic books.

The theme song “You Only Live Twice” performed by Nancy Sinatra is a very solid one. I must confess that every time I hear it now, though, I think of the Robbie Williams tune “Millenium”, which samples it.

You Only Live Twice is definitely a bit sillier than the previous entries, though isn’t anywhere near as ridiculous as some of the Roger Moore entries would get. It’s also a whole lot of fun and puts to great use the Japanese locales. It had roughly the same budget as Thunderball and the action sequences are highly entertaining, though not quite as astonishing of what we saw in Thunderball. 

The picture is certainly an influential Bond flick, even if it’s main influence might have been on the Austin Powers series. It did great business at the box office, though not quite Thunderball numbers. Earning $43 million in the United States (lower than its two predecessors), it placed seventh in 1967’s top grossers. While Connery would claim this would be his finale, it wouldn’t quite turn out that way after all. However, the next Bond adventure would introduce us to the second 007. More on that very soon.

Here are the facts:

Film: You Only Live Twice

U.S. Release Date: June 12, 1967

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Screenplay: Roald Dahl

Bond: Sean Connery

Main Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance)

Main Bond Girl (s): Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) and Kissy (Mie Hama)

Theme Song: “You Only Live Twice” – performed by Nancy Sinatra

Budget: $9.5 million

Worldwide Box Office: $111.6 million

My James Bond blog series will return in “The 007 Files: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”

Advertisements

The 007 Files: Thunderball

Thunderball is the fourth 007 adventure, known most for its extensive use of underwater scenes. With the phenomenon that was its predecessor, Goldfinger, this film was granted the highest budget yet for a 007 film, by far: $9 million.

The picture was actually meant to be the 1st oo7 adventure, but a legal dispute over writing credits held that up. This is likely a good thing because had Thunderball been first, it would’ve only had a $1 million dollar budget. Thunderball is definitely the biggest 007 movie in scope, especially with all the underwater action. The lesser budget would have meant there would be no way it’d look as good as it does. In fact, the massive budget (for the mid 1960s) allows the film to still hold up remarkably well even today and I can’t even imagine how impressive it looked in 1965.

The pre-title credit sequence continues the Goldfinger started tradition of having little to do with the rest of the film, but it’s a good one. Bond attends the funeral of a nemesis, who of course turns out not to be dead in quite spectacular fashion. The baddie is dressed as a widower… yep, that’s right. It’s a man, baby! Of course, this sequence is also known for Bond rocking a jet pack and the return of that beloved Aston Martin DB5.

Thunderball returns to the evil shadowy organization known as SPECTRE, which gave us the villains in Dr. No and From Russia with Love. Just like in Russia, we glimpse the ultimate Bond baddie that would come to be known as Blofeld only from the neck down, as he gives orders to fellow criminals only known by their number. The chief villain here is #2, Emilio Largo, played by Adolfo Celi. He is the mastermind of a plan to steal two atomic bombs from NATO, holding the world ransom for $100 million dollars until SPECTRE gets their demands. The theft of the bombs involves the facial reconstruction of one of the NATO pilots, which we discover in an extended sequence where 007 discovers some of this while having some R&R in a health clinic. In that health clinic, Bond is nearly murdered when a baddie sets a spinal traction machine to its fastest setting. Of course, an eventual Bond love interest saves the day by shutting the machine down. Just four films into re-watching the franchise, I’m already struck by how many times 007 would be dead if not for the women in his life. Who says the Bond women are just window dressing? Not me.

Bond is, of course, tasked with the mission of finding the bombs, which means making friends with the evil Largo. This means making even better friends with his mistress, Domino, played by Claudine Auger. He also beds down another Largo employee Fiona Volpe, a memorable character portrayed by Luciana Paluzzi. Her death while dancing with 007 is a Bond classic.

Of course, before Bond is sent on his mission, he gets the visit from Q. His gadgets this time are a little funny in retrospect… a watch and a camera that work underwater!!! Of course, they do come in handy.

All this intrigue leads to a big showdown in the waters of the Bahamas, where the majority of Thunderball takes place. Largo also has a pretty bad-ass collection of sharks, even though they do not have frickin laser beams attached to their frickin heads, unfortunately.

The main villain and main Bond girl in Thunderball do not fully measure up to what we’ve seen before in three previous entries. And we also have a pretty by-the-numbers Bond theme from crooner Tom Jones. This isn’t “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey, but most aren’t.

