The Best (and Worst) Gadget Arsenals of James Bond

As we continue our celebration of everything 007 with our James Bond Fan Hub, it’s time to take a step into Q’s lab, and look at 007′s tools of trade.

In my mind, a spy is only as good as his full range of gear, and in honor of that I’m taking a looks at the Bond movies with the best collection of gadgets, and in the interest of perspective, the worst.

The Best

“GOLDFINGER”

The Gadget Report:

While “From Russia With Love” was the first movie to really include Bond gadgets, it wouldn’t be until the classic “Goldfinger” where we saw the idea really take off. I’ve heard it remarked before, but it’s great how Connery’s Bond always sounded impressed with the gadgets he was given, as even in his line of work you didn’t see these things every day. What I really like is how many of the gadgets would set a trend for future films. This was Bond’s first watch, the first defining villain device, and of course the first (and maybe best) Bond car. Even with some clunkers like the rubber duck topped stealth wetsuit, like so many other things in “Goldfinger,” the quality of gadgets here would be a real trendsetter for films to come.

Gadget Highlights:

The Aston Martin DB5

Bulletproof Windows, Revolving License Plate, Forward Machine Guns, and Guaranteed First Date Sex

Industrial Laser

I Love How Completely Un-Phased Those Scientists Are

“YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE”

The Gadget Report:

Does a freaking awesome ninja army count as a gadget? No? Well James Bond’s strange trip to the far East is still loaded with high quality tech. You could definitely tell the series was starting to rely more and more on its prop department by this point as the ideas were getting more and more elaborate, yet still oddly appropriate for this world. My favorite part of this movie is all of the things that weren’t technically Bond gadgets but still awesome. Things like Bond’s contact’s personal subway system, the helicopter with the industrial magnet attached, or the quintessential villain lair in the hollowed out volcano all helped to make this one of the most memorable of the Bond movies.

Oh, and of course the actual Bond gadgets were awesome as well.

Gadget Highlights:

Rocket Launcher Cigarette

First One to Make a “Those Things Will Kill You” Joke Gets It

Attack Gyrocopter, A.K.A. “Little Nellie”

Yeah, well…Sean Connery Probably Thinks You Look Ridiculous

“LIVE AND LET DIE”

The Gadget Report:

Officially recognized by Wikipedia as the most gadget filled of all of the Bond movies, “Live and Let Die” was trying to make people forget that Roger Moore was the new Bond by loading it up with awesome gizmos. It almost works too as we are treated to the full gamut of devices that range from voodoo dolls, flutes that double as communicators, bug sweepers, robotic voodoo priests, enhanced mechanical prosthetic arms, flamethrowers, coffee makers (that surprisingly just make coffee), and the greatest Bond watch of all time, the Rolex Submariner with bullet deflecting magnet and saw watchface. The theme of the movie may have been black magic, but it’s the technology that steals the show.

Gadget Highlights:

The Rolex Submariner with Magnet

Once You Accept You’ll Never Own a Watch This Cool, Life Gets Surprisingly Easier

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Blu Tuesday: Dexter Gets Biblical and More

It’s been awhile since Blu-ray fans have had one of those weeks where you could drop an entire paycheck on new releases, so hopefully you’ve been saving up since then, because there are several must-own titles on tap this week, including the new season of Showtime’s flagship series, the Blu-ray debut of the original summer blockbuster, and one of the best action movies of the last decade. And let’s not forget about “The Hunger Games” or Criterion’s release of “The Royal Tenenbaums,” neither of which were available for review, but are definitely films that would complement any collection.

“Dexter: The Sixth Season”

By the time that most TV series reach their sixth season, it’s only inevitable that a few cracks begin to show, and that’s certainly the case with Showtime’s flagship drama “Dexter,” which would be wise to start planning its swan song sooner than later. Though the show’s latest season isn’t bad by any means, it does mark a considerable drop in quality compared to previous years. Certain characters get a lot less face time (although I wish LaGuerta was written off the show entirely), while others don’t act like themselves – especially Dexter, who’s surprisingly reckless for someone that lives by such a strict set of rules. Even the guest stars aren’t as great as usual. Mos Def turns in a solid performance in a multi-episode arc as a reformed criminal who becomes a religious mentor of sorts to Dexter, but the season’s main antagonists (played by Colin Hanks and Edward James Olmos) fail to make a lasting impression. The religion angle is interesting, though not quite enough to drive an entire season, and the finale’s many cliffhangers show promise, but it’s hard to deny that while “Dexter” isn’t running on fumes just yet, it’s the beginning of the end.

Blu-ray Highlight: The sole bonus material on the three-disc box set is a collection of interviews with the cast, but because it can only be accessed via BD-Live (a stupid system that plagues most Showtime series), they weren’t available in time for review.

“Jaws”

It seems fitting that Universal planned the release of its digitally remastered and fully restored version of “Jaws” for the summer of the studio’s 100th anniversary, because the film is not only worthy of the celebration, but it’s widely considered to be the original summer blockbuster. The movie also holds up really well, and that’s largely thanks to the fact that director Steven Spielberg was unable to show as much of his man-eating shark – which he referred to as the “great white turd” due to the constant mechanical breakdowns throughout production – as originally planned. That shark prop looks pretty cheesy by today’s standards, so it was a bit of a blessing in disguise that he was forced to leave so much to the audience’s imagination, because it only intensified the suspense. But while the shark got most of the attention when it scared an entire generation of moviegoers out of the water back in 1975, the film’s legacy owes a lot to the performances of its stars – Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw – who turned what could have been a standard monster movie into the funny and thrilling classic that everyone remembers so well.

Blu-ray Highlight: In addition to Laurent Bouzereau’s excellent 1995 documentary on the making of “Jaws,” the disc contains a brand new documentary titled “The Shark is Still Working” about the impact and legacy of the film. Narrated by Roy Scheider and featuring interviews with the cast, crew and other filmmakers, the documentary is divided into sections on the production (including casting, shooting on the open sea and ad-libbing on set), the marketing campaign and theatrical release, its international success, merchandising, John Williams’ theme, and of course, the mechanical shark.

“The Raid: Redemption”

There had already been a lot of praise heaped upon director Gareth Evans’ Indonesian action film “The Raid: Redemption” before I’d even had the chance to see it at this year’s SXSW, but it deserved every word, because movies don’t get much cooler or more exhilarating than this. A bone-crunching, testosterone-pumping freight train of destruction that barely lets the audience catch its breath once it gets going, “The Raid” delivers the closest thing to non-stop, wall-to-wall action that I’ve ever seen, and a big part of what makes it so jaw-droppingly awesome is the amazing fight choreography, including what is easily some of the best close-quarters combat committed to film. Every fight is more inventive, more complex and more intense than the last, and just when you think you’ve seen it all, Evans launches into yet another bloody battle. Being exposed to this much action would normally get tiresome after a while, but the director shoots each sequence with such visual flair (with the camera itself becoming a part of the choreography) that it’s like watching a ballet being performed – only, you know, with machine guns and machetes.

Blu-ray Highlight: There’s a lot of great stuff on the disc (including a funny Claymation short parodying the film), but the audio commentary by Gareth Evans is entertaining and extremely informative, with the writer/director talking about the movie’s inception, its various influences, and the challenges in filming many of the action sequences.

  

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