51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I received advance copies of the Region 1 release and just had to gush about these incredible DVDs.
In October of 1999 the first wave of James Bond 007 Special Editions was released. It was in fact the second time that the series had seen a release on those shiny silver discs having first appeared in the much-maligned "snapper" cases two years earlier. But these special feature laden releases were immediately hailed as setting a new benchmark for back catalog releases of movies on DVD.
Times however have since changed. And the single disc editions that appeared in a set of three waves in 1999 and 2000 now look, at best merely serviceable and at worst wholly inadequate when compared to the bumper releases that have been afforded to the likes of other favorites from the last 40-plus years.
So on Tuesday Fox will release the first two of four volumes that are touted as the Ultimate Edition's of all 20 of the movies in the storied franchise. The collection of special features this time around are a virtual embarrassment of riches and each movie has been remastered by the team that oversaw the work on the original Star Wars trilogy - Lowry Digital. The result is so impressive that movies the likes of 1964's "Goldfinger" now look they were made last year instead of over 42 years ago.
John Lowry, who started his career with NASA, spent two and a half years restoring the picture and sound quality on all 20 Bond films, which in total consisted of 42 miles of film. According to information released by the studio the combination of automated computer processing and digital retouching led to the removal of 25 million pieces of dirt and 74,000 "hairs in the gate" in addition to restoring more than 30,000 frames of scratched or torn images.
The difference is most evident in the older movies and when I watched "The Spy Who Loved Me" (for example) I seriously felt like I was watching a new movie - particularly during the demise of the Liparus super tanker.
There has also been an improvement in the audio department has a brand new 5.1 DTS mix.
The special features will impress even the most ardent and knowledgeable James Bond fan. Take for example the DVD for the 1985 adventure "A View to a Kill." In the 2000 release fans were amazed to see the inclusion of a hitherto unknown deleted scene set in a Paris Police Station. In the release Tuesday the Paris scene is still there, but several more deleted scenes join it. These ranges from the scene where fishermen (along with Bond) demonstrate outside of the main villains San Francisco operations to a more minor scene that shows said villain and his henchman and henchwoman carrying cans of gasoline into City Hall. Director John Glen who explains why they were eventually cut from the movie introduces each.
This all-inclusive approach to special features pervades these releases with everything from the inclusion of archival reports from the set for British television to a home movie from the Egyptian set of "The Spy Who Loved Me."
Of course the real jewel in the crown of the releases are the newly recorded audio commentaries by James Bond actor Sir Roger Moore for his seven movies. Last year Moore recorded the commentaries over a period of five days starting with the last of his movies (A View to a Kill) and working backwards. He prefaces each of his commentaries by claiming not to remember much about the production history of the movies and urges the listener to merely approach them as a one-way conversation. However, despite his claim Moore does seem to recollect quite a bit about the movies and his light breezy tone and dry wit make the commentaries a real draw. He does have a habit of getting sidetracked on occasion and discusses other projects other than James Bond, but each of the commentaries is well worth a listen.
My particular favorite commentary in Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 is the one that accompanies "A View to a Kill." For many years fans questionned where Maud Adams' cameo was in this movie (she had famously visited the set during the San Franciso shoot), with not even Maud Adams knowing where she was. Well, there's a big clue to where she appears when Roger Moore remarks that the man walking out of shot is Maud Adams boyfriend. Watch the couple in the background shortly after this remark on the commentary.
The only real quibble I have is regarding the "007 Mission Control" section of the DVDs. These are merely a collection of clips from the movie and as such seems a tremendous waste of valuable disc space. For example say you click on "Girls" from the Mission Control main menu. A menu appears listing the girls in that particular movie and if you click on their name you are provided with a menu listing a series of clips including that character. Not only is this highly redundant for those who have watched the movie (which one would presume people who own the DVD have done) but its also very selective. Take for example the character of Anya Amasova in "The Spy Who Loved Me." The first clip offered is her meeting with James Bond at the Kalba club. Surely the first should have been her famous introduction (where audiences expentations are turned on their head) and the scene where she learns of her lovers death.