However, what Thunderball lacks in those departments, it makes up for with this fact: it’s a damn exciting big-budget action spectacle. That final underwater showdown between Bond and allies and the SPECTRE villains is is truly impressive.

After taking a one movie break, director Terence Young is back at the helm for this one. This would be Young’s final 007 picture, but his contribution to helming Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Thunderball makes him one of the most beloved and important figures in 007 film history.

Audiences responded with intense enthusiasm to the Thunderball release. It grossed an amazing $141 million worldwide, which would be equivalent to about $1 billion today. In other terms, Thunderball did Skyfall numbers upon its release. It earned $63 million dollars in the U.S. in 1965, placing it third after The Sound of Music and Doctor Zhivago. This picture is a celebration of the successes that the three previous entries allowed for its high $9 million budget. The makers of Thunderball reward the audience with a rousing and exciting action flick that is just a lot of good ol’ fashioned fun.

Here are the facts:

Film: Thunderball

U.S. Release Date: December 21, 1965 (December 29, 1965 in the UK)

Director: Terence Young

Screenplay: Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins

Bond: Sean Connery

Main Villain: Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi)

Main Bond Girl: Dominique “Domino” Derval (Claudine Auger)

Theme Song: “Thunderball” – performed by Tom Jones

Budget: $9 million

Worldwide Box Office: $141.2 million

My James blog series will return in “The 007 Files: You Only Live Twice”

The 007 Files: Goldfinger

1964’s Goldfinger, the third entry in the James Bond series, is considered by very many to be the gold standard in 007 world. It is generally considered the best Bond picture of all time. From a box office point of view, it built on two very successful first adventures and then shattered box office records with its own performance. The DeMille movie theater in New York City chose to stay open 24 hours after Goldfinger was released due to its incredible business. The film would earn an astonishing $51 million dollars in the U.S., placing it second for the year behind only My Fair Lady.

While Dr. No and From Russia with Love certainly set up the basic framework that we’ve come to know for 007 movies, they are all on display in Goldfinger, really for the first time.

In From Russia with Love, Q’s gadgetry gives us Bond’s famous briefcase. In this one, it’s the car. Oh, the car! The Aston Martin DB5. The Bond vehicle that’s so famous that they’d bring it back again and again. It’s tricked out with all kinds of amazing features, from the ability to deploy an oil slick to machine guns on the side to that ejector seat used so effectively. The Aston Martin used in Goldfinger is widely regarded as the most famous vehicle in cinema history.

There’s the pre-title credit sequence that has really nothing to do with the rest of the film. It’s a brilliant one, culminating with Bond seeing that henchman coming at him in the reflection of his latest conquest’s eyes. And that famous Bond quip at the scene’s close: “Shocking”.

And one of the celebrated Bond villains ever: Auric Goldfinger, played by German actor Gert Frobe. His scheme to rob Fort Knox is pretty ingenius. Of course, Mr. Goldfinger doesn’t count on Bond getting assistance with the main Bond girl, Pussy Galore, who he manages to woo over to his side. It is Galore more than anyone who eventually helps foil Goldfinger’s dastardly plans. Of course, the name Pussy Galore is likely the most remembered of the Bond gals. Honor Blackman is the first Bond girl that seems to be close to Bond’s level. She’s not just window dressing. While she’s not the classical beauty that we got in Dr. No and From Russia with Love, Blackman’s performance provides one of the very best 007 love interests. Their introduction in the film gives us one of the most well-known 007 moments of the series.

There is so much more in terms of classic scenes. Most notably, Bond’s discovery of Jill Masterson, a Goldfinger employee, suffocated in gold paint after she betrays the villain and sleeps with 007. And there’s the laser beam scene, where Goldfinger nearly kills Bond. It’s dialogue will never be left out of a 007 best of reel:

Bond: Do you expect me to talk?

Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond! I expect you to die!

Finally, there’s the wonderful final battle in Fort Knox, which includes Bond’s classic showdown with Goldfinger’s main henchman Oddjob (played by wrestler Harold Sakata) and his world famous hat. The art direction of Fort Knox is a triumph for Ken Adam, who put together the fantastic sets in many a 007 flick.

The final encounter between Bond and Goldfinger is also great, where Bond’s earlier warning about firing guns in an airplane is proven quite true.

