ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

JER'S TURN- E.T.: THE EXTRA- TERRESTRIAL TURNS 30!



JER: My “COUNTERPOINT” partner, JOHNNY CHAZZ, was supposed to have conjured up an interesting, possibly controversial, subject to discuss this week on his turn. However, my poor friend has been feeling a bit under the weather and passed the literal baton off for me to complete the race instead. So, after some pacing the floors and waiting for lightning to strike with inspiration, I came up with the idea of focusing on a film that might be celebrating an anniversary before we kiss- off the year that was 2012!
By looking at anniversaries, I thought that 30 was a nice, round number to begin with. It turns out that 1982 was a pretty good year for a collection of films that have stood the test of time, maybe some a little more popular than another, but still holding their perspective place after 30 years. Some of those films include BLADE RUNNER, HEAVY METAL: THE MOVIE, THE THING, PORKY’S, TRON, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, CONAN: THE BARBARIAN, POLTERGEIST, PINK FLOYD: THE WALL, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, THE DARK CRYSTAL and BREAKING AWAY. Again, good or bad, whatever your opinions might be, they have all gathered a sense of ‘cult’ followings, respectfully, and a fan base of devotees always ready for another screening of their favorite.

My attentions, instead, went towards a film that actually changed my personal perspective of both film- watching and the mechanics of film making. The film, somewhat, sneaked its way into the theaters during the Summer of 1982… having a very limited engagement… almost testing the waters, for fear of failure. The film I would like to recognize and highlight is the Steven Spielberg classic, E.T.: THE EXTRA- TERRESTRIAL.

The film would open a month before I would turn 14 years old on June 11, 1982. It was the “Summer Of Spielberg” since POLTERGEIST had just opened a week prior on June 4, 1982… although credited as Story, Screenplay and Producer; it was obvious that there was a lot of Spielberg projecting onto the screen by way of direction and not at all like the films that its director Tobe Hooper (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) was known by. At this time in my life, what was there not to know of Steven Spielberg from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, JAWS and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK?

PLOT: A group of alien botanists visit planet Earth one evening and explore an outer forest section on the outskirts of a suburban neighborhood. While collecting specimens to observe, their mission is cut short as investigators come barreling in all terrain vehicles, as they must have witnessed and tracked the landing of the alien ship. Quickly, the aliens are summoned back into the ship before they are captured…except for one. One of their own had strayed a little too far, taking in the wonderment of the forest’s trees and is left with the desertion as his fellow botanists’ ship departs while leaving him behind.
Enjoy this wonderful tribute to E.T.


Quickly, the alien tries to hide from the human intruders and seeks shelter below the path now leading towards a residential area. Elliott is a typical ten year old boy living in a typical middle- class American home with a typical family. As if through some sort of sixth sense, Elliott is led to the outdoor shed where certain gardening tools are kept… he realizes he is not alone.

Through curiosity, Elliott finds a way to persuade the alien out of hiding and into his room, where he befriends and cares for his new found companion. The secret is broken as Elliott divulges the discovery to his siblings without mom’s notification.

Elliott names his new friend E.T. after the title of extra- terrestrial, meaning life from outside Earth. Elliott and E.T.’s connection grow strong as one can feel what the other feels. Although there is a feeling of safety, E.T. still expresses the need to return to his home and asks the assistance of Elliott in finding a means to communicate with his fellow botanists to come back and retrieve him.

ORIGINS: Although director Steven Spielberg didn’t write the story, there were many compatibilities between his childhood and that of Elliott’s, the protagonist of the film. Focusing on Elliott’s plight, he is a meek 10 -year- old boy. In 1982, it could arguably be said that it was more of an awkward time to grow- up in, aside from his age, then that of a 10- year- old growing up today. Elliott would not have grown up in a world of de-sanitation with the exposure of the internet and the frankness of the media and television. Hard to believe, but 1982 was considered a more innocent time in America than 2012 could ever be. Elliott is also coming from a newly separated family, with his father no longer in the picture and being the middle child to an older brother, Michael and younger sister, Gertie. Spielberg also endured a divorced upbringing with older siblings as well… he was the only boy (or ‘man’) of the house with the absence of the father figure. Both Spielberg and Elliott grew up in sheltered homes with mom playing both parental figures and a feeling a sense of rejection and ‘not fitting in’ with classmates and the world around them.

Spielberg, at an early age, discovered how to work his father’s home movie camera and used the new media as a means to escape and express what was once missing in his life. Elliott, on the other hand, was given a friend, being entrusted to care for someone as he once wanted to be cared for. Both found something that would allow expression and love to replace a state of loneliness that once was felt. 
Spielberg explains the origins of E.T.'s storyline 


Divorce has always been a very personal, hurtful and touchy topic on any scale. Hollywood had never really presented a film that dealt with the subject. The world was making a change in itself, technology and music was continually experimenting and films were becoming far more sophisticated than it had within the last ten years. Spielberg knew that with change came the responsibility to introduce families, especially children, into the world of divorce. The rates were growing higher than ever before and the time to heal was now.

Screenwriter: MELISSA MATHISON
Writer Melissa Mathison was a female screenwriter who was just beginning to make a name for herself within the Hollywood circuit. Having co- written the Francis Ford- Coppola produced THE BLACK STALLION in 1979, Mathison was enjoying the critical praising from the film. Having just started dating actor Harrison Ford, Mathison and Spielberg were introduced. Spielberg began pitching an idea about a boy who was dealing with divorce and how he wanted to combine that concept with the idea of his visiting aliens from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. His thoughts were always that he didn’t want to see the aliens leave in the end… he wanted them to stay so that we could learn more about them and interact with this new species. So, the thought of “what- if” came into his head: what if one of them stayed behind and befriended someone whose innocence, almost ‘childlike’ qualities, were what was needed to truly except the new being. With that pitch, Mathison began to work on a storyline structure…the rest, as they say, was history. Now that the screenplay was ready for the cameras, the idea of how E.T. would come to life needed to be worked out.

