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on September 13, 2006
Having purchased all Bond DVDs years ago, to my own consternation I find myself shelling out even more money to buy this new editions.

I always thought they did a fairly good job with the old DVDs, the "Making of" documentaries were excelent and the overall presentation rather good. Why buy these new ones then ? The answers are rather simple:

1) 5.1 DTS sound on all movies. For years I've opted to turn off my sound equipment when watching the Connery films. It just didn't make that much of a difference from listening to them on regular TV's speakers. Some of the later ones (OCTOPUSSY) should also benefit greatly from this addition.

2) FRAME BY FRAME RESTORATION: Specially important in the Connery ones even though the earlier Moores left a lot to be desired too. It is my understanding that the three earlier movies which were cropped at the top and bottom in order to fit them into 16:9 sets will be presented in their entirety. And this isn't just any restoration we're taling about but one done by Lowry Digital. If you've watched the Indiana Jones and King Kong (1933) you'll know how absolutely perfect their work is.

3) EVEN MORE EXTRAS: and real good ones at that: Deleted Scenes, TV Specials, screen tests, varying angles for action scenes, etc.

In summary, if you are a regular Bond fan, the old edition should be more than enough. If you're a die-hard, just bite the bullet and enjoy these films as if they were brand new once again.
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on October 31, 2006
The Bond DVD collection was last available individually in 1999/2000, and as a 3-box, 'Special Edition' version a year or two ago. As noted elsewhere, these `Ultimate' Editions are suppose to be an incredible upgrade in sound and picture quality, completed by Lowry Digital, which is the platinum standard in film restoration. For this Bond effort, over 42 miles of film were scanned, and restored frame-by-frame (each frame was stored as a 45 megabyte image).

It makes sense to get this set if you are not planning to go to high definition DVD in the next few years. These, I expect, will be as bright and clean as standard DVDs can possibly be, so why not get them now. I'll get them just to see and hear the older films in this as-new condition.

For HD fans, it's interesting to note that the Lowry scanning occurred at a resolution of 4,000 x 3,000 pixels, in contrast with the 720 x 576 pixel resolution of standard DVDs. This means that the films were restored to greater-than DVD quality, AND greater-than High Def quality. So the Lowry restored films can already take full advantage of High Def DVD capabilities (they'll be Blu-Ray, as Sony owns both Blu-Ray and part of MGM). Blu-Ray DVDs have a 1080 by 1920 pixel resolution, nearly twice as sharp as a standard DVD. This will give these old films an almost 3D appearance.

Sony has been silent on when Bond will go to Blu-Ray (almost certainly available individually), but some say it can't be too long. There's no upside to waiting once the holiday season is over.
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on November 13, 2006
Everyone has seen the movies so there's no need to rehash them here. They are all awesome. The remastering is a major plus and a definite upgrade to the previous versions as stated in previous reviews. I only rate on the quality of the movies, which is what it is all about and these sets definitely get a 5-Star rating. But I do have an annyoing beef about the packaging. Yes, the movies are not released/packaged in the ordered they were made. Oh well, we can rearrange them in order once we all have the sets. But the movies are now stored in slimline cases within the box set. This is fine, but the accompanying booklets do not fit within the cases and are stored separately within the box set. It would have been much nicer if the cases were produced a bit wider to accomidate putting the booklets within each case. Like I said, it is only an annoying aspect and I don't consider packaging in my rating. What really matters is the quality of the movies. Not sure, but since I already have the previous versions, I may just migrate the new versions into the old cases and put the old versions in the new slimline cases which would solve the problem for me.
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This collection includes various Bond movies from four of the actors that have played James Bond in the "official" Bond movies, which excludes "Never Say Never Again." I have a couple of complaints about the four collections, balanced by some significant positives.

My biggest complaint is that the movies are not in order, which continues the tradition begun with the previous James Bond Collections. My second biggest complaint is that these versions have a lot of new material, meaning you have to shell out a lot of money to buy these movies, again. It would be nice if the "ultimate" version would have been the first version released instead of the third or fourth version.

The most significant positives about these movies are the improved sound and picture quality, and the second disk that comes with each movie that includes material uncollected in the original James Bond Collections. The improved sound and picture are the result of new technology, and thus this version was possible only in the last few years. If you have the previous James Bond Collections and you have watched them only once, then you can probably pass this collection over. If you watched the previous James Bond Collections and you thought the picture and sound could have been improved, and you wished for more extras, then you may want to shell out the big bucks and buy these four sets.