Terence Young directed the first two Bond features. Here the reins are turned over to Guy Hamilton. He employs a faster pace than the first two films and a mastery of the action sequences. He’s helped by a healthy $3 million dollar budget (for 1964), triple the Dr. No budget and a million more than the From Russia with Love budget. It’s all up there on the screen. Richard Maibaum returns as screenwriter for the third time in a row, along with co-writer Paul Dehn.

And then there’s the always terrific musical score by John Barry, along with one of the greatest Bond theme songs sung by Shirley Bassey. It is this theme song that nearly all others are judged against.

It is easy to see why Goldfinger is considered the quintessential 007 feature. The film turned a highly successful franchise into a true phenomenon. Goldfinger earned nearly $125 million worldwide which was an absolutely astronomical figure in that era. There is no question that it’s a great film, but it is the greatest Bond ever? That’s a tough one for me, especially after just re-watching From Russia with Love, which is brilliant as well. And, of course, there’s the other ones I’m getting ready to evaluate again, too. When all is said and done, Goldfinger is likely to be regarded as the best. You’ll have to wait until I’m all done when all blog entries before I reveal my list, though. So stay tuned!

Here are the facts:

Film: Goldfinger

U.S. Release Date: December 22, 1964 (September 18, 1964 in the UK)

Director: Guy Hamilton

Screenplay: Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn

Bond: Sean Connery

Main Villain: Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe)

Main Bond Girl: Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman)

Theme Song: “Goldfinger” – performed by Shirley Bassey

Budget: $3 million

Worldwide Box Office: $124.9 million

My James Bond blog series will return in “The 007 Files: Thunderball”

Box Office Results: December 25-30

Well, the previous weekend I was too generous in predicting box office performances. Over the Christmas holiday, it turns out I was quite a Scrooge and definitely was not generous enough. Every title I predicted did better (in some cases, much better) than my predictions and led Hollywood to a very Merry Christmas.

I did manage to correctly predict that Les Miserables would earn the most money over the six days. However, while I guessed a weekend gross $29.4 million and a six day gross of $47.1 million, the film managed to vastly over and somewhat under perform my estimates. The movie’s three estimate is $28 million, which actually makes it #3 for the weekend, but the six day gross was an amazing $67.4 million. That pretty much means audiences were rushing out to see it immediately. While it didn’t win the weekend itself, it won the six-day holiday marathon.

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained gave the director another massive hit. It came in second, earning $30.6 million over the weekend (higher than my $27.2M prediction) and $64 million over the six day (much higher than my $44.6M estimate).

Somewhat surprisingly, it was The Hobbit that remained #1 for the third straight weekend. The Tolkien tale made $32.9 million (above my $26.5M) for the three day and $65.6 million over the six day (above my modest $43.8M projection). With $222 million in the bank domestically, the picture may just do Lord of the Rings numbers after all, but that remains to be seen.

Clearly, I underestimated the audience for the Billy Crystal-Bette Midler comedy Parental Guidance. It opened to middling reviews, but managed to have a rock solid debut, earning $14.8 million over the three day (above my $10.9 prediction) and a great $29.5 million over the six day (well above my $17.7M projection).

Additionally, two other holdovers held up better than I figured. Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher dipped only 10% for a $14 million weekend gross (I guessed $11.6M) and a $26.6 million six day, above my $20.8M projection. Even more surprisingly, the Judd Apatow comedy actually gained 14% from last weekend, making $13.1 million for the weekend (much better than my measly $8M prediction) and $23.8 million for the six day, well above my $14.6M projection.

I will readily admit that I didn’t anticipate the huge business done on Christmas day and the following two days. Everything performed a heck of a lot better than I figured. Mental note: be more giving when it comes to Christmas box office grosses.

I’ll be back Thursday in prediction land, as all these titles try not to drop too far and three new titles open nationwide: Texas Chainsaw 3D, the tsunami drama The Impossible with Naomi Watts, and the anti-fracking film Promised Land with Matt Damon. Stay tuned.

The 007 Files: From Russia With Love

The second installment of “The 007 Files” is the follow-up to 1962’s Dr. No, 1963’s From Russia with Love. The worldwide success of the first installment gave audiences something to look forward to… and this picture delivered upon the high expectations and then some. The Ian Fleming novels were all wildly successful, but the book that this movie was based on was held in rather notable regard. President John F. Kennedy has listed it as one of his Top Ten favorite books in a 1961 Life magazine article. It is said that JFK received a private screening of the brillliant film adaptation just before the tragic events in Dallas.