Creature Creator: CARLO RAMBALDI
Special Effects and puppeteer expert Carlo Rambaldi had previously worked with Steven Spielberg in the creation of the aliens seen in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND in 1977, a year later he assisted with the head movements for the creature in Ridley Scott’s ALIEN. Spielberg approached Rambaldi with the task of creating an even- more detailed alien than anything he had ever created. Its articulations, body and facial appearances needed to be so life- like that audiences could lose itself in the character than point out that it was a guy in a suit or just another puppet on a set. It would take a total of seven operators to control E.T. and bring him to life. The results were so exceptional, that many of the actors and crew members believed that E.T. was just another living actor on the set. Many of the child actors would attest that they knew him to be alive throughout the production. Many of the operators would keep E.T.’s movements alive even when the cameras weren’t rolling to keep an ongoing sense of magic on the set. Carlo Rambaldi won an Academy Award for Best Effects/ Visual Effects for his creation of E.T. His career would have his wizardry appear in later films like DUNE (1984) and Stephen King’s SILVER BULLET (1985) before he would continue doing some minor make- up effects for his native Italian- made films until 2006. Rambaldi died on August 10, 2012 in Italy at the age of 86. 
Rare glimpse of Carlo Rambaldi talking about creating E.T.


As much as earlier Steven Spielberg films went, his casts were always made up of real people whom the audience could conceivably believe could possibly live though any scenario their director might have in store for them, however, he rarely used Hollywood big name talents. Many of the cast, especially the children, were first- timers on any Hollywood set.

HENRY THOMAS
Henry Jackson Thomas Jr. was only ten years with a very minor film role under his belt before auditioning for the role of Elliott. It was during a weepy improvised scene involving taking E.T. away from Elliott that made Spielberg teary- eyed while blubbering, “kid, you got the part!”   Thomas’ career has been a flourishing one since with roles in such films as CLOAK & DAGGER (1984), LEGENDS OF THE FALL (1994), GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002) and the recently completed BIG SUR set for a 2013 release.


ROBERT McNAUGHTON
Robert MacNaughton was fifteen years old when he played Elliott’s older brother Michael. His acting career had consisted of three minor roles before his audition for E.T. Since then, MacNaughton did one other feature film entitled I AM THE CHEESE (1983) and did some minor television appearances before leaving Hollywood in 1987. His last known whereabouts was that of a U.S. Postal Service employee in Arizona. He has stated that he felt very blessed to have been an actor but that he was ready to move on with his own life.

DREW BARRYMORE
Drew Blyth Barrymore was a tender six year old when she received the role of younger sibling Gertie. Considered to be the more successful of the child actors that came from E.T., Barrymore’s credits include actress, director and producer. Granddaughter to screen actor John Barrymore and Great- niece of famed actors Ethel and Lionel Barrymore, Drew’s personal history carried equal attention as that of her professional career. She began drinking alcohol at the age of 9, took up marijuana at ten and began snorting cocaine at the age of twelve. Fame gave her freedom to do whatever she pleased and pulled her life together by the mid 90’s. Today, Barrymore is best known for her acting roles in such memorable films like CAT’S EYE (1985), BOYS ON THE SIDE (1995), SCREAM (1996), THE WEDDING SINGER (1998), CHARLIE’S ANGELS (2000) and 50 FIRST DATES (2004). She also founded her own production company, Flower Films, in 1995.

(left) PETER COYOTE  (right) DEE WALLACE
Two adult characters took center stage within E.T. Actress Dee Wallace would play Mary, the recently separated mother of Elliott, Michael and Gertie. Wallace, at the time, was recognized as the heroine Karen White in Joe Dante’s THE HOWLING. Since her breakout role, she went on to star in films like CUJO (1983), Peter Jackson’s THE FRIGHTNERS (1996) and Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN (2007).

The other adult actor was Peter Coyote who played a character simply known as “Keys” (named so for the large, jingly keying attached to his belt while searching for E.T.) Since his role, Coyote is still a very busy television and screen actor to this date.

(left) JOHN WILLIAMS with STEVEN SPIELBERG
MUSICAL SCORE: The impact of E.T.: THE EXTRA- TERRESTRIAL lies in many different aspects: cinematography, lighting, set- design, screenplay, acting and direction. One of the most important and notable pieces of this or any film is the soundtrack. It would be very difficult to imagine anyone other than composer John Williams creating and conducting the music that accompanies E.T. right from the very start of the film. From the first alto flute note heard at the opening to the orchestra’s finale, the music becomes a character all of its own throughout the journey.

Before E.T., Williams had worked with Spielberg previously by scoring his earlier films: THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974), JAWS (1975), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), 1941 (1979) and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981). To date, Williams has scored an overall 25 films for Spielberg total. There is much to be said about the magic of the music that brings equality to what E.T. as a film defines as. There is innocence, fear, action, suspense, drama, tears and joy presented on screen and heard in the various melodic themes though out.
John Williams conducting the "Flying Theme" from E.T.


John Williams would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Score for E.T.: THE EXTRA- TERRESTRIAL in 1983.

THE AFTER-MATH: E.T. IS A HIT!: Words cannot describe the out- pour of E.T. after its release. Everyone wanted a piece of E.T. memorabilia and every known studio, merchandising network and product were all too quick to please the high demands!

E.T.'s likeness was plastered on everything from his own cereal, lunchboxes, underwear, t- shirts, posters, toothbrushes, trading cards, Christmas ornaments, coloring books, candy, action figures, plush dolls and paperback novels... just to name a few items!