Another minor gripe is the treatment of "Die Another Day" in this set. Whereas all the previous content from the other movies Special Editions are included in these Ultimate releases, the same cannot be said for the "Die Another Day" discs. Released already as a 2-disc set on its initial DVD release in 2003, this edition seems to have dropped the extensive documentary on the making of the movie. I was not a big fan of said documentary as I found it to be largely fluff, but its strange that it was not included here, especially since they probably used up space that could have accomodated it with the afore-mentioned "Mission Control" section. There are some interesting tidbits on the "Die Another Day" discs including the "From Script to Screen" doco (that had appeared previously only in Region 2) and a fascinating coverage of the parachite jump over Buckingham Palace, but the omission of the lengthy "Making of..." documantary from the previous release is puzzling.
The movies are in slim cases. The big fear among Bond fans when images of the cover packages were released was that it would be a gatefold design. The slim cases are 2-disc sets with disc 1 facing disc 2.
For those fans and collectors who like to place the DVDs in chronological order when displaying them on the shelf, there is a solution. The inner casingo for the DVDs are in the familiar shape common to storing magazines. This allows the collector to place this casing back in the box backwards so that the spines of the DVDs (with their titles on them) are facing out.
Recommended for everyone from the casual viewer to the most fervent Bond fan.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
REVIEW: When you talk about something as iconic as James Bond there really isn't much to say that you as a film enthusiast don't already know. With the release of Casino Royale we finally see the definitive editions of the Bond films on DVD. Let me tell you right now that these sets are absolutely stunning, the treatment that the films got are worthy of their iconic status. The Bond films have thrilled generations from 1962 to 2006 and we all know Bond will return to thrill in the future.
Ian Fleming had no idea what he had on his hands when he wrote Casino Royale and introduced this mysterious super spy into the world of fiction. It's a shame that Fleming only survived long enough to witness the first two films in the franchise. The reason why the films have lasted as long as they have is because of the formula, which is discussed a bit on The World Is Not Enough DVD. There are certain elements to the Bond formula that audiences have come to expect. It's funny, because if any of these ingredients are used in any old action movie then that movie is labeled unoriginal and formulaic. However, with the Bond films it's a rule of thumb that certain ingredients have to be used: there has to be some sort of plot of world domination, a villain with some sort of unique physical characteristic, the girls (both good and bad), the car, the gadgets, the romance, the stunts, the locales, and of course that element of fantasy. Every Bond film has those ingredients, the only thing that stays the same between the films is the element of fantasy. Well, that still doesn't explain why the Bond films have continued to be successful, I mean what is the appeal? We have a protagonist that cannot die, an antagonist who must die, we know how the gadgets work before he uses them, and we all know Bond gets the girl and saves the world. Why does that appeal to people so much? I think it's because it's fantasy yet it seems extremely attainable and realistic. We want to believe that there is a man out there who is a spy, who travels around the world to foil terrorist plots, who gets all the women, and basically can escape from any situation no matter how grim it looks. No other action film has replicated what a Bond film can do even though there have been so many attempts.
The new DVD sets are what DVD sets should be. The "Ultimate Edition" label on them couldn't be more true in that these sets are the definitive Bond experience. Lowry Digital did a frame by frame restoration of every film and the result is absolutely spectacular. We also have brand new DTS 5.1 tracks for each film. Each film is also loaded with extras, an incredible amount of extras that will take you probably months to get through. The films are divided into 4 volumes with 5 movies in each set. The only downfall of the sets are that they are packaged and sold out of chronological order, which makes it irritating for collectors like myself who likes everything to be in order. Everybody is complaining and wondering why they released them like this, and it's really simple marketing here. If they were to sell the sets with films going chronological order then people who maybe only like Connery as Bond will only buy one volume. By spreading each Bond across all four sets then people are forced to buy all the sets. My question is why don't they just make one huge box set for the dedicated fans with all the movies set in order. They did that with the previous releases in the UK, and I think that die hard fans would go for a set like that. Anyway, despite the compilations of the volumes, these are amazing sets.
