“Being Pure to Ian Fleming’s James Bond”

Image

“BEING PURE TO IAN FLEMING’S JAMES BOND”

Lately, there has been a great deal of talk about EON Productions being pure to the James Bond novels written by Ian Fleming. Demands that Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli adhere closely to the novels have increased on many Bond forums. And I cannot help but wonder what has brought about the increasing number of demands.

Certain Bond fans have demanded the following: 

*The Bond franchise should avoid political correctness altogether.

*Bond should smoke on screen.

*M should be a man.

*Felix Leiter should be a white blond Texan, as described in the novels.

There are probably more demands, but the above are the ones I tend to encounter on the forums. I have also read demands that the Bond movies should either stick to the fantasy-adventure elements first introduced in “GOLDFINGER”or should stick to being tight spy thrillers like “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”. In regard to the style of the Bond stories, I personally prefer tight spy thrillers like “CASINO ROYALE”“FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”“FOR YOUR EYES ONLY”and “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS”. However, if a Bond movie with a fantasy-adventure style of storytelling is well written, I can be very tolerant of it. In fact, there are one or two of them that are favorites of mine – “THUNDERBALL”“THE SPY WHO LOVED ME” and “GOLDENEYE”.

Now, in regard to the demands I had listed earlier, here are my responses to them:

*The Bond franchise should avoid political correctness altogether – Why? Why should the Bond franchise stay mired in the political incorrectness of the past? I have always had the impression that EON Productions made sure that the Bond films kept up with the times. I have no problem with James Bond remaining sexist. That is the man’s character. But I would have a problem if the movies maintained some old-fashioned view on women, non-whites or non-British characters. In 1962’s “DR. NO”, there is a scene on Crab Key in which Bond ordered Quarrel to pick up his shoes. Every time I see that scene, I wince. Even for 1962 that seemed a bit too much, especially since the Civil Rights movement was going on at the time. Hell, in the same year, “THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE” featured a black psychiatrist working with U.S. Army intelligence. Many Bond fans have a problem with a Bond leading lady being a secret agent or someone capable of being an action character. I find this idea laughable. Are these people threatened by the idea of a woman being capable of shooting a gun or martial arts? Do they feel that such a character in a Bond movie would threatened their sense of well-being or their view of Bond as invincible and one-of-a-kind? I do not demand that all Bond women be spies or some kind of action figure. But I do not see the harm that they mix it up every now and then. In the end, I would find the idea of non-British and non-white characters being portrayed as inferior characters or the idea of Bond female leading ladies being nothing more than eye candy and bed warmers for Bond in all of the movies, repellent and a good excuse to avoid a Bond movie in the future.  In the end, these sexist moviegoers got their wish in the recent “SKYFALL”, when competent female MI-6 agent named Eve became secretary Miss Moneypenny at the end of the movie . . . on the grounds that she could not handle being a field agent.  This act pissed me off so much that I almost felt inclined to throw a shoe at the movie screen in anger.

*Bond should smoke on screen – Again, why? Why does Bond have to smoke on screen? What is the big deal? Personally, I could not care less. Connery smoked, but not that often and I barely noticed. I can say the same about Lazenby. As far as I know, Moore only smoked cigars in his first two movies. Dalton smoked in one scene of his first Bond movie. Did Brosnan smoked? If so, I do not remember . . . and I do not care. And I do not recall seeing Craig’s Bond smoking. In other words, the idea of Bond as a smoker can go either way with me. I simply feel that it is a matter that is not a big deal.

*M should be a man – The United Kingdom has had a female monarch for the past sixty-one years. For a period of ten or eleven years, it had a female Prime Minister. And MI-6 – until recently – was led by a woman. Why in the hell should gender matter in regard to M’s role? Are those who are demanding that M return to being a man are telling us that only a man can be an authority figure? This is the 21st century! That idea is ridiculous! Hell, it was ridiculous when Queen Elizabeth I ruled England back in the 16th century as one of the country’s greatest monarchs. I have also encountered complaints about M (Dench) castigating Bond whenever he screwed up. They act as if she did not have the right to lecture him. What nonsense! Dench is not the first M to castigate Bond. Bernard Lee’s “M” did it in “GOLDFINGER” after Bond had screwed up his assignment in Miami. He was bitchy with Bond in “DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER”, following the conclusion of the latter’s revenge search for Blofield. And Lee did it again in “THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN” when Roger Moore’s Bond and Lieutenant Hip lost that solar power device – “Solex agitator”. Robert Brown’s M castigated Timothy Dalton’s Bond in their two movies together. So why have certain fans decided to complain about Dench’s M doing the same during her tenure in the Bond franchise? Was it because they could not deal with Bond being castigated by a female authority figure? And why on earth is it necessary for M to be a man?  Unfortunately, EON Productions heeded the fans and replaced Judi Dench’s M – in the most gruesome and politically incorrect way possible – with a male M now portrayed by Ralph Fiennes.  The Bond franchise has taken another step backward.

*Felix Leiter should be a white blond Texan, as described in the novels – What in the hell? Why on earth is it necessary for Felix Leiter to be a blond, white Texan? Because he was one in the Fleming novels? So what? In the 44-year history of the Bond franchise, has the movie version of Felix Leiter EVER been a blond, white Texan? I certainly do not recall one. John Terry, who portrayed Leiter in “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS”, was born and raised in Florida, if that would help. But he certainly was not a blond. I do not even know if Rik Van Nutter of “THUNDERBALL” was a blond or simply prematurely gray. Neither Jack Lord, Norman Burton, Cec Linder or David Hedison were tall, lanky blonds from Texas. In fact, none of these actors have ever used a Texas accent in portraying Leiter. But they have all been white. Is that the problem? Are they upset that the latest actor to portray Leiter, Jeffrey Wright, was an American black? Well another black American actor, Bernie Casey, portrayed Leiter in the 1983 unofficial Bond movie, “NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN”. I do not recall any outrage over his casting. However, I do believe there should have been one. Although good-looking, Mr. Casey did not strike me as a very good actor. Since Felix Leiter has NEVER been portrayed as a lanky blond white Texan in the Bond film franchise’s 50-year history, I see no reason why EON Productions should consider one now.

As for being a Fleming purist, I can honestly say that I am not one. Quite frankly, aside from a few titles like “From Russia With Love”“Thunderball” and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, I am not a real fan of Ian Fleming’s writing. And I do not consider those three novels as the best example of action or noir literature. Although Fleming seemed to have had a talent for characterization and picturesque settings, I do not think that most of his narratives were that hot. In fact, his plots seemed to be the weakest part about his writing. I do not think that a Fleming plot is needed for a Bond movie to be great. As for the battle between the fantasy-adventure elements and the spy thriller elements, EON Productions have switched back and forth between the two styles. In fact, so has Ian Fleming. The switch between the two styles can be viewed as one aspect in which EON Productions has been “pure” to the novels.

And this all brings me back to this demand that EON Productions be pure to the Fleming novels. I am not saying that many of these “purist” fans stop posting complaints about the differences between the novels and the movies. Hell, they have every right to express their opinions. But if they are going to post these complaints for the world to see, then fans such as myself have the right to express why I do not agree with them. Just as these same “purists” have the right to express their disagreement with this article – which I suspect will soon happen.