The team from Dr. No would largely return for From Russia with Love: director Terence Young, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, and, of course, Sean Connery as 007. The success of that film would afford its follow-up with a $2 million dollar budget, double the first. 

Notably, several of the Bond traditions we’ve come to know and love that were not in Dr. No make their debut here. The pre-title credit sequence. The use of multiple exotic locations (Dr. No is about 90% in Jamaica). And the first appearance of the treasured Desmond Llewelyn as “Q”, the man who supplies 007 with all his nifty gadgets. In From Russia with Love, it’s the famous black briefcase that is used for much more than storing paperwork.

From Russia with Love does require audiences to remember Dr. No. The plot involves SPECTRE, that dastardly organization bent on world destruction. The villains in From Russia with Love are trying to kill James Bond, partly due to revenge of 007 killing Dr. No. Also, early in the picture, Bond is canoodling with the character of Sylvia Trench, who appeared as one of 007’s love interests in the inaugural film.

The film gives us our first glimpse of Bond’s arch nemesis in the franchise, Blofeld. Well, kind of. We don’t see his face. We only see him from the neck down, stroking his pet kitty as he barks out orders to his underlings. He refers to his fellow SPECTRE operatives as “Number 3” and “Number 5”. He had a button device that when he pushes it, he can rid himself of undesirable employees. If you’re smiling while reading this paragraph, it may be because From Russia with Love, more than any other Bond film, served as the main influence for the Austin Powers franchise.

The villains from the movie are truly unique and belong at the top of memorable baddies in the series. German actress Lotte Lenya plays Rosa Klebb, a former Soviet intelligence official turned SPECTRE operative. She certainly doesn’t look like a typical main 007 nemesis – she’s tiny in frame, but makes up for it with her ruthless ways and those now-famous shoes equipped with tiny knives protruding out of them. Robert Shaw portrays Red Grant, a cunning SPECTRE assassin who tails 007 throughout the film. He actually saves Bond’s life in one scene, because he can’t kill him until he’s located the Lektor device which Bond has in his possession. What’s the Lektor device? Well, it’s a device SPECTRE wants to steal from the Soviets, but it gets in MI6’s hands when Bond retrieves it. So… what’s the Lektor device? Here’s my best answer – who cares? I’m a firm believer in the teachings of the greatest director ever, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitch made famous the term “The MacGuffin”. What is that? The MacGuffin is what the protagonists and antagonists are seeking out. It’s what they’re fighting to protect. It’s what they’re willing to kill for to get. The MacGuffin moves the plot forward, giving the characters reasons to do what they’re doing. The MacGuffin provides reasoning for elaborate action sequences, iconic heroes, and vengeful and colorful villains. What the MacGuffin really does — in this case, the Lektor device — is incidental.

The main Bond girl this time around is Tatiana Romanova, an employee of the Soviets stationed in Istanbul. It is Rosa Klebb who tasks Tatiana with becoming romantically involved with Bond. The scene where Rosa explains the mission to the beautiful Tatiana is one of the more well-known and risque scenes in 007 lore. We definitely get the idea that Rosa is quite attracted to Tatiana and the homosexual overtones of the sequence were pretty bold for 1963. Tatiana thinks her mission to bed down Mr. Bond is a noble one and that she’s serving her country. She has no clue Rosa is a SPECTRE baddie. Of course, Tatiana is willing to go to bed with 007… and surprise, Bond puts up little resistance (even though he knows the whole time he’s being played). Tatiana is played by Italian beauty queen Daniela Bianchi. She certainly looks the part of stunning Bond girl, even if perhaps nobody could measure up to the standard Ursula Andress set as Honey Rider in Dr. No.

The doubled budget of From Russia with Love affords the picture with more action than Dr. No. It’s frankly a more exciting movie with better pacing than the first. While we only see Dr. No for a few moments, we get more familiar with Rosa and Red Grant’s characters.

