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.
  

We are not grading on a curve.
  
  
This time around, our screencaps are from Blu-ray instead of DVD.  Yes, I was finally able to find a program to allow me to rip my entire Bond collection from Blu-ray to an external hard-drive.  The discs themselves resist the PrtScrn function, so I had to find a shortcut.  So if the 'caps look crisper this time, there's a good reason for that.


Cool stuff Bond does:
  • Eject the enemy pilot into the other airplane during the pre-title sequence.
  • Give Jack Wade (and his outfit) a stink-eye look up and down, and caps it with a rueful shake of the head.
  • There's a super-smooth moment on the stealth boat toward the end where Bond takes out a minion, then holds his prone body out around a corner so that Stamper will shoot it; he then pitches the body into the ocean, and voila, Stamper thinks Bond is dead.  This is pretty great, and oh that the rest of the movie had been as cool.
  • Bond pulls the pin on a grenade, holds the lever in place, and puts it into a glass jar so that it won't explode.  then, he rigs a tiny explosive device on the outside of the jar that he can later trigger, breaking the glass and causing the grenade to detonate.  Pretty slick, 007.

An inventory of Bondian quips:
  • "Backseat driver," he says after ejecting the guy in the seat behind him.
  • "I've always enjoyed studying a new tongue, Professor."
  • "I'm just up here at Oxford, brushing up on a little Danish."
  •  He's got about sixty of them during his scene with Carver at the party, while he's pretending to be a banker.  When asked what sort of banking he specializes in, he says, "Hostile takeovers."
  • "They'll print anything these days," says Bond after dropping a minion into a printing press.
  • "You have to admit we've developed a certain attachment to each other," he says to Wai Lin when they are handcuffed together.
  • Moments later, when seeing Carver's face on a building: "Another Carver building.  If I didn't know better, I'd say he developed an edifice complex."  Brosnan does not sell this atrocious pun, and it falls so flat that I'm tempted to think Brosnan thought Bond was making some sort of actual diagnosis rather than a pun.  What this needed was Roger Moore, and for him to be saying it directly to the villain so that we could see the degree to which the baddie was unimpressed by Bond's cavalier dismissal.  As is, it's a complete failure.
  • Stamper informs Bond that he plans to set a record for duration of torture, with Bond as his subject.  "Hmm," Bond verbalizes toward Carver.  "I'd have thought watching your tv shows would be torture enough."
  • "Next time, I'll take the elevator," Bond says after he and Wai Lin descend via the Carver-face banner.
  • "Helicopter!" Wai Lin warns Bond during the motorcycle sequence.  "Alright, keep your shirt on," replies Bond.  The two of them have just driven through some laundry and have a blue shirt stuck to them, which is why it's "funny."
  • "Just off the cuff, I thought we might link up," says Bond, which is evidently his idea of a come-on during the street-shower scene while he and Wai Lin are still handcuffed together.
  • "I may have some breaking news for you, Elliot," Bond says shortly before activating the controls on the big drill, which he uses to punch through some glass and chew Carver into bits.  (Surely some sort of carving-based pun would have worked here even better...?)
  • "They're looking for us, James," says Wai Lin as the British Navy is sounding out calls for Bond after the stealth boat's destruction.  But Bond and Wai are busy smooching, and Bond says, "Let's go down together."  

B y my count, this is at least thirteen Bondian quips, which at a length of just under two hours means that we have been gifted with one of these bon mots at a rate of one every nine minutes or so.

I haven't tallied the quips in other Bond movies, so I can't swear that this actually IS more excessive than in other Bond flicks.  But it certainly seems like overkill.

Brosnan tries his best, and he's got good moments, but the screenplay hamstrings him.  He's being asked to do too many jokes; he's being asked to be too serious in other moments.  In GoldenEye, he was able to walk that tightrope; this time out, the tightrope has been greased.
  
  

  
Points awarded: 002/007.  If you like your Bond to tell jokes at a quicker quip than you'd get frmo some comedies, then this might be the Bond movie for you, provided you don't need most of them to actually be very funny.
 

(2)  SPECTRE

Main Villain:  I don't come to these blog posts expecting or hoping to be hateful.  On the other hand, I do have a sort of tacit understanding with my readers: I assume that you expect me to be honest, and so it's honesty that I give you.

I hate Jonathan Pryce's performance in this movie.  With the sole exception of Charles Gray as Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever, Carver is without question my least favorite of all the major Bond villains.  Only a few give him a run for it: Stromberg in The Sky Who Loved Me; Largo in Never Say Never Again; Graves in (spoiler!) Die Another Day.

Elliot Carver himself is a good idea for a Bond villain.  I might even go so far as to say that casting a media baron as a Bond villain was a great idea.  It was certainly a timely one, and it remains so nearly twenty years later.

Q: So why doesn't it work?

A: Because the movie refuses to take the idea seriously.  You could make the argument that what Carver is doing here is similar to what Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E. were doing in some of the early Bond films: trying to create strife between world-power nation-states so as to take advantage of the chaos.  In -- for one example -- You Only Live Twice, there is no need to worry much about who Blofeld is or how he got to be in his position.  We see him only as a power-mad villain, and since the movie does not in any way ask us to think any further than that, we feel no need to do so.  I'm not a fan of that movie, or of its take on Blofeld, but their approach to cartoonish villainy was nevertheless quite sound.

In Tomorrow Never Dies, we are confronted by a character who could very plausibly exist in the real world.  Not only that: we, as viewers, are expected to engage with him with that fact in mind.  As a result, we begin asking questions.  Whether we wish to do so or not, we are engaging with Carver in terms of realism.

Combine that with Pryce's hamminess and what you end up with is a major incongruity.  These two things do not go together.  This is a tuna-and-chocolate sandwich.




What's weird is that I don't remember feeling in any way negative toward Pryce and Carver in 1997.  If anything, I remember thinking he was pretty good as a Bond baddie.  But today, I look at his scenes, and I see breathlessness, a nonsensical approach to prop use (I don't know what he's doing with that proto-iPad he carries around, but it isn't typing), cocked eyebrows, and various other hallmarks of outright parody.  Jonathan Pryce may as well be in Austin Powers for the amount of seriousness he is evincing here.

That approach to Bond villainy does not work for me (except in the guise of an actual parody, which this is not).  I can barely take Carver as seriously as I take Dr. Derange.  And THAT, kiddies, is a problem.

I'd also like to take a moment to single out one especially awful moment: on the stealth boat, near the end, Wai Lin has been captured and Carver is talking her.  She tries to break free and kick at him, but some minions restrain her before she can strike Carver.  He looks at her and does some stereotypical martial-arts sounds and kicks the air in front of her.  Presumably, this is to taunt her.  This must surely rank as one of the worst moments in all of Bond.
 
Points awarded (Main Villain):  001/007.  I wanted to give him a 000, but that would have tied him with Charles Gray for cellar-dweller status.  I can't permit that; I'd have to go back to the Diamonds Are Forever post and give Blofeld a -001, and that wouldn't be fair.
 
Henchmen:  The primary henchman is Stamper, an Aryan dreamboat played by German actor Götz Otto.  Otto is pretty good, not that the movie bothers to take advantage of that in any meaningful way.  You sense that Stamper could have been a very memorable adversary; as is, he has only what Otto brings to the role, and that's not enough.




By the way, I'd never noticed this until watching the movie on Blu-ray, but:


Stamper's eyes are different colors.


What's up with that?  Abandoned subplot of some sort, or what?