I have one last question to ask – since when has EON Productions ever been completely “pure” to the novels? Was it in“ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE”, the 1969 adaptation of Fleming’s 1963 novel? Well, there are some differences between the novel and the movie. One, the literary Tracy is a blond. The movie Tracy (Diana Rigg) obviously is a brunette. And in the movie, Bond is portrayed by an Australian actor, whose accent popped up every now and then. If EON Productions has never been completely “pure” to the novels – aside from changing back and forth between using fantasy elements and thriller elements – why on earth should it start now?

Advertisements

“AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” (1989) Review

Below is my review of the 1989 miniseries, “AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS”

“AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” (1989) Review

I have seen at least three full versions of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel, ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS”. And if I must be frank, I have yet to see a version that I would consider to be flawless or near flawless. But if I had to choose which version would rank as my favorite, it would be the three-part miniseries that aired on NBC in 1989.

Directed by the late Buzz Kulik, this version of Jules Verne’s novel starred Pierce Brosnan as the globe-trotting Phineas Fogg. ”MONTY PYTHON” alumni Eric Idle co-starred as Fogg’s French manservant, Passepartout; Julia Nickson portrayed the India-born Princess Aouda; and the late Peter Ustinov was the English detective who was convinced that Fogg had robbed the Bank of England, Detective Fix. The story started with a conversation between Fogg (Brosnan) and three fellow members of the Reform Club (Christopher Lee, Patrick Macnee and Simon Ward) in 19th century London about the technological advances in transportation in the past thirty to forty years. This leads Fogg to make a wager for twenty-thousand pounds (£20,000) that he could travel around the world in eighty (80) days or less. During the same day, a thief robs the Bank of England and all suspicions point to Fogg, who is identified by a bank employee as the robber.

Wentworth (Robert Morely), an official from the Bank of England and his assistant McBaines (Roddy MacDowell) dispatch private detectives to various ports throughout Europe to find Fogg and have him extradicted back to England. One of the detectives include Fix (Ustinov), who is sent to Brindisi, Italy. Unfortunately, Fix spots Fogg and Passepartout boarding a steamer bound for Suez and Bombay a minute too late and is forced to follow them on their trek around the world. Upon Fogg’s arrival in India, one last member joins his traveling party when he and Passepartout (actually, Passepartout) rescue a recently widowed Indian princess from a suttee funeral pyre.

Like its 1956 predecessor, this version of “AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” turned out to be longer than necessary. The miniseries could have easily been a two-part miniseries or a 135-minute television movie. Unfortunately, John Gay filled his screenplay with unecessary scenes and dialogue that merely served as fillers to justify a three-part miniseries. In Part I, Fogg and Passepartout’s adventures in France lasted longer than necessary – especially after they met a balloonist named Gravier and his mistress, Lucette. Even worse, viewers have to endure Fogg and Passepartout’s balloon journey from France to Italy – which included a period that the heroes found themselves stranded in the Italian Alps. Part II included scenes that featured Fogg, Passepartout and Aouda’s adventures with a Burmese prince and the bandits that kidnapped all of them; and Fogg, Aouda and Fix’s encounter with the Empress of China and her son, the Emperor. I realize Gay also added these scenes to make Fogg’s journey around the world more interesting. Unfortunately, they failed to interest or impress me.

Another problem I had with Gay’s script turned out to be a major blooper that involved Fogg’s encounters with the famous bandit, Jesse James (Stephen Nicols). Following Fogg’s first encounter with James in San Francisco; he, Aouda, Passepartout and Fix boarded an eastbound train for Omaha. By some miracle, Jesse James and his brother Frank managed to catch up with this train somewhere on the Great Plains (probably in Nebraska), where Jesse boarded said train before the second encounter with Fogg. How was this possible? Fogg’s train should have traveling eastbound for at least a day or two before James boarded it. There is NO WAY that the bandit could have caught up with that train. Gay should have allowed the James brothers or Jesse board the train in Oakland, along with Fogg and his party. Sloppy writing. And some of the dialogue featured in the miniseries seemed ladened with pedantic and half-finished sentences and unecessarily long pauses that seemed to serve no other function than to act as fillers to stretch the story.

One might wonder how I can view this version of “AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” as my favorite, considering the above criticism. But despite the flaws, I must admit there were many aspects about the miniseries I found enjoyable. John Gay’s screenplay did not turn out to be a total loss. In fact, the number of gems in the story seemed to outweigh the flaws. I especially enjoyed the following:

*Fogg and Passepartout’s charming encounter with actress Sarah Bernhardt (portrayed by a still sexy 54 year-old Lee Remick) at Dover
*Fogg and Passepartout’s hilarious adventure at a Parisian bar
*The steamship journey from Brindisi to Suez that featured Fogg’s encounter with Egyptian stonecutters and Fix’s hilarious encounter with a Turkish prisoner willing to offer himself to help the detective pass the time
*Princess Aouda’s rescue
*Fogg, Aouda and Fix find themselves shipwrecked on the China coast
*Fogg’s first encounter with Jesse James at a San Francisco ball
*Fogg and James’ duel on the Omaha-bound train

One particular scene I truly found enjoyable was Fogg and Aouda’s hilarious and unsuccessful attempt to stowaway aboard Cornelius Vanderbilt’s (Rick Jason) Europe-bound yacht. It was never featured in the novel or the 1956 movie. Too bad. I thought it was one of the best written scenes in the miniseries.

And it was Pierce Brosnan’s performance as Phileas Fogg that really made that last scene a comic gem for me. Which is not surprising, considering he has turned out to be my favorite Fogg. Sorry Mr. Niven and Mr. Coogan, but I feel that Brosnan’s portrayal has the other two beat. He managed to combined the best of the other two actors’ performances to create the most emotionally rounded Phileas Fogg. He managed to perfectly convey the angst of Fogg’s tendencies to suppress his emotions with some great comic timing.

Speaking of comic timing, Eric Idle’s timing was effectively on display in some of my favorite scenes. Granted, I found his French accent rather questionable. But Idle more than made up for it in some very hilarious scenes. One featured his reaction to being attacked by a French thug at the Parisian bar and another a drunken moment shared with Fix at a Hong Kong tavern. But my favorite Idle moment centered around his reaction to a questionable meat pie purchased by Fogg on the Omaha-bound train in probably the funniest line in the entire miniseries.

Julia Nickson was both charming and amusing as the very brave Princess Aouda. Her Indian princess provided the miniseries with some deliciously angst-filled moments that allowed Aouda to question Fogg about his habit of suppressing his feelings from others. Nickson’s Aouda also provided the miniseries with some political correct moments that were not only amusing, but well handled without being overbearing. And I simply enjoyed Peter Ustinov’s performance as Detective Fix. Like Brosnan’s Fogg, his Fix came off as more rounded and complex as Robert Newton or Ewan Bremmer’s Fix. Without a doubt, Ustinov had some hilarious moments – especially in scenes that featured Fix’s encounter with the Turkish prisoner on the voyage to Suez; and his reaction to another game of whist with Fogg. Not only did Ustinov managed to be funny, but also give Fix’s character with a great deal of depth not found in other versions of the story.

