As critics and audiences alike call this their favorite James Bond film, I guess I am no longer alone in thinking this is one of the best spy films ever made. There is very little wrong with Goldfinger and what is wrong is very easily overlooked because of the strong plot and even stronger characters. With many series, the filmmakers begin to wane and rest on their successes when number three (or so) comes along. But, this is the case where the third film truly is the charm. Number one in the series Dr. No and two (From Russia with Love) just seem like practice in order to get to this third installment in the Bond series. Bond creator and author Ian Fleming got the title Goldfinger from the villain’s name…a man who is obsessed with gold. Truly. And the actor who plays the man-in-gold (Gert Fröbe) fits the bill perfectly. Sean Connery’s Bond also comes into his own in this film. In Dr. No he seemed a little unsure of himself and in From Russia with Love, it was the opposite…he seems TOO confident as the super-spy. Here, Connery shows the right tone of power, control and fear. And the plot is also one of the best ever in a Bond film…with Frobe’s Goldfinger trying to destroy the gold in Fort Knox so his mass amounts of gold increase considerably in value. But, for Bond films, plot always seems to take a back seat to the gadgets, romance and action. Here, at least, they made an attempt at a story…and did a great job in the process. No worries, though. There are lots of gadgets, action and romance. Promise.

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For Pierce Brosnan’s first 007 outing, he sure picked a fun ride. This is a James Bond film with bite…one that was perfect for Bond’s reemergence in theaters after a six-year break (the previous Bond film, License to Kill with Timothy Dalton, was produced in 1989). It also is a good film for the end of the 20th Century…no more Cold War doesn’t mean the former Soviet Union countries cannot be used as adequate threats. This story deals with a former MI-6 agent who went over to the other side in order to avenge his past (his Russian parents were Cossacks who were sent home by the British to be executed by Stalin) and cause World chaos. There are MAJOR parts of this film that are outlandish and unbelievable. But, remember, this is a Bond film. Unbelievable is a requirement. Brosnan fits into Bond’s tux perfectly…he mixes the right combination of Connery’s suaveness and Moore’s wit and Dalton’s fierceness. The series lagged with the two Dalton films (License and 1987’s The Living Daylights) mostly because many of the Bond-isms were gone. Yes, Dalton’s 007 was still asking for his Vodka Martini’s “shaken not stirred” but the quips and especially the romances were practically nonexistent…the latter probably because of the 1980s “safe sex” era. Enter Brosnan who brings it all back with gusto! Ian Fleming would be proud.

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Give this one some time to grow on you…I came close to giving up about 30 minutes into this film. Then, just as I practically had my finger on the STOP button of my remote, the plot settled down and began to come together. I understand what the director (Mike Hodges of Croupier fame) was trying to do in the beginning. He was trying to set the stage of a dark, murky movie by showing us the characters in little segments to make us deliberately confused. Just because I understand what Hodges was doing doesn’t mean I like it. Once the crime has been committed, all of the pieces begin to fall into place and turn a complicated premise into a smart, original thriller. We get to know the characters we had only seen in bits and pieces before. We get to know what led up to the crime that is committed. We get to know some back-story on the main character, played brilliantly by Clive Owen. Owen’s character has turned his back on his former criminal/gangster ways, disconnecting himself from his family and friends, and become homeless (he lives out of his van in the woods and moves from one cash-paying construction job to another). The story hinges on the believability of Owen. We HAVE to believe his character in order for the story to work. Of course, going from gangster to homeless man is quite a personality change. But, is the change sincere or just a weak way to escape his past? Owen, once back around his former friends and “associates,” tries his best to stay clean but crime’s a-calling. Owen fights and fights off his temptation and the question of whether he will win the fight is almost as thrilling as the mystery around crime. The ending, at first, bothered me. I wanted a more solid ending…I wanted to know about the characters and what happened to them. But, as I thought more about it, based on what we know about the Owen character, the ending is just as it should be.

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Did you ever look for something and it’s not where you remember putting it but the next time you look, it’s there? Sure, it happens to all of us occasionally and we think “I’m losing my mind.” In a second or two, that thought is replaced with something else and we forget about our minor brain lapse. But, what if things like that would continue to happen? What if we kept seeing things and hearing thing and doubting our sanity…little occurrences at first and then major things like losing pieces of jewelry and misplacing practically everything…? Well, Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight experiences all of these things plus more. Her husband, played with cruel intensity by Charles Boyer, might or might not be “helping” her out in the insanity department. Regardless, he becomes less and less sympathetic with her as she slips more and more out of reality. The audience never really knows whether Bergman is insane or not. I mean she hears footsteps above her…and we hear them too…but it’s not until the end until the plot is uncovered. Director George Cukor directs this so passionately that at times it has the feel of a horror film. When the light from the gaslights dims, the look on Bergman’s face is pure terror…as if she was being tortured. And…as you come to find out…she is. But how…and by whom????

