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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

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Daniel Craig stars in "Skyfall," out this Friday.
Daniel Craig stars in "Skyfall," out this Friday.

The best of Bond ... James Bond

Alongside Darth Vader, the Tramp and Indiana Jones, James Bond is one of cinema's most iconic characters. His one-liners, devilish (and often chauvinistic) charm, ridiculous gadgets and impeccable style have inspired dreams of exotic travels and women – with maybe a dash of danger on the side.

Over the course of 22 films, he's survived diabolical laser weapons, evil sharks, numerous actor changes and MGM's recent financial woes. With the much-ballyhooed "Skyfall" hitting theaters this week, what better time to take a look at the five best of Britain's most famous agent.

"On Her Majesty's Secret Service"

Poor George Lazenby. He plays the famous character for just one Bond movie to make his mark, and afterward, everyone forgets he was ever involved in the series. Sean Connery is remembered for being the best. Moore is the goofy one. Dalton is the bland one. Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig are the modern ones. But Lazenby? He's just remembered for not being Connery.

It's too bad because he makes for a decent 007, and his lone film, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," is a top-notch adventure. The plot, a peculiar concoction of women, allergies and food poisoning, is about average ridiculousness for a Bond villain scheme. However, it features some great supporting roles, including one of the series' best Bond girls in the form of the complex, smartly seductive Diana Rigg (who came well-equipped for the role thanks to her time as Emma Peel on "The Avengers"). Plus, the tragic ending is about as close as the franchise got to serious, complicated emotions until Craig slipped into Bond's tux.

"GoldenEye"

When I was kid, "GoldenEye" meant one thing: a sweet video game. Yes, many hours of my childhood were lost meandering around virtual facilities with three friends, looking for ammo, armor or the Golden Gun. Imagine my surprise, then, when I not only found out there was a movie called "GoldenEye" but that it's actually a really solid actio…

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Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey and Nicole Kidman in "The Paperboy."
Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey and Nicole Kidman in "The Paperboy."

"The Paperboy" a wet, sloppy, sweaty mess

Creating a film or story that features a ton of sexual, violent, pulpy and unsavory content is a decision that must be handled responsibly. When handled with control and a steady hand, it can turn out very well. Just a few months ago, William Friedkin's "Killer Joe" took an unpleasant story featuring murder and sexual embarrassment, and made it a dementedly captivating genre mash-up.

Lee Daniels, who struck Oscar gold with "Precious" in 2009, does not have the same sense of control. At least not in "The Paperboy," a sweaty, swampy mess of a movie that slings a ton of unpleasantness and lurid content at the audience and has no idea what it wants to do with it. Instead, it just lingers and suffocates the audience like a thick summer's day smog, with only spats of exasperated unintentional laughter to provide relief.

Zac Efron, of "High School Musical," stars as Jack Jansen, a small-town Florida newspaper delivery boy in the '70s. The college dropout lives with his local paper mogul father (Scott Glenn), snobby racist stepmother (Nealla Gordon, stuck playing a dimensionless shrew) and kindly black maid (Macy Gray, who also functions as the film's useless narrator).

Jansen gets his chance to do more than deliver the newspaper when his older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) arrives in town to investigate a death row inmate (John Cusack) potentially wrongly accused of killing the town's sheriff. They're lured to the case by Charlotte Bless (a de-glamorized Nicole Kidman), an oversexed Southern tart with the goal of finding a husband in prison.

Their investigation (and their relationships) begins to unravel in the steamy Florida heat as Jack falls for Charlotte, Charlotte uses her sexual wiles to get her lover out of prison, and Ward's secrets emerge from the closet. Along the way, swamps are traversed, crocodiles are gutted, throats are slit, jellyfish sting and Oscar-winning actresses urinate on former Disney heartthrobs. And they swe…

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Lucy Liu stars in "The Man with the Iron Fists," in theaters now.
Lucy Liu stars in "The Man with the Iron Fists," in theaters now.

"The Man with the Iron Fists": hands of metal, brains of air

There's a place in the world for sleazy, fun, no-holds-barred entertainment that hopes to thrill audiences with insane action and old-school genre references. In fact, film nerd hero Quentin Tarantino has made a career lately out of perfecting the grade-A B-movie, combining hyper-intelligent dialogue, memorable characters and eye-popping set pieces to create something fresh. Even if you don't know what he's riffing on in films like "Kill Bill," "Grindhouse" or "Inglourious Basterds," there's still a lot to enjoy.

Unfortunately, for every good movie of this ilk, there are several imitators that attempt to pull off the same trick but fall on their faces. This is where "The Man with the Iron Fists" sadly comes in.

Russell Crowe stars as Jack Knife (the movie comes from the "Expendables 2" school of ridiculous badass names), a hedonistic British soldier in 19th century China hoping to make away with a massive gold shipment. Unfortunately, he's not the only one in town with his eyes on the gold. The Lion Clan, led by the traitorous Silver Lion (Byron Mann) and his henchman, Brass Body (WWE star Dave Bautista), is also in town, hoping to come away with the treasure.

Along the way, "The Man with the Iron Fists" picks up more subplots and characters including Zen-Yi (Rick Yune) – the X-Blade as he's commonly known in the film – who is seeking revenge for the Lion Clan killing his father. And then there's the title character (played by RZA), who before gaining his fists of metallic fury is a lowly blacksmith making weapons in the hopes of one day running off with his prostitute girlfriend Lady Silk ("The Hangover Part II"'s Jamie Chung).

There are a lot of characters in "The Man with the Iron Fists," but at the same time, there aren't really any characters. They may bleed blood and have fists of iron, but they're pure cardboard, solely existing to kill or be killed with minimal development. The goal may have been to create a large, immersive universe of unique indivi…

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