The above screencap will also provide you with a glimpse of Henry Gupta, played by Ricky Jay.  Jay was apparently cast for his magical skills, which include -- no joke -- being able to throw playing cards well enough to literally cut a watermelon in half.  However, it seems that the second you put those skills on film in a fictional context, they seemed unbelievable, so the ideas for the character were scaled way back.  As is, Jay makes very little impact, and seems as if he'd rather be someplace else.  This is not what you want from your colorful henchmen.

Next, we have Doctor Kaufman, played by Vincent Schiavelli.



  
This is one of the strangest henchman-type characters in the Bond series.  It does not work at all, and much of this can be blamed on the screenplay.  For one thing, we should have seen Kaufman prior to this at some point; we needed to already know who he was -- and what he does -- prior to this scene.

Really, though, Kaufman should have been eliminated and the scene given to Stamper.  That way, the fight between Bond and Stamper at the end would have had a bit more drama to it.  Sure, you'd have had to invent a means for Stamper to escape the hotel-room scene.  But how hard could that be?

Ultimately, though, the flaw was in casting Schiavelli.  His German accent does not work at all, and he, like Pryce, plays the role as though he is in a parody film.  Bad idea.  He seems almost as if he walked out of an episode of James Bond Jr.  Not one of the better ones, either.

Points awarded (Henchmen):  001/007.  Stamper is decent, but the other major henchmen suck ass.
 
Total points awarded (S.P.E.C.T.R.E.):  001/007  

(3)  The Bond Girls

Main Bond Girl:  Our main Bond girl this time is Wai Lin, a Chinese seecret agent played by worldwide star Michelle Yoeh.




The idea behind Wai Lin was obviously to bring the Bond series fully into the modern era by having a female character who kicked just as much ass as Bond did.  I vaguely remember there being talk of doing a Wai Lin spinoff, and hey, why not?

The problem with this is that the movie nevertheless feels the need to shoehorn Wai into something that at least approximates a traditional Bond-girl role, meaning that before the movie ends, she and Bond are sucking face.  This have-and-eat-the-cake approach does not work well, and the movie suffers for it.  I'd also add that Yeoh and Brosnan have very little chemistry, which certainly does not help.
  
Points awarded (Main Bond Girl): 003/007

Secondary Bond Girls:  The secondary Bond girl role this time is filled by Teri Hatcher, who at the time was a star on American television for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  She was pretty good on that show, as I recall.  She is less good here, but I'm not sure that's her fault; she simply doesn't fit the sort of exotic mold that most Bond actresses do.




She neither looks nor sounds the part, in my opinion, and don't any of you think that I'm knocking her attractiveness (which is considerable) or her acting skills (which are passable).  She just seems better-suited to romantic comedy than to semi-tragic subplots in action movies.
  
Like Yeoh, she had zero chemistry with Brosnan, and since we are being asked to believe that Paris is some sort of lost-love figure for Bond, this is a major problem.
 
Two other women deserve mention.  Let's start with the one Bond actually hops in bed with: Professor Inga Bergstrom.
  
The Danish professor is an eye-roller of a character.  She is used purely as an object, and what's worse, you barely even see her face.  Glimpsing this scene, you understand how Christmas Jones happened two years later.
 
Professor Bergstrom is played by Cecilie Thomsen, who is/was a Danish model during the '90s.  She also appeared in at least one notable music video (Bryan Adams' "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?"), and since the movie gives us barely a glimpse of the lovely lass, let's remedy that somewhat:




Her lips look weird here.  Has she died?  Been recently frozen?

 
Finally: the woman who is Carver's PR flack at the press conference is played by Daphne Deckers, and based purely on her looks, you'd figure she would have had a larger role in the movie.




Deckers parleyed her appearance in Tomorrow Never Dies into a spread for Playboy.  Fine by me, but the question must now be asked: if the production was so insistent on having its female lead be a kick-ass modern woman of action, why did it also feel the need to create at least two lower-tier characters to serve purely as eye-candy?  There seems to be a bit of hypocrisy at play there, and it bothers me in some vague way.

Deckers is good in this tiny role, though; she very convincingly speaks several languages, and sounds like the sort of person who actually would be helping to coordinate an event like this one.

Points awarded (Secondary Bond Girls):  001/007.  None of these characters work.

Total points awarded (The Bond Girls):  002/007
 
(4)  "Oh, James..."

Action/Stunts:  This is perhaps the most uninspired set of action scenes in the entire series.  Very little of it has any thrills, and if you want a prime example, look no further than the fistfights Bond has with a couple of minions at the newspaper facility.  They are boring, impactless, and unimaginative.

Elsewhere, there are a few scenes that sound good on paper but fail to take flight on screen.  I'm thinking particularly of the motorcycle chase, but also of Bond's final showdown with Stamper, Bond and Wai Lin's descent down the Carver-faced banner, and Wai Lin's curiously boring martial-arts scene.  Given how genuinely gifted a stunt performer Yeoh is, there is no excuse for that scene not being one of the best in the entire Bond canon.

The best action scene of the film, and by a large margin, is the one in which Bond uses his Q-gifted remote control to drive his BMW while he's lying down in the back seat.  Here is an example of a scene which works better on film than it does on paper, and there are several reasons why it works even though it probably shouldn't: (1) Brosnan is great in it; (2) David Arnold's score; (3) the editing is clean and efficient; and (4) the whole thing was achieved practically, rather than with fake-looking CGI.  (I say that last not being entirely sure there is no CGI; but if there is, it is unobtrusive and effective.)  The scene also has a nice punchline at the end of the whole thing, which counts for a lot.




I suppose I'd also say that the pre-title sequence is a decent action scene.  Otherwise, though, this is a subpar entry in the Bond series.  It's not Never Say Never Again levels of dire, but that's not a compliment.

Points awarded (Action/Stunts):  002/007

Editing:  As is often the case, I failed to take any meaningful notice of the editing.  One thing I did notice, though: there are a few places where the film goes into a weird temporary slow-motion.  There is a specific phrase for this type of slow-motion, but I'll be damned if I can remember it.  I think this is that, though, and I think that sort of slow-mo is the result of editorial manipulation rather than filming process.

Either way, I'm holding it against editors Michel Arcand and Dominique Fortin.  If you can prove that I shouldn't, tell me about it in the comments.

Points awarded (Editing):  003/007

Costumes/Makeup:  The wardrobe seems a bit off this time, although Bond wears at least one pretty good suit.  We also get to see Bond in his full British Navy uniform, which is always welcome.




Carver's weird turtleneck-suit combo is . . . weird.


Is this an updated version of what Dr. Evil Blofeld wears in You Only Live Twice?


Points awarded (Costumes/Makeup): 003/007.  There's nothing bad here, but little of it catches my eyes, either.

Locations:  The most exciting location this film visits (apart from the same chain of islands where part of The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed) is probably a real newspaper facility.  It's cool to see the printing presses rolling off god knows how many pages of print at lightning-fast speed.  But when that's your highest praise for a Bond movie's exotica, then you know you've walked in on sub-par Bond.

I didn't even screencap anything for this section.  Yikes.

Points awarded (Locations):  002/007

Overall points awarded ("Oh, James..."):  002.50/007
 
(5)  Q Branch 
  
Bond's Allies:

Judi Dench's M gets some good moments here, especially when she's accused by the navy dude of not having the balls for the job (to which she responds, and I paraphrase: "Well, at least I don't have to think with 'em all the time.").  She also spends a decent amount of her time in sticking-up-for-Bond mode, which is always good to see from M.



  
I'm less impressed by what the movie does with Moneypenny (whose Innuendo Setting has been put at 75% or so) and Q (who is forced to wear an ill-fitting red Avis sportcoat).


wtf


Making his first appearance in the series: Colin Salmon as Robinson.