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I’m sure most people have seen this one and I’m most definitely not in the minority for liking it. I just think this is one of the best action/suspense films in years. Yes, it’s ALL supposed to be set in Illinois and us Illinoisans know that we do not have any kind of dam like that in this great state. But, ignoring that, this one is just top-notch in most every way. Harrison Ford plays Richard Kimble, a doctor who comes home to find a one-armed man attacking his wife. Kimble fights with the man, but the murderer gets away. Kimble is accused of the murder, when the police don’t buy his “one-armed man” story. After managing to escape from incarceration (one of the best train crashes ever put on film), Kimble makes it his mission to come back to his hometown of Chicago and find the one-armed murderer. It’s sharp, fast, well structured, well acted, has just enough humor, and is riveting when it needs to be and laid back when it needs to be. Basically, just a good film.

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Not being one of Roman Polanski’s biggest fans, I was initially apprehensive about this one. But, I like Harrison Ford and Betty Buckley so I gave it a try. It is a sharp, exciting thriller that really utilizes the feel and atmosphere of Paris. Many thrillers fall short of using location to heighten or complicate the suspense. Polanski really captures the essence of Paris here…from the elegant, tourist side to the dark, seedy underbelly. The plot keeps pretty simple…an American doctor, in Paris for a convention, is convinced his wife has been kidnapped. Yes, it is a little more convoluted than that, but that’s the gist of it. From there, Polanski weaves a thrilling tale of intrigue that will keep you riveted until the finale.

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This is the one James Bond movie that I enjoy mostly because it seems so dated. Earlier Roger Moore Bond films (Live and Let Die, The Spy who Loved Me and The Man with the Golden Gun (I’m not even talking about the REALLY DATED and just plain BAD Moonraker)) somehow were mostly able to avoid being bogged down with era-specific music and technology (remember – I’m NOT talking about Moonraker). But, For Your Eyes Only has great electronic music that is reminiscent of the Disco era at its best! Also, some of the gadgets and technology in this one are a little dated as well…such as the Identograph that Bond and Q use to help identify a bad guy who tried to kill Bond. The story is pretty solid…with your basic “Bond saving the world” plot. This time, 007 is trying to retrieve an encryption machine from men who want to use it against the British. I feel that this film is enhanced by Topol, who plays one of the most interesting Bond characters yet. If you’re in the mood for some good early-1980s fun, For Your Eyes Only is one you have to check out!

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The film that forced married men to think twice before straying…as well as reviving Michael Douglas’ acting career…is a top-notch thriller. It got a lot of attention when it came out in 1987 because of its graphic violence and (especially) sexuality. Sometimes, when you strip the controversy from a film, what you’re left with is a movie that really was not worth all of the attention. I would say that is not true here…this is a great film that knows how to convey fear to the audience. Never would I say something is Hitchcockian (I believe that NOTHING will ever be worthy of that label since the Master of Suspense was, just that, a Master…the one and only), but I think that IF Hitchcock would have been working in 1987, he might have made a film in this same vein. The vein being a continual threat of menacing terror that keeps growing and growing until it just cannot do anything else other than explode! So, watch this one for the thrills…not for the attention it got when it came out. And, whatever you do, please do not call it Hitchcockian. If necessary…maybe pseudo-Hitchcockian, or semi-Hitchcockian? But, only if necessary!

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This is the one that started it all…we are introduced to John McClane, from the NYPD, for the first time. We like him, though we see he has an edge. And he’s troubled about his estranged relationship with his wife, who accepted a lucrative job in Los Angeles months ago and ended up moving up the corporate ladder quicker than expected. Even without seeing any back story, we know instantly that John is not an “L.A” kind of a guy. So, take this worried, disgruntled man and put him in a skyscraper where he is the only one who is not taken hostage when a gang of slick international terrorists come to rob the joint…to say that his adrenaline kicks in is a vast understatement. All John can think about his that his wife is in danger and he needs to save her. And that means he will go to any lengths, which he does with gusto, humor and incredible vigor. This film became the late 1980-1990s icon of the action film. Films, for years after this one, used the “man trapped someplace alone with baddies” formula. But, none of those imitators came close to the rush of the one and only (and the original) Die Hard.

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Don’t call it “Hitchcockian” but this film is a good, nail-biting thriller. Yes, it’s flawed (which is the main reason it shouldn’t be called “Hitchcockian”) but over-all, I was entertained by this one…mostly because of Clive Owen’s brooding intensity, which he has done in films before but that he perfects here. Owen plays a suburban upper-middle-class husband and father who, by chance, meets a seductive woman on the train one morning. After that first encounter, Owen is tempted enough to seek her out again. And, that leads to more and more, etc. Where this film takes off is once the affair is over…then the action begins. Not the best thriller ever made, but something good to hold your interest on a Saturday night…

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