The Mummy Returns
|Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vasloo
Directed by Stephen Sommers
|There are a lot of much anticipated films this
summer: Pearl Harbor, Jurassic
Park 3, A.I., just to
name a few (and let's not even get into the fall, where Rings
will be debuting) but The Mummy Returns was high on my own
personal list of must-see flics.
The first was a big surprise, not the least to Universal, who
rolled it out with all the fanfare of a Ivory film (in other words:
none). The studio didn't quite know what they had, and
released it early in the summer with the intention of getting it out
of the way quickly for their other, bigger budget, blockbusters to
come (and does anyone remember the names of those?)
It succeeded because it was fun: Brendan was handsome,
swashbuckling, and knew how to deliver a wry comment with the best
of them, Rachel was beautiful as every heroine should be, and Arnold
(no, not that Arnold) was an amazingly charismatic baddie
that gave the hero all he could handle. Throw in some of the
best special effects of that year and you had a runaway smash worth
seeing again and again. After the huge success of the first
Universal learned its lesson, trumpeting this sequel and hoping to
repeat the same box office. That they will do so doesn't mean
this is as good a film: however, in this case it just happens to be
All the regulars are back, and if anything they are even better
handled than the first. Brendan is about the same (which is to
say, very good) but I was particularly impressed by how much more
they gave the lovely Ms. Weisz and the handsome Oded Fehr (he plays
the Magi captain) to do. And Mr. Vasloo -- he's got the screen
presence of Yul Brynner in his prime (and should be given a movie of
Forget what you hear from the critics who have apparently
forgotten what a popcorn movie should be: Roger Ebert, for one, says
"there's too much action" in this film. Geeze, I
guess there are too many laughs in Duck Soup, and far too
much suspense in Psycho. Give me a break.
There will be obvious comparisons to the Indiana Jones features:
most critics see Brendan as a low budget Harrison Ford. But
they're equally wrong -- this isn't low-cal Indy, it's Indy for the
There's just as much excitement as any Jones release and, if
there perhaps isn't quite the same panache, the special effects more
than make up for it. For once we have a movie where special
effects are not only important to the plot, they are the
plot. But why is this a bad thing? There's nothing wrong
with our hero having to conquer things which aren't living and
breathing -- does anyone think that Jaws would be the same
without the mechanical shark? Take away the hordes of bugs,
pygmy mummies and minions of the Egyptian gods and you have taken
the heart of this film.
And it does have heart -- watch the eyes of Imhotep (Mr. Vasloo,
the Mummy himself) at the end and tell me there isn't genuine
emotion. Heck, you may even shed a tear or two and feel sorry
for him. I don't remember having any such emotions during any
of the Spielberg action efforts.
Okay, so this is essentially the same movie made over with bigger
(and better) special effects so special we need a new term
(Extra-special effects?). But the riffs they play on the first
are actually quite amusing. Not only that, but all the good
guys are very good, the bad guys are bad indeed, and you leave the
theater wanting to return again and ride the coaster one more
time. And that, my friend, is what popcorn movies are all
|Worth Seeing? Unless you're as old in spirit
as Ebert, more than once.
Bridget Jones' Diary
|Starring: Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth
Directed by Sharon Maguire
|There are certain conventions we accept when we watch
movies. One of them is that, in action films, our heroes have
almost unlimited stamina, and never have to go to the
bathroom. Another is that very beautiful people, witty, smart
and funny, can somehow have trouble finding a date on Saturday
Part of that's because we enjoy watching attractive people in our
romantic comedies (although in our dramas we seem to accept more
ordinary looking people). In Real Life it's unlikely that
someone like Ashley Judd (in last week's Someone Like You)
would ever really have trouble getting almost any man she
wanted. But we go along with the game for the sake of the
Bridget Jones' Diary wants to take a different approach,
to say that someone who isn't particularly one of the Beautiful
People could still find happiness (although not without trial and
tribulations). It will almost surely appeal to the ugly
duckling teenagers out there (to whom the book on which it's based
have made very popular indeed), who have yet to outgrow their acne
and find themselves. But that's about where its appeal ends.