  
I like this guy, and I wish he'd had more to do in his three films.

I'm considerably less enchanted by a return appearance from Joe Don Baker as Jack Wade.  Why?!?  I know that I complained about Wade last time, and I believe I may have complained specifically about the lack of Felix Leiter.  Well, duh, Bryant: Leiter, when last we saw him, had been partially devoured by a shark in Licence to Kill.  So it makes complete sense that Leiter has been replaced, and that's another piece of evidence supporting the idea that these movies DO have a loose sort of continuity to them (up until Daniel Craig's arrival, at least).

Points awarded (Bond's Allies):  002/007.  Theoretically, I could bump this category up a bit by claiming Wai Lin as an ally.  I don't care enough to actually do so.

Direction:  It's a bit difficult to imagine why the producers would have hired the director of Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot to captain a James Bond film, but that is indeed what happened.  Granted, Roger Spottiswoode had a few moderately more impressive titles to his name (Under Fire, The Best of Times, Turner & Hooch, Air America); but absolutely nothing in his filmography indicated that he would be a good fit for a massive production like Tomorrow Never Dies.

Sure enough, the end results show it.  That said, Spootiswoode does a competent job, for the most part.  His biggest failing is in failing to bring any inspiration to the job, and can he blamed for that?  I don't know that he can be.  If anything, I think he probably expanded his capabilities.  But he failed to bring a cohesive tone to the picture, and everything feels a little bit cheaper, a little bit more confined than we are used to.

I do like one scene pretty well, though.  When Bond returns to his hotel room to try to save Paris, he finds it open, and hears a television newscaster reporting on the discovery of Paris's body, along with that of an unidentified male companion.  That's creepy enough to be worthy of Hitchcock, and Spottiswoode delivers it pretty well.

One specific scene I'd like to cite as being especially poor: the scene in which a shirtless Bond and a wet-white-t-shirt-clad Wai Lin take a shower together in the streets of Saigon.  assuming things are going well, and that Brosnan and Yeoh have good chemistry together (which they do not), this scene really ought to have been scorchingly sexy.  Instead, it falls completely flat.  It isn't bad, per se; but it does fail to really capitalize on the potential of the situation.

That's the film in a nutshell, from a directorial standpoint.

Points awarded (Direction): 002/007.  This occasionally feels like a television production; Spottiswoode was a poor hire.  (Spoiler alert: our next few posts will be no different in that regard.)

Cinematography:  The lighting here comes courtesy of Robert Elswit, who the very same year had done masterful work on Boogie Nights.  He would later win an Oscar for P.T. Anderson's There Will Be Blood, and it's not an exaggeration to say he's one of the best-respected cinematographers in the business.

I find his work here, though, to be flat and lifeless for the most part.  Many scenes have a sort of cold, industrial feel to them, and I suppose you could make the argument that this is a reflection of the movie's themes about technology and efficiency.  Whatever.  It isn't poor work, by any means; but it does little to elevate the film, which is somewhat atypical for Bond movies.

Points awarded (Cinematography):  003/007

Art Direction:  The production design for this film came courtesy of Allan Cameron, and represents his only work for the franchise.  I wouldn't go so far as to say he did a poor job here; I don't think he did.  But there is good work, and then there is Bondian work in this arena, and Cameron seemingly did not have what it took to do Bondian work.

I should probably be more specific than that, but my interest in writing about Tomorrow Never Dies is evaporating quite rapidly.





By the by, the series' normal production designer, Peter Lamont, had been unavailable due to his commitments to a little film called Titanic (for which he would win an Oscar, and which opened in the U.S. on the same day as Tomorrow Never Dies).

Points awarded (Art Direction): 003/007

Special Effects:  The effects are extremely  . . . eh . . . effective during the helicopter-versus-motorcycle sequence.  If somebody hadn't told me, I'd have had no clue the blades were CGI.

The miniatures work on the stealth boat and the various naval vessels is rock-solid, also.  Speaking (as we were earlier) of Titanic, much of this was evidently filmed in the tank James Cameron used for that movie.

Points awarded (Special Effects): 005/007.  The CGI was used mostly to make things look more realistic, and not more fantastical; that was a good choice.

Gadgets:  There are several mentions of GPS systems in the movie, and at least two of them include characters spelling the acronym out: "global positioning satellites," they say, intent on making sure that audience members less ahead of the curve than they know what they are talking about.

Bond's cellphone is basically just a sonic screwdriver.  It picks locks, short-circuits keyless-entry systems, cracks safes, arms the security system on his car, tases people, serves as a remote control for a full-size car . . . dadgum, even the new iPhone can't do all that.  [Side-note: current mashup culture has a tiny subsection who has claimed that James Bond is a Timelord.  Those people should be bisected by trains.]  Anyways, this cellphone is mildly cool, but it's a bit too much of a cure-all, even for a Bond film.

The BMW loaned to Bond by Q Branch is arguably the most gadget-laden vehicle Bond has ever driven.  This fucker has it all, including an industrial-strength cable-cutting tool.  This, evidently, was a reaction to GoldenEye, which introduced a tiny new car that did nothing.  I guess some people were upset by that, so the producers responded by introducing a new car that has so many functions that one suspects it would embarrass even James Bond Jr on a level of plot realism.

Points awarded (Gadgets):  002/007.  We're veering close to outright fantasy and/or science fiction with this stuff.

Opening-Title Sequence:  We go full-bore into CGI-ville this time around, and the results are mixed.  The concept -- and I freely admit that I would not have kenned this without some dude telling me -- is that the "camera" crashes into a computer screen, dives down through the layers of information, and emerges into some sort of fantastical representation of the world beneath.  Which, apparently, looks like this:




Well, okay, if you say so, Daniel Kleinman.  Maurice Binder would undoubtedly agree and approve of your efforts, though he might chide you for leaving the women so relatively clothed.

The sequence includes some striking imagery, and it's suitably weird.  But it ends up not entirely working for me.  Part of me thinks that might be because I don't respond well to the song.  Is that fair?  Probably not, but so be it.


Let your eyes go a little bit out of focus, and that finger on the trigger sure does look an awful lot like a penis.  Which makes me wonder what the opening-title sequences might be like in a Bond-parody series featuring a gay secret agent.  Good lord, the thought of all those silhouetted dongs slapping against the thighs of backflipping men is making me feel a bit queasy.  Seriously, though; somebody should have made that movie by now.

The best moment of this sequence is when the diamonds on a model's necklace separate and her head turns into a planet around which the diamonds are orbiting.  Then another model dives off one of them.  You can't get this stuff from Titanic, folks.


This was the second time Kleinman designed the titles for the series, and while I would not necessarily rank this as being one of the best, it is nevertheless solid.