Thunderball (1965): The one and only Bond film to win an Oscar (Best Visual Effects) takes Bond to the Bahamas where he tracks down SPECTRE's number-two man, Largo. The film has some incredible chases and of course the famous jetpack escape. Tom Jones delivers an incredible performance for the opening title song and sets up a classic Bond adventure with shark tanks and all.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This was one of my favorite Bonds mostly because of the seemingly invincible Jaws, a Bond villain as iconic as Oddjob. Only in a Bond film can you have a villain who has steel jaws that can bite through metal and it all seems completely plausible. An incredible fight atop a cable car is one of the film's most memorable scenes.
A View To A Kill (1985): Roger Moore's last film in the series is a memorable one, mostly because of Christopher Walken's portrayal of Max Zorin. You also have the incredible and climactic action scene atop the Golden Gate Bridge including a giant blimp. The only thing about the movie that I didn't like was the character of May Day who is just bizarre looking and doesn't look like a femme fatale at all, although she does lead Bond up an exciting climb up the Eiffel Tower.
License To Kill (1989): The first Bond film to achieve a PG-13 rating is a bit different than Dalton's first outing as Bond. I found the truck chase at the end to be really well done, but overall the movie just didn't cry out Bond to me. I mean, Bond is basically a rogue agent in this movie and that just doesn't seem to fit the character. Robert Davi creates a deliciously evil drug lord, except instead of a cat he has an iguana. You'll recognize a really young Benicio Del Toro as a disposable henchman.
Die Another Day (2002): The 20th official Bond film would also be Pierce Brosnan's last, a descision to this day that has a few people scratching their heads. While Daniel Craig looks to make a good bond, it was Brosnan who embodied the new age Bond, but apparently he wasn't hip enough. Die Another Day was directed by Lee Tamahori, a choice I still question since he went on to direct xXx: State Of The Union right after this. In this film Bond battles a Chinese guy who gets a race change and turns into a British guy, who wants to be all powerful, who lives in an ice palace. Yeah, so the film is a bit overstretched, but there are some great scenes that make it worthwhile. The hovercraft chase at the beginning will give your home theater a great workout, and the car chase on the ice was very impressive. The fact that the bad guy is just some guy with diamonds imbedded in his skin makes it kind of lame, and Halle Berry doesn't make a good Bond girl at all. Her lines and her acting are all laughable, but she does look good in an Ursula Andress style bikini. There is one scene were Bond takes a parachute and a piece of metal and surfs a giant tidal wave that was called one of the most ridiculous Bond moments ever. Madonna also hurts the film not only with her techno title song, but her pointless cameo. Die Another Day has some great action, but the plot is over the top even for a Bond film.
VIDEO: Okay, now let's talk about how pretty these sets are. Lowry Digital (now DTS) did a frame by frame restoration for each film. The older films are where you will notice the difference. The color and quality are not just brighter, but they are richer. What once looked faded and washed now looks lively and textured. Black levels are not fuzzy and they are incredibly sharp. In Goldfinger the Aston Martin is so shiny you feel like you can touch it. Overall it's breathtaking what they accomplished with these restorations.
AUDIO: The sound department is even more impressive. My old Bond DVD's were not fun to watch on my surround system. Now every single film in the set has a brand new 5.1 DTS mix that will blow you away. Sound is an important component to film, and even though some people oppose creating 5.1 mixes from mono and stereo tracks there is an undeniable advantage to the new mixes. The sound now envelopes you and the explosions truly use the surround channels. The dialogue is mostly dedicated to the center channel for the older films. Overall the improvements are noticeable and truly benefit the viewing experience.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Just when you thought that the improved picture and sound was enough, we have a seemingly endless supply of special features and goodies. For owners of the old sets there will be some familiar stuff. The main "making of" featurettes, which run for around 30-40 minutes each, are the same documentaries that were found on the old sets. However, we have a bunch of archival footage added on and some bonus featurettes that have never been seen before. There is even an incredibly old on set interview with Connery on the Goldfinger DVD that looks like it was about to disintegrate before it was digitalized. The DVD's also have lots of screen tests, lots of featurettes on the cars and the supporting characters. There also various commentaries on the DVD's. There is so much bonus material to work through that you will probably still be watching featurettes once the other 2 volumes are released in December. While the new transfers and sound mixes alone make the sets a must buy, the new special features should make you flip with joy.
