Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Bond Age (Part IX)


2017 marks 55 years of James Bond on the movie screen.  To celebrate this momentous year, I am undertaking to review the entire oeuvre of Bond films, all 24 of them (at this juncture in history), two at a time.  These will appear on the 7th day of each month  (Bond's agent number being "007").  At the beginning of each entry I will give my personal ranking of each movie and of each movie's theme song.  (These are subjective rankings and do not necessarily agree with the view of the average Bond fan, so take it as you will).  I hope you enjoy them, nay, even look forward to the next installment.  As an added note, I am deeply indebted to Tom DeMichael, and his book James Bond FAQ,  for tidbits of information with which I am peppering these entries.                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Quiggy



Timothy Dalton was a success in two outings as Bond.  A third Dalton Bond film was in the works when disaster struck the series.  A lawsuit had been filed between the producers and MGM/UA, the distributors, of the series.  It seems that there was some problems with how the company and the producers viewed licensing agreements which had been signed way back in 1962.  This caused a lengthy delay in the production of the next movie in the Bond series, during which time Dalton's contract expired.

Whether the producers chose to go a different direction or Dalton just simply declined to renew his contract is a matter for the history books.  But the Bond role was open again.  Brosnan was he obvious choice, although serious consideration was given to Ralph Fiennes and, believe it or not, Mel Gibson(...?!).  Brosnan had been passed over, if you remember, because of his work on the American TV series Remington Steele.

A new Miss Moneypenny was cast for the new Bond, an actress named Samantha Bond.  (Is that kismet, or what?)  Also the new Bond would have a new M.  Not only that, but a woman boss.  Judi Dench was pegged to play Bond's superior, and thus the only actor left to reprise his role in the series was Desmond Llewelyn as "Q".



GoldenEye (1995)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: # 6

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song: # 18

Best Bond Quote: (The lead in to this one has Bond and his psychologist barrelling down a winding road when Xenia appears in her Ferrari.  The psychologist says "I like a spirited drive just as much as the next girl.." and then spots Xenia.  "Who's that?" she asks)  Bond:  "The next girl."

Best Bond Villain Quote: Janus:  "Kill him!... The man just won't take a hint."
(A very close second is Boris's oft repeated "I am invincible!" (Which you find out at the end is not necessarily so...)

Best Weapon: Love the pen that is really a disguised grenade.

 In a scene that it turns out takes place prior to the fall of the Berlin wall and the dissolution of the Communist Soviet regime, the film opens with Bond (Brosnan) working in conjunction with another agent, Alex Trevelyan, 006 (Sean Bean), in an infiltration of a Soviet military chemical weapons facility. Colonel Ourumov (Gottfried John) captures 006 and tries to lure Bond out of his hiding place.  The colonel kills 006, but Bond manages to escape in a rather exciting chase sequence.

In the opening credits, the song "GoldenEye" is sung by Tina Turner and it was written by Bono & The Edge of U2.  With that combination of talent, you would THINK that the output would be nothing less than spectacular.  However, in my opinion the song is a bit cold and static.  The Billboard charts for the Hot 100 would seem to bear that out.  It did not crack the top 100 (although it did make the Billboard Dance Hits chart, so some people must have thought it was dance-able...but not me).  In its defense, neither of the Dalton Bond themes cracked the top 100 either, but this one just doesn't pop for me.

One of the first things that will catch your eye in the opening credits is that Sean Bean's name appears right after the title.  Now unless Sean Bean has an ego the size of Marlon Brando, and managed to get top billing for a measly five minutes of screen time, that should be a clue that 006 may not really dead, so Spoiler Alert (for the slow on the uptake)!.... he's not.

Nine years later:  On a winding road Bond is driving with an MI6 psychologist (Serena Gordon).  Bond is pretty much scaring her already with his driving when a mysterious woman in a Ferrari shows up, and Bond's ego refuses to let him lose the race.  Narrowly avoiding a couple of accidents, Bond eventually lets the woman win to avoid wrecking into a bicycle entourage.

Later Bond meets the woman at a baccarat table where he manages to introduce himself and find out her name, Xenia Onotopp (Famke Janssen).  His charm is pretty much wasted on her because she is only concerned with her goals.  Which is later revealed to be a hijacking of a new Russian helicopter.  It turns out she is in cahoots with now-General Ourumov to hijack a former Soviet defense system called "GoldenEye".

What GoldenEye is is a system whereby a satellite in space can fire electromagnetic that can isolate an area and cause an area to lose its power to operate all electronic systems within the area.  The pair enter the Russian facility where the operation systems of Golden Eye is housed and Xenia kills all of the personnel inside.  Well, all but Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming) who had "conveniently" stepped out for a smoke, and Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) who had, fortunately, gone to the kitchen for some coffee.