Bridget (Renee Zellweger, looking rather plain and overweight)
really wants someone to love her for herself. As do we
all. The basic screenplay problem is that Bridget isn't
very lovable, on any level. She drinks, smokes and swears too
much, talks too much, and what she says isn't particularly worth
hearing. Most of all, she doesn't show us any particular
redeeming quality of kindness or caring, for example -- we as the
audience are asked to identify with someone that isn't appealing in
any sense of the word.
But it's worse than that -- Bridget also isn't quite the sad sack
she might be (think Georgy Girl). After all, she can
attract both Hugh Grant (her playboy boss) and Colin Firth (the
brooding and darkly handsome Barrister with a secret). She
isn't exactly lacking for male companionship.
So we can't feel sorry for her, nor like her enough to root for
her. Which kind of leaves us into watching the formula play
out. And play out it does, right down to the last
"T": if this movie is one thing, it's predictable.
I like Colin's work here -- he's the same silent scowling figure
he played in Shakespeare in Love, but he is given some
opportunities to smile and show he's a Nice Guy. I'd like to
see him in another, better, love story, where he can win someone
worth winning. Hugh Grant has said to the press that he's
about ready to give up acting in movies, and he delivers ample
evidence here that we wouldn't miss him. For someone who had
showed so much promise early in his career, it's quite sad to watch
his stereotypical performance here.
Worse of all, this picture isn't very funny. Nearly all the
humor here revolves around women spouting four-letter words, which
is the kind of humor a 16 year old girl probably finds naughty and
daring, but for the rest of us with cable it's pretty tired
stuff. A romantic comedy with neither romance nor comedy isn't
exactly something you can recommend to your friends.
Coincidence or not, the theme song at the end is "Someone Like
You." I'd suggest you see that movie instead.
|Worth Seeing? No, and her original diary
probably isn't worth reading, either.
Someone Like You
|Starring: Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear, Hugh Jackman
Directed by Tony Goldwyn
|In spring a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of
love and an old man's turns to... chick flicks?
But while the last Judd film I saw (the rather dismal and
surprising dull Kiss the Girls) didn't exactly fill me with
admiration for Ms. Judd, this film turns out to be a surprise.
She is, by turns, witty, charming, lovable and touching. She
even outcutes Meg Ryan, which is a kind of distinction worth
achieving nowadays given Meg's fall from grace as Everyone's
The plot of the movie is rather lightweight, even by the
standards these things are measured: Ashley's Jane is unlucky in
love, but refuses to believe it's her problem, seeking some greater
truth when it comes to Men V. Women. Kinnear is the Man Who
Done Her Wrong, and the handsome Jackman (from X-Men fame)
completes the triangle as a "slut" who makes no bones nor
has any pretensions about it.
Gal pal Marisa Tomei and boss Ellen Barkin complete the cast and
while Ellen is rather wasted in her role, Marisa shows she still has
the chops. Her scenes with Ashley are among the movie's
There are enough funny lines to provide a decent amount of
laughs, and even a scene or two that will have you reaching for your
hankie, but by far the show here is the delightful Ms. Judd, who has
never given me even the slightest inkling she had this much
charisma. Whenever the camera is on her face (which is most of
the time) the whole theater seems to light up. Like Meg (and
the other adorable charmer of years past, Audrey Hepburn) she isn't
exactly beautiful but pretty beyond belief.
Women will enjoy the digs at men and have the muscled Jackman
(who surely must be the offspring of some cloning experiment
involving Cliff Robertson and Mel Gibson) to look at. But the
guys who are dragged along for the ride will find it a very pleasant
|Worth Seeing? Even if you're a hostage in the
war between the sexes.