Points awarded (Opening-Title Sequence): 004/007

Overall points awarded (Q Branch): 003/007
 
(6)  Mission Briefing

A partial list of the inanities this screenplay wishes me to accept:
  • That there is such a thing as a "terrorist arms bazaar."
  • At this alleged terrorist arms bazaar, there would be so little security as to permit an enemy operative to get close enough that he would be able to set up what appears to be several million dollars' worth of surveillance equipment, and be entirely undetected.
  • That what seems to be the entirety of the British military could be focused on the terrorist arms bazaar via this surveillance equipment, but somehow NOBODY other than James Bond would be canny enough to notice that there are several nuclear missiles on site.  Guys.  Seriously, now.
  • That the airplane Bond steals from the terrorist arms bazaar has the ability to communicate directly with the British military.  Hey, maybe it does; what do I know?  But it seems suspect.
  • That the British navy would be unable to interpret radar to distinguish between a slow-moving underwater drill and a Chinese torpedo.  Again: what do I know?  But it seems silly.
  • That the drill would cut a perfectly circular hole in the Devonshire's hull.  Guys . . . come on, now.
  • Professor Inga Bergstrom
  • That Tomorrow could get away with publishing details about a major international incident THAT soon after it occurred without everyone in the world knowing that they were involved in manufacturing it.
  • "Anyway," we hear Carver saying as we enter the party scene, "there's absolutely no truth in this malicious rumour that I started running mad-cow-disease stories simply because Sir Angus Black, the great British beef baron, lost ten thousand pounds to me in a game of poker and refused to pay up."  No human being on Earth speaks like this.  What might the line of dialogue from one of his party guests been prior to us entering the scene.  "Mr. Carver," one suspects, "is it true that your paper faked the attack on the H.M.S. Devonshire by making them think they were in international waters whereas they were in fact in Chinese territory?"  One images Carver blinking a few times and then desperately trying to change the subject by launching into an aside about mad-cow-based libel.
  • Bond has infiltrated Carver's press event specifically to reconnect with Paris Carver and get whatever information he can from her.  After coitus, she starts spewing forth information, including how to get inside Elliot's secret lab.  "You don't have to do this," Bond replies.  YES THE FUCK SHE DOES.  It's why you were sent there, James.  Jeez.
  • In Carver's secret lab, there is a satellite that is just sitting around in the middle of a hallway.  Gupta tells some minions that it is worth $300 million, so if they break it, they've bought it.  If you were a henchman, would you leave a $300 million satellite sitting in the middle of a hallway?  You might if you henched for a villain as shitty as Elliot Carver, I guess.  I mean, god damn, at least put some tensa-barriers or something around it.  A FRAGILE sign.  Anything!
  • Bond has to go to an American CIA contact to get information about how the GPS encoder he stole from Carver works.  It is unforgivable that this was not used as a scene for Desmond Llewelyn. 
  • Near the end, Bond has taken Gupta hostage and has a gun pointed at his skull.  He thinks that without Gupta, Carver cannot launch a missile at Beijing, and he wants to negotiate for Wai Lin's release.  Wai Lin is horrified.  "What are you waiting for?" she chides Bond.  "SHOOT him!"  I can't disagree with her annoyance.  Bond is allegedly a professional dedicated to helping to keep the world (specifically, Great Britain) safe, and he's willing to risk a catastrophic world war over one ally?  God damn it, Bond, do your job.  

The screenplay is credited solely to Bruce Feirstein, who wrote this and co-wrote both GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough.  He has also had a had in writing several Bond games, but has not done much else in Hollywood.
  
And, why not:
  
An inventory of Bondian quips spoken by somebody other than Bond:
  • "I'm afraid you'll have to kiss off your lesson, James; we've got a situation here at the Ministry of Defense."  (Moneypenny)
  • "You always were a cunning linguist, James."  (Moneypenny -- a personal favorite of mine, that one)
  • "Don't ask," says Moneypenny to M, who's overheard the cunning-linguist line.  "Don't tell," replies M.  Eyes roll.
  • "Pump her for information," M directs Bond on the subject of Paris Carver.  "You'll just have to decide how much pumping is needed, James," adds Moneypenny.  "I MEAN YOU HAVE TO FUCK THE INFORMATION OUT OF HER," she might as well say.  "GET IT?  'PUMP'?  GET IT?!?"  Jeez.
  • "This job of yours . . . it's murder on relationships."  (Paris, not long before being murdered.)
 
Points awarded: 002/007.  There are numerous good ideas here, but the plot is riddled with inanities, and there is zero consistency of tone.  A strong director might have been able to make something of it, but that did not happen.

(07)  The Music

Title Song:




I like the song.  Honestly.
  
I do. however, wish somebody other than Sheryl Crow had sung it; she is going way outside her range, and she simply does not have the sort of voice the song needs.
 
Points awarded (Title Song):  003/007.
 
End Credits Song:  There had been an end-credits song in each of the last three Bond films, and kd lang's "Surrender" for this movie is the final one of the series so far.

It's an absolutely terrific song, and it perpetually ranks in my personal top-ten of Bond songs.  Why the producers decided against using it as the main song for the movie is a mystery to me, but the cynic in me suspects that it might be because they were nervous to have an out lesbian singing a Bond song.  Well, if so, that's a shame; this song kicks Crow's up and down the street.

Points Awarded (End Credits Song): 006/007.  I love the song, and in and of itself I'd give it a 007.  I'm giving it a 006 instead because of its utter mishandling by the producers.

Non-Film Song:  Just for shits and giggles, let's briefly discuss a piece of music that was released as part of the film's marketing but was not actually present in the film itself.   I am speaking, of course, of Moby's "re-version" of the James Bond Theme.

He gave it a very modern techno updating, but managed to keep all the excitement and character of the piece in a way that certain late-seventies Bond-theme interpretations failed to do.  And the piece still sounds quite hip and modern to my ears some eighteen years later.

No surprise, that; Moby is a talented dude.  He's had poor things to say about his experience working on the movie, though, and even threw some shit its way when I saw him in concert in 2002.

Whatever; this take on the Monty Norman theme is pretty rad in my book.  I'm not going to assess an official score here, since the piece is not in the movie; but if I were, I'd give it a 007/007.

The Score:




The mission could not have been simpler, or more obvious: whatever that god damned Eric Serra did, undo it, and get back to what Bond films are supposed to sound like.

For the task, the producers hired British composer -- and big-time Bond fan -- David Arnold, who was hot off a string of hits like Stargate and Independence Day.  So he brought back the steel guitar, used the Bond theme about seventy times, and made up for whatever perceived errors Eric Serra had committed on GoldenEye.

I can distinctly recall listening to the soundtrack the day it came out (a few weeks prior to the movie) at a friend's apartment.  This was the same friend with whom I saw the movie, but on this particular day, we were getting ready to leave for Atlanta, where we were going to be seeing U2.  But we listened to this soundtrack first, and my friend indulged me in my geekiness, and even shared in a bit of it when the Moby track came up and we heard the sample of Goldfinger dialogue near the end.

Good times.
  
Arnold's music ("White Knight") for the pre-titles sequence is marvelous, but it's mostly buried underneath the sound effects.  It also seems to have been the victim of being edited after the score was finalized, which makes one wonder why.  A keen ear will note -- not merely here, but throughout the score -- that the melody for "Surrender (more on which briefly) is very present in this scene.

The score for the big kiss between Bond and Paris is, like, the most overly dramatic score I've ever heard.  Arnold seems to be trying to convince me that this is Out of Africa instead of Moonraker.  The music itself is good, but that's an example of really bad scoring.

An example of really good scoring: the scene in which Bond drives his BMW from the back seat.  That is without a doubt the standout scene of the entire film, and Arnold gives it a big boost.

Another favorite moment: the moment when Bond dives into the water at the end to save Wai Lin, and breathes air into her lungs in the form of a kiss.  The melody for "Surrender" plays here, but in a very lush and heroic mode that I don't possess the musical vocabulary to describe.  It's sublime, though.

Points awarded (The Score): 005/007.  I like it more on CD than I do in the movie, but it's generally a solid effort from Arnold in his first time at bat.

Total points awarded (The Music):  004.67/007

Double-0 Rating for Tomorrow Never Dies:  002.45/007

The tally so far:

006.23 -- From Russia With Love
006.03 -- Goldfinger
005.58 -- The Living Daylights
004.84 -- Moonraker
004.76 -- Dr. No
004.42 -- For Your Eyes Only
004.39 -- Live and Let Die
002.55 -- Climax!: Casino Royale
002.45 -- Tomorrow Never Dies
002.38 -- Casino Royale [1967]
001.43 -- Never Say Never Again
001.02 -- James Bond Jr
 
I'm a bit shocked to find the movie coming in that low, but I can't honestly say it belongs any higher.  (Maybe above the Climax episode, but hey, I'm just following the math.)

