Shaken and Stirred 007 Scorecard: Octopussy

Welcome to Gracetopia’s Shaken and Stirred 007 Scorecard series, where you will find the most exhaustive, comprehensive grading of James Bond movies anywhere on the internet. Fact. The movies are judged on a scale of 1-5 Moneypennys across 5 very important criteria: theme song, Bond girl, villain, Q tech, and kitsch factor, and then given an overall grade. This is a serious, scholarly series of blog posts, so no nonsense please, except in the comments. 

Movie Dossier

Title: Octopussy
Release Date: 1983
Series Order: Thirteenth
Bond: Roger Moore (his sixth). Suave, quippy, and a little long in the tooth, Moore wears the role comfortably.
Synopsis: A fellow secret agent gets killed and Bond uses his unparalleled Fabergé Egg skills to track the bad guy down. He ends up in India, where he finds an island filled with lawless half-dressed women, one of whom is named Octopussy because that’s a totally normal human name. The Soviets are involved somehow but that’s not nearly as important as Bond going undercover as a circus clown to diffuse a comically-large bomb and save the day and get the Octopussy.

Theme Song
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All Time High, written by John Barry and Tim Rice and performed by Rita Coolidge is, like, OK. Kind of sultry in a forgettable way. Underwhelming.

The opening credits sequence is pretty great, though, filled with neon and legs. If you watch closely I think you can see nipple in a few spots, so an extra Moneypenny is awarded for that.

Bond Girl
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Girlfriend will kill you with her octopus and her cheekbones.

Octopussy (Maud Adams) is the epitome of HBIC. She has a pet octopus and runs a girls-only smuggling ring from her very own private island and, I mean, #lifegoals amirite?

This is no damsel in distress. When shit goes down she is right there with a gun, whether it’s shooting bad guys in her boudoir or breaking open bombs. And always with flawless feathered hair and a steely glint in her eye.

Where is my Octopussy biopic, is what I’m saying.

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Can you name the bad guy in Octopussy? No, you cannot, because he’s kind of a non-entity. His name is Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), or perhaps his name is General Orlov (Steven Berkoff)—both men seem to think they’re the Head Villain here, and that leads to a wishy-washy bad guy situation and competing plotlines. Is this movie about jewel smuggling? A bomb? How do these plots intersect? Who knows?

Look for Mischka and Grischka’s newest album, an ode to Swedish death metal.

The second-tier villains are pretty quality, though. Gobinda (Kabir Bedi), Khan’s silent, imposing #2 is a dream in a Nehru jacket and the twin circus knife throwers, Mischka and Grischka (David and/or Anthony Meyer), are among my favorite Bond sidekick villains, that perfect combination of deadly and silly.

Q Tech
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The technological high points of the movie are both animal-related: a horse that turns into an airplane, and a submarine disguised as an alligator. (I whisper these words to myself when I’m having a bad day and they instantly make things brighter.)

The other tech is pretty mundane, a bug/homing device hidden in a Fabergé Egg and a pen that shoots acid, boooooring.

You’re better than this, Q.

Kitsch Factor
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License to clown.

I mean, guys, where do I start. There’s a circus. Bond disguises himself as both a clown and a stuffed gorilla. A snake charmer plays the Bond theme. (Which leads me to ask existential questions about why the Bond theme song exists in the Bondverse.) There is an island filled with lady criminals run by a woman named Octopussy. And just in case that isn’t enough for you, Bond DOES A TARZAN YELL while he is being chased by men on elephants.

This is it. This is the pinnacle of Bond Kitsch. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

Overall Grade: A

One of the greatest achievements cinema has ever seen. Don’t @ me.

… I mean please share your thoughts in the comments, so I guess do @ me.

OK fine it’s kind of slow at the beginning, like they could have chopped off the first 20 minutes and just started with the auction, but aside from that the movie is perfect. OK and the plot is kind of a mess. But seriously. One of James Bond’s finest outings. Did you see the part where he has an alligator submarine???

Until next time…

Just keep swimming.

