Movie Review: “Spectre”

Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista
Sam Mendes

“Spectre” is like a brand-new greatest hits album from that band that your parents loved. Only the hits have been re-recorded… with a new lead singer. It’s new in that it was recently created, but everything about it feels old and outdated, the legacy brand struggling for relevance in a world that has passed it by. The worst part is that they have no one but themselves to blame. The Broccoli family, who have owned the rights to Ian Fleming’s stories since time immemorial, has always been risk-averse when it came to messing with the James Bond formula, and they largely got away with it because they were the only spy thriller in town. With the debut of the spectacular “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” they’re lucky to lay claim to being the fourth best spy franchise in operation, even lagging behind the currently-dormant Jason Bourne.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is in Mexico City to investigate a posthumous tip from his former boss M (Judi Dench), and in the process prevents a massive terrorist attack. Even better, he steals a ring from his target, one with a curious insignia engraved on its side that ultimately opens several doors in terms of useful intel. Unfortunately, Bond also made worldwide news with his stunt, and the new, living M (Ralph Fiennes) suspends him. Bond, of course, continues following the trail, which leads to seducing the wife of the man he killed in Mexico, and using the information he acquires from her to crash a top-secret meeting of international bad guys, who plan to manipulate governments via terrorist attack to join together for the purpose of sharing intelligence, ultimately putting the bad guys in complete control of all information.

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James Bond and the Specter of SPECTRE


James Bond #24 officially hits U.S. theaters this Friday and old-school Bond fans are chomping at the bit. For starters, the end of 2012’s “Skyfall” essentially brought the old band back together. It reunited everyone’s favorite oversexed, functionally alcoholic spy/professional assassin with a new M (Ralph Fiennes, stepping into Bernard Lee and Judy Dench’s shoes), a younger Moneypenny (Naomie Harris, stepping into the very big pumps of the great Lois Maxwell), and a vastly younger Q (in reality, super-youthful 35-year-old Ben Whishaw, taking the part that once belonged to Desmond Llewelyn, who was pretty much born craggy).

All that’s missing is just the right super-nemesis, but never fear: “Spectre” will be our first chance to see the reassembled team in action against its most famous opponent, a stateless organization bent on world domination for profit and for the sheer fun of being really, really evil.

The Face of Evil

But what will today’s SPECTRE be like? The original Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion and it’s leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, was alluded to in the first Bond movie, “Dr. No” (1962), and haunted the series for years afterward. Even so, at first, Blofeld was just a disembodied voice and a hand stroking an unusually compliant white cat. It wasn’t until 1967’s “You Only Live Twice” that we finally saw the face of the man behind the international organization dedicated to world domination at any cost.

That face changed considerably as he was played three times by three very different actors, beginning with the diminutive, creepy and bald Donald Pleasance as the original Dr. Evil. He would morph into the much more testosterone-driven Telly Savalas (later TV’s “Kojak”) in 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and would then grow a full head of hair to be played by the imposing Charles Gray in 1971’s “Diamonds are Forever.” As much as this might be an artifact of the lack of concern with continuity that was standard before the comic book geek takeover of Hollywood, it actually lines up somewhat with the Blofeld of Ian Fleming’s original novels, who lost and gained large amounts of weight and underwent major plastic surgery to elude detection.

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James Bond: The Spectre of a Boozehound


007 is many things – a near superhero, seemingly unafraid of death or anything else; a relentless womanizer, though occasionally heartbroken; and, of course, an inveterate boozer. One part connoisseur, one part super-functional alcoholic, there was a time when he appeared to never let the opportunity pass to show off his knowledge of all types of fermented beverages.

As of this writing, just a week before the worldwide release of the 24th canonical James Bond film on November 6, we don’t know for sure what JB will be imbibing in his newest adventure, although reports of an olive brine-infused dirty martini made with Belvedere Vodka have been circulating. We can tell you that, while a couple of true loves have come and gone through James Bond’s world over six decades of novels and films, his deep and intense relationship with booze is likely to remain eternal. What follows is a brief education on Mr. Bond and his deeply committed relationship with demon alcohol.

Shaken, not stirred

Ask any cocktail snob and they will tell you that, generally speaking, cocktails that do not feature fruit juices should be stirred, not shaken. Shaking is said to harm the taste of gin and “cloud” drinks  of all types with ice crystals, making them a tad less pretty. James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming – a snob of the highest order but not exactly a cocktail snob in the modern sense – simply detested stirred drinks and wanted them all shaken, all the time. So, when Bond ordered a martini, it was always shaken and never stirred. Personally, we think he’s wrong about gin martinis but right about vodka martinis.

The 21st century Bond derided the shaken/stirred controversy in the funniest line in 2006’s“Casino Royale” (“Do I look like I give a damn?” said a thoroughly stressed out 007 to a clueless barman.) He does, however, look on admiringly watching a shaken martini being made in 2012’s “Skyfall.”