The centerpiece of the film is a fantastic train sequence that encompasses about a half hour of the running time. This is where Bond and Tatiana are trying to deliver the Lektor, but the tough Red Grant has other ideas. This is when that handy black briefcase courtesy of Q comes into play. We also get a boat chase sequence at the end that is very well-done and a final encounter with Rosa and her pointy shoes in a hotel room. There’s also a terrific scene of a helicopter chasing Bond that is clearly inspired by Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.

From Russia with Love would double Dr. No‘s American box office gross, earning $16 million dollars and placing fifth in 1963’s biggest films, right behind Hitchcock’s The Birds.

While Dr. No provided a very solid and memorable start to the 007 franchise, From Russia with Love is a masterpiece. We see Connery growing even more into his signature role. We have greater villains and several more exciting action sequences. And we witness, for the first time, many signature 007 movie hallmarks. It is unquestionably one of the greatest Bond films of all time.

Here are the facts:

Film: From Russia with Love

U.S. Release Date: April 8, 1964 (October 1963 in the UK)

Director: Terence Young

Screenplay: Richard Maibaum, novel adaptation by Johanna Harwood

Bond: Sean Connery

Main Villain: Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya)

Main Bond Girl: Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi)

Theme Song: “From Russia with Love” – performed by Matt Munro

Budget: $2 million

Worldwide Box Office: $78.9 million

My James Bond blog series will return in “The 007 Files: Goldfinger”

The 007 Files: Dr. No

The cinematic life of one of the most iconic, if not the most iconic, film characters ever celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It’s done so in about the best fashion imaginable with Skyfall, the 23rd official 007 adventure. Skyfall is already considered one of the finest of the series and is already the highest grossing worldwide and domestically with a take inching towards $1 billion dollars.

Added to that, we now have perhaps the best film box collection ever released – “Bond 50”, which I received for Christmas this year. It contains all 22 earlier Bond films, with an amazing 120 hours of extra features — that’s five days worth, folks. The box set even includes a space for Skyfall when it’s released next year.

I knew that when I got the box set, I wanted to do something I’ve never done before: Watch the James Bond adventures in order of release. Of course, I’ve seen them all. Some only once. Some several times. And now that I’ve got this here handy blog, I’m choosing to start a new category – “The 007 Files” – where each blog post will concentrate on each movie. And I do mean the movies – it is certainly necessary to mention that there would be no 007 without author Ian Fleming, who created him. I’ll say now I’ve never read the books and this is a movie blog, not a book blog, damn it!

We start with the first – 1962’s Dr. No. 

As a Bond fan, you can’t help but be struck by some of the things not in Dr. No – no pre-title credits sequence. No Q character. No hopping around the globe – in fact, other than a few moments in London, the entire film takes place in Jamaica. Not a lot of wisecracks.

And you can’t help but marvel that none of that really matters. Dr. No is a rock solid film and a wonderful introduction to the character and the Bond universe. The plot is probably one of the most straightforward of any of the 007 films: a British intelligence officer in Jamaica is killed and Bond is sent to investigate. The slain officer was investigating recent mysterious incidences of rocket launches being disrupted in the United States. This introduces Bond to his CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter, a recurring character in 007 world. Bond’s investigating leads him to the villainous Dr. No, who reveals his sinister intentions in true Bond fashion (while dining with 007 and talking about it). He figures – why not? He’s going to kill him anyway.

Speaking of true Bond fashion, while I mentioned several things not in the first movie, a lot of other iconic items we associate with the franchise are: his flirtation with M’s secretary, Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell). His womanizing – he beds a total of three women in the inaugural film. His impeccable sense of fashion (the extras on the Blu Ray reveal that director Terence Young was very instrumental in developing Bond’s “only the best” style fashion). And, of course, his way of often introducing himself. That is how we meet James Bond in Dr. No … eight minutes into the picture in what is surely the most well-known and greatest film introduction in the medium’s history:

Coolest. Intro. Ever. The second coolest in Bond franchise history? Well, that also belongs to this film. When the main Bond girl, Honey Rider, is introduced coming out of the water, it represents what is also one of the most famous film scenes in history. That’s another amazing thing in Dr. No – it probably has the Best bond girl of all time. Simply put, Ursula Andress circa 1962 is just unbelievably stunning and her chemistry with Connery is fantastic.

Gotta love that classic Connery quip: “No. I’m just looking.”

