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Tag Archive: James Bond


Colin Firth british spy

We’re always on the lookout for the next James Bond.  Three years ago we here at borg.com nominated Rufus Sewell here and Paul Blackthorne (Arrow, Dresden Files) and Jason Isaacs (Awake, Harry Potter) here.  Fortunately Daniel Craig doesn’t appear to be giving up his Walther PPK or Aston Martin anytime soon.  But what about the British number one heartthrob, Colin Firth?

Now we at least have an idea of what Firth’s Bond might look like with the preview to the 2016 release Kingsman: The Secret Service this week.  Admittedly we first thought this trailer was for a remake of the classic British spy series The Avengers, with Firth as John Steed.  Ralph Fiennes, the newest M in the James Bond franchise, was the latest to don the famous bowler hat and umbrella for that role.  Firth would have been a good choice for that role, but he also seems to be summoning a little foppish Peter Sellers from the original Casino Royale, too.

Kingsman Secret Service

Based on the six issue comic book mini-series Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class), this latest spy flick has Firth mentoring a street-kid for possible inclusion in a secret spy society.  That mentoring makes this movie give off a vibe like another great coming of age flick of years past, The Freshman, starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick.  If Kingsman is half as good as that film, we’ve got something to look forward to.

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Scotty in kilt

That is, if you’re in Scotland.

Census records estimate that more than twice as many people of Scottish ancestry live in the United States than in Scotland.  Is it the destiny of Scotland to declare its independence from Great Britain?  If not now, then when?  At the beginning of the day everyone has been waiting for, polls show the likely outcome as a dead heat.  We’ll soon learn the answer we’ve all been asking:  Will they or won’t they?

Of course there are all sorts of implications to a yes vote, not the least of which is what kind of economic impact it will have on England, on the United States, and the world.  If Scotland wants to make a statement to the world this could very well be Scotland’s day.  So if you’re one of those Scots that are 16 years old or older and done voting or you’re in the States and can’t vote today, then what better than a brief celebration of all things Scottish?  As Mike Myers’ character Stuart Rankin, proprietor of the store “All Things Scottish,” said on Saturday Night Live, “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.”

Sean Connery

Scotland is well known for its inventors and their inventions.  You wouldn’t be reading this website or surfing the Internet at all without the communications technologies that sprouted from Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.  John Logie Baird would invent the first television.  Scots invented the refrigerator and the flush toilet, the kaleidoscope and the lawnmower.  And–shazam–James Goodfellow invented ATMs so we can get money to buy stuff on nearly any street corner.

Our future is defined in part by the adventures of a Scot in space–James Doohan’s Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott from Star Trek, an engineering miracle worker who exemplifies Scottish ingenuity.  And of course, there’s James Bond, the character, whose parents were Scottish, and Sir Sean Connery, the Scottish actor, the most famous Bond, and a supporter of today’s “yes” vote.

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The Equalizer poster A

This weekend’s release of the first trailer for The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, a role originally cast in the 1980s by British actor Edward Woodward in a successful four-season television series, brings up yet again the age-old question of when you can change a character’s race or sex in a retelling and when you can’t, or shouldn’t.

Can Kojak, originally played by Telly Savalas, an American actor of Greek heritage, be played by a black actor, so long as he’s also bald (as played by Ving Rhames in the 2005 remake)?

When adapting comic books to film, can you change Perry White (as in The Amazing Spider-man series) and Nick Fury ( as in The Avengers movie series) from white to black?  Can you change Johnny Storm from white to Latin (as in the next Fantastic Four)?  Does it matter that his sister is played by someone white?  What if the sister is Latin and the brother is white (as in the first Fantastic Four movies)?  Should Wonder Woman be played by anyone who isn’t Greek (see American Lynda Carter in the 1970s TV series or Israeli actress Gal Gadot in the forthcoming Superman vs Batman)?  Can Harvey Dent be black (as played by Billy Dee Williams in the 1989 Batman)?  A black orphan Annie (another new film)?

Equalizer teaser poster

How much of any of these characters–the essential elements of these characters–is about what their race is?  Is any?

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From Russia with Love book cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

The fifth James Bond novel, From Russia with Love, was a popular mainstream read back in 1957.  One of President Kennedy’s favorite books, the film adaptation would be the last movie he would ever see before that fateful trip to Dallas in 1963.  From Russia with Love reflects a lot about the Cold War era and Europe in the late 1950s.  As part of the James Bond universe it is a rare faithful adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel.  And, unlike some of Fleming’s Bond novels that fail to hold up to modern sensibilities, including The Spy Who Loved Me (previously reviewed here) and Live and Let Die (reviewed here), From Russia with Love is full of political intrigue and spymastery, putting it toward the top of Bond’s adventures along with the novels Casino Royale and Moonraker.