Two very ambitious and entertaining projects came from musicians that were 'touched' by E.T.'s magic, child- like qualities and the positive presentation of friendship. One was a long- playing album that told the story of E.T.'s adventures on Earth... it was read by none other than the 'child' superstar himself, Michael Jackson!

The other was a reflection of emotions projected from the film that inspired singer/ songwriter Neil Diamond to write a hit song entitled "Heartlight." The song talks about the development of friendship, not leaving and even flying over the moon! 
A live presentation of HEARTLIGHT by Neil Diamond in 1988


13 YEAR- OLD JER WITH E.T.!!!
Universal Studios offered fans their chance to visit the Studio/ Theme Park that Summer to experience THE E.T. EARTH CENTER. It was a magnificent collection of all the available products and merchandise all under one roof (well, under one tent, to be exact). Wall- to- wall, as far as the eye could see offered visual candy to anyone who had fallen in love with E.T. One of the greatest opportunities available was a photo center that allowed anyone to take Elliott's seat on the bike as you went whisking past the moon with E.T. riding along in the basket in front. No surprise...I had to have my own photo, which I display proudly to this very day! Eat your heart out!

THE AFTER-LIFE: THE BLU- RAY RELEASE: Anniversaries can go many different ways. Depending on the magnitude and impact that a particular motion picture made to pop culture or contributed to the industry, many anniversaries have been celebrated with re- releases, special editions or even a face- lift by way of a re-mastered process. This portion of my topic will now focus on the first- ever release of E.T.: THE EXTRA- TERRESTRIAL in the blu- ray format.

The news had officially announced that the long- awaited release of the beloved film would finally make its way onto the blu- ray format on October 9, 2012 as part of Universal Studios 100th Anniversary as a working film studio. E.T. would also be released at the right time, since it was celebrating its own 30th anniversary, respectfully as well.

The blu- ray format offers a special digital transfer that creates a much cleaner and detailed image to meet the standards of the current high- definition seen in most formats like I- phones, I- pads and flat screen television screens. In order to truly get the best transfer available, it narrows down to source to which the process is transferring from. Based on how well the film was originally photographed and cared for by its rightful studio, a film can re- represent itself in a very clean and pristine copy or it can be derived from a lesser- than edition. Most studios have been put ‘in- check’ with the lack of care placed in some of its digital transfers. E.T., on the other hand, does not suffer from such issues.

The original 35 MM negative to E.T. was pulled from the vaults to follow through the digital process, a timely procedure that literally photographs each analog frame digitally from the negative. Just to give you an idea, the digital outcome creates clarity three times the actual resolution of the film. Once the entire film was photographed and processed digitally, a restoration crew of professionals will analyze and repair each frame as needed. All dirt will be removed, all tears in the film will ne patched up and any tarnishes or discolorations from the film can be color- timed to the best imaginable image. A film made in 1982 now looks like a film made weeks ago in 2012.

The same procedure is similar for the digital process of the film’s sound. Sound is typically recorded separately, unlike a camcorder, which records picture and sound together in the same format. The best available reproduction of sound is also based on the highest available source. In the case of E.T., the original sound was still intact and used to not only be used for a digital transfer, but to be reproduced in a newly created 7.1 surround system. The name is a common term for an eight channel home theater sound system by adding two more speakers to the conventional 5.1 (or six channel system). There is the standard front let and right speakers, center, subwoofer, and not two but four rear channels that are split to create more of a fluid surrounding of sound.

The picture clarity’s transfer is spot- on with the film never looking so good previously. I personally had owned the VHS tape and DVD releases with no comparison whatsoever. The newly recorded sound and music also carries through with a sense of hearing things that had never been picked up before.
Trailer announcing the release of E.T. onto Blu- Ray


Back in 2002, when E.T. celebrated its 20th anniversary, director Steven Spielberg decided on using the digital graphic imaging (CGI, as it is commonly known as) to help ‘touch- up’ some moments that couldn’t be completed in 1982 originally due to the lack of sophisticated special effects. Spielberg incorporated new digitally- enhanced expressions on E.T.’s face as well as touching up some the lesser- than spectacular effects. Considered one of the most controversial steps taken by Spielberg was the digital ‘removal’ of the federal agents’ rifles and instead, replacing the agents hands with walkie- talkies. There was some back- lash from the purists who felt that Spielberg was finagling with the classic, much like director George Lucas had done with the original STAR WARS trilogy. 
(left) Original scene with rifle (right) 2002 version with walkie- talkie animated it

With that being said, both Universal and Spielberg decided to release the original 1982 edition without any digital enhancements.

FINAL THOUGHTS: So, in conclusion, E.T.: THE EXTRA- TERRESTRIAL is a film that excused a number of different expressions from various people. It is a happy and imaginative film to some, an anti- political presentation to others and a weepy and emotional heart- wrenching film to the rest. The film represents a bench- mark setting for the typical 80’s films in the early years and set a standard in quality storyline and filmmaking for years to come thereafter… however short- lived that became in the end. In the end, thank goodness for films like E.T.: it allows us to believe in the power of storytelling and imagination in a cinematic world of re- makes and un- imaginative fluff that we are made to endure presently.

E.T. is also was considered a rarity of its own kind: being a blockbuster hit with an overall worldwide gross of nearly $800 million dollars and remaining the number one top- grossing film for almost fifteen years, Spielberg never made a sequel. Despite the current churn of spin- offs and quick sequels known by today’s standards, Universal actually backed- up Spielberg’s decision otherwise. As he put it, the journey of E.T. was a once in a lifetime adventure, never to be repeated again.

Look into the skies and dream…allow your senses to be fooled by what you might see or imagine seeing.  For when Elliott thought that no one would understand him, along came a friend in the most unconventional way imaginable!

What are your earliest memories of E.T.: THE EXTRA- TERRESTRIAL? Do you have any happy thoughts when you think of E.T.? We always want to hear from you and we look forward to your comments...all will be answered in return within a short, few days!

CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT will be taking a short hiatus to celebrate the Holidays with our loved ones! Our next posting will be on WEDNESDAY JANUARY 23rd!

From all us to all of you...have a very Happy and Safe Holiday and a very prosperous New Year! SEE YOU BACK HERE IN 2013!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

JER'S TURN: 50 YEARS of BOND... JAMES BOND!

  JER: “My name is Bond, James Bond.” Vodka martini: shaken, not stirred. A ladies’ man. A Double- O agent for Britain’s MI6 division. The driver of an Aston- Martin DB5. A professional Baccarat and other card games’ player. His supervisor’s name is M and he is supplied with the latest gadgets by Q. I cannot say that it hard for me to believe that 50 years of James Bond is being celebrated with the release of the franchise’s 23rd film SKYFALL this year, but I am glad that the series is strong and has survived many blockades throughout the years. In fact, an affirmation is made at the end of SKYFALL by informing its audience that, in bold capitalized letters: BOND WILL BE BACK! Because of this, I feel it only right that the timing has brought me to talk about my personal favorite character and the many embodiments that have happened to bring to the silver screen: the world of James Bond.

Author & Creator of James Bond: IAN FLEMING
ORGINS: The character of James Bond was created in the mind of British author Ian Fleming in 1953. Based on research and the tales known of Fleming, James Bond would seem to have a lot in common with his creator than mere fiction would have. Fleming was a womanizer, having had many short- term affairs with women even when he was married, like Bond, he also enjoyed gin and was considered a very dashing and worldly gentlemen who spoke four different languages. Fleming also dabbled in the world of espionage and the British Intelligence.

In 1939, Fleming began a more formidable attachment to British secret service when he began working for Naval Intelligence. During the last year of the war, he traveled to Jamaica for a Naval conference. It is then that he discovered his personal tropical paradise and as soon as the war was over, he returned back and purchased property and designed his own home: he gave his house the name of “Goldeneye.”

Over the next few years, Fleming would flesh- out a character that included many of his attributes and personal/ professional experiences into a defined ‘gentlemen’s gentlemen’ role. He had to be dashing and in control, he could both woo a woman and put her in her place as he saw fit, he needed to be internationally prepared in various languages, techniques of gambling and drinks and go about without raising a suspected eyebrow. He would carry honor and the love for his country and would be prepared to do anything at the call of duty. The first literary appearance of James Bond was in “Casino Royale” which was published in 1953. The rest, as they say, was history.

Producers: (l) HARRY SALTZMAN & (r) "CUBBY" BROCCOLI
THE BOND/ SEAN CONNERY EARLY YEARS (1962- 1967): Throughout the history of radio broadcasts and film, many different variations have come about using the name James Bond. The general focus that will be placed here is on the “official” James Bond films released through Eon Productions: a private and family- owned company created by film producers Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, based in London that also operates from the Pinewood Studios in the United Kingdom. It is a subsidiary of Danjaq LLC, the holding company that officially owns the copyrights and trademarks to the Bond character and events portrayed on the screen. Broccoli’s name is essential to the Bond storytelling, since his name virtually appears in the opening credits of every Bond film since 1962. Albert passed away in 1996, however his daughter, Barbara Broccoli, continues on the legacy by co- producing the Bond films since her father’s death.

SEAN CONNERY
The first actor to bring James Bond to the silver screen was an Irish actor named Sean Connery. Born on August 25, 1930 in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Connery joined the Royal Navy but was discharged due to medical conditions. When he turned 23, he had a choice of either becoming a professional football player or an actor… he chose acting and said it was one of his most intelligent moves. He had a flourish career as an actor for both screen and television, but his major breakthrough would come in the way of portraying 007. The choice of casting Connery in the role was not the producers’ first, however, their attention was caught from Connery’s strong- willed temper for not standing down during points of the audition process. 
DR. NO would be both Bond and Connery’s first embodiment of the role, making its debut on October 5th 1962. Budgeted at an estimated $1,100,000.00, the film took in $59 million worldwide. Popular television actor Jack Lord (the original HAWAII 5-0) portrayed CIA agent Felix Leiter: a character that would become both an ally and a friend to Bond throughout the franchise’s story arc and the first “Bond girl” Ursula Andress as Honey Rider rounded off the cast. Andress won a Golden Globe in 1964 for “Most Promising Newcomer- Female” beating out Tippi Hedren for THE BIRDS. 
An exciting trailer for the first Bond film: DR. NO


FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) had Sean Connery returning back as Special Agent 007 as he goes on the search for a Russian decoder machine. This is also the first film that introduces Bond enthusiasts to the evil SPECTRE organization, which will continually build a storyline arc for a number of films to come as the company that vows to destroy the British Secret Service division known as MI6 and James Bond himself. Rounding off the cast is Robert Shaw (JAWS) as the muscle- bound Russian baddie, Grant. This is also the first film to introduce SPECTRE’s evil leader, Ernst Blofeld, played by Anthony Dawson. Mike Myers would parody this character as Dr. Evil in the AUSTIN POWERS trilogy. Given a rise in budget, the production came in at an estimated $2 million dollars with a return gross of $79 million worldwide. It would seem as if Bond has created quite the name for himself with many more stories to be told!

Third time’s a charm for both Bond and Sean Connery, as GOLDFINGER (1964) is released and becomes an instant hit with the fans, some claiming to be the best of the franchise. Beginning with the popular characters that appeared in the film including actress Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, Harold Sakata as the evil hat- throwing ‘Odd-Job” and Gert Frobe as the menacing Auric Goldfinger, the world of Bond was quickly establishing memorable villains and Bond girls to come. Making a budget jump to an estimated $3 million, the returns worldwide would appear as a lucrative $125 million worldwide. Yes, Mr. Bond, you are definitely becoming the international man you set out to be! Gold would definitely come to GOLDFINGER in the way of an Academy Award win to Norman Wanstall- Best Effects, Sound Effects.