Shaken and Stirred 007 Scorecard: Dr. No

Welcome to Gracetopia’s Shaken and Stirred 007 Scorecard series, where you will find the most exhaustive, comprehensive grading of James Bond movies anywhere on the internet. Fact. The movies are judged on a scale of 1-5 Flemings across 5 very important criteria: theme song, Bond girl, villain, Q tech, and kitsch factor, and then given an overall grade. This is a serious, scholarly series of blog posts, so no nonsense please, except in the comments. 

Movie Dossier

Title: Dr. No
Release Date: 1962
Series Order: First!
Bond: Sean Connery. A little rough around the edges, but a businesslike performance for a businesslike movie.
Synopsis: Bond, James Bond’s first outing is set mostly in Jamaica, the favorite locale of writer Ian Fleming. When a fellow secret agent is killed, Bond is sent in to investigate. He finds good music (though they only have one song in Jamaica apparently), a killer tarantula, a woman who likes conch, and a bad guy with fake hands. Bond, having real hands, comes out victorious in their final battle and then gets rescued by the U.S. Marines because, let’s face it, America is the real hero here.

Theme Song

While this theme (written by Monty Norman) is no Goldfinger earworm, it literally sets the tone for the character for the rest of the series—this is not just the “Dr. No theme song,” this is the James Bond theme song that is still being used to identify the character over 50 years later. It’s like the good guy’s “Vader’s theme.” That’s some song, Mr. Norman. 5 Flemings for you.

Bond Girl

honey-ryder2Giving Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) less than a full 5 Flemings is probably sacrilege in some quarters, but I never liked her quite as much as everyone else seems to. And, like, that iconic swimsuit is okay. Cool knife, though.*

I think mostly I’m underwhelmed by the character because there isn’t much of her to be whelmed by. She appears pretty late in the game and totally randomly, and then once she’s there she doesn’t do much. Her only role in the movie is to be led around and/or rescued; she doesn’t even have the courtesy to get herself into trouble, that’s Bond’s job too.

So she’s basically just arm candy (I know, in a Bond movie, how shocking) but then she and Bond don’t seem to have any real spark so even that isn’t very interesting.

*I have been reliably informed, quote, “We’re not looking at the swimsuit, Grace.”


Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) doesn’t DrNoappear onscreen until almost 90
minutes in, but his presence weighs heavily on the entire film—like a spectre, if you will. Just seeing how his subordinates fear him, ready to kill themselves rather than face his wrath, tells us early on that this man is bad news.

When we finally meet him he delivers on an entire movie’s worth of expectation and sets the standard for future Bond villains. He commands the room. He has a spectacular island lair with a $1 million aquarium. The way only his mouth moves when he talks and not any other part of his face is the epitome of villain-creepy. And, of course, he lost his hands in a tragic accident, so now he obviously has superhuman crushing hands. Like you do.

As a villain, for Bond or otherwise, he’s basically perfect.

Noël Coward, Dr. Nope

(I did just learn on the Dr. No wikipedia page that Noël Coward was apparently Fleming’s first choice to play the character, so now I will be forever disappointed that Coward turned him down. Though Coward would probably have been even less believable as a half-Chinese character than our Canadian friend Mr. Wiseman.)

The so-so nature of the ancillary bad guy characters knock this down from being a perfect score of 5 Flemings. Let’s be real, the movie’s briefly-appearing femme fatale, Miss Taro (Zena Marshall), is nothing to write home about. Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson) is perfectly fine I guess, but at the end of the day he’s just a nervous dude who knows things about rocks which, while a noble pursuit in general, doesn’t really make him shine as a bad guy.

Q Tech

So the Q we know and love (Desmond Llewelyn) isn’t actually in this first Bond movie, which is throwing off this category’s very scientific results. We’ll struggle through.

Honestly, the gadgetry in Dr. No is pretty dull. Bond doesn’t get loaded up with fun toys; instead his boss negs him for carrying a Beretta and forces him to use a “real” gun, a Walther PPK. It’s no jetpack or tricked-out Aston Martin, but I guess we have to start somewhere.

There are a few cool spy things sprinkled through the movie (cyanide cigarettes, booby-trapping a room) but overall it’s all pretty standard spy stuff. He does have a short-lived (un-tricked-out) sports car, but other than that the fanciest gadget Bond plays with is a Geiger counter.