A nice twist is the admission within the story of the more ludicrous elements, as just that, ludicrous.  Namely, the plot focuses on a sort of off-the-book operation by SMERSH (SPECTRE in the film, the Soviet secret spy program), and its efforts to kill Bond and exact revenge on MI6 through an elaborate sex scandal plot, all for the deaths by Bond of Le Chiffre in Casino Royale and Hugo Drax in Moonraker and other bruises to the Soviets.  Its means?  By assigning a Soviet cipher clerk (think Bletchley Circle) named Tatiana Romanova, stationed in a consulate in Istanbul, to pretend to fall in love with a photo of Bond and attempt defection to Great Britain.  The catch?  Only James Bond can collect her in Turkey and bring her over to the Brits.  Dangling the carrot of a Spektor code breaker machine that the Brits have never been able to get their hands on, she’s SMERSH’s best bet to finally bring Bond to his knees.  Thankfully, MI6 doesn’t blindly jump right in–MI6 sees it as an obvious trap, yet the value of the code breaker is too good to pass up, and it’s just the type of mission Bond is good at.

From Russia with Love classic pulp cover

There’s more to From Russia with Love than the typical Bond novel.  Sure, there’s the suave spy, the womanizing, the “Bond girl,” the martinis.  There’s also the exotic locations.  You’ll get the feel you’ve been to Istanbul, to the “stinking streets” of the city, to the Soviet consulate, the SMERSH training grounds, to a party and fight and bombing at a Gypsy village, and a ride on that famous train, the Orient Express.

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Bond-SpyWhoLovedMe

Review by C.J. Bunce

As much as it is adventurous to travel the world by yourself, living place to place and job to job, it is also dangerous.  Horror movies like Saw, Vacancy, and Psycho illustrate that worst of scenarios—traveling in unfamiliar territory and making a wrong turn—that single bad decision that could end it all.  In Ian Fleming’s novel The Spy Who Loved Me, Vivienne Michel is moving along life’s course but taking a meandering route that leaves her in a desolate hotel in the Adirondacks.  She’s made a ton of bad decisions, not the least of which is accepting a job from a strange couple which leads to her wrapping up the hotel’s operations for the season by herself.  On a dark and stormy night someone knocks on the door and her life changes forever as she makes that wrong turn.

Not to be confused with the novelization of the film The Spy Who Loved Me, which was titled James Bond: The Spy Who Love Me, the original Fleming novel is completely different from the film that took its name.  It also may be not only the worst Bond novel, but one of the worst novels from the 1960s.  It manages to include everything that is bad about pulp novels of the past and should make modern readers question Fleming’s legacy.  From past Bond books reviewed here at borg.com, we already have encountered Fleming’s questionable coverage of race in his day.  Should he be singled out for his failings or just it chalk it up to the day?  And his villains are typically the only physically deformed characters in his books.  Why is that?

More than any other Bond novel, The Spy Who Loved Me wrestles with the latter part of that iconic phrase that defines Bond: “every man wants to be him and every woman wants to be with him.”  Told entirely in first person by a woman named Vivienne, the protagonist in the story, most of the novel never sees James Bond at all and he only appears in the last third of the book.  In fact, with no explanation in the first 100+ pages, the modern reader will find himself or herself wondering how many readers came before who were as frustrated with this long and wandering diary-like account of a woman and her past?  She is a likeable enough character, and certainly sympathetic, but why should a Bond reader care about her?  Ultimately, only a chance encounter with James Bond, and preposterous one at that, makes her relevant to the Bond universe.

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Grave Descend Hard Case cover

Reviewed by C.J. Bunce

Grave Descend was penned in 1970, the penultimate novel Michael Crichton wrote under the pseudonym John Lange back in his med school days, re-released thanks to Titan Books’ Hard Case Crime series after years out of print.  We previously reviewed his Scratch One and Zero Cool here at borg.com.  Before the days of stories centered on a group of disparate scientists thrown together to solve an impossible and often unbelievable problem, Crichton tried his hand at adventure novels that borrow more from Ian Fleming than science fiction.

In Mad Men fashion his work included the arrogance and womanizing of pulp novels of the day, and early Crichton protagonists were often American wannabe James Bonds.  His leads are not spies but experts in something, for example lawyer Roger Carr in Scratch One and radiologist Peter Ross in Zero Cool, each dropped into an adventure they didn’t ask for, Carr mistaken for a spy and Ross forced to violate his ethics in a strange way.  In Grave Descend we catch up with Jim McGregor, a deep-sea diver hired to retrieve objects from a multi-million dollar yacht sunken off the coast of Jamaica.  But he quickly notices oddities related to his new project and the man who hired him.

pulp Grave Descend

Here Crichton returns to a setting of Fleming’s expertise, that Caribbean island that Bond frequents in several novels, including Casino Royale and Doctor No, also reviewed here previously.  Like Fleming, Crichton presents a realistic Jamaica, from its denizens kicking back Red Stripe beer to its seemingly never-changing, sharply divided social strata, to its sand to forest variety of natural landscapes.

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Cruise in Jack Reacher

Tom Cruise.  No matter the character, no matter the story, no matter the director, he just can’t make a bad movie.  Last year’s release, Jack Reacher, available now on Netflix streaming and DVD and Blu-ray, is another home run.  But for the lackluster title and so-so marketing effort, Jack Reacher might have been a really big hit last year.  Cruise turns in a solid performance again, similar to his high-calibre lead acting in last year’s sci-fi release Oblivion, reviewed here at borg.com.  Later this year the 51-year-old screen legend is back again, in another sci-fi release, Edge of Tomorrow, with co-star Emily Blunt.