You Only Blog Twice will return in . . . The World Is Not Enough.

But first, leftover screencaps:


I mean . . . is that by invitation only?  How would one go about getting an invitation?  Seems like a security risk, to be honest.


The film makes massive use of television and computer screens, which seemed pretty hi-tech in 1997.




Seriously, why is there a tiger back there?










32 comments:

  1. I love that Moby remix. I haven't thought of that in years. (While we're here, I quite enjoy Adam Clayton's and Larry Mullen's remix of the Mission: Impossible theme, as well.)

    I guess i remember less of this movie than I thought I did. (I have no memory of Vincent Schiavelli in this at all, as just one of many examples.) It sounds somewhat dreadful. Like you, I remember liking it at the time, but I guess I've never revisited it. I had a big Michelle Yeoh phase in the 90s, and that might have influenced things.

    Glad to hear you were able to get around the blu-ray 'caps issue. (These look fantastic.)

    I'm sure the only reason Spootiswoode got the directing gig because someone at EON couldn't get over the innuendo of the name. "De-light-ful!"

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    1. Ditto on the Clayton/Mullen Mission: Impossible. That's good stuff.

      Oh, man. "Spots Wood." I am slipping.

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  2. I think I give this movie a little more credit than you do, probably because of what's coming next. Compared to TWINE, this movie is practically Goldfinger! Brosnan is not as sharp as he was the last time around but I agree it's mostly the material.

    I consider Michelle Yeoh one of the top 5 hottest Bond girls of all time. I mean, Christ Almighty, she's gorgeous! She'd have to lose most of her teeth and wear an eye patch to be considered "only" hot. She's aged well, too. Watch her in "Sunshine" or that lousy "Mummy" movie with Jet Li. She's just one of those women who looks good no matter what. The one big mistake they made was having her needing to be rescued by Bond at the end. I thought that cheapened her character. Better if she took out Carver and jumped overboard to meet Bond in the water after he dealt with Stamper.

    I like Vincent Schiavelli. I agree his German accent is shit. They should have made his character American, or maybe Italian. Maybe then he wouldn't be remembered with such hostility. He was one of the most successful character actors of all time. By my count he appeared in roughly 16,759 movies. (Feel free to check my math.) Not a bad run.

    Elliot Carver. What. The. Fuck. I'd lump this asshole into the same category as Grey's Blofeld. He's that bad. I get the feeling all his employees/henchmen work for him simply for the paycheck. He certainly seems incapable of inspiring fear or loyalty in his workers. I bet they made fun of him when he wasn't looking.

    Once again you managed not to rip Jack Wade again. I admire your self-control.

    Please feel free to lose said self-control when you get to TWINE. I think it might be the only Bond movie that could give DAF a run for last place. Happy viewing!


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    1. I suspect I'll send up being kindlier toward TWINE than you are hoping for. It's "Die Another Day" that's going to probably earn the really low marks.

      I'm hoping to make both of those posts appear relatively soon, just so I'll be out of the Brosnan years.

      Totally agree on Elliot Carver. Awful.

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  3. Great write-up. The problem with the Brosnan era was that, with each successive film, I found myself liking the one before it more and more. Stamper was a waste of space in this film. A 'warmed-over Robert Shaw' is how I described him at the time. The dialogue was messy at times. I think Michelle Yeoh says "I don't think so, Mr Bond" as two consecutive replies to Bond. Although, it did have one great line after he motorbike/helicopter chase;

    Bond- "You were pretty handy with those handcuffs."
    Wai Lin- "That comes from growing up in a tough neighbourhood. You were pretty handy with that motorbike."
    Bond- "That comes from not growing up at all."

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    1. I agree -- that is pretty good Bond dialogue.

      Part of me feels like I'm a being a bit harsh toward this movie. But mostly, I feel I've gotten it right. At least for my own tastes. I have no doubt that the movie still has tons of fans, and I have no issue whatsoever with them being annoyed with people like me who rank it so lowly.

      Well, what can I say? I love "Moonraker" unreservedly, so clearly I'm not immune to bouts of severe bad taste.

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    2. Sorry, did I say "handcuffs"? I meant "tyre iron".

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    3. You know, BB, I used to rate the Brosnan Bonds harshly myself, based on the screenplays of Purvis & Wade. However, I must admit that there were tidbits of dialogue in their scripts that are memorable and some of them gave tiny insights into Bond's character and what made him tick. The scene in TWINE where Bond has Renard on his knees and is about to blow his brains out and he comments on "Cold-blooded murder being a terrible business", etc, and Q (in Desmond Llewellyn's last gig) giving Bond advice about "never let them see you bleed". The story lines got sillier and sillier, but there *was* some good writing here and there. M had some great lines, for example, and Judi Dench's delivery made them even better.

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    4. Oh, I agree. There is good stuff in there, no doubt about it. But for me, none of it ever manages to add up cohesively. TND and TWINE are especially problematic; the one-liners come a mile a minute, and they sit uncomfortably alongside the more serious-minded scenes.

      But there are great moments, absolutely.

      I'm not sure it's the screenplay(s) that are the problem. I think the choice of director(s) is moreso to blame. Roger Spottiswoode, Michael Apted, and Lee Tamahori were not terrific choices, and the finished products reflect that.

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    5. Spottiswoode and Apted weren't in their prime by then and/or were I'll-suited for a big budget action franchise like this. Spottiswoode did great work with "Under Fire", but that was 1983 and Apted's "Up" series was well-respected and ground-breaking. I understand why they were chosen, if it was because EON were attempting to give the films a little more gravitas.
      And Tamahori's silly notion that 'James Bond' was a code name and that explains why he's been around for 40-plus years with a different face every few years was just dumb.
      I think it was a very smart move to bring Martin Campbell back for CR, but I'm getting ahead of myself here. Well still have two more Brosnan films to go.

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    6. I agree about the Bond-as-code-name idea. A stupid notion for stupid people. Any Bond fan worth his/her salt would just roll their eyes at that.

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    7. True. However, that absolutely f*€{ing stupid theory about Bond being a time lord really gets on my wick. I really do prefer the way things were before the internet when we didn't need logical(?) explanations for everything. "Groundhog Day" probably wouldn't get green-lit these days.

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    8. I do enjoy "Doctor Who" -- even though it's often fairly shoddy -- but there is something about that branch of fandom that really galls me. I recently saw a thing on Facebook from somebody who had put forth the idea that there should be an episode involving the Doctor taking Anne Frank into the future so she could see things would eventually be better than in her time. This apparently would "explain" a hopeful line from her diary.

      I thought to myself, if your response to reading Anne Frank's diary is to think about the story could be improved by putting Doctor Who in it, you've got serious issues.

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  4. A true Whovian wouldn't have suggested something like that. But what do *I* know?

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    1. WAY late on the reply comment here, but it's worth mentioning: I finally caught up with the most recent season. I didn't like the first couple of episodes, but apart from that, that was one of the best seasons of the modern show. Capaldi is terrific.

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  5. Some of you comments-readers might be interested in this:

    I've decided that at least part of my 2015 will be devoted to finally reading the various Bond continuation novels which I've never before read. This is a thoroughly achievable task, since the list is a fairly short one: it consists of the novels (save one) written by Raymond Benson; the Young Bond novels (again, save one); and the Moneypenny Diaries trilogy.