I do have to say something about the supporting characters. One, I really enjoyed Robert Morely and Roddy McDowall as the Bank of England official and his assistant. Morely was a lot more amusing and fun in this miniseries than he was as the more stoic bank official in the 1956 version. And McDowall supported him beautifully. I also enjoyed the performances of Christopher Lee, Patrick Macnee and Simon Ward as the three Reform Club members who made the bet with Fogg. I especially enjoyed Lee’s performance as the one member who especially found Fogg’s precision and rigid habits rather annoying.

This version of “AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” lacked Victor Young’s memorable score and Lionel Lindon’s cinematography. But it does possess a pleasant and catchy score written by Billy Goldenberg. And I must admit that I found myself impressed by Emma Porteus’ costume design, which captured the styles of the early 1870s more effectively than the 1956 movie.

In a nutshell, the three-part miniseries is simply too long. It has scenes and some clunky dialogue that could have easily been edited. But screenwriter John Gay also provided some wonderful and effective moments in the script. Frankly, I thought the cast was top-notch – especially the four main characters led by Pierce Brosnan. And although he is not well known, I thought that director Buzz Kulik did a solid job bringing it all together. The 1956 version may have won the awards, but in my book, this 1989 miniseries remains my favorite version of Jules Verne’s novel.

“The Paradox of Jinx Johnson”

 

“THE PARADOX OF JINX JOHNSON”

When I had first posted comments about the 2002 James Bond movie ”DIE ANOTHER DAY” on message boards and forums, I found myself face to face with a surprise. Apparently, many fans found Halle Berry’s performance as NSA Agent Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson unsatisfactory. And after perusing more of the James Bond message boards, I also learned that Berry is regarded by many Bond fans as ”the worst Bond girl” in the franchise’s history. 

After recovering from this shocker, I began to read some of the reasons why Berry is now so reviled by the Bond fandom. Quite frankly, many have accused her of a bad performance in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”. Others have accused screenwriters Purvis and Wade of creating a badly written character. After recently viewing the movie myself, I am completely stumped by this assessment. Time and again, I have asked myself – ”How could anyone come to this conclusion about Berry’s performance?”

Frankly, I do not consider Jinx Johnson to be the best Bond girl ever created. I once ranked all of the Bond girls (the leading ladies) on one of the Bond forums. Jinx ranked seventh on my list. As I had stated in my review of ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”, I enjoyed Berry’s sly and humorous portrayal of the NSA agent. I also admired the way she handled the action. And one could tell that Berry was simply enjoying herself. Which is great. But when I had learned from the Bond forum, MI-6 Forums that Berry was one of the most unpopular leading ladies from the franchise, I was simply shocked. What had she done to earn the enmity of so many Bond fans?

Right now, I have the unpleasant suspicion that much of the hostility toward Berry had to do with either three things:

*Many fans hate the idea of Bond’s leading lady being a highly trained intelligence agent. This makes her an “equal” to Bond in the eyes of many and they cannot stomach this. I call this theory – ”SEXISM”.

*The actress is one of the few Bond girls who is a major Hollywood star and many resent her co-starring in a Bond film. I call this theory – ”JEALOUSY”.

*Many fans have taken umbrage over her bad dialogue. And considering most of the major characters in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY” were also saddled with bad dialogue, I would call this theory – ”HYPOCRICY”.

*Many fans are uneasy over the idea of Bond’s leading lady being an African-American (in other words, non-white) actress. Of course, Berry is only half African-American. Her mother is white and British. Although other actresses of African descent have appeared in Bond films – namely Gloria Hendry, Grace Jones, Trina Parks, etc., Berry is the first to be the leading lady. Either fans are uneasy about this or they simply cannot stomach the idea of Bond’s leading lady being either non-white (non-European ancestry) or of some African descent. I call this theory – ”RACISM”.

Before I go any further, I will try to recall some of the complaints regarding Berry’s performance in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”:

*Jinx ended up captured twice in the film, which went against her role as an action woman. – Not only have many male Bond fans have issued this complaint, but a good number of female fans have complained about the same. In the movie, Jinx was captured, while searching for one of the movie’s minor villains – a North Korean agent named Zao. Not long after Bond had rescued her (at the same time, she managed to save his life during his fight with a character named Mr. Kil), he advised her to hook up with his MI-6 colleague, Miranda Frost, not realizing that the latter was a double agent for the main villain. And Jinx ended up caught in a booby trap, set up by Frost in the latter’s room. Now I find this particular complaint extremely hypocritical, especially when you consider the number of times Bond had been captured in many of the movies throughout the years:

-“FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” – captured twice
-“GOLDFINGER” – spent the second half of the movie as the villain’s prisoner
-“YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE” – captured twice
-“DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER” – knocked unconscious once and captured twice
-“LIVE AND LET DIE” – captured three times
-“MOONRAKER” – captured twice
-“FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” – captured twice
-“A VIEW TO A KILL” – captured twice
-“LICENSE TO KILL” – captured twice (first time by a fellow MI-6 agent and the Hong Kong police)
-“GOLDENEYE” – captured three times (once by the Russian military)
-“TOMORROW NEVER DIES” – captured twice
-“THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” – captured twice
-“DIE ANOTHER DAY” – captured twice

Not only did Bond end up captured twice in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”, he also spent 14 months as a prisoner of the North Koreans following his first capture. Yet, many fans are willing to excuse his numerous captures because he is James Bond – the main protagonist . . . and a man. There seemed to be no problem for Bond to be captured by the villains no matter how many times. Yet, Bond fans are unwilling to tolerate the capture of a Bond girl, especially if she is an action character. Apparently, a woman who is an action character like Bond is not allowed to be captured in a story. It seems that in the eyes of many, her capture repudiates her believability as someone capable of fighting alongside Bond. Not only do I find such an attitude hypocritical, I also find it rather sexist. And this brand of sexism seemed to be prevalent amongst both genders.

*Halle Berry’s fame had threatened to upstage Pierce Brosnan’s role in the movie. – Apparently, many fans seemed threatened by the idea of the very famous Miss Berry upstaging Brosnan in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”. In other words, they found her too famous to even be considered as a Bond girl. Granted, Berry turned out to be the most famous of all the Bond girls, during the franchise’s 45-year history. But she was not the first. Both Honor Blackman (”GOLDFINGER”) and Diana Rigg (”ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE”) had achieved fame for co-starring alongside Patrick Macnee in the 60s cult favorite television series, ”THE AVENGERS” when they appeared in their respective Bond movies. But they were never as famous as Berry. Britt Ekland (”THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN”), Jill St. John (”DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER”), Tanya Roberts (”A VIEW TO A KILL”), Michelle Yeoh (”TOMORROW NEVER DIES”), Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards (”THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH”) were somewhat well-known when they became Bond girls. And actresses like Ursula Andress (”DR. NO”), Jane Seymour (”LIVE AND LET DIE”), Maud Adams (”THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN”/”OCTOPUSSY”) and Carey Lowell (”LICENSE TO KILL”) became well-known following their stints as Bond girls. But none of these actresses had ever achieved Berry’s stature as an actress. Berry’s stardom never bothered me. Despite her fame, the movie made it quite obvious that the real star in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY” was Pierce Brosnan. How this managed to elude many Bond fans still astounds me. Frankly, I find Berry’s stardom as an excuse for her unsuitability as a Bond girl rather shallow. Especially, since she had only appeared in at least two-thirds of the movie.