BOTTOM LINE: I have been a huge Bond fan ever since I was little. I owned all of them on VHS and previously on DVD. These Ultimate Editions are absolutely stunning and are in no way some marketing stint to mooch off the publicity of Casino Royale. Yes they are being released with the opening of Casino Royale in theaters, but you can tell a whole lot of work went into these sets. Definately worth the upgrade, this is the longest running franchise in film history and it continues to deliver quality action entertainment.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Robert L. Hood
- Published on Amazon.com
First of all, a confession: I never got the previous trio of box sets and only have a few of the previous editions of the Bond movies. Why? Simple: I bought some as they came out, and hated to repurchase them in the boxes. Of course, I saw the Ultimate Edition as a way to upgrade rather than simply replace, so that was good enough. Also, $10-$12 per movie just isn't a bad deal.
I love the idea of these sets and really wanted to like them a lot more, but the execution is noticably flawed. The idea of new content is great, and the Roger Moore commentaries are certainly appealing, but the "007 Mission Control" content doesn't really even qualify as a special feature. All that consists of is a collection of clips from the movie, organized by subject. Oh, look - here's the one where he says "Bond. James Bond." in this movie. It's just not that impressive. I'm sure there are a couple of gems in the new stuff, but overall it's time to face facts: the Bond movies were chewed over pretty thoroughly for the previous releases, and the best stuff has already been released. Don't buy this for the extras (except the Moore commentaries), buy it for the remastering of the older movies. One thing struck me as particularly strange at first, but it makes some sense: although there's a booklet for each movie, these are inside the bigger box and not in the slimline cases. Of course, given the choice between full-size cases with the booklets enclosed or slim cases with them outside, the latter choice makes sense. I'll even commend MGM on not compiling these into one mini-book per box; this makes it easy to rearrange the movies into chronological order and keep the booklets where they belong, should you prefer that option (as I do).
I particularly want to single out the poor treatment of "Die Another Day" in this volume. When you open the box and look at the slim cases, you'll notice that all nine of the other movies in volumes 1 and 2 list "The Complete Special Features Library" with an itemized list. My older (SE) copy of "The World Is Not Enough" is now completely superfluous; everything that was on there is on this copy, plus the new content. Not so with "Die Another Day," which only has a few of the two-disc Special Edition's features; everything from SE Disc Two is gone except for the Image Database. (Yes, the documentary on the 40-year-anniversary 20th movie is missing from this set.) Adding insult to injury, the Ultimate release even lists features that don't exist on that release; the DVD-ROM Features and the entire Ministry of Propaganda section simply are not present. The promotional materials also list Madonna's video for the theme song, which is similarly omitted here. I'm also dubious about the need for frame-by-frame remastering on a movie that's barely four years old.
In short, if you want the fullest 007 DVD experience, keep your old copy of "Die Another Day" in your collection - or at least the second disc of it. Maybe you can pack it together with "Never Say Never Again" as an appendix to the Ultimate Edition. For my fellow rearrangers who prefer chronological order, if you put the inner case into the slipcover "backwards" (short end out) when closing the box, you can read the titles off the case spines without digging through the boxes. It's not perfect, but then neither is this release.