    The one I chose to begin with was Benson's novelization of "Tomorrow Never Dies," which I finished a few days ago. It's . . . okay. Like most novelizations, it palpably seems to have been written in a haste. But as novelizations go, it's not at all bad.

    As (again) is often the case with novelizations, there are a number of significant differences between the book and the finished film. Most novelizations are apparently based on early drafts of the screenplay, which often end up getting changed before shooting for one reason or another. Here, the differences are merely cosmetic in some ways, but quite vast in others. The trajectory of the plot is the same as the movie; both film and novel begin and end in precisely the same way, and the characters are essentially the same in both versions.

    However, one major difference is the depiction of Wai Lin, who is a much more interesting and successful character as written by Benson than she is in the movie. For one thing, she is very much treated as Bond's equal. We meet her long before Bond does, and she has an entire chapter's worth of a China-based adventure that firmly establishes her credentials as a masterful agent. I can understand why the movie opted not to go that route; this is a James Bond movie, so making Wai Lin too prominent threatens to turn a single act into a double bill.

    But in the novel, it works well. I would love to know whether Benson did indeed base these scenes on an early draft of the screenplay. For all I know, he may have added them on his own as a means of making the book more a work of prose. But if not, and the film did indeed at some point include plans to give Wai Lin her own independent scenes, then that is interesting if for no other reason than proving that the filmmakers deliberately opted NOT to go that route in the end.

    Other differences: Carver is less buffonish and over the top; and yet, curiously, even less interesting. This proves at least one thing to me: Carver was always a dud as a character. I'm not a fan of the way Pryce played the role in the end, but I'll say this for him: he clearly found a way to keep himself interested despite the role being very lacking on page. Carver is also, in the book, given a Flemingesque physical failing: persistent TMJ that makes his jaw hurt.

    Yep. HIS JAW HURTS. Pretty lame as far a Flemingesque physical failings go. More interesting, Carver's origins and backstory are delved into somewhat. These, too, I suspect are potentially Benson additions.

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    1. More differences:

      Stamper is very different. He is a man whose pleasure and pain receptors are reversed, so that when he is stabbed, it feels (basically) as though he's having an orgasm in that part of his body. He gets off on torturing people to death, and films these escapades for Carver to watch. Oh, and he's dumb. Carver calls him out numerous times for being a numbskull. (My words, not Carver's.) I think this version of Stamper is a much more successful one than the one in the film, who is efficient and rather boring.

      Another key difference is that there is no effort to minimize the romantic byplay between Bond and Wai Lin. They fuck their brains out on that boat ride they take on the way to find the stealth ship. Wai Lin gets several passages in which Benson writes her from her own point of view, and she is clearly established as being sexually aggressive, adventurous, and (duh) attracted to Bond. She, like Bond, is determined to enjoy life while she can.

      I would be especially interested to know at what point this changed (assuming it is not invention by Benson -- and if it is, then it proves he was vastly more qualified to write Bond than Bruce Feirstein was), and at whose behest. This take on the character is preferable to the movie version by far, in my opinion.

      On another subject, it is worth noting that the Charles Robinson character played by Colin Salmon in the film appears nowhere. Instead, his material is given to longtime Bond supporting character Bill Tanner. Interesting...

      There are a few subtle references that indicate that this escapade is taking place in a universe in which the Bond movies going back as far as the Connery era ARE in continuity. However, I was intrigued by one moment in which Bond is underwater and imagines that his environment must be something like what it would be like in outer space. Meaning that in this iteration, the Bond movies happened . . . but the movie version of "Moonraker" did not.

      Finally, I'd like to mention that Professor Inga Bergstrom DOES appear in the novel, under exactly the same circumstances. Teachin' old Bond Danish. But, seemingly, the lessons themselves are real. Bond asks Wai Lin what languages she speaks at some point, and among the tongues listed is Danish. Bond has an excited-schoolboy moment where he says "I speak Danish!" And then, later on, the whole bit pays off when Bond and Wai Lin speak to each other in Danish during a tense moment aboard Carver's ship. Nice!

      All in all, I would say the book is well worth a read. It is by no means great literature, but it will give you some valuable perspectives on the "Tomorrow Never Dies" that did not happen.

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  6. I watched this over the weekend, and while I liked it more now than when it was released, that’s not saying much. My biggest original complaint was Elliot Carver, and he remains my least favorite part of the movie, though for different reasons. Initially, I simply thought the idea of a media mogul as a Bond villain was a poor choice; these days, I can see how that idea might actually work well if properly executed. Unfortunately, TND bungles the concept at every turn, enough so that I think my younger self picked up on those issues but didn’t quite know yet how to explain them.
    Jonathan Pryce is terrible, to the point where I wish they had just hired Steve Jobs to play this part, even though it was a decade before the iPhone released, and Jobs’ potentially-evil-genius persona was still hidden. As Bryant already pointed out, audiences had been introduced to “Dr. Evil” seven months prior to TND, and to be honest Carver is even more of a farce. The fake karate moment is particularly heinous; it’s unbelievably juvenile, and strips the character of all remaining menace for the rest of the movie.
    Next on my list are the inconsistent tonal shifts, which make the movie feel so disjointed I almost turned it off several times. The parts of the opening sequence that involve the missile bobbing and weaving through the mountains are laughable; the remote-controlled BMW scene is fun, if you forget that James just found Paris strangled to death and executed her killer point-blank; three words: Joe Don Baker; and rounding it all out is the final scene with Carver, Bond, and the drill. The worst part is that there’s a movie in here, somewhere, with just enough wit to balance out serious action and drama, but it’s buried under this nonsense.
    I really like the idea of Paris and her past relationship with James, but it isn’t ever developed enough; Wai Lin could have been a fantastic counterpart, but Michelle Yeoh is woefully underutilized; Götz Otto has the right look for a first-class henchman, but Stamper comes off as more incompetent than threatening; and finally there’s James, who has potential moments of genuine emotion, but between the script and Brosnan’s delivery ends up sounding and feeling like Sterling Archer.
    From an action perspective, I don’t like the opening sequence at all, but the parking garage and motorcycles chases are engaging and well-executed, with just the right amounts of realism and fiction for my tastes. The sinking of the Devonshire with the drill is more fantastical, but in a Bond-appropriate kind of way. Everything on the boat at the end felt deflated, though, like James and Wai Lin were never in any real danger; I will give credit to the grenade-in-the-jar trick that Bryant pointed out as being pretty freaking cool and spy-worthy.
    My opinion on the Brosnan films has always been that GoldenEye was the perfect starting point, and for some reason everything went bizarrely wrong from there. This lead to movies that rival the Roger Moore films in zaniness, but without any of the heart or likeability. I plan on watching TWINE this weekend to try and keep up, and I do remember it more fondly than TND. At this rate, however, I really am dreading Die Another Day.

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    1. I had not made any sort of Steve Jobs connection; now that it's been made for me, I'll have a hard time shaking it.

      Good call on the Moore films having heart. I'd never thought of them in that way, but they really do. That's maybe most evident in the theme songs, more than half of which are very sincere romantic ballads. Interesting...

      Overall, yeah, we're pretty much on the same page here. For the benefit of you who are reading along, Xann was a pre-teen when this movie came out; about the same age I was when "A View to a Kill" was released. And yet, with TND he doesn't seem to have the nostalgia-blinders that I (freely admit I) have with AVTAK. I take this as proof -- quasi-proof, at least -- that AVTAK is objectively better than TND in virtually every way, despite its many weaknesses.

      I agree with you, Xann, that there was a good movie here to be made. The good news is, it was a hit, which means that it kept the series going. So there's that.