Speaking of other famous Bond girls, many seemed to have accepted the prevalent view of Ursula Andress (Honey Ryder) as the ”best Bond girl” within the franchise’s history. Why? Because of her screen entrance in ”DR. NO” – in which she appeared on the beach, wet and wearing a bikini? As I recall, Halle Berry had re-created this scene in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”. But most fans seem to dismiss it. Personally, I found neither versions – Andress or Berry’s – anything to get excited over. But at least Berry’s character had provided a significant addition to the story. I cannot say the same about Andress in ”DR. NO”. I have developed a little theory on how Bond girls are relevant to the story in which they appear. In order to be relevant, the leading lady requires any of the following:

*The Bond girl should have an emotional tie to the leading villain.
*The Bond girl should have an emotional tie to Bond.
*The Bond girl assists in helping Bond foil the villain’s plans.

Berry’s character, Jinx Johnson, did not adhere to the first two points. She had no emotional connection to the leading villain. Nor did she or Bond ever show any signs of being deeply attracted to one another (lust and professionalism seemed to be the hallmark of their relationship). However, Jinx did assist Bond in foiling Colonel Moon/Gustave Graves’ plans, while serving the interests of her own agency and country. The character of Honey Ryder, on the other hand, failed to meet any of the above requirements. She never had an emotional tie to either the main villain or Bond. Nor did she help Bond foil the villain’s plans. In the end, Honey proved to be irrelevant to the story of ”DR. NO”. The character’s claim to fame seemed to be centered around some cheesecake moment in a wet bikini. And personally, I find that rather shallow.

*Many attribute her bad dialogue in the movie to what they perceived as a bad performance.: Yes, Berry was unlucky to be saddled with some bad dialogue. So were Pierce Brosnan, Toby Stephens, Madonna and Pike. Yet, many fans tend to accuse Berry of being unable to handle it. Personally, I suspect that all of the actors had trouble handling Purvis and Wade’s bad dialogue. I do not care how skillful an actor or actress is, I have yet to see one performer deal effectively with bad dialogue.

*Speaking of dialogue – “Yo mama!”: Many Bond fans had complained about Berry’s use of this slice of African-American slang. Despite the fact that Berry is part African-American, these fans apparently believe that such a phrase has no place in a Bond film. Racism seemed to have reared its ugly head in this topic. If African-American slang is such a problem with many Bond fans, why are they willing to excuse the slang found in 1973’s ”LIVE AND LET DIE”? Perhaps they are willing to excuse it, due to the number of African-Americans in that particular movie and its settings in New York’s Harlem and New Orleans. Since Berry was portraying the only character of African-American descent in a movie not partially set in the United States, her use of ”Yo Mama!” was apparently not tolerated. I guess being surrounded by whites or non-African-Americans, Berry should have sounded white. Hypocrisy much?

Actually, on the MI-6 Forums, I have actually come across a few racist and sexist insults regarding Berry. And I have encountered several posts that wax lyrical over ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”’s other female star – Rosamund Pike. Most of the compliments surrounding Pike seemed to be centered on her British ancestry and race. Because of this and a recent high demand for white European women as Bond girls, I can only conclude that a good number of the hostility toward Berry has a lot to do with racism and nationalism.

I realize that I cannot order someone to like Halle Berry’s role as Jinx Johnson in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”. Nor can I order them to change any negative perceptions they may have of her as a Bond leading leady. However, as a member of several Bond forums, I do have the right to offer my own opinion of Berry’s performance. Just as I have the right to either agree or criticize those members’ opinions. Although I found Berry’s watery entrance in the movie unimpressive, I have yet to come across any argument that would convince me that she was an ineffective Bond girl, let alone the worst Bond girl in the franchise’s history.

“DIE ANOTHER DAY” (2002) Review

 

die-another-day-1352392168

 

“DIE ANOTHER DAY”  (2002) Review

The 2002 movie, ”DIE ANOTHER DAY” marked several milestones in the James Bond franchise. One, it was released during the 40th anniversary of the cinematic Bond, which began with 1962’s ”DR. NO”. Two, it was the first time that a non-white actress portrayed the leading lady in a Bond film. And three, it happened to be Pierce Brosnan’s last Bond film for EON Productions . . . at the moment. 

”DIE ANOTHER DAY” starts out with a mission in which Bond has to kill a North Korean army officer named Colonel Moon, who has been illegally selling military weaponry in exchange for African conflict diamonds. Betrayed by a MI-6 mole, Bond is swept up in a chase and shootout that results with Colonel Moon being killed by Bond before falling over a waterfall. In a departure from the usual Bond formula, the agent ends up captured Colonel Moon’s father and the North Korean military. He spends the next fourteen months being tortured for information. Disavowed by his superiors upon his release, and his status as Double-0 Agent suspended by M, Bond sets out to find the mole on his own. He eventually uncovers evidence that overtakes his personal vendetta, and M restores his Double-0 status and offers MI6 assistance to help him uncover what he has found. Bond’s search eventually leads to billionaire businessman Gustav Graves, who is actually Colonel Moon surgically altered via gene therapy. Graves/Moon has been collecting African conflict diamonds for an orbital mirror system that uses the diamonds as a source of solar energy for a small area to light the Arctic nights and, if the investment goes well with buyers, provide year-round sunshine for crop development. In truth, the orbital mirror system is actually a super weapon to be used to clear a path through the minefield in the demilitarized zone that separates North Korea from South Korea. Needless to say, Bond discovers the MI-6 mole who had betrayed him and with the help of American NSA agent, Jinx Johnson, destroys Graves/Moon’s weapon and the latter’s scheme.

Since the release of the latest Bond film, 2006’s ”CASINO ROYALE”, a harsh backlash against Brosnan’s tenure as James Bond and especially, DAD in particularly has grown considerably. In fact, DAD is now regarded as the worst Bond movie in the franchise’s history. Personally, I do not agree with this harsh assessment. I do not consider DAD to be a masterpiece or even among the better Bond films. But I certainly do not view it as the disaster that many are claiming it to be. I can honestly say that my assessment of DAD has improved slightly after my last viewing.

Pierce Brosnan had to wait three years after 1999’s ”THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” to portray James Bond for what turned out to be the last time (so far). I do not think I would consider his performance in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY” to be amongst his finest. Yes, he had some very good moments in the film that were featured in the following scenes:

-his confrontation with M aboard the British frigate in Hong Kong Harbor

-his last meeting with General Moon before being released and exchanged by the North Koreans

-his first meeting with Gustave Graves at the Blades Club

-and his discovery of Miranda Frost as the mole

But I did have problems with certain aspects of his performance – especially his second meeting with M inside one of the London Underground tunnels and some of the sexual innuendos that he was forced to spout. In fact, that second scene with M left me with an uncomfortable feeling that dramatic angst might not be Brosnan’s forte. And I find this ironic, given his superb peformance in an old 1980 TV miniseries called ”THE MANIONS OF AMERICA”. Perhaps he simply was not up to par during the days when he shot that particular scene.