Jack Reacher, odd name aside, could be one of those heroes you compare to Harry Callahan, Frank Bullitt, or a Daniel Craig-era James Bond.  The character is that good, as is Cruise’s fit into the role of a smart and tough drifter who turns to the aid of a comatose defendant and his struggling defense attorney in the case of a shocking, random mass shooting.  Cruise’s drifter is also ex-military, the kind of ex-military that can take on a group of thugs by himself, and take part in a big-screen shoot-‘em up.  We see Reacher learning and growing as he tries to make all the right moves–and get constantly set back–throughout the movie, not something many films give audiences much of these days.  He thinks like a lawyer or detective and does so believably, and Cruise taps into his work in The Firm or A Few Good Men, making Reacher a good follow-on for fans of those films.

Duvall and Cruise in Jack Reacher

As Reacher attempts to find the top gunman at a rifle range, we find Robert Duvall in another great role similar to his work in A Civil Action, this time as a craggy expert with a rifle.  Along the way we meet several villains, including one played by A Good Day to Die Hard’s Jai Courtney, but far and away the most intriguing is writer/director/producer Werner Herzog as what could be a Bond villain as “Zec”.  Creepy.  Vile.  Evil.  He gives a pawn who screwed-up a choice: death, or chew off his own fingers.  Yikes.  Rosamund Pike (Surrogates, Pride and Prejudice) excels as the defense attorney in several scenes with the opportunity to convey a wide range of emotions for a single film–and cinematography by (Zooey and Emily’s dad) Caleb Deschanel (The Right Stuff, The Natural, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, National Treasure), gives her plenty of well-timed, stare-into-the-camera close-ups.

Rosamund Pike in Jack Reacher

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Zero Cool cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Just two years before he would become a well-known breakout author with 1971’s Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton wrote his fifth novel under the pseudonym John Lange, Zero Cool.  This is one of eight novels Crichton wrote in his medical school days reprinted in a new edition thanks to Titan Books’ Hard Case Crime series, and it is second in our series of reviews of these classic, “lost” novels.

Zero Cool is definitely a product of the late 1960s.  Unlike Crichton’s bulky, techno-babble filled later works, Zero Cool reads like a quick pulp novel you’d read years ago on the Greyhound bus between towns.  Completely escapist fun, its hero, American radiologist Peter Ross, is visiting places you might find in an Ian Fleming James Bond novel or Michael Dibdin’s Zen novels, and there are plenty of luxurious European settings he finds himself in over the course of the book. Crichton’s writing is tight and he seems to be close to mastering his pattern for storytelling, mixing otherwise unrelated worlds that culminate with some strange resolution you can’t see coming.

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velvet01_cover

The former Captain America creative team of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting are back.  Tomorrow Image Comics is releasing their creator-owned spy series, Velvet.  This time, it’s not another spy book driven by a James Bond-inspired agent.  Velvet Templeton is just the secretary for the world’s greatest spy.  Or is she?  Think of Velvet as if Miss Moneypenny were a tough-as-nails secret agent in her own right.  When the world’s greatest secret agent is killed, Velvet can no longer keep her cover intact.

It’s the next hard-boiled mystery series by Fatale writer Ed Brubaker.  Steve Epting’s artwork in Issue #1 is striking and his heroine sultry and powerful.  His work is reminiscent of Mike Grell’s James Bond mini-series.  Bettie Breitweiser’s colors rounds out the triple threat behind this cool new series.

Here’s a preview of Velvet, Issue #1, for borg.com readers courtesy of Image Comics:

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CodenameAction01-Cover-Jae Lee     CodenameAction01-Cov-1 retro key

Captain Action was first introduced by Ideal Toys as a large-sized action figure in 1966 to compete with Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, although both figures were designed by the same guy, Stan Weston.  Back then the figure came with alternative costumes, including Spider-man, Green Hornet, The Phantom, The Lone Ranger, and Captain America.  A five issue comic book series was published a few years later with little to do with the figure and his ability to switch personas.  More than 30 years later Playing Mantis brought a line of toys to the market featuring the Captain Action characters.  And next week, Dynamite Comics, the publisher known for its retro series like Green Hornet, Bionic Man, Ms. Fury, The Lone Ranger, and Flash Gordon, picks up the Captain Action licensing and is introducing a mini-series to reboot the character, beginning with Codename: Action, Issue #1.

Written by Chris Roberson (Masks, Superman), with art by Jonathan Lau (Green Hornet, Bionic Man) and alternate covers by artists Jae Lee (Before Watchmen), Francesco Francavilla (Black Beetle), Johnny Desjardins (Phantom, Green Hornet), Jason Ullmeyer (Red Sonja, Vampirella), Art Baltazar (Tiny Titans), and Lau, Captain Action is the new superspy on the block complete with gadgets, a Judy Dench-type head of spy HQ, and plenty of action.  Lau and colorist Ivan Nunes really bring home the retro spy look of the 1960s, complete with a team of agents driving a 1963 Corvette as their car of choice.

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