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  7. I got a big laugh out of "all those silhouetted dongs slapping against the thighs of backflipping men." Maybe a silhouetted twink swinging from a boner like a high bar instead of a gun barrel, or silhouettes of men in tuxedos engaging in a tickle fight.

    I used to get my ass handed to me in the GoldenEye video game. I guess I'm what you'd call a casual gamer, but I was never good at those first person shooter type games. I would play against friends who owned the game, just because I loved the character selection. I mean, Baron Samedi running around capping fools?? Sign me the fuck up! But man, I used to get smoked. Dudes owned it and got lethal with that shit. I'd come over to play and it was like a lamb to the slaughter.

    Okay, so the movie, then. I gotta say, this one has almost completely evaporated from my memory. Like you, I saw it in the theater with a friend who wasn't particularly a Bond fan, he just went to check it out. I recall we both liked it, but as a Bond fan, I think it left me feeling a little more underwhelmed. I really should go back and watch the Brosnan Bonds, though. They are the ones I watch the least, by far. And in the case of this one, I only saw it the one time in the theater. I found all the Brosnan Bonds were enjoyable enough when I first saw them, but as time goes on, I find that they're the ones I don't revisit nearly as much as all the other Bonds.

    I don't know why that should be, I was stoked to hear Brosnan was (finally) going to be Bond. I remember that after Moore hung up the Walther PPK, they should get Remington Steele to play James Bond. (Hey, I was, like, 10. I didn't know dude's name, he was just Remington Steele to me.) And then they got him! And then they didn't. So when Brosnan finally did get the role, I remember thinking it was a great score. And like I said, I remember (mostly) liking the movies he was in when I first saw them, but they just didn't stick with me like the ones before and since.

    One thing I was really surprised by is that I can't recall Sheryl Crow's theme song. Like, not one, single note. As a fan of the Bomd movies, I found that shocking. Positively shocking.... (crickets chirping).... I mean, I can remember every other main theme (even the three end themes you mentioned, vaguely), but as I sit here, for the life of me, I cannot think of how that flaming song goes! I even own a cd of all the themes through the Brosnan years, which I listen to every once in a while, and i still can't recall that song! I must skip the track to get to a preferred selection. I mean, I'm not bumping that cd all the time, but I might've thought I would have heard the song once in the past dozen years or so that I've owned it. Fuck, now I'm gonna have to Google it.

    Oh, and I tried to read your Moonraker review, but I was informed that page didn't exist. Perhaps you're aware of that situation, but I just wanted to mention it, just in case. If it was a Brosnan Bond review, I'd probably just take the L, but I can't let a Moore slide like that.

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    1. I'm not sure why it was giving you an error, but page still seems to be there:

      http://you-only-blog-twice.blogspot.com/2012/09/moonraker-1979.html

      The link on this page isn't working, though, so I'll need to go in and correct it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! I look forward to hearing what you have to say about "Moonraker." As I recall, I had even more of a blast than usual writing that particular review.

      The Sheryl Crow song is fairly unmemorable, so it doesn't surprise me that your mind is suppressing it. I don't hate it, but it's kind of bland and poorly-sung.

      I was just talking about Brosnan's Bond with a co-worker today. We agreed that while his movies are a mixed bag, he himself was a fantastic 007. I think he brought a LOT of new fans into the fold, and I doubt he's received anywhere near enough credit for it.

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  8. Yeah, I definitely give Brosnan props for reinvigorating the series. All his Bonds were pretty big hits, so it's not as if the audience didn't accept him in the role. As a Moore fan, I should probably feel more supportive of Brosnan, as they both seem to have been retroactively dismissed by some Bond fans. To be sure, there were people who dismissed them right off the bat of their respective tenures, but for the most part, they were very popular in their time as 007. I really don't have anything bad to say about Brosnan as Bond. Quite the opposite, I thought he was a great choice. And yet, I still don't watch his movies as much as the others.

    Which brings us to that favorite topic of Bond movie fans:

    Rank 'em!

    Okay, so the first three are easy for me, and I think I alluded to my top three in a previous comment, so this will come as no surprise.

    1. Moore

    2. Connery

    3. Craig

    Now, this is where there's some competition for ranking. I don't dislike any of the Bonds, but someone's gotta be last, right? But who?? I mean, it's hard to pick between Lazenby and Dalton, due to small sample sizes. OHMSS is a better movie than TLD or LTK, but that doesn't necessarily mean Lazenby is the better Bond. I tend to hold it against the Disgruntled Bonds. What I mean is, when an actor starts grousing about having to be James Bond, I find it rather off-putting. Admittedly, two of my three favorite Bonds were/are Disgruntled Bonds (considering some Craig's semi-recent comments, he makes the list), but Connery and Craig have done enough to keep them among my favorite Bonds. And with them, at least they got a few Bond movies under their belt before they started bitching. Lazenby, on the other hand, seemed to show up already disdainful of the role. He should've considered himself the luckiest guy in the world, but instead, he blew his chance. All this is to say, just for his attitude, he could wind up my least favorite Bond. Which, admittedly, is like picking my least favorite ice cream.

    Dalton. Again, small sample size, but at least he seemed appreciative of the role. Both his movies were good, but neither makes my top ten. For that matter, neither do I like them more than OHMSS.

    So on to Brosnan. I liked him as Bond. The movies were a bit of a mixed lot. Liked GoldenEye and DAD. TND and TWINE, not so much. And to be honest , DAD is on pretty shaky ground. There is some straight up dumb shit in that one (car hood parasailing scene, I'm looking at you). But I give him a lot of credit for bringing back Bond in a big way. And like Dalton, he seemed happy to play Bond.

    Damn. You know, as clear as my top three is, I never really thought about where I rank the rest. They were always just kinda lumped together, no pros or cons really placing one above another.

    Okay, I'm calling it:

    4. Brosnan

    5. Lazenby

    6. Dalton

    Sorry, Timmy. You had big shoes to fill, following my forever favorite Bond. You gave it a valiant effort, and with more Bond movies, maybe you would've jumped a spot or two, but like I said, someone's gotta be last.

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    1. I'm wrestling with the idea of whether to post my own ranked-Bond-actors list or whether to hold off because I might do a post about that someday. I think I'll hold off; but I like your list!

      Brosnan does seem to be in the same position Moore was in for years, where a lot of people dismiss him. That will change; we're just now entering the era when people will begin to feel very nostalgic for the years Brosnan was Bond, and when that happens, the love for him will increase the same way it did for Moore's years.

      I've got problems with the way Bond comes off in some of Brosnan's movies. Too serious at some times to mix well with the levity of other times. But Brosnan is good in both types of scenes, so I don't blame him for this; I blame his directors, who needed to strive for a more consistent tone. Brosnan himself really was terrific. When I revisited it, I was a bit shocked by how good he is in "Die Another Day." You have to really focus on what he's doing, but if you can get past all the noise and do that, you're in for a treat.

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  9. Also, thanks for providing the link to Moonraker. It will be my next read.

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  10. Regarding the Tiger in the background - that is from a deleted scene.

    Q opens one of the crates and a live tiger snarls at him from inside it, prompting the bond quip "A jaguar?". Then Q goes to the crate next to it and opens it, revealing the BMW.

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    1. I think I'd have left that in if I were them. It's already a jokey scene, so I don't see what harm one more joke could have done.

      Good info to have -- much appreciated!

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  11. I just came off this film [TV version, which seems to have cut a few lines] and am continuing my tradition of reading your review immediately after the film (well, it's been some hours, but close enough!) - and I have to say, I personally really enjoyed this film, going in with the foreknowledge Brosnan's films are considered duds. Perhaps with higher expectations, I might've been more disappointed... or perhaps my taste in Bond films is merely highly unconventional. (It is either way.)

