Recent Reviews
The Mummy Returns
Bridget Jones' Diary
Someone Like You
Enemy at the Gates
Finding Forrester
Shadow of the Vampire
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Cast Away
James Bond Films

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 so.

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 his own). 

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 new millennium.

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 about.


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 night.

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 story.

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 Adorable Girl.

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 highlights.

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 experience indeed.


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 Harris

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 scene.

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 absolutely nothing.




Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman
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 honor. 

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.


Finding Forrester

(3 stars)
Starring: Sean Connery, Robert Brown, F. Murray Abraham
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 or alive.

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

(1 star)
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: No!

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 , Thou?

Starring: George Clooney, John Tuturro, Tim Blake Nelson  Directed by Joel Coen
(four stars)

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 coming?"

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 effortlessly.

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 really awful.

Worth Seeing?: If Tom Hanks rocks your world

A Week in Bondage

 (A Review of All of the Bond films in 500 words or less)

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 experience.

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)
Goldfinger (1964)
Thunderball (1965)
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)
Moonraker (1979)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Octopussy (1983)
View to a Kill, A (1985)
Fun with a capital "F" -- silliness finally degrading into such heavy camp that even Austin Powers couldn't top.
Living Daylights, The (1987)
Licence to Kill (1989)
GoldenEye (1995)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
World Is Not Enough, The (1999)
A return to toughness, but now politically correct.

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 parody).

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 millenium.

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, Desmond). 

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.
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