Two of Sean Connery's films are in this first set. "Goldfinger" is considered by many fans to be the best Bond film. Bond's villains in this movie were ruthless megalomaniacs, and Connery has a close encounter with a laser. Shirley Bassey belts out the title song and sets the standard for future Bond music. James Bond also quips that drinking Dom Perignon above 38 degrees Fahrenheit is "...as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs." Fortunately, Paul McCartney did not take it personally as he recorded the title track to the 1973 Bond movie "Live and Let Die." Bond also got ever more gadgets from Q, played by Desmond Llewelyn, who went on to appear in more Bond movies than any other major actor.

The other Connery film is "Diamonds Are Forever," which was Connery's last "official" Bond film. This time Dr. Blofeld has a plot to steal diamonds for a satellite that then become part of a laser-like device. He then plans on blackmailing governments for obscene amounts of money or he will destroy their weapons. This movie inspires either loathing or love. I like it, but then again I am a science fiction movie fan, and the gadgets and science fiction subplot are geek cool.

Roger Moore is represented by "The Man with the Golden Gun" from 1974. Christopher Lee as Scaramanga and Herve Villechaize are two of the most bizarre and ruthless Bond villains ever. There are fewer gadgets than in some of the surrounding Bond movies, but Moore's performance is a bit wooden and Clifton James was a bit over-the-top as comic relief. The title song by singer Lulu is pretty good, but pales in comparison to many of the other title songs in the series.

Timothy Dalton made two Bond films. The first of the two was "The Living Daylights," which I think was the better of his two movies. The plot is complicated, involving a defector who is not defecting, and a bad guy who later plays a good guy in the Brosnan movies. It's all in good fun with one of the most interesting chase scenes ever in a Bond film, involving a bass and its case. Dalton managed to breathe new life into the Bond series with modern issues and locations that were in the news at that time. This Bond film is worth watching multiple times.

The final movie in this collection is one of Pierce Brosnan's weaker movies. The typically complicated plot of "The World Is Not Enough" involves an assassination attempt on beautiful Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), and the theft of nuclear weapons. While there are a number of good scenes in this movie, it is weaker than average. However, this movie was the last appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q and Q seems to steal all his scenes.

Because of all the extras these DVDs require hours to watch. The value of the extras varies, but watching them gives a fan much more information about the difficulties of making each movie, and how many of the stunts were performed. I consider these movies to be among the gems of my DVD collection. I recommend this set very highly if you are just starting to collect Bond movies, are looking to replace your VHS versions, or you must have the best versions available.

Enjoy!
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on September 19, 2006
Sell all your old versions of the DVD's. You will make enough to purchase these FANTASTIC upgrades of one of the longest running franchises in American movie history, plus have money left to see the new film, Casino Royale in the theater in November.

All new two-disc editions, (no doubt to take advantage of the new movie's premiere) with more behind the scenes featurettes, making ofs, and brand new DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1 and DTS for the cinephiles out there. Dr. No and Goldfinger (my two favorites), should sound superb in surround.

The only reason for the 4 stars (5 in my opinion) is because if you just like a certain Bond or maybe you just like the new ones, you will be unable to purchase them like that. They come 5 movies per volume and they have a broad range of titles. So with the good come the bad.

Volume 1 includes:

Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever, The Man With the Golden Gun, The Living Daylights, and The World is Not Enough

Volume 2 includes:

Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, A View to a Kill, License to Kill, and Die Another Day

Volume 3 (which will be released in December) includes:

You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Live and Let Die, For Your Eyes Only, and Goldeneye

Volume 4 (also due in December) includes:

Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Moonraker, Octopussy, Tomorrow Never Dies.

Buy them, you will greatly appreciate this fine series.
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VINE VOICEon November 11, 2006
Note: This review was written for the Volume 2 release, but contains pertinent information regarding this release.

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 Nov. 7 Fox released 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.
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on March 14, 2007
Before buying this collection, I was very skeptical. Being a long time James Bond fan, I invested plenty of money in the best VHS version of all these films. When DVD came out, I re-bought about half of the collection again. I must admit that the DVD releases of these films are some of the most disappointing DVDs in my collection.

