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With the 23rd James Bond movie, "Skyfall," being released this fall (can't wait), we're getting a look at the series as never before: all 22 films in Blu-ray packaged together, plus a slew of new special features from the Bond archives.
The collection is called "Bond 50," marking 50 years since the release of "Dr. No" in 1962. I already own the complete series on DVD, so I doubt I'll spring for the Blu-ray. But for fans who don't have a decent collection, consider that nine of the titles have never been released on Blu before. And before you ask, no, Connery's bastard child remake of "Thunderball" called "Never Say Never Again" is not included, nor is the David Niven-starring spoof "Casino Royale" because those films were produced independently.
But let's not pretend that in 50 years and 22 movies there weren't more than a few misfires and even flat-out bad movies. I might even argue the series died in the early 70s, had a few fits and starts, but didn't get revived fully until the early 90s.
With collections, though, you must take the good with the bad. And with Bond, I don't mind so much. Even some of the bad entries can be fun in a campy kind of way as a reflection of the times in which they were produced.
So here are my choices for some of the best and worst entries in the series.The Five Best:
1. "Goldfinger" (1964)
It's cliche to call this the "gold standard for Bond movies." But it is. And even more than that, it defined a genre of film forever and always. This is Sean Connery at his best in the role - comfortable, loose and confident. And the villains and women have never been equaled in another Bond movie. 2. "From Russia With Love" (1963)
This was right before the Bond series became defined by "Goldfinger." I like this one because it's just a terrific spy movie and love story. It's a great movie, and hints at what Bond will eventually become.3. "Casino Royale" (2006)
Bond reinvented. Daniel Craig's mean, hard, damaged version of Bond is probably closest to what author Ian Flemming had in mind when he wrote the books (Fleming hated the Connery stuff.) But "Casino" excises the campiness we'd gotten used to with the series. Like "Russia," it's a killer spy movie and also a pretty wonderful love story.4. "GoldenEye" (1995)
The best of the Pierce Brosnan entries, Bond is reintroduced to us with a record-breaking bungee jump off a dam. What follows is in keeping with the usual 007 silliness (catching the falling plane, driving a tank through a city on a chase) but under Martin Campbell's direction, it felt fresh and slick. And I quite liked Brosnan in the role.5. "You Only Live Twice" (1967)
This, to me, was kind of the point of no return for the Bond series. Connery was sick and tired of the role, and the movie takes the series beyond hokey with the hollowed out volcano secret layer. And yet, I really like this one. Bond fakes his own death so he can shake his enemies, travel to Japan and help prevent World War III from breaking out. It's borderline racist how they try to make Bond look Japanese, and there are more than a few eye-rolls. But I loved this one as a kid, and really, isn't that how most of us connect with Bond anyway? A lot of us were raised on these movies over the past 50 years.Five Bad Entires
**side note: I was raised to hate the Roger Moore movies, and I still don't like most of them. But instead of just singling out Moore, I'll try to spread the disdain a bit more. That's why I'm not calling these "The Five Worst." It would just be a Roger Moore list.1. "Moonraker" (1979)
This was the Bond series' quick response to "Star Wars," which was released two years previous. "James Bond in space!" read the poster. Roger Moore looks like he knows how silly it is throughout, and the Jaws love story was groan-inducing. It's almost so bad it's fun, but then it just stays bad.2. "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974)
Christopher Lee made a cool villain, but the assassin's theme park Moore's Bond has to navigate is awful, as is the little mini evil henchman played by Hervé Villechaize. This is the Bond movie that might be the most laughable.3. "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971)
After the tepid audience response to George Lazenby in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (the most underrated Bond movie), Connery got a hefty paycheck to come back to the Bond role. But this is by far his worst performance as 007, with most of the charm and sizzle of the earlier films turned to cheese and hoakum here. 4. "The World is Not Enough" (1999)
Look, I don't think this is even among the ten worst 007 movies, but since I said I wouldn't just pick on Moore, I'll highlight this one as the weakest Brosnan entry. The worst thing about it: Denise Richards cast as a nuclear physicist in a halter top named "Christmas Jones." The name provides a groan-inducing innuendo remark at the close of the film.5. "The Living Daylights" (1987)
It seems unfair to pick on Timothy Dalton since he only got two turns at the 007 role, but this one was soooooooo boooooooooring. He made up for it was a much more exciting "License to Kill" in 1989.
So those are my thoughts, Bond fans. Which are your picks for the best and worst?