Without hesitation, Connery would slam down the martinis and the villains in the fourth installment in the series in 1965’s THUNDERBALL. This time round, Bond’s mission is to head down to the Bahamas to recover two stolen nuclear warheads in the possession of SPECTRE. The film introduced both Claudine Auger as Domino and Italian actor Adolfo Celi as SPECTRE’s evil Emilio Largo into the world of Bond. The film used a number of different special effects and live- action photography for its underwater action sequences.
With an estimated budget of $9 million, THUNDERBALL came back with a strong $141 million. It, too, won an Academy Award: John Stears- Best Effects, Special Visual Effects.

Donald Pleasence as Blofeld
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967) once again having Connery as 007 in this fifth installment. Bond’s mission, this time, takes him to Japan as he works with the Japanese secret service ninja force to stop a series of ‘spacejackings’ before a nuclear war is provoked by SPECTRE. The character of Blofeld returns with more enfaces placed on his evil plans for world domination. Blofeld is played by fame character actor Donald Pleasence (HALLOWEEN). Budgeted at an estimated $9,500,000.00, the film grossed approximately $112 million. After production, Sean Connery felt that he was done as James Bond and told producers that he would never play the secret agent again. With that said, producers looked into the horizon as Bond was about to take another step forward in the growth of child to adolescence.

GEORGE LAZENBY
THE BOND FILMS: GEORGE LAZENBY/ SEAN CONNERY FINALE (1969- 1971): With Sean Connery out of the picture, a worldwide search was conducted: enter George Lazenby. Born in Australia on September 5th, 1939, Lazenby made a move to London, England in 1964, after serving the Australian Army. He was cast as James Bond in 1968 based off a screen test fight scene, the strength of his interviews and fight skills. The new Bond would make his debut in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE in 1969.

On a brand new mission, Bond takes to the Swiss Alps in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. Bond lays down the charm with lots of thickness as he woos a mob boss’s daughter and goes undercover to find out more information about Blofeld’s secret heavily- guarded Switzerland chalet. What’s this? England’s most eligible and untamable bachelor gets married? The bride is Diana Rigg (Emma Peel from TV’s THE AVENGERS) as Tracy. The honeymoon, however, is cut short, thanks to the doings of Blofeld, this time played by Telly Savalas (TV’s KOJAK). So, how did the new Bond favor in the box office? At an estimated cost of $7 million, the film’s returns grossed about $87 million. Lazenby actually quit the role of Bond right before its premiere night, claiming he could get other acting roles as well as stating that the Bond contract was too thick and too demanding on him.
The exciting trailer for ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE


Rumor has it that David Picker, the head of United Artists at the time, made an offer that couldn’t be refused when he enticed Sean Connery to making his encore performance as James Bond in the seventh installment to the franchise. Connery agreed with the inclination that he would ‘never’ play Bond again!

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971) brings the return of 007 at his new mission in the investigation of who is smuggling diamonds, which are being stolen in the process. Ernst Blofeld might have changed his physical appearance and Bond is left wondering if he might have anything to do with the recent thefts. Television and film actress Jill St. John plays the latest Bond babe as Tiffany Case and character actor Charles Gray (“The Narrator” in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW) as the newest embodiment of the ever- changing Blofeld rounded off the cast. How did audiences take to Connery’s return as Bond? At a budgeted $7.2 million, the gross was an estimated $116 million.

ROGER MOORE
BOND IS BACK: ENTER ROGER MOORE (1973- 1985): Roger George Moore was born on October 14, 1927 in Stockwell, England and had been an earlier contender as Bond’s successor before Lazenby’s casting and Connery’s return, but Moore’s schedule on British television’s THE SAINT (1962- 1970) didn’t allow him the opportunity to pursue the role. The timing was right when producers offered the role of 007 with Moore’s acceptance. According to Moore’s autobiography, he had to lose weight and cut his hair for the role. Although he resented it, he was finally prepared to put his own spin on the Bond character.  

Arguably, fans have debated that Sean Connery set the bar high in the representations of Bond. In agreement, there weren’t any other actors to compare his interpretations to. There is something to be said about Moore’s take on Bond: there were women for Bond to seduce in those years, Moore brought a regal and dry wit to his mannerisms and played 007with a proper English accent as apposed to Connery’s signature Scottish tones.

LIVE AND LET DIE was released on June 27, 1973. Bond’s latest adventure pit- stops in New Orleans as he investigates the deaths of several British agents. While traveling deep within the world of the Cajun community, Bond encounters voodoo, witch doctors and black magic along the Bayou way. Yaphet Kotto (ALIEN) played Mr. Big, a self-made heroin controller along with Jane Seymour (TV’s DR. QUINN: MEDICINE WOMAN) as the mysterious tarot card- reading Solitaire helped round off the cast. Budgeted at an estimated $7 million, the film went on to gross approximately $125 million in box office receipts. Looks like audiences still loved James Bond, no matter who played him… so far.

Moore’s second role as Bond would be in 1974’s THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. 007 is led to believe that he is targeted by the world’s most expensive hit- man, Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) who charges a million dollars per job. Can Bond stop him before it’s too late? Bond deals with twice the babes with Britt Ekland as Goodnight and Maud Adams as Andrea… he also has to avoid Scaramanga’s right- hand man, Nick- Nack (Herve Villechaize: Tattoo from TV’s FANTASY ISLAND). The most expensive budget to date, the film’s cost was an estimated $13 million with an estimated $98 million in returns.