My major complaints about the ORIGINAL DVD RELEASES were:

1.) Audio Mix -- The first release of the Bond DVDs featured only the original 2 channel audio mixes. The result was a disaster. The spoken dialog was BURIED under the soundtrack... resulting in me having to dive for the remote every five minutes. On top of the poor dialog / score mixing, the audio lacked definition and served as a constant distraction from watching the movie. There were no distinct lows, or distinct highs, just a lot of bland sounding audio.

2.) Picture Quality -- I suppose I couldn't complain too too much about this one. Given the age of many of these movies, I accepted the washed-out, often grainy image as nothing more than a symptom of the era the movie was made.

All in all, poor audio and poor picture makes for a pretty crappy experience. After having been disappointed by the first couple Bond DVDs I bought, I gave up on the collection. It was with this in mind that the announcement of the newly remastered series left me very skeptical.

The major criticism of this DVD set is that it is another ploy by MGM/UA to drain more money from every Bond fan's wallet. In the past, I had avoided these pathetic attempts at getting me to constantly upgrade versions of things I already owned.

However, let me tell you, this collection DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. The talk about the upgraded audio and video is NOT hype. Painstaking efforts were taken to re-scan the original prints of each film frame-by-frame. Once scanned, the image was digitally enhanced from the original prints. I was amazed at the richness and depth of color this process produced. During most parts, these movies look like they could have been filmed last year. Different color pigments are more noticeable, skin color and tone looks more lifelike, and the special effects look sharper. All in all, one couldn't ask for anything more from the picture quality of these versions. I have yet to a scene where I felt it could have been retouched better.

If the image quality isn't enough to make this collection worth buying, the new 5.1 DTS mixes seal the deal. Gone are the days of me fidgeting with volume during every other scene! The balance between dialog, ambient sounds, and score is perfect. I never would have imagined that movies made in the 60's and 70's could sound so good. Unlike the previous DVDs, these Ultimate Edition DVDs utilize my home theater to its maximum potential. Explosions rumble through my sub and the dialog comes clearly through my center channel; every word is audible. I own other DVDs from films made over the last couple of years that wish they could sound this good! Utilizing the DTS is a MUST!

Finally, while I consider myself fairly discriminating when it comes to audio and video clarity, I am by no means an audio or videophile. So, I don't think you need a $25,000 home theater setup to enjoy the enhancements these DVDs offer. I wrote this review based off of the following hardware:

32" Winbook 720p LCD HDTV

Up-converting Samsung DVD Player (connected via DVI)

Sony 7.1 (7x100w) Surround Receiver

Matching 5.1 MTX Surround Sound Speaker System

Hopefully, this will help clear up some confusion or doubt as to the value this collection offers.
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Appropriately enough the first of the series to have a really imaginative use of colour, Goldfinger is in many ways the most visually sensual of the films, the unforgettable image of Shirley Eaton's golden girl reflected in a golden glow to much of Ted Moore's cinematography. It's oozing with striking and surreal imagery, from Oddjob's menacing shadow on the hotel room wall, to the little old lady with machine gun or Bond making his entry by unzipping his wetsuit to reveal an evening one underneath. Ken Adam's production design is his possibly his finest hour, genuine architecture of the imagination that is at once both fantastic and strangely credible, maintaining a sense of scale and verisimilitude by his use of ceilings on the smaller sets.

It's also the one that set the Bond formula in stone, something that would later become more a hindrance than a help to the series before something more radical was attempted with Casino Royale. Aside from establishing the trend for irrelevant but enjoyable pretitle sequences, it is from here on that the gadgets begin to assume a more prominent role. However, unlike most of the Roger Moore efforts, they are no match for Bond's own wits - even the famed Aston Martin DB5 does not save him. After putting it through its paces, he is left to his own initiative.

There is no getting away from the overtly sexist approach here ("Dink, say goodbye to Felix - man talk."). Even Blackman's villainy seems inextricably linked to her lesbianism ("You can turn off the charm, I'm immune") but one good one from Bond and she's on the side of the angels.

As with all Bond films, many of the cast are dubbed - in this case, Frobe was dubbed by actor Michael Collins. Regardless, his Auric Goldfinger is easily the best of the Bond super-villains, and comes equipped with the best line in the series as Bond, strapped down in front of the laser beam (in the novel it was a chainsaw), asks if he expects him to talk: "No Mr Bond, I expect you to die." And for possibly the only time in the series, you think that maybe Bond really has had it. Incredibly enjoyable and one of the best-paced entries in the series, it's not hard to see why this is many people's favorite Bond film. It may be formulaic, but then the formula still worked wonders.