As for the other reviewers' questions of why this isn't a chronological release, that's easy. Both of these sets are crafted to include a variety of Bond actors; three Connery/Moore, one Dalton, one Brosnan. (Volume 1 has two Connery and one Moore; Volume 2 reverses that.) It's a simple but depressing marketing decision: a fan of one or two Bond actors must still purchase all four boxes to get a complete set. You can't have your Connery without paying for Moore than you really wanted. They did the same with the previous three-box release.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Benjamin J Burgraff
- Published on Amazon.com
"James Bond Ultimate Edition - Vol. 2", the second volume of the frame-by-frame restorations of the 007 Library, offers an eclectic collection of titles (with 3 actors' final appearances as Bond), and a quality of picture and sound that WILL take your breath away!
"A View to a Kill" (1985), Roger Moore's swansong as 007, is, sadly, the worst of his seven Bonds. Looking far too old for the role, he battles youthful villain Christopher Walken, beds Amazonian henchwoman Grace Jones (which should have, by itself, killed him!), and winds up with staggeringly inept Tanya Roberts...While it's a joy to see Moore work with lifelong friend Patrick Macnee, the Silicon Valley plot is dumb, the action sequences, silly, and you'll wish Roger had retired after "For Your Eyes Only". (1 1/2 stars out of 5)
"Thunderball" (1965), the BIG Bond hit from the peak of the 007 craze, has so MUCH spectacle that it nearly sinks the story! SPECTRE crashes a NATO bomber, using the nuclear weapons to blackmail the world, and it's up to 007 Sean Connery to save the day! Sexy women (Claudine Auger and Luciana Paluzzi), a sneering villain (Adolfo Celi), and glorious Bahamas locations are highlights; the climactic underwater battle does, however, become boring, and the film seems overlong...but Connery is magnificent! (4 1/2 stars out of 5)
"Die Another Day" (2002), Pierce Brosnan's final 007, begins spectacularly (with Bond captured and tortured by the North Koreans), then collapses into silliness (an invisible Aston-Martin???). Much was made of Halle Berry as 007's CIA counterpart, Jinx, but she looks far better than she acts. The weapon is simply a rehash of the "Diamonds Are Forever" laser satellite, and even a terrific, near-superhuman henchman (Rick Yune), can't save this mundane tale. Brosnan deserved a better send-off! (2 stars out of 5)
"The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977), Roger Moore's third 007 outing, is a bona fide Bond classic, reworking the character and plot line into more of a 'Connery' mode. Working with sexy Soviet counterpart Barbara Bach against a fish-like megalomaniac (Curt Jurgens), the film is best-remembered for 7'2" Jaws (Richard Kiel), the best villainous henchman of the entire series. Whether in Egypt, on a train, or in the ocean, Jaws gives 007 Moore all he can handle! (5 stars out of 5)
"Licence to Kill" (1989), Timothy Dalton's second (and last) appearance as 007, is considered a 'lesser' Bond, which is unfair. If you enjoyed Daniel Craig's portrayal as Bond, give this a try, as Dalton goes 'renegade' to take out the drug dealer (Robert Davi) who mutilated best friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison), and murdered Leiter's wife. Hard-edged and gritty, with little of the 007 campiness, featuring future stars Benicio Del Toro and Carey Lowell, this is a Bond far closer to Ian Fleming's vision. Though a box-office failure, it is truly a gem! (4 stars out of 5)
Another 'must' collection for every Bond fan!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I, for one, have no objection to this new packaging of the beautifully remastered films and their lavish extras. This series is like the old joke about pizza (and sex)--even when it's not-so-good, it's still pretty good. These films are such a big, big part of our culture--all of them. All the actors playing Bond. The whole shebang. I appreciate that there are those out there who only want certain titles--and they should be available that way--but I say, "Bring 'em all on!" I'm loving this collection!
THUNDERBALL has terrific underwater battles. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME has Jaws and Carly Simon's song. A VIEW TO A KILL is pretty bad. LICENCE TO KILL isn't much better, but Robert Davi is a great villain. DIE ANOTHER DAY has that dumb invisible car and the smart, very visible Halle Berry.