The Tie That Bonds

November is one of my favorite months, especially a James Bond November, like this one. With all the busyness that comes with the holidays and year-end chores, the chance to escape and enjoy a few fictional explosions is welcome.

Skyfall met all of my expectations, and then some. It was classic Bond, updated only enough to create a sense of realism. Though I saw it weeks ago, I was hesitant to write about it, because I was afraid I would give something away. I’ll be careful; I promise.

This movie was packed with action. It begins with a crazy… nope, I can’t tell you. And then, when Bond is… not that, either. But the best part is… I definitely can’t tell you that.

What can I tell you? Let me remind you that I am a HUGE Bond fan. I love ALL the Bonds. When Daniel Craig stepped into the License, I was skeptical, but he won me over right away. Some of my best friends found him cold and unlikable  but if you’ve ever read Ian Fleming’s Bond novels, you’ll see that Craig is true to tale.

One thing I can tell you about Skyfall is that, in my eyes, it brought the whole “departure” that some felt Craig’s character took all the way back around to the classic Bond films of the 1960’s. It still keeps the story true to present day, but with details like a super-creepy villain, the beautiful Aston Martin, a stylized coat rack and an upholstered door, this movie feels like Bond home. (Oh dear, I almost let a spoiler slip right there.)

If you like the new Bond, or if you’re more a Connery purist, you should see Skyfall. It’s incredibly fun and will keep your heart pounding till the very end!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.


I watched the opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics last night, along with millions of others from around the world. I wondered how the event might compare with the Beijing ceremony of 2008. Directed by Danny Boyle, the production began with a different pace.

The cinematic sequence following the Thames rushed through my brain like a rollercoaster. I must admit that I was thankful I wasn’t watching in 3D. It was quick and beautiful, and my stomach needed the commercial break to recover.

Next began the theatrical segment. The magnificent bell rang, and Kenneth Branagh took his place. I enjoyed the idea of the pastoral play. The industrial revolution was visually impressive, but the turn-of-the-century hip-hop moves came across as cheesy when the cameras zoomed. Another commercial break.

I didn’t love the children’s nightmare or the teenage love story. A few years ago I saw The Beatles’ LOVE by Cirque du Soleil in Vegas. I preferred the Vegas show.

But then something happened. Bond (Daniel Craig) appeared, and escorted Her Royal Highness to the ceremony, complete with skydiving from a heli. That’s the kick this show needed. Next up was the Chariots of Fire sequence starring Rowan Atkinson as the keyboardist and daydreamer. Nobody pulls of a snotty sneer/ eye-roll combination like Atkinson. Tens across the board.

I loved the parade of athletes. I know there was all kind of controversy about the USA uniforms, but I couldn’t even focus on that because of the little ladies in the “people-face” dresses that carried the countries’ names on the frames over their heads. That whole concept cracked me up. As I watched the delegations from around the world enter and take their places, I waited for the copper “petals” that were carried in by children to be assembled into some kind of flower. I knew whatever it was; it must be wonderful, because they weren’t showing it right away.

Just then the torch arrived, and a group of children shared the task of running the flame around the stadium. They lit the flower, and then the petals rose into a beautiful cauldron. I oohed and ahhed. It was lovely.

After the show ended, I saw the brief interview with Danny Boyle. The reporter asked how it was to direct the Queen. “It was all tickety-boo!” he said.

What? I had to do some research. Turns out that tickety-boo means that everything is fine, or just as it should be. I think I have a new favorite expression.

While the London ceremonies didn’t have the robotic precision of the Chinese kick-off, it did have the angelic voices of the children of the UK. It did have some fun music. AND it had something that China didn’t have—humor. For me, laughter goes a long way.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

This Versus That

My whole family loves movies, and one of my sons’ favorite games is “Versus.” They compare movie and TV characters all the time, weighing strengths and weaknesses of each role, as well as the actors’ physical attributes. Whenever they make comparisons, they always offer their reasoning behind their decisions. It’s a wonderful exercise in critical thinking.

The game has been around forever, I suppose. When I was a kid, the big debate was Superman versus Mighty Mouse. I guess these days, most people don’t even know who Mighty Mouse is. I tend to come down on the side of Superman, if for no other reason that he’s not just a cartoon, thus he could beat more villains. (There just aren’t as many cartoon villains as there used to be.)

The other question that I grew up with was Ginger versus Mary Ann, from Gilligan’s Island. That one is mostly for guys, but a wise woman can tell a great deal about a man from his answer to that quiz.

