Monday, December 29, 2014

Tomorrow Never Dies [1997]

I see no point in burying the lede: Tomorrow Never Dies kind of sucks.
  
Thing is, I remember liking it a lot when it premiered in late 1997.  Bond was back in the culture in a major way, and there were at least three factors that contributed to this renewal of affections:
  
#1 -- Pierce Brosnan's first movie, GoldenEye, had been a big hit in 1995.
  
#2 -- A spy-spoof movie named Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery had opened in May 1997 and had received good reviews as well as strong box-office receipts.


Will this blog eventually review the Austin Powers films?  It sure will.

  
Starring former Saturday Night Live castmember Mike Myers (who also wrote the screenplay), the film lampooned all sorts of '60s culture in addition to the early Bond films.  Myers played the titular hero, but also played the extremely Blofeld-esque Dr. Evil, and the portrayal was so pitch-perfect that it seems unlikely the Bond films will ever again be able to use Blofeld in anything remotely resembling the style of Donald Pleasance's You Only Live Twice portrayal.  My memory of the movie's opening, though, is that it did just as much to reinvigorate interest in the Bond movies as it did to send them up.
  
#3 -- Perhaps most importantly of these three factors, there was GoldenEye 007, a game released in August 1997 on Nintendo's N64 console.


Will this blog eventually cover Goldeneye 007 (and the Bond games which followed it)?  It sure will.

  
The game's Wikipedia page claims that it grossed $250 million worldwide, and assuming that's true then those are figures not too far off from what the movie itself made worldwide (roughly $350 million).  I know little about gaming, but even I know GoldenEye 007 was (and is) a big deal.  No Bond game since has replicated its impact, but that's okay; it established Bond as a big deal in a new medium, and his ability to get a foothold in that arena is undoubtedly part of the reason why the films have continued to be successful ever since.  Doubt it not, my brothers.
  
My memory of the newest Bond film (that's Tomorrow Never Dies) opening is that I went to it with a good friend who was barely (if at all) a Bond fan, and that I loved it and he liked it.  I don't recall hearing negative opinions of it from anybody the entire time it was in release.  The movie was a big hit despite opening against Titanic (which would itself go on to break nearly every box-office record in existence), and cemented Brosnan's status as an excellent new 007.  We saw both movies in a double-feature, and that's a pretty good day of movie viewing, there.
  
Here's the thing: I look back at all of this, and I remember it.  But now, in 2014, looking at the movie again, it seems to me that one of two things has happened.  Either the movie has managed to somehow age itself out of being cool, or it sucked all along and I am simply a savvier viewer in 2014 than I was in 1997.  I tend to think it's a combination of the two, with a 25% to 75% split in favor of the latter.

An alternative option, of course, is that I am a pretentious windbag who is high on his own farts and has no clue what he is talking about.
  
Let's find out.



 
(1)  Bond ... James Bond

I think Pierce Brosnan is great in GoldenEye, and I wish I could say that I think he's great in Tomorrow Never Dies.  But doggone it, I can't.
  
I do think he's good, but his performance is not as seamless as it was in his first outing.  This is hardly a surprise, given how much weaker the material is.  If we were grading on a curve and taking into account how many more obstacles Brosnan faced here than on GoldenEye, then I might be inclined to think that he did a better job the second time, in relative terms.
  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

GoldenEye [1995]

Welcome back, fellow Bond fans.  It's been a while, huh?  Over a year -- a friggin' YEAR!!! -- since I last reviewed a Bond movie.  Somebody should take away my Licence to Blog.

Lamentable though the gap may have been, its placement is at least somewhat resonant: when last we spoke of the series, we discussed Licence to Kill, and today we're back to business with GoldenEye.  It's worth bearing in mind that there was a significant gap between the releases of those two films: six years, in fact.  And during those six years, the fate of the Bond franchise was very much in doubt, not as much due to the somewhat-underwhelming box-office receipts for Licence to Kill as due to various legal wranglings undertaken by enemies of the Bond films.

Things obviously worked out for the best in the end, but no Bond fan should forget that those years very nearly saw the demise of the series.  So, in a way, the fact that this blog went (except for a few reviews of Ian Fleming biopics and an overview of the ridiculous animated spinoff series James Bond Jr) dormant for some fifteen months . . . well, that's merely the tiniest reflection of what the agony of 1990-1994 was like for a Bond aficionado.

Let's try to return ourselves to 1995.  The last time we'd seen a Bond film, it was the oppressive Licence to Kill, starring the dour Timothy Dalton as a sourpuss of a double-0 agent.  The world had shrugged at his latest adventure, and the consensus was clear: if the next 007 didn't get the job done, that might spell the end of the series.  The stakes had never been so high for James Bond, and in that sense, one might reasonably make the argument that with the sole exception of the first one (Dr. No), this was and is THE most crucial Bond movie of them all.
  
  


Today, we know how it turned out: Pierce Brosnan was immediately accepted by audiences worldwide, and the movie turned into a significant hit.  The series stepped out of the shadow of extinction, and earned the right of continuance.

Let's turn our attention now to the movie itself and ask another question: is it any good?

Monday, August 25, 2014

James Bond Jr [1991]: Episodes 41-65

Well, kiddies, we're a wee bit shy of being two-thirds of the way through with James Bond Jr.  Will your humble blogger make it through the remainder of the experience unscathed?  Will anyone read these posts to even find out?

Time, and time alone, will tell.  And much like poor Tracy Bond, we do not have all the time in the world, so let's get this train a-rollin'.