Besides having probably the best Bond girl, we also have, well, the best Bond. Sean Connery. What can you say? It was a stroke of genius casting him. With further blog posts, we’ll delve into Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig. And as great as some of them were and are, when someone says James Bond – I picture Connery. We see him master the role from the get-go in this movie.

The structure of Dr. No is different in the sense that we don’t even meet Dr. No until about an hour and twenty minutes in (the movie’s runs just an hour and fifty). Even Andress doesn’t show up until over halfway through. It kind of reminded me of Javier Bardem’s late entry into Skyfall. Joseph Wiseman, as the film’s title character, does an effective job… even if he has a lot less to do than later 007 baddies. He reveals in that key dinner scene that he’s a member of SPECTRE, which all Bond fans know is a running theme we’ll see time and again.

Watching Dr. No, we must remember that the makers couldn’t have known just how successful the franchise would turn out. It’s the first movie and the budget is relatively low. It doesn’t have the number of action set pieces that we’ve become accustomed to.

What it does have is the best Bond being introduced as Bond. This is the movie that got film audiences to fall in love with the coolest spy on the face of the earth. His character is defined so well in the introductory movie. There is one scene in which he uses that “licence to kill” when he shoots an unarmed villain in cold blood. After all, what’s the use of having a licence to kill if you can’t use it?

It’s got the Bond girl that every Bond girl since has been trying to measure up to… and probably never will.

And, of course, I have to mention John Barry’s unforgettable “James Bond Theme”. What a composition. So much so that we expect to hear it with each new Bond entry. If we didn’t, we’d be disappointed. That includes the shot of Bond walking with the gun barrel bearing down on him that has become iconic and used ever since.

Dr. No would earn $8.1 million dollars in the United States, ranking at the 6th highest grosser that year, with nearly $60 million worldwide.

As the franchise would move forward, the 007 adventures would add some of the previously mentioned hallmarks we’ve come to anticipate and expect. We’ll discuss those with each upcoming entry in this blog series. But what might be the most beloved films series of all time doesn’t become that without a memorable start. And Dr. No provides quite a memorable start.

Here are the facts:

Film: Dr. No

US Release: May 8, 1963 (October 1962 in the UK)

Director: Terence Young

Screenplay: Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, and Berkely Mather

Bond: Sean Connery

Main Villain: Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman)

Main Bond Girl: Honey Rider (Ursula Andress)

Theme Song: “James Bond Theme” – composer: John Barry

Budget: $1 million

Worldwide Box Office: $59.6 million

My James Bond blog series will return in “The 007 Files: From Russia With Love”

The State of the Oscar Race – UPDATED

Oscar nominations will be out in exactly two weeks – Thursday, January 10th. The latest round of my Oscar predictions for the six major categories represents bad news for The Master and good news for Django Unchained and various actors and actresses. I’ll break them down by category:

BEST PICTURE

Just ten days ago, I made my latest round of predictions. In them, I predicted nine films would be nominated (it can be anywhere from five to ten). Now I’m predicting eight. Not only that, for the first time, I’m including Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. That means two films get left off. Those are Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and the indie film Beasts of the Southern Wild. I’ve had them both getting nominated for two months, so this is a pretty major shift. Of the eight films predicted, I’m least confident in the French drama Amour and Django receiving nominations. They’re in for now though.

PREDICTIONS

Amour

Argo

Django Unchained

Les Miserables

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

BEST DIRECTOR

My picks for the five Director nominees has stayed remarkably consistent. There are no changes from ten days ago and even further back than that. There is certainly a chance that Michael Haneke for Amour, David O. Russell for Silver Linings, or even Quentin for Django could sneak in. However, my top five remain…

PREDICTIONS

Ben Affleck, Argo

Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty

Tom Hooper, Les Miserables

Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

BEST ACTOR

Here’s the major change: ten days ago, I explained that the Best Actor race was between six actors, but only five get in. My actor on the outside looking in was Hugh Jackman for Les Mis. I now believe the success of the picture will propel Jackman to a nomination. Daniel Day-Lewis is in, no question. So that leaves John Hawkes, Denzel Washington, Joaquin Phoenix, and Bradley Cooper fighting for three spots left. This is a tough one and may continue to change over the next two weeks. Many feel Phoenix in The Master will be the one left out (something that seemed inconceivable not long ago). I’m still not ready to count him out for a nomination, so for now it’s Cooper on the outside looking in.