Enemy at the Gates
|Starring: Jude Law, Joseph Finnes, Rachel Weisz, Ed
Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud
|One thing this movie is not: it is not "Saving
Private Ryan meets High Noon" (as one critic put it
and as the TV trailers proudly display). That's a disservice
to all three films -- this film has very little to do with the
American realities of war (like Ryan) nor does it have to do
with the kind of moral courage in the face of complete abandonment
Gary Cooper had to come to grips with as Marshal Kane
What Enemy does deal with, and very well indeed, is a side
of history we here in the U.S. are seldom exposed to. Of all
the thousands of movies made about WWII, I can't think of another
one that showed the Russian front, particularly in such detail.
The Russians were fighting for their homeland and (in the
campaign this movie concentrates on) their city emblematic of Mother
Russia, Stalingrad. In that respect, this movie shares
more in common with The Patriot than it does with Ryan.
But the conditions faced by Mel Gibson in that movie were a walk in
the park compared to what greets our young protagonist, Vassily
Zaitsev (ably played by Jude Law) when he first arrives on the
How he and the people around him deal with the situation makes
both a riveting and very moving story. It is particularly
thrilling and touching when you consider there really was a Vassily
Zaitsev, and much of the story told here is true, although we must
take the love triangle with a large dose of screenwriter salt.
I wouldn't do without that love interest, however. Rachel
Weisz, best known for her role as the female lead in The Mummy (and
set to reprise it in a few months) is absolutely luminous.
Joseph Finnes (the third leg of the triangle and best known as the
title character of Shakespeare in Love) is very
believable as a man who needs to decide if people or ideology is
more important. The story of love told here amidst the horror
of war is as good as it is ever done. That story, and the
story of the spirit of the Russian people, will appeal even to those
who didn't like Ryan.
But don't get the wrong idea -- while the love story plays a much
greater role than you'd be lead to believe from the ads, the central
duel between Vassily and his German counterpart (played to
perfection by Ed Harris) makes up the majority of the film. It
is very well done, although I have to admit it comes to grow just
slightly tedious over the many indecisive encounters. But the
conclusion is satisfying on all fronts (rumor has it that the ending
was reworked when test audiences complained about a too depressing
resolution -- I think it now works just fine, and doesn't cheat by
making war any more palatable).
The performances are uniformly terrific, with special mention
going to the supporting cast of Bob Hopkins (as a young Khrushchev)
and Ron Perlman as a comrade in arms. And James Horner's
wonderful John-Barryish score helps proceedings quite a bit as
well. Love, the nature of heroism, the Russian spirit,
sacrifice and honor all told amid a backdrop of history may have you
reaching for a book for further details.
|Worth Seeing? Even if war is good for
|Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary
Directed by Ridley Scott
|It gives nothing away to tell you that early in the
movie the mutilated billionaire victim of Hannibal (played by an
uncredited, until the end, Gary Oldman) in explaining how the good
doctor got him to scrape away most of his own face and feed it to
his dog, says "It seemed like a good idea at the
time." In hindsight, it turned out not to be.
Unfortunately, that kind of sums up the movie itself.
Taking a wildly popular, critically acclaimed movie (which
accomplished the difficult feat of winning all five of the major
Academy award categories) and making a sequel was probably a
no-brainer. "Ah, we get the good doctor back, we continue
the story of the relationship between him and Clarice Starling, the
female FBI agent that captured everyone's imagination. With
Sir Anthony and Jodie, how can we lose?"
Well, there's many a slip between the cup and the lip, and in the
ten years it took to get this sequel together a lot of slips took
place. The book sequel had to be written, and by the time that
happened Miss Foster was no longer nearly as interested in repeating
her Oscar winning performance. Original director Jonathan
Demme was disgusted by the book and passed on the sequel, and all
they were left with was Anthony Hopkins. But still, having the
former Knight and Oscar winner didn't seem like such a bad deal,
particularly when a director the caliber of Ridley Scott signed on
(just nobody point out that his last good film was a decade earlier,
the same year Silence made such a hit).
Let's make two things clear: this movie is not filled with
terrible images that will have you running from the theater, as one
critic said (this critic wrote that Hannibal was "the first
movie I ever had to walk out on, as I literally couldn't stomach
it." Obviously he had never reviewed a Pauly Shore
film.) There is much less blood and guts in this film than
director Ridley Scott's previous effort (Gladiator).