EON Productions seemed to have better luck with the movie’s leading lady, Hollywood superstar, Halle Berry. Many fans felt it was improper for her to co-star in a Bond film – viewing her as a bigger star than Brosnan. I do not know if I agree with this assessment. Both Honor Blackman (”GOLDFINGER”) and Diana Rigg (”ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE”) were already well-known thanks to the successful TV series, ”THE AVENGERS” when they shot their respective Bond films. So, I cannot really see the harm in Berry following in their footsteps. She portrayed Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson, a NSA agent investigating the whereabouts of one of the villain’s henchmen, Zao. Her investigation leads to a sexy encounter with Bond in Cuba and eventually a showdown with Graves and Miranda Frost in Korea. Due to her current unpopularity with Bond fans, many of them view Berry as the worst Bond girl ever. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps in some way, she does not fit their image of what a Bond girl should be. Personally, I thought that Berry gave an excellent performance, despite some of the bad sexual innuendos that she was forced to spout. In fact, I really enjoyed Berry’s take on the competent, yet humorous and very sly Jinx. She made the character a fun person to know. And she performed her action sequences in a competent manner. Granted, I did not feel impressed by Berry’s “homage” to Ursula Andress’ watery entrance in ”DR. NO”. But I was never that impressed by Andress’ little moment, either. Although I would never list Berry among my top five Bond ladies, I would certainly list her in my top ten. Probably at number six.

British actor, Toby Stephens portrayed Gustav Graves, a billionaire with sinister ties to North Korean agent Zao, a DNA gene therapy machine and a supply of African conflict diamonds that provide energy to a new destructive weapon called ICARUS. Graves turns out to be the same Colonel Moon with whom Bond had clashed (and allegedly killed) in the movie’s pre-title sequence. Stephens had the double task of portraying a credible villain against Brosnan’s Bond and recapturing Will Yun Lee’s performance as Colonel Moon during Graves’ private moments. Personally, I felt that Stephens did a pretty good job. Not only did he managed to portray Gustav Graves’ overblown persona, he also succeeded in recapturing Lee’s portrayal of the scheming and arrogant Moon, who also longs for his father’s approval. Unfortunately, being sixteen years younger than Brosnan, there were times I felt that Stephens seemed too young to be considered as an equal adversary for Bond. And quite frankly, some of his dialogue seemed overblown . . . even when Moon was not doing his Gustav Graves’ impersonation.

MI-6 agent Miranda Frost turns out to be the mole who initially turns Bond’s life, upside-down by betraying his mission to Moon and the North Koreans. Rosamund Pike gives a subtle peformance as the treacherous Frost, who seemed to blow hot and cold toward the sexually interested Bond. Her performance, in fact, strongly reminds me of American actress Grace Kelly’s performance in the Hitchcock film, “TO CATCH A THIEF”. However, I did have problems with Pike’s love scenes with Brosnan. She seemed to come off as a little too breathless . . . and fake. Perhaps that breathless quality was meant to be an indication of Frost’s fake (or real?) ador for Bond. If so, I feel that Pike may have overplayed her scene a little bit. Sophie Marceau did a more subtle and superior job in “THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH”. And like Brosnan, Berry and Stephens, Pike had to endure spouting some bad dialogue. Rick Yune portrayed Zao, Graves/Moon’s right hand man, who is wanted for terrorist acts by the Americans and the Chinese. He is the very Zao who is exchanged by the Americans and the British for Bond at the North/South Korea border. Aside from his imposing presence, I did not find anything particularly unique about Yune’s performance. All I can say is that he did a competent job. On the other hand, I found myself being very impressed by Will Yun Lee’s performance as Gustav Graves’ alter ego, Colonel Moon. Like Toby Stephens, he did a beautiful job in capturing Moon’s arrogance, impatience and great need to impress “Daddy”. And speaking of Moon’s father – namely General Moon – it seemed a pity that the latter did not turn out to be Bond’s main adversary. Kenneth Tsang portrayed the North Korean general as an intimidating and intelligent man that no one would want to trifle with. Even Bond seemed to feel the presence of his forceful personality after a joke failed to make any impact. I must commend Tsang on an impressive performance.

Judi Dench returned as M in “DIE ANOTHER DAY”. By this time, she had made the role of MI-6’s director as her own. But I must say that I did not find anything unique about her performance in this movie. John Cleese went from Q’s assistant to the Quartermaster in his second appearance in the Bond franchise. And if I must be honest, I enjoyed Cleese’s performance very much. Unlike his role in TWINE, he did not ruin his character’s sharp wit with ridiculous slapstick. I realize that I am about to commit an act of sacrilege, but I found myself preferring Cleese’s Q to the one created by the role’s original actor, the late Desmond Llewellyn. Do not get me wrong. I thought that Llewellyn did a great job. But I simply preferred Cleese’s more acid take on the role. Colin Salmon returned as M’s assistant, Charles Robinson. I like the guy, but I barely noticed him in this movie. I did notice Michael Masden’s performance as Jinx’s NSA boss, Damian Falco. Who could help but notice? The Falco character came off as an aggressive blowhard. It seemed a shame that I found Masden’s performance appalling, considering his reputation for portraying his past characters with more subtlety. I can only assume that he was forced to adhere to the Bond franchise’s cliche of “the Ugly American”. And finally, there is Samantha Bond as Moneypenny. Poor woman. Poor, poor woman. I disliked her sexual innuendo-spewing performance in “TOMORROW NEVER DIES”. But I had to wince through that embarrassing sequence that featured Moneypenny’s holographic dream of being seduced by Bond. Personally, I feel that Ms. Bond managed to reach the nadir of her tenure as Moneypenny in that scene.

I think that it seemed fitting that “DIE ANOTHER DAY” marked the Bond franchise’s 40th anniversary. In many ways, the 2002 movie reminded me of its 40-year counterpart, 1962’s “DR. NO”. The older movie featured Sean Connery’s first performance as Bond. “DIE ANOTHER DAY” featured Brosnan’s last. Both movies featured the first appearance of the leading ladies, emerging from the water. Both featured Asian or part-Asian villains. And both seemed to be hampered by what I feel were schizophrenic plots and production styles.

Actually, that is the main problem I had with “DIE ANOTHER DAY”. Like “DR. NO”, its story was presented in a manner in which the first half seemed more like a spy thriller and the second half, a fantasy adventure reminscent of Bond movies like “GOLDFINGER”“YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE”“THE SPY WHO LOVED ME” and “MOONRAKER”. And instead of the two styles blending seemlessly into a solid movie, “DAD” nearly became a schizophrenic mess. I enjoyed the first half very much. Bond’s capture by the North Koreans, his and Zao’s exchange and the search for the MI-6 mole who had betrayed him felt like a genuine spy thriller . . . well, except for that ludicrous moment in which Bond appeared in the lobby of a Hong Kong hotel. Unfortunately, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade really screwed up the movie’s second half in two ways – they had Q present Bond with that invisible Aston-Martin, which still makes me wince; and they sent him to Iceland and that ridiculous ice hotel. Even worse, they subjected fans to that ludicrous ice duel between Bond (in the Aston-Martin) and Zao (in a Jaguar XKR). The second half also featured the uninspiring fight between Bond and Graves/Moon aboard a military transport over Korea. The only scenes that truly made the movie’s second half worthwhile were the tense scene that featured Miranda Frost’s revelation as the mole and her deadly fight with Jinx aboard the transport.