    I think the key thing for me was that, while you disliked Carver, I found him a fascinating villain and enjoyed the performance. I can see why it might have seemed unlikely in the nineties, and the newspaper emphasis comes off just a bit dated, but in this day and age of 'Fake News' on both sides of the political aisle, the concept of a global media mogul (with an obvious ego problem) using his influence to create a conflict that serves his ends feels frighteningly realistic. The other key difference with him is that where you saw a hammy actor, I saw a hammy character. For example, during the party scene - I saw Carver's suspiciously specific denial not as a piece of poorly written dialogue, which it would be if taken as a genuine reply, but as the character trying to illustrate his influence by playing it off as a joke.

    All that said, if I agreed with you that the actor was merely playing the role as hammily as possible, I could see why the film would be that much worse.

    All that said, I can certainly agree the handling of women in this film is poor, from Moneypenny to Paris to Wai Lin. I understand the film was heavily promoted with Teri Hatcher, but seeing it on a recording two decades later, knowing vaguely of Wai Lin, my assumption was merely that Bond's past with Paris was intended to be something more of a point of convenience, rather than a 'long lost love' situation until she was already at death's door, Wai Lin, I had the same thoughts that it felt like a 'have your cake and eat it too' situation. I might've felt better if not for the Moore-esque ending joke, which I could barely forgive with Moore in the first place. That's something I'm critical of.

    Oddy enough, it didn't even occur to me how much this film lacked in exotic locales, as while these always feel like a big deal in many of the older films, by the Brosnan-Craig era they hardly feel like even mild window dressing anymore. I wouldn't have thought to dock it points, but I remember feeling so when I saw "Goldfinger", oddly enough. I also noted your mentions of 'exotic' being an important trait for Bond Girls, which again, is something I don't usually consider.

    I do think, if you do change your .00 rating system, it might be worth considering a category/section to discuss... I'm not sure how to make this sound efficient, but production obstacles and expectations. Production issues have affected a lot of entries such as this one, "Quantum of Solace" and even "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", if one considers Connery's exit an issue, but also perhaps considering things such as response to the previous film. The latter is something you discuss here anyway, as something of a bonus feature - how "Goldeneye" in film and game, as well as "Austin Powers" affected the film's expectations.

    This got long. Keep up the good work anyhow.

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    1. Long, but great! I love getting comments like these, even when they disagree with me. Hell, sometimes I disagree with me, too, so I've got no problem when a commenter does.

      I am very intrigued by your idea that Carver is a hammy person within the story, and that Jonathan Pryce is simply playing him that way because that's how he is. I would probably have to watch the movie again in order to tell you how I felt that hypothesis holds up -- but thinking about it in my mind, it seems like an idea with some potential merit. Well done! It'll give me something to think about next time.

      The fake-news -- ACTUAL FAKE NEWS -- angle of the whole thing does indeed serve to make the movie bizarrely timely. People were already thinking about such things back then, of course; today, it's seemingly all anyone thinks about. I wonder if the Bond movies could revisit that territory in some way? It feels almost TOO political, which is a thing the Bond movies have rarely (if ever) been, at least on the surface.

      "I also noted your mentions of 'exotic' being an important trait for Bond Girls, which again, is something I don't usually consider." -- To be fair, that's only the way I myself look at it. And anyways, "exotic" is very much in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? For many people the world 'round, I suspect Teri Hatcher was plenty exotic indeed.

      "production obstacles and expectations" -- I think I see what you're going for there. I have already toyed with the idea of wholly revamping the system and then doing a second batch of reviews. One category I've considered adding is something like an "X Factor" set of points that allowed me to assess nebulous things that might only have impacted that one film. That might be a good way to include some of what you mention.

      We're a long ways off from that actually happening, though. I'm increasingly struggling to find blogging time, and even if I got a ton of it back again, my next major goal for this blog is to review all the Ian Fleming books and stories. After that, maybe it'd be time to revisit the movies.

      It's good to know somebody else thinks the rating system needs a rehaul, though. It was (and is) a silly idea to begin with, but one that I had a HUGE amount of fun messing around with. A revised version would likely be even siller and more fun; something for me to look forward to!

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    2. Let me know what you think about Carver!

      I studied political history, particularly the Cold War, so that's been in the back of my mind through many of these films, and it's particularly fascinating to see how important the background of concurrent wars and tensions has informed the series, despite most of the films finding ways to sidestep real-life conflicts, such as having villains that want to exploit Cold War tensions from the outside. I do think it would be interesting to see Bond return to being more investigative, given current espionage is more about influence than raw power, but I do sometimes wonder how much the casual audience would be interested in this, since Bond films are often seen as action flicks.

      The ratings system is a really fun experiment, and I appreciate how it does allow you to spotlight the various aspects of the film (Bond or otherwise) in a way I think some reviews can sometimes gloss over. I know how many reviews I'm dissatisfied about discussion of characters, while I have a personal weakness for rarely commenting on scores, even those I really like. As the long-term proved, it also allowed an interesting way of seeing how the movies stack up. You don't take it too seriously, which is good - I think not assigning authority to the numbers makes it a stronger experiment, because I almost think lending them that much makes it all the more tempting to punch them a little higher or lower at points.

      This is admittedly less relevant to Bond, but I like keeping obstacles and expectations into account because I tend to think that in a day and age when most movies are marketed aggressively, expectations and marketing can play a large role in how viewers pursue the final film. I know some people try to go in blind, but even exposure to one news article can change their frame of mind. Even complaints towards a previous film factor in - a sequel trying to address complaints is till being affected by a set of expectations in that sense. A movie like "Spectre", just in its title, creates a set of expectations to anyone familiar with previous films, even if one avoided spoilers. I also personally prefer not to always shame a film for its production obstacles inherently, as sometimes a movie can overcome a horrific obstacle, but do well with that in mind, versus being a better film without it. (Say, the death of a prominent actor, such as Bernard Lee, forms an obstacle, but does the film deserve to lose points for not having M?) Or "Quantum of Solace" doing well for a film that was rewritten during filming.

      That was somewhat of a personal tangent, but yeah, an 'X Factor' category would be a good place to cover things like that, or other miscellaney that could inform the films.

      I empathize with the lack of free time. I'll certainly be popping in to keep an eye on for the book reviews as they come out. That'll obviously be a long project but it'll be exciting to read for sure!

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    3. And exciting to write, too! I'd love to say I'm going to get moving on that before the year is out; that's my goal. But I'm notorious for missing self-imposed deadlines like that, so I'll simply say the target is "relatively soon."

      You make a lot of good points regarding the obstacles and expectations. I think it's unavoidable. Daniel Craig's unfortunate attitude during interviews for "Spectre" certainly did that movie no favors in my eyes, and I'd love to know how I would have reacted without that sort of thing buzzing around in my brain. Similarly, I think; but did the negativity affect the intensity of my response? Almost certainly.

      "You don't take it too seriously, which is good" -- I kind of wanted to put a disclaimer at the top of every post saying something like I AM JUST GOOFING AROUND HERE. But I figured if that didn't come across on its own, I'd already lost. I did have fun with the ratings, though, because it helped me see places where I thought differently about certain aspects of the films than I had previously believed.

      Have you ever read "James Bond: The Legacy" by John Cork and Bruce Scivally? It is great in general, but is specifically great for the ways in which the authors illustrate how the film (as you say) have managed to be motivated by current events without crossing the line into overly-simplified "relevance."

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