Oh, there is the infamous (and I won't spoil anything here) scene at
the end. Either you can laugh at it (as I did and as
apparently Scott and Hopkins intended) or you can be disgusted and
revolted, but even if you choose the latter course you won't be
mocked, for Scott has wisely included a very strong character in
that scene who will represent your viewpoint with courage and
Secondly, this movie is not Silence of the Lambs II.
It's not a very exciting film, with none of the pacing of the first
one. It doesn't involve police work (as investigations go, it
features some of the most inept bungling since Get Smart) and
there are no damsels in distress. Indeed, no character is any
jeopardy that isn't of his or her own doing.
And that is the crux of the problem. The movie is called Hannibal
for good reason -- it's the Doctor's story. But he isn't
exactly someone you can root for, not even in a kind of Dr. Phibes
campy sort of way. I did laugh at all the appropriate places
-- Dr. Lecter is still one of the most droll villains this side of
the Simpson's Mr. Burns -- but aside from the one rather fast moving
climatic scene I was mostly bored.
It isn't due to the acting. Hopkins is his usual brilliant
self, and Julianne Moore absolutely makes you forget Jodie Foster's
Clarice. All the supporting cast is equally good, with an
especial nod to Oldman's makeup laden Mason Verger, who steals
scenes from Hopkins (which is saying something).
Even the first Lecter film, Manhunter (starring a virtual
unknown as the bad doctor) is more fun than Hannibal.
If you have nothing better to do this film isn't a bad way to pass
several hours. But it's not going to win any Oscars.
|Worth Seeing? Only if Blockbuster is out of Manhunter.
|Starring: Sean Connery, Robert Brown, F. Murray
Directed by Gus Van Sant
|Once upon a time a young author wrote his first
novel, a brilliant novel, that might very well be considered the
"Great American Novel." The author received fame and
fortune, but decided not to write another, and shunned the world,
becoming a recluse for many decades. He continued to write, but only
for himself. After a while, people hardly remembered if he was dead
That author, of course, is J.D. Salinger, and the novel is Catcher
in the Rye, a true American classic, and Finding Forrester
is a thinly disguised fiction about what might have happened if Mr.
Salinger (here, William Forrester) had met a promising young black
writer (Robert Brown as Jamal Wallace) who needed the kind of
guidance that would open up doors for them both.
It's a sweet conceit, exactly the kind of premise a 16 year old such
as Jamal would have come up with. Trite, yes, (and that is the one
problem with the film) but it luckily avoids dwelling on the
inadequacies of the script just when you think it will descend into
treacle. About the only time it really stumbles into predictability
and TV sitcom resolution is during the climax. This is a film,
however, that understands its limitations. It cleverly cuts away
during the reading of a significant passage -- it's as if the
screenwriter was saying "Okay, I'm no JD Salinger (or even
William Forrester) but at least I have the sense to know that."
I could have done without the basketball subplot -- it's not
necessary and perpetuates stereotypes -- but overall the film is
good natured and filled with very nice exchanges between the two
leads. Sean is handsome and magnetic as ever, and Mr. Brown manages
to hold his own in nearly every scene. If it encourages just one
more young person to pick up a book (preferably Catcher) then
it will have done its job.
|Worth Seeing? Yes, but not for the writing.
Shadow of the Vampire
|Starring: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe
Directed by E. Elias Merhige
|It's an interesting moment when you stand outside the
theater waiting to go in and the crowd inside comes out. You watch
their faces and try and get some sense of how much enjoyment they
had for the film you are about to see.
It's not a good sign when they file out looking stunned, the same
way cousin Ernie did after he hit his head on the garage door he
thought was open all the way. You begin to sense that something
might be wrong -- and then your worse suspicions are confirmed.