Lee Tamahori (“MULLHOLAND FALLS” and “ALONG CAME A SPIDER”) directed “DIE ANOTHER DAY”. I thought that his direction was not that bad. But I suspect that he may have been hampered by Purvis and Wade’s schizophrenic script – especially the movie’s second half. Speaking of the script, I think I may have already said a lot about it. On second thought, perhaps not. For example . . . the dialogue. Yes, the movie had a some good lines. But like “DR. NO”, it pretty much sucked. To be more specific, the dialogue containing sexual innuendos pretty much sucked. But that seemed to be the case in most of Brosnan’s 007 films. If “TND” seemed annoyingly peppered with bad innuendos, “DAD” seemed to choke on them. I truly felt sorry for Brosnan, Berry and Pike who had to spew them every now and then. Cinematographer David Tattersall had beautifully captured the exotic color of Cuba and London’s elegance. But that is as far as my admiration can go. I simply could not drum up any excitement over the Korea and Iceland sequences. Madonna sang the movie’s title song (penned by Madonna and Mirwais Ahmadzar) and made a cameo appearance as a fencing master named Verity. Many fans raised a fuss over her contributions to the movie. Frankly, I found their fuss a waste of time and Madonna’s contributions – both the song and the cameo – rather mediocre.

On the whole, I disagree with the prevailing view that “DIE ANOTHER DAY” was the Bond franchise’s worst movie or one of the worst. Frankly, I have seen worse Bond films. In fact, I have a slightly better view of “DAD”than I do of the movie it was supposed to be celebrating – namely “DR. NO”. But it seemed a shame that Brosnan’s last Bond film had to be one of sheer mediocrity.

5/10

“THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” (1999) Review

“THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” (1999) Review

I must admit that when I first saw “THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” in the theaters a little over seven years ago, I was not impressed. Well, to be honest, I did not like the movie at all. But after my recent viewing, I could not help but wonder if I had allowed my mild dislike of the previous Bond entry, “TOMORROW NEVER DIES” to spill over in my view of the Bond franchise’s 19th entry. 

Although the movie’s title comes from the Bond family’s motto, first revealed in the 1969 movie, “ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE”, its story started with the murder of a British oil tycoon and old friend of M’s named Sir Robert King, inside MI-6’s London headquarters. Bond traced the assassination to an anarchist terrorist named Renard, who had once kidnapped Sir Robert’s daughter, Elektra King. Fearing that Renard wants revenge for his failure at profiting from Elektra’s kidnapping, M assigned Bond to act as her new bodyguard in Uzbekistan. To make a long story short, Bond and Elektra formed a romantic relationship . . . before he learned that she had been behind her father’s murder and MI-6’s humiliation. Elektra was also behind Renard’s theft of a quantity of weapons-grade plutonium from a former Russian ICBM base in Kazakhstan. After using some of the plutonium to blow up part of the King pipeline in order to avoid suspicion, Elektra and Renard planned to introduce the remaining plutonium to a stolen Russian submarine’s nuclear reactor in order that it will overload and cause a nuclear meltdown in the Bosporus at Istanbul. Not only will this kill countless thousands of people, but also contaminate the Bosporus for decades. The effect would prevent shipment of Caspian Sea petroleum through any existing route, because all Caspian region pipelines terminate at the Black Sea, requiring that tankers go through the Bosporus; the only alternative would be the King pipeline. Disguising himself as a nuclear physicist, Bond sneaked his way onto the base to stop Renard and ended up escaping from near death, along with an American nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones, played by Denise Richards. Even worse, Elektra lured M to Uzbekistan and kidnapped the latter to be destroyed with the rest of Istanbul’s citizens. With the help of Dr. Jones and former KGB-turned-entrepreneur Valentin Zukovsky, Bond managed to save the Bosporus region and M and kill both Elektra and Renard in the process.

In 1998, Pierce Brosnan won a Saturn Award for his performance as Bond in “TOMORROW NEVER DIES”. But after seeing his performance in “THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH”, I have come to the conclusion that he had won his award for the wrong movie. Unlike “TOMORROW NEVER DIES”, in which Brosnan’s performance seemed mixed, “THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH”’s script allowed the Irish-born actor to portray a more human Bond, who finds his façade almost stripped away and his emotions exposed by his interactions with the manipulative Elektra King – a process that seemed to have began with the death of Elektra’s father at MI-6 Headquarters. One of Brosnan’s best acting moments occurred during a scene at Zukovsky’s casino, where Elektra “unnecessarily” loses a million dollars to the former KGB operative. Brosnan managed to convey Bond’s concern, confusion and sparking suspicion about the late oil magnate’s daughter, all in one swoop. Great acting on his part.

Fortunately for Brosnan, he was supported by a strong cast – especially by Sophie Marceau, who portrayed the enigmatic Elekra and Robert Caryle as the ruthless yet passionate terrorist, Renard. Marceau was especially impressive as the former kidnap victim-turned-villainess, whose complex and manipulative personality seemed to have kept everyone – Bond included – in a state of flux. Carlyle came off as surprisingly sympathetic as the love-struck Renard. Most Bond fans would flinch at the idea of a Bond villain like Renard, but after the stream of cold-blooded opportunists and megalomaniacs, Renard almost came as a relief. Unfortunately, all not were wine and roses in Marceau and Carlyle’s performances. Carlyle’s repeated line about how Bond or anyone else ”cannot kill him because he was already dead” threatened to turn his role into a cliché. Personally, I never could care less about his injury. If he could still die from a bullet in the heart, he was not impregnable, as far as I was concerned. As for Marceau, it saddened me that her exemplary performance ended on such a bad note for me. If Connery’s Bond in “GOLDFINGER” had struck me as the ”dark side of masculinity”, then Elektra King’s insistence that Bond or no other man can resist her struck me as the ”dark side of femininity”. To be frank, the villainous Elektra in her last moments got . . . on . . . my . . . last . . . nerve. So much so that I found myself sighing with relief when Bond finally killed her.

And then there was Denise Richards as the American nuclear physicist, Dr. Christmas Jones. I realize that I might be castigated for saying this, but I honestly found nothing to criticize about Richards’ performance. I will not insult anyone’s intelligence by stating that she was just as good as Marceau and Caryle. Of course she was not as good. At best, Richards is a competent, though uninspiring actress. But she did portrayed Dr. Jones (no Indy jokes, please) as an intelligent and observant woman. She handled the techno babble quite well. Nor did she seem slightly wooden like Lois Chiles in “MOONRAKER” or Barbara Bach in “THE SPY WHO LOVED ME”. I think that many fans and critics had simply took a look at Richard’s face, age (she was 26 or 27 when she shot the movie) and boobs and decided that she was unfit to portray a young nuclear physicist. It was nice to see Robbie Coltrane as the former KGB agent, Valentin Zukovsky, again. Although he was just as funny as he was in “GOLDENEYE”, I must admit that he seemed a bit more imposing in the 1995 film. In “THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH”, there were times he seemed to be in danger of being viewed as a bit of a joke . . . until his final scene.