While all the extras from the original single-disc release have been carried over, there are not as many new features as you might expect on this repackaged two-disc Ultimate Edition. Most interesting are Theodore Bikel and Tito Vandis' screen tests as Goldfinger, but there are also somewhat awkwardly presented archive interviews with Connery and Honor Blackman as well as a featurette about the Aston Martin DB5, though perhaps the most enjoyable remain the radio spots from the original release.

Connery's last Bond film for Broccoli and Saltzman is very familiar stuff. Diamonds Are Forever is one of those once popular Bond films whose reputation among the faithful seems to drop every year as OHMSS's rises. Certainly it makes for a poor follow-up and the weakest of the `Blofeld Trilogy.' Its biggest sin is the incredibly lazy pre-title sequence of Bond tracking down and disposing of one Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Aside from the lazy TV-movie look, this isn't a man hunting the murderer of his wife but someone having a bit of a laugh at work. The sequence only really makes much sense if you regard it as a sequel to You Only Live Twice that's determinedly pretending OHMSS never happened after Lazenby incurred the producers' wrath by walking out on the series.

Once you can get over the massive shift in tone from the previous film, or the fact that the film rarely makes much of an effort in its determination to part you from your money, it's still moderately entertaining in its very undemanding way. But there's no disguising the fact that after the first half the film becomes increasingly reliant on Connery's starpower, leaving a shoddy patchwork of half-hearted setpieces and weak puns as the filmmakers imaginations dry up. Unfortunately Connery walks through it all with the satisfied laziness of a man who knows he's being paid too much and is on triple-overtime while Guy Hamilton directs like a man determined to finish on the dot of 6:00pm come hell or high water rather than lose those restaurant reservations. It's particularly telling that when Bond trips slightly when walking with M after the title sequence they didn't even reshoot the scene - too much of the film has a "Nah, that'll do" feel to it.

It's also one where the rejected motive for the film's diamond smuggling - to stockpile enough to perpetually blackmail all the diamond companies with the threat of flooding and destabilizing the market - is rather more promising than the giant space laser-weapon that they opt for instead. It's not helped by the distinctly unthreatening villains, who take camp to new lows. Despite having a few good quips, by turning Charles Gray's Blofeld into a virtual standup comedian it's hard to take him seriously long before he turns up in drag, while the film's pair of camp killers, Wint and Kidd, are an even more unmenacing pair, played purely for cheap laughs. The sight of Putter Smith shuffling towards the camera with a pair of burning kebabs in the post-plot murder attempt that became a regular feature of Moore's outings and which here looks seemingly tagged on as if an afterthought, certainly qualifies as one of the series lowpoints. Still, there are a few nice moments like the opening smuggling montage or the fight in the elevator, John Barry delivers a nice score and there are a couple of nice Ken Adams designs - particularly the Slumber Chapel of Rest, designed like a stained-glass diamond. Connery's worst Bond film is still better than Moore's worst, but you really need to dial your expectations down low for this one.

This repackaged two-disc Ultimate edition boasts a fairly modest upgrade in extras from the original release - a 1971 BBC interview with Connery, a featurette on the elevator fight, a few alternate and expanded angle scenes, some test footage and an additional couple of deleted scenes.

The Man With the Golden Gun was producer Harry Saltzman's last hurrah before selling out his share in the Bond series to United Artists to ensure the maximum inconvenience to his detested partner Cubby Broccoli. It's certainly not premium Bond: at times it threatens to turn into an episode of The Avengers, what with Scaramanga's funhouse, his midget servant Nick Nack, its human statues or the off-kilter angles of MI6's Hong Kong HQ located in the rusting wreck of the Queen Elizabeth, not to mention Roger Moore's more Steed-like Bond. Although there are hints of the lows to come in Moore's tenure - Bond being saved by a pair of schoolgirls or defeating a villain by pretending to be a tailor's dummy - this is still recognisable an old-school Bond film, with thankfully few gadgets, although it's disappointing that the producers provide Scaramanga with an island lair and super-weapon to give Bond something to blow up at the end (a rather half-hearted effort to be sure: instead of a private army, Scaramanga simply has Herve Villachaize and a maintenance man). Britt Ekland's irritating `typical silly woman' comic relief was a bit hard to take in 1974 and gets worse with each passing year, but Christopher Lee's Scaramanga is one of the more interesting Bond villains, not least because of his imagined empathy with his prey - he regards himself as Bond's moral and professional equal, the kind of pathological snobbery Fleming's books were full of but the films increasingly abandoned.