Sunday at lunch, we all got into the debates. It began with James Bond versus Jason Bourne. Of course, we had to stipulate which Bond actor would face Bourne, and my boys settled on Daniel Craig. Because they felt it was still too close to call, they had to settle on a neutral location, as well as what they would be wearing and have on their person.

They argued that because Bond is a gadget guy and Bourne can make a weapon out of just about anything, they would have to fight naked. (I suggested swim trunks, but they were pretty sure that Bourne could use them for a weapon anyway.) They also decided that since almost any location could have a tactical advantage for one over the other, the challengers should be skydiving at the time of their combat.

My youngest son then suggested that the debate was moot, because if they were skydiving naked, they would both die when they hit the ground. True, but I have a feeling that somehow or another, Bond might have a back-up plane (piloted by a Bond girl) that he could swoop into after the fight—assuming he survived. Bourne is the loner type, which does have that disadvantage. It was fun to watch their reasoning play out.

Their match-ups continued. They paired Jackie Chan and Liam Neeson. They pitted Fiona Glenanne (Burn Notice) against Ziva David (NCIS). They matched The Avengers’ Black Widow with Alien’s Ellen Ripley. They put real thought into their game. They batted about names of characters like Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), John Casey (Chuck), Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly), MacGyver, Indiana Jones, and others.

These kinds of games show me that they are paying attention to the shows that they watch. They understand character development. It also shows how wonderfully these actors embody the roles that they play.

If you ever want to start a fun game with your family, “Versus” is terrific for understanding the way your kids think and perceive others. It will give you insight into their likes and preferences. It’s a good conversation starter.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

Bond Girls Are Easy

What makes a Bond Girl? Is it the tight sweater? What about a bikini with a dagger in the utility belt? Maybe it’s all the concealed weapons.

I happen to believe that what really makes a gal a Bond Girl is the basic love of James Bond. In that respect (and pretty much only in that respect) I am one.

I confess I love all of the Bonds. Sean Connery is steamy, Roger Moore is charming, George Lazenby is loyal, Timothy Dalton is sensitive, Pierce Brosnan is handsome, and Daniel Craig is striking. I mean that literally and figuratively. I even enjoy the 1967 spoof of Casino Royale, in which just about everyone gets a turn being 007, including Peter Sellers, David Niven, and Woody Allen.

I love the character of Bond, created by Ian Fleming, who also wrote the book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I have my own theory about James Bond and Caractacus Potts, but I’ll save that for another blog.

I know that most Bond fans have a favorite. I understand preferring one over another, but as an eternal optimist, I can find something to love in each one. Perhaps that’s why Bond always gets the girl… or girls.

Every Bond movie has at least two or three BGs. There is the “Good Girl.” She can be another spy—British, American, or Chinese—like Goodnight, Jinx, or Wai Lin. She could be the girl with the problem, like Honey or Natalya. Some of the BGs are even disposable, like Jill, Plenty, and Strawberry.

When most people think of Bond Girls, though, they imagine the “Bad Girls.” These are the ones with the overtly sexual names like Pussy Galore and Xenia Onatopp. I blush just typing them.

There is another category of Bond Girl: “Other.” They are the ones I like best. Moneypenny is priceless, and Dame Judi Dench’s M may be my all-time favorite. She’s the one woman in the world who is immune to Bond’s devilish smile. (I sometimes think that maybe she’s not—but that’s half the fun.)

What makes all of these women vulnerable to Bond? What’s so special about a suave spy with a Walther and an Aston Martin? Well, apart from the broad shoulders and brooding good looks, Bond braves every manner of villain for king and country.

Does he suffer for his noble cause? Often. He’s beaten and tortured constantly, but he never gives in.

Is he ever tricked, misled, or just plain wrong? Oh yeah. He even admits it.

Does he need help from others? All the time. Some of his greatest escapes and rescues have come from the leading ladies.

My favorite escape is from Tomorrow Never Dies. Pierce Brosnan and Michelle Yeoh are chased through Hong Kong on
a motorcycle while hand-cuffed, only to face the blades of a helicopter! When the smoke clears, he not only likes her, but he respects her.

Maybe that’s why we love him. He’s not a robot. He’s not a super-hero. He’s just a man on a mission. He’s a bad boy, yes, but in the very best of ways.

I’m ready for my next date with Bond: Skyfall, November 2012.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!