This is the film that answers the questions: Wouldn't it be a great
idea if we made a film about the making of a silent film? And
wouldn't it be great if that film was the German classic vampire
picture, Nosferatu? And wouldn't it be great if it turned out
that when that picture was made (the great German classic) it turned
out that the lead, Max Schreck, was a real vampire? And, finally,
wouldn't it be great if the famous German director, F. W. Murnau,
was played by John Malkovich, and Schreck was played by Willem Dafoe?
Unfortunately, the answer to all these questions is a resounding:
Mr. Merhige directs this incredibly dull movie with the sensibility
of the German director he so obviously adores. It has all the
lightness and deftness of a heavy German dinner, which is to say,
none. It is so ponderous that the opening credits alone are enough
to bring the entire picture to a halt. Let me put it another way: it
makes Cabaret look like La Cage Aux Folles.
It is not without its moments, unfortunately. I say unfortunately
because these moments have been used to create a wonderful trailer
that is so misleading it violates many major truth-in-advertising
laws. The very few moments which don't have you reaching for a
straight razor to end it all are between the aforementioned leads,
who get to chew up enough scenery that the set builders were
probably working overtime. Dafoe's looks into the camera are enough
to grant this at least one star.
Overall, however, you'll have more fun if you schedule some major
dental surgery. Just wait until it comes to cable -- with any luck,
the power blackouts will prevent you from seeing it then.
|Worth Seeing? No, beyond a shadow of doubt.
O Brother, Where Art ,
|Starring: George Clooney, John Tuturro, Tim Blake
Nelson Directed by Joel Coen
The oddest thing my wife has ever said to me, in all these years of
marriage, occurred late one night while we were watching Saturday
Night Live. Unbenownst to me, she had fallen asleep, and
in the dead of sleep she turned to me and asked "Is T Bone
Neither my wife nor I actually know if he was or not, but years
later I know that he at least directed some kick ass music in this
equally kick ass film, a seriously funny entry in the Coen library
that tops even the incredible Raising Arizona and the rather
surprisingly popular Fargo.
The Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan -- they share writing credits
and supposedly co-direct all their films, although Joel gets
director credit here and Ethan producer credit) always produce
interesting films, with interesting characters. Sometimes they
are over the top, and as a result their films end up being an
acquired taste. But not so this delicious outing. From
the very beginning, as George and company attempt escape from the
chain gang by jumping a train, forgetting that a chain is only as
strong as its weakest link, this movie provides belly laughs
galore. And it does so not at the expense of its characters,
who are as sharply drawn and as wonderfully imagined as any you've
seen in any other movie this century (well, it's early yet).
George turns in a beautiful performance -- like all Coen films,
there is no "star", but here he finally shines in a
perfect role. It was brave of him to play Ulysses Everett
McGill, a man not unlike Homer's Ulysses who finds himself traveling
a difficult road home with perhaps not as much common sense as he
has luck. But all the characters are great -- Holly Hunter
(his "Penelope" who doesn't await his arrival with the
same enthusiasm as Homer's hero found), John "Cyclops"
Goodman, Charles Durning, an unlikely ally, Michael Badalucco
(George "Don't Call Me Babyface" Nelson) and most of all
his traveling companions, Chris Thomas King, John Tuturro and a
standout turn by Tim Blake Nelson, playing a Stan Laurelish Delmar
who seems to see the silver lining of every dark cloud.
There is so much to like here, from the toe-tapping bluegrass
("old timey") music, arranged by the aforementioned T
Bone, to the spectacular photography of the countryside, that I
can't imagine anyone seeing this film and not coming away with a
smile on your face. I want to own this movie right now, and
show it to all my friends who won't go and see it and will therefore
miss out on the most fun you can have at the cinema.
|Worth Seeing?: O Brother, is it ever.
Cast Away (2000)
|Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick
Searcy Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
| (two stars)
No no and no. Where can we start with this movie? To
begin with, it's directed by Bob Zemeckis, the Spielberg mentored
individual whose best work always reminds me of Steven on a bad
day. Yes, he won the coveted gold statue for "Forrest
Gump", but as good-hearted as that film was, it was in no way a
match for such masterpieces as "Schindler's List" and
"E.T.", just to name two from the tutor's resume.