Unlike many of the repackaged 2-disc `Ultimate Editions,' this is a fairly substantial upgrade from the original single-disc issue, carrying over all of the original features and adding plenty more - a new commentary by Roger Moore, behind the scenes footage, interview with director Guy Hamilton and an amusingly cheesy extract from a British TV interview with Moore and Villachaize. The only disappointment is that the deleted Molotov Cocktail sequence from Bond and Scaramanga's duel that featured heavily in the teaser trailers has not been located and included.

As with George Lazenby, the brevity of Timothy Dalton's tenure as Bond - due to years of legal problems and lawsuits between EON and MGM/UA - has led to history merrily being rewritten by the press that once hailed him. Dalton, not the lawyers, was lined up as the fall guy with Pierce Brosnan the man who saved the series from disaster (even though Dalton's first Bond saw a massive increase in takings over Moore's last film). Those who are quick to dismiss him would do well to check out The Living Daylights.

Much of the scapegoating of Dalton seemed to come from the confusion of actor and role. At the time Dalton's Bond was the closest to Fleming's creation - more so than Connery, even - and given the right script he proved outstanding in the role. After Roger Moore's 12-year, seven-film tenure as Bond finally came to an ignominious end with A View to a Kill, as with OHMSS, Live and Let Die and Casino Royale, the producers broke in their new Bond with a more low-key, low-gadget approach, resulting in the best Bond since the Sixties, with Dalton initially looking the first Bond to seriously rival Connery. Where Connery had the danger and Moore the class, Dalton managed to combine both, with Bond's self-assurance that verges on the arrogant down pat, reclaiming the character from the increasingly comic-strip approach of too many of the later Moore films.

The film isn't without its faults - Caroline Bliss isn't up to much as Moneypenny, Maryam D'Abo's a bit of a wet leading lady while Jeroen Krabbe lacks the menace he brought to No Mercy - but it looks and feels like a classic Bond film, has little truck with gadgets and is less in thrall to silly jokes. Best of all, it's got a plot (involving a dubious defection, Mujahadin opium smuggling in Afghanistan and a re-activated Stalinist spy assassination programme). The political background may have dated - this was filmed when the Communists still held the USSR together and when the Mujahadin were the good guys - but it still comes up remarkably fresh. This is Bond with all the stops pulled out but without the overkill. The production values are superb and visually it's a treat, especially in widescreen, with John Barry making his final Bond score his best in years. The action scenes are often outstandingly good, with a return to the kind of good old vicious punchups that vanished in the latter Moore years and as well as some amazing stunt work involving a Russian troop plane and it has one of the series' best pre-title sequences, with a security exercise in Gibraltar turning into the real thing. The makers even have the confidence to remove Bond from one of the key setpieces - a superbly staged kidnapping from a safehouse, which runs nearly a full reel. John Glen's direction is so spot-on here it's hard to see why it would go so horribly wrong on Licence To Kill.

The extras package is excellent, including audio commentary, an extended scene and the infamous deleted `magic carpet' sequence, a bad idea that feels like a holdover from the Roger Moore era that was thankfully dropped due to the stunt looking distinctly unimpressive. There are enough new features on the two-disc Ultimate edition to make an upgrade worthwhile for the more ardent Bond fans - several promo featurettes from the original release, a press conference held in Vienna and 47-minute TV special `Happy Anniversary 007.' All the features from the original DVD release have also been included.

After the disappointment of Tomorrow Never Days, it perhaps shouldn't have been too surprising that, as per the usual EON pattern of alternating good and bad Bond films, The World is Not Enough turned out rather well. It helps that it has a stronger plot this time round as well as some attempt at an element of mystery - along with For Your Eyes Only this is the only Bond where the identity of the real villain is withheld for the first half of the movie. It's also more character-based than usual, with some interesting dialogue that takes on a different dimension once you know who's on the side of the angels and who isn't. The Maguffin is an oil-based variation on Goldfinger's big scheme, but the execution is very different and rather more grounded. Brosnan has the best character writing of his tenure but isn't always up to it: the moments of ruthlessness convince but he's one of those actors who can't stand still and just be and always has to do something, making him seem somewhat ADDS in some scenes and leads to a couple of strange bits of gurning. Yet it can still lay claim to being his best performance in the role, and the presence of Sophie Marceau and Robert Carlyle helps raise the acting bar enough so that even Denise Richards' hot pant wearing nuclear scientist - in-joke casting at its finest - isn't quite as bad as she's been painted.