Onotopp an Ourumov activate GoldenEye and cause the facility and surrounding area to be laid waste and put in the dark.  At MI6 HQ, this event is viewed by Bond and the rest of those present.  Bond is taked with finding Golden Eye and whoever stole it.  He goes to St. Petersburg (the cold one in Russia, not the warm one in Florida...) where he meets CIA agent Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker), who apparently is now Bond's contact after Felix Leiter's disablement in The Living Daylights.

Baker's Wade is a bit of a smart ass, but I always have liked Baker's acting.  He tells Bond how much he hates the secrecy, passwords and codes of the "stiff-assed Brits", but helps Bond get to a former enemy, an ex-KGB agent now nightclub owner named Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane).  Through a bit of negotiation, Bond gets Zukovsky help him to meet up with the leader of  Russian crime syndicate, known only by the name "Janus".

When Bond finally meets up with "Janus", guess who he really is.... well, if you read the half-assed attempt at a spoiler alert above, you've already guessed.  It turns out that it's our beloved co-agent 006, who apparently DIDN'T die at the hands of Ourumov.  Trevelyan was really a descendant of Russian Cossacks, whom history details as having allied with Nazi Germany against Russia.  After the war, they surrendered to the British and requested asylum, but the Brits turned them over to the Soviets and they were later executed by Stalin .   It turns out that Alex has been planning this whole revenge scheme for years, to pay back both Russia and England for betrayal.

The last part of the movie involves some pretty exciting battles between Bond and Alex, with the goal being to try to prevent Alex from doing the same thing to London that he had done to the Russian facility earlier in the movie.  With the help of Boris, who is in cahoots with Janus, the suspense mounts as to whether the enemies just might succeed this time.

Brosnan's first outing as Bond is top notch.  There was an attempt to return to the nonchalant quips that had been sorely missing from the Dalton movies, and many of these were a bit flat, but still, it was nice to get to see Bond's humorous side come back to the films.





 Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: #23

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song: #23

Best Bond Quote: (I'm not passing this one up. Moneypenny is talking to Bond requiring him to report to MI6.  He is in a romantic tryst with his Danish teacher.  He tells her Goodbye in Danish.) Moneypenny: "You always were a cunning linguist, James."

Best Bond Villain Quote:(I'm giving this one to Carver's henchman.  Read the review below for more explanation):  Stamper:  "I owe you an unpleasant death, Mr. Bond."

Best Weapon:  That cell phone is a monster.  I want one with all tose apps and gizmos.

In one of the best opening sequences ever, Bond is surreptitiously filming a conclave of terrorists.  Back at MI6, the Admiralty overrides M's wishes and orders a missile strike on the terrorist conclave.  Too late they find out that there is a plane with nuclear warheads on it.  More than just a terrorist enclave will suffer.  But Bond to the rescue, he does some Bond magic and flies the plane out...

You know what?  I can't do it.  I can't even BEGIN to give this movie any respect.  Aside from that dynamic opening, the movie just goes down hill from there.  Oh, the very beginning shows a bit of promise.  A British ship is warned it is in Chinese waters, even though the British GPS systems on board say they are not.  And a fancy torpedo controlled by some bad guys (not the Chinese) does some fancy maneuvering and completely destroys the ship.

But from there it goes headlong into one of the most ridiculous scenarios ever.  Our bad guy this time?  Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), a media mogul who is trying to start World War III.  Why?  For ratings, of course.  He wants to be top dog in the news industry and nothing is above the line in order to get that position.  Something similar happened 100 or so years ago when William Randolph Hearst tried to manipulate political forces to get his newspaper headline stories.

The movie even references this history when Carver compares himself to Hearst.  But I don't think Hearst was the person the producers wanted the film-going public to think of when they saw this movie.  Probably less than half of the people who went to the theater to see it even recognized Hearst's name when Elliot Carver mentioned him.  Personally I think the producers wanted people to think of Rupert Murdoch, Fox News Media mogul.  Hell, Pryce even resembles Murdoch in the film.

And a villian trying to start WWIII just for ratings?  Please!  Even Blofeld's plan in On Her Majesty's Secret Service seems intelligent by comparison.  And how about that song?  Yes, decent orchestration, but Sheryl Crow was probably the worst choice they could have found to sing it.  What? couldn't they entice Shirley Bassey to give it another go?  I'm sure it would it would have been thousands of times better.

Sorry to end on a down note, but you could always go back up and read the "GoldenEye" review before you leave the theater...  drive safe, folks

Quiggy


2 comments:

  1. GoldenEye is my fave Bond film, but you knew that already.

    I totally neglected to mention Joe Don Baker in my own review, but he cracks me up so much in this! Especially how he's all interested in the Cuban agriculture.

    But as much as I adore Pierce Brosnan as Bond, I've only watched the rest of his 007 movies once each. I did have a really nice poster of him from Tomorrow Never Dies on my wall when I was a teen -- too bad the movie didn't live up to the poster!

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    1. I seriously considered editing my previous post on FYEO and making Tomorrow Never Dies #24. I had forgotten how much it sucked plot wise. But I kept it the same. Thanks for reading.

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