The year is now 1977 and Bond is celebrating fifteen years since DR. NO's release. To coincide, the tenth adventure is released on August 3rd as THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. (This critic’s favorite film of the franchise). With Egypt as the backdrop, Bond is united with a KGB Russian secret agent, Major Anya Amasova/ “Triple XXX” (Barbara Bach) to investigate the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads taken by mastermind Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens). Along with Stromberg, he is joined by his henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel), the man with a mouthful of metal teeth. Moore really comes into his own as Commander Bond with quick- thinking one- liners and biting wit with the charms of the gentleman in wooing quite a few eligible Bond babes throughout the film. Raising the bar slightly, the budget inflates to an estimated $14 million and grossing a well- received $186 million! Songwriter/ composer Marvin Hamlisch provides one of the best soundtracks provided for a Bond film. 
Carly Simon's opening theme to THE SPY WHO LOVED ME


At the end of a decade, 1979 marks the release of MOONRAKER. The typical exotic locations are put aside as Bond takes to outer space in an adventure that has him investigating the mid- air hijacking of a space shuttle that leads him to the rocket’s creator, Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale). Lois Chiles is the brainy Bond babe playing Dr. Holly Goodhead along with the return of henchman Jaws, he drew popularity previously. Bond did not want to fall behind in the film industry’s love for sci- fi/ space films (STAR WARS, ALIEN) and in keeping up, the budget grew to a whopping $34 million dollars with a high- end return of $210 million worldwide… the largest return on a Bond film yet!

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY rang in the 80’s with its 12th strong entry into the series. Roger Moore returns for his fifth appearance as James Bond to date. The mission: to recover a communications device before it slips into possible Russian hands. Could this be the end of Bond’s evil nemesis, Blofeld? One needs to see the opening sequence to see for yourself… but Bond is in good company as a bevy of Bond girls make their way into his crosshairs while on his mission. Carole Bouquet is the lead Bond girl as Melina Havelock and Lynn- Holly Johnson (ICE CASTLES) is the figure- skating Bibi Dahl. The name Bond continues to present a strong draw for the box office as its estimated budget of $28 million draws in an estimated $195 million worldwide.

MAUD ADAMS is OCTOPUSSY
OCTOPUSSY was released on June 10, 1983 as Bond’s next mission sends him to the circus! A British agent is murdered and found clutching onto a priceless Faberge egg. A collector purchases the egg at an auction, but Bond becomes suspicious as the buyer meets up with a Russian General. Soon it is discovered that both men are plotting to blow a nuclear device in an American Air Force Base. Maud Adams makes a very unheard of appearance as the second time a Bond girl is repeated in two different films playing a different role. Maud Adams from THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN plays Octopussy this time, the owner of the traveling circus Bond uses to get close to the Base. Budgeted at $27.5 million, the multi- hands of OCTOPUSSY rakes- in $187.5 million worldwide.

The mid- eighties is met with the high- action adventure A VIEW TO A KILL in 1985. California’s Silicon Valley is the target of a microchip corporation headed by Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) with his private bodyguard, May Day (Grace Jones). Bond must investigate Zorin’s plans to use the chip to wipe out the Valley with a mega- earthquake. Tanya Roberts (THE BEASTMASTER) plays Bond’s lead female, Stacey Sutton. Including some dazzling effects and action, the $30 million budgeted cost brought in an estimated $152.4 million. Roger Moore made a record- breaking seven appearances as 007, the highest of any actor to portray James Bond. A VIEW TO A KILL would mark his final appearance of the secret agent… with only anticipation left for producers and fans, alike, to ask the inevitable question: Who will play James Bond next?

TIMOTHY DALTON
SHAKEN & STIRRED: TIMOTHY DALTON (1987- 1989): Next to George Lazenby’s 1969 ‘one- stop shop’ portrayal of Bond, Dalton’s would be the second shortest, but equally controversial, appearance as the famous British agent. Unlike Moore’s more playboy approach to the character, Dalton presented a darker interpretation, which may have been the cause for a premature ending to his Bond contributions…

Timothy Peter Dalton was born on March 21, 1944 in Colwyn Bay, Wales and had achieved many appearances in British television on many BBC programs as well as stage performances. Dalton was approached twice by the persuasion of the producers to play Bond before agreeing to the role, now having been freed- up from his earlier theatre obligations. The studios were ready to unveil a new James Bond for a new era!

Ironically celebrating its twenty fifth anniversary and its fifteenth installment, Dalton suited up for his first Bond appearance in 1987’s THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. Dating itself, the film still focuses on the ‘Cold War’ with Russia as the plot deals with an arms dealer who is looking to start another world war. Locations from the exotic Morocco desert landscapes and the freezing Austrian streets paint the backdrop for the seven continents Bond travels through in his latest mission. Again, how did audiences feel about a new Bond? Estimated at a cost of $30 million, the film grossed a worldwide total of $191 million! Maryam d’Abo is the latest Bond Leading Lady as Kara Milovy. 
A thrilling trailer for Dalton's THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS


LICENCE TO KILL (1989) represents a more personal Bond story similar to ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE back in 1969. Instead of dealing with a topic of love, Bond becomes a man seeking revenge after his CIA friend Felix Leiter is left for dead in the hands of drug kingpin Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi). The story is intense with Bond even leaving the Secret Service to avenge his friend in this installment. Dalton was signed on to do three Bond films, but legal entanglements delayed production on the next film. It wasn’t until 1994 that Dalton officially resigned from his contract, much to the dismay of the producers. The understandings were presented and both parties made their clean break… it was time to revisit an old friend who had been previously approached!

PIERCE BROSNAN
21ST CENTURY BOND: PIERCE BOSNAN (1995- 2002).  Pierce Brosnan was born on May 16, 1953 in Navan, Ireland. After Timothy Dalton was unavailable the first time through, Brosnan was approached to play Bond in 1986. Obligations to his hit television show, REMINGTON STEELE, didn’t allow him to pursue until NBC cancelled the show. Once Dalton was out, the producers were ready to get back into the game after almost six years of hiatus.