Note: Special credit must be given to Felix Leiter’s fabulous cat-eye sunglasses, which aren’t really “tech” per se, but they certainly don’t fit into any of the other categories. (Or maybe they are tech? I guess we don’t know what the CIA has going on.)

I am going to open a shop called Felix’s Fancy Frames.

Kitsch Factor

Dr. No has very little of the kitschyness (is that a word? sure.) that makes Bond movies so magical. The Three Blind Mice, those whistling, not-blind assassins, are pretty excellent of course, but that’s about as close as this movie gets to absurdity.

This lack of kitsch probably makes it a better movie overall, but it means it’s not quite as much fun as some of the later ones. And fun is what we’re really about here.

Overall Grade: A

I am not going to lie to you, this first Bond outing is pretty great. It’s got an intense, grab-you-by-the-seat beginning—two assassinations in the first 5 minutes! Including a woman who never gets a name and is mentioned only briefly after her death while they won’t shut up about the dude victim. I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU, JAMAICA STATION SECRETARY LADY. #neverforget Anyway, it’s a more Serious Film than most of the later ones (see the abysmal Kitsch rating) but it’s good at being what it is. There’s some plot about rockets or something that is extremely unimportant—mostly this is just a glorified whodunit with a Reichenbach Falls showdown at the end.

And that’s all she wrote, folks! Feel free to chime in and agree with my scientific assessment of this film in the comments, or I guess if you’re into being wrong about things you can say that too.

Bye now.

surely they could have come up with a better title than “pacific rim”

Ok guys, so Pacific Rim.

It is not a perfect movie.

It is not a particularly surprising movie.

But damn is it a lot of fun.

If the idea of watching (basically) Godzilla fight against (basically) Optimus Prime does not interest you, you should just check out now. But if that sounds like your cup of tea, definitely go see this.

Aside from the pure badassery, there are a lot of little things that make this movie great:

  • the main female lead is Japanese for no pressing reason (she very easily could have been a white character—frankly very easily could have been a man also) and her gender is NEVER brought up as a reason why she shouldn’t fight
  • everyone is casually bilingual, which is cool
  • there is not an annoying love story jimmied into a perfectly decent action story which is basically one of my pet peeves
  • one of the supporting actors was Clifton Collins, Jr from the FP, playing an awesome rockabilly Latino nerd
  • one of the other supporting actors is the guy who played Owen on Torchwood (too lazy to look up) in a much better role than Owen on Torchwood
  • Ron Fucking Perlman

My main gripe with the movie is that there are two young, blond, square-jawed white men who look exactly the same except one of them is supposedly Australian. It was hard figuring out who was who unless one of them was talking. Even the giant robots were easier to tell apart.


Go see this.

John Carter OF MARS

So, last weekend I went to see JOHN CARTER. Not many people did. It’s getting mediocre reviews and nobody really seems to know what it’s about. HOWEVER. It was totally worth it. If you want a beautiful, exciting sci-fi adventure story with a dash of steampunkery and a dash of Victoriana, you should go see it too. (I realize that I just described my dream movie, so I may be a little biased, but seriously. You should go.)

Also, Taylor Kitsch spends most of the movie shirtless.

The movie is not perfect. It gets a bit exposition-heavy, it takes a little while for all the different stories to wind together into the main narrative, the Big Bads are not as complex or interesting as one might hope. But the rest of the film is entertaining enough that I am willing to overlook some misses. The movie is just—fun. It is fun the way a pulpy book movie should be. It’s not dark and heavy and trying to be anything it’s not. It’s the story of a Hero with a capital H and a beautiful Science Princess Warrior and saving the world and an oversized six-legged dog who is cuter than he has any right to be. Overall it’s a great ride, an exciting journey that I’m excited to experience again and again.