PREDICTIONS

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

John Hawkes, The Sessions

Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables

Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Denzel Washington, Flight

BEST ACTRESS

This still appears to be a two-actor race between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence. I’m making one change for the rest of the nominees. I’m putting Naomi Watts’ performace in The Impossible back in, leaving out young actress Quevenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild. My rationale is simple: Watts is more well-known and since I’m predicting Beasts will be left out of Best Picture for the first time, I believe that could translate to Wallis missing out.

PREDICTIONS

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Naomi Watts, The Impossible

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Like the Directing category, this is the other one where I have no changes from ten days ago. I have a lingering suspicion we could see a surprise nominee, like Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike or Javier Bardem in Skyfall. I just don’t know which actors I’ve predicted would get left off. So my five remain…

PREDICTIONS

Alan Arkin, Argo

Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

One change here because I feel that this category, more than almost any, has the real chance of a fairly surprising nominee. Due to that, for the first time, I’m taking Amy Adams performance in The Master out and replacing her with Ann Dowd with for the indie film Compliance. 

PREDICTIONS

Ann Dowd, Compliance

Sally Field, Lincoln

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Maggie Smith, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

So there we have it – my predictions with two weeks left to go. Expect another one late next week and a final one on Wednesday, Jan. 9 – the day before.

Box Office Predictions: December 25-30

I’m just going to get this out of the way first: predicting the Christmas holiday box office is EXTREMELY difficult. It’s been made even tougher this year due to the fact that Christmas falls on Tuesday, which means mid-week (Tuesday-Thursday) grosses will be much, much higher than normal.

There are three high profile releases opening tomorrow: the eagerly awaited Les Miserables, the eagerly awaited Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained, and the Billy Crystal/Bette Midler comedy Parental Guidance.

Added to that: the third weekend of The Hobbit and the second weekends of 4 pictures, including Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher and the Judd Apatow comedy This Is 40.

So how does it all shake out? Boy, it’s tough to say. My sense is that The Hobbit will have a much smaller decline this week and weekend that its second weekend, where it fell 57%. Traditionally, the Christmas holiday means recent films don’t decline at the level they normally would (even though I was far too generous with nearly all films this past weekend). These smaller declines could certainly benefit Reacher and This Is 40 as well, even though audiences only gave 40 a “B-” CinemaScore grade, which doesn’t bode well (Reacher got a solid “A-“).

It is certainly possible that both Les Miserables and Django will fight it out with Hobbit for the top spot. Any combination of those three films in the 1-2-3 spots wouldn’t shock me. Word is that Miserables and Django are tracking well and both have received positive reviews. I suspect Parental Guidance will only do OK.

With that, I will bravely predict next weekend’s box office grosses for the Top 6 and take a stab at the six day grosses for all. Again, a caveat: this is TOUGH:

1. Les Miserables

Predicted Gross: $29.4 million (6 day gross: $47.1M)

2. Django Unchained

Predicted Gross: $27.2 million (6 day gross: $44.6M)

3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Predicted Gross: $26.5 million (6 day gross: $43.8M)

*representing a drop of 28%

4. Jack Reacher

Predicted Gross: $11.6 million (6 day gross: $20.8M)

*representing a drop of 26%

5. Parental Guidance

Predicted Gross: $10.9 million (6 day gross: $17.7M)

6. This Is 40

Predicted Gross: $8 million (6 day gross: $14.6 million)

*representing a drop of 34%

So, there you have it: my Xmas predictions. We’ll see what happens and on Sunday, I’ll have the complete update (I’ll post how it’s looking on the blog’s Facebook page throughout the week).

And a final note: I want to sincerely thank all of you who take the time to read this blog. I love writing it and I hope you enjoy reading it. I’ll be blogging again starting Wednesday for sure, but until then – have a Merry Christmas and if you venture out to see a Hobbit, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx and Leo DiCaprio, or Tom Cruise – safe travels!

Box Office Results: December 21-23

Well, it is the Christmas season and I was clearly being way too generous with my weekend’s box office predictions. All titles that I predicted came in lower than my estimations and many were considerably lower.

As expected, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey retained the #1 spot, but dropped off quite a bit more than my prediction in its second weekend. The Tolkien tale took in $36.7 million, dropping 56%. I predicted $49.1 million. Oops.

As predicted, Tom Cruise’s action thriller Jack Reacher took the runner-up spot, earning $15.6 million, lower than my $17.6 million projection.