There's a slightly schizoid feel to Michael Apted's direction at times seeming a tad uncertain and stylistically very different from Vic Armstrong's action scenes. It's certainly not difficult to tell who shot what, and not just because Armstrong seems better at hiding the significant height difference between Brosnan and Carlyle. While still variable (the opening boat chase has a few too many sight gags and the helicopter/chainsaw sequence doesn't work as well as it should), the action scenes are much better handled this time round and much better integrated into the story. Despite some awful wisecracks, this feels less like an attempt to hang plenty of setpieces on a flimsy plot and more like the action is being dictated by the story. Definitely one of the better modern Bond outings.

There's not much new in the two-disc Ultimate Edition to justify an upgrade though. While the extras from the previous release have been carried over, there's only a Hong Kong press conference and a few deleted and alternate scenes. Of these - including Renard's very unimpressive original entrance, more tomfoolery in Q's lab and a line about madmen in hollowed out volcanoes filled with large breasted women threatening the world with nuclear war ("It only takes one") among them - only a visually striking scene in the abandoned oilfields seems good enough to have kept.
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VINE VOICEon November 8, 2006
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 in 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.

VOLUME 1:

Goldfinger (1964): The first film in the first volume is actually the third Bond film. Goldfinger is regarded by some as the best Bond film because it is in a word, perfect. Some of the most famous lines in all of cinema are found here such as Q telling bond, "I never joke about my work 007". Or Goldfinger's response to Bond, "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!". The laser beam between the crotch is one of the most famous scenes in cinema history, and of course you have Oddjob who has become one of the most famous villains in history. Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore is also one of the most famous Bond girls in the franchise. So you see that this film does stand as being an incredible effort in the franchise.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971): Sean Connery departed from the role after You Only Live Twice. After the one-time stint from George Lazenby he came back for one more Bond (well, two more including Never Say Never Again). Diamonds Are Forever was helmed by Goldfinger director, Guy Hamilton. Blofeld is our villain in this film and the script is full of those snappy Bond lines that have become a trademark of the series. There is an amazing car chase and Sean Connery makes a fine official farewell. This film overall is a bit lighter on the bombastic action than we previously seen, but it is still one classy spy flick.

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974): Roger Moore makes his second appearance as Bond in this classic film. Man With The Golden Gun goes back to the exotic type locales we saw in Dr. No. Christopher Lee (of Lord Of The Rings fame) creates another iconic Bond villain with Scaramanga, a hit man who kills his victims with a signature golden gun. The final scene on the tropical island with the house of mirrors runs a bit too long, but it's still exciting and fun. We also have Hervé Villechaize (Fantasy Island) who stars as Scaramanga's right hand man, Nick-Nack.

The Living Daylights (1987): Timothy Dalton makes his debut as James Bond and establishes not so much as a lady's man, but more of a darker Bond that we haven't seen before. I liked Timothy Dalton, but I am glad he only had two films as Bond because I think that Bond needed to have a little more charm. The Living Daylights was a straight forward rough action ride that tried too hard to be an action movie and not enough to be a Bond film. It was still a great experience though and was a nice change of pace from what we saw from Roger Moore.

The World Is Not Enough (1999): Pierce Brosnan's third outing as Bond was an explosive and intense experience. The film really had some great character depth and made the relationship between Bond and Elektra King very dark and emotional. Brosnan gave Bond a dark and vengeful quality yet still kept his style and charm. Usually Bond doesn't have a personal interest in the missions, but in this film he does. The opening boat chase on the Thames river is incredible despite some obvious continuity errors. This is also the last Bond film that Desmond Llewellyn starred in, he died in a car accident shortly after filming. John Cleese was introduced as his replacement. The only weak point of the film was Denise Richards whose acting was laughably bad as she tried to pass herself as an intelligent and strong woman.

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.
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on November 13, 2006
This new box set is the greatest. Sure, they're out of order, but it's still great. The menus are soo much better than the 2003 release. Thought each DVD menu is about the same, it still blows me away. And don't get me started on the bonus features. I'm a huge Bond fan, and I can name all the movies backwards in 13.7 seconds. So being only 52 and not living in the UK, it was great seeing the special "HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, 007!". And all the films I enjoyed. This is a great box set.
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