Make no mistake about it, Bob has directed some good films, such
as "Back to the Future" and "Romancing the
Stone". It's just that this isn't one of them. And
it's failure lies exactly in the desire of Mr. Z to achieve the same
sort of lofty filmmaking his professor seems to achieve
The biggest mistake this movie makes is not taking a stand.
It's from the old school of "less is more" except that in
that school of thought you have to have something -- and this
movie doesn't have it. Like the old Gertrude Stein line,
there's no there there.
The plot is pretty simple -- Hanks (a high powered FedEx
executive) is marooned on a desert isle. Like
"Survivor" this is no picnic, with do-it-yourself dental
surgery the least of his problems. He perseveres and
eventually attempts escape after many years of vegitude.
The problem is that Bob doesn't really know what he wants to say
about all of this. Does Hanks come to any sort of conclusion
about his journey? About all he comes up with is you need to
take life as it comes to you -- wow, what a revelation!
Perhaps he could have figured this out on the plane trip back home
and saved us all a very long journey to nowhere.
Mr. Z just doesn't have the courage for any judgments here.
You see it again and again -- what the heck is Bob trying to
say about the whale? It appears the whale is some sort of
mystical connection, but Bob is too afraid to actually take a stand
and say the whale is playing some role in Hank's survival.
Instead he settles for sea spray -- hey, it might be a whale, but if
you don't like it, then it might not be. Same for the ending
-- without giving anything away I can safely tell you there's no way
of knowing exactly what the ending is, and that's critical for
finding out exactly how Hanks was changed by his experiences.
Ambiguity for the sake of some deeper message is just fine, but
here it just seems very sloppy. Hanks gives no less than three
separate reasons as the one thing that kept him going on the
island (Helen, Wilson and the FedEx package). Give me a
break! Either Tom is more wishy washy than Charlie Brown, or
Bobby Z. has the moral courage of a lemon.
And all of this vagueness doesn't even begin to touch on the fact
the entire movie plays like a FedEx commercial. Talk about
product placement -- I wonder how many millions the bidding war
between FedEx and UPS generated for this film.
So why two stars? -- it's simple. Tom Hanks. He's the
kind of guy who's fun to watch just walking around. He has a
thankless role here (but no worse than Helen Hunt's role, which is
perhaps the worst written role for a woman I can recall seeing in
the last several years -- geeze, have we retreated back into Male
Chauvinism? She gives up her career to be a wife and mother
because her one true love disappeared, even though she never
believed he was dead. Yep, makes sense to me). Tom has a
few comic moments, one touching scene (although Bob negates that
scene completely when he fails to have Hanks even mention
Wilson again) and in general is his nice self. It's not enough
to make a good movie, but two hours will pass by without you feeling
Worth Seeing?: If Tom Hanks rocks your world
A Week in Bondage
(A Review of All of the Bond films in 500 words or
|Starring Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore,
Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Desmond Llewelyn
| (four stars)
Yipes. Only on the web would someone be so presumptuous as to
review all of the Bond films in one setting. It started
as something I promised myself I'd do for an important birthday --
see all the Bond films within a week or so. Due to the magic
of DVD and large screen (and having a lot of holiday time) my wife
and I accomplished this prodigious feat. Double and triple
features ensued as we endeavored to watch the cavalcade of 19 films
that make up the Bond pantheon.
Now that my eyes have sufficiently unglazed I'd like to make a
mass review that may offer some insights based upon the comparison
of the films to each other as well as the overall viewing
My Name is Bond
There's a temptation for such a review to lump these films by Bond
-- the Connery Bonds, the Moore Bonds, etc. But actually, the
films themselves are less a reflection of the lead actor than the
times in which they were made.
As much as I enjoy Sean's work here and in the many other quality
films he's made, there's no doubt in my mind that Diamonds are
Forever (the last "official" Bond movie Sean made --
see below) belongs to the same era that produced Live and Let Die
and The Man with the Golden Gun. Even the stunts look
the same -- things that don't even pretend to be possible,
that reached their dismal height (as it were) with the awful Moonraker.