So why is it doing so poorly in theaters? This article from the New York Times gives some very interesting background on the behind-the-scenes workings of the film’s production. After some false starts, it was finally produced by Disney and directed by long-time JC fan Andrew Stanton (you may have heard of two of his other films, Wall-E and Finding Nemo). What I find most fascinating is that Stanton had a heavy hand in how the movie was marketed, which is in my (humble) opinion the movie’s main misstep. I was only at JC because some friends of mine were like NO WE ARE GOING TRUST USSSSS. (Note to self: trust friends.) The previews made JC look like another Rock (sorry Dwayne Johnson) vehicle, or something akin to 300 or Clash of Titans or any other movie that is just half-dressed men swinging swords at each other. Which… isn’t completely accurate. Yes, there’s shirtless sword- and gun-fighting, but there’s a lot more, too. A few shots of Princess Dejah Thoris kicking ass with her sword or the steampunky machines that fly with solar power would have helped, or even just some shots of the cities to show how rich and gorgeous Mars/Barsoom is. You can tell watching the film that there is tons material supporting it (like, maybe, ten books), and that doesn’t come through in the previews. It’s just a desert.

Anyway, the marketing has been marketed and there’s not much to be done about that now. The upshot is, this movie is so much cooler than the previews make it look and you should totally give it a chance. Trust me. TRUST JOHN CARTER. Dejah Thoris trusts John Carter. You should too.

Frankly, lots of people don't wear shirts in this movie. Important facts brought to you by gracetopia.

Captain America, hells yeah

Purely by chance, I ended up at the midnight showing of Captain America in downtown Boston last night.

Purely by chance, so did my younger brother. Perhaps we are related, after all.

Before I start my review, I will sum up my knowledge of Captain America so that you understand where I am coming from: 1) he is patriotic 2) he has a shield 3) he has a sidekick name Bucky—which I only know thanks to recent trips to Target’s action figures aisle. So yes, I come from a world of darkness.

And into the light. Because Captain America was COOL.

It was funny. It was pretty. It was dramatic. It worked. It worked as both a movie and a comic book movie.

It starts, of course, with the origin story. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny, chronically ill Brooklyn-ite who wants to join the army. He wants to join the army so badly he’s tried 5 times. But then he meets Dr. Abraham Erksine (Stanley Tucci), who sees in Steve the qualities that make not a soldier, but a hero. This is exactly what Dr. Erksine is looking for, because has the serum to make the hero into a supersoldier.

Meanwhile Agent Smith crazy Nazi Dr. Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) is trying to harness the power of the gods to take over the world, not for Hitler but for his own “scientific” organization called Hydra.

Because that always works.

This is one of those movies where there’s so much cool stuff happening I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s not really a question of plot—it’s a very formulaic superhero plot, you won’t really be shocked by anything. But there’s just so many cool things going on. Like a chorus line Captain America. *zips lips*

Suffice to say that after a brief stint as a media consultant, Steve Rogers aka Captain America charges into Nazi territory to save the world. And he kicks ass, and he takes names.

The movie was put together superbly, from the actors to the costume design to the general milieu. Tommy Lee Jones plays Tommy Lee Jones, which he does quite well. Chris Evans is both an excellent scrawny Steve and an excellent ripped Cap. The 1940s sets and costumes and atmosphere were dead on and oh-so-pretty. I love a good 40s setting.

And there are so many little things in this movie, from an Indiana Jones reference to a quick nod to Dr. Arnim Zola’s future as a robot. (<—why I go to these things with the comic geek BF) Everyone freaked out when Bucky picked up the shield. I think a true Cap geek would find a lot of little hidden treasures.

So, yes, I love the movie. A few minor plot quibbles (“so wait, how did she know—nevermind…”) but it was an awesome ride and the time flew by.

Finally, one kind of major point: Captain America is the first of the comic book movies that has made me want to read the related comics. X-Men, well, I already loved the X-Men. Thor, eh. Batman, eh. But in Captain America there was a whole montage sequence that showed Cap and his team going on dozens of missions—and I want to know what they are. His team looks like fun, and I love the character and setting. I want more.

However, having read the new Captain America issue #1 that came out last week or whenever… I was unimpressed. Marvel, if you’re going to make an awesome movie, you should make sure you’re supporting it with an awesome book.

Because, yeah, awesome move. Go see it.

EDIT: and it probably goes without saying for a Marvel movie but stay through the credits.