GOLDENEYE was released on November 17, 1995 with much anticipation from fans. Anyone who knew Brosnan’s work on his previous television show could already see the good- looking fellow as Bond. The new adventure takes place during the closing of the ‘Cold War’ as Bond teams up with the lone survivor of a destroyed Russian research center… but Bond might finally meet his match as a former agent, thought to be dead, might be controlling the entire operation. A Bond first, as Judi Dench takes the office of MI6’s Director (and Bond’s boss) “M”… a role commonly played by male actors in the previous sixteen films. An increased budget of $58 million spared no expense in presenting action and adventure to its fullest… the payoff? How does the returned grosses of $351.5 million worldwide sound? Bond is definitely back!
Captivating Tina Turner's GOLDENEYE theme!


TOMORROW NEVER DIES marks the eighteenth Bond film and was released in 1997. Brosnan returns as Bond who tries to thwart the plans of a media mogul who is trying to provoke war between China and the U.K. only so that he can obtain exclusive rights to the coverage. Bond girls include International superstar Michelle Yeoh (CROUTCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) and Teri Hatcher (TV’s DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES). Probably considered to be the weakest film in the series by many, the film went on to gross an approximate $221 million worldwide.

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH marks the end of an era as the last film released in the 20th century on November 19, 1999. With the aid of Bond girls Sophie Marceau (BRAVEHEART) and Denise Richards (WILD THINGS), Bond uncovers a nuclear plot while protecting an oil heiress from a former kidnapper. The world still has not had enough of Brosnan nor Bond as the worldwide gross comes in at a healthy $225 million.

DIE ANOTHER DAY marks the return of Bond in the new millennium with a release date of November 22, 2002. This would mark Bond’s fortieth anniversary (20 films total) and Brosnan’s fourth and final appearance as 007. Bond takes a serious beating as he is sent to investigate a North Korean terrorist, however, he finds himself betrayed and captured. Because MI6 cannot interfere, Bond is held hostage and tortured for 14 months before he is set free. Bond must find out who his captures were as he finds out a diamond mogul is funding the construction of a space weapon. Joining the ever- growing exclusive list of popular Bond girls is Academy Award winning actress Halle Berry (MONSTER’S BALL) as Jinx.  One last send- off for Brosnan’s Bond? A whopping $142 million was spent on the budget bringing in a grand total of $432 million worldwide! A new Bond waits in the wings… yet again.

DANIEL CRAIG
A TOUGHER BOND: DANIEL CRAIG (2006- PRESENT). Daniel Wroughton Craig was born on March 2, 1968 in Chestire, England and is now the sixth and most current actor to play Bond. Craig is also the first blond of the otherwise dark- haired 007. Craig was considered an unfit choice by the producers by the fans… to the degree that groups were forming to boycott seeing his first entry and riddled the internet with unkind words about the upcoming Bond. The producers backed their decision and moved forward with a multi- media blast to introduce the new James Bond to the world! A re-boot, of sorts, was now taking place with Bond… denying him of his signature catch- phrase, “My name is Bond, James Bond” and providing him with more agile skills and a rough- around- the- edges demure.

CASINO ROYALE would be released four years since Brosnan’s DIE ANOTHER DAY. The date was November 17, 2006. A “prequel” of sorts, as both a new Bond and actor is introduced to his first mission (just like Ian Fleming’s first book with the same title) by winning a poker game at the famed Casino Royale in Montenegro. He plays the gambler to stop a criminal who finances various terrorists around the world. We see a Bond that actually makes mistakes, who possibly gets people killed and who even takes a beating from thugs. Eva Green (KINGDOM OF HEAVEN) joins the Bond girls’ list as Vespa Lynd, a new love interest for Bond that leaves quite the mark on him! Jeffrey Wright plays the incarnation of CIA friend Felix Leiter, as they meet and work together for the first time. Budgeted at an approximate $150 million… the fans seemed to have accepted the new Bond as the film took on a worldwide gross of $594 million! The biggest draw to date for a Bond film. Certain events occur (no spoilers here, you just have to see it for yourself…) that continue on where things get left off in the next chapter…
The exciting trailer to Craig's CASINO ROYALE


QUANTIUM OF SOLICE (2008) literally picks up where CASINO ROYALE left off… Bond is out for revenge and fueled with anger and fury. He defies “M”’s (Judi Dench) request to not pursue forth, but reluctantly agrees that Bond is the only agent who can stomp out an environmentalist from taking the country’s most valuable resources. A’la LICENCE TO KILL, Bond lets his emotions take the best of him, but he quickly learns to be the professional agent and stay on target of his mission in the end. A budget first: At a cost of $200 million, the film brings in a lucrative worldwide gross of $586 million!

We now come full circle in 2012 as Bond celebrates a landmark fifty years with the release of its 23rd film, SKYFALL released November 9th. Bond’s loyalty to both “M” and the MI6 organization is tested when several agents’ identities are being revealed to terrorists after an encrypted file with personal information is stolen. 007 must track down the person responsible, as it may turn out to be someone in M’s past in the form of a very menacing Javier Bardem (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) as Silva. Craig has clearly taken over the role and has brought back the famous line… with a possible return to an ‘old school’ Bond with both the celebrated Aston Martin vehicle and the classic PPK gun! SKYFALL pays many respects to Bond’s career and the times that have stripped away at him. Could Bond start to show the early signs of age? Should he hang- up the old PPK gun? Box office would tell a different tale…with an estimated budget of $200 million… the film has already grossed $161 million in just nine days of its release. Craig is contracted to another untitled Bond film set for 2014. Only time will tell as events turns the world of MI6 into a whole new underground development with new faces doting the world of Bond, James Bond… there would seem to be no end… and let’s hope there is no end any time soon!