So, given that premise, I think we can make the division as follows:
|Dr. No (1962)
From Russia with Love (1963)
You Only Live Twice (1967)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
|Tough, deadly and politically incorrect
|Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Live and Let Die (1973)
Man with the Golden Gun, The (1974)
Spy Who Loved Me, The (1977)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
View to a Kill, A (1985)
|Fun with a capital "F" -- silliness
finally degrading into such heavy camp that even Austin Powers
|Living Daylights, The (1987)
Licence to Kill (1989)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
World Is Not Enough, The (1999)
|A return to toughness, but now politically
The early films are certainly interesting. Some of them,
like From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, are just as
good today as they were back then (although some of the stunts are
decidedly tame in comparison to what's now done). Sean has an
animal presence that is terrific fun to watch. And in these
days of safe sex it's kind of fun to see him smoking, drinking,
gambling and sleeping with every woman who strikes his fancy (which
is most of them).
Unless you are just the sort who has to see it all, I think you
can safely skip (and discount) the "fun" James Bond
movies. This means any film Roger Moore was in (as well as the
one Sean Connery entry). It's no knock on Roger, but he just
came along at a time when the Bond movies were parodies of
themselves (after everyone else in the world had done their own
Somehow things righted themselves, and we came back to action
adventure that made the Bond films the originator of the format that
the Die Hard/Lethal Weapon series continued. This new
Bond did not now sleep with a few dozen women before settling down
with the One. He even had a superior who was a woman!
And he could show real emotion, including tears (although in
fairness to George Lazenby, he did try earlier to no effect).
Pierce says the next is his last (untitled: Bond 20 is the working
title, due out sometime next year) but it seems the series itself is
healthy enough to survive still another lead change into the new
Although there are only 19 "official" Bond films, most
Bond fans know there are two other entries: Casino Royale (1967),
and Never Say Never Again (1983). Casino Royale
(a "fun" Bond which outcamps even the campiest Moore
entry) was outside of producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli's
control -- it was a film that had the rights previously sold to TV
(where an American actor, Barry Nelson, played James Bond!) and the
film rights were not acquired in the Ian Fleming package sold to
Broccoli. Trust me -- it bears absolutely no relationship to a
movie, let alone a Bond movie.
Never Say Never Again is somewhat more complicated.
Due to a legal problem with Thunderball (Fleming was sued
over his plagiarism of the story line) this property became
available to produce again, independent of the Broccoli films.
To the great credit and ingenuity of the producers, they enticed
Sean Connery to play Bond one more time (after he had publicly
announced "I'm never playing Bond again") and the result
is actually a pretty good looking movie -- the biggest problem it
has is with the soundtrack, which is so horrendous the net result is
a movie that's a bit of a mess. I don't consider either one of
these films part of the Bond tapestry.
All the "tough" Bond films are great fun, but my
personal favorites are On Her Majesty's Secret Service (OHMSS),
for the wonderful stunts and great Bond gal (when the movie ended
Broccoli is rumored to have said "I should have killed him and
kept the girl."), Goldfinger, for the introduction of
gadgets (and "Q's" first big role), License to Kill,
for an action packed Bond that brought back the old days (and for
"Q's" last big role), GoldenEye, a terrific first
entry for Pierce, and The World is Not Enough, on the
strength of "Q's" last performance -- what an exit, and it
brought a tear to my eye to see him leaning on Pierce and uttering
his "Oh, grow up, 007" one last time (we'll miss you,
The DVD transfers are nearly impeccable, but be aware that the
majority of the Bond films (all before Dalton) don't have Dolby
Digital 5:1 -- many of them aren't even in stereo. That's too
bad, but that was just the way they were made (how I would have
loved to have heard Goldfinger in 5:1 surround!).
Rent or buy some of these and you're guaranteed of a good evening
(we had around 10 of them).
|Worth Seeing?: Oh, grow up, 007. Of course
these are worth seeing.