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What to Watch is a continuing series that showcases some film recommendations in a specific category.

The 24th James Bond film Spectre was released in the U.S. today.  Since I started watching Bond films at 11 years old, I have been a fan of the British secret agent.  I have read several of Ian Fleming’s original novels and have seen all of the films, most of which multiple times.  The character has been played by several actors through the years, including Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.  All of these actors have their merit but for me, James Bond was, is, and always will be Sean Connery.  The Bond series has had its ups and downs.  I prefer the installments that are more realistic and serious in tone.  The following are seven of Agent 007’s greatest screen adventures:

001: Dr. No (1962)

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Logline: Bond travels to Jamaica to investigate a scientific genius bent on sabotaging the U.S. space program.

Comments: I love Dr. No for all of its simplicity.  The film, produced on a low budget, is stripped of all the gadgets and over the top elements of some later installments.  The tried and true Bond formula had yet to be established so there are not a variety of exotic locations; there is only Jamaica but I have always loved the film’s island setting.  The film also lacks a theme song but features Monty Norman’s classic Bond theme as well as some great island tunes such as “Underneath the Mango Tree.”

Dr. No is a relatively simple spy story with one of the best villains in the series played by Joseph Wiseman.  It is amazing to see how easily Connery slips into the role of Bond.  Also, Ursula Andress is easy on the eyes as bikini clad Honey Ryder.

Rating (out of ****): ***1/2

002: From Russia with Love (1963)

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Logline: The organization SPECTRE lures Bond to Istanbul in an attempt to assassinate the secret agent.

Comments: Most Bond fans cite either From Russia with Love or Goldfinger as Bond’s greatest screen adventure.  I go back and forth on which I prefer but both are my absolute favorites in the series.  The film features some great set pieces such as the fight aboard the Orient Express between Bond and Robert Shaw’s Grant.

Rating (out of ****): ****

003: Goldfinger (1964)

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Logline: Bond uncovers a plot to contaminate the U.S. gold reserve at Fort Knox.

Comments: Goldfinger firmly established the Bond formula with elements like the pre-credits sequence, theme song, gadgets, and a larger-than-life villain and henchman.  Goldfinger is grand entertainment with Connery still at the top of his game.

Rating (out of ****): ****

004: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

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Logline: Bond goes undercover to investigate his enemy Blofeld’s mysterious allergy research in the Swiss Alps.

Comments: OHMSS is a polished Bond film and stands among the absolute best of the series.  Had the film starred Sean Connery, I think it would have been better received at the time.  However, the film has become highly regarded in the years since and is considered by many as one of the best Bonds.  The main criticism with the film is Lazenby.  This is the Australian model’s first and only appearance as Agent 007 and he does a fine job.

OHMSS is beautifully shot and introduces some fresh elements to the Bond franchise, such as the secret agent getting married.  I love the film’s soundtrack.  The instrumental John Barry theme song is amazing and features early use of synthesizers and the Louis Armstrong tune, “We Have All the Time in the World” is a classic.  The film includes some stunning snow skiing sequences and the beautiful Swiss Alps are the perfect setting.  The film also includes an impressive filming of an actual avalanche that engulfs Bond and his bride-to-be Tracy.

Rating (out of ****): ***1/2

005: Goldeneye (1995)

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Logline: Bond teams up with a Russian to stop the hijacking of a nuclear space weapon by a fellow agent.

Comments: After a six year hiatus, Bond returns to the silver screen in style.  Pierce Brosnan slips right into the role of Bond and his performance is effortless.  The film is full of great action sequences and has a great villain played by Sean Bean.

Rating (out of ****): ***1/2

006: Casino Royale (2006)

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Logline: Bond sets out on his first mission as 007 with a license to kill in a high stakes game of poker against a weapons dealer.

Comments: Casino Royale is an excellent reboot of the franchise that brings the character back to its serious roots.  Craig is a very good Bond.  His portrayal is colder and darker than any of the previous actors who played Bond.  Craig’s interpretation is more faithful to Fleming’s original character.    This is easily the best Bond film since Goldfinger.

Rating (out of ****): ****

007: Skyfall (2012)

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Logline: When M16 comes under attack, Bond must track down and eliminate the threat.

Comments: Bond’s 50th anniversary film is easily one of his strongest.  Skyfall develops Bond’s character and delves into his past, a rare element in the franchise and one that is appreciated.  Judi Dench’s M is featured heavily in this installment and she is fantastic as always.  Javier Bardem also makes for an excellent Bond villain.  Skyfall includes many subtle and clever nods to some of Bond’s previous screen adventures.

Rating (out of ****): ***1/2

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