I will now pass the baton over to my "counterpart" JOHNNY CHAZZ for his take on the subject...

 
JOHNNY CHAZZ: In response to this week's topic, I will offer my insight into the James Bond movies over the years. I cannot possibly reply with the length of writing offered by JER this week, but I will address some key points of relevance with respect to the topic.

Was CONNERY the best BOND?
The highlights of Bond films are narrow, yet probably include: "Dr. No", "Goldfinger" and "From Russia with Love". The rest remain marginal at best.

As for Sean Connery, he was certainly the Bond that everyone since has tried to live up to - and perhaps someone did. That issue remains debatable.

Pierce Brosnan as Bond was a nightmare. Bad years, bad movies, horrific scripts and lousy casting. Case closed!

The sound scores are also an issue of ongoing concern. Soundtracks for Bond films are generally worth listening to when they are instrumental only (“Goldfinger”, “Casino Royale” and “Dr. No” offer some entertaining non-vocal trifes). However, on the flip side, Tom Jones gave us a tune that was reckless to say the least in "Thunderball" and even Madonna’s efforts were abysmal later on (“Die Another Day”). I loathe at the thought of being subjected to the hard and rapturous scuff that is sung in the current "Skyfall" movie by Adele.

Roger Moore, as JER mentioned, offered that witty and polished Non-Scottish flair - one that was British: clever and very, very UK. This worked - and in all actuality, it is not surprising why most countries outside the USA preferred Roger Moore as the "true" Bond.

SEAN CONNERY stands next to the iconic Aston Martin
Bond films have weak scripts and can only feed eye-candy to audiences that require this. Fast cars, fast women and rushed cuts from one shot to another. Gadgets (the poison gas releaser grew old after the first glimpse) and car chases are boring and the casting lacks tremendously on a consistent basis. There is no "art" or "craft" really at work other than what we see captured in every other movie setting box-office records these days. How dull - how insulting.

British actor Daniel Craig’s “Skyfall” is generating close to $1 billion worldwide and some are claiming it is the best Bond movie to ever hit the screen in the past 50 years. Perhaps it is - but there is a segment that just does not care. I fall in that group.
The International trailer for Craig's 2012 SKYFALL


The truth is, everyone likes what is new and hip and this film might rank in the top 3 or top 5, but I highly doubt that when you look at films such as “From Russia With Love,” “Dr. No,” “Goldfinger”, your opinion might be compromised.

DANIEL CRAIG...not hip enough???
It appears as though we are discussing box-office revenues this week and there are two angles at which to examine that. One: Bond films make money - ok. Two: Bad movies also make money. So what is the point in discussing box-office revenues if the movies do not provide the substance that the discerning segments of film-goers demand? A mute point.

So here is the "Counterpoint". I am not into Bond movies - and never really was. The films are no longer "hip" and they can never be retro since Daniel Craig is not an old-school type and 'you just can't go home' as they say. Will I go see “Skyfall”? Absolutely not. Why? I would rather take a walk; grab a Rueben at the deli and Skype a friend. I simply have better ways to spend my time and my $10.

It sounds harsh, but there it is so, so much more in the world of film to examine that it is mind-boggling that we even think about meddling with movies such as the Bond movies - and they seem to never, never end.

JER: Harsh, indeed! No one, including myself, is trying to put the Bond films on a pedestal higher than well- deserved films that are related to both “art” and true cinema. With all due respects to my “Counterpoint” partner…I feel that there is an ignorance on your end, JC, for not really grabbing (or even trying to grab) the real essence of what the films have portrayed and continue to do so over the last 50 years.

ROGER MOORE= COOL!
The Bond films, by my perception, still represent a sense of shivery long lost in films today. 007 is a ladies man, wears the best suits and tuxedos, drinks from glasses and not bottles or cans and drives the best vehicles and has the coolest gadgets. It is hard for me to accept the fact that anyone can look at the entire franchise and sum it ALL up with the phrase: “I am not into Bond films.”

We have talked about how films that do well in the box- office do not define a film’s greatness in the past... I am not implying that by including the numbers at the end of each film’s segment. What I was trying to illustrate was the continued success the entire franchise has accomplished and the strong legs it has created to continue on with more films. So, if there is a 'segment' that doesn’t care, your number is outweighed by, thank God, people who do want to see an action film with interesting characters, villains and beautiful women… and I am proud to say I am one of them in those numbers! Should I dare say that SKYFALL is considered the best of the Bond films within the last 50 years? What would be so wrong as to say “yes”? All I can say is: don’t knock it if you haven’t seen it!

JOHNNY C brought up a good point about the soundtracks and the distinctive songs that have been a part of pop culture since 1962’s Monty Norman/ John Barry’s “James Bond Theme”. We at CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT dedicated a blog page to that very topic… if interested in reading what we had to say about it, please visit us at the following link:  http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=298232811241447037#editor/target=post;postID=8417228204175375841

Everyone is entitled to their opinions and that is what I feel makes CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT work! JC and I have two different opinions at times and we agree completely in others… we have found the right balance that makes this page work the way that it does. We are not obligated to lie or falsify our thoughts just to jump on the band wagon or by getting into the flavor of the month. More than anything, I believe that both JC and I spoke on behalf of two opposing sides that do, in fact, exist out there in the real world...those who care and those that don't...

As the reader, what side do you fall on? Do you care to see more BOND films or has the series ran its course years ago? We would like you to voice your opinions and comment back to us with your thoughts... we will always reply to every posting!

Make sure you check back with us on WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 19TH, 2012 for JOHNNY CHAZZ' END- OF- YEAR BLOG TOPIC... afterwards, we will take time- off for WINTER BREAK and return back in 2013!

ALL OF US AT CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT WANT TO WISH YOU THE HAPPIEST AND SAFEST OF HOLIDAYS THIS YEAR!



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