Episode 41: "There But for Ms. Fortune"

airdate:  November 11, 1991
written by:  Alan Templeton and Mary Crawford

Well, luckily, our first episode back from the hiatus is pretty damn wackadoo.  First up, this:




"Die Eisformel" is evidently the title this episode had during its German release.  But the video I found on YouTube was demonstrably an English-language episode, so what gives?  Beats me, but by now I kind of enjoy being confused by James Bond Jr, and "There But for Ms. Fortune" / "Die Eisformel" gave me plenty of opportunities for that.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

James Bond Jr [1991]: Episodes 21-40

And now, I recite -- from memory! -- the lyrics to the James Bond Jr theme song.  Apologies if I fluff a word or two.

Bond . . . James Bond, Junior . . . no one can stop him (though S.C.U.M. always tries).  Young Bond breaks through each web of spies!  He learned the game from his Uncle James; now he's heir to the name . . . JAMES BOND!  Look out, he's comin' through; he's got a job to do.  While he rescues the girl, James Bond Junior chases S.C.U.M. . . . around the world!

Let's see how I did:






That makes it official: I've got the theme song memorized.

Jeez.

Let's agree to be glum about that, but let's also agree that the best way to cope is to keep pressing forward.


Episode 21: "A Race Against Disaster"

airdate:  October 14, 1991
written by:  Jeffrey Scott

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

James Bond Jr [1991]: Episodes 1-20

Without a doubt, one of the most curious curios in all of the James Bond canon is James Bond Jr, an animated cartoon television series aimed at children for one season during the early nineties.

My personal history with the series has been, until now, nonexistent.  I was beginning my senior year of high school when this series started airing, and had no interest in kiddie toons.  Even if I had possessed such an interest, I was only dimly aware of the existence of James Bond Jr.  I cannot even be certain that it aired in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

What I am certain of is that I spent years and years and years laboring under the illusion that the series was in no way connected to the James Bond movies or books.  I assumed that the title was permissible on the grounds of being a parody or something, and that the cartoon was, in essence, a ripoff that somebody had managed to slip through the cracks.  That is, those were my assumptions merely to whatever extent I gave the cartoon's existence any thought at all; but since that was nearly nil, I'm not sure you can even call them full-fledged assumptions.  Really, they are 2014-era assumptions of what my 1991-era assumptions would have been.

Truth be told, I essentially knew nothing of James Bond Jr.  For example, I certainly did not know that the show was -- as its Wikipedia article puts it -- produced "in association with" (and, therefore, sanctioned by) the various companies who held the rights to produce the Bond films, i.e., Danjaq and United Artists.  Or that it was seemingly based, at least in part, on 003½: The Adventures of James Bond Junior, a 1967 spinoff from Glidrose written by the pseudonymous "R.D. Mascott" (whose identity remains a mystery).  It featured a character named James Bond Junior who was the nephew of the real 007, but is otherwise unrelated to the cartoon.

I've done a small-ish amount of digging on the Internet for information about the specifics of the show's genesis.  Not enough so that I feel I've scoured the Internet, mind you; but enough so that I do feel secure in saying that information is, at best, hard to come by.  At worst, it is nonexistent, which has so far been my experience of it.

What I can tell you is this: the series seems perhaps to have been produced as a stopgap measure designed to bring in a modicum of money during the legal disputes that prevented a film from being produced between 1989's Licence to Kill and 1995's GoldenEye.  Michael G. Wilson may or may not have had an active hand in its creation (he IS credited as a developer); the show may or may not have been made merely to prevent Kevin McClory from producing his own animated Bond series; the show may or may not have been intended to prepare/indoctrinate a new generation of Bond fans for the eventual return of the series.  None of that is certain.

What we DO know is that information is hard to come by, as are episodes of the series.  (I found them all via either YouTube or, um, some other site whose name I cannot seem to remember; a handful are in German-dubbed form and therefore incomprehensible to my 'murican ears.)  The series has seemingly never been released on home video; a few episodes trickled out via VHS releases years ago, but are long out of print.  All signs point to the idea that the rights-holders are successfully attempting to suppress as much knowledge of the show as is humanly possible, and that makes it seem even more likely that everyone involved wishes it had never happened.

So . . . does that mean that the series was purely a cash-grab during lean times?  Or, instead, a preventative action taken against a potential competitor?  Both, even?  I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.

I'm positive that there is a behind-the-scenes story here, just waiting to be told.  I hope to hear it someday.  Until then, though, I can only speculate with a shrug.

I wrote all of the foregoing prior to launching into the actual watching of the series, which I am going to begin in a matter of minutes.  I do not know what awaits me.  I suspect the series sucks the high hard one; I suspect further that watching all 65 episodes is going to be brutal, agonizing, and odious.  But for blog and country, I am determined to watch every single one of them.  I am going to split the viewing up into four different posts: three covering the episodes themselves, and a final one wherein I foolishly attempt to apply to Double-0 Rating system to the series.

Pray for me as I begin this quest.


Well, THAT should give us all a pretty good indication of what we're in for.

Episode 1: "The Beginning"

airdate:  September 16, 1991
written by:  Francis Moss and Ted Perdersen


Jaws


(Before we proceed, a book-keeping issue needs to be mentioned, regarding the airdates: I am basing  these on the listings I found here at TV.com.  I have no earthly idea if they are accurate or not, but since TV.com is using them, I'm going to use them, too.)