As predicted, the Judd Apatow comedy This Is 40 took third, grossing $12 million, lower than my $15.7 million projection.

Where I really went wrong: grossly overestimating the openings of Disney’s 3D Monsters Inc. re-release and the Seth Rogen/Barbara Streisand comedy The Guilt Trip. I predicted they would fill the four and five slots, but the two pictures were sixth and seventh. The Guilt Trip grossed $5.3 million over the weekend and $7.4M since its Wednesday opening (way below my $8.9M/$11.6M projection). Even worse, I predicted $12.3M for Monsters with a five-day gross of $16.2M. Not even close – the re-release sputtered with a $5 million weekend opening and $6.5M over the five-day.

This left holdovers Rise of the Guardians to be fourth ($5.9M) and Lincoln at fifth ($5.6M).

It will be fascinating to see how these pictures hold up this week and into the weekend. Christmas Day, in particular, is usually a huge box office day and many of these titles could hold up quite well. Then there’s the fact that Les Miserables, Django Unchained, and Parental Guidance join the fray on Tuesday. I’ll be trying to make sense of it all for my next predictions post for the Christmas week and next weekend, which I’ll hopefully have up by tomorrow evening, so you can leave my predictions with Santa along with the milk and cookies.

Box Office Predictions: December 21-23

We’re doing the box office predictions a day earlier than normal in Todd Thatcher blog land, because two of the four new films opening during this frame open tomorrow.

Both the Seth Rogen-Barbara Streisand comedy The Guilt Trip and Disney’s 3D re-release of Monsters Inc. open tomorrow to try and get a jump on the pre-Holiday box office frame.

On Friday, the Judd Apatow “sort of” Knocked Up sequel This Is 40 and the Tom Cruise action thriller Jack Reacher join the fray. Even with four new high-profile titles joining the fray, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is widely expected to retain its place at #1 for its second weekend. The real question is: how far will it drop? The film made over $84 million this past weekend and normally, a 50% drop would not be out of the ordinary. However, due to the holiday time frame, it may not quite drop that far.

It’s indeed that holiday time frame that makes it difficult to predict the openings of the new movies. The four opening this weekend will very likely occupy slots 2-5. The order will be interesting to see. High-profile December openings usually achieve a “slow burn”, where its actual opening doesn’t seem too big, but it’ll continue to experience smaller than normal dropoffs in following weekends. That is likely to be the case again this year and I would expect none of the new entries to gross over $20 million over the weekend.

Tom Cruise will have a real test of his box office strength with Reacher. His star has waned a bit in the last few years. For instance, 2010’s Knight and Day was a disappointment financially and this summer’s Rock of Ages didn’t perform well. He did have a massive hit a year ago with the fourth Mission: Impossible. His new film doesn’t have the built-in audience as his Ethan Hunt franchise. Reviews have been solid, but the trailers for Reacher don’t seem to set it apart too much from the crowd, in my opinion.

This is 40 is director Judd Apatow’s first film in three and a half years and reunites Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, reprising their roles from 2007’s smash Knocked Up. Apatow’s last film, 2009’s Funny People, was a box office dud. I expect This is 40 to be neither a smash or a dud and fall somewhere in the middle. Its reviews have also been pretty positive.

I expect Disney’s 3D version of 2001’s Monsters Inc. to perform with roughly the same opening that their 3D Finding Nemo did in September, when it grossed $16 million.

Finally, The Guilt Trip doesn’t look very good, frankly, and its reviews have mostly reflected that. I don’t think it will perform as well as This Is 40, unless Rogen and Streisand’s fans really get out there. Not so sure.

And with all that said, here is this weekend’s box office predictions:

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Predicted Gross: $49.1 million (representing a drop of 42%)

2. Jack Reacher

Predicted Gross: $17.6 million

3. This Is 40

Predicted Gross: $15.7 million

4. Monsters Inc.

Predicted Gross: $12.3 million (predicting $16.2 for 4 day gross)

5. The Guilt Trip

Predicted Gross: $8.9 million (predicting $11.6 for 4 day gross)

I’ll be back Sunday with results and even more predictions on either Monday or Tuesday, because even more movies open on Christmas, including Les Miserables, Django Unchained, and Parental Guidance. Stay tuned. Tis the season for LOTS of movies coming out at the same time!