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Drink of the Week: The Countess Tracy (TCM Fest Salute #3)

The Countess Tracy.If you head over to Bullz-Eye’s James Bond Fan Hub, you may notice that the writer behind the painfully in-depth explorations of the Sean Connery 007 films is the same guy bringing you these beverage recipes week after week. So, of course, when I attended this year’s TCM Fest, I was going to make it a priority to finally check out the 2012 restored version of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” on the big screen.

Though originally regarded as something of a disappointment largely due to the replacement of Connery by George Lazenby, an unknown whose performance remains controversial (I’m not a huge fan), there is a small but growing community who argue it’s the best film in the entire series. My position is that it’s pretty great and very likely would have topped even “Goldfinger,” if only Connery had, in fact starred opposite the film’s actual leading lady, Diana Rigg, who very definitely is the greatest of all Bond girls.

Lazenby aside, OHMSS remains a mighty entertaining piece of work and by far the most faithful to any of the 007 novels, a most romantic and strangely melancholy tale for all its Bondian absurdity. (For more background information, feel free to check out my brother in Bondage Ross Ruediger’s fine ONHMSS exploration for Bullz-Eye.)

Today’s drink is devoted to easily the most complex and affecting leading lady in the Bond cannon so far. Teresa Draco, later the Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, and ultimately simply Tracy Bond. Especially as played by Diana Rigg, Tracy is no mere Bond girl. No, for all her girlish beauty, she’s really a full-fledged Bond woman who is more than capable of saving a superspy’s life after he saves her from death by suicide in the film’s opening.

My liquid take on OHMSS and Tracy Bond is an homage and update to the Vesper, Ian Fleming and bartender Ivar Bryce’s tribute to the first of Bond’s lost loves from “Casino Royale.” And, yes, the Countess Tracy features bourbon, not gin. In the novels, Bond drank it probably more than anything else, and that meant he drank an awful lot of it.

The Countess Tracy

1 1/2 ounces Basil Hayden’s Bourbon
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
1/2 ounce Smirnoff 100 proof vodka
1 orange twist (desirable garnish)

Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and, yes, shake this drink vigorously and never, ever, stir it. Ian Fleming hated ALL stirred drinks and his smirky, snobbish ghost will haunt you forever should you ever consider stirring any drink remotely related to him.

Anyhow, once you’re done shaking your drink as if being chased by the nefarious twosome of Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Irma Bunt, strain it into a chilled cocktail glass (coupe or standard martini style). Add the orange twist and toast Diana Rigg. The adorable and entirely first-rate actress who played Tracy and also, of course, the greatest of all filmic female superspies, Emma Peel.


I selected Basil Hayden’s bourbon because A. I had it in the house and B. It’s a damned fine bourbon of which I’m sure Bond and Fleming would have approved. Though named for an 18th century distiller, the brand wasn’t introduced until about three decades after Fleming’s untimely death. It was nevertheless featured, I understand, in the 2011 James Bond novel by Jeffery Deaver, Carte Blanche.

My selection of Campari was directly inspired by the choice of beverage of Tracy’s beloved father, benevolent criminal mastermind Marc-Ange Draco. In the movie (and the book, if memory serves), he drinks the very sweet/extremely bitter liqueur straight while serving Bond one of his shaken martinis.

Finally, the Lillet Blanc and the 100 proof vodka are pretty obviously ripped off from my explorations of the Vesper. I believe David Wondrich assumed the original Vesper used 100 proof Stolichnaya. I used Smirnoff because, well, it was in front of me. Today’s Lillet is apparently a fairly far cry from the Kina Lillet of Fleming’s day, and is one of the many reasons a modern-day Vesper needs to be modified a great deal to work properly. However, Lillet Blanc is a very lovely product in its own right, and it adds needed sweetness and light to the Countess Tracy.

As for the drink as a whole, I think I did good this time. It’s a bittersweet and very tasty tribute to the only woman, save Moneypenny, James Bond ever truly loved. Like Tracy, it’s refreshing and bold, with more than a hint of darkness. It’s a drink for which, you might say, I have all the time in the world.


5 memorable James Bond moments

James Bond movies are a bit of a Marmite “love them or hate them” type of thing. But it seems most people are firmly in the latter camp – and here are five good reasons why we love the peculiarly British super-spy:

Goldfinger (1964)

Goldfinger” has many great moments to choose from but the best has to be the Aston Martin DBS car chase. This is the first Bond movie where our hero really gets to use all his tricks and gimmicks in a high speed chase. Among these are smokescreens and oil jets as we speed along the road.

However, it isn’t enough to stop Bond from getting caught and being forced to drive at high speeds with a gun to his head. But then, of course, the ejector seat comes into play – a gimmick Bond had previously scoffed at when it was first shown to him!

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