Judi Dench gave her second best performance as M (her first would be seven years later in “CASINO ROYALE”) in “THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH”. In this particular outing, she becomes emotionally handicapped by the death of her friend, Sir Robert. This allows Elektra to take advantage of the MI-6 chief – who had advised Sir Robert not to pay the ransom for Elektra’s kidnapping – and seek revenge. One of the highlights of Dench’s performance was watching her express . . . and suppress M’s guilt, when Bond exposes the debacle over Elektra’s kidnapping. Other cast members such as Michael Kitchen, Colin Salmon and Samantha Bond do their usual routine. “THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” marked Desmond Llewellyn’s last appearance as MI-6’s armourer – Q and John Cleese’s first appearance as his future replacement. Although the sight of Llewellyn in the movie tugged the heartstrings a bit (considering his death in a traffic accident about a month following the movie’s original release), I cannot say there was anything memorable about his performance. Cleese, on the other hand, was his usual biting self, although I could have done without his clumsy antics.

“THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” not only boasted pretty good acting by the cast, it also possessed an interesting script that maintained its quality . . . until the finale. The story started out fine with Sir Robert King’s mysterious murder, followed by the increasingly complex triangle established between Bond, Elektra and Renard. But once Renard had sabotaged one of the King pipelines and Elektra kidnapped M, the movie sank into a typical Bond movie that ended with a wet and tiresome showdown between Bond and Renard inside the stolen Russian sub. Aside from its cast, one of “THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH”’s strengths were the movie’s dramatic scenes – including Bond’s accusations regarding M’s participation in Elektra’s kidnapping, Elektra’s loss at the gaming table, Christmas’ exposure of Bond at the ICMG base, Bond accusing Elektra of being Renard’s ally and Renard’s jealousy over Elektra’s relationship with Bond. Ironically, I cannot say the same about the movie’s action sequences. One or two were pretty good – the opening sequence (which I admit seemed a bit too long), and Bond and Christmas’ escape from the ICMG base, and their escape from one of the King pipelines. But the ski chase, the confrontation at Zukovsky’s caviar facility and Bond’s showdowns with both Elektra and Renard simply did not move me. And the finale inside the Russian sub simply struck me as tedious.

If there is one major weakness that “THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” did suffer, it was the movie’s locations. Quite simply, they were uninspiring. It seemed sad that the movie’s most exotic looking location happened to be London, along the Thames River. It seemed even sadder that this took place in the movie’s pre-title sequence. As for the movie’s theme song by Garbage . . . well, it was not the best Bond song I have ever heard. In fact, I did not even like it when the movie was first released. But for some odd reason, the song has grown on me, and now it is a personal favorite of mine.

But despite uninspiring locations and action sequences, “THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” can still boast enough strengths that allowed director Michael Apted to provide a pretty good Bond movie . . . good enough to be considered Brosnan’s second-best. And a recent viewing has allowed me to realize that it was better than I had originally surmised.

Memorable Lines

“One tires of being executed.” – Renard

Zukovsky: I’m looking for a submarine. It’s big and black, and the driver is a very good friend of mine. [sees captain hat] Bring it to me!
Elektra: [takes hat] What a shame, he’s just gone. [Shoots Zukovsky]

Lachaise: So good of you to come see me, Mr Bond, particularly on such short notice.
Bond: If you can’t trust a Swiss banker, then what’s the world come to?

[Bull is shocked to see Zukovsky survived the explosion at the safehouse]
Bull: Boss? You’re alive! I’m so glad to see you!
Zukovsky: Me to! [Shoots Bull]

Christmas: The world’s greatest terrorist running around with six kilos of weapons-grade plutonium can’t be good. I gotta get it back, or someone’s gonna have my ass.
Bond: First things first.

Bond: What’s your business with Elektra King?
Zukovsky: I though you were the one giving her the business.

Elektra: I could have given you the world.
Bond: The world is not enough.
Elektra: Foolish sentiment.
Bond: Family motto.

[after Q introduces Bond to his successor]
Bond: If you’re Q, does that make him R?
R: Ah yes, the legendary 007 wit, or at least half of it.

Christmas: Wait a minute. Are you going to do what I think you’re going to do?
Bond: What do I need to defuse a nuclear bomb?
Christmas: Me.

Bond: Construction isn’t exactly my speciality.
M: Quite the opposite, in fact.

“You wanna put that in English for those of us who don’t speak Spy?” – Christmas Jones

“Oh, look. We have no roof, but at least we have four good walls.”
[the factory falls apart] “The insurance company is NEVER going to believe this.” – Zukovsky

Bond: I’ve always wanted to have Christmas in Turkey.
Christmas: Was that a Christmas joke?
Bond: From me? Never.

“Can’t you just say “hello” like a normal person?” – Zukovsky

Zukovsky: [to Bull] You! Where have you been, you gold encrusted buffoon?
Bull: Sorry, boss, I must have bumped my head.
Zukovsky: Oh, really? Get me out of here. I’ll show you what a bumped head feels like.

Q: I’ve always tried to teach you two things. First, never let them see you bleed.
Bond: And the second?
Q: Always have an escape plan.

“Revenge is not hard to fathom for a man who believes in nothing.” – Bond

Bond: What business do you have with Elektra King?
Zukovsky: I thought it was *you* who was giving her the business.

Moneypenny: James! Have you brought me a souvenir from your trip? Chocolates? An engagement ring?
Bond: I thought you might enjoy one of these. [gives Ms. Moneypenny a cigar tube]
Moneypenny: How romantic. I know exactly where to put that. [throws the cigar tube in the garbage]
Bond: Oh Moneypenny, the story of our relationship: close, but no cigar.

[Zukovsky enters his office, sees Christmas Jones] “How did you get in here? I’m going to call Security… and congratulate them.” – Zukovsky

Bond: …A shadow operation?
M: …Remember 007, shadows always remain in front or behind… never on top.

Bond: Where’s M?
Elektra: Soon she’ll be everywhere.

“TOMORROW NEVER DIES” (1997) Review

I just recently watched Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as James Bond in this 1997 movie that co-stars Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce and Teri Hatcher.

“TOMORROW NEVER DIES” (1997) Review

I wish I could say that my opinion of the movie has improved over the years . . . but I would be lying. Mind you, TOMORROW NEVER DIES did have some highlights, but unfortunately, it possessed more negative traits than positive ones. I think it would be best if I list both the good and the bad about this movie:

Positive

*Michelle Yeoh

*Bond’s romantic scene with Danish linguist was rather sexy

*Foreign locations – Hamburg and Thailand (as Vietnam) never looked lovelier

*Bond and Wai-Lin’s escape from Caver building in Vietnam – great stunt
*Motorcycle chase – well done

*Pierce Brosnan – seemed natural . . . when he was acting in scenes with Yeoh

*Vincent Shirerpelli as Dr. Hamburg – oddly enough, I had rather liked him. He was a lot more interesting than Mr. Stamper. And his death was even more interesting, as well.

*Mr. Gupta – seemed like a pretty sharp and cool guy.

Negative

*Pierce Brosnan – his angsty scenes with Teri Hatcher seemed stiff and unnatural. And his voice tend to sound odd, when he’s giving the impression of supressing his emotions. Why did the director, Roger Spottiswode, have him shooting machine guns two at a time during the final confrontation on Carver’s boat? He looked like a walking action movie cliché.

*Jonathan Pryce – one of the most overbearing and annoying villains in the Bond franchise. Only Sophie Marceau in the latter half of THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH surpassed him.

*Plot – Is it just me or is the plot of this Bond movie seemed like an extended rip-off of a LOIS AND CLARK episode from its first season? Perhaps learning of Teri Hatcher’s casting must have given the screenwriters the idea.

*Moneypenny’s Little Sexual Joke – why is it that nearly every sentence directed by Moneypenny to Bond sounded like some kind of sly sexual joke? It got very annoying.

*Bond and Q’s Meeting in Hamburg – All Q was doing was handing over a car to Bond, and the director turned it into a hammy production number. What a bore and a waste of time!

*Mr. Stamper – a second-rate version of Red Grant. Where are Robert Shaw or Andreas Wisnewski when you need them?

*Car Chase Inside Hamburg Parking Structure – Bond uses a remote control . . . ah, never mind! The whole scene was a bore. Even worse, it happened after the marvelous Bond/Kaufman scene. What a waste of my time.

*Final Confrontation on Carver’s boat – Despite all of the gunfire exchanged and the other action, I found it to be too long . . . and boring.

*Wade – I did not need to see him again. Joe Don Baker was wasted in this film.

*Bond’s Cover as a Banker – I am beginning to suspect that Bond makes a lousy undercover agent. By opening his mouth and hinting at Carver’s boat, he ended up exposing himself. What an idiot!

*Teri Hatcher – She was wasted in this film. And she and Brosnan do not do emotional angst together, very well.

Also, TOMORROW NEVER DIES did managed to produce a few favorite lines of mine:

Favorite Lines

“Believe me, Mr. Bond. I can shoot you from Stugartt and still create the proper effect.” – Dr. Kaufman to Bond

BOND: “You were pretty good with that hook.”
WAI-LIN: “That’s from growing up in a rough neighborhood. You were pretty good on the bike.”
BOND: “Well, that comes from not growing up at all.”

“No more absurd than starting a war for ratings.” – Bond to Carver

KAUFMAN: “Wait! I am just a professional doing a job!”
BOND: “So am I.” (Then kills Kaufman)

Despite some of its virtues, TOMORROW NEVER DIES is not a favorite movie of mine. In fact, it is my least favorite Brosnan movie. It is more or less a generic burdened by an unoriginal plot and one of the hammiest villains in the franchise’s history.

“PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: The Lightning Thief” (2010) Review

“PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: The Lightning Thief” (2010) Review

Last winter, I discovered there was another literary children’s fantasy franchise other than ”HARRY POTTER” that became a best seller. Well, I am certain there are more than two of these franchises that I am not aware of. But I certainly became aware of the PERCY JACKSON franchise when I saw the trailer for ”PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: The Lightning Thief”.

The ”PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS” series had been created by a best-selling mystery writer named Rick Riordan. The novels centered around a New York City boy named Percy Jackson who discovered he was a demigod – the offspring of a mortal woman named Sally Jackson and the Greek god Poseidon. He also discovered that his best friend, a physically disabled young man named Grover Underwood was really a satyr assigned to be his protector.

This particular movie is an adaptation of the series’ first novel, ”The Lightning Thief”. Following the discovery of his true identity, a fury disguised as a substitute teacher attacked him during a field trip, while accusing him of stealing the powerful lightning bolt that belonged to his uncle – Zeus, the ruler of Mount Olympus and god of the sky and thunder. He also discovered that one of his other teachers – Mr. Brunner, was the centaur, Chiron at a place for demigods called Camp Half-Blood. His other uncle, Hades, informed Percy that he has his mother in captivity, and is willing to exchange her for Zeus’ lightning bolt. He also learned that he has two weeks to return the lightning bolt or a war will commence between Zeus and his father Poseidon – a war that might have negative repercussions on the mortal world. In the hopes that Hades can convince Zeus of his innocence of the theft, Percy sets out to find to find an entrance to the Underworld, along with three pearls that can help him make a quick exit from that domain. Grover and the demigod daughter of Athena named Annabeth Chase accompany him.

I did not harbor any high expectations before I saw ”PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS”. As I had stated earlier, I have never read any of Riordan’s novels. And considering it had been released during the pre-summer season, I did not expect to enjoy it very much. And yet . . . I did. Much to my surprise. I found the story to be an engaging and entertaining story filled with family drama, humor, actor and dazzling special effects. More importantly – at least for me – the movie’s running time seemed perfect. Not too short and not too long. I also enjoyed the three main characters’ encounters with a variety of characters from Greek mythology during their journey that included a Mintaur, Medusa, and the Lotus Eaters. Most importantly, Percy’s quest to find entry to the Underworld and the three pearls resulted in a travelogue that took the heroes from Manhattan to Los Angeles, via New Jersey, Nashville and Las Vegas. And I just love road trips in movies.

”PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS” does not have the same quality of special effects that had enhanced theHARRY POTTER films. Why did I mention HARRY POTTER? Well, the director of this movie, Chris Columbus, had also directed the first two HARRY POTTER films. And yet, PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS had a slightly more mature style. I suppose that was due to its main characters being four or five years older than the three mainHARRY POTTER characters in their early films. I understand that the Percy Jackson character was younger in the literary version of ”The Lightning Thief”. Since I have never read the novel . . . or intend to, I do not care.

The cast of ”PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS” struck me as pretty solid. Columbus did a good job in steering the actors through the movie. And Logan Lerman, who portrayed Percy, turned out to be better than I had expected. But aside from four performances, I found nothing exceptional about the cast. Who are these four exceptional performers? One of them turned out to be Uma Thurman, who gave a deliciously wicked performance as Medusa, the gorgon who used her eyes to turn humans and other beings into stone for her garden collection. I also enjoyed Steve Coogan’s rather wild and sexy take on the god, Hades. And I must say that I found him surprisingly sexy. And Rosario Dawson also gave a sexy performance as Persephone, the parthenogenic woman who became Hades’ bored and put upon consort in the Underworld. In fact, one of her sexiest moments occurred when she flirted with a very interested Grover. Speaking of Grover, Brandon T. Jackson gave a hilarious performance as the satyr who happened to be Percy’s best friend. I found him brave, resourceful, witty and an absolute hoot.

”PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS” was not the best fantasy film I have ever seen. In some ways, it came off as a poor man’s HARRY POTTER. This is especially apparent in the film’s depiction of Camp Half-Blood, the training camp located off Long Island for children with a Greek god as a parent. It looked so half-assed that I could only shake my head in disbelief. And its production values were certainly not of the same quality as any of the POTTER films or many others I can recall. But I found the movie enjoyable to watch